The playoff picture continues to be muddled
A rare bad week for me with my NFL spread picks as I came to the realization that Cincinnati is just an un-backable team. It's also becoming harder and harder in this league to take unders. The rules are so much in favor of the offenses that defensive stops are becoming rare. The one thing we have is a very unclear playoff picture which means that a lot of teams are still trying to make pushes even when they really don't have a shot.
Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Here are this week's best NFL picks against the spread:
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-2), 1 p.m.
The Ravens are going to be pretty sneaky come playoff time, if they are able to get in. They have won three straight and have seen their offense come alive with Lamar Jackson under center. Baltimore has scored 24 or more points in all three of his starts, two of those coming at home against the Bengals and Raiders. The defense has been one of the best in the league, holding Atlanta to just 97 passing yards last week. The Ravens also posted a shutout on the road against the Titans earlier this season. Kansas City is coming off a 40-33 win at Oakland, which gives me pause as to how this Chiefs defense will fare against stiffer competition. You can't allow the Raiders to rack up more than 400 yards of offense and expect me to take you seriously. Kansas City has struggled as of late to cover games going just 1-3-1 in its last five against the spread. There's also a situational angle here with a home game against the Chargers coming up next Thursday night. The Chiefs have to keep winning to hold off the Patriots, but maybe they'll get looking ahead to next week? I think this one is a bit tighter then you'd think. SELECTION: Ravens +7
Carolina Panthers (6-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-7-1), 1 p.m.
Things are going horrendously for the Panthers, who have lost four straight with three of those coming on the road. They are finishing up a tough stretch of four away from home over a five-week span. Cam Newton has been a turnover machine lately as he threw four interceptions in a 24-17 loss at Tampa Bay and said earlier this week he's still feeling pain in his surgically repaired shoulder. The defense is getting gashed right now too as the secondary just isn't good enough. Carolina heads to Cleveland to face a Browns team that came back to earth a bit last week in Houston. They scored just 13 points and managed 31 yards on the ground in the loss. Cleveland's offense is capable of so much more and I think Baker Mayfield bounces back nicely. The Panthers are 1-5 against the spread this season on the road while Cleveland is 4-2 ATS at home. I think the Browns add to the misery of the Panthers. SELECTION: Browns +1.5
New York Jets (3-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-8), 1 p.m.
I have used this space during this season to talk about how the Dolphins have been criminally underrated by Vegas. I'm now going to do the same with the Bills who have been very profitable for me. Buffalo has won two of its last three games and hung in there last week at Miami before falling 21-17. Josh Allen is putting up some very good numbers both through the air and on the ground. He should see more opportunities against a Jets team that the Bills thumped 41-10 in New York about a month ago. Buffalo's defense has been solid throughout the season, holding its last three opponents to 21 points or fewer. The Jets have lost six straight games with four of those coming by double digits. It looks like Sam Darnold will be back, but how much will he help? This offense doesn't run the ball well and doesn't have many weapons. I think the home team can win this one rather easily to secure the season sweep. SELECTION: Bills -3
New York Giants (4-8) at Washington Redskins (6-6), 1 p.m.
Generally, I try to stay away from games with two teams going nowhere, but I think this line is a little bit of a mistake. The Giants have won three of their last four giving hope for the future, but they are also ruining what could have been a great draft pick (perhaps on a quarterback?) in next year's draft. They have wins over two lowly teams in Tampa Bay and San Francisco over that span to go with an overtime victory over the Bears (who were without their starting quarterback) last week. I'm still not a believer in New York as a whole. The G-Men lost to the Redskins at home 20-13 back in Week 8. Washington has lost three straight and four of five. The Redskins are having to rely on Mark Sanchez at quarterback, who hopefully has had time to learn a little more of the playbook. The defense has been really disappointing during this rough patch. After doing a good job against the run earlier this season, Washington's defense has sprung a few leaks. To me, this is a little bit of an overreaction by Vegas. SELECTION: Redskins +3.5
Detroit Lions (4-8) at Arizona Cardinals (3-9), 4:25 p.m.
The Lions have lost two straight and five of their last six as they play out the string of another season that will find them on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Detroit's offense has sputtered a bit down the stretch with turnover problems and a lack of balance. They hope to get Kerryon Johnson back, but Marvin Jones' absence has put a lot on Kenny Golladay and he's struggled with the pressure of being the No. 1 target. He'll get a lot of Patrick Peterson in coverage so Golladay could be a non-factor. Arizona has held each of its last seven opponents to fewer than 250 passing yards. The Cardinals have to be feeling good after winning in Green Bay. David Johnson and Chase Edmonds were able to get a lot done on the ground, which took pressure off Josh Rosen. I think Arizona is worth a look in this one. SELECTION: Cardinals +3
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.