By Scott Kacsmar
The NFL has a Week 10 schedule that has people groaning, but that’s mostly because they picked the wrong island games. There should be some quality football played in 49ers-Jaguars, the Ravens are trying to sweep the Browns in an important AFC North game, and Lions-Chargers should be fun. But getting up early to watch Colts-Patriots in Germany? I’ll pass on that even if we did find a way to work it into our NFL picks below.
In recapping our Week 9 NFL picks, the Chiefs-Dolphins game was a massive letdown as even Commanders-Patriots had more points scored. At least the Cowboys and Eagles both scored 20 points for us. The week could have been salvaged if Davante Adams caught 2 more balls to make our Josh McDaniels Happy Firing parlay hit (+267), but the real heartbreaker was Jaren Hall suffering a concussion in the first quarter in Atlanta, because everything was going to hit there for our Minnesota parlay with Jordan Addison and the passing game producing (+247).
Each Friday, we will share seven NFL picks that we are including in our bets for the weekend. These can be prop picks, spreads, totals, alternate lines, moneylines, same game parlays, etc. We like to think outside the box instead of just telling you Dallas beating the Giants as a 16-point favorite is a good pick. You can play the picks separately or parlay your favorite choices together.
Note: Picks are ranked in order of confidence (highest to lowest).
1. 49ers-Jaguars: Feeling the Under
The passing of time can somehow feel fast and slow simultaneously. It was barely a month ago when the 49ers were 5-0, scored 30 points in every game, and were the talk of the NFL. Yet that somehow feels so long ago as the 49ers are 0-3 since, and they only scored 17 points in each loss.
They hope to rebound off their bye week, but the Jacksonville Jaguars also had a bye week, they have the longest active win streak at 5 games, and they are still the 3-point home underdog in this matchup.
But if Brock Purdy is going to get back on track and avoid turnovers, an early body clock game in Jacksonville against the defense with the most takeaways (18) and interceptions (11) through 8 games this season may be a bad matchup for him.
Here is an interesting trend that further got me on board with the under 45 in this game. Since 2021, there have been 48 games where the home team was exactly a 3-point underdog. The under is 34-13-1 (70.8%) in those games, which is an incredible hit rate for something that is usually around 50%.
Jacksonville does not play the most exciting brand of football, so that probably has something to do with their lack of respect in the Super Bowl odds despite their record. The Jaguars lost a 17-9 game at home to the Chiefs in Week 2, and their last game was a 20-10 slog in Pittsburgh with some rain. The Jaguars are also 25th on third down and 26th in the red zone, so the offense has not been the sharpest, and the 49ers are still one of the most talented defenses in the league.
The bye week boost is a little overstated, and the advantage is almost nothing here given both teams are coming off their bye. If anything, they might come out slow since it is a 10:00 a.m. PST start for the 49ers across the country. Last year, the 49ers beat the Chargers 22-16 after their bye. Kyle Shanahan has some work to do with this year’s team as it works through this losing streak.
In a game with an inefficient offense (Jacksonville), an elite defense (49ers), a turnover-friendly quarterback (Purdy), and a turnover-happy defense (Jags), we’ll take the under.
If you need a little more juice than this under, you could parlay it with Christian McCaffrey scoring a touchdown for the 18th game in a row for some nice negative correlation (+211 at FanDuel). He has been about the only automatic offensive player in the league in the last year.
Scott’s NFL Pick: 49ers-Jaguars Under 45 (-110 at Caesars Sportsbook)
2. Lions-Chargers: Getting Back on Brand
A consistent theme you’ll see this week is that we are trashing island games, which are the games where it’s the only game going on (Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night, and international games in London or Germany). The caliber of these games has been awful this year, most of the matchups were bad on paper, and scoring is down in these games that are rarely exciting.
The Lions just had a bye week, but their last game in Week 8 was a 26-14 trampling of the Raiders that should have been a bigger margin of victory than it was. Meanwhile, we just watched the Chargers crush the Bears and Jets in prime time the last two weeks by a combined 38 points. The Chargers led by double digits after each quarter in both games.
This is so not what the Chargers are about. In fact, you can go back 10 seasons and you’ll only find two games where the Chargers led by double digits after each quarter. Yet they did that in two weeks in a row. This is a team that is constantly involved in a one-score game late in the fourth quarter every week.
Thankfully, this game is in the 4:25 slot on Sunday, and it should be the highlight of that window. This is a game where the Chargers should get back on track in playing normal games where the offense looks good, the defense looks bad, and it has an exciting finish.
Meanwhile, the Lions are possibly getting David Montgomery back at running back, but they also have rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. They have Amon-Ra St. Brown, who plays the game like a younger Keenan Allen. Jared Goff should feel right at home in Los Angeles as he is having another strong season for Detroit.
This should be a fun offensive game for a change. We’ll take a game prop where both teams scored at least one touchdown in each half. This prop has not hit for the Chargers since their Week 6 loss against Dallas, but Detroit is the right opponent that should bring out the best in Justin Herbert, and some not-so-great moments for Brandon Staley’s defense.
You know, a real Chargers game unlike these last two weeks in prime time.
Scott’s NFL Pick: Both teams to score 1+ TD in each half (+102 at FanDuel)
3. Browns-Ravens: Baltimore to Complete Sweep
The Ravens (7-2) are a 6.5-point home favorite against Cleveland (5-3). The teams already met in Week 4 and the Ravens won 28-3. But the Browns had to start rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who threw 3 interceptions and took 4 sacks. The Ravens were effective on offense with Lamar Jackson accounting for 4 total touchdowns, but they were helped by field position with some touchdown drives that only covered 10 and 38 yards.
Still, we like the Ravens to complete the sweep at home with a 2-leg parlay:
- Zay Flowers Over 42.5 receiving yards
- Ravens -2.5 (alternate spread teased from -6.5)
Flowers had a 43-yard catch against the Browns the last time, so that one play would hit his over here. But Flowers has been quiet the last two games with 19 yards on 5 catches in Arizona, then only 1 catch for 11 yards on 1 target in last week’s blowout win against Seattle.
Hopefully, this will be the week they get the rookie back on track as his quickness and ability to get open should help against a tough Cleveland pass defense. If the Ravens are getting more targets and yards out of Odell Beckham Jr. in this matchup, then they are doing it wrong. Flowers had gone over 42.5 yards in each of his first 7 games before this little slump, but here’s to hoping he pulls out of it this week.
As for the alternate spread, we know the Ravens lead the league in scoring differential (+115) and have had some huge blowout wins at home, including a 38-6 win over Detroit and 37-3 against Seattle last week. Those are decent teams too. But division games can be weird, and we’re just playing it a little safe here. But the Ravens have the No. 1 scoring defense, Jackson is outplaying Deshaun Watson by a wide margin this year, and Baltimore should win this game to improve to 8-2 and complete the season sweep of the Browns.
Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Zay Flowers Over 42.5 Receiving Yards & Ravens -2.5 (+157 at FanDuel)
4. Packers-Steelers: Pickett Feeds Pickens a Little Piece of the Pie
We have a 3-leg parlay for a Packers-Steelers game that expects to be low scoring with a total of 38.5 points. The Steelers are a 3-point home favorite.
- Steelers ML
- Kenny Pickett Under 1.5 Passing Touchdowns
- George Pickens 25+ Receiving Yards
In case you missed it, George Pickens caused a little stir in Pittsburgh this last week when he posted a caption “free me” on his social media page after he had 2 catches for -1 yards against the Titans. This came on the heels of a loss to Jacksonville where Pickens only had 1 catch for a 22-yard touchdown.
Over the last two games, Pickens has caught 3-of-10 targets for 21 yards. Meanwhile, Diontae Johnson has been thriving since he returned, and he has caught 15-of-23 targets for 175 yards and a touchdown over the last two games.
Let’s trust that Pickens can at least get to 25 yards again in this game. Mike Tomlin is well aware of the situation on social media, and the Steelers should try to get Pickens some early plays to keep his head in the game.
As for Pickens’ quarterback, Kenny Pickett throwing for under 1.5 passing touchdowns has been one of the best bets in football. In 21 career games, Pickett has thrown 2 touchdown passes exactly once, and he did that earlier this season against the Raiders.
Part of the problem is the Steelers don’t score many touchdowns, but Pickett is also not great at throwing them in the red zone or really from anywhere on the field. It is hard to argue with 20 out of 21 games, so we’ll trust that to keep rolling in what could be a painfully low-scoring game.
Finally, this is a game the Steelers should win at home. The Packers have not scored more than 20 points in 5 straight games, tied for the longest streak in Green Bay since 1992. Jordan Love throws into tight windows more than any quarterback in the league this season, and Pickett is actually the only other passer above 20% according to Next Gen Stats. This could be a game with multiple turnovers.
But this is the right opponent for the Steelers to look good against as T.J. Watt and company can take advantage of Love’s inexperience and struggles.
Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Steelers ML & Kenny Pickett Under 1.5 Passing Touchdowns & George Pickens 25+ Receiving Yards (+235 at FanDuel)
5. Broncos-Bills: Getting Buffalo Back on Track
For Monday night, we have a 2-leg parlay with the Bills (-7) winning the game and under 46.5 points. This would get Buffalo (5-4) back on track after a loss in Cincinnati last week.
The biggest offender of poor offense in island games this season has been Monday Night Football where the under is now 10-1. The only game to go over was Browns-Steelers in Week 2, a 26-22 win by Pittsburgh that saw Deshaun Watson turn the ball over twice for defensive touchdowns. It is also the only Monday night game this year where the losing team scored more than 17 points.
Most Monday night games see the favorite win and the underdog croak on offense. The Raiders’ 26-14 loss to Detroit in Week 8 was so bad that it got Josh McDaniels and his offensive coordinator fired, and Jimmy Garoppolo was benched at quarterback. We just watched the Jets fail to score a touchdown last week against the Chargers.
Meanwhile, we saw Buffalo in a high-scoring start in Cincinnati last Sunday night when it was 14-7 early, but even that game finished 24-18, the same final as Buffalo’s 24-18 win over Tampa Bay on a Thursday night the week before. Again, island games have been graveyards for offense this year.
But you might say it’s all about the matchup. Isn’t Denver improving under Sean Payton? Didn’t the Broncos win 24-9 against the Chiefs and had a bye week to prepare for this game? Isn’t the Bufalo defense injured?
Yes to each question, but the Bills are still a significantly better team than the Broncos.
First, Denver’s improvement is not as big as you’d like to see given the past success for both Payton and Russell Wilson. While Wilson has some flashy surface-level numbers, he’s still taking sacks on over 10% of his dropbacks, his passing touchdown count is inflated since the Broncos have a league-low 1 rushing touchdown, and his efficiency stats (passing success rate, QBR, ANY/A) would all be the 2nd-worst season of his career. His yards per pass attempt (6.9) would be a career low.
The truth is Payton is using Wilson closer to Taysom Hill in New Orleans than he is making him his new Drew Brees. It’s better than last season when the Broncos were the worst offense in the league, but it’s still not great.
The win over Kansas City was also misleading in that it was all about turnovers. The Chiefs coughed it up 5 times, and all 24 of Denver’s points came on drives that started inside the 50. Wilson didn’t have 100 net passing yards in either game against the Chiefs. The Broncos had 240 yards of offense in the 24-9 win.
Despite the injuries to Buffalo’s defense, the unit has done a respectable job outside of that awful game-winning drive allowed to Mac Jones and the Patriots. But the Bills are still talented on defense, and they should have the upper hand on Denver in this one.
But this is a game for Josh Allen to take over and lead the Bills to a victory. He’s done well statistically this season, but some untimely turnovers have hurt. The Denver defense has improved from the days of giving up 70 points to Miami and allowing Justin Fields to complete pass after pass, but it is still a subpar unit.
The Bills are better on both sides of the ball, and they will bounce back to win this one. We’ll trust the best bet in football this year (taking the under on Monday night) to continue with the Bills winning a 27-17 type of game. Check that, it’s Monday night in 2023, so more like a 23-14 game.
Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Bills ML & Under 46.5 Points (+143 at FanDuel)
6. Giants-Cowboys: New York Starting a Jersey Boys Cast Member at QB
I wasn’t even going to touch this game, but there is too much uncertainty with Kyler Murray (allegedly) returning for the Cardinals against Atlanta, or what the Titans might do on the road against Tampa Bay. So, division rematch with the largest point spread of the season (17.5) it is.
Since 2021, Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys are 11-1 ATS after a loss. However, this might be a big one to cover for a team that’s already lost as a 13-point favorite in Arizona, and the Cowboys almost lost as a 17-point favorite at home against Houston last year (won 27-23).
Big spreads are tough. Since 2002, 15-point underdogs cover 50% of the time (37-of-74 games). The rate is a little higher in division games but not by much. The 40-0 Week 1 win by Dallas in New York does not help the Giants’ cause nor does starting rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito, who sounds like a cast member of Jersey Boys.
I flirted with a prop pick of taking the Cowboys to score in every quarter (+150 at bet365) since they have done that in 5-of-8 games this season and usually against the worst teams on the schedule. Maybe this is a good week for CeeDee Lamb to score a touchdown since he somehow had 190 yards and none of Dak Prescott’s 3 touchdown passes last week in Philadelphia.
In the end, I settled on Dallas scoring over 27.5 points combined with the game having under 49.5 points. Incredibly, the Giants have an over/under of 10.5 points for this game, and the under has better odds. Then again, maybe it’s not so incredible when New York is averaging 11.2 points per game and taking DeVito into Dallas, a team they lost 40-0 to already.
But my other thought process is Dallas has scored at least 30 points in every home game this year. They won 28-20 on Thanksgiving last year against the Giants, a final that would also satisfy this prop. Prescott has led Dallas to over 27.5 points in 7 of his last 8 starts against the Giants. The Raiders scored 30 on this team last week with an interim coach and rookie quarterback in a 30-6 final.
Put it this way. It won’t be 40-0 again, but it could be 35-10 or 30-13. Either way, we’ll take this 2-leg play and hope the Cowboys feel motivated by their close loss in Philadelphia last week and don’t repeat the Houston game last year with a 27-23 win that completely screws us over.
Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Cowboys Over 27.5 Points & Under 49.5 Points (+161 at FanDuel)
7. Sunday Island Game Blues – Taking the Under in Colts-Patriots and Jets-Raiders
We’ve been bashing the offense in island games, so it is only fitting to end with a 2-leg parlay that takes the under in Colts-Patriots (43.5) in Germany and Jets-Raiders (36.5) on Sunday night.
Believe it or not, the Colts are only the 60th team in NFL history to score at least 20 points in each of their first 9 games. But they have an argument for being the worst team on that list as they are only 4-5. Still, in a season with scoring being down, and the fact they are starting their backup quarterback, it is impressive for rookie coach Shane Steichen.
But he’ll have to face the island game blues overseas against a Bill Belichick-coached defense, which doesn’t have the same sting it used to. Last year, the Colts lost 26-3 to the Patriots, but they also started Sam Ehlinger at quarterback in that game. Gardner Minshew is better than that, but this 20-point streak feels like it should fall as soon as possible.
It probably should have been last week as the Colts only had 198 yards of offense in Carolina. They got to 27 points thanks to Kenny Moore intercepting 2 Bryce Young passes for touchdowns. While Mac Jones and the Patriots can do that too, it shouldn’t happen again. The Patriots also score just 15.0 points per game, so we’re content with the under in this one.
As for Sunday night, it would be surprising if Jets-Raiders sees either team reach 20 points without a return touchdown making it happen. Despite losing 27-6 to the Chargers on Monday night, the Jets showed how great their defense is, holding Justin Herbert to a career-low in passing yards by 30 yards. Imagine what they can do to a rookie like Aidan O’Connell, who took 7 sacks in his first start against the Chargers earlier this year.
The Raiders had the emotional high of winning last week in the first game after Josh McDaniels was fired, but that’s not going to sustain itself for the rest of the season. This roster still has many flaws.
The Jets know their formula for winning is difficult with Zach Wilson at quarterback. The defense has to keep the game close into the fourth quarter. None of the Jets’ last 3 games have topped 34 total points. The Raiders have been held to 18 points in 7-of-9 games this season. You might want to tease it to under 37.5 if you can since 37 is a key number in the NFL, games end 20-17 more frequently than most final scores, but we’ll roll with the under in this game too.
Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Colts-Patriots Under 43.5 Points & Jets-Raiders Under 36.5 Points (+265 at FanDuel)