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Week 10 NFL Picks: Tougher Than The Rest

A primetime rematch of Super Bowl XLIX highlights this week’s games.

Each week Zac Hirschbeck will look at the betting odds for each NFL game and then share his pick for each matchup. While hopefully it goes without saying, please don’t hold him accountable if you gamble away your retirement savings or child’s college fund based on his picks.

After going 8-4-1 in his Week 9 picks, and after incorrectly picking the Browns (+7.5) to cover on the road in Baltimore on Thursday night, Zac’s season-long record now stands at 68-60-6.

Here are his thoughts on the rest of the Week 10 games.

Houston Texans (+1.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

The fact that the 2-6 Jaguars are slight home favorites against the 5-3 division-leading Texans speaks to how poor (and how unpredictable) the AFC South is this year. Although the Texans are surely well-rested coming off of their bye week, I like Jacksonville in this one. Brock Osweiler has been terrible in three road starts this year (58.9 quarterback rating) and that has resulted in three lopsided defeats to the Patriots, Vikings, and Broncos. While the Jags aren’t on the same level as those three teams, they should present problems on both sides of the ball for Houston. Despite four offensive turnovers dooming their chances to win, Jacksonville’s ground game had great success against the Chiefs in Week 9. The Jags rushed for 205 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per rush, and they have a favorable matchup against Houston’s 28th-ranked run defense. Jacksonville’s defense managed to limit the damage of their offense’s carelessness against Kansas City, and despite forcing only four turnovers this season (worst in the NFL), the Jags have a great opportunity to improve that number against Houston’s turnover-prone quarterback.

Pick: Jacksonville (-1.5)

Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers (-3)

Despite winning 17 of their last 20 games, I still can’t believe in the Chiefs as a legitimate contender to win the Super Bowl. Kansas City’s offense (19th in total yards per game) and defense (21st in total yards allowed per game) are mediocre from a statistical standpoint, but the Chiefs continue to win games by playing disciplined, mistake-free football. Through eight games, Kansas City has 20 takeaways and just 7 giveaways, and that +13 differential is the best in the NFL. However, I don’t think Kansas City has the talent to keep up with the league’s best teams. In this game, despite a 3-5 record and a shaky pass defense, I like Carolina to win. The Chiefs offense isn’t designed to take advantage of the Panthers’ poor secondary, and Carolina’s third-ranked run defense should limit Kansas City’s ability to run the ball. Offensively, Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart should fare well against the Chiefs’ 27th-ranked run defense. Although shoddy protection along the offensive line continues to be an issue for Carolina, Newton is due for a big day after consecutive tame outings against Arizona and Los Angeles.

Pick: Carolina (-3)

Denver Broncos (+3) at New Orleans Saints

In a matchup that pits the NFL’s No. 1 passing offense (New Orleans) versus the NFL’s No. 1 passing defense (Denver), I like the Saints to pull this one out. Drew Brees and his talented collection of skill position players can move the ball and put up points against anybody, and Denver’s defense will be without two key contributors in Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib. Though New Orleans may not match their lofty weekly averages (434.4 yards per game, 326.4 passing yards per game, 30.3 points per game), Brees should manage to outscore the Broncos offense. Though the Saints somehow allowed San Francisco’s pitiful offense to rack up 486 yards of total offense last week, I think New Orleans’ defense will do enough to win on Sunday. Much like 2015, Denver’s offense is predicated on running the football to set up play action, and that may inhibit the Broncos from keeping pace with the Saints offense. While New Orleans ranks dead last in passing yards allowed per game (300.0), I don’t believe in Trevor Siemian enough to think he’ll lead Denver to a win on Sunday.

Pick: New Orleans (-3)

Los Angeles Rams at New York Jets (-1.5)

In what looks set to be an ugly game, I’ll take the Jets here. The Rams have lost four straight games (three of which have come at home) to drop to 3-5, and head coach Jeff Fisher continues to waste his organization’s time by starting Case Keenum over No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. Todd Gurley ranks ahead of only Jerick McKinnon and Rashad Jennings among qualified running backs in yards per rush, and it’s fair to wonder if Gurley is not the world-beater we believed him to be coming out of Georgia. The Jets haven’t inspired much more hope. While 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty attempted his first two passes as a professional last week, 33-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick looks likely to play despite being listed as questionable. Though Fitzpatrick’s league worst quarterback rating (67.6) doesn’t inspire confidence, I think the veteran does enough to lift the hosts to a close victory.

Pick: New York (-1.5)

Atlanta Falcons (-2) at Philadelphia Eagles

Much like the matchup between Denver and New Orleans, this game features one of the NFL’s best defenses against one of the NFL’s best offenses. In fact, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic, Philadelphia’s No. 1 ranked defense will host Atlanta’s No. 1 ranked offense. Although the home crowd will surely aid Jim Schwartz’s efforts in making life difficult for Matt Ryan, I don’t believe that Carson Wentz and Philadelphia’s offense will be able to keep up with the Falcons offense. Through nine games Atlanta possesses the league’s top scoring offense (33.9 points per game) and ranks second in yards per game (429.2). With yet another big game (25 for 34 for 344 yards and four touchdowns) against the Bucs last Thursday, Ryan has solidified himself as an MVP candidate and he’s compensated for a below average Falcons defense (24th in DVOA). Although the future may be bright for Wentz, Ryan is playing the best football of his nine-year career this season, and I like that to continue despite matching up with a tough Eagles defense.

Pick: Atlanta (-2)

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins (-2.5)

Minnesota’s injuries on offense have taken their toll. After starting the season 5-0, the Vikings have dropped three straight games. In doing so, Minnesota has gone from a potential Super Bowl contender, to a team that may slip out of the playoffs entirely. A decimated offensive line has played a prominent role in their offense’s struggles. While Sam Bradford has managed to avoid turning the ball over (one interception this season on 243 pass attempts), he hasn’t been protected well enough or long enough, and he hasn’t been supported by an effective running game. Through eight games, Minnesota’s offense ranks 25th the in league in points per game (19.4), 31st in rushing yards per game (72.6), and dead last in yards per game (298.8). On the other side of the ball, Minnesota’s defense remains an elite unit. Despite their recent three-game skid, the Vikings still have the league’s No.1-ranked scoring defense (15.8). However, Washington head coach Jay Gruden continues to get the most out of Kirk Cousins and the rest of the offense. Though they’ve had trouble finishing drives, Washington currently ranks fourth the in NFL in yards per game (410.3). While they likely won’t match that number, I think Washington wins a close one to extend Minnesota’s losing streak.

Pick: Washington (-2.5)

Green Bay Packers (-3) at Tennessee Titans

While Green Bay’s home loss to the Colts last week leaves me doubting the Packers’ merits as a playoff team, I think Aaron Rodgers leads his team to a victory against the Titans on Sunday. Although Tennessee boasts the NFL’s third-ranked rushing attack (averaging 144.2 yards per game), the strength of Green Bay’s defense is stopping the run. The Packers are only allowing 75.8 rushing yards per game this season, and while the absence of Clay Matthews may hurt, that season-long effectiveness should bode well in slowing down DeMarco Murray and the Titans offense. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay will rely on Rodgers to lead them to victory. The Packers quarterback has averaged 45 pass attempts over the last five games, which is largely due to the injuries suffered by Eddie Lacy and James Starks, and he faces a Tennessee pass defense that currently ranks 20th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (260.4). While his below average supporting cast may prevent him from chasing a second Super Bowl ring in 2016, I think Rodgers makes enough plays to help Green Bay snap their two-game losing streak.

Pick: Green Bay (-3)

Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)

While the Buccaneers opened the week as slight favorites (-1) over the visiting Bears, it appears that gamblers are buying into Chicago’s Week 8 win over the Vikings. I am not one of those people. Despite coming off of their bye week, the Bears remain banged up on defense as their two top cornerbacks (Tracy Porter and Bryce Callahan) and two key members of their front seven (Eddie Goldman and Pernell McPhee) are all listed as questionable. Despite suffering consecutive defeats, Jameis Winston has not thrown an interception over the last two games, and the return of Doug Martin from a prolonged spell on the sidelines should be a welcome sight for the Bucs. While Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been kind to opposing quarterbacks throughout 2016, I don’t trust Jay Cutler to perform as competently as he did against the Vikings. I like the Buccaneers to win a close one at home.

Pick: Tampa Bay (+2.5)

Miami Dolphins (+4) at San Diego Chargers

After being left for dead following a pair of poor displays against the Bengals and Titans, the Dolphins have ripped off three consecutive wins to breathe life into their season. The main man behind that winning-streak is running back Jay Ajayi. The second-year back has accumulated 529 rushing yards over the past three weeks, with 111 of those yards coming against the Jets’ No. 1 ranked run defense last week. Though Ajayi could prove me wrong once again, I think the Dolphins will falter on the road this week. San Diego’s run defense ranks among the league’s best (No. 5 in rushing yards allowed per game), and the Chargers’ offense presents far more problems than New York did in Week 9. Melvin Gordon had a huge week against the Titans last week (261 yards from scrimmage) and he has a favorable matchup against Miami’s 30th-ranked run defense (136.1 rushing yards allowed per game). Likewise, Philip Rivers remains one of the NFL’s best despite having a depleted collection of receiving targets at his disposal.

Pick: San Diego (-4)

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (-13.5)

While Arizona’s struggles this season may make this line seem a bit too generous to the home side, the 49ers really don’t match up well with the Cardinals. Arizona running back David Johnson already had a big day (157 yards and two touchdowns) against the 49ers in Week 5, and he looks poised to pad his season totals even further against San Francisco’s league-worst (193.0 rushing yards allowed per game) run defense. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer should also fare well as the 49ers have surrendered 18 passing touchdowns, which is currently tied for the fourth most in the NFL. Offensively, despite a big day against the Saints last week, Colin Kaepernick and his offensive teammates should struggle against Arizona. The Cardinals are second in the NFL in yards allowed per game (297.0) and tied for fourth in points allowed per game (17.5).

Pick: Arizona (-13.5)

Dallas Cowboys (+2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers

While I certainly will continue to believe in the Cowboys as a Super Bowl contender regardless of who is playing quarterback, I think the Steelers will win this game. After three consecutive defeats to the Dolphins, Patriots, and Ravens, Pittsburgh needs to get their season back on track within a crowded AFC playoff picture. With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger closer to full strength, and with improved health from two dangerous receiving targets (Sammie Coates and Ladarius Green), the Steelers offense looks poised to break out after three straight poor performances. Although Dallas could run the ball against anybody due to the strength of their offensive line, the Steelers did limit the Ravens to just 50 yards on 29 carries on the road last week. I think Pittsburgh rediscovers its rhythm on offense, slows down Ezekiel Elliott, and gets back in the win column with a big home victory.

Pick: Pittsburgh (-2.5)

Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots (-7.5)

After barely holding on against the Bills on Monday night, the Seahawks face the unenviable task of facing a rested Patriots team with a shorter week of preparation. Although the return of Kam Chancellor will certainly provide Seattle’s defense with a boost, New England quarterback Tom Brady has picked apart defenses since his return from suspension. With two weeks to prepare, Brady will exacerbate Seattle’s struggles to get off of the field. Seattle currently ranks 26th in the league in third down defense, and they have allowed opponents to convert on third down 61.5% of the time over the last three weeks. For comparison’s sake, the Browns are dead last over the course of the entire season by allowing a 50% conversion rate. On the other side of the ball, Russell Wilson should have time to throw as Seattle’s shoddy offensive line is offset by New England’s lacking pass rush. However, Wilson does not have an effective run game to rely on as he did in years past. Through eight games, Seattle ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (75.4). Ultimately, while I might like Seattle to beat New England if these two teams matched up later in the year, the Patriots appear to be catching the Seahawks at exactly the right time.

Pick: New England (-7.5)

Cincinnati Bengals (-1) at New York Giants

In a matchup of underachieving teams, I’ll take the visiting Bengals to win this one. Even with three straight wins, I still don’t believe in the Giants. New York can’t run the football (last in the NFL in rushing yards per game), their revamped defense has been inconsistent, and they are -7 in turnover differential (tied for 29th in the league) through eight games. Plus, despite a four-touchdown outing against the Eagles last week, a disastrous outing from New York quarterback Eli Manning always seems to be looming right around the corner. The Bengals are well-rested coming off of their bye week, and Andy Dalton should continue his strong season to help Cincinnati keep pace in the competitive AFC North division.

Pick: Cincinnati (-1)