By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor
So it turns out I’ve been doing this whole “Picks” thing wrong. When making my prognostications, I usually consider home field advantage as a factor. But in this COVID-19 year of empty (or sparsely attended) stadiums, playing at home isn’t much of an advantage after all. So far this season, visiting teams are 96-94-1. This is good info to have as I try to finish the season strong. At this point, I might even resort to picking winners via coin flips.
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On to this week’s picks:
♦ DALLAS @ CINCINNATI: The Cowboys and Bengals have a lot in common this season. Both teams lost their starting QB, both are underperforming and both are in line to secure Top 5 draft picks. While it’s easy to point to Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury in Week 5 as the cause of the Cowboys’ woes, don’t forget that Dallas was 1-3 to start the season, with their lone W a one-point victory over Washington. Yet, unbelievably, the team is only two games out of first place in the NFC East. Pick: COWBOYS
♦ KANSAS CITY @ MIAMI: Expect Tua to have big passing stats on Sunday. That’s because the Dolphins will be playing catch-up almost from the start. Miami’s usually solid defense will be severely tested by Patrick Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs (30.8 points per game, second only to Green Bay’s 31.6). The Dolphins are one of the surprise teams of the NFL season, but this one might not be pretty. Pick: CHIEFS
♦ INDIANAPOLIS @ LAS VEGAS: Last week, out of spite, I predicted the winless Jets to beat my Raiders. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was to be wrong. But while the Silver & Black escaped from New York with a miraculous W, the Colts arrive in Sin City with a dominating defense and, at 8-4, with designs on winning the AFC South. Making matters worse for the Raiders, RB Josh Jacobs might still be out with an ankle injury. Pick: COLTS
♦ GREEN BAY @ DETROIT: The Lions are 1-0 since dumping Matt Patricia as the team’s head coach. In truth, this is a good team (5-7) that simply needs to have some good things to happen. Playing division leader Green Bay is not one of them. Aaron Rodgers, who turned 37 on Dec. 2, is still in the discussion for NFL MVP this season. The Packers have the league’s top-scoring offense, while the Lions’ defense borders on hopeless. Pick: PACKERS
♦ PITTSBURGH @ BUFFALO: Now this should be good. The Steelers suffered their first loss earlier this week, but no one really expected them to go 16-0. Now the talk is that Pittsburgh has become too reliant on the passing game. Buffalo, meanwhile, is riding on the success of their QB, Josh Allen. Even Ben Roethlisberger has said that Allen is performing “at an MVP level.” This could very well be a sneak preview of the AFC championship game, andI think the Bills will make a statement here. Pick: BILLS
♦ BALTIMORE @ CLEVELAND: Lamar Jackson is back for the Ravens, and not a moment too soon. Baltimore is fighting for a playoff spot – if the season ended today, they’d be on the outside looking in – and the team needs a healthy Jackson to have any chance of making it to the postseason. The resurgent Browns, on the other hand, have clinched their first winning season since 2007. Baker Mayfield was just 12 years old then. At 9-3, Cleveland still has a shot at squeaking past Pittsburgh for the AFC North crown. Pick: BROWNS
Last Week: 4-2
Season to Date: 49-29 (.630)
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