Monday, 8:15 p.m. | ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN Plus, ESPN Deportes
Pick: 6½-point teaser, Jacksonville Jaguars +8 and Tampa Bay Buccaneers +9 (-120 odds, and the spreads may have changed since this pick was made.)
We’ll switch things up for our second pick this weekend to tease two home underdogs, buying points to get through the key NFL number of seven for both teams and then parlaying them together.
Jacksonville and Los Angeles are two similar teams, with promising but young quarterbacks, talent at the skill positions and defenses that are seriously flawed in one particular aspect (the Jaguars are terrible against the pass, while the Chargers are terrible against the run). And both looked good down the stretch, with Jacksonville ending on a 7-2 run that included wins over two playoff teams (the Ravens and Cowboys) and the Chargers finally getting healthy enough to finish on a 5-2 spurt. Los Angeles Coach Brandon Staley’s curious decision to play most of his starters in Sunday’s meaningless finale against the Broncos resulted in wide receiver Mike Williams and star edge rusher Joey Bosa getting nicked up, and while they’re expected to play, it’s not great for the Chargers that they might not be 100 percent.
The Cowboys closed the season with wins in six of their last eight, but let’s look at whom they beat: the overrated Vikings and Giants, the terrible Texans and Colts, and two teams (the Eagles and Titans) that were missing their starting quarterbacks. Then Dallas lost in the finale to Washington, putting up only 182 yards and looking wholly uninterested even with all their starters playing. Quarterback Dak Prescott tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 15 even though he played in only 12 games. Running back Tony Pollard is more effective than Ezekiel Elliott but has been battling injuries, and teams are starting to figure out that CeeDee Lamb is the Cowboys’ only dangerous receiving threat.
Everyone was proclaiming the Tom Brady Era over when he threw six interceptions in three games late in the season, but he’s played well the last two games, completing 75.8 percent of his passes and avoiding picks. Tampa Bay has no running game to speak of, but there’s no reason the Bucs can’t stay within a touchdown-plus of the overrated Cowboys at home.