(CBS Minnesota) — The Green Bay Packers lead the NFC North, sitting at 6-2 with a favorable schedule ahead of them. If they keep winning, and Aaron Rodgers keeps playing like he has, they should find themselves with a division title. They’re double-digit favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars this week.
The Bears sit right behind the Packers in the standings, but they’re heading in the opposite direction. They blew out of the gate early in the season, only to lose their last three. Their defense remains tough, but the offense is among the worst in the League. The switch to Nick Foles hasn’t provided the hoped-for boost. They’ll have to contend with a Vikings team that’s riding one of the NFL’s hottest running backs in Dalvin Cook.
Like the Vikings, the Lions would like to gain a little ground on the Bears. They will face a Washington team that, despite their losing record, boasts one of the NFL’s better defenses. The team from Washington is particularly good against the pass.
All times listed are Eastern.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Green Bay Packers, Sunday, November 15, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
For the Packers, at 6-2, the division is theirs to lose. And Aaron Rodgers is playing like he doesn’t want to lose it. Their top-10 passing offense is averaging 269.3 yards per game. Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating among starting quarterbacks at 117.5. And his 24 touchdown passes, against just two interceptions, have in the MVP conversation.
As White points out, “the MVP odds are reflected in the amount of touchdown passes players have thrown. Because Russell Wilson leads the league in touchdown passes, and he’s the favorite rights now, plus-$1.30. But the odds are getting closer, because if you remember, Russell Wilson was almost a two-dollar favorite a couple of weeks ago. Now he’s plus money. Patrick Mahomes the second favorite at plus two dollars, followed by Aaron Rodgers, closely at just plus three dollars. But I actually think there’s some value in Aaron Rodgers, because he’s in the NFC with Russell Wilson. But I think the Packers actually have the better football team.”
Rodgers is likely to add to his touchdown total this Sunday against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has allowed 17 TD passes so far, and gives up 280 yards passing per game, among the League’s worst. The Packers are currently 13.5-point favorites at home.
In White’s view, “it is always hard to lay double-digits in the NFL, because you never know if a team is going to be up for that game and give their full 100-percent effort. I don’t think the Packers have a chance to stumble anymore. They need to win every game they can. Plus they’ve had extra time to prepare. They played San Francisco on a Thursday night. I think that’s the edge in this game. So I’ll take the Packers minus 14.”
Washington Football Team @ Detroit Lions, Sunday, November 15, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
The Lions, at 3-5, need Matthew Stafford to show up this week if they want to stay in the playoff conversation. An NFC North title seems unlikely, but a wildcard spot remains a possibility. “[Detroit] being the third place team in the division right now, a little bit long, about 25-1 for the Detroit Lions to win the division,” says White. “They have to jump too many teams right now. Right now their goal would be trying to get into the playoffs.”
The Washington Football Team is giving up just 185.6 yards per game through the air, the best in the NFL. But the best football story out of our nation’s capital is happening on the other side of the ball. According to White, “with Alex Smith just stepping on the field, the play, I think, makes him the comeback player of the year. But he’s playing at a very high level. He did throw three interceptions this last game. But the weapons he has around him are well below average. But he did throw for a great percentage, yards per pass were outstanding. Alex Smith is just going to continue to get better each week. It’s so much fun to see him out there on the playing field. He’s got my checkmark as comeback player of the year.”
It’s a game that both teams need. Washington has to win the NFC East to make the postseason, given how bad the division is this year. Detroit probably has to climb past .500 to play into January as a wildcard. “I’m going to go with Detroit and Matthew Stafford in this one, laying the 3.5,” says White. “I thought the number should be 4.5, not a big difference. But I have to stick to my numbers. I’ll take the Lions.”
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears, Monday, November 16, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
The Vikings are a different team with Dalvin Cook in the backfield. Cook is gaining 122.6 yards per game on the ground this season, and is coming off of intra-division games of 163 and 206 yards rushing. He’ll get another chance against the Bears. “Dalvin Cook at running back for the Vikings, he’s been tremendous since his return,” says White. “The offense has been dynamic. They have not had to use the passing game as much as they did the first couple of weeks. Kirk Cousins has a teammate to hand the ball off to now.”
The Bears offense has been anything but dynamic, whether Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles is under center. The run game is dead last, picking up just 82.3 yards per game. The passing game isn’t a whole lot better. “The 5-1 start looked amazing, and everyone was talking about the Bears,” says White. “The quarterback change with Nick Foles. It has been that offense that’s been the problem. They’ve played some close games, but just haven’t been able to come out on top. It’s going to be a fight to the end for the Bears. They’ll be there, but it’s going to be close whether they make the playoffs or not.”
These are two teams going in different directions, and that’s been reflected in the changing spread. “This game opened pick-em, and it’s up to the Vikings 2.5,”White points out. “I think the Vikings have the better team. Their defense is as good. Their offense, with Dalvin Cook, has been so good. The Vikings are my play.”
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