Both the Jaguars (2-11) and the Texans (2-11) are jostling for draft positioning at this point, and players on those teams who are on expiring contracts are just hoping to put out good tape for potential suitors this off-season. On paper, they may seem evenly matched: Davis Mills, the Texans’ rookie quarterback, snatched back the starting job by merely not being Tyrod Taylor and the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence is tied for the league lead in interceptions (14).
But Houston is poised for an “upset” given the disarray in Jacksonville, amid reports that the first-year N.F.L. coach Urban Meyer has already worn out his locker room welcome. The Jaguars’ players will be there, technically speaking, but don’t expect them to show up. Pick: Texans +3.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Line: Broncos -1.5 | Total: 43.5
At this point, we know the Broncos (7-6) are unbearably average and will beat up on bad teams and lose to good ones. The Bengals (7-6) have shown some up-and-down spurts, too, but have displayed more flashes of talent from their young stars as they continue to grow. Cincinnati pushed the 49ers to overtime last week and nearly won, and that momentum should carry over. The Broncos have not put back-to-back wins together since the start of November, and they are due for another potential loss this week. Pick: Bengals +1.5
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Line: 49ers -9.5 | Total: 46
The formula is out on beating the Falcons (6-7): Cover Kyle Pitts, contain Cordarrelle Patterson, and when Matt Ryan hangs onto the ball trying to find an option, sack him.
Limiting Patterson is hard, though, as the Falcons continue to force feed their breakout playmaker with so many touches that he’s tied for the sixth-most touchdowns from scrimmage. The 49ers (7-6) have their own version of Patterson — Deebo Samuel — and he’s better. Samuel is tied for fifth in touchdowns from scrimmage (11) and is fifth in total yardage (1,268). He should have fun against Atlanta’s meager defense. Pick: 49ers -9.5
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Vikings -4 | Total: 44
The Bears (4-9) no longer deserve prime time games, yet here we are. The offense is horrible, scoring only 17.8 points per game. Justin Fields’s development has been, well, what you’d expect from a rookie in a bad situation. He’s shown strong glimpses, as in the first-half scoring outburst against the Packers last week, but is completing less than 60 percent of his passes.
The Vikings’ offense is on an upswing in a roller coaster season. Dalvin Cook rushed for over 200 yards last week and Justin Jefferson has caught at least one touchdown in three of the last four weeks. Minnesota (6-7) has struggled with one-score games and allowed inferior opponents to stay competitive, but this should be a good statement game ahead of a playoff push. Pick: Vikings -4
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Raiders -5.5, for example, means that Las Vegas must beat Chicago by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.