N.F.L. Week 10 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread
In an N.F.L. season that has had more than its share of close games, this is shaping up to be a lopsided week. Thursday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers and Sunday afternoon’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals are the only two of the week in which both teams have winning records. It is a series of mismatches that has resulted in four games having a point spread of 9.5 points or more, the worst of which is the ugly 16.5-point advantage being assigned to the Kansas City Chiefs in their home game against the lowly Arizona Cardinals.
Of course that creates plenty of opportunities for upsets, so should fans of the heavily favored teams decide to make other plans, they might want to keep an eye on the scores on Sunday just in case things get tight.
Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 10, with all picks made against the point spread.
Last week’s record: 8-5
Overall record: 75-55-3
Sunday’s Best Games
Saints at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox
Ask almost anyone who the best wide receiver in the N.F.L. is, and they are likely to say Antonio Brown or Julio Jones. A few might add Adam Thielen. It is time for Michael Thomas to be in that conversation.
Thomas’s 880 receiving yards put him behind Jones and Thielen, but his 70 receptions are second in the N.F.L. to Thielen’s 78, and the efficiency at which he has achieved those numbers is unparalleled.
To put it simply: When Drew Brees throws the ball his way, Thomas catches it.
The third-year wide receiver of the Saints (7-1) had the best game of his career in last week’s upset of the previously-undefeated Rams, catching 12 passes for 211 yards, and he needed just 15 targets (and one flip phone) to get there. And that performance actually caused his reception percentage to go down.
Overall, Thomas has caught 70 of the 79 passes thrown his way, leading the league with a reception percentage of 88.6 percent that would be the highest recorded by a wide receiver with 50 or more catches since targets began being tracked in 1992. Even if you include running backs, who typically catch more manageable swing passes, the only player to have a better reception percentage on as many catches as Thomas was Pierre Thomas, a running back for the Saints, who caught 77 of 84 passes thrown his way in 2013, but managed just 6.11 yards per target, well short of Michael Thomas’s mark this season of 11.14.
Against the Bengals (5-3), it is hard to guess how often Brees will look Thomas’s way. The red-hot Saints can be expected to put on an offensive show against Cincinnati’s terrible defense, and when they get rolling, the ball tends to spread around. But if there is one thing that has become abundantly clear, it’s that Thomas does not need many opportunities to make his presence felt. Pick: Saints -5.5
Seahawks at Rams, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Even after having their perfect season come to a crashing halt in a loss to the Saints last week, the Rams (8-1) are tied for the best record in the N.F.L. That did not stop Aaron Donald, the team’s best defender, from talking like his team is fighting for a playoff spot.
“We aren’t panicking, we’re not worried,” he said after the loss to New Orleans. “We will make the corrections to fix it and continue to be better.”
The recent problems are mostly on the defensive side, as Jared Goff and the offense have only been held below 30 points twice this season. With Seattle’s starting running back, Chris Carson, playing through thigh and hip injuries, it is hard to believe that the Seahawks can keep up. Pick: Rams -9.5
Jaguars at Colts, 1 p.m., CBS
It was a rough start to the season for the Colts (3-5), and a decent one for the Jaguars (3-5), but regardless of their matching records, it is Indianapolis that is on a serious upswing, and the team can keep that going if it is able to put the ball in Marlon Mack’s hands as often as possible this week. Mack exploded in the two weeks leading up to the Colts’ bye, with 258 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and he is the best chance of exploiting a Jacksonville defense that is weakest against the run. Pick: Colts -3
Cowboys at Eagles, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Amari Cooper was supposed to be the missing piece for the Cowboys (3-5). He had a few moments of greatness in a loss to Tennessee, but overall he fell well short of the hype, netting five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Dallas is trying hard to save its season — the Upshot’s Playoff Simulator gives the team just a 6 percent shot of making the playoffs if it loses this week — and while a win may be a tall order, some further development of the rapport between Dak Prescott and Cooper could be the key to making this close. Pick: Cowboys +7
Panthers at Steelers, 8:20 p.m., Fox and NFL Network
Thursday night games have a bit of a reputation for not featuring exciting matchups, but this week’s contest is a battle between two of the N.F.L.’s hottest teams. The Panthers (6-2) have won three straight with a run-heavy offense that has produced a ton of points and a defense that seems playoff-caliber. The Steelers (5-2-1) have won four straight with a balanced offense that has thrived around running back James Conner. There was some mild concern that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would miss the game, but Pittsburgh appears to have him and the rest of its key players in place and should take care of business at home. Pick: Steelers -3.5
Sunday’s Other Games
Cardinals at Chiefs, 1 p.m., Fox
With two more touchdown passes, Patrick Mahomes can break Len Dawson’s franchise record of 30, and if he does it this week, he will have accomplished the feat in four fewer games than Dawson did it in 1960. Even more impressive is how he has distributed the scoring throws. Seven have gone to Tyreek Hill, six apiece have gone to Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt, and six other players have between one and three.
Winning against the Cardinals (2-5) should be easy enough — even if Mahomes somehow doesn’t break Dawson’s record — but Las Vegas is very likely underrating Arizona’s recent improvement with such an enormous point spread. Pick: Cardinals +16.5
Lions at Bears, 1 p.m., Fox
The Bears (5-3) may have had their best defensive effort of the season last week, and they did it without Khalil Mack, the superstar linebacker who sat out for a second straight week. Now Chicago gets Mack back for an N.F.C. North showdown with the Lions (3-5). A division title is in the Bears’ reach if they can keep plugging away, and if Mack is truly back to full-strength, Detroit should be little more than a speed bump. Pick: Bears -6.5
Falcons at Browns, 1 p.m., Fox
Ending an epic losing streak was nice, but a few wins early in the season created some unrealistic expectations for where the Browns (2-6-1) are as a team. That’s not to say there isn’t room for optimism. Denzel Ward has been fantastic, Baker Mayfield has had his moments, and there is a very young and very talented core to the team. But they are still a team that is rightly an underdog at home, especially against a team like the Falcons (4-4) that can attack Cleveland’s defense in several different ways to find the holes that are invariably created by a lack of overall depth. Pick: Falcons -4
Patriots at Titans, 1 p.m., CBS
The hallmark of a mixed-bag season for the Titans (4-4) under first-year Coach Mike Vrabel has been the team imposing its style of play on their opponents, slowing things down and keeping the score low on both sides. They have not scored more than 28 points and they have not allowed more than 27. Now Vrabel, a longtime star for the Patriots (7-2) will be going up against his former team, and Coach Bill Belichick, a man who largely influenced that grinding style of play. If anyone can avoid falling into Vrabel’s traps, it’s Belichick. Pick: Patriots -6.5
Bills at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
No one seems to know when Sam Darnold got injured — not even Darnold — but the rookie quarterback was in a walking boot early in the week and he is unlikely to play, leaving Josh McCown to start at quarterback for the Jets (3-6). A veteran who threw 18 touchdown passes last season is the type of backup quarterback the Bills (2-7) probably wish they had as they enter a week with Nathan Peterman probably starting and Matt Barkley backing him up. Pick: Jets -6.5
Redskins at Buccaneers, 1 p.m. Fox
Not unlike Icarus, Ryan Fitzpatrick is known for soaring toward the sky and then crashing back to Earth. Last week it was Carolina’s defense that melted his wings of wax, intercepting him twice in a 42-28 shellacking, including one in the fourth quarter that all but settled the game. The Redskins (5-3) are not a team on Carolina’s level, and they are dealing with a series of costly injuries to their offensive line, but they need this win to cement their lead in the N.F.C. East ahead of their upcoming games against Philadelphia. It is hard to see the Buccaneers (3-5) doing much more than putting on a show, with Fitzpatrick challenging Washington’s secondary on aggressive throws to his star wide receivers, but ultimately coming up short. Pick: Redskins +3
Chargers at Raiders, 4:05 p.m., Fox
The Chargers (6-2) may not be the Chiefs, but they are clearly the second best team in the A.F.C. West, and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. The Raiders (1-7) have been making a mockery of what could be their final season in Oakland and probably don’t have the players to make a game competitive even if they decided to try. Los Angeles, playing on the road, might struggle to get the 10-point advantage it would need to cover the point-spread — the team has hit that margin just three times this season — but of all the huge favorites this week, the Chargers seem like the one most likely to cover. Pick: Chargers -9.5
Dolphins at Packers, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Regardless of record, the Packers (3-4-1) are a much better team than the Dolphins (5-4). Even Miami’s most discernible skill — snaring interceptions — is not really on the table on a cold day in Green Bay against a quarterback who has thrown only one interception all season. Dolphins Coach Adam Gase was optimistic, though, acknowledging that Rodgers deftly avoids turnovers, but telling reporters “Maybe he’ll change his mind this game.” Pick: Dolphins +9.5
Giants at 49ers, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
With a wrist injury forcing C.J. Beathard to sit out last week’s game, Nick Mullens was pressed into duty as San Francisco’s third starting quarterback of the season. Expectations were low for an undrafted 23-year-old who spent all of last season on the team’s practice squad. But thanks to a combination of some gutsy passes, more than a few terrific plays from his tight end, George Kittle, and Oakland’s wanton disregard for even pretending to be a competitive team, Mullens went out and had the greatest debut for a quarterback in 49ers history, throwing for 262 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Now Mullens and the 49ers (2-7) will get a chance to recreate that magic against the Giants (1-7), a team that does not appear as purposeful about losing as the Raiders, but manages to lose every week just the same. Pick: 49ers -3
All times are Eastern
Benjamin Hoffman is a senior staff editor and regular contributor to the Keeping Score column in sports. He joined The Times in 2005. @BenHoffmanNYT • Facebook
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