Pro Picks is a weekly column where AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi shares his picks for upcoming games. For all previous Pro Picks, head here.
Turning the Denver Broncos into a winner has been a tougher task than Sean Payton could’ve imagined when he ended his brief retirement and returned to coaching.
Even though Russell Wilson has improved from a woeful first season in Denver, the Broncos (1-4) keep finding ways to lose. The schedule doesn’t get any easier.
The Broncos visit the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (4-1) on Thursday night and will face them again in Week 8. Peyton Manning was Denver’s quarterback the most recent time the Broncos beat Kansas City in 2015.
There’s no reason to think that streak of 15 straight losses will end when the Broncos line up against two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a prime-time matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are 10 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Pro Picks, coming off its best week of the season, expects Payton to keep his team competitive but can’t see an upset.
Line: 49ers minus 6 1/2
The 49ers (5-0) are the NFL’s most complete team, but could be due for a slight letdown — meaning a victory by less than a double-digit margin — after dominating the Cowboys. If Deshaun Watson can’t play, the Browns (2-2) have no chance to stay close.
BEST BET: 49ERS, 26-17
Line: Falcons minus 2 1/2
Will the Commanders (2-3) who started the season with two wins and pushed Philadelphia to overtime show up or will it be the team that was pounded by lowly Chicago? Desmond Ridder is coming off his most impressive performance in a comeback win for the Falcons (3-2).
UPSET SPECIAL: COMMANDERS, 23-20
Line: Ravens minus 4
The Ravens (3-2) could be 5-0 if they didn’t botch the clock and a couple of plays. The Titans (2-3) are struggling to score and it seems only a matter of time before they turn to one of the younger quarterbacks to replace Ryan Tannehill.
Line: Dolphins minus 13 1/2
It’s been a disaster for first-year coach Frank Reich and rookie No. 1 pick Bryce Young as the winless Panthers (0-5) are banged-up and beat up. Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins (4-1) won’t have running back De’Von Achane but their high-flying offense has plenty of other playmakers.
Line: Vikings minus 2 1/2
The Vikings (1-4) have already matched last season’s loss total with all four losses by seven points or fewer. They’ve had some bad luck along the way and now won’t have All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a few weeks. Justin Fields has eight TD passes in the past two games for the Bears (1-4), who had a few extra days to prepare for this one.
Line: Jaguars minus 4 1/2
The Jaguars (3-2) are back home after a London sweep and aim to sweep the Colts (3-2). Gardner Minshew faces his former team as he fills in for rookie QB Anthony Richardson. Expect him to turn around and give the ball often to Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor.
Line: Saints minus 1 1/2
The Saints (3-2) need to build off handing Bill Belichick the worst home loss of his coaching career. Impressive rookie QB C.J. Stroud faces his toughest test with the Texans (2-3).
Line: Bengals minus 3
A healthy Joe Burrow made all the difference for the Bengals (2-3). And of course, an always-open Ja’Marr Chase. The Seahawks (3-1) are coming off a bye and are a dangerous team, but Cincinnati has no margin for error after a poor start.
Line: Raiders minus 3
The Patriots (1-4) have been outscored 72-3 the past two weeks and Belichick has to find a way to keep the team from spiraling. There will be plenty of familiarity facing QB Jimmy Garoppolo and coach Josh McDaniels, the former Patriots offensive coordinator. A short work week after a Monday night win is a disadvantage for the Raiders (2-3).
Line: Lions minus 3
Jared Goff and the high-octane Lions (4-1) are off to an excellent start. So are the surprising Buccaneers (3-1), who had extra time to prepare for this one after a bye. It’ll be a big test for Todd Bowles and Tampa’s defense.
Line: Rams minus 7
The Cardinals (1-4) play tough despite their talent and record. Cooper Kupp gave the Rams (2-3) a boost for a half last week until Philadelphia’s defense tightened up.
Line: Eagles minus 7
Jalen Hurts and the Eagles (5-0) keep finding ways to win. They’ve got a tough challenge against a strong defense. The Jets (2-3) saved their season with a big win at Denver. They’ll need Zach Wilson to play at his best and mistake-free.
Line: Bills minus 14
The Bills (3-2) can’t use jet lag as an excuse this week. Nothing is going right for the struggling Giants (1-4). Brian Daboll’s familiarity with Buffalo can’t help.
Line: Cowboys minus 2 1/2
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (3-2) have to rebound from a humiliating loss to the 49ers by going back to California. The Chargers (2-2) are coming off a bye and have back-to-back measuring stick games vs. Dallas and Kansas City.
Last week: Straight up: 11-3. Against spread: 11-2-1
Overall: Straight up: 50-28. Against spread: 43-31-4.
Best Bet: Straight up: 5-0. Against spread: 3-1-1.
Upset Special: Straight up: 3-2. Against spread: 3-2.
Thursday: Straight up: 3-2. Against spread: 5-0.
Monday: Straight up: 5-2. Against spread: 5-1-1.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl