The midpoint of this elongated regular season is upon us, and the two conferences have charged ahead along divergent paths.
In the N.F.C., just five teams — the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys — are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. There’s more parity in the A.F.C., where the 7-2 Titans have the best record, pacing nine other teams with respectable odds of playing in the N.F.L.’s final game of the season.
That logjam should start to clear Sunday, when Las Vegas and Kansas City will try to gain ground in the A.F.C. West, where a mere half-game separates first place from last. The Cleveland Browns will be without running back Nick Chubb as they try to stop the streaking New England Patriots, who are creeping up on the Bills’ half-game lead in the A.F.C. East.
Below is a look at N.F.L. Week 10, with all picks made against the spread.
All times are Eastern.
Byes: Bears, Bengals, Texans, Giants
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m., Fox and NFL Network
Line: Ravens -7 | Total: 47.5
This will be a display of polar opposites in terms of successfully drafting and nurturing a quarterback. The Ravens (6-2) will rely, as always on Lamar Jackson, the unquestioned franchise quarterback who has saved games with his throws and sprints. The Dolphins (2-7), by contrast, have yet to decide whether the journeyman Jacoby Brissett will start again over Tua Tagovailoa, the injured 2020 draft pick who has been shopped all season.
If Tagovailoa’s fractured finger on his throwing hand keeps him sidelined, and Brissett — who threw two interceptions against Houston last week — has to face the Ravens’ defense on short rest, this one could get out of hand quickly. Especially with Jackson playing back in his native South Florida. Pick: Ravens- 7
Sunday’s Best Games
Kansas City at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Kansas City -2.5 | Total: 52.5
Kansas City (5-4) and Las Vegas (5-3) are both trying to keep pace in the A.F.C. West, where the Raiders and Chargers are tied for the division lead. Kansas City has the greater urgency here: A loss would drop its odds of reaching the postseason to 34 percent, according to The Times’ playoff predictor.
It also has a harder road to getting that win. Kansas City is 1-4 against A.F.C. teams and its offense has been frustrated when defenses employ two high safeties, goading Patrick Mahomes into 10 interceptions so far. Against Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, who is tied for second-most in quarterback hits (19), Kansas City should struggle to keep the score close. Pick Raiders +2.5
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Patriots -1 | Total: 45.5
The Patriots (5-4) are riding a three-game winning streak, sniffing at the A.F.C. East lead, and playing as consistently as it’s reasonable to expect from a team led by a rookie quarterback. Mac Jones has finished only two games with a completion percentage below 60 percent and New England has been able to lean on Damien Harris, who is tied for third in rushing touchdowns (7) and ranks ninth in yards (547).
But Cleveland knows something about disruptions. The Browns (5-4) allow only 84.8 rushing yards per game, a factor that could unbalance the Patriots’ offense. Myles Garrett’s pressure could shorten the window for Jones’s throws downfield and Cleveland’s aggressive defense should carry the win, regardless of whether Browns running back Nick Chubb misses the game after a positive test for coronavirus. Pick: Browns +1.
Sunday’s Other Games
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Chargers -2.5 | Total: 51.5
Winning a close game against the Eagles last week does not hide the fact that the Chargers (5-3) still need to fix the worst rushing defense in the league. The Vikings (3-5) should feed Dalvin Cook, the league’s eighth-leading rusher (554 yards), and count on being able to keep the score close until Los Angeles proves its opponents need to add another dimension. Pick: Vikings +2.5
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Cowboys -9 | Total: 52
Maybe the Atlanta Sports Curse is subsiding. Its Major League Baseball team won the World Series, the Georgia Bulldogs are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff, and the Falcons (4-4) are surging, winners of three of their last four games.
The Cowboys (6-2), though, can throw salt at all that Sunday. Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Broncos last week, Dallas will have something to prove. Dak Prescott should be better with another week to heal from his calf injury and if the other skill-position players remember how to catch a football, the Cowboys’ offense should succeed against an Atlanta defense that has allowed more than 30 points in three games this season. Pick: Cowboys -9
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Titans -3 | Total: 45
The Saints (5-3) are marching into Tennessee and bringing their inconsistencies with them. New Orleans has been the toughest team to predict all season, and after winning three straight games, they lost to the inferior Falcons last week.
The Titans (7-2), meanwhile, have been steady, and continued their ascent last week, even without the workhorse running back Derrick Henry. Tennessee’s defense sacked Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford five times and so could rattle Saints backup Trevor Siemian. The Saints’ defense is strong, but the Titans should be able to take this one if they can score proficiently with their play-action. Pick: Titans -3
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Colts -10.5 | Total: 47.5
Flukes happen. That the Jaguars (2-6) beat the Bills in Week 9 does not change that Jacksonville is still perhaps one of the worst teams in the league. Repeating that four-sack performance against the Colts (4-5) probably won’t happen because Indianapolis will run often with Jonathan Taylor, who ranks second in the N.F.L. in rushing yards (821) and touchdowns (8). If the Colts lean on Taylor for offensive production and clock management, they will void the potential for turnovers and miscues that allowed Jacksonville to upset Buffalo. Pick: Colts -10.5
Buffalo Bills at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Bills -13 | Total: 47.5
The Bills (5-3) will be hungry and motivated after their embarrassing loss to the Jaguars, and their defense, which ranks first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,416), should be able to chomp on a Jets (2-6) team that will start an injured backup quarterback.
Jets Coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday that Mike White will again start in place of Zach Wilson (knee). White has thrown for five touchdowns in seven quarters, but got a nerve contusion in his right forearm against the Colts last week. Buffalo should put up most of the points expected in this one. Pick: Bills -13
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Steelers -9.5 | Total: 43.5
Don’t bet on the Lions (0-8) to finally win their first game this week. The Steelers have allowed the second-fewest yards in the N.F.L. (2,420) and T.J. Watt, who has posted the second-most sacks this season (11.5) should be in contention for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Detroit’s moral victories of playing competitively against good teams have not yet translated to actual wins, and until the Lions show they can both make good calls and execute them late in games, they will continue to justify the spread. Pick: Steelers -9.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Footballers, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Buccaneers -10 | Total: 51.5
A rematch of last season’s N.F.C. wild-card matchup that Tampa Bay won 31-23 shouldn’t be as close this time around. The defense that carried the Footballers (2-6) to the playoffs in the 2020 season has allowed the sixth-most passing yards in the league. That benefits the Buccaneers (6-2) as Tom Brady ranks second in passing yards (2,650) and first in touchdowns (25), even with the playing statuses of receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (back) still unclear. Pick: Buccaneers -10
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Cardinals -10 | Total: 44.5
The Sam Darnold experiment for the Panthers (4-5) is puttering out. Even before he fractured his shoulder last week against the Patriots, he was tied for first in the league in interceptions (11), and his three turnovers against New England caused Coach Matt Rhule to waffle on calling Darnold the starter moving forward.
Now, with Darnold out likely for four to six weeks, P.J. Walker’s audition gets extended against the Cardinals (8-1), whose offense played effectively even without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins last week. They’re still questionable to play and the team lost running back Chase Edmonds for multiple weeks with a high ankle sprain. Still, that just means more touches for James Conner, who is tied for the N.F.L. lead in rushing touchdowns (10) and carried the offense against San Francisco in Week 9. Even if Murray doesn’t play, predict the Cardinals to cover with confidence. Pick: Cardinals -10
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Broncos -2.5 | Total: 45
The Broncos (5-4) finally won a game against a strong opponent when the rookie running back Javonte Williams recorded the first 100-yard game of his career last week against the Cowboys. Denver can now pad its record with another win before getting to the heart of conference play. Williams could again go off against the Eagles (3-6), whose interior defense has allowed the seventh-most rushing yards (1,077) in the league. The Broncos should start a win streak. Pick: Broncos -2.5
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Packers -4 | Total: 49.5
Russell Wilson returns for the Seahawks (3-5) after recovering from finger surgery while Aaron Rodgers’s status is still unclear as he still needs to clear Covid-19 protocols after testing positive for the coronavirus two weeks ago. Assuming Rodgers plays, the Packers (7-2) should slice through Seattle’s defense, which has given up the ninth-most yards in the league (3,212). Even if his backup, Jordan Love, commandeers Green Bay’s offense, a healthy dose of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon out of the backfield would be enough to cover the spread. Pick: Packers -4
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Rams -4 | Total: 49.5
Los Angeles is clearly the better team, and San Francisco has been somewhat of a disappointment with continued injuries, as was the case last season. The 49ers (3-5) should make some tweaks to generate better matchups — tight end George Kittle will likely be used mostly as a blocker now that Von Miller is expected to make his Rams debut, and receiver Deebo Samuel may go one-on-one against Los Angeles cornerback Jalen Ramsey — but if the Rams (7-2) can continue to play with urgency, Samuel and Kittle won’t be enough for San Francisco to prevail.
Pick: Rams -4
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Raiders -5.5, for example, means that Las Vegas must beat Chicago by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.