Winning cures everything. It doesn’t matter how toxic a locker room is or how much animosity players feel towards their head coach: you win and all is forgiven.
Things were rotten in the Big Apple, where the New York Giants were staring down a mutiny that made the HMS Bounty look like a mild disagreement among coworkers (nothing HR can’t handle). The Week 10 loss to the 49ers should have been the death knell for the G-Men but like a John Travolta-driven shot of adrenaline to the heart, New York up and beats Kansas City last Sunday. All is well. All is right.
The Giants are in a rare spot to actually benefit from a Thursday game, taking all that momentum and energy into a Thanksgiving divisional showdown with the Redskins in DC. New York is getting more than a touchdown facing a Washington squad still stinging from a nasty overtime loss to the Saints – blowing a 31-16 lead with just under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
That was the Skins’ second straight loss and their fourth in the last five games, going back to Week 7. To throw salt in the wound, Washington lost running back and top receiver (tied for team high 39 receptions) Chris Thompson to a gruesome broken leg – another in a long list on injuries for this team. Unlike the Giants, the Redskins don’t benefit from the short week and could still be hungover from Week 11 on Thanksgiving Day.
New York’s offense has received a surprising spark from running back Orleans Darkwa, who has totaled 257 totals yards of offense the past three games, and tight end Evan Engram, who has 252 total receiving yards and four touchdowns in his last five games (despite a dud of a day in Week 11). And the Giants are hoping to have WR Sterling Shepard back for Thursday, coming off a 142-yard performance in Week 10, after he sat out with migraines last Sunday.
Granted, those efforts listed above aren’t setting the Daily Fantasy Leagues on fires but they should be enough to inflict damage and cover the +7.5 against a Washington defense that has oozed points since Week 7. The Redskins have given up an average of almost 31 points per game in that stretch and are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight meetings with the G-Men.
Pick: N.Y. Giants +7.5
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams (-3, 53.5)
I said in last week’s column, before foolishly backing the Rams +2.5 at Minnesota, that I thought L.A.’s record was a bit puffed up, with wins over cupcake teams like Indianapolis, San Francisco, Arizona, New York, and a Tom Savage-led Houston squad.
I worry that history may be repeating with this play on the Saints at a similar spread. New Orleans is 8-2 but beefed up that record with victories over the Dolphins, Hundley-led Packers, Bears, Bucs, Bills and even that win over Washington shouldn’t have been as hard as it was last Sunday.
What worries me more is the loss to defensive end Alex Okafor to a season-ending Achilles injury, taking away the team’s second-best pass rusher. That allows opponents to focus more on stopping fellow DE Cameron Jordan, and neutralizes what has been a very good pass rush (27 sacks) and a key component to the Saints’ success. There are also injuries in the secondary making me nervous about playing the points.
The Rams did have all the air sucked out of their season after getting punched in the mouth by Minnesota last week, so it will be interesting to see how this young team rebounds from their first loss since Week 5.
You rarely get to take the points on an 8-2 teams riding an eight-game winning streak, especially one that’s 19-7 ATS in its last 26 road games. A couple books are hanging threes out there and I’m eating up the points like Thanksgiving leftovers.
Pick: Saints +3 Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-10, 45)
Sean McDermott’s apparent self sabotage is distracting from the fact that Kansas City just lost 12-9 to the N.Y. Giants – the Chiefs’ fourth loss in the past five games.
While football fans shake their heads at the Bills’ Week 11 decision to start rookie QB Nathan Peterman, who may not understand all the rules of football (See, you only throw it to your teammates… yeah… not the other guys), they don’t see the decline in the Chiefs’ production dipping from 414.2 yards per game during their first five games (all wins) to 327.6 yards per outing in their last five (only one win).
Tyrod Taylor, benched for whatever reason, was having a serviceable year in a season where bad QB play is pretty much the kiss of death. Taylor is completing 63.8 percent of his passes, which better than big names like Marcus Mariota Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Matthew Stafford.
And while he’s only thrown 11 touchdowns, he’s been picked off just three times and has supplemented that ho-hum passing production with 275 yards on the ground and three rushing scores. Despite all that, McDermott still isn’t ruling out another Peterman experiment. He couldn’t start him again, could he? Nahhhhhhhhh…
Buffalo will get after it following a controversial week and two crappy defensive showings. I think 10 points is way too many to give a Chiefs team that isn’t playing that much better than the Bills.
Pick: Bills +10