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Monday, November 18, 2019

BUCCANEERS VS SAINTS

Venue: Raymond James Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

The New Orleans Saints will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday for a rematch that will look significantly different than the Saints’ 31-24 home victory in Week 5. That game featured Teddy Bridgewater as New Orleans’ starting quarterback, and he shined en route to his third of five straight victories in place of the injured Drew Brees. In his Week 8 return, Brees looked like his old self, routing Arizona, but the Saints abruptly collapsed at home against Atlanta last week. Brees was sacked six times, as guard Andrus Peat left with a broken arm and will reportedly miss six weeks. The Bucs, meanwhile, will look different on defense after waiving former first-round pick and top cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves, who was benched Sunday for a lack of hustle, leads Tampa Bay cornerbacks in snaps (582, 92.2 percent) this season, though the Bucs have held only one opponent under 27 points all year, way back in Week 2. Bruce Arians’ offense continues to score, however, putting up 30 in Sunday’s win over Arizona. Jameis Winston has nine interceptions and seven fumbles over his last four games, but the team has still managed to average 28.3 points per game during that span.

Win: New Orleans Saints
Line: New Orleans Saints -5.5
Total Points: Under 50.5

REDSKINS VS JETS

Venue: FedExField | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Unofficial but recognized by ownership, Adam Gase Day in New York came sooner than expected this week. CEO Christopher Johnson declared Gase was safe and would be back in the saddle as head coach in 2020, which might come as a mild surprise considering the team’s 2-7 record. Gase did engineer a win last week over the NY Giants, snapping a three-game losing streak. It’s been a dismal season in more ways than one for quarterback Sam Darnold — mono, ghost sightings — but he kept the chains moving last week and the Jets scored a season-best 34 points. The Redskins could be in for their own run of growing pains as Dwayne Haskins, a first-round pick in 2019, takes over as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Washington might be able to provide a bit of stability in the form of a running game as Derrius Guice returns from a knee injury. Washington is 1-8 and has been held under 10 points for three straight games for the first time since 1961. Interceptions have undone some bright spots for Haskins, but Washington is lightly stocked with playmakers outside of rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who leads the team with five touchdowns.

Win: Washington Redskins
Line: Washington Redskins -2.5
Total Points: Over 38.5

PANTHERS VS FALCONS

Venue: Bank of America Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

The Carolina Panthers won’t overlook the Atlanta Falcons when they visit Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday. The Falcons erupted, winning 26-9, at New Orleans coming off their bye last week, snapping a six-game losing streak to begin a stretch of five straight NFC South games. Atlanta shifted around defensive play-calling duties, with head coach Dan Quinn tabbing linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and assistant head coach Raheem Morris to split the job. The Panthers hope to solve that group after putting up just 13 and 16 points in two of the last three weeks, in losses at San Francisco (Week 8) and snowy Green Bay (Week 10). Do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey was “limited” to 108 rushing yards against the Packers, but it still marked his sixth 100-yard game of the season. McCaffrey is tied for the NFL lead with 14 total touchdowns and leads all players with 153.9 scrimmage yards per game. The Falcons could try to attack a Panthers run defense that has struggled greatly of late — slipping to last in yards per carry allowed (5.17) — but they’ll be short-handed in doing so. Running back Devonta Freeman (foot sprain) is expected out, while backup Ito Smith is already on injured reserve, leaving Brian Hill as the likely lead back.

Win: Carolina Panthers
Line: Atlanta Falcons +4.5
Total Points: Under 49.5

DOLPHINS VS BILLS

Venue: Hard Rock Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

It might be strong to refer to the Miami Dolphins as dangerous, but Brian Flores’ outfit is playing with renewed confidence. With two wins in a row, the Dolphins are still big underdogs. But the defense has been a bright spot, last week in particular with three takeaways — upping the woeful season total to seven — and 13 points off of turnovers. If quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick takes care of the ball, the Buffalo Bills will likely need to put together a strong showing to leave with a win. Trips to South Florida this time of year have typically been a challenge for Buffalo, considering the temperature jump could be nearly 75 degrees from Western NY to South Beach. Quarterback Josh Allen has not been moving the offense effectively and is showing a particular weakness in pushing the ball down the field. This is surprising considering his college tape was a collection of bombs 40 and 50 yards downfield. The Bills rank 25th in the NFL in scoring average (19.3), and Allen still hasn’t completed a pass this season that went at least 30 yards in the air.

Win: Buffalo Bills
Line: Buffalo Bills -6.5
Total Points: Over 41.5

VIKINGS VS BRONCOS

Venue: U.S. Bank Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

The Denver Broncos will see a familiar face when they visit the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Gary Kubiak, who led the Broncos to a Super Bowl 50 victory as head coach, joined the Vikings as an offensive adviser in January, after previous reports saying he’d be Denver’s offensive coordinator. This week Vikings coach Mike Zimmer called the hire “the best thing that’s ever happened to me since I’ve been here.” Kubiak and coordinator Kevin Stefanski have Minnesota’s offense clicking, ranking eighth in total offense (384.4 yards per game), fourth in yards per play (6.12) and third in rushing (153.0). Kirk Cousins ranks third in the NFL in passer rating (112.0), and Dalvin Cook leads the league in rushing (991) and yards from scrimmage (1,415). The Broncos, meanwhile, are coming off a bye after equaling their season high with 24 points in a home victory over Cleveland. The victory came in quarterback Brandon Allen’s first career start, having taken over for the injured Joe Flacco. Rookie second-rounder Drew Lock was activated off injured reserve this week and returned to practice, but he is not expected to play for at least another week or two. The Broncos have not scored more than 24 points in a game since Week 7 of 2018, a span of 18 games. No other team has has an active streak of more than 11 games.

Win: Minnesota Vikings
Line: Minnesota Vikings -10.5
Total Points: Over 40.5

RAVENS VS TEXANS

Venue: M&T Bank Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Two of the league’s most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks square off in Baltimore with the AFC’s two-time reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week Lamar Jackson hosting the equally flashy Deshaun Watson and the AFC South-leading Texans. Jackson has silenced critics who suggested that he lacked the sophistication and accuracy to succeed as a quarterback, completing 65.9 percent of his passes with a healthy 15 touchdowns thrown against just five interceptions, leading the Ravens to two game lead in the AFC North. Those numbers could improve against a Houston secondary ranked 29th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing an average of 277.3 yards per game. Jackson and battering ram back Mark Ingram are in for a challenge against a stout Houston rush defense, however, which has allowed just three touchdowns on the ground thus far this season, best in the AFC. Jackson’s dominance has overshadowed a typically stout Baltimore defense which may be without splashy free agent addition Earl Thomas (knee). The Ravens rank just 20th in the NFL in pass defense but this is inflated due to opponents being forced to throw often to keep up with Jackson and the Ravens’ explosive offense. Among league leaders with 18 passing touchdowns through his first nine games, Watson is a formidable challenge. His stats could take a tumble in this potential playoff preview should starting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) and Tytus Howard (knee) remain limited.

Win: Baltimore Ravens
Line: Houston Texans +4.5
Total Points: Under 51.5

COLTS VS JAGUARS

Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Two injured quarterbacks are expected to return to the lineup when the Jacksonville Jaguars visit the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The Jaguars will be starting Nick Foles, the free agent signee who is fresh off of injured reserve after missing eight games due to a broken collarbone. He threw just eight passes, completing five for 75 yards and a touchdown, in the opener before getting injured. The Jaguars went 4-4 in eight starts by rookie Gardner Minshew, but they suffered their most lopsided loss of the season in Week 9 before the bye, falling 26-3 to Houston in London. Meanwhile, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is expected to return to start after missing Sunday with a knee injury. After backup Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions in a home loss to Miami, Brissett returned to a full practice Wednesday and will play barring a late-week setback. He may remain without his favorite target, however, as T.Y. Hilton continues to battle a calf injury after missing the last two games. The Colts’ offense managed 24 points in a Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh but scored just 12 against Miami. The Jaguars have won five of the last seven meetings with the Colts — though only one of those came in Indianapolis — since losing six straight from 2012-15.

Win: Indianapolis Colts
Line: Jacksonville Jaguars +2.5
Total Points: Under 43.5

LIONS VS COWBOYS

Venue: Ford Field | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Injuries are a major issue for the Dallas Cowboys as they prepare to face the Detroit Lions. With the Cowboys coming off of a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, much of their second-team offensive line was running with the starters as the week began. Guard Zack Martin and right tackle La’el Collins were unable to practice at all. The Cowboys have won three in a row in this matchup, but minus a fortified line, Dallas could sputter as it did last week. The Cowboys failed to gain a single first down running the ball against the Vikings. The Lions know all too well about the toll of injuries. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who sat out last week, didn’t practice Wednesday. Already down top running back Kerryon Johnson, the Lions are looking at possibly starting Jeff Driskel in Stafford’s spot.

Win: Dallas Cowboys
Line: Dallas Cowboys -7.5
Total Points: Under 46.5

49ERS VS CARDINALS

Venue: Levi’s Stadium | Start: 8:05am AEDT

For the second time in 18 days the penthouse and poorhouse teams of the NFC West square off with Arizona hoping to regain the form which nearly led to a colossal upset of the 49ers at home in Week Nine. The quarterbacks for both teams were outstanding in that contest with San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo (season-high four passing touchdowns) out-dueling Arizona’s Kyler Murray (season-high 130.7 passing rate) combining for six scores and no turnovers. While the Cardinals threw a scare into the visiting 49ers on Halloween, the conditions will be much tougher Sunday in Santa Clara with the home team smarting after suffering its loss of the season on Monday Night Football to fellow divisional opponent Seattle. San Francisco has the clear advantage in talent but is hurting with left tackle Joe Staley (finger) doubtful for the game with two of Garoppolo’s most reliable pass-catchers – George Kittle (knee) and Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) also questionable to play. Rookie placekicker Chase McLaughlin could see his second consecutive start for the 49ers with Robbie Gould still nursing a quadriceps injury. McLaughlin successfully converted his first three kicks for San Francisco against Seattle but badly missed a 47-yarder in overtime which would have won the game. San Francisco’s passing attack struggled once Sanders was injured against Seattle but Arizona’s secondary is vulnerable with Patrick Peterson (calf), Tramaine Brock (hamstring) and Deionte Thompson (knee) all questionable.

Win: San Francisco 49ers
Line: Arizona Cardinals +10.5
Total Points: Under 43.5

RAIDERS VS BENGALS

Venue: RingCentral Coliseum | Start: 8:25am AEDT

The Oakland Raiders eye their third straight win in their third straight home game when the Cincinnati Bengals visit on Sunday. Following a span of seven weeks away from home, the Raiders have beaten the Lions and Chargers the last two weeks, with the latter coming on Nov. 7, providing extra time to prepare for the 0-9 Bengals. A win would put Oakland two games above .500 through 10 games, which has happened just twice since 2002. Cincinnati, meanwhile, appears further from a victory now than it was early in the season. After losses by 1, 4, 3 and 6 points through the first six weeks, the Bengals have lost the last three by a combined margin of 100-40, including a 49-13 rout at home against Baltimore on Sunday. Rookie Ryan Finley will make his second consecutive start, after going 16 of 30 for 167 yards, a touchdown and a pick-6 against the Ravens. He’ll be facing a former Bengals defensive coordinator in Paul Guenther. Cincinnati has yet to top 23 points in a game this year, while Oakland has permitted at least 21 in every game but its opener. The Bengals have won three straight against the Raiders, including a 30-16 victory in Cincinnati last year.

Win: Oakland Raiders
Line: Cincinnati Bengals +11.5
Total Points: Under 43.5

EAGLES VS PATRIOTS

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field | Start: 8:25am AEDT

Less than two years removed from the Super Bowl LII showdown which netted Philadelphia its first NFL title since 1960, the Eagles host the Patriots in a battle of East divisional leaders. As in common in today’s era of free agency and roster turnover, there are plenty of new names for both clubs, starting with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who has yet to play with the consistency this season he did prior to suffering a torn ACL in Week 13, opening the door for Nick Foles, the eventual Super Bowl LII MVP. After tossing nine touchdowns in the four September games, Wentz has just one multi-score game since – an October 13 loss in Minnesota. He has just three touchdown passes in the Eagles’ last three games – the same number of scores the Patriots have allowed in the air all season long while intercepting 19 passes. As is often the case, Tom Brady’s statistics are less than eye-popping (64.8% completion rate with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions) but he remains deadly efficient, guiding a Patriots offense which ranks just 23rd overall in rushing (92.9 yards per game) but tied for third in touchdowns scored on the ground (13 in just nine games). Wentz’s task of upsetting the Patriots again is made even more difficult starting running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) limited, Alshon Jeffery (ankle) still not practicing and DeSean Jackson (abdomen) placed on IR last week.

Win: New England Patriots
Line: Philadelphia Eagles +4.5
Total Points: Over 44.5

RAMS VS BEARS

Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum | Start: 12:20pm AEDT

With a script suitable to Hollywood, opposites attract in this clash of NFC playoff hopefuls with the defensive-dominated Chicago Bears traveling to face an LA Rams squad built on an innovative and talent-rich offense. Embattled Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is coming off his best game of the season, earning a 131.0 QB rate on 16 of 23 passing for three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 20-13 win over Detroit. It was just the third game this season that Trubisky has thrown a touchdown. The Bears haven’t been much better on the ground, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry (27th in the NFL) with five touchdowns in nine games. Rookie runner David Montgomery has all five of those scores but he was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury which bears watching. Led by All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack, a blue-collar defense is the reason the Bears have a puncher’s chance in this contest. While Mack gets most of the attention, 6-4, 310-pound defensive tackle Nick Williams actually leads the team with six sacks. Each will get opportunities to pad their stats against a Rams’ offense which placed starting center Brian Allen (knee) on IR Tuesday with right tackle Rob Havenstein also limited by a knee. Speedy wideout Brandin Cooks remains out with a concussion. His absence helped the Steelers eliminate Cooper Kupp, leaving Jared Goff’s favorite security blanket without a catch for the first time in three NFL seasons.

Win: Los Angeles Rams
Line: Chicago Bears +6.5
Total Points: Over 40.5