The weekly NFL spread picks: Can Carolina finally win a close one?

Frank Schwab

The Carolina Panthers under Ron Rivera can't win close games. Rivera's record in games decided by a touchdown or less is a staggering 2-14.

So the Panthers fixed the situation this year by not getting into any close games.

Their five wins this year have been by 38, 25, 15, 18 and 24 points. A strong team doesn't need to get late breaks every week to win close games against inferior opponents, so give the Panthers credit for their dominance. It's a sign that even though they haven't beaten anyone good, their 5-3 start is legit.

However, unless all of us have really, really underrated this Panthers team, there's no way they're blowing out the 49ers this week.


If Carolina really is serious about this whole playoff contender thing, it needs to get over its issues in close games. They should have a chance this week. The 49ers are playing great, but the 6-point spread seems high. This should be a great, close battle between one fantastic and respected team, and a young team looking to get that same respect. The only question is, can the Panthers finish this time around?

Here are the rest of this week's picks:

Redskins (-2.5) over Vikings (picked yesterday): It's hard to make fellow NFL players look like boys playing a man's game, yet Adrian Peterson does it all the time.

Falcons (+5.5) over Seahawks: I'd like to see Seattle play better than it has lately before laying 5.5 points in any game three time zones away from its home.

Lions (-1) over Bears: Detroit is the more complete team, and it understands the opportunity it has with Aaron Rodgers out.

Eagles (+1) over Packers: There wasn't one moment on Monday night when you thought, "Yeah, the Packers might be OK with Seneca Wallace." Also, Philadelphia is oddly dominant on the road (4-1).

Titans (-12) over Jaguars: The only concern, and it's a big one, is Tennessee has to be looking ahead to a Thursday night game against Indianapolis. But, they are playing the Jaguars.

Rams (+9.5) over Colts: St. Louis' defensive line will be a nightmare for the Colts' offensive line.

Raiders (+7) over Giants: You've seen the Giants play, right? If so, you can't feel remotely confident laying a touchdown with them.

Bills (+3) over Steelers: Simply two teams headed in opposite directions.

Bengals (-1.5) over Ravens: The bill is coming due for the Bengals on all their defensive injuries, I just don't think the Ravens have the offense to take advantage.

Cardinals (-2.5) over Texans: I'm not a huge fan of the Cardinals, but this is a pretty disrespectful line to them. Houston is 2-6, coming off a truly devastating loss, it won't have head coach Gary Kubiak, and yet Vegas ranks them a bit higher than the Cardinals (when you take the standard three points for home-field advantage into account)?

Chargers (+7) over Broncos: San Diego is a few inches from being 7-1. They're pretty good, and the Broncos will be adjusting to life without head coach John Fox and trying to not look ahead to the Chiefs next week.

Cowboys (+6.5) over Saints: Quite possible that Drew Brees torches that secondary for 450 yards, but Dallas can score too.

Buccaneers (+2.5) over Dolphins: Never feels good picking Tampa Bay, but has anyone on that Dolphins team had a chance to think about football this week?

Last week: 8-5
This season: 51-82-2

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!