Here are some of the top NFL football games to bet this weekend:
Broncos-Chiefs: Vance Joseph still has his job, but the blowout win at Arizona is just a temporary deodorant covering the Broncos’ armpit of problems. Denver ranks 22nd in the NFL in total defense, and Case Keenum has more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight). It’s Joseph’s job to coach up and fix the defense. Keenum is running out of excuses because he has plenty of weapons but is not producing. The good news for Keenum is he has extra time to prepare for a soft Kansas City defense. The bad news for the Broncos is Patrick Mahomes is warming up, and Mahomes triggers the league’s top scoring offense at 37.1 points per game. Mahomes, who ranks No. 1 in passing touchdowns (22) and No. 2 in yards (2,223), was held to one TD pass in the Chiefs’ 27-23 comeback win at Denver on Oct. 1. Kansas City opened as a 5-point favorite in that game and closed -3.5, so that’s the closest call in its 7-0 record against the spread. Flag-happy officials helped keep the game tight by penalizing the Chiefs 10 times compared to three flags on the Broncos. The Denver defense did step up in the 45-10 victory over the Cardinals, picking off rookie Josh Rosen three times, but Arizona is a poorly coached and pitiful team. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb each had two sacks of Rosen, and the Broncos’ ability to pressure Mahomes will be the key to this game. It’s tough to buck the red-hot Chiefs, but the road ‘dog is getting 10 points, so ride the Broncos and hope for their best effort.
Ravens-Panthers: The Baltimore defense broke down against Drew Brees, who passed for two touchdowns and led an offense that piled up 339 yards and 26 first downs in the Saints’ 24-23 victory over the Ravens. Days later, it’s still too bizarre to accept that Justin Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, missed an extra point to force overtime. The Ravens could not get defensive stops when it counted, but their defense should be able to limit the annoying Superman theatrics of Cam Newton, who’s not much of a vertical passing threat. Newton is averaging 6.83 yards per attempt to rank 29th in the league, so Carolina does not display a New Orleans-type offense. Baltimore’s defense ranks No. 1 in scoring (14.4 points per game) and sacks (27) and No. 2 against the pass (190 yards per game). If quarterback Joe Flacco shows up energized to play, the Ravens, laying 1½ to 2 points on the road, should bounce back from last week’s agonizing loss. The Panthers pulled a rabbit out of the hat in a comeback win at Philadelphia, but Newton’s tricks seem unlikely to fool the Baltimore defense.
Colts-Raiders: It’s ugly in Oakland, yet there is some positive news to report. The Raiders did not lose last week, and Jon Gruden picked up another first-round draft pick. Gruden duped Dallas into dealing a first-rounder for Amari Cooper, who is not a legit No. 1 wide receiver despite what the Cowboys want to believe. Cooper, plagued by drops last year, had 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown through six games. Gruden is tanking this season and building for the future while he tries to discard every player acquired by (soon to be former) general manager Reggie McKenzie. With running back Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve and possibly finished, quarterback Derek Carr is backed against the wall. Carr is denying reports he cried on the field and lost the faith of teammates after taking a hard hit two weeks ago. Carr has regressed under Gruden while passing for seven touchdowns with eight picks. Carr was sacked six times in the Raiders’ 27-3 loss to Seattle in London before the bye week. Oakland’s offense totaled only 185 yards the last time out and now is without Cooper and Lynch. The Colts are not bringing a fearsome defense (375 yards and 26.4 points per game) to the “Black Hole” but they are riding in with Andrew Luck, so they can win a shootout. Luck tops the league with 311 pass attempts and is second with 20 touchdowns, so the questions about his arm strength have been quelled and Indianapolis is getting healthy on both sides of the ball. The Colts are 3-point favorites, and while most home ‘dogs are typically attractive, Gruden and the Raiders look like dead ‘dogs.
Packers-Rams: It’s rare for Aaron Rodgers to be an underdog, and when that’s the case he’s usually not getting many points. How about double digits? It could happen, and there’s a first time for everything. Rodgers and the Packers are 9-point ‘dogs in Los Angeles, where the Rams (7-0) have won their three home games by margins of 34, 12 and seven points. Rodgers never has been this big of an underdog in his career. Sean McVay’s offense is averaging 33.6 points and features league rushing leader Todd Gurley. The L.A. defense ranks fourth in scoring (18.3 points per game) and is led by league sack leader Aaron Donald. Green Bay (3-2-1 straight up, 2-4 ATS) was an underdog in two previous games this season, getting 1½ points against Minnesota and one point at Detroit. Rodgers’ numbers (12 touchdowns, one interception) are impressive despite an injured knee that left him hobbled for several weeks. He had a bye week to rest for this trip, but the bigger concern is how the Packers will hold up on defense. With a game at New England on deck, Rodgers is about to run the toughest gauntlet in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if the public or sharps take perceived value with the Packers. The number hit 9½ at one major Las Vegas book on Monday. In a ‘dog show, Rodgers certainly is not an ugly one.
Saints-Vikings: Prepare for a Sunday night shootout in Minnesota, where the Saints were on the wrong end of a miracle in the playoffs. Drew Brees, the only starting quarterback in the NFL without an interception this season, is playing at the highest level of his career and he’s 3-0 on the road after taking down Baltimore’s top-ranked defense last week. The Vikings have slipped to No. 11 in total defense while allowing 23.6 points per game. Brees has the benefit of a running attack, something Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins is lacking. Cousins is completing 70 percent of his passes — Brees ranks No. 1 at 77.3 percent — with 14 touchdowns to three interceptions. The total of 52½ to 53 looks low with these offenses set to fire in prime time. If you bet the under, get the Alka-Seltzer ready. The Saints are attracting early betting support with the line at either pick’em or Vikings -1.