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Bengals to throw scare into 8-0 Steelers

It’s time to take yet another stab at forecasting NFL games, with an assortment of novel facts thrown in.

For starters, don’t get caught giving the home team a built-in edge when formulating selections for Week 10. Thanks to last week’s 9-5 record for road teams and Indianapolis’ win at Tennessee on Thursday night, teams away from home during this pandemic-ravaged season have gone 68-65-1 (.511). Over the previous 50 years, the best mark for visiting squads for a full season was 87-90-5 (.492) in 1972.

On the weather front, crummy forecasts return this week, particularly in Green Bay and Cleveland. At Lambeau Field, snow and wind around 25 mph are to be expected. The Texans-Browns game will also have stiff winds to go with rain. Games in Pittsburgh and New England could also have wind issues.

Now for a closer look at the games. The odds are courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:


Washington Football Team (2-6) at Detroit Lions (3-5)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Lions by 3

Facts: Washington looks to be giving QB Alex Smith his first start in two years despite his three INTs in relief of Kyle Allen (leg) last week. … Detroit was a 34-20 loser to Minnesota last Sunday, allowing Dalvin Cook to rush for 206 yards. Lions QB Matt Stafford pitched INTs from the Vikings’ 20 and 5 to botch their hopes. … For the second straight week, Detroit will be without Pro Bowl WR Kenny Golladay (hip).

Analysis: Can’t trust Smith. This looks like a great time for Detroit to end the league’s longest current home losing streak, which stands at seven. After all, it wasn’t all bad for Detroit last week, getting a season-high 30 first downs against the Vikings. And there’s a good chance Football Team might implode, for twice it has had a minus-5 turnover differential in a game.

Forecast: Lions 28, Football Team 20

Houston Texans (2-6) at Cleveland Browns (5-3)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Browns by 4

Facts: Houston is 0-6 this year when not facing Jacksonville, failing to beat the spread in any of the losses. … Cleveland, off a bye, will indeed have Baker Mayfield at QB after his COVID scare last weekend. … The Browns gave up 209 rushing yards to Vegas in a 16-6 home loss before their break. Houston, though, arrives with its top rusher, David Johnson, out (concussion). … Meanwhile, Cleveland’s best RB, Nick Chubb, is back after a four-game absence (knee).

Analysis: The Texans’ strength is clearly the passing game behind QB Deshaun Watson, who is having a career year. But with awful weather likely and without his best RB to provide ground support, the air game should be suppressed. On the other side, not only do the Texans give up the most rushing yards per game in the league (159.5), but also have the worst defensive passer rating.

Forecast: Browns 30, Texans 14

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) at Green Bay Packers (6-2)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Packers by 13.5

Facts: Green Bay hasn’t been a bigger a favorite since the last time the Jaguars visited Lambeau, winning 24-15 in 2012 as a 16-point choice. … The Jags have lost seven in a row, including last week’s 27-25 defeat to Houston behind first time QB starter Jake Luton. … The wind chill is forecast to be 23 degrees at kickoff, which doesn’t automatically doom the Sunshine State team. In 2004, the Jaguars, as 3.5-point underdogs, beat the Pack at Lambeau 28-25 with a wind chill of minus-3.

Analysis: Luton, who threw for more than 300 yards last week, gets his second straight start and says he’s honored and excited to play opposite Aaron Rodgers. In windy, snowy weather, Luton and the Jags have a fighting chance to stay relatively close, just like last week, for GB has gone 0-5 ATS as a pick of 13-plus points since that 2012 meeting. That includes a 20-17 home loss to Arizona two years ago as a 13.5-point choice that cost coach Mike McCarthy his job.

Forecast: Packers 20, Jaguars 12

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) at NY Giants (2-7)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Eagles by 4

Facts: Two of the league’s most error-prone QBs, Philly’s Carson Wentz and NYG’s Daniel Jones, will meet for the second time in three weeks. In that Week 7 game, the Eagles rallied from 11 down in the final six minutes to win 22-21. … Wentz leads the league with 12 INTs, with Jones third with nine, including a league-high six inside the enemy 50. Both are tied for the third most fumbles with seven. … Since Week 4 New York has gone 5-0 ATS as an underdog.

Analysis: Philadelphia, which can take an even tighter grip on the NFC East lead with a victory, are on the road for the first time in five weeks, having played three straight at home before last week’s siesta. Over the past three seasons, teams are only 9-13-3 against the line playing their first road game after a three-game home stand. And although the Eagles are getting some key folks back, including RB Miles Sanders, this point spread seems a tad steep.

Forecast: Eagles 24, Giants 23

Tampa Bay Bucs (6-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-6)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Bucs by 6

Facts: Last season vs.Tampa Bay, Carolina QB Teddy Bridgewater had his best game since his horrible knee injury in August 2016 (131.2 passer rating, four TDs). Of course, he was with New Orleans and had record-setting WR Michael Thomas as a target. … Tom Brady had no TD throws and three INTs in a prime-time loss to the Saints last Sunday. The last time he had a statistical game that bad was 14 years ago when he was 0/4 in a 27-20 loss to Indy while with NE.

Analysis: Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey has been ruled out (shoulder) and will miss his seventh game. As for TB, unlike last week when Brady was sacked three times and under pressure plenty of others, he’ll be facing a depleted Panthers defense that ranks 30th with 10 sacks, which is a huge drop from last year, when they led the league with 34 entering Week 10. Plus, after rushing an NFL-record low five times vs. N.O., look for TB to accent its running game.

Forecast: Bucs 34, Panthers 14

Denver Broncos (3-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

Time: 2:05 p.m.

Line: Raiders by 3.5

Facts: Bulldozing Vegas RB Josh Jacobs, who had 31 carries for 128 yards in a win at Cleveland two weeks ago, had the equivalent of a day off last Sunday with 14 carries for 65 yards in a 31-26 win over the Chargers. … Denver QB Drew Lock has thrown five TD passes the past two weeks, all coming in the fourth quarter of games vs. the Chargers, a 31-30 win, and Atlanta, a 34-27 loss. … Denver should benefit from the return star corner A.J. Bouye.

Analysis: The key could be a Raiders rushing game that generated 209 yards in their Week 8 16-6 win at Cleveland vs. a Denver run defense that allowed the Chargers a season-best 210 ground yards the same day despite top RB Austin Ekeler on IR. At quarterback, LV’s Derek Carr, the fifth most accurate passer in the league, rates a considerable edge over Lock, who despite his late-game heroics, ranks last in completion percentage at 56.5.

Forecast: Raiders 27, Broncos 17

Buffalo Bills (7-2) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3)

Time: 2:05 p.m.

Line: Cardinals by 3

Facts: These are the only two teams to have defeated NFC power Seattle, with the Bills winning 44-34 last week in Buffalo and Arizona at home 37-34 in OT two weeks earlier. … Cardinals QB Kyler Murray rushed for a team-high 106 yards last week in a 34-31 loss to Miami, the second most for a quarterback this year. … The game features two of the NFL’s finest WRs: Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs has a league-best 63 receptions. Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins is third with 60.

Analysis: Buffalo had the great fortune of a plus-4 turnover edge last week vs. Seattle and having its average starting field position at its 45, tied for the second best for anyone this season. Teams are 11-0 in 2020 starting at the 40 or better. But the Bills also yielded seven sacks, an enormous amount for a team playing from ahead most of the game. That won’t cut it this week.

Forecast: Cardinals 35, Bills 21

LA Chargers (2-6) at Miami Dolphins (5-3)

Time: 2:05 p.m.

Line: Dolphins by 1

Facts: Two rookie QBs will tangle for the first time this season with LA’s Justin Herbert taking on Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa. … Lost in the hoopla surrounding the resurgent Dolphins is that former UNM Lobo Jason Sanders is the only kicker in the league who’s been perfect this season. He’s 21-for-21 on PATs and 17-for-17 on FG tries. … LA has lost four games this year after blowing double-digit leads. Last week it squandered only a three-point edge in falling to LV, 31-26.

Analysis: Still not sold on Tagovailoa despite his victories over the Rams and Cardinals, for he’s benefited from three return scores during that time. That luck should run out real soon. The Chargers, meanwhile, haven’t had any luck and have played far better than their 2-6 record indicates behind Herbert, the league’s ninth-leading passer with 17 TD throws and five INTs.

Forecast: Chargers 28, Dolphins 20

Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)

Time: 2:25 p.m.

Line: Steelers by 7

Facts: Pittsburgh returns home after sweeping a three-game road trip, the first time that’s happened since the Super Steelers of 2005 won three playoff games in succession away from home en route to beating Seattle in Detroit for the title. … The original spread was 10 last week before Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was temporarily shelved because of COVID tracing. … Cincinnati had a week off after upsetting Tennessee 31-20 in Week 8.

Analysis: Rookie QB Joe Burrow and the Bengals have overachieved this year, beating the spread in six of their past seven games, including their win vs. the Titans as a 7.5-point underdog. Plus they are hoping to get back at least two members of their offensive line who missed the Tennessee game. If the Steelers could have trouble with Dallas, as it did last week in a too-close-for-comfort 24-19 victory, the same can happen here.

Forecast: Steelers 28, Bengals 26

Seattle Seahawks (6-2) at LA Rams (5-3)

Time: 2:25 p.m.

Line: Rams by 2.5

Facts: The Rams are off a bye after their dominating performance in a 28-17 loss at Miami two weeks ago, outgaining the Dolphins by a league-high 326 yards but giving up two scores on returns. No other team the past decade had a 300-plus yard edge and was defeated. … Seattle’s Russell Wilson had by far his best passing game of 2019 (151.8 rating) at home against the Rams last year in a 30-29 victory. Nine weeks later, though, he had his second worst (69.8).

Analysis: It seems Wilson might be pressing judging from his two lost fumbles and two interceptions last week at Buffalo, especially operating without his top two running backs to help out. And they’ll be missing this week, too. It’s going to be tough sledding for Seattle against an LA team that’s allowed the fewest defensive touchdowns this year, 15.

Forecast: Rams 26, Seahawks 19

San Francisco 49ers (4-5) at New Orleans Saints (6-2)

Time: 2:25 p.m.

Line: Saints by 9.5

Facts: New Orleans put Tampa Bay to sleep early last week in its 38-3 road win as a 4-point underdog, taking a 28-0 second-quarter lead before the Bucs had a first down. It not only was the most lopsided win for any team this season but the biggest drubbing by an underdog since since 2017, when Houston routed Tennessee 57-14 as a 2.5-point dog. … Last year in the Superdome, the 49ers beat the Saints 48-46 in the second-highest scoring game of the season.

Analysis: This game is in the same mold as last week’s Steelers game at Dallas in which unbeaten Pittsburgh had to rally from 10 down late to beat the woeful Cowboys. That lackadaisical effort came after the Steelers’ emotionally charged win at rival Baltimore. This week the 49ers feature a lineup filled with backups catching a Saints team that’s also coming off a special victory. The crystal ball says S.F. will make it close before the Saints realize they’re in a game.

Forecast: Saints 27, 49ers 24

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at New England Patriots (3-5)

Time: 6:20 p.m.

Line: Ravens by 7

Facts: When these teams met at midseason last year in Baltimore, the Patriots were 8-0, giving up 7.7 points a game and 3-point favorites. The Ravens won, 37-20, essentially triggering the beginning of end for New England’s decades of dominance. Counting that loss they have gone 7-10 since. … The Ravens have been celebrated for scoring 20-plus points in a record 31 straight regular-season games. But in their one-and-done playoff appearances the past two years, they’ve scored 17 and 12 points.

Analysis: Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson, 25-7 as a starter including playoffs, will be looking to improve his mark against teams with losing record (at time of game) to 17-1 and he most surely will against a Patriots team that couldn’t put away the winless Jets last week until a field goal at the gun.

Forecast: Ravens 26, Patriots 9


Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)

Time: 6:15 p.m.

Line: Vikings by 3

Facts: The line opened with Chicago as 2.5-point pick, but that was before the team’s dreary 24-17 loss at Tennessee and Minnesota’s 34-20 beatdown of Detroit. … The Bears have beaten the Vikings four straight the previous two seasons, including a season-ending 24-10 victory in 2018 as a 6-point dog that cost Minnesota a playoff spot. … Vikings RB Dalvin Cook, the league’s leading rusher, was atop the charts at this stage last year too, but finished 11th after averaging 62.4 yards in his final six games and missing two others.

Analysis: The Bears, one of seven teams to start 3-0 this year but the only one with a losing record since (2-4), have struggled under former Super hero QB Nick Foles, and now the league’s worst rushing offense will be without its top ball carrier, David Montgomery (concussion). The Vikings’ potent rushing game and a suddenly efficient Kirk Cousins at QB should do all right.

Forecast: Vikings 26, Bears 14

Last week: 5-8 against spread, 8-5 straight up

Season total; 11-13-2 ATS, 17-9 SU.

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