Jason Pohuski/Cal Sport Media/Zuma Press/TNS
We almost did it folks — I went 5-1 in my picks from last weekend. The perfect weekend of gambling was nearly in the palm of my hand, but it slipped out when the Eagles lost to the Cowboys. I expected the Birds to win and cover the -7 point spread, but the Cowboys had other plans and won 27-20. Luckily, there was enough scoring on both ends to hit the over for the game. My season record is now at 29-25, similar to a middle of the pack NBA team in January.
The first step to keeping this win streak alive is finding the best games to bet on. The Pitt Panthers will travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the first time in program history and could clinch the ACC Coastal Division with a win over Wake Forest. The Pittsburgh Steelers will also travel south, seeking revenge for last year’s 45-42 playoff loss against the Jaguars on Sunday afternoon. Expect the Steelers to use the warm weather to their advantage and come away with a win against a Jacksonville team that has looked awful recently.
Pitt (6-4) vs. Wake Forest (5-5)
Spread: Pitt -7
Analysis: The Pitt Panthers have to be feeling good after their dominant win over the Virginia Tech Hokies on senior day last Saturday at Heinz Field. Senior running back Qadree Ollison ran wild for 235 yards and three touchdowns, including a career long run for 97 yards. He and teammate senior running back Darrin Hall will look to continue their unstoppable rush offense against a Wake Forest team that has given up an average 35.8 points per game. But the key to the Panthers’ victory lies in another offensive player — sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett had 162 passing yards and one touchdown last weekend, a much needed improvement after only throwing for 61 yards two weeks ago against Virginia. Head coach Pat Narduzzi’s team can win the ACC Coastal Division and clinch a berth in the ACC Championship game with a win on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons would love to ruin the Panthers’ potential after-party this weekend. Led by first-year quarterback Sam Hartman, Wake Forest also has a lot riding on this game. A win would make the Demon Deacons eligible for a bowl game and hurt Pitt’s chances at an ACC Championship game appearance. Hartman has thrown for 1,984 yards and 18 touchdowns so far this season, leading Wake Forest to average 31.8 points per game. He will look to continue throwing the ball well against a Pitt pass defense that has allowed 244.9 yards per game. Expect the Demon Deacons to keep up with Pitt and make this game a shootout.
Bet: Take Pitt to cover the spread and bet the over.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
Spread: Pittsburgh -5.5
Analysis: As most fans expected, former Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell did not show up to the Steelers facility by Tuesday at 4 p.m. to sign the franchise tag. That means Bell is ineligible to play this season and has forfeited the $14.5 million. Oh well, Bell is in the past — his former teammates made that clear when they raided his locker, taking sneakers, cleats and other gear. The Steelers’ focus is on Jacksonville, who beat them twice last season, including in the first round of the playoffs. Running back James Conner will have a tough challenge ahead of him on Sunday, facing one of the better defenses in the league. Fans can expect Pittsburgh’s offense to have a good balance of run and pass plays, in hopes of wearing down the Jaguars’ defense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would love to duplicate his 328 yards and five-touchdown performance from last week against the Carolina Panthers. If he manages to do that, it will be a long day for the Jags.
Pro Bowl defensive back Jalen Ramsey leads the strong Jaguars defense and is determined to beat the Steelers for a third straight time. Despite their 3-6 record, the Jaguars still have the No. 2 overall defense and are No. 1 against the pass this season. In order to beat the Steelers, Jacksonville’s offense and defense will have to show up. But if the defense can cause a few turnovers — as it has been known to do this season — the offense’s job will be easier. If not, the Jaguars still have one thing going for them on offense — running back Leonard Fournette is back and healthy after rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. Fournette had tremendous success last season against the Steelers in the playoffs, running for 109 yards and three touchdowns. His team will need him to repeat that again on Sunday if they want to win.
Bet: The Steelers cover this spread and bet the over.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) vs. Los Angeles Rams (9-1)
Spread: Los Angeles -3.5
Analysis: A potential Super Bowl preview will take place on Monday night in LA after much debate in the NFL league office. The game was supposed to be played in Mexico City, but there were reports that players from both sides would sit out due to concerns over the field conditions. The field was torn apart due to soccer games, concerts and rainfall. The NFL made the correct decision when they moved the location of the game to protect the players’ safety. At this point, losing a key player would have been potentially detrimental for either team, as both are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
This battle between the one loss teams should be one of the best games all season. The Rams’ high scoring offense is led by quarterback Jared Goff and MVP front runner running back Todd Gurley. Through 10 games this year, Gurley has 1,390 yards from scrimmage and with a big game could break the all-time yards from scrimmage record — 2,509 — held by Chris Johnson. Gurley will look to continue his MVP campaign against a Chiefs defense that has allowed 121.7 rushing yards this season. For the first time since they traded him to the Rams in the offseason, the Chiefs will reunite with former Pro Bowl defensive back Marcus Peters. Luckily for Kansas City, breakout quarterback Patrick Mahomes got practice throwing against Peters when he played on Kansas City’s scout team last year. It’s likely Mahomes beat up on Peters in practice last year and is even more likely to do so in Monday’s game. The second-year quarterback has been incredibly impressive this season — throwing for 3,150 yards and 31 touchdowns. Expect a high-scoring and entertaining game in Los Angeles on Monday night.
Bet: Kansas City will cover the spread and bet the over.