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Monday, December 16, 2019

BENGALS VS PATRIOTS

Venue: Paul Brown Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

New England created a controversy not unfamiliar to Patriots last week but there should be little the Cincinnati Bengals bring to the field to challenge the AFC East frontrunners. The 1-12 Bengals are playing for little other than draft position. While the NFL investigates the latest video taping incident involving the Patriots, the team turned its attention to punching a ticket to the postseason for the 17th time in 20 seasons with Belichick at the helm. A win or a tie on Sunday gets them there.New England followed up a loss at Houston with a 23-16 home loss to Kansas City on Sunday in a rematch of January’s AFC title game. Tom Brady was pressured throughout the contest against the Chiefs and completed just 19 of 36 passes for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Brady, who had his right elbow significantly bandaged after the game, was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. Julian Edelman did his job with eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City, but the Super Bowl MVP’s availability has been drawn into question after he was listed as a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice with knee and shoulder injuries. Having Edelman at less than 100 percent is of significant concern for the Patriots, who saw fellow wideouts Jakobi Meyers, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Phillip Dorsett combine for three receptions for 60 yards versus the Chiefs.

Win: New England Patriots
Line: Cincinnati Bengals +10.5
Total Points: Over 42.5

GIANTS VS DOLPHINS

Venue: MetLife Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Two teams jockeying for draft position will face off when the Miami Dolphins visit the New York Giants on Sunday, in a likely battle between aging quarterbacks. The Dolphins return to MetLife Stadium for the second consecutive week after falling 22-21 on a last-second field goal to the New York Jets last week. They’ll start 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick, who got Miami in position for eight field-goal attempts (seven made) a week ago but could not find the end zone. The Giants appear likely to start 38-year-old Eli Manning, who was benched for rookie Daniel Jones in Week 3 but started last week at Philadelphia with Jones battling a sprained ankle. Jones practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but worked with the second team. Manning’s return started well, as the Giants led 17-3 before ultimately falling 23-17 in overtime. The loss kept the Giants in position for the second overall pick in April’s draft, behind Cincinnati. The Dolphins — once pegged as the overwhelming favorite to pick first — are in line for the fourth pick. Miami could set a new record for most players used in a season; it currently leads the league with 74, four shy of the 2017 Houston Texans’ mark, and added several new players this week.

Win: NY Giants
Line: NY Giants -3.5
Total Points: Over 45.5

PANTHERS VS SEAHAWKS

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

Interim Carolina Panthers head coach Perry Fewell is hoping that his first home game since taking over for the recently fired Ron Rivera goes better than last week’s 40-20 beatdown in Atlanta. Fewell, promoted from defensive coordinator, watched his former unit surrender more points than the Falcons have scored in a single game all season and the tag-team approach of Norv Turner and his son, Scott (who calls the plays) didn’t fare much better on offense. Quarterback Kyle Allen was sacked five times. That gives the Panthers 50 sacks allowed on the season. Only the Dolphins (51) have allowed more. Until an equally humbling 28-12 letdown last week against the divisional rival LA Rams, the Seahawks had been soaring, winning their past five games. Though still playing at an All-Pro level, Russell Wilson’s torrid start has cooled off as his favorite receiver, Tyler Lockett, has battled illness and a shin injury. Seattle’s only touchdown against the Rams came on a pick-six by splashy midseason acquisition Quandre Diggs. A porous Carolina run defense could be the solution to Seattle’s woes, however. The Panthers rank 28th in the NFL in rush defense, surrendering 139.2 yards per carry, allowing a league-high 24 TDs in 13 games. Seattle is hoping to lean heavily on Chris Carson with C.J. Prosise and perhaps rookie Travis Homer also seeing time with 2018 first round pick Rashaad Penny tearing his ACL in the loss to LA. Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and perhaps Ian Thomas (with veteran Greg Olsen ailing) could be licking their chops given the pastures the Rams roamed last week. Seattle’s most agile cornerback, Shaquill Griffin, is questionable for this game with a strained hamstring.

Win: Seattle Seahawks
Line: Seattle Seahawks -6.5
Total Points: Under 48.5

LIONS VS BUCCANEERS

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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Detroit having won three consecutive games and four of its last five following a 2-6 start. Tampa Bay (6-7) has produced because of, and also in spite of, erratic quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston has completed 61.3 percent of his passes and is second in the NFL in passing yards (4,115) and tied for second in touchdown passes (26). But Winston is also turning the ball over at an alarming rate, with his 23 interceptions the most in the league by seven. Winston suffered a hairline fracture in his right (throwing) thumb during the win over the Colts, but said he intends to play against the Lions. He was limited in Wednesday’s practice. The Buccaneers won’t have one of their key offensive weapons against the Lions, as wideout Mike Evans suffered a season-ending hamstring injury against the Colts. However, Winston and Tampa Bay’s other healthy playmakers on offense have to be licking their chops. They face a porous Detroit defense that is the biggest reason why the Lions are in a free fall. Detroit (3-9-1) has lost six games in a row and nine of 10, moving into the fifth spot in the 2020 NFL Draft order. The Lions rank 29th in the league in total defense, giving up 397.4 yards per game. The Lions are also 24th in scoring defense, giving up an average of 25.8 points per game. The Buccaneers enter 31st in the league in points allowed per game at 29.3 per game, although Tampa Bay will get the benefit this time of going up against a third-string quarterback. For the third straight game, the Lions will start rookie David Blough, with starter Matthew Stafford still nursing a back injury and backup Jeff Driskel on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Blough has decent numbers in his first two games, completing 46 of 78 passes for 485 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. The Lions also will be without a key wideout, as starter Marvin Jones was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday with an ankle injury. Formerly NFC Central rivals, this marks the sixth meeting between Tampa Bay and Detroit since 2010. The Lions have won four of the last five, including 24-21 at Tampa in the last meeting in 2017.

Win: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Detroit Lions +5.5
Total Points: Under 46.5

REDSKINS VS EAGLES

Venue: FedExField | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Battered and weary coming off an overtime win on a short week, the Philadelphia Eagles head to Washington on Sunday looking to sweep the division-rival Redskins. The Eagles overcame a 14-point deficit and injuries to all but one wide receiver to rally past the New York Giants in overtime on Monday. Now they’re without wideout Alshon Jeffery for the season, while right tackle Lane Johnson could miss time with an ankle injury that knocked him out vs. the Giants. Carson Wentz picked up the slack Monday, throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns to give him 635 yards and five scores the last two weeks. Wentz’s best performance of the year, however, remains his 313-yard, 3-TD outing in a Week 1 win over the Redskins, who led 17-0 before the Eagles rallied. Washington has improved lately, winning consecutive games before falling 20-15 at Green Bay last week. The Redskins’ defense has allowed just 19.9 points per game over the last eight games after allowing 30.2 per game through five weeks. On offense, rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is expected to make his sixth start after playing through an ankle injury last week. Haskins has topped 200 yards just once in five starts.

Win: Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Washington Redskins +6.5
Total Points: Over 39.5

PACKERS VS BEARS

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

Green Bay and Chicago meet for the 200th time in the series of their storied history and second time in 2019. The Packers survived a sloppy opener with a 10-3 win in September. Aiming for their fifth consecutive win in Green Bay after a 20-15 victory over the Washington Redskins last week, the Packers are 10-3 and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory and some help from a few allies. The Bears, 7-6, are not eliminated from the postseason picture. Beating Green Bay and Kansas City in the next two games could push Chicago into a play-in game with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17. But that’s a tall order considering Aaron Rodgers’ success (18-5 career vs. Chicago) against the Bears. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has posted back-to-back three-TD games for the Bears.

Win: Green Bay Packers
Line: Chicago Bears +4.5
Total Points: Under 41.5

STEELERS VS BILLS

Venue: Heinz Field | Start: 12:20pm AEDT

The Buffalo Bills will play on Sunday Night Football for the first time in 12 years when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that was flexed into prime time. In their last SNF appearance, the Bills were drubbed 56-10 by New England at home on Nov. 18, 2007. But this Buffalo team looks different, needing just one win for the franchise’s first 10-win season since 1999. The Bills fell 24-17 on Sunday to red-hot Baltimore, but they rallied late before failing on fourth down in the red zone. The Steelers, meanwhile, have won three straight and seven of eight, including a 23-17 victory at Arizona on Sunday. That marked the seventh time this season Pittsburgh allowed 17 points or fewer, all in the last 10 games. The Steelers’ offense has been quiet, averaging 18.4 points over the last five games, but Devlin “Duck” Hodges has been efficient. He went 16 of 19 for 152 yards and a touchdown last week and is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt on the season. Meanwhile, Josh Allen has thrown just one interception over the last eight games, but he struggled against the Ravens, going 17 of 39 for 146 yards. Allen has been sacked 10 times over the last two games.

Win: Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: Pittsburgh Steelers -1.5
Total Points: Over 37.5

CHIEFS VS BRONCOS

Venue: Arrowhead Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

The Kansas City Chiefs will look for their ninth straight victory over Denver when the Broncos visit Sunday. That 8-0 string is part of a remarkable 25-2 run in division games for the Chiefs dating back to early in the 2015 season. Kansas City has won three straight overall to get to 9-4 entering Sunday, despite Patrick Mahomes posting a modest 640 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions over that span. Mahomes bruised his throwing hand in last week’s win at New England but is expected to be fine. His counterpart on Sunday will be Broncos rookie Drew Lock, who threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s surprising 38-24 rout at Houston. The performance marked the first time in 22 games that the Broncos topped 24 points. Lock, a Missouri product and native of Lee’s Summit, Mo, will be playing close to home as he tries to improve to 3-0 as a starter. He’ll face a Chiefs defense that has allowed just 42 points over the last three games, including 16 to New England last week. The unit recorded nine sacks in the Chiefs’ 30-6 win at Denver on Oct. 17.

Win: Kansas City Chiefs
Line: Denver Broncos +10.5
Total Points: Over 44.5

TITANS VS TEXANS

Venue: Nissan Stadium | Start: 5:00am AEDT

Tied at 8-5 atop the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans are chasing a playoff spot thanks to sparkling quarterback play and solid defense. A four-game winning streak has changed the outlook in Nashville. Houston is tied with Tennessee for first place with three weeks to play, and the teams will see each other twice before the end of the regular season. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has caught fire in the second half of the season and is coming off a 391-yard, three-touchdown effort in a win over the Oakland Raiders last weekend. The Texans enter after a brutal 38-24 setback last week against the Denver Broncos. The Texans once again will look for stellar play from third-year quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has passed for 3,425 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 starts. Running back Carlos Hyde needs 74 more rushing yards to notch his first career 1,000-yard season.

Win: Tennessee Titans
Line: Tennessee Titans -3.5
Total Points: Under 50.5

CARDINALS VS BROWNS

Venue: State Farm Stadium | Start: 8:05am AEDT

The past two Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall picks meet the same weekend the 2019 award will be announced as former Oklahoma stars Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray square off in a game that won’t mean much in the big picture. Murray’s 16 passing touchdowns in 13 games this season is actually one more than Mayfield’s total in 2019, though it pales to the 27 scores the latter threw as a rookie last year for a 7-8-1 Browns’ squad which was still fighting for a playoff berth in the final week of the regular season. Mayfield’s chances at overtaking Murray and giving the Browns their first road win since September is complicated by injuries to his top pass-catchers. In a 27-19 win at home last week against the Bengals, Jarvis Landry enjoyed his sixth consecutive game of at least 76 receiving yards or a touchdown. However, he is questionable for this game with a hip injury, as is Odell Beckham, Jr. (groin strain) and David Njoku (knee), who caught just one pass (for four yards) last week in his return from the IR for a broken wrist. The Cardinals are even more beaten up with 10 players listed as questionable for this game, including starting defensive backs Budda Baker (hamstring) and Byron Murphy (calf), speedy pass-catchers Christian Kirk (ankle) and Andy Isabella (shoulder) and burly blockers Mason Cole (knee)and J.R. Sweezy (illness), as well as veteran edge rusher Terrell Suggs (back).

Win: Cleveland Browns
Line: Cleveland Browns -3.5
Total Points: Under 46.5

RAIDERS VS JAGUARS

Venue: RingCentral Coliseum | Start: 8:05am AEDT

In their final game in Oakland, the Raiders hope to solve some recent woes on Sunday against an even more troubled team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville has lost five straight games by a combined margin of 174-57, including a 45-10 stomping at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers at home on Sunday. The switch from Nick Foles back to rookie Gardner Minshew at quarterback didn’t help the Jaguars, who have failed to top 13 points in four of five games during the skid. The Raiders are in similarly dire straits, having lost three straight by a combined margin of 116-33, derailing a possible shot at the postseason following a 6-4 start. With trips to Los Angeles and Denver to close the season, the Raiders will be making their farewell to the Black Hole before their move to Las Vegas next year. Derek Carr was sharper in Sunday’s 41-21 loss to the Titans, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns have tossing four interceptions in his previous three games. He’ll face a Jaguars’ defense that has allowed five straight opponents to score at least 26 points. As for the Jaguars’ quarterback, Minshew managed just 162 yards on 37 attempts last week for a season-low 4.4 yards per attempt.

Win: Oakland Raiders
Line: Jacksonville Jaguars +7.5
Total Points: Under 45.5

COWBOYS VS RAMS

Venue: AT&T Stadium | Start: 8:25am AEDT

Just when it appeared that Jason Garrett’s seat could not get any hotter, his Cowboys host the defending NFC champion Rams fresh off of their most complete game of the season, a 28-12 shakedown of the Seahawks. Despite winning two less games than the visiting Rams, the Cowboys currently possess the 4th seed as the projected NFC East winners. Dallas has a tiebreaker with the Eagles, which have the same record and host the Cowboys next week. The Rams, meanwhile, are currently on the outside looking in, one game behind the Minnesota Vikings in the race for the final wildcard spot. The motivation on both sides of this game is matched by the talent on the opposing rosters. With all due respect to stellar LA defenders Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, this game sets up as a Hollywood thriller due to all of the star power on offense. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are proving that things are bigger in Texas, averaging an NFL-best 430.8 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Rams are healthier than they’ve been all year with Todd Gurley running hard and the three-headed receiving monster of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks leaves Jared Goff more than capable of winning a shootout. Gurley and tight end Tyler Higbee could be especially productive with Cowboys’ linebackers Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and Sean Lee (pectoral) unable to practice so far this week.

Win: Dallas Cowboys
Line: Dallas Cowboys -1.5
Total Points: Under 48.5

49ERS VS FALCONS

Venue: Levi’s Stadium | Start: 8:25am AEDT

Back home to face the lowly Falcons after outlasting the New Orleans Saints in a thrilling showdown between NFC heavyweights, the 49ers biggest challenge might be the emotional letdown after snatching back first place in the West, as well as the conference’s top seed. Though the defense surrendering six touchdowns (including five through the air) to Drew Brees was likely not part of the game plan, Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense matched the future Hall of Famer pass for pass, finishing with 349 yards and matching his season-high of four touchdown tosses in the 48-46 shootout. Key midseason addition Emmanuel Sanders was once again Garoppolo’s favorite target, hauling in seven passes for 157 yards and a score, as well as throwing one of his own), while the 49ers padded their NFC-leading 149.1 rushing yards per game average behind another stellar game from Raheem Mostert. Those numbers don’t bode well for a Falcons squad which has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns in 13 games this season and saw key run-stuffing defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn (back) and Allen Bailey (personal) miss practice Wednesday, as did outside linebacker De’Vondre Campell (calf). Even if Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn is able to scheme up help to slow down the 49ers’ vaunted rushing attack, the secondary is vulnerable with the team’s best cornerback, Desmond Trufant, placed on IR Tuesday due to a forearm injury. A smart, rhythm passer like Matt Ryan could give the 49ers’ secondary similar problems as Brees a week ago but only if his offensive line protects as well as the Saints did. Brees was not sacked once, something the 49ers – third in the NFL with 45 takedowns of opposing QBs – will likely improve upon against the Falcons, a club which has allowed 41 sacks of their own passers and is dealing with injuries to stars Julio Jones (shoulder) and Devonta Freeman (knee).

Win: San Francisco 49ers
Line: San Francisco 49ers -10.5
Total Points: Under 49.5

CHARGERS VS VIKINGS

Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park | Start: 8:05am AEDT

In the midst of a street fight for the final seed of the NFC playoff picture, the Vikings travel to Los Angeles to face a Chargers squad that spent much of the year seemingly in search of new and creative ways to lose games. That came to an emphatic end last week in Jacksonville, however, with the Chargers’ pummeling the Jaguars 45-10 in their most impressive game of the season. Oft-criticized for being off-target, Philip Rivers threw three touchdowns – including a career-long 84-yarder to Austin Ekeler – to celebrate his 38th birthday in classic fashion. Alas, the Chargers’ best performance came too late to save their postseason chances as the team was eliminated from playoff contention last week. With playoffs motivating them, the Vikings appear to be in good position to knock the Chargers back down a volt or two. Stars Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen returned to practice this week. When he’s had the luxury of his full assortment of weapons at his disposal, Kirk Cousins has played very well, as his 24-4 touchdown to interception rate and 70.1% completion rates are the best of his career. While things are trending up on Minnesota’s offense, its defense limps into LA. Massive run-stuffer Linval Joseph was limited on Wednesday due to a knee injury as were cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and Mike Hughes (hip), each former first round picks with the ball-skills to make Rivers feel old again should they be able to play.

Win: Minnesota Vikings
Line: LA Chargers +1.5
Total Points: Under 45.5