GB (5-2) @ SF (4-4) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon
Just a couple of weeks ago, the tide looked like it was turning for San Francisco to potentially make the NFC Championship Game rematch one of the games of the year, but recent injuries (to Jimmy Garoppolo, Tevin Coleman, and George Kittle) combined with COVID-19 issues (for Brandon Aiyuk and Trent Williams) has them completely decimated heading into Thursday Night Football. Perhaps we’ll see Nick Mullens—who made a name for himself on TNF a couple of years ago—make enough throws to complement JaMycal Hasty and the running game, but outdueling Aaron Rodgers seems highly improbable with a receiving corps that’s headlined by Trent Taylor, Richie James, and multiple callups from the practice squad. In Green Bay, COVID issues hit the backfield with Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon out, so they’ll be turning to Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams if Aaron Jones (calf) is unable to go; I actually think Williams can be a solid option based on what he showed at Notre Dame. Overall, it might not matter who gets backfield touches for the Packers with the connection between Rodgers and Davante Adams looking as good as ever, and the entire team should be ready to play because of a) their loss to Minnesota, and b) the way their 2019 season ended.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
NYG (1-7) @ WAS (2-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Part of what I loved about Daniel Jones coming out of Duke was his toughness, but the downside is that it can lead to turnovers, and the first two weaknesses I listed in his scouting report have really been the big flaws for him through two years: Sometimes pulls the trigger on a throw that’s not there and can hold the ball too long and take sacks. Still, Jones should only get better as the team in general improves, and I think it’d be a huge mistake for New York to even consider a signal-caller (unless they get the No. 1 overall pick for Trevor Lawrence) in next year’s draft. In the first meeting versus Washington this season, a stop on a two-point conversation game the Giants their lone victory so far in 2020, but Ron Rivera’s defense played very well, and now they’ll have had an extra week to prepare—while Joe Judge’s squad played on Monday night and is coming off a hard-fought defeat. The game should again be somewhat low-scoring and could go either way, but Washington’s young duo of Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson gives them a little more explosiveness; the same is true for Chase Young on the defensive line.
Winner: Washington Football Team
CHI (5-3) @ TEN (5-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I said last week that the identity of Tennessee’s team should help them avoid what felt like a possible trap game against the Bengals, but Derrick Henry surprisingly saw just 18 carries, and they weren’t able to make it particularly close late. To rebound, the Titans need to get back to basics by feeding Henry, and while Chicago has a very stingy pass defense, I feel like A.J. Brown—assuming the Bears stack the box—should be able to break a long catch-and-run against them if given a little bit of space. For the Bears, keeping Anthony Miller involved following season-highs in targets (11), receptions (eight), and playing time (76%) is a must to maximize the offense, as he provides another needed target for Nick Foles behind a struggling offensive line. Also, I like the size advantage Allen Robinson will have against the Tennessee cornerbacks, and newcomer Desmond King (the projected matchup for Miller) is unlikely to have a full-time role in his first game with the team. Foles catching fire would give Chicago a good chance to win, but I like the Titans to snap their losing streak at home.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
DET (3-4) @ MIN (2-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
This week is the start of a very winnable stretch for Detroit through Thanksgiving (@ MIN, v WAS, @ CAR, v HOU; combined 8-21 record), but they will be without Kenny Golladay (hip) and potentially Matthew Stafford (COVID-19), so Sunday will be a tougher-than-expected matchup against the resurgent Vikings. Fortunately, Chase Daniel has performed well in spot starts in the past—including a win over his current team on Thanksgiving a couple of years ago—so the quarterback position will be in good hands whether or not Stafford is cleared, and I’m expecting a run-heavy game plan either way; the 15 carries for D’Andre Swift in two weeks since his breakout game (116 yards and two scores) haven’t been enough. On defense, it will be interesting to see how Matt Patricia balances stopping Dalvin Cook with keeping Adam Thielen/Justin Jefferson in check, but the Vikings have to like their chances based on what they did last week against Green Bay. This NFC North rivalry has been dominated by Minnesota since 2018 with a 4-0 record and +58 point differential, and Kirk Cousins continuing to take care of the ball (9:1 touchdown-interception over that span) should make it 5-0.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
CAR (3-5) @ KC (7-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Panthers don’t have Kansas City levels of offensive firepower, but Christian McCaffrey (ankle) likely returning is a huge boost for them (sorry, “running backs don’t matter” crowd), and Curtis Samuel having one of the best games of his career last Thursday night will make Joe Brady’s offense even tougher to defend this week and down the stretch. However, Kansas City has quietly been one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2020—they’ve allowed 20 or fewer points in seven-of-eight games—so Teddy Bridgewater needs to be on point for the Panthers to have any chance of keeping up with Patrick Mahomes at Arrowhead Stadium. Defensively, Carolina has a ton of young players that will be tested, but maybe their athleticism/versatility could present some problems for the skill-position talent in Andy Reid’s offense; getting top corner Rasul Douglas back from COVID-19 will be a significant boost on the perimeter. There are just too many ways for the Chiefs to beat a defense, though, and after the passing attack led the way last week with five scores, we could see Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell do some heavier lifting against an attackable run defense.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
HOU (1-6) @ JAX (1-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
No one would have predicted the only win the Texans would have by the second NFL weekend in November would be against the Jaguars, but that’s the case, they’ve fallen far enough that Will Fuller was nearly shipped away at the trade deadline earlier this week. Honestly, blowing a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs back in January has likely impacted a franchise that was hoping to take the next step, and now they’re playing for pride (and to avoid giving a top-five pick to Miami for the Laremy Tunsil trade). Jacksonville, on the other hand, has settled in pretty much where they were expected to, but it seems odd that Gardner Minshew’s thumb injury might lead to him permanently relinquishing the starting job, as even if they are targeting a quarterback in 2021, you can still showcase the second-year passer for a potential trade; benching him for Jake Luton doesn’t seem like a way to keep his value high, and it also doesn’t seem to give the Jags their best chance at picking up wins for a coaching staff that has gone 12-27 since their AFC Championship Game loss to New England. As long as James Robinson doesn’t go crazy on the ground, the talent of Houston should win out on Sunday.
Winner: Houston Texans
BAL (5-2) @ IND (5-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The toughest game of the week for me to pick, Ravens-Colts features two complete opposites at quarterback with Lamar Jackson and Philip Rivers, but both teams are built around the running game and strong defense, which should make it a very entertaining matchup. In general, Baltimore has continued to struggle versus some of the best teams in the league, and I would be worried about—similar to what’s seemed to happen with Tennessee—a letdown following a draining loss to Pittsburgh last week. Additionally, it’s not good that Marquise Brown is upset with how he’s been used (letting his displeasure be known in a tweet that’s since been deleted), and the front four of Indianapolis can give the Baltimore offensive line some problems as they hope to keep the running game on track with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. I’m also not so confident in Indy’s offense with T.Y. Hilton (groin) likely out and the usage of Jonathan Taylor being questionable, but Marlon Humphrey (COVID-19) being out takes away perhaps the best overall player for the Ravens, and there are enough targets for Rivers to move the ball with quick-strike passes if he can consistently avoid mistakes. I’m going with the Colts in close one.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
SEA (6-1) @ BUF (6-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
It hasn’t been pretty in recent weeks, but Buffalo sits comfortably in pole position for the AFC East race with Miami likely being the only team with a chance to pass them, and both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss having big days last Sunday should help open up the passing attack in the second half of the season. For this week, Seattle will be better attacked through the air, and they’ve had serious difficulties defending dual-threat quarterbacks so far in 2020, so I’d expect the increased rushing output for Josh Allen in recent weeks will continue as Buffalo pulls out all the stops to keep up with Russell Wilson. The status of Chris Carson (foot) is extremely important, as the Seahawks will probably be given lighter boxes because Sean McDermott simply won’t want Wilson to beat them with an aerial assault (comparable to the defensive game plan that was used against the Chiefs). If Carson is forced to miss another game, rookie DeeJay Dallas is at least capable of handling a heavy workload and fighting for extra yards—just not at the level of Seattle’s starter. Tre’Davious White is the obvious headliner for the Bills on defense and should see plenty of D.K. Metcalf, but don’t underestimate Levi Wallace being healthy at the other perimeter cornerback spot. This would be a monumental win for Buffalo’s confidence after previous losses to Tennessee and Kansas City.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
DEN (3-4) @ ATL (2-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Speaking of confidence, Drew Lock has plenty of it following a game-winning touchdown against the Chargers last week, and in one quarter, Denver’s season basically went from a standing eight count to getting an opportunity to make a run for a wild card spot (they’ll play Las Vegas and Miami after this week). The collection of young talent for the Broncos gives them several different ways to attack opponents, and we could see K.J. Hamler—who was on the receiving end of the game-winner last week—make some explosive plays like Curtis Samuel did last Thursday night versus Atlanta; also, Noah Fant seems due for a big game with more of an underneath role in recent weeks. On the other side of the ball, the primary concern for the Broncos is stopping Julio Jones, and A.J. Bouye (concussion) not playing could put the responsibility on rookie Michael Ojemudia, which is a big ask. Calvin Ridley (ankle) not playing would have me less confident about the pick, but Matt Ryan still has enough weapons with Todd Gurley, Russell Gage, and Hayden Hurst behind Julio.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
LV (4-3) @ LAC (2-5) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
Derek Carr and the Raiders showing they can win a game impacted by the wind, the cold, and even some snow was a psychological victory on top of an actual victory, and the defense in particular was very impressive, including against the run. This week, though, it might need to be a shootout to come out on top against Justin Herbert, and Los Angeles definitely won’t be an easy out having been in every game this year despite a 2-5 record (the losses have all been by one score to Kansas City, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Denver). Still, I trust the Las Vegas coaching staff more if it’s a close game late, and the Chargers have had inconsistent roles for both Joshua Kelley and Mike Williams—both of whom I think should be routinely featured as the secondary options to Keenan Allen. Overall, the offensive headliners for the Raiders (Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller) and the efficiency of Carr—on track for career-highs in completion percentage (71.1%), touchdown percentage (6.0%), and quarterback rating (110.2)—gives them an edge this weekend.
Winner: Las Vegas Raiders
PIT (7-0) @ DAL (2-6) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Other than Bill Belichick, I’m not sure there’s a coach in the league I’d rather have over Mike Tomlin.
Mike Tomlin on the Steelers being undefeated
“It's good today,
but it means nothing for tomorrow.”
Mindset 🎯 pic.twitter.com/qUOrUhKXEM
— CoachTube.com (@thecoachtube) November 2, 2020
It would be a shock if the Steelers looked past Dallas on Sunday.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
MIA (4-3) @ ARI (5-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
I expected a conservative approach for the Miami offense last week in Tua Tagovailoa’s first career start, and two return touchdowns made that way easier than anyone could have anticipated. That said, things will almost certainly need to be opened up to keep up with Kyler Murray on the road in Week 9, and—OK, the decision desk is apparently calling Arizona early.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
NO (5-2) @ TB (6-2) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
Offensively, the Buccaneers are a completely different team than the one we saw in the opener, as aside from Tom Brady now having chemistry with his supporting cast and more comfortability with Bruce Arains’ offense, they also have Antonio Brown making his Tampa Bay debut for a game that could decide the NFC South. I would say there is a great chance AB is immediately unleashed on Sunday night (why sign him if not?), and while New Orleans has done a great job defending Mike Evans over the years, the same isn’t true of Chris Godwin (finger), so TB12 should get plenty of favorable matchups to attack outside of the Evans versus Marshon Lattimore battle. The Bucs will have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Brown’s status on the team, so I’ll be very interested to see if the Saints—namely instigator Chauncey Gardner-Johnson—try to get under his skin at all to force an outburst. As for New Orleans offense, they also project to get reinforcements with Michael Thomas (hamstring/ankle) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19), but Latavius Murray could be the x-factor to neutralize an aggressive Tampa Bay defense. Now would be the time to break out some double-move deep balls if Drew Brees still has them in the arsenal; I’m just not sure it’d be enough to outduel Brady again as they battle for the all-time touchdown lead.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NE (2-5) @ NYJ (0-8) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
New England is in unfamiliar territory sitting 3.5 games behind Buffalo in the division before even playing half of their games, but it isn’t too late to make a run, and there is a chance the COVID-19 issues that impacted them last month could even lead to Cam Newton having a late-season surge if some missed time has his body feeling fresher at this point. Of course, Newton needs to take care of the ball if the Patriots—already playing with a smaller margin of error as a defensive team—are going to start rattling off wins, but the Jets are the ideal opponent for a get-right game. Plus, while the Patriots aren’t the same defense they’ve been in the past two years, they are still one of the NFL’s best, and the unit has absolutely suffocated Sam Darnold in the past with wins of 38-3 and 33-0—the latter of which was the “seeing ghosts” game last year on Monday Night Football. Anything can happen (and the spread is just a touchdown for a projected slugfest), but I doubt some of the success Adam Gase has had against Bill Belichick teams in the past will be able to carry over; New York forcing multiple turnovers and methodically moving the ball is their best shot.
Winner: New England Patriots