Even though the Patriots don’t play Sunday, there are several other NFL games worth checking out. Buffalo and Miami are both only one game behind New England in the loss column, and both will be playing early games Sunday against playoff contenders. Kansas City is 5-3 and just one game behind Denver in the AFC West; the Chiefs travel to Buffalo to face the 5-3 Bills. Miami is full of confidence after crushing San Diego 37-0 last week; the Dolphins, who are 3-1 on the road, go to Detroit to play the 6-2 Lions.

 

Dallas Cowboys (6-3) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) in London ★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Jacksonville has played much better on defense over their last five games, but Blake Bortles is still making far too many mistakes.
Pick • Cowboys 24, Jaguars 20
Jaguars +8½ (two units)
under 45½

Miami Dolphins (5-3) at Detroit Lions (6-2) ★★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell

While Detroit does lead the league in points allowed (15.8 ppg), their vaunted D hasn’t looked quite so good recently. The Lions gave up 47 first downs the last two weeks, and they don’t get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Of their 23 sacks, 12 came in two games: four against Cam Newton when he was playing on a bad ankle, and eight against rookie Teddy Bridgewater. The third quarter will be critical. Detroit has held opponents to just 24 third quarter points, while Miami has outscored their opponents 94-38 in the third this season.
Pick • Dolphins 20, Lions 17
Dolphins +3
under 44

Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) at Buffalo Bills (5-3) ★★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Chris Fischer

Kansas City has won five of their last six games, and the Chiefs are now just one game behind Denver in the AFC West. Buffalo is also 5-3, but has not played well at home. The Bills have lost two of their last three games at the Ralph, and that lone victory was a one-point win over lowly Minnesota as time expired. Alex Smith has yet to throw a touchdown pass to one of his wide receivers; that sets up an interesting battle between a strong buffalo run defense (92 yards per game, 3.6 yards per carry) versus a potent KC rushing offense (137 yards per game, 4.5 yards per carry) led by a now-healthy Jamaal Charles.
Pick • Chiefs 20, Bills 17
Chiefs -1
under 43 (two units)

San Francisco 49ers (4-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-4) ★★★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Saints favored by 4 (3½ to 4½), with a point total of 49 (48½ to 49½)
San Francisco +190 and New Orleans -220 is the average money line
Broadcast in most markets, excluding New York City, Buffalo, Detroit, DC, Virginia, Georgia, Florida (except Miami, West Palm and Fort Myers), Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico

The Saints have scored 72 points in their last two games, and although San Francisco’s defense officially ranks second in the NFL with 292 yards per game, they are a middle of the pack 15th in scoring (22.3 ppg). New Orleans has a very balanced offense – they’re averaging 4.8 yards per carry and 130 yards rushing per game – and have not lost at home since 2012.
Pick • Saints 24, Niners 20
Niners +6
under 49½

Tennessee Titans (2-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-4) ★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker

After Ben Roethlisberger burnt the Raven defense for six touchdown passes, Baltimore cut corners Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown. The Ravens have now given up a whopping 34 pass plays for twenty yards or more, but Tennessee is not the type of team that can take advantage of that situation. The Titans are in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Baltimore takes out some aggression after last week’s nationally televised embarrassment.
Pick • Ravens 31, Titans 20
Ravens -9½
over 43½

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) at New York Jets (1-8) ★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Otis Livingston

The beleaguered Jets secondary faces Ben Roethlisberger in the midst of a three game stretch where he has thrown for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdown passes. Pittsburgh has won three in row, scoring 124 points in those games. This matchup has blowout written all over it, though I wonder if the Steelers will look past a one-win team and have a bit of an emotional letdown after such a big win over their biggest rival last week.
Pick • Steelers 28, Jets 17
Steelers -4
under 47½
Pittsburgh -190

Atlanta Falcons (2-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7)
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin

Lovie Smith goes back to Josh McClown as his quarterback, based on the premise that he was the starter and is healthy now. Last time he played he was making horrible decisions, like throwing passes while he was on his butt – which not surprisingly, ended up being intercepted. Atlanta has lost seven straight road games and five in a row overall thanks to a bad (27.6 ppg) defense. The Falcons last win was when these two met in week three when they crushed Tampa Bay 56-14 in front of a national audience. Somebody has to win this game; I’ll go with the home team with revenge on their mind.
Pick • Bucs 27, Falcons 24
Bucs +3
over 45½

Denver Broncos (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (0-8) ★★★
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

While the Raiders may have picked up some ideas on how to play Denver from the Pats win last week, Manning and the Broncos rarely lose two in a row. Oakland has had some close games, but there is just too much of a talent differential for the Raiders to win this game.
Pick • Broncos 31, Raiders 14
Broncos -11
under 51

St. Louis Rams (3-5) at Arizona Cardinals (7-1) ★★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale

You know you’re a longtime NFL fan when you see Rams-Cardinals and still think LA Rams versus St. Louis Cardinals. The Rams have already defeated Seattle and San Francisco, but they have been very inconsistent this year. Arizona won’t be caught looking past this game, and should be able to shut St. Louis down.
Pick • Cardinals 24, Rams 13
Cardinals -6½
under 44½ (two units)

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks ★★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

Remember when so many on the media were jumping on the Giants’ bandwagon after winning three in a row? That streak had more to do with the level of competition; those three clubs are a combined 9-17. Seattle should win easily, but I’m hesitant to fully back them to cover such a large spread.
Pick • Seahawks 27, Giants 13
Seahawks -9
under 45

Chicago Bears (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-3) ★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

The Bears have lost four of their last five games, with the only victory against a bad Atlanta team. Meanwhile the Packers have been playing very well, winning four straight before last week’s loss at New Orleans. Aaron Rodgers is 8-2 in ten games against Chicago, while Jay Cutler is 1-9 in his career against Green Bay, with 19 interceptions. I just don’t see why any of those trends should end Sunday night at Lambeau.
Pick • Packers 31, Bears 21
Packers -7
under 54

Carolina Panthers (3-5-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-2) ★★★★
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

Even with Mark Sanchez, the Eagles are much better than Carolina. The Panther defense is nothing at all like they were last year, which is bad news considering Philly is averaging over 29 points per game. Sanchez actually looked pretty good last week; perhaps all he needed was to get away from Rex and the Jets.
Pick • Eagles 31, Panthers 20
Eagles -5½ (two units)
over 47½

Bye week: New England Patriots (7-2), Indianapolis Colts (6-3), San Diego Chargers (5-4), Houston Texans (4-5), Minnesota Vikings (4-5) and Washington Redskins (3-6)

 

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