November is half-over. The NFL regular season has just one and a half months left. The pressure is mounting, and teams around the league can’t afford to squander various opportunities.
Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants
Odds: New York Giants -5
The Packers had every right to expect that they could contend for the Super Bowl this season, and even just a few weeks ago. Their season was progressing fairly smoothly, given the injuries they had absorbed on their offensive line. However, at the beginning of November, everything took a wrong turn, as superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers was injured on Monday Night Football in a loss to the Chicago Bears. Rodgers’ absence was profoundly felt last week in a home-field loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that probably would not have been able to beat the Packers if Rodgers had been healthy. The Packers also lost their number-two quarterback, Seneca Wallace, to an injury in that loss to Philadelphia, eroding whatever depth they might have had at the position at a previous point in time. Scott Tolzien is going to be the starter this Sunday in New York against the Giants, who are on a three-game winning streak and are amazingly not out of contention in the NFC East divisional race. Tolzien is so unproven as an NFL quarterback, and his performance against Philadelphia was so lacking in impressive qualities, that it’s very hard to pick the Packers here. The Giants stand out as the much more sensible choice, even though they have played poorly this season and have been lucky to get the three wins they’ve tucked away.
Pick: New York Giants -5
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals
Odds: Cincinnati -5.5
The Cincinnati Bengals know that with a win here, they can establish complete control of the AFC North Division. The Bengals are the only team with a winning record in the AFC North, and if they beat Cleveland here, they will deny the Browns a sweep of the season series. What’s more is that Cincinnati will, with a win, take a two-game lead over Cleveland in the loss column with only five games left in the season. It would be hard to expect the Browns to make up that kind of deficit in a short period of time.
There is a big opportunity here for the Bengals, but the Browns are going to be fueled by the fact that they have to win this game in order to create a closer divisional race down the stretch. The Browns know that, realistically, their playoff chances hinge on their ability to win this game. Cleveland’s defense should be able to contain Cincinnati’s offense. The problem will be the Browns’ offense against Cincinnati’s defense. Cleveland can hold down Cincinnati, enough to cover the NFL point spread; the Bengals will probably win outright, though.
Pick: Cleveland +5.5
Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks
Odds: Seattle -13
Seattle is feeling very good about itself after trouncing the Atlanta Falcons this past week. The Seahawks had been sluggish in the first halves of games, and they had also played a subpar home game – which is a rarity – against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early in November, so their ability to play like a top-level team against Atlanta should be able to get them back on the right track. One should not think that Minnesota is likely to pull the upset here.
Yet, one should also not expect the Vikings to roll over. Minnesota has been better in recent weeks than it was for much of the first half of the season. The offense is improving, as shown by a 34-point performance against the Washington Redskins last week. If this upward trend continues, the Vikings should be able to stay close enough to cover the spread.
Pick: Minnesota +13