The first Polar Vortex of the season has descended onto the NFL world. That only means one thing: big boy football has begun.
Outside of the NFC South, all the NFC contenders held serve in Week 10, some in emphatic fashion. In the AFC, no less than 12 teams remain in the hunt for the playoffs.
It may be cold outside, but the action over the next seven weeks will be more than hot.
Week 10 record: 9-4
Season record: 81-65-1
Buffalo Bills (5-4) +4.5 at Miami Dolphins (5-4)
For a while Sunday afternoon, this looked like a possible battle of 6-3 teams, but both the Bills and Dolphins relinquished fourth quarter leads. Now this week’s Thursday Night tilt is a battle to stay in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race.
ATS pick: Bills
Minnesota Vikings (4-5) +3 at Chicago Bears (3-6)
To use a NASCAR analogy, the Bears represented a start and park entry in Green Bay – the car on a shoestring budget running a handful of laps before taking a check and beating the traffic home. The disastrous night in Lambeau shot Marc Trestman from 10th up to third on one hot seat ranking.
ATS pick: Vikings
Houston Texans (4-5) +3 at Cleveland Browns (6-3)
The Browns announced themselves as legitimate contenders with a Thursday night trashing of the Bengals. Only problem is this week at home against the Texans is a classic trap game and the spread indicates that. The Browns also await the return of Josh Gordon, due back next week.
ATS pick: Texans
Seattle Seahawks (6-3) +2 at Kansas City Chiefs (6-3)
Suddenly this has become a huge game on the schedule, and it should be disturbing for Seattle fans to see their team as an underdog. Kansas City has proven that last year was not a fluke.
ATS pick: Chiefs
Denver Broncos (7-2) -9.5 at St. Louis Rams (3-6)
In the aftermath of a fourth quarter meltdown in Arizona, Shaun Hill has replaced Austin Davis under center for the Rams. It likely won’t matter. This week will again be too easy for Peyton Manning and company.
ATS pick: Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) +7 at New Orleans Saints (4-5)
We found out last Thursday that Andy Dalton does not fare well in the wind. It may be the start of a tailspin that sends Cincinnati to the AFC North cellar and costs Marvin Lewis his job. Look for Who Dat to dominate against Who Dey. Spread don’t lie.
ATS pick: Saints
San Francisco 49ers (5-4) -4 at New York Giants (3-6)
Frank Gore guaranteed last week that the Niners will still make the playoffs, and they did survive the first part of the gauntlet in New Orleans. Patrick Willis is now officially out for the year, but Aldon Smith returns this week and Chris Borland has performed well in Willis’s stead, recording 35 tackles over the past two weeks. The Giants season may be lost, but Odell Beckham has already established himself as an elite receiver.
ATS pick: 49ers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) +7.5 at Washington
Mike Evans has proven his status as Tampa Bay’s top pick this year despite working with shaky quarterback play. Remember the days of Doug Martin being the third overall fantasy football player 15 months ago? He is now entered game day inactive territory.
ATS pick: Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons (3-6) PICK at Carolina Panthers (3-6-1)
With help from the Bengals, the winner of this game could wind up holding first place in the division. We’re still being told that Cam Newton is “fine” despite barely being able to stay upright Monday night.
ATS pick: Falcons
Oakland Raiders (0-9) +10 at San Diego Chargers (5-4)
It doesn’t get any easier for the Raiders, with Charles Woodson continuing to vent his frustration on social media. Ryan Mathews is due to return this week, which will take care of Brandon Oliver’s fantasy value for the time being.
ATS pick: Chargers
Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) +6 at Green Bay Packers (6-3)
A massive battle for playoff positioning takes place in what are expected to be sub-freezing conditions at Lambeau Field. I expect the weather to impact Mark Sanchez more than Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles lack of offensive line depth will also be a difference.
ATS pick: Packers
Detroit Lions (7-2) +1.5 at Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
Only four teams have never qualified for the Super Bowl, the Lions and Browns meeting up in Glendale is a remote possibility, which would about complete the cycle. But the Cardinals do not want to give up the home locker room while making their own history of playing the big game in their own stadium. The season-ending injury to Carson Palmer hurts, but Drew Stanton is not a huge dropoff.
ATS pick: Cardinals
New England Patriots (7-2) +3 at Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Even though they no longer play in the same division, the Pats and Colts remain one of football’s most intense rivalries, only changing slightly since Andrew Luck arrived in Indy. This is the Colts chance to enter the fray for earning one of the AFC’s top two seeds.
ATS pick: Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) -5.5 at Tennessee Titans (2-7)
It appears that Big Ben’s deal with the devil only lasted a fortnight. But I look for a rebound in Nashville before the Steelers and Carolina Panthers become the final two teams to take their byes.
ATS pick: Steelers