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Before the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams meet in the most highly anticipated sports game in the history of the galaxy Monday night in California, two dozen other NFL teams will play football on Thursday and Sunday. And Bleacher Report NFL experts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have you covered with picks against the spread for all of those matchups, plus the Monday Night Football holy grail.
For what it’s worth, that gang has been in the green of late. Davenport is 29-11-1 picking against the spread the last three weeks, and when it comes to consensus, our group of analysts has gone 33-20-2 since Week 7.
Individually and as a crew, here’s where our predictors now stand through 10 weeks (last week’s records in parentheses).
1. Gary Davenport: 78-64-6 (8-5-1)
2. Brent Sobleski: 71-71-6 (6-7-1)
3. Brad Gagnon: 68-74-6 (7-6-1)
Consensus picks: 71-71-6 (7-6-1)
Let’s jump into Week 11.
Lines based on consensuses at OddsShark as of Wednesday.
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Home teams are 7-3 against the spread on Thursday Night Football this season, while favorites are 8-2. But that isn’t stopping the majority of our analysts from backing the Green Bay Packers as a 2.5-point road underdog in Seattle.
“I think the Packers are finally finding a groove with Aaron Jones catching fire in the backfield,” Gagnon said. “And I get the feeling Aaron Rodgers has a second-half run in him. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are sliding with back-to-back tough losses, and they’ve actually—shockingly—lost six of their last eight home games, dating back a calendar year. The Packers are also due for a road win, and this spread is probably already accounting for the fact home teams and favorites have performed so well on Thursdays. The law of averages might be on Green Bay’s side.”
But Davenport isn’t buying it, which is notable considering that he’s, like, the hottest NFL predictor on the planet right now.
“On one hand, the Packers have won three in a row against the Seahawks,” he said. “On the other hand, all three of those games were at Lambeau Field. This one’s in Seattle, which could bode poorly for a Packers team that’s 0-4 on the road this year. The Seahawks are 7-1 in their last eight games on Thursday night, and the favorites have been rolling of late on TNF. Add all those factors together and sprinkle in Green Bay’s 22nd-ranked run defense, and I think Seattle wins a relatively close, low-scoring affair. With a spread of less than a field goal, I’ll lay the points.”
It’s worth noting that as of Wednesday evening, the Packers were getting three points at a few sportsbooks, and many might give you the option to buy that extra half-point. If you’re going to swing the bat on the Packers on short rest in a place like Seattle, you might find comfort in at least getting a full field goal.
Davenport: Seattle (-2.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (+2.5)
Sobleski: Green Bay (+2.5)
Consensus: Green Bay (+2.5)
Score Prediction: Green Bay 26, Seattle 24
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We’re on Flacco Watch, a la Brian Fantana. Veteran Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s Week 11 status remains up in the air as he deals with a hip injury, which is why Sunday’s matchup between the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals remains off the board at basically every sportsbook in the country.
Stay tuned. Our experts will provide picks here as soon as a line becomes available.
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The Carolina Panthers are a week removed from a demoralizing 31-point prime-time loss, but our analysts agree that was likely an anomaly. The consensus is Cam Newton and Co. will bounce back with a victory by at least a handful of points on the road Sunday against a struggling-but-desperate Detroit Lions team.
“The Lions are a disaster at the moment,” Sobleski exclaimed. “Brief glimpses of competency quickly faded with three straight losses by 12 or more points. Detroit is also in a bad place here since Carolina had an extra half-week of preparation after the Pittsburgh Steelers laid one on the Panthers. Last Thursday’s performance isn’t indicative of the team Carolina is, though, and should be viewed as a one-game hiccup.”
Prior to said hiccup, the Panthers had won three in a row by a combined margin of 33 points and had emerged as a potential challenger to the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints atop the NFC.
This might depend on which Lions team shows up at Ford Field—the one that beat the Packers and Patriots there in Weeks 3 and 5, or the one that was embarrassed by the Jets and Seahawks there in Weeks 1 and 8. The most recent result was a bad one, though, and it’s fair to wonder if Detroit’s 28th-ranked scoring defense—possibly without injured cornerback Darius Slay—can handle Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Greg Olsen and a Carolina offense that has looked strong under Norv Turner‘s tutelage.
Davenport: Carolina (-4)
Gagnon: Carolina (-4)
Sobleski: Carolina (-4)
Consensus: Carolina (-4)
Score Prediction: Carolina 30, Detroit 21
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Do you believe in the streaking Indianapolis Colts? What about the suddenly hot Tennessee Titans? Both teams are very much alive in the AFC South, making Sunday’s meeting in Indy a hell of a lot more intriguing than anyone might have predicted a month ago.
Typically in situations like these—you know, those in which nobody knows what the heck to expect from a pair of volatile but evenly matched and familiar teams—you’ll see the home squad laying a field goal. But the Colts are giving up just two points in most spots, which gives them the edge with two of our three analysts, including the runaway picks leader.
“This pick has a lot less to do with my confidence in the Colts than it does with my lack of said confidence in the Titans,” Davenport explained. “Yes, Tennessee just blasted the Patriots in Nashville and also has a win over the defending Super Bowl champions. But this is also a Titans team that lost to the Buffalo Bills and got shellacked by the Ravens—two teams that aren’t exactly world-beaters. Andrew Luck is playing like, well, Andrew Luck. The Colts are keeping Luck upright—just 10 sacks allowed this year. Playing at home, Luck’s going to lead the Colts to a win that muddies the water in the AFC South that much more.”
The Colts did beat the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2016. And while both teams—and coaching staffs—have changed a lot since then, it’s worth noting that matchup because Luck and Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota were both (relatively) healthy then, and Mariota was experiencing a breakout sophomore campaign.
Luck also lacked pass protection and was worse off health-wise then, but the now-well-protected 29-year-old is cruising at the moment. He’s thrown 10 touchdown passes to just one interception while posting a 131.0 passer rating during the Colts’ current three-game winning streak.
We don’t have unanimity because it appears Gagnon is buying what the Titans have been selling the last two weeks, but the fact is the Indy offense has been rolling at home this season, and it’s easy to figure the inconsistent Titans will hit a sudden wall against a familiar foe.
Davenport: Indianapolis (-2)
Gagnon: Tennessee (+2)
Sobleski: Indianapolis (-2)
Consensus: Indianapolis (-2)
Score Prediction: Indianapolis 26, Tennessee 23
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Does anyone trust the Dallas Cowboys? What about the Atlanta Falcons? Both teams have experienced bumpy rides through 10 weeks, which is why it isn’t surprising to see Atlanta laying a field goal at home in a matchup between two 4-5 teams.
“If you offer me Atlanta by 3.5, I’m taking Dallas. If you offer me Atlanta by 2.5, I’m taking the Falcons,” Gagnon said. “In other words, I’m not making the mistake of overthinking on this one. The key for me is that Dallas is coming off an uncharacteristically strong road performance and is likely to regress, while the Falcons are coming off a terrible road performance and are likely to bounce back at home. No way am I betting on the Cowboys to beat two talented teams in a row on the road, which is why I’ll take Atlanta so long as I’m not giving up more than a field goal in what should still be a close game.”
Davenport and Sobleski won’t argue with that logic. The Cowboys haven’t won consecutive games since last December, and they were averaging just 13.5 points per game in four road losses prior to last week’s arguably aberrational win in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have averaged 32.2 points per game at home this season, and they have a strong chance to get back on track after a weird loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Our crew agrees it’ll happen, but we should warn you that the Falcons have made a habit of driving bettors bonkers and are 3-6 against the spread this season.
Davenport: Atlanta (-3)
Gagnon: Atlanta (-3)
Sobleski: Atlanta (-3)
Consensus: Atlanta (-3)
Score Prediction: Atlanta 28, Dallas 24
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Adam Hunger/Associated Press
Coming off a half-decent performance, why are the New York Giants barely even favored at home against the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
That’s the first question Gagnon and Davenport had when this game opened as a pick ’em. The Giants have since become a 1.5-point fave with most books, but that’s not even close to enough for the majority of our experts.
“The Buccaneers have lost four straight road games and have surrendered 40.2 points per game in their five games away from home this season,” Gagnon said. “Forty-point-two! The Giants aren’t good and are on less rest, but they certainly aren’t quitting, and I’m not sure the same can be said of Tampa Bay considering that abysmal home performance against the Washington Redskins in Week 10. This won’t be a blowout, but I think the Giants should be laying at least a field goal at MetLife Stadium.”
Sobleski isn’t on board, though, because he’s conscious of the desperation factor for the Bucs, especially against a Giants team that hasn’t won two games in a row since December 2016.
“Going against the grain here on two fronts,” he said. “Both of my colleagues chose the Giants. The spread is also in New York’s favor. But Pat Shurmur’s squad is coming off a victory, while Tampa Bay is a desperate team. Head coach Dirk Koetter is fighting for his job, and he’s already taken over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Expect the Bucs to pull out all of the stops.
Don’t disregard that take, because those among this group who pick against the majority as lone wolves are 40-37-1 this season.
We wouldn’t fault you for pretending this game doesn’t exist on your betting card.
Davenport: New York (-1.5)
Gagnon: New York (-1.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+1.5)
Consensus: New York (-1.5)
Score Prediction: New York 27, Tampa Bay 24
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Rarely do you see a team with a 6-3 record getting three points at home against an opponent that is no better than them in the standings, but our analysts aren’t taking the bait with the Washington Redskins sitting as a three-point underdog versus the Houston Texans.
“With their offensive line in shambles, the Redskins were able to sit back and let the Buccaneers beat themselves in Week 10,” Gagnon said. “But that’s not sustainable. Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson failed to take advantage of the league’s worst scoring defense, while the Redskins defense surrendered 501 yards. If not for self-inflicted red-zone wounds on Tampa’s end, Washington probably loses that game.
“At least they’re at home this week, but they’re facing a much more talented Texans team that is healthy, fresh off a bye and hasn’t lost since September. This is a no-brainer.”
His colleagues agree, although it should be noted this is likely to be a low-scoring game between two teams that rank in the top seven in scoring defense. If this line expands beyond three, you might be better off staying away.
Davenport: Houston (-3)
Gagnon: Houston (-3)
Sobleski: Houston (-3)
Consensus: Houston (-3)
Score Prediction: Houston 21, Washington 16
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The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t lost since September, while the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t won since September. That’s part of the reason Ben Roethlisberger and Co. are laying a solid 5.5 points Sunday in Florida.
That’s not enough for any of our three analysts to bet against a Steelers squad that is coming off a mini-bye following a blowout Thursday Night Football victory over the stellar Panthers.
But that doesn’t mean they’re confident.
“I’ll admit I’m terrified by this game and this line,” Gagnon said. “Excluding a neutral-site game against the Eagles in London, the Jaguars have given up just 15.3 points per game at home this season. We know they’ve got the talent to keep things close, and we can’t just forget that they put up 45 points in a road playoff victory over the Steelers in January.
“But one team has won five straight and the other has lost five straight. You’re welcome to argue that both are due for a change in fortunes, but the Jaguars are an undisciplined team that seems to be coming apart (cool it, Jalen Ramsey). And that outcome from last year’s playoffs might actually have Pittsburgh more motivated than an opponent that should, in theory, be a lot more desperate.”
It’ll be hard for the Jacksonville defense to rediscover its teeth against an offense that is firing on all cylinders and has been dominant in the trenches, making Pittsburgh the obvious choice despite a tricky line.
Davenport: Pittsburgh (-5.5)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (-5.5)
Sobleski: Pittsburgh (-5.5)
Consensus: Pittsburgh (-5.5)
Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Jacksonville 20
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It’d be hyperbolic to suggest that our analysts are finally convinced the Los Angeles Chargers are a consistently reliable contender, and it’s almost impossible to remain comfortable while picking the Bolts to clear a seven-point spread against a team like the Denver Broncos. After all, Denver has played well in divisional games this season, losing to the juggernaut Chiefs by just 11 combined points in two meetings.
Still, our fearless leader is part of the majority in favor of Los Angeles minus a touchdown.
“Not gonna lie,” Davenport said. “I’m a little anxious about laying a touchdown here. The Broncos usually play AFC West foes tight, they’ve had an extra week to get ready, and I can’t shake the nagging fear that at some point the Chargers are going to Chargers all over the place and lay an egg. But while it hasn’t always been pretty, the Bolts have peeled off six wins in a row, while the Broncos have one win over that span—a win that was also the only time over that span they have surpassed the 23-point mark.
“Denver isn’t going to get shut out like it did the last time the Broncos came to wherever the Chargers play (the StubHub Center…capacity 139), but L.A. just has too much offensive firepower for Denver to be able to keep up.”
Gagnon’s dissenting argument is that the Broncos don’t need to “keep up” in order to lose by five or six points. With the backdoor cover in play against a divisional opponent that might indeed be due to shoot itself in the foot, he’s taking the seven points.
Nobody said this would be easy.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-7)
Gagnon: Denver (+7)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-7)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-7)
Score Prediction: Los Angeles 27, Denver 17
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The Arizona Cardinals haven’t won a home game by six or more points this season, and that’s what they’ll have to do Sunday in order to cover a 5.5-point spread against the Oakland Raiders.
All three of our analysts believe in Josh Rosen and Co. Or something like that.
“This isn’t really about confidence in the Cards,” Gagnon said. “I mean, they showed signs of life with two wins in October, and they at least avoided embarrassment on the road against the mighty Chiefs. But the reality is the Raiders are the only team in football that would compel me to pick Arizona to win a game by more than a field goal.”
Yeah, it’s become ugly in the land of the Raiders. Jon Gruden’s team has scored six or fewer points in three of its last four games and has lost five straight games by at least 14 points. They’re the first team in four calendar years to do that, and there’s little reason to believe they’ll suddenly wake up on the road against an opponent that has gone toe-to-toe at home this season with strong opponents like Chicago and Seattle.
“The Raiders don’t have the pass rush to disturb Rosen,” Gagnon added, “and they don’t have the offensive weapons to take advantage of a vulnerable Cardinals run defense.”
His colleagues agree, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel comfortable laying a handful of points with a team that is 2-7.
Davenport: Arizona (-5)
Gagnon: Arizona (-5)
Sobleski: Arizona (-5)
Consensus: Arizona (-5)
Score Prediction: Arizona 24, Oakland 15
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The New Orleans Saints are the hottest team in professional football, but the majority of our experts feel the books have gone too far by installing New Orleans as a nine-point favorite for Sunday’s home matchup with the desperate defending champion Philadelphia Eagles.
“Vegas is daring people to take the Eagles with a nine-point spread,” Sobleski said. “It may be a sucker’s bet, but I’m your huckleberry. The Saints are obviously the NFL’s best team. Philadelphia is 4-5 overall, but its roster features plenty of talent even with all of the recent injuries, and it’s still in the NFC East hunt. Either this becomes a blowout or the Eagles surprise. It’s hard to see anything between those two points.”
Gagnon is on board with Sobleski, but with a different outlook.
“The Eagles need this,” he said, “and even if they’re not the team they were last year, they’ve got the experience and mental fortitude to hang here. I know they just lost cornerback Ronald Darby to a torn ACL, but New Orleans will also be without a key player with left tackle Terron Armstead sidelined by a pectoral injury. I don’t think they’ll win, but they’ll put up a fight. I’ll take the nine points and at least hope for a backdoor cover if I’m wrong.”
Rarely do we hear from all three voices on one pick, but this game generated a lot of discussion, and Davenport’s powerful dissenting opinion deserves to be heard.
“Not betting against the Saints. No, sir. Not doing it,” he said. “Especially not at home. Even with a spread that’s a jaw-dropper given that the underdog also happens to be the league’s reigning champion. Drew and the Breeses are playing like a team that knows there’s no margin for error if they want the huge advantage of the NFC playoffs coming through the Superdome. The Eagles pass defense wasn’t playing especially well before losing Darby for the season. Now? On the road against a man who looks to be on a mission to win the MVP award I still can’t believe he didn’t pick up at some point before now? Brees is going to do some carving practice ahead of Thanksgiving. Eagle, turkey, whatever….they’re all birds. Pass the gravy, please.”
You’re allowed to be confused.
Davenport: New Orleans (-9)
Gagnon: Philadelphia (+9)
Sobleski: Philadelphia (+9)
Consensus: Philadelphia (+9)
Score Prediction: New Orleans 31, Philadelphia 26
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For the first time in eight meetings dating back to 2014, the Chicago Bears are favored to beat the Minnesota Vikings when the two contenders meet Sunday night in Illinois. It makes sense because the Bears are off to a great start, and they’ve always played the Vikings tough at home regardless of how good they’ve been.
Chicago is 13-3 in matchups with the Vikings at Soldier Field dating back to 2001, and those three losses came by just three points apiece. They’re laying a mere 2.5 points this week, and all three of our panelists are on their side.
“Chicago’s about to make a statement to a national audience,” Gagnon said. “The Vikings might still be a deeper team, but the Bears are healthier, hotter and at home, where they’ve gone 4-1 while averaging 32.2 points per game this season. This’ll be a close game, but Chicago should win, so I’m of course willing to give the 2.5 points.”
The Bears are certainly building momentum, having won three consecutive games by double-digit margins. Star pass-rusher Khalil Mack is healthy again, and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has found a groove with a 114.8 passer rating in his last six outings. So while this is far from a sure thing considering the lack of experience on Chicago’s side, the Bears feel like the safer bet Sunday night.
Davenport: Chicago (-2.5)
Gagnon: Chicago (-2.5)
Sobleski: Chicago (-2.5)
Consensus: Chicago (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Chicago 24, Minnesota 20
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David Richard/Associated Press
Before the NFL moved Monday night’s highly touted matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams from Mexico City to Southern California, most sportsbooks had the Rams favored by 2.5 points.
That might have been tempting to those considering the Rams at a neutral site, but the line has since shifted to 3.5 in most spots.
In that case, our guys are in agreement that the Chiefs are the pick.
“I was actually originally on the Rams here at -2.5, but the spread keeps climbing,” said Davenport. “I still think the Rams have the better defense, and it’s entirely possible they’ll win a close one at home. But that’s the problem. I get a vibe from this one that’s very similar to the Chiefs-Patriots shootout a few weeks back—that this will be a back-and-forth affair that will be won by whoever has the ball last. A three-point spread feels like a push waiting to happen, and as soon as that spread moved past it, I’m taking the points and Kansas City.”
Gagnon and Sobleski actually have the Chiefs winning straight-up against a Rams team that has only been surviving of late, even at home. They’ve won their last three games at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by just one score each.
“The Chiefs are simply playing better football at the moment,” Sobleski said. “The Rams have trailed during the second half of their last three games. Plus, quarterback Jared Goff just lost his security blanket, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, to a season-ending knee injury. Kansas City, meanwhile, is cruising along with double-digit victories in three of their last four contests. With the Rams getting a traditional three-point home spread, the Chiefs are an easy choice.”
Davenport: Kansas City (+3.5)
Gagnon: Kansas City (+3.5)
Sobleski: Kansas City (+3.5)
Consensus: Kansas City (+3.5)
Score Prediction: Kansas City 35, Los Angeles 34