I hate to say it, but we’re officially in the home stretch of the NFL season.

Each week, it feels like there’s a key matchup in which the loser is essentially eliminated from playoff contention, such as the Atlanta Falcons’ 14-point loss Thursday in New Orleans. Fantasy football leagues are in the final week or two of their regular season and finalizing their playoff fields. The weather’s getting a bit more unpredictable or, in the case of northern climates, downright cold and miserable. But the biggest sign we’re two-thirds of the way through the NFL campaign is the injury reports, which are starting to rival the length of Clay Matthews’ hair.

The latest big name to hit the infirmary is arguably the biggest in the league, as Tom Brady missed practice Friday and is reportedly questionable for Sunday’s clash with the Jets. New England probably doesn’t need him as much this week as my fantasy team does, but you’ll still want to double-check Brady’s status before laying 11 points on the road with the Pats this week.

For this week’s NFL predictions, I’ve decided to go with some games with a bit more certainty about what personnel we’ll see on the field. Fortunately, they’ve all got some situational angles to exploit as well as we look to build on last week’s 2-1 performance.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from Bodog.eu at 9 p.m eastern on November 23, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

1. Buffalo Bills +3 (+100) versus Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. eastern)

In what’s been a lost and disappointing season in Jacksonville, last week was the Jaguars’ Super Bowl. The Jags threw everything they could at the hated rival Steelers (well, at least in the first half, before Jacksonville’s offense curled up in the fetal position down the stretch by repeatedly running the ball up the middle) and it wasn’t enough. Despite trailing 16-0 midway through the third quarter, Pittsburgh stormed back in the dying minutes, pulling out a 20-16 victory on Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown run with seconds to go.

I just don’t see Jacksonville being able to bounce back emotionally and get excited for this visit to Buffalo. It’s technically a “must-win” situation for the Jaguars if they’re going to keep alive any hopes of qualifying for the playoffs this season, but those hopes realistically set sail a long time ago. At 3-7, the Jags not only need to win out to even have a chance at a wild card, they’d also need to beat two of the hottest teams in football — division rivals Houston and Indianapolis — to do it.

As the saying goes, you are what your record says you are, and the Jaguars are a 3-7 football team. Why, then, are they still laying points to a Buffalo Bills team that is also 3-7, enjoys a significant home-field advantage in November and December (especially against teams from southern climates) and is coming off its bye? The only way I can explain it is public perception. People remember the Jags as coming one win away from reaching the Super Bowl last year, and people remember the Bills getting lit up in the first two weeks of this season — and Nathan Peterman’s horrific quarterback play. Well, Peterman’s gone now, mercifully released a couple of weeks ago. And when they don’t have a quarterback who self-destructs, the Bills are capable of winning some games. Matt Barkley went 15-of-25 for 232 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo’s most recent outing (a 41-10 rout of the Jets in New York), and now the Bills get first-round rookie QB Josh Allen back in the fold.

Betting Prediction

In their four road games this year, the Jaguars have put up 20, 14, 7 and 26 points, while their proud defense has been gashed for 29 or more in three straight on the highway. Buffalo’s going to bring a whole lot more energy to this one, especially as the Bills look to avenge their 10-3 loss at Jacksonville in last year’s AFC Wild Card game. In what will likely be a cold and dreary game in Orchard Park, I love the Bills to grind out the outright victory. Take the 3 points if you want, but I’m taking a shot at the Bills moneyline at +150.

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2. 6-Point Teaser (-110): Cleveland Browns +8.5 versus Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. eastern) and Denver Broncos +9 versus Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. eastern)

If you’re a regular reader of these weekly NFL predictions, you won’t be surprised to see a teaser in the mix. When used correctly (moving lines past as many key numbers as possible), teasers are a great weapon to use in your NFL betting, and I love how we can use one here to move each of these underdogs up over a touchdown.

Let’s start with the Browns, who have been a pretty solid bet against the spread this season (6-4 ATS) and have also been a tough out on the road (three of their four losses away from home have come by a field goal). The Browns got their first win under interim coach Gregg Williams a couple of weeks ago, whipping Atlanta 28-16, and are now coming off a bye week that allows QB Baker Mayfield to get even more familiar with the offense of new co-ordinator Freddie Kitchens. Mayfield’s looked really good in two games since Kitchens took over the role from former co-ordinator Todd Haley, and this Bengals defense isn’t a likely candidate to shut him down.


Betting Prediction

Speaking of the Bengals, I feel pretty good challenging them to win a game by more than eight points (what it would require for us to lose this teaser leg). After opening the year with 11-point wins over the Colts and Ravens, Cincinnati has lost five of eight, with just one of those three wins (a 27-17 win over Miami, when the Bengals scored a pair of defensive touchdowns) coming by more than three points. When you’re routinely giving up 30-plus, as the Cincy defense has in five of its last eight outings, it’s hard to win games by a comfortable margin. Especially when you’re missing one of the top receivers in football, A.J. Green, who is listed as questionable for this contest. With Cleveland coming off a bye, Cincy’s defensive issues and the inner-state rivalry between these teams, I don’t see the Bengals having an easy time in this one.

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For the other leg of our teaser, I love the Broncos in the home underdog role. It’s an angle we played successfully earlier this season when I had Denver +4.5 over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football (admittedly, we needed every point there as K.C. won by four, but the Broncos led that game into the fourth quarter), and the Mile High crowd should be loud and supportive in this one as well as Denver fights to get back into playoff contention. I know the Broncos are 4-6 and probably need to win out to have a chance, but they still have a chance thanks to last week’s impressive rally to beat the Chargers in L.A. on a last-second field goal. That’s the kind of win that can breath fresh air into a team, so look for Denver to come into this game with plenty of momentum and confidence.

Betting Prediction

Remember how I questioned Jacksonville’s ability to rebound emotionally this week after their gutting loss to the Steelers last Sunday? The same challenge awaits the Steelers, who were dominated throughout much of that game before pulling out the improbable and emotional victory. Coach Mike Tomlin and his charges seemed pretty pleased with themselves after that contest, even though the Steelers struggled to move the ball on the road with any consistency (again). I don’t see them lighting up this Denver defense here either, especially given Ben Roethlisberger’s history of struggles in Colorado. Pittsburgh scored just 16 points when it visited Denver three years ago in the playoffs, and the Steelers are averaging less than 20 points per game in their last three visits to Denver.Don’t be surprised if the Broncos are in this one right to the final gun (or even pull off the victory), making me feel really safe with the extra insurance of +9 in my pocket with this teaser.

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3. Minnesota Vikings -3 (-120) versus Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. eastern)

I know the Packers are a public favorite and I know the Vikings haven’t lived up to pre-season expectations. But I’m still scratching my head here how we can get the Vikes laying just a field goal at home in this pivotal clash in the NFC wild card playoff chase.

One advantage the Packers have is a few extra days of preparation, having played the Thursday nighter last week while the Vikings visited Chicago three days later. But beyond that, there really isn’t much to like about the Packers’ chances in this one. Green Bay has yet to win on the road this season, and it’s yet to hold an opponent under 27 points. Morale can’t be that high in the locker room these days either as the hot seat under head coach Mike McCarthy got even hotter last week when he punted the ball away on fourth-and-short late in a 3-point game, costing Aaron Rodgers a chance to drive down the field for the tie or the win.

There’s some frustration in Minnesota right now as well, but it’s because the Vikings aren’t getting results they deserve. Minny’s defense is once again among the best in the NFL when it comes to yards allowed (fifth against the pass and overall, sixth against the run), but the Vikings are just 11th in the league in points allowed. Meanwhile, the offense hasn’t gotten a usually-strong running game untracked, ranking third-last in yards per game. But I think they find some elusive ground success here against a Green Bay defense that is 26th against the run. If they do, not only will that make Kirk Cousins and the Vikes’ eighth-ranked pass attack even more dangerous, it will enable Minnesota to play ball control and keep the ball away from Rodgers.


Betting Prediction

By favoring the Vikings by just 3 points here at home, oddsmakers are suggesting these teams are essentially even. But Minnesota’s got the far better defense, the better coach and a better set of receivers, while the only real advantage Green Bay can claim here is at quarterback. In my opinion, that’s not enough for the Packers to pull off their first road win of the year, or even to keep things within a field goal. Look for Minnesota to cover the spread for the sixth time in its last eight home games versus the Packers.

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