Carolina Panthers

NFL picks: We’ve still got Tom’s number

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) has made a habit of handing out early Christmas gifts this season.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) has made a habit of handing out early Christmas gifts this season. Getty Images

No, I’m not taking Tom’s place. Even if they offered it to me, I couldn’t.

I don’t have his hair.

But I will be occupying this space for the rest of the regular season much like I did for a time last year.

I could use this space to say my farewell to Tom in print, but I told him in person on Friday night at Unknown Brewery.

Plus, I have his number and he’s good about texting back.

Last week: 10-5

Season: 118-73

This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:

Lock No. 1

CAROLINA (minus-9) 31, Atlanta 17: I just don’t think this Falcons team is that good. They were clearly pretenders when they started 5-0 and then began leveling out around 6-3, 6-4.

They’re sacking the quarterback barely more than once per game, and that just doesn’t get it done in this league. Matt Ryan is giving out early Christmas gifts every game.

I don’t think Julio Jones is completely shutdown by Josh Norman, and I think Devonta Freeman will get his on the ground. But this isn’t going to be much of a game after halftime.

Lock No. 2

GREEN BAY (minus-7) 35, Dallas 17: The NFC East is so bad that the Cowboys could lose this game and still be in the hunt for the playoffs with just three wins. With the Vikings slipping just as Sorensen announced he’d be spending more time up there, Green Bay will seize this opportunity to get an extra game on the division foe.

Lock No. 3

MIAMI (even) 27, Giants 24: I refuse to believe this Dolphins team isn’t any good. If you went to the joint practice in training camp, you wouldn’t believe it either. Remember how bad the NFC East is? That’ll come in to play here. Give me Ryan Tannehill to rebound … finally.

The rest

Buffalo 24, PHILDELPHIA 18

CLEVELAND 20, San Francisco 17

Detroit 28, ST. LOUIS 21

TAMPA BAY 35, New Orleans 32

JETS 24, Tennessee 10

CINCINNATI 27, Pittsburgh 24

Indianapolis 22, JACKSONVILLE 19

KANSAS CITY 30, San Diego 28

CHICAGO 21, Washington 14

Seattle 38, BALTIMORE 6

DENVER 28, Oakland 17

New England 30, HOUSTON 20