NFL WEEK 10: We’ve reached the midpoint of the new 18-week regular season and playoff races are beginning to take shape, with the AFC in particular looking like it’s going to be a wild ride. Buffalo and Kansas City are tied for the best record in the conference at 6-2, but three teams sit just a game back in the race for the top seed, and with nine AFC teams currently sporting a winning record and only seven playoff spots up for grabs, there are sure to be some good teams left out in the cold.

The NFC will not have that problem, as only five teams in the conference are currently above .500 and three of those play in the same division– the NFC East. That means we’re going to have a couple of deeply flawed teams squeak into the playoffs, and it also means that nearly every team in the conference is still in postseason contention, as even the 3-7 Panthers are only 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot.

Speaking of the Panthers, they kicked off this Week 10 with an ugly Thursday night win over division-rival Atlanta, with the two teams playing through a rainstorm and combining for just 254 passing yards. Let’s hope the rest of this week’s slate delivers a bit more excitement– Minnesota/Buffalo is the only true marquee matchup, but seven games currently have point spreads of 3.5 or less and NFL fans in Germany will get to see a real game in-person for the first time (starring Tom Brady, no less!), so it may turn into a pretty fun Sunday.

It’s been a profitable season thus far for followers of this column… let’s see if we can keep it going with these:


Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears (CHI -3, 48.5)

Recommendation: Chicago -3 at 1.99

The Lions are coming off their best win of the season, a 15-9 victory over favored Green Bay. They were outgained by nearly 150 yards, but the defense forced three turnovers and repeatedly turned away Aaron Rodgers in the red zone to seal the win. That’s the good news. Bad news is their own offense continued on its putrid trajectory, with Jared Goff throwing for just 137 yards and the running backs averaging fewer than 4 yards per attempt. And the defense, despite a heroic performance against Rodgers, is one of the very worst units in the league statistically and is particularly bad against the run, surrendering 5.0 yards per rush (28th in NFL). This week they travel to Chicago to face a smash-mouth Bears team that has two quality running backs and a quarterback with elite speed and mobility who has rushed for over 500 yards in the team’s past six games, including 178 yards on 15 attempts last week. Chicago leads the NFL in rushing and ranks second in yards per attempt (5.4). You couldn’t draw up a worse matchup for this Lions D, and despite the fact that the Bears have lost 5 of their past 6, they have undeniably found their stride on offense, scoring 94 combined points in their last three games and moving the ball at will. They should run right over this Detroit defense and cruise to a comfortable home win.


Indianapolis Colts @ Las Vegas Raiders (LV -4.5, 41)

Recommendation: Las Vegas -4.5 at 1.93

Boy, what a mess in Indianapolis. Calling these Colts a “dumpster fire” would be an insult to actual dumpster fires, whose warm glow undoubtedly provides relief to many hobos and streetwalkers. In case you haven’t heard, Indianapolis fired coach Frank Reich last week, who was 7 games over .500 for his tenure despite a revolving door at quarterback, and hired as interim coach former player Jeff Saturday, who has no coaching experience at any level. Saturday then announced that 30-year-old assistant QB coach Parks Frazier, who has no experience calling plays at any level, will call the offensive plays this week and going forward. Not only that, but veteran QB Matt Ryan has been benched indefinitely because if he keeps playing he’ll hit contract incentives that will force the team to pay him more, so owner Jim Irsay has opted to go with young Sam Ehlinger, winning be damned.

It almost seems like… I dunno… Irsay is intentionally tanking the season to maximize the team’s chances of getting a new franchise QB in April’s draft? If that’s what he’s doing, it’s working– the team is winless with Ehlinger at QB and has scored 10, 16, and 3 points in their past three games. Whatever the case may be, this is a tremendous break for the struggling Raiders, who badly need a win and a shot of positivity. This game will not be close, and I have a hunch the commissioner’s office will be having a talk with Mr. Irsay in the near future. This is a bad look for the league.


Washington Commanders @ Philadelphia Eagles (PHI -11, 44.5)

Recommendation: Washington +11 at 1.91

The Eagles are the NFL’s lone remaining unbeaten team, but are they a dominant team? Their only 20-point win came over the offensively-challenged Steelers, and they squeaked out 1-score victories over sub-.500 teams like Detroit, Arizona, and Jacksonville. While it’s true that they did beat these Commanders 24-8 back in Week 3, that game featured a terrible performance from Washington QB Carson Wentz, who will be on the sidelines watching this week as the much more capable Taylor Heinicke leads the offense. Plus, the Washington defense, which is excellent up front, did a nice job of shutting down the Philly rushing attack when these teams last met, holding the Eagles to just 72 rushing yards and 2.4 yards per attempt, both season lows. The Commies have been playing some good football lately, winning 3 of their past 4 and nearly beating the NFC North-leading Vikings last week, and I have a hunch they’re going to give their division rival a game here. Philly may win, but this one will be closer than many expect.


NFL Week 13 Best Bets
DAQMAN Sat: Aintree NAP
DAQSTATS Sat: Aintree NAP
WORLD CUP ULTRA Sat: NETHERLANDS v USA, ARGENTINA v AUSTRALIA
WORLD CUP ULTRA Sun: FRANCE v POLAND, ENGLAND v SENEGAL
EFL FOOTBALL Sat: Championship, League One, League Two
SHAMROCK Sat: Fairyhouse Preview
PAT HEALY blog: Awesome Constitution Hill
MARK HALSEY blog: England’s discipline a credit to Southgate
GREYHOUND PREVIEW: Friday and Saturday
WEEK AHEAD: World Cup It’s A Knockout
THE ULTRA: World Cup Group Stage Preview
LIFTING THE LID: Clayton Blackmore’s World Cup predictions 
SETTING THE SCENE: The World Cup
THE ULTRA: World Cup Knockout Stage Preview
PURPLE PUNDIT: Five Reasons Not To Back Brazil
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