In honor of my last shifts working in the emergency department (probably ever) and because I haven’t had adequate time to write a full piece, this week we are going to do the ER triage version of NFL picks. For those that may not know, we typically triage patients in the emergency department on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the most severe cases and 5 being the least. Put another way, if you are a patient in the ED you want to be a 5. However, given the structure of this post and, in the interest of consistency, I have flipped the standard designation.
Tier 1: No Labs or Imaging Need It (Season Record: 13-14-1)
Vikings +1.5 over Cowboys
Giants -3 over Lions
Why is it so hard to except that the Vikings might be the best team in football? They are now tied for the best record after that miraculous win over the Bills (and the Eagles improbable loss to the Commanders). I asked plenty of similar questions about Minnesota last week, but now I’ve come to two conclusions about why we can’t accept the Vikings. Collectively, we refuse to accept goofy-ass Kirk Cousins as a Super Bowl contender and the specter of the Vikings needing to win three or four consecutive “all eyes on us” games to win a Super Bowl, when we have yet to see them win an “under the lights” game, still seems farfetched. Or maybe we should all just admit that Minnesota is officially this year’s Rodney Dangerfield Memorial team? Please explain to me how Dallas is favored over them on the road? The Giants, on the other hand, are finally starting to garner some respect, but they don’t win by big margins, which probably explains why they are only a field goal favorite over the Lions.
Tier 2: No Hospital Admission Needed, But They Need a Covid Test (Season Record: 8-22)
Patriots -3.5 over Jets
Broncos -2.5 Raiders
Bengals -3.5 over Steelers
This week feels like an underdog heavy week, but here are three healthy favorite bets that just need a little sniffing around to check out. The last time we saw the Jets they were finishing off a Bills with a confused Josh Allen walking off the field, but we would be remiss to forget that a week prior Bill Belichick put Zach Wilson in a vice grip. I fully expect Bill to find a way to beat the Jets again, especially at home and coming off a bye. Denver’s season may be nearing life support levels and they probably already regret trading away Bradley Chubb, but their pass rush is still ferocious enough to manhandle the Las Vegas’s putrid offensive line. The Bengals are the most “WTF are they?” team of the season. They are 5-4 currently. Three of their four losses have been by a field goal or less, but the fourth was a blowout loss to the Browns. Also, Cincinnati’s last three wins have been against NFC South teams (do I need to say more?). Even without Ja’Marr Chase for another week, Cincinnati should beat this Pittsburgh team.
Tier 3: Work-Up Needed, Might Need a Short Stay in the Hospital (Season Record: 16-16)
Browns +7.5 over Bills
Rams +3.5 over Saints
Chargers +5.5 over Chiefs
I told you the underdog bets were coming! Honestly, I don’t feel great about any of these, but I don’t feel horrible either. What are you supposed to do when you swear off the Rams and Saints and they play against each other? Obviously, you pick the underdog. Matt Stafford should be back at the helm of the Rams offense this week, even if the Cooper Kupp loss is a massive blow. On the other side, New Orleans is in such dire straits at the quarterback position that they are being linked to Cam Newton, and again they are favored by more than a field goal. On paper, Cleveland is much worse than Buffalo, but something just seems a little off about the Bills right now and Nick Chubb is still a monster. I think that’s enough to keep this within a touchdown. Anybody remember when the Chargers and Chiefs met on Thursday Night Football for the first Amazon Prime game with Kirk Herbstreit and Al Michaels? It felt like Prime was trying to force this great new thing down our gullets, but that didn’t overshadow what was truly a great game. Los Angeles looked like the better team for a large portion of that game until Kansas City took a Justin Herbert interception the length of the field for a defensive touchdown. The Chargers are a little bit “trick or treat” but there is a good chance they will have Keenan Allen back and this game will be full of back-and-forth fireworks.
Tier 4: Admission Needed, General Floor vs ICU TBD (Season Record: 16-11-2)
Titans +3 over Packers
Eagles -6.5 over Colts
Falcons -3 over Bears
At face value, it feels like I should trust the first two of these picks more than I do. The Titans have been unquestionably better than the Packers this season and Green Bay is coming off its only decent performance of the season with no guarantee they have that in them again. The game is in Lambeau, but that’s not what shakes my confidence in picking the Titans. Thursday Night Football has been a thorn in my side this year and I refuse to put much confidence in it. Philadelphia is undoubtedly a touchdown better than Indianapolis, especially a Jeff Saturday-led Indianapolis, but the Eagles haven’t quite been the Eagles for the last two weeks. They coasted to a win over the Texans on Thursday night two weeks ago and then lost on Monday night to the Commanders. This feels like a good “get back on track” week, but I’d feel better if they had just stayed on the track. Frankly, I don’t trust the Falcons or the Bears, but I think Atlanta can run the ball on this Chicago defense and they seem like a reasonable bet at home.
Tier 5: Call the Code (Season Record: 20-9-1)
Panthers +13 over Ravens
Texans +3 over Commanders
Cardinals +8.5 over 49ers
Betting on any of these three teams is grounds for checking someone for a stroke. Betting on all three in the same weeks feels like a temporary loss of sanity completely, but there are reasons for all three. I hate this Cardinals team and the Panthers feel like they are finally in free fall after the “dead cat bounce” effect following Matt Rhule’s dismissal. But, and a big but coming, neither the Ravens nor the 49ers play a “run-up-the-score” brand of football and I think just a few scores from Arizona or Carolina will make these spreads difficult to cover. Betting Houston over Washington feels even closer to insanity than the other two but hear me out. Washington is coming off a huge win on Monday Night Football and they have looked so much better with Taylor Heinicke leading the offense. But with a short week of preparation and a trip to Houston, this is a prime trap game. Plus, the Texans could pull off this upset and still line themselves up to win the Bryce Young sweepstakes.
Last Week’s Record: 7-7
Season Record: 73-73-4
Cover Photo Courtesy of Matt Blewett/USA TODAY Sports