Last week was another difficult week for predictions at MVP Sports Talk, due to several upsets, as well as some botched upset calls. Now, it’s time to rebound in Week 10, which features several intriguing matchups. Yet, although these games will be entertaining, they’re also very difficult to predict; we’ll have to be on our “A” game this week. So, who’ll come out on top and improve their postseason aspirations? Let’s take a closer look at Week 10, predicting each game.
TNF: Chargers (4-5) at Raiders (4-4)
Spread Pick: LAC (-1)
Over/Under Pick: Under (48.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 27 Raiders 17
In my power rankings this week, I apologized for doubting the Raiders, who are 4-4 despite me not picking them to win a single game yet in these predictions. Well, here I am again doubting them, while also putting my faith in a team that constantly disappoints in the Chargers. Why? To put it simply, Los Angeles is a much better team than Oakland. With left tackle Russell Okung back healthy, Phillip Rivers finally has average pass protection, and as a result, he and the passing attack are rolling. Now, they get to face one of the worst pass defenses in the league, which includes a pass rush that is often non-existent. Additionally, the Raiders lack athleticism at linebacker and safety, which could make it extremely difficult to cover tight end Hunter Henry and receiving back Austin Ekeler- Rivers could easily throw for 400 yards in this game. I do concede that Oakland’s offensive line should be able to win at the line of scrimmage against a weak Los Angeles run defense, while the quick passing game neutralizes the Chargers’ pass rush. Still, the Raiders don’t have the outside weapons to be able to pass the ball effectively against a secondary that’s playing well, and when I can choose between a successful passing offense or a successful rushing attack, I’ll always choose the former. Therefore, although I don’t feel great about it, I’ll take the Chargers to win this game, as they’re on a roll right now and just have more talent.
Lions (3-4-1) at Bears (3-5)
Spread Pick: CHI (-2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (41)
Score Prediction: Lions 7 Bears 10
It’s not looking good for either team in this NFC North matchup, as both have fallen out of the playoff hunt. Still, you never know when a second-half run could come, so it’s safe to say that this will be a hard-fought game. This is essentially a toss-up, but due to some small factors, I’m siding with the Bears finally getting back in the win column. This will be a very cold game based on game time weather forecasts, for example, and Matthew Stafford is notoriously bad in cold-weather games. Plus, at some point, Chicago’s defense is bound to breakout, as the Jaguars’ defense did at times last season despite their struggles, and with Detroit unlikely to bully them upfront like the Saints and Eagles did, this is a good matchup for the Bears. I have no faith in Mitchell Tribusky, but at least the rushing attack should function against a poor Lions defense, and if these two teams are evenly matched, it makes sense to take the home team who is more used to playing in these conditions. I expect it to be a very ugly game, but one in which the Bears should come out on top.
Ravens (6-2) at Bengals (0-8)
Spread Pick: BAL (-10.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45)
Score Prediction: Ravens 34 Bengals 10
Coming off of a big win against the Patriots, there’s definitely some potential for a Ravens letdown in Cincinnati, especially with some critical games ahead of them in their schedule. However, that logic isn’t validated by their opponent- the Bengals are the only winless team in the league for a reason. The Andy Dalton is over in Cincinnati, as fourth-round pick Ryan Finley will take over under center. So now, not only are the Ravens playing a team they’re significantly better than, but they also are facing a rookie quarterback in his first career start, who is almost certainly a downgrade over Dalton. Additionally, the Ravens’ offense may be slowed down, but it won’t be the Bengals defense who’ll do so; they’re slow, can’t tackle, are awful in run defense, and also are vulnerable in the secondary. I’m not as high on Baltimore as others, but even I can’t refute that this is an absolute mismatch, and them winning is probably the lock of the week.
Bills (6-2) at Browns (2-6)
Spread Pick: BUF (+2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (40.5)
Score Prediction: Bills 20 Browns 16
The records may not indicate it, but for the most part, the Bills and Browns are similarly talented teams. That, and the two team’s inconsistency, especially at quarterback, makes this is a very difficult game to predict. I don’t feel great doing so, because I don’t see them as a 7-2 team, but since I have to pick this, I’m going to pick the Bills. Buffalo is simply the better-coached team, which makes them easier to trust, while they hold some other advantages. Their early-down success rate, for instance, is much higher than Cleveland’s, per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, and as they transition to a run-heavy offense with rookie running back Devin Singletary, they’ll likely fare well against a poor run defense that misses a lot of tackles. Then, you have Baker Mayfield, who has generally struggled against zone coverage, which is what Buffalo’s defense runs mostly. Plus, I also expect defensive head coach Sean McDermott out-scheme Freddie Kitchens, which only puts Mayfield in a tougher position to succeed. Cleveland is due to win a game, while Buffalo is due for a let-down, but based on how these two teams match up against one another, the Bills look the better pick to be victorious in this extremely important game.
Falcons (1-7) at Saints (7-1)
Spread Pick: ATL (+13.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (51)
Score Prediction: Falcons 31 Saints 35
Coming off of their bye, the Falcons and Saints will face off in what is an always entertaining divisional rivalry. New Orleans was rolling into their bye with six straight wins, and have a significantly better record than Atlanta, but still, they won’t be able to cover a 13.5-point spread. Their vulnerable pass defense will almost certainly get beat by a still-explosive Falcons passing offense, especially on passes down the field, which is where New Orleans struggles the most. Plus, the Falcons have had a strong run defense this year, which doesn’t fit well in the Saints’ usual strategy to control the game through lots of long drives and by winning at the line of scrimmage. Still, opportunities should be immense for Drew Brees to move the ball through the air against a very questionable pass defense, and as the better-coached team with more momentum and at home, my guess is that they’ll find a way to win. Still, this will be a much closer game than the public is expecting, making Atlanta as a 13.5-point underdog one of the easiest picks of the week, in terms of the spread.
Giants (2-7) at Jets (1-7)
Spread Pick: NYJ (+3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45)
Score Prediction: Giants 23 Jets 31
It’s the battle of New York! It’s good to see a game between teams with a combined record of 3-14 actually have some excitement between it- this is the first matchup between Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold. Honestly, with the way these two quarterbacks are playing, it could also be their last, but for this game, it’ll be fun to see two volatile players face-off. Because everyone is selling the Jets’ remaining stock after a loss to the tanking Dolphins, the Giants have been bet on heavily throughout the week, so the Jets are now a three-point underdog. However, in my opinion, these two teams are practically even, as they both have some talent but way too many fatal flaws; this should be more of a pick-em. To that end, I’ll actually take the Jets to win this game. At some point, Darnold is way too talented to continue to play this poorly, and there’s no better time for him to breakout than against one of, if not the worst secondary in the NFL. Plus, Jones has trouble reading pressure and preventing fumbles, and with the way Gregg Williams loves to pressure opposing quarterbacks, there’s a likely chance that he could become uneasy in the pocket and have his rhythm thrown off. Obviously, this game means nothing for playoff sakes, but because of Jones and Darnold, this is a secretly-intriguing game to watch, and although it could go either way, I’ll take the better quarterback.
Cardinals (3-5-1) at Buccaneers (2-6)
Spread Pick: TB (-4.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (52)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 27 Bucs 38
In another game that is more intriguing than the records would indicate, the Cardinals and Bucs will face off in a game full of mini-storylines. For starters, Bruce Arians will be coaching against the team he guided to so much success over the years and was expected to retire as the coach of. However, he came back out of retirement to coach Jameis Winston and the explosive Bucs offense, and although it hasn’t been the ideal season for them, they were tremendous in Seattle last week, and should have similar results this week. After all, the Cardinals have a decent pass rush, but they’ve been getting beat by passing offenses all season, and this is not an easy test. Conversely, the Cardinals offense could also move the ball well against a weak Bucs’ pass defense, but at the same time, they’ve been more of a short-passing offense, which mitigates some of Tampa Bay’s issues at the back-end of their secondary. Plus, the Bucs are also a much more efficient team on early downs, are due for a win after four straight tough losses, and have quietly been progressing offensively since their bye. This week, those minor successes will translate into a win for Tampa Bay, who appears to be the better team and more equipped to win what should be a massive shootout.
Chiefs (6-3) at Titans (4-5)
Spread Pick: TEN (+6)
Over/Under Pick: Over/PUSH (50)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 27 Titans 23
He’s back! Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes will be back under center for the Chiefs on Sunday in Tennesee, which is great news for everybody, besides the Titans. Due to the brilliance of Andy Reid, Kansas City has been able to have success offensively with Matt Moore, but without a doubt, their chances of winning this game went up significantly with Mahomes, who could exploit some of Tennesee’s sneaky vulnerabilities. The Titans have strong overall defensive numbers, but against strong passing offenses like the Chargers, Falcons, and Buccaneers, they haven’t played well. Now, without corner Malcolm Butler, they’re tasked with slowing down Kansas City, who just picked apart Minnesota’s defense. Plus, although Ryan Tannehill has played well, the Chiefs’ defense is slowly getting healthier, and interior rusher Chris Jones should have a field day against a weak Titans interior offensive line. Tennesee should be able to run the ball effectively and control the game enough to stay extremely competitive, but in the end, I’ll take the significantly more talented team (Chiefs) to take care of business.
Dolphins (1-7) at Colts (5-3)
Spread Pick: MIA (+10)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43.5)
Score Prediction: Dolphins 13 Colts 20
Few teams have had to deal with adversity more than the Colts, who had to deal with Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement but are now also without new starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, edge rusher Kemoko Turay, star receiver TY Hilton, cornerback Pierre Desir, and are just getting some other key players, like safety Malik Hooker and linebacker Darius Leonard, back healthy. Yet, they’ve been able to exceed expectations up to this point, thanks in large part to the head coaching prowess of Frank Reich. Brian Hoyer picked up right where Brissett left off last week in Pittsburgh (the drop-off is minimal, if any), and even without Hilton, the passing attack functioned due to receiver Zach Pascal and some other contributors. Well, they don’t exactly face much of a test in the Dolphins pass defense, which is still amongst the league’s worst, while their run defense will also be susceptible to the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL. Furthermore, although Ryan Fitzpatrick has played well under center for Miami, he’s a volatile quarterback due for a poor outing, and the team’s awful run-blocking will prevent them from taking advantage of a below-average rush defense. I’m not sure Indianapolis has the talent necessary to be a ten-point favorite, but regardless, they’ll find a way to win against an inferior opponent.
Panthers (5-3) at Packers (7-2)
Spread Pick: CAR (+4.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48)
Score Prediction: Panthers 24 Packers 27
As illustrated by the fact that the game time was shifted in order for it to be a later game, this Panthers-Packers matchup, is one of, if not the best day game of the week. Carolina has stayed right in the thick of the playoff picture despite having Kyle Allen under center, while Green Bay is coming off an upset loss to the Chargers and can’t afford to lose two straight. To be frank, the Packers are the better team, have the far better quarterback, and have a major home-field advantage, so they’re the easy pick to win this game. However, the Panthers won’t go down without a fight. Green Bay’s defense has been struggling recently, especially against the run, and more specifically, power runs to the left. Well, power runs with Christian McCaffrey, particularly to the left, is a major component of Carolina’s offense, so I have faith they’ll be able to minimize their reliance on Allen. Still, Aaron Rodgers should dominate against the Panthers’ zone coverage, especially since Carolina’s pass rush hasn’t been the same after a hot start. Additionally, if Matt LeFleur is able to script his way to an early lead for Green Bay, Allen will be forced to play catchup and will make mistakes. So although I think Carolina stays in this game until the very end, the Packers should still pull through with a win leading into their bye week.
Rams (5-3) at Steelers (4-4)
Spread Pick: LAR (-4)/PUSH
Over/Under Pick: Over/PUSH (43.5)
Score Prediction: Rams 24 Steelers 20
Though this game between the Rams and Steelers is intriguing as a whole, it’s a couple mini-matchups that are particularly of interest to me. How does Los Angeles’ offensive line fare against one of the best pass rushes in the league? Is the Steelers secondary fixed with the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick? How will Jared Goff play in a cold-weather road game? These are all questions that’ll be answered this Sunday, though even with so much lack of clarity, I’m pretty confident in picking the Rams to win this game. Yes, their offensive line will struggle against Pittsburgh’s pass rush, but in every game in which the Steelers have played an above-average passing offense, they’ve really struggled. That includes a game against the Chargers, whose offensive line troubles are very similar to the Rams. Plus, do we really trust Mason Rudolph to move the ball against one of the most talented defenses in the NFL? He has major issues under pressure, and facing off against one of the better pass rushes led by Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler Jr., those problems should come to fruition. Furthermore, the Steelers have been winning in unsustainable fashion (poor quarterback play and turnovers), so eventually, that’ll catch up to them. Against a top-tier team, they won’t be able to hide the flaws, and as a result, Los Angeles will come out of their bye week (which favors Sean McVay and the Rams even more) with a bang.
SNF: Vikings (6-3) at Cowboys (5-3)
Spread Pick: DAL (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (49)
Score Prediction: Vikings 10 Cowboys 24
In one of many games this week that could seriously impact the NFC playoff picture, the Vikings and Cowboys will meet in Dallas for what should be a great Sunday Night Football game. For Minnesota, they’re coming off of a forgetful loss in Kansas City, while for Dallas, they’re looking to go on a winning streak to establish their dominance in the NFC East. Kirk Cousins and his horrible record in primetime and against winning teams will be heavily discussed leading up to this game, and it does indeed have some merit. However, it’s what is around Cousins that may let him down. Minnesota’s offensive line will be in for a long day against the Cowboys’ stout pass rush, and I don’t expect running back Dalvin Cook to have the amazing game he needs to have against a strong group of linebackers. Then, there are the Vikings’ problems with their secondary; their slow, stiff cornerbacks have been getting beat consistently, and the receiver duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will only magnify it. I do believe these two teams are very similar in terms of talent, but as far as how they match up, Dallas has some huge advantages, which they’ll ride to a victory in this game.
MNF: Seahawks (7-2) at 49ers (8-0)
Spread Pick: SEA (+6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 30 49ers 27
No disrespect to the other games in Week 10, but the best matchup is saved for last- the Seahawks and 49ers will face off in an extremely important divisional game. Right now, everyone is buying San Francisco’s stock, as they’re perceived to have an elite defense with a top-notch offense. I do concede that their offense is terrific, and against a below-average Seahawks defense with no pass rush, they’re bound to have success both through the air and on the ground. Still, they’re without star tight end George Kittle, and if this game turns into a shootout, they’re not the type of offense that can keep up. They may have to do their best; the Seahawks offense isn’t getting enough recognition currently. Not only do they have the favorite for MVP in Russell Wilson, as well as now three mismatches in Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Josh Gordon, but they also have one of the best-designed passing offenses in the NFL schematically. Additionally, Wilson’s splits favor him significantly in zone coverage, which San Francisco runs almost as much as any other defense. To top it all off, we know that Seattle likes to run the football behind a massive offensive line, and they should be able to do so against a defensive line focused on rushing the passer- the 49ers quietly have a poor run defense. This may be an upset pick, and San Francisco is definitely the better team, but the 49ers have to lose at some point, and they don’t matchup well at all with Seattle; I truly believe the Seahawks find a way to win this game.