Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at Baltimore Ravens (3-4)

The bye came at the perfect time for the Steelers. Not only is Ben Roethlisberger expected to return from a 1-game absence with a knee injury, but they are basically 100% healthy coming out of the bye. This is after the Steelers were one of the most injury plagued teams in the league to start the season. The Steelers’ record isn’t bad, but they rank just 25th in first down percentage differential, largely thanks to all of their injuries. It’s not just Ben Roethlisberger, as wide receiver Markus Wheaton, left guard Ramon Foster, right tackle Marcus Gilbert, defensive end Cameron Heyward, and middle linebacker Ryan Shazier have all missed time with injury, while running back Le’Veon Bell missed time with suspension. Outside of Roethlisberger, Heyward was their biggest injury because he’s their best defensive player. They missed him badly in the two games he missed before the bye (both losses) and he’ll be a very welcome re-addition.

The Ravens are also coming out of a well timed bye. The Ravens limped into the bye week with an underwhelming loss in New York to the lowly Jets, a game in which they were missing middle linebacker CJ Mosley, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, right guard Marshal Yanda, and wide receiver Steve Smith. Dumervil remains out, as he has been for most of the season, but everyone else should be back healthy. When they were healthier, the Ravens started the season 3-0 before losing 4 straight, but that was because they had several close wins against weak opponents. Overall on the season, they’ve had a much easier schedule than the Steelers and are overall a worse team when both of these teams are healthy. This line is more or less where it should be at 2 in favor of the visiting Steelers, but I’m taking the Steelers for a no confidence pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Baltimore Ravens 20

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -2

Confidence: None

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Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (2-5) at Los Angeles Rams (3-4)

The Rams come out of the bye healthy on defense, after key players like cornerback Trumaine Johnson, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, and defensive ends William Hayes and Robert Quinn all missed some time in the weeks before the bye. Right now, the Rams are more or less at full strength as a team, something few teams can say at this point in the season. Unfortunately, even when the defense is healthy, this is far from a quality team because of their lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball. They rank 30th in first down percentage differential, thanks primarily to an offense that ranks 28th in first down percentage. Their defense is better now that it’s healthy, but this is still one of the weakest teams in the NFL.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are a lot better than their 2-5 record. Three of their five losses have come by a field goal or less and they’ve had one of the tougher schedules in the league thus far this season. They enter this game 12th in first down percentage differential. They’ve also had both quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart miss time this season and both are back healthy now, an obvious boost. They’re not the same team they were last season, but they’re still a strong opponent. The problem is we’re not getting any line value with them as this line has shifted from 1.5 to 3.5 in favor of the Panthers in the past week, thanks to Carolina’s home victory over the Cardinals last week. Carolina is the pick, but this is a no confidence pick.

Carolina Panthers 20 Los Angeles Rams 16

Pick against the spread: Carolina -3.5

Confidence: None

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Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (6-2)

The Raiders are 6-2, but they’ve been one of the most disappointing teams in the league in my opinion. Stacked with young talent and coming off of an off-season in which they had a ton of cap space and added a lot of talent in free agency, I had the Raiders finishing 2nd in the AFC before the season started. They enter this game tied for the 2nd seed with the visiting Denver Broncos, but 5 of their 6 wins have come by 7 points or fewer. They also enter this game just 27th in first down percentage differential, thanks in large part to a defense that is allowing the 7th highest first down percentage in the league. They’re far more talented than that suggests, especially on defense, as they’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the league on paper, but they have not played up to their talent level thus far this season. Somehow, despite an infusion of talent in free agency, their defense has been worse in 2016 than in 2015.

This would be a good time for them to start doing that, as this game could end up deciding the division and possibly even a first round bye. The Broncos have exceeded my expectations a little bit this season, as their offense has looked good at times and their defense has remained one of the best in the league, despite off-season losses of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan and an injury to DeMarcus Ware. They enter this game 2nd in first down percentage differential. Their defense will be tested in a big way this week though, with starting cornerback Aqib Talib out with a back injury. He’s been one of the best cornerbacks in the league this season. If the Raiders play like they can on both sides of the ball, not just on offense, they should be able to win this game at home. Given that, the Raiders are the pick here as mere 1 point home favorites, but I’m not confident enough in them right now to put money on them.

Oakland Raiders 20 Denver Broncos 16

Pick against the spread: Oakland -1

Confidence: Low

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New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (3-4)

The Jets are in a good spot here as 3.5 point underdogs in Miami, as the Dolphins have to turn around and play a tougher game on the west coast in San Diego next week, while the Jets host the lowly Rams. Underdogs are 89-60 ATS since 2008 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs and that’s almost certainly the case here. At the same time, we’re getting absolutely no line value with the Jets at 3.5, considering the Dolphins are the significantly better team between these two.

These two teams have pretty similar records, but the Jets’ two wins in the last two weeks have both come against weak opponents (Cleveland and a banged up Baltimore team) and neither victory was convincing. On the season, they rank 31st in first down percentage differential. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are coming off of back-to-back big home wins against quality opponents (Buffalo and Pittsburgh) and rank 10th in first down percentage differential. It’s hard to be confident in the Jets even in a great spot, but a field goal game is still a strong possibility considering 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal or less, so I am still taking the Jets for a low confidence pick.

Miami Dolphins 20 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3.5

Confidence: Low

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Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) at New York Giants (4-3)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Eagles are in a great spot in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 133-102 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 105-70 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is even true with teams off of overtime losses, like the Eagles here (6-2 ATS over that time period). This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 226-241 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.85 points per game, as opposed to 323-453 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game.

On the other hand, we’re getting absolutely no line value with the Eagles here at 2.5. For some reason, this line shifted from 3 on the early line last week to 2.5 this week, despite Philadelphia’s loss and New York’s bye. Considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, that’s a pretty significant line movement. At 3, I’d probably take the Eagles, but it’s tough to do so at 2.5 even with them in a great spot because the Giants are actually a little bit better of a team. They’ve managed a 4-3 record despite a poor -7 turnover margin and a tough schedule. They rank 9th in first down percentage differential, a few spots higher than the Eagles, who rank 13th in that metric. I’m taking the Giants, but for a no confidence pick.

New York Giants 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -2.5

Confidence: None

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Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3)

The Colts have been one of the worst teams in the league this season, entering this game with the 4th lowest first down percentage differential in the league, thanks largely to a defense that ranks 31st in first down percentage allowed. One of the oldest rosters in the league, the Colts have predictably declined this season and also have dealt with a number of injuries. This week, they’re without top safety Mike Adams, starting defensive end Kendall Langford, top offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, fellow starting offensive lineman Joe Reitz, and top pass rusher Trent Cole.

The Packers, meanwhile, rank 6th in first down percentage differential, so they’re one of the better teams in the league. They’re also getting healthier, with running back Ty Montgomery, center Corey Linsley, wide receiver Randall Cobb, cornerback Quinten Rollins, and linebacker Clay Matthews all returning to the starting lineup this week. They’re still missing key players, but they’re deep and talented enough overall to get by without them. This line is pretty big at 7.5, but I actually don’t think it’s high enough given the talent disparity between these two teams. I couldn’t put money on the Packers at 7.5, but that might change at 7 and definitely would change at 6.5.

Green Bay Packers 31 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -7.5

Confidence: Low

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Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 9 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (6-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-8)

Typically, the Browns would be in a tough spot here, as they have to turn around after this tough home game against the 6-1 Cowboys and go to Baltimore on a short week, a tough divisional clash in which they’re projected to be 9.5 point underdogs on the early line. Underdogs of 6 or more are just 132-170 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6 or more again. However, teams that are 0-8 or worse are actually 10-5 ATS in that spot over that time period. The Browns enter this game as the NFL’s only winless team at 0-8. Believe it or not, betting on winless teams this late in the season has actually been a winning bet in the past, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-16 ATS since 1989.

That being said, I’m actually going with the Cowboys this week, just because of how good of a road team they are historically, thanks to their national fanbase. Since 2010, they’ve outscored opponents by 0.96 points per game at home and been outscored by 0.57 points per game on the road, meaning their homefield advantage hasn’t even been worth a point over that time period. They are also 29-21 ATS on the road over that time period. This line is pretty high at 7.5, so I couldn’t be confident in them, but the Cowboys are the pick in pick ‘em leagues.

Dallas Cowboys 28 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -7.5

Confidence: None

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