Dolphins 23 – Buccaneers 14
Tall order picking the Dolphins to win, as their point differential is just 10 points better than the winless Browns‘ mark. Think about that. Yeah, I don’t want to, either. The Bucs captured a bounty full of one win last week on the strength of a resurgent defense that mitigated a slow, if functional, Ryan Fitzpatrick offense. Think the Dolphins, who were flat embarrassed this past Monday night, will come out ready to play. Especially the defense, which got run over to the tune of nearly three bills by the Panthers.
(Not) Fun fact: Miami fields the worst scoring offense in the league. Since the AFL-NFL Merger, no team that sported the fewest points per game finished better than 6-10.
Chargers 23 – Bills 16
Can the Bills recover from getting marched on repeatedly by the Saints? Not just the defense, either. While that unit has fed off turnovers this season, Buffalo’s offense might as well have just given the ball away to New Orleans. Besides failing to break the Mendoza Line in total yards, the Bills punted six times, and handed the ball over on downs on another occasion. That’s how you lose the time of possession battle by 23 minutes. This Chargers front has morphed into a bunch of run-sucking bandits — as in, the Bolts made the Jaguars’ ground game suck bad. That means Tyrod Taylor … scratch that: Nate Peterman … will have to go out and win the game. Good luck, rook.
(Not) Fun fact: The Bills have allowed 164.3 rushing yards per game without Marcell Dareus this season, as opposed to 79.2 with him. Blame @RealJackAndrade for that research, Bills Mafia. That note was his idea.
Patriots 30 – Raiders 21
Dolphins (-2.5) vs. Buccaneers
Please don’t make me watch one minute of this game. Please. It won’t be good — the Dolphins are coming off a beatdown at the hand of the Panthers and yet somehow find themselves favored against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers. Gross. Give me the Dolphins because their defense can slow down Tampa. And Jay Cutler will do some stuff. Or something.
Not even sure what this number is now that Philip Rivers is likely to play and Nate Peterman is starting over Tyrod Taylor, but I probably would have taken the Chargers with Kellen Clemens starting, honestly. The Bills don’t look like they have given up on Sean McDermott or anything, but I’ll happily bet on a weird response from the team when the coach decides to bench Taylor amid a playoff run (the 5-4 Bills are actually the No. 6 seed) en route to a West Coast game for a fifth-round rookie. Taking away what Taylor can do — run read-option plays/generally cause havoc with his legs — will limit the holes for LeSean McCoy. And maybe Peterman is a stud that McDermott correctly identified. It’s a gamble, though, especially with the Bills starting to teeter pretty heavily when it comes to their performance. They are an OK team that spent the first part of the season playing above its head; reality set in the last two weeks with a 13-point loss to the Jets on Thursday night followed by the Saints eviscerating the Bills in Buffalo 47-10. New Orleans snatched the Bills lunch in every facet of the game. The Chargers should have Rivers and have the sort of defensive front seven that can stack the box against McCoy and put some serious pressure on Peterman. The Chargers don’t blow teams out often, but it’s hard to see the Bills keeping things close here. This might be the one game that actually feels like a home game for the Bolts too.
This game features Oakland as a “home” team but it’s actually in Mexico City. The Patriots have been training at the Air Force Academy in order to get used to the altitude and they spent last week playing against the Broncos in Denver. The significant difference in the air shouldn’t affect them. Oakland can probably score here and I could see the over getting throttled, but it’s moved too much (opened at 50, up to 55 now) to buy at this point. Oakland just can’t stop anyone is the problem here — the Raiders rank dead last in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA metric and also dead last against the pass. Do you know who doesn’t even like to run? The Patriots, who are finding their rhythm in the short passing game and are rotating in Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis with an impressive effectiveness. Seven is a ton of points, I suppose, but it is a neutral game — would you like the Pats -4 in Oakland? I would. They’re a better team with an improving defense and a lethal offense. The Raiders will have to play a track meet to keep it close, and I like Bill Belichick to outsmart Jack Del Rio enough that he gets the requisite possessions to comfortably beat the number.