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NFL picks against the spread: Vic Tafur’s Week 10 predictions

Let’s raise a glass to Dan Campbell. His Lions broke through with a win against the Packers to end a five-game losing streak. We finally believed in him, and it paid off. Many people bought into his “Hard Knocks” speeches and had the Lions contending in the NFC North, and while that was absurd, they are a competitive bunch playing a very tough schedule. Campbell is like a poor man’s Mike Vrabel, and that’s going to be good enough to beat the Bears this week for a second win in a row.

Maybe Campbell will smell something again today.

Let’s raise a glass of water to us as well. We had our second consecutive winning week — and we deserved a little better than 6-5-2 against the spread. We are counting on four underdogs in the Lions over the Bears, Jaguars over the Chiefs, Broncos over the Titans and Steelers over the Saints — our best bets — to stack three winning weeks in a row.

Last week: 6-5-2 against the spread. (Plays of the week were 1-0-2 as the Ravens cruised over the Saints, while the Chargers and Rams pushed against the Falcons and Buccaneers, respectively.) The Rams were covering the whole way until there were nine seconds left. The Raiders blew another big lead to lose to Jacksonville, and the Dolphins should really cover when they score 35 points, but the Bears kept it close. 

Season record: 61-70-5 ATS (Plays of the week are 7-11-2)

All odds are from BetMGM and are locked when the pick was made. Click here for live odds.

The Falcons have not covered in the last three games after starting off 6-0 ATS. Brainy types call that regression to the mean. Marcus Mariota said they lost some steam last week. Now they get the Panthers, with Carolina looking to avenge an overtime loss from just two weeks ago. Maybe the Panthers were so depressed from that one they just laid down last week against the Bengals.

Baker Mayfield came in for PJ Walker last week and looked good in garbage time. (What, is Sam Darnold next?) Walker will start Thursday night … but the numbers show that it really doesn’t matter:

Walker: 58.9 percent completion rate, 6.9 YPA, 33.7 percent success rate on passes, 17.8 percent off target rate

Mayfield: 56.6 percent completion rate, 6.5 YPA, 35.1 percent success rate, 15 percent off target rate

The Panthers bounce back off from an embarrassing loss, and their 3-7 record would put them right back in contention in the NFC South.

The pick: Panthers (+2.5)

What a comeback drive by Tom Brady. It got the Bucs a much-needed win and a push ATS (ouch) but what we said last week still stands. Keep fading Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Their teams just aren’t very good and Brady this week even was questioning his teammates’ effort.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are my babies. They’re rolling, having already easily covered my over 5.5 season wins bet and are actually tied for the league lead in double-digit victories with four. (The Bucs’ two double-digit losses this season already match their totals from the 2020 and 2021 seasons.) Three million people in Germany want to see them … or Brady.

The Bucs have surrendered nine rushes of 20-plus yards — tied with the Chargers for third-most in the NFL — and Seahawks rookie Kenneth Walker III has five runs of 20-plus, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. He’s one of three players with two runs of 50-plus. Meanwhile, the Seahawks rank first in defensive success rate against early-down runs (77.1 percent) since Week 6. And the Bucs are averaging 6.11 third-and-longs (7-plus yards to go) per game and have converted just 10.9 percent of these opportunities — the worst of any Brady-led team (Tampa Bay or New England) through nine games.

The pick: I hate that the game is at 6:30 a.m. local Seattle time, but I am going with the better team getting points. Seahawks +3


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Will Josh Allen play with the bad elbow, and if he does, how will it affect his rushing ability? That’s hard to predict, but it’s easy to see how much he means to the Bills. Allen has accounted for 53.4 percent of the Bills’ rushing first downs, the 13th-highest share in the NFL, greater than even Lamar Jackson. Half of his runs have accounted for first downs, the highest rate in the NFL.



Bills QB Josh Allen day to day with elbow injury

Especially if Case Keenum gets the start, the Bills will have to lean more on their defense. Von Miller should get after Kirk Cousins who, shirtless jewelry dances aside, completes only 39 percent of his passes when pressured. The Vikings were lucky to be 6-1 last week, had some lulls and are 7-1 now because Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke doesn’t have any common sense.

The pick: Bills (-3.5) with or without Allen.

It’s been a miraculous turnaround for Justin Fields since the Bears tweaked the playbook for him during the bye week. Among 23 players with at least 30 carries the last three games, Fields ranks first in first downs/rush (64.9 percent; Jackson in second place at 46.7 percent) and first in yards/carry (8.65). And he also threw some dimes in the high-scoring loss to the Dolphins last week.

The Bears have called play action at NFL’s fourth-highest rate (40.6 percent) over that span, but the Lions’ improving defense has only allowed explosive passes (16-plus yards) off play action at the 14th-highest rate (20.2 percent). Their defense has gotten healthier of late and they blitz a lot, which will test Fields.

The Lions should score pretty easily against a Bears defense that traded away its two best defensive players and served Tua Tagovailoa pupus as he looked for receivers downfield. Campbell’s bunch improves to 5-4 ATS.

The pick: Lions +3

All this bantering between Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson about wearing wristbands with the plays on them last season is great stuff. I think Wilson will play better coming off the bye week, and I am not alone given what looked like a trap line that opened with the Titans as a one-point favorite. The Titans are 5-3 and are hosting the 3-5 Broncos and they’re only favored by 1? It’s now 3 and might go up some more.

The Titans have averaged just 22 pass attempts per game. Since 2000, only one team has won at least five of its first eight games while averaging fewer pass attempts per game: the 2005 Steelers. They realized that is not sustainable and are rushing Ryan Tannehill to come back this week. Wait … they do realize that asking receivers, albeit mediocre ones, to only block is not a sustainable win model, right?

The Broncos just traded away pass rusher Bradley Chubb, but they still have some guys who can fly around in addition to an elite secondary.

PPP: We had a winner in Miles Sanders over 91.5 yards rushing and receiving last week and have a streak going, but Player Props that Pop are hard to find this early in the week as most aren’t posted yet. But we find three with the fresh Broncos — Wilson over 226.5 yards passing, Courtland Sutton over 53.5 yards receiving and Jerry Jeudy over 50.5. Let’s ride.

The pick: Broncos (+2.5)

New MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes had to do everything himself last week to barely beat the Titans, and while the national pundits have screamed otherwise, he clearly misses Tyreek Hill.

JuJu Smith-Schuster has become a reliable target underneath though. Among 105 qualified skill position players, Smith-Schuster ranks second behind only Dallas Goedert in EPA/target on throws of 10 air yards or less. Mahomes has a success rate of 76.2 percent on throws of less than 10 air yards when targeting Smith-Schuster, the highest mark of any Chiefs player.

The Jaguars came to life last week in the second half against the Raiders, and though the Chiefs are a different animal, Travis Etienne Jr. will break a couple long runs against a bad Chiefs run defense. The Jaguars have enough young talent on both sides of the ball to stay close, and the Chiefs — coming off a physical Sunday night game and looking ahead to a prime-time game against the Chargers — fall to 2-6 ATS the last eight weeks.

The pick: Jacksonville (+9.5)



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Forget Comeback Player of the Year, why isn’t Tua getting any MVP love? He ranks first in the NFL in yards per attempt (9.2) and passer rating (115.9) this season. He’s on pace to be the fourth QB in NFL history to attempt 400-plus passes, average 9.0-plus YPA and earn a 115 passer rater in a single season. Each of the previous three, Peyton Manning in 2004, Aaron Rodgers in 2011 and Matt Ryan in 2016 won MVP.

The Browns have allowed explosive pass plays at the NFL’s sixth-highest rate (14.9 percent), but their pass defense is not bad. They stink against the run, so the Dolphins may lean on Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr.

Defensively, the Dolphins blitz at the NFL’s fourth-highest rate (36.5 percent) and should be able to harass Jacoby Brissettwho’s got three games left to keep the Browns in the playoff hunt — even when they don’t, thanks to newcomer Bradley Chubb. The Browns will need a big day out of his cousin Nick Chubb to stay close … and it’s very possible. He has 22 runs of 10-plus yards versus boxes of seven or more (which the Dolphins usually line up in). Only Derrick Henry (25) has more.

The pick: Dolphins -3.5

It’s time for Tua Tagovailoa to get some MVP buzz. (Jamie Sabau / USA Today)

The Giants (6-2 ATS) still don’t get any respect, though we’re not exactly as fired up to jump on them this week for some reason. I mean, Saquon Barkley should have a huge day. The Texans, even though they are getting Maliek Collins back, rank last in run defense DVOA. They’ve given up a league-high 47 runs of 10-plus yards, and a league-worst 46.4 percent of early-down runs against Houston have gone for 5-plus yards.

Maybe I am almost scared off because rookie rushing leader Dameon Pierce will be able to run through the Giants as well. And Davis Mills is actually pretty solid against the blitz, which the Giants do often.

Through three quarters, these teams have been pretty even — the Texans rank 16th in point differential (minus-5) while the Giants are tied for 22nd (minus-19). The Giants, though, rank fourth in fourth-quarter point differential at plus-25, while the Texans rank tied for 30th at minus-45. I don’t know if that’s great coaching or luck, or both. 

The pick: I am picking the Giants -5 but even with the number down from 6.5, it makes me itchy.

The Saints had nothing for the Ravens last week, and sitting duck Andy Dalton and promising rookie receiver Chris Olave now get to look forward to the likely return of Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt. The Steelers actually were fine against the run without their star, and that doesn’t bode well for Alvin Kamara either.

The Steelers, meanwhile, had the week off for Kenny Pickett to get more comfortable. And they got rid of the overrated Chase Claypool so that Pickett can throw deep to future star George Pickens more often.

The Steelers are also wisely working in Jaylen Warren more for the ineffective Najee Harris.

When both are running into boxes of eight-plus:

Harris (41 carries): 24 percent of runs haven’t advanced passed LOS, 0.10 yards before contact per carry, 2.2 yards after contact per carry, 26.8 percent success rate.

Warren (5 carries): All have advanced past LOS, 60 percent success rate.

The Saints defense just made Kenyan Drake look like Barry Sanders.

The pick: Steelers +1.5

Remember when the Colts benched Matt Ryan and said this whole mess was his fault? Well, they just hired a former high school football coach to take over this Sunday. Jeff Saturday is better known as a former center and ESPN personality, but he is coming in cold to lead a staff and players that must be rolling their eyes.

Saturday inherits a bad offensive line and a rookie quarterback who has been completely overwhelmed in his first two starts. Sam Ehlinger has been sacked on 17.5 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate among all QBs with a minimum of 60 dropbacks. Ryan’s sack rate with two shot legs was 7.5 percent.

The Raiders are coming off a disastrous, if not luxurious nine-day road trip, and while we often talk about their patchwork offensive line and Josh McDaniels’ complicated scheme, how about this:

Derek Carr has been off target on 15.3 percent of throws to Davante Adams. For context, from 2020 to 2021, Aaron Rodgers was off target on just 8.9 percent of throws to Adams.

Luckily, the Raiders won’t have to score that many points this week. There’s no way a talented staff of former Patriots coaches has trouble with Saturday and some 30-year-old play caller named Parks Frazier who was recently splicing up game film. (Pssst, are the Colts tanking?)

The pick: Raiders -6

The Packers have lost five consecutive games and should have dropped six in a row against the spread if not for a gift two weeks ago in Buffalo. Now, they lost receiver Romeo Doubs and linebacker Rashan Gary to injury. The Packers’ pressure rate drops from 43 percent to 31 percent without Gary this season.

The Cowboys are rested, and their defense has graded out very well. On offense, they will continue to anger people who think Tony Pollard should be the lead back over Ezekiel Elliott. Pollard has a 43.2 percent success rate, 1.22 yards before contact per carry, 5.02 yards after contact per carry and a 13.6 percent explosive run rate. Elliott comes in at a 39.4 percent success rate, 1.28 yards before contact per carry, 2.79 yards after contact per carry and a 5.5 percent explosive run rate

Both running backs should eat well here, given that former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys won’t take a second-half nap like the Bills did two weeks ago.

The pick: Cowboys (-5.5)

Matthew Stafford is in the concussion protocol, and these teams were having trouble scoring already. The Cardinals average 9.77 plays per scoring drive, the most in the NFL. Second-worst? The Rams, at 8.84.

The Cardinals have been a little better since DeAndre Hopkins returned in Week 7. Hopkins has accounted for 34.2 percent of his team’s receptions, which trails only Tyreek Hill during this span, and 41.2 percent of his team’s receiving first downs, the highest share in the NFL during this span.

History is on the Rams’ side, though. Kyler Murray is 1-7 against the Rams, while Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury is 1-6 against Sean McVay (1-5-1 ATS). Plus, we get a mad Aaron Donald coming off a bad game — he generated just one pressure on 51 pass rushes in the loss to the Buccaneers, snapping his streak of 59 consecutive games with multiple pressures, per Next Gen Stats.

The pick: Rams -3

The Chargers keep sustaining major injuries and can’t stop the run, which doesn’t bode well against Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel. The 49ers, meanwhile, rank fourth in run defense DVOA, so Austin Ekeler is going to have a tough time keeping the Chargers offense balanced.

Justin Herbert has attempted passes at or behind the line of scrimmage at the sixth-highest rate (27.4 percent). The speedy 49ers defense — who should get Jason Verrett back — has been solid versus these throws, as only 10.4 percent have gone for 10-plus yards, the seventh-lowest rate in NFL.

This betting line has already moved up 3.5 points, and that’s too much for me. I am going to take Herbert and the backdoor cover and point out this stat regarding Jimmy Garoppolo. He is 17-5 ATS as an underdog and 17-19-1 ATS as a favorite, per Bet Labs Sports.

One more: Kyle Shanahan is 11-17 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 points or more.

The pick: Chargers +7

Taylor Heinicke is like your crazy ex who is a lot of fun but really, really not good for you. He is a tough guy with an average arm and some mobility who likes to throw the ball up for grabs three to four times per game. It cost the Commanders a win last week, but he’s covered for me ATS three weeks in a row.

I still love him, but I hate this matchup for him. The Eagles recently added pass rusher Robert Quinn, and they have an excellent secondary that toys with mediocre quarterbacks like a cat does a mouse. The Eagles defense leads the league in turnover rate at 22 percent (the Commanders are last at 4.2 percent). Scoring drives against the Eagles average 10.24 plays, the highest number in the NFL.

Jalen Hurts and company were up on the Commanders 24-0 at halftime six weeks ago before the Eagles took their foot off the gas. I took the Texans to cover the large number against the Eagles and won because the best team in the NFL would be looking forward to this Monday night showcase. Well, here we are.

The pick: Eagles -11 

— TruMedia research courtesy of NFL editor Aaron Reiss. 

(Graphic: John Bradford / The Athletic; photo of Dan Campbell: Nic Antaya / Getty Images)



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