Each week, Neil Greenberg makes NFL game predictions based on a multitude of factors that will have an impact on game day. These include efficiency stats such as success rates, yards per play and yards allowed per play, plus points scored based on strength of opponent. Point spreads are the consensus odds from multiple sports books in Vegas.
Last week’s record against the spread: 7-6-1
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (-3.5)
Winner: Carolina Panthers, 53.2 percent
Pick: Carolina Panthers -3.5
This could become a nightmare for the Saints, who, per Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, rank No. 28 against the run and No. 21 against the pass this season.
Tonight's game is compelling. NFC champion CAR has their entire season on the line, and NO's playoff chances can double to ~ 50% with a win.
— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) November 17, 2016
That means the Panthers’ dual-threat quarterback, Cam Newton, could be in for a big game. Only Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor has been graded as a better runner this season at the position by the game charters at Pro Football Focus, and Newton ranks No. 12 for his ability to pass the ball as well.
When Newton faced the Saints in Week 6, he completed 27 of 47 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, and he was only pressured on 19 of his 49 drop backs. If he gets a similar workload again this week and completes just a few more passes, he could have a 400-yard passing game.
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)
Winner: Buffalo Bills, 58.7 percent
Pick: Buffalo Bills +3
Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys (-7)
Winner: Dallas Cowboys, 68 percent
Pick: Dallas Cowboys -7
Pittsburgh Steelers (-8) at Cleveland Browns
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers, 71.4 percent
Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -8
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
Winner: Indianapolis Colts, 53.1 percent
Pick: Indianapolis Colts -3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs, 71.2 percent
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs -7.5
Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (-6.5)
Winner: Seattle Seahawks, 60.2 percent
Pick: Seattle Seahawks -6.5
Entering this possible preview of the NFC championship game, the Seahawks are starting to come alive. They rank No. 2 overall in DVOA and still possess on the league’s best defenses.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner has put pressure on an opposing quarterback 15 times this year in addition to 36 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. Fellow linebacker K.J. Wright is close behind, with 30 stops. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Frank Clark have nine and 7 1/2 sacks, respectively. And safety Earl Thomas has allowed just 0.33 yards per snap in primary coverage.
Don’t forget, either, about corner Richard Sherman, who is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 71.3 rating when they target him in coverage.
All that could be overwhelming for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, whose passer rating drops from 99.9 to 44.4 when faced with a pass rush.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings (Pick ’em)
Winner: Minnesota Vikings, 59.3 percent
Pick: Minnesota Vikings
Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions (-6.5)
Winner: Detroit Lions, 61 percent
Pick: Detroit Lions -6.5
Chicago Bears at New York Giants (-7.5)
Winner: New York Giants, 67.8 percent
Pick: New York Giants -7.5
Miami Dolphins (-1.5) at Los Angeles Rams
Winner: Los Angeles Rams, 51.1 percent
Pick: Los Angeles Rams +1.5
New England Patriots (-13) at San Francisco 49ers
Winner: New England Patriots, 73.7 percent
Pick: San Francisco 49ers +13
Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins (-2.5)
Winner: Washington Redskins, 58.7 percent
Pick: Washington Redskins -2.5
Don’t look now, but the Washington Redskins are the eighth-best team in the NFL per DVOA and the ninth-best per PFF.
Give credit to the offense, which is going three-and-out on a league-low 9.3 percent of its drives, nearly half the percentage for this week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers (18.2 percent).
Not only are the Redskins sustaining drives, but they’re keeping their quarterback, Kirk Cousins, out of trouble. Cousins has been pressured on less than a third of his passing attempts (31.3 percent) and sacked on a league-low 10.4 percent of his drop backs.
Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders (-5.5)
Winner: Houston Texans, 51.4 percent
Pick: Houston Texans +5.5