Los Angeles Rams 24, Miami Dolphins 23
Just as I was beginning to believe in the Dolphins as a potential playoff team, they benched Ryan Fitzpatrick and went on a bye week. It remains to be seen whether Tua Tagovailoa is an upgrade, but dismissing the possibility is foolish. He’s entering a fine situation. Chan Gailey’s offense is perfect for Tua’s quick-passing, quick-twitch style. The offensive line looks better on tape than the analytics say. Coach Brian Flores’ defense, 14th in DVOA, is great when it gets ahead on down and distance. That will be tough to do against the Rams’ underrated Darrell Henderson-led rushing attack, which makes this game feel like a total coin flip.
Rams at Dolphins (+3)
Tua Tagovailoa makes his first start against a Rams team that ranks 11th in defensive efficiency. The matchup up front will go a long way in determining Tagovailoa’s success. Miami’s offensive line ranks 30th in pass block win rate, while the Rams’ defensive line ranks sixth in pass rush win rate. It would not surprise me to see Miami’s defense keep it close, but the Rams produce a late turnover to cover.
The pick: Rams (-3)
From: The Athletic
Kansas City Chiefs 34, New York Jets 11
After a few signs of life early against the Bills, Sam Darnold retreated. Whether it’s Darnold’s fault or Adam Gase’s, the third-year quarterback’s decision-making remains his biggest problem. Opposing coordinators are still making him see ghosts too often. It’s a matchup that plays beautifully to the Chiefs’ defensive strengths. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves cooking up blitzes and using Tyrann Mathieu to mess with the minds of young signal-callers. The return of underrated cornerback Bashaud Breeland to the Chiefs’ lineup makes this Kansas City defense dynamic, especially in the right matchup.
Jets at Chiefs (-19.5)
The line is 19.5 and somehow still feels low. Think the Jets can pull the upset? Their money line is +1300. The Chiefs are -3000 to win the game. You’re never going to feel comfortable taking a team to cover a spread this high. But the Jets had 4 yards in the second half last week, and the Chiefs’ pass defense ranks fifth. New York covered for the first time all season last week. They can’t possibly go back-to-back, can they?
The pick: Chiefs (-19.5)
From: The Athletic
Buffalo Bills 24, New England Patriots 18
Sean McDermott is 0-6 against Bill Belichick, but these aren’t the same Patriots. Cam Newton‘s deep slump, which started before his positive COVID-19 test, has distracted from how much worse New England’s defense is this year. That’s welcome news for Josh Allen, who hasn’t led the Bills to more than 18 points in any of their last three games after averaging over 30 in their first four. Allen’s struggles against Belichick are well-documented, and Buffalo’s defensive shortcomings versus the run could keep this game close. Still, the talent gap is wide. The Bills should have been ready to beat a limited Pats team in Foxborough last December. If they can’t do it now, something is seriously wrong.
Patriots at Bills (-4)
Great note from The Athletic’s Mike Sando: In 69 games with quarterbacks not named Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels’ offenses have averaged just 18.7 points per game. If the Patriots lose this game, they’ll be three-and-a-half games out of first place in the AFC East. In that scenario, would Bill Belichick look ahead and try to trade guys like Stephon Gilmore? The Bills, meanwhile, are one of five teams over the last 20 years to be 5-2 after seven weeks and still have a negative point differential. There’s a decent chance that the Patriots just stink, but coming off of last week’s embarrassing loss with so much riding on this game, I’m taking the points.
The pick: Patriots (+4)