LOS ANGELES. Who’s on first? That’s the punchline of an old vaudeville baseball routine. But it’s also a fair question at this point in the current NFL season. Who’s on first? – or more accurately, Who’s in first? – is a question that looms ever larger in both NFL conferences at this point in the season.
In the end, it’s all about wins and losses.
Last week, the Los Angeles Rams lost for the first time this season. As the last unbeaten NFL team, that loss led to a replay of an annual ritual in Miami. Several members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins got together and popped champagne corks. That’s because the 1972 Dolphins remain the only unbeaten team in NFL history.
On the flip side, every NFL team has at least one victory, preventing anyone from matching the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2008 Detroit Lions, or the 2016 Cleveland Browns in the record-loss column. Every other team has at least one win and at least one loss per season.
But do not mistake that for mediocre parity.
Several very bad teams have a legitimate shot at the top NFL draft pick in 2019. But they’ll pursue that pick next April. For now, several very good teams have a legitimate shot at winning the upcoming Super Bowl. In some years, the ultimate conference championships seem inevitable.
The 1985 Chicago Bears and 1991 Washington Redskins were conference favorites from start to finish. There was no close second team. This year, the championship is up for grabs at the midpoint of the 2018 season. The Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs have all lost once. The New England Patriots have lost twice, but have won six straight games. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings have legitimate talent.
The Green Bay Packers have a losing record, but it would be foolish to ever count out Aaron Rodgers. The Philadelphia Eagles are average. But they are the defending champions until they are knocked off. The Atlanta Falcons have won three straight games and finally have their offense going.
Who’s on first? Or, Who’s in first place? Inquiring minds will want to know
The second half of the season begins now. The only thing we know is that we do not know anything. That element of surprise is just another reason why we love football. The answer to 2018’s football edition of Who’s on first? might very well change several times before we really, really know.
With that, here is CDN’s NFL 2018 Week 10 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Thursday, November 8, 8:20 p.m.
Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5) — Pittsburgh won a tough road game at Baltimore. James Conner is running the ball well. Carolina is playing good football, but give Pittsburgh the nod at home. Steelers win but fail to cover.
Sunday, November 11, 1:00 p.m.
New England Patriots (-6.5) at Tennessee Titans — Tennessee was impressive in thumping Dallas on the road, but New England is just playing on another level. Their offense is clicking on all cylinders. Patriots cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) — After a 1-5 start, the Colts have won two straight. The Jaguars are a mess. Trust Andrew Luck over Blake Bortles, especially at home. Colts cover.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-8) — Neither of the teams is going to the playoffs. Nathan Peterman is not the worst quarterback in NFL history, but he sure is trying to make his case. The Jets are not good enough to justify the high spread. Jets win but fail to cover.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-6.5) — Chicago has quietly gotten to 5-3 tied atop the NFC North lead. Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times last week. Chicago could feast on him. Bears win but fail to cover.
Sunday, November 11, 1:00 p.m., Round 2
New Orleans Saints (-4) at Cincinnati Bengals — The Bengals are a good team. The Saints are a great team. After knocking off the previously unbeaten Rams, the saints could have a letdown. Drew Brees is too disciplined for that. Saints win but fail to cover.
Atlanta Falcons (-4) at Cleveland Browns — After a 1-4 start, atlanta has won three straight games. Cleveland had early promise, but has regressed. Cleveland’s defense could not stop Kansas City last week. They will eventually fold under Atlanta’s aerial attack. Falcons cover
Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs (-16.5) — The Cardinals are one of the worst teams. The Chiefs are one of the best. The spread is crazy high, and Buffalo did upset 17 point favorite Minnesota earlier this year. However, Minnesota is about defense. The Chiefs just keep scoring. Go with the garbage touchdown, Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5) — Washington got blasted at home last week against Atlanta, while the Buccaneers only seem to play well when falling behind by 18 or more points. Alex Smith inspires nobody, but he does not make mistakes. He’ll protect the football against what may be the league’s worst defense. Redskins uncovered,
Sunday, November 11, 4:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers (-9.5) at Oakland Raiders — The Chargers are 6-2 while the Raiders are a 1-7 dumpster fire. Philip Rivers can light it up, and the Raiders have no defense. Expect no surprises. Rivers will shred a Raiders team that appears to have quit on Jon Gruden. Rivers’s very first game was on Monday Night Football on September 11th of 2006. In Oakland, the Chargers won 27-0. This could be uglier. Chargers cover.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-10) — Seattle lost at home to the Chargers. Now they go on the road and face an angry Rams team smarting over its first loss of the season to New Orleans. The spread is high, but expect the Rams to just outscore Seattle. Rams win but fail to cover.
Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers (-7.5) — Aaron Rodgers is enraged at two straight games where the Packers fumbled away a chance to win before Rodgers could touch the ball. Brock Osweiler is not Tom Brady. Packers cover.
Sunday, November 11, 8:20 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) — Dallas lost at home to an average Tennessee Titans team. Now they play their hated rival who win out all. The Eagles will be out for blood in this one. Eagles cover.
Monday, November 12, 8:20 p.m.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (-3) — This is not the epic 1990 Monday Night Football game or the even more epic rematch in the 1990 NFC Title Game. It is not the 2002 Wildcard or the 2011 NFC Title Game. The Giants are 1-7 while the 2-6 49ers got a win last week only by beating up the 1-7 Raiders. Third string quarterback Nick Mullins looked good against one of the two worst teams. He might look good again the other one. 49ers cover.
Next week, we might have an even better answer for Who’s on first? But Who Really Knows? Stay tuned to CDN to find out.
—Headline image: Screen capture, ESPN video clip of Titans vs. Cowboys, NFL week 9, via YouTube.