OK, so I have not had an above-.500 week since back in Week 8. Hardly an advertisement for this column to be your go-to advice on picks before you do it for real.

However, I’ll always shoot straight. After a six-week stretch in which I went 10-22, don’t you think the honest thing to do is to abstain from making picks when, because of COVID absences, you don’t have a clue who is going to be playing on that Sunday when you write on Wednesday or Thursday? I do.

I am back for Week 17 — and hopefully Week 18 and the playoffs. But I’ll only make picks that I honestly think can beat the spread.

Last Week: 0-0
Season Record: 33-37-1

Los Angeles Rams (11-4) at Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
The Line: Los Angeles -4.5

Forget the Ravens’ three consecutive losses to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Green Bay by a total of four points. No, it was last week’s utter collapse by an undermanned defense that gave up 500-plus yards passing in Cincinnati and isn’t getting fixed by John Harbaugh and Co. I know and respect this head coach’s ability to have his team show up every week. But this season’s injury-depleted Ravens don’t figure to be able to halt Odell Beckham Jr., Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford. This one figures to get ugly early, in the middle and late.

The Pick: LOS ANGELES 33, Baltimore 19

New York Giants (4-11) at Chicago Bears (5-10)
The Line: Chicago -5.5

I don’t think either of these teams is likely to employ their head coach — Joe Judge for the Giants and Matt Nagy for the Giants — past Sunday, Jan. 9, even if Judge will reportedly be back. However, one team — Nagy’s Bears — looks like it still wants to fight for its head coach. The Giants lost starting quarterback Daniel Jones a few weeks ago, have dropped four straight and have an offense that has mustered just a tick above 10 points per game during that stretch. Meanwhile, though the Bears are 1-3 in their last four, they fight harder and have some players who can make big plays. I think the Bears can get to the mid-20s, while the Giants look more likely to struggle against the Bears’ still-feisty defense.

The Pick: CHICAGO 23, New York 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) at New York Jets (4-11)
The Line: Tampa Bay -13.5

Tom Brady has reached 30-plus points three times in his past four games, with the 9-0 loss to the Saints in Tampa being the outlier. For the season, the Bucs have scored 442 points and their counterpart in this mismatch has allowed 449. After the shutout to the Saints, even with all the injuries on the offensive side, Brady put up 32 against an inept Panthers squad that was playing both Cam Newton and Sam Darnold. I can’t see any way the Jets hold Brady to under 30 points here, and they’ll struggle to score points on this tough Bucs defense.

The Pick: TAMPA BAY 37, New York 19

Houston Texans (4-11) at San Francisco 49ers (8-7)
The Line: San Francisco -12.5

I’m going to give the Texans and head coach David Culley a high five for effort after winning back-to-back games against the Jaguars on the road and the Chargers in Houston. But the Texans are 4-11, and they are squaring off against a 49ers squad that has gone 6-3 after a dismal, injury-plagued 2-4 start. Unlike the Texans, Kyle Shanahan’s team is playing for a decent shot at grabbing that last playoff spot in the NFC. I think that’ll be more than enough of a motivational edge, even with the uncertainty at quarterback for San Francisco. I like the 49ers to do just enough manhandling of the Texans to cover this line.

The Pick: SAN FRANCISCO 31, Houston 16

Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at Washington Football Team (6-9)
The Line: Philadelphia -3.5

Not sure I can figure out this line. All I know is the Eagles are on a 5-1 roll in their past six games. Meanwhile, Washington has stumbled, losing its last three to drop to 6-9. These two teams squared off in Philly two weeks ago, and at quarterback Washington had to play Garrett Gilbert, who had limited reps after joining the team on the fly. Last week, Washington got No. 1 signal-caller Taylor Heinicke back in time to get spanked 56-14 by the Cowboys. That kind of slaughter generally isn’t fixed in a week’s time. Philly needs this game to try to hold onto a playoff spot. That motivational advantage is pretty huge here. And you know that old saying, “If it stinks like a skunk, it’s probably a skunk.”

The Pick: PHILADELPHIA 29, Washington 20

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Stan Charles

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