In football as in life, a good process can lead to bad results. Exhibit A: last week's 0-3 outcome.
The Panthers jumped out to a 17-0 lead over a Chiefs team ill-equipped to play from behind. The Steelers led in the final minute despite failing all four of their perplexing two-point conversion attempts. And despite losing the turnover battle by two the Patriots were a literal last-minute goal-line stand away from forcing OT, when a win by any margin would've covered their end of a teaser.
Each of these picks could have cashed. Carolina absolutely should have. But that's the way it goes sometimes. After a kick in the gut, sticking with the process is often both the best and most difficult course of action.
Ravens +7.5 at Cowboys
There's no question the Cowboys are for real, but this isn't about the team. It's all about the number.
Matchup-wise, the Ravens' stout run D stands to give Dallas' elite ground game its toughest test yet.
Situationally, the Cowboys get less of a bump than most teams for home-field advantage due to their cavernous stadium that caters to corporations, mitigating crowd noise. On the other side, it's a testament to John Harbaugh that under his watch Baltimore has a formidable track record off more than a week of rest. Coming off a mini-bye after last Thursday night's win over the Browns, the well rested Ravens are in position to pour cold water on Dallas' 8-0 run against the spread.
MNF Prop: Longest FG Over 44.5 Yards
Prop bets outside of the Super Bowl can be rare, but a unique setting on Monday Night calls for one that will be widely accessible.
Altitude can be a kicker's best friend, as games in Denver have shown time after time. But the "mile high" effect will be dwarfed when the Texans and Raiders square off in Mexico City, where Estadio Azteca sits at a whopping 7,400 feet above sea level. All we need is for one drive to stall between the opponent's 28- and 40-yard lines (if not a bit beyond that) and, like an end-over-end kick approaching the crossbar, this one can sail over.
The line should be posted by Monday morning, and consider it good even if it's slightly higher than 44.5. In these conditions, not even Lucy could keep Charlie Brown from knocking one through the uprights.
Pick of the Week: Teaser - Giants -1.5 vs. Bears, Rams +8 vs. Dolphins
Eli Manning and one of the league's most talented wide receiver trios get the headlines, but it's time to buy in on a vastly improved Giants defense. Look for that improvement to show early and often on Sunday against a reeling Bears offense working with a makeshift line and only marginal players at the skill positions in Alshon Jeffery's absence.
In the second leg of the teaser, news of Jared Goff getting his first start was quickly followed by a flood of money on the Dolphins, and understandably so. But a key factor working against Miami has since emerged that should have shifted some money back to the Rams, and that hasn't happened yet. A healthy offensive line has been the driving force behind the Dolphins' recent surge, but the injury bug has resurfaced and it has them doing some serious shuffling up front. This could mean a feeding frenzy for Aaron Donald and L.A.'s stout front seven.
It looks like we're in for defensive struggles in both New York and L.A., meaning things could get chippy - so we might as well bring the salsa.
Ravens/Cowboys: Even if the Cowboys build a comfortable lead they may ease off the gas pedal late, enabling Baltimore to sneak in the back door - Dallas' quick turnaround to a huge divisional showdown with Washington on Thanksgiving puts them in a tough spot. The Ravens face no such scheduling dilemma, this being their only game in a span of 16 days.
Texans/Raiders: 17 seasons after being drafted in the first round, there's still little doubt about the leg strength of Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski. Meanwhile, Houston's poor success rate on early downs sets them up for a poor third-down conversion rate, often turning potential touchdown drives into field goal attempts.
Bears/Giants: Jeffery's absence not only leaves Chicago without its top playmaker, but also increases the New York defense's focus on a weak crop of remaining pass-catching options, making the mercurial Jay Cutler's margin for error even smaller than it would normally be.
Dolphins/Rams: In addition to the matchup issues, this game fits the teaser model ideally: taking a short home underdog up through the key numbers of 3 and 7, with the relative value of each point magnified in what's projected to be the lowest-scoring game of the week
Last week: 0-3
Picks of the Week: 4-6