Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (3-4)

These two teams are pretty similar, both with strong defenses and weak offenses. The Cowboys rank 25th in first down rate at 33.81% and 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.47%, while the Titans rank 29th in first down rate at 30.17% and 7th in first down rate allowed at 33.10%. The Cowboys get a bit of a boost coming out of the bye from their trade for ex-Raider wide receiver Amari Cooper, but Cooper has been pretty underwhelming the past couple of seasons and has only been with the organization for a week and a half, so there could definitely be growing pains in his first game.

The Cowboys are a little better and this line is appropriate at Dallas -5, but I prefer the underdogs in what should be a close, low scoring game. The Titans have a tough upcoming home game against the Patriots next week, but the Cowboys are also in a tough spot with a trip to Philadelphia on deck. This is a no confidence pick because there really isn’t much here, but I like the points for pick ‘em purposes.

Dallas Cowboys 17 Tennessee Titans 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (6-1)

I’ve bet on the Saints every week since week 3, after they got off to one of their typical slow starts (2-12 ATS in the first 2 games of the season since 2012, 55-38 ATS after week 2), and they’ve covered in all 5 games, after failing to cover in their first two. That being said, it’s a lot harder being confident in the Saints this week, as 1.5 point home underdogs against the undefeated Rams. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -2, but any line value within the 3s is not terribly valuable, given how few games are decided by 3 points or fewer.

The Saints are an obvious top-5 team this year and could easily win this game at home, but the Rams are also a step up in class and it’s hard to be confident betting against them in a game they basically just have to win to cover, especially with talented slot receiver Cooper Kupp returning from a two game absence. I’m taking the Saints, who are in a great spot with only a trip to Cincinnati on deck after arguably their biggest game of the season this week (home underdogs are 23-9 ATS since 2014 before being road favorites), but this is a low confidence pick.

New Orleans Saints 26 Los Angeles Rams 24 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +1.5

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (2-6)

If the Bills’ quarterback situation went from bad to worse when rookie quarterback Josh Allen got hurt, forcing them to start to street free agent Derek Anderson in his absence, then I’m not sure what the phrase is to describe what happened to their quarterback situation when Anderson suffered a concussion late in his second start last week, forcing to the Bills to turn to 2017 5th round pick Nathan Peterman as their starter this week. Peterman has completed just 45.7% of his 81 career pass attempts in 2 seasons in the league, for an average of 4.44 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions and has proven on numerous occasions he does not belong on an NFL field at this stage of his career.

Peterman has been so bad that even the Bills, who have been high on him since drafting him and even started him week 1 this year, decided that signing Anderson as a free agent and starting him after less than a week with the organization was a better idea than going back to Peterman. Peterman also will not get any help from his supporting cast on easily the worst offense in the NFL, which ranks dead last, picking up a first down or touchdown on a pathetic 25.42% of offensive snaps.

Making matters worse for Peterman this week, he faces arguably the toughest defense in the NFL with the Chicago Bears coming to town. The Bears are just 4-3, but their 3 losses came by a combined 11 points and they actually won the first down rate battle in 2 of those 3 losses. On the season, they rank 6th in point differential at +50 and 2nd in first down rate differential at +8.03%. They should be able to go into Buffalo and give them their 6th double digit loss of the season and 11th in their last 12 losses, but I’m not confident in them because they’re pretty banged up.

Not only is right guard Kyle Long out for the rest of the regular season, but they could also opt to hold out wide receiver Allen Robinson and edge rusher Khalil Mack against a weak opponent, like they did last week at home against the Jets. The Bills’ offense is horrendous and is probably more likely to allow a defensive touchdown than score an offensive one, but they have a capable defense that could make this one close if the Bears aren’t at 100% and aren’t focused against a weak opponent.

Chicago Bears 20 Buffalo Bills 9

Pick against the spread: Chicago -10

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Denver Broncos: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (5-3) at Denver Broncos (3-5)

Earlier in the week, I would have probably taken the Broncos in this one, as I had these two teams about even in my rankings, following Houston’s loss of wide receiver Will Fuller for the season with a torn ACL, and the Broncos are favored by just 1 point at home. However, then the Demaryius Thomas trade happened, with the former Pro-Bowl wide receiver going to Houston from Denver for a 4th round pick in a deadline deal.

That doesn’t move the needle much in either direction for either team right away, as the Broncos have a great internal replacement for Thomas in second round rookie Courtland Sutton and Thomas will likely be limited in his first game in Houston, without much knowledge of the playbook. Thomas also hasn’t played at his peak level in years, now in his age 31 season. However, he will bring knowledge of the Broncos’ playbook, which could be invaluable for the Texans this week. For that reason, I’m taking the Texans, but I can’t be confident in them given that we’re getting no line value with them.

Houston Texans 21 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Houston +1

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1)

This game has a lot of injury uncertainty. The Lions could get Ezekiel Ansah back for the first time since week 1, but that’s far from a guarantee, as he continues to be limited in practice. Meanwhile, both right guard TJ Lang and cornerback Darius Slay, two of the Lions’ better players, could miss this game with injuries of their own. Their roster also took a hit when they sent contract year wide receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles for a 3rd round pick this past week. They may struggle to adjust in their first week without their talented slot receiver.

On the other side, the Vikings have had as many injuries as anyone this year, but they seem to finally be getting healthier. Defensive linemen Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph have returned in recent weeks, safety Andrew Sendejo looks like to follow them this week, and left tackle Riley Reiff, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and running back Dalvin Cook could also return this week. The only players ruled out so far are linebacker Anthony Barr and right guard Tom Compton, but they also have several highly questionable players, including the aforementioned players possibly making their return and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who didn’t practice all week with a rib injury. With so many key players on both sides having uncertain status, it’s hard to be confident in either side this week.

That being said, I would recommend the Vikings for pick ‘em purposes for a few reasons and not just because they seem to be trending in the right direction injury wise. The Lions have had little success against playoff caliber opponents in recent years, going 19-36-2 ATS and 19-38 straight up in games against opponents with a winning record since Matt Stafford’s first full season in 2011. On top of that, the Vikings are going into their bye and big home favorites tend to take care of business going into a bye, going 41-19-1 ATS since 2008 as home favorites of 6+ before a bye. The Vikings barely qualify for that threshold here, but the logic makes sense, as the Vikings should be able to take care of business against a Detroit team that has struggled in tougher games in recent years. This is a no confidence pick because of the injury uncertainty on both sides, but I like the Vikings’ chances a little more.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -6

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

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

When these two teams met in week 2, the Dolphins got an upset victory as road underdogs in New York, winning 20-12. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins will win at home though. In fact, divisional home favorites only win about 55% of the time over the past 15 years against a team they previously beat as road underdogs and they are just 35-64 ATS against the spread. Evenly matched teams tend to split the season series, even if the road underdog pulls the upset in the first game.

The Dolphins have also had a lot of injuries since that game, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, wide receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills, and defensive ends Charles Harris and William Hayes all going down with injury since week 2, though the Jets are likely without their top-2 receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, along with center Spencer Long and cornerback Trumaine Johnson, so neither team is in a good injury situation.

The Dolphins are also in a terrible spot with a trip to Green Bay on deck, while the Jets return home and face the lowly Bills next week. Favorites are just 41-71 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs, which the Dolphins are on the early line for next week’s game, and favorites in general are just 51-84 ATS before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites, which the Jets will be next week. I wish we were getting a full field goal with the Jets because I have these teams about even in my rankings, so there’s no line value at +2.5, but the money line is a good play at +125 and if this line moves up to 3 before gametime I will make this a higher confidence pick.

Update: Two developments in this game Sunday morning. For one, the line has shifted back and +3s are available. On top of that, both Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are expected to suit up for the Jets, despite limited practice this week. They likely won’t be at 100%, but they should still provide a boost for a very thin receiving corps. The Jets are a solid play this week if you can get +3 because they’re in so much better of a spot than the Dolphins.

New York Jets 20 Miami Dolphins 17 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-2)

The Buccaneers have had a crazy season under center. With regular starter Jameis Winston suspended for the first 3 games of the season for an off-the-field violation, they started veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and watched him carry them to victories against the Saints and Eagles, a pair of 2017 division winners. He then struggled in a week 3 loss to the Steelers, but initially kept the job over Winston when he returned week 4, before getting benched midway through a week 4 blowout loss in Chicago.

Winston then started the next three games, with mixed results, and was ultimately benched for Fitzpatrick midway through last week’s loss in Cincinnati, a game in which Fitzpatrick led them back from down 18, only to watch his defense allow a game winning field goal at the other end with time expiring. Fitzpatrick will remain the starter this week and could potentially start for the rest of the season. Winston’s 20.992 million dollar salary for 2019 becomes guaranteed if he gets injured, so they may be hesitant to play him as long as Fitzpatrick plays reasonably well.

Fitzpatrick has been the better of the two all in all this season and, while he’s always had turnover issues, the Buccaneers have so much talent in the receiving corps that the gunslinging Fitzpatrick is likely to continue to put up big yardage numbers.  The Buccaneers also get a boost on defense this week, getting both defensive end Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy back from two game absences. Even with them out there, they have defensive issues, but they will obviously be welcome re-additions to this defensive line.

They face a tough opponent this week in Carolina, but they’ve been competitive in tough games in recent years and 10 of their 15 losses over the past couple of seasons have come by 6 points or fewer (relevant considering this line is 6.5). The Panthers are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play another game in Pittsburgh in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 49-71 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football and favorites of 6+ in general are 31-59 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6+ (Pittsburgh -6.5 is the early line). I’d like the Buccaneers more if we were getting a full touchdown, but they should be able to keep this one close against a team that might not give its best effort in a look ahead spot.

Carolina Panthers 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) at New England Patriots (6-2)

This line was New England -7.5 last week on the early line, but it has shifted to 5 this week. That original line was probably too high, like Packers/Rams line last week when the Packers were 9-point underdogs, but that’s a pretty significant line, crossing key numbers of 6 and 7, and it comes despite the fact that the Packers traded contract year safety HaHa Clinton-Dix at the trade deadline, in the middle of arguably his best season in the NFL. With top cornerback Jaire Alexander back last week, the Packers played one of their best defensive games of the season, keeping the Rams’ offense from a big game, but they’re going to have a hard time doing that this week against the Patriots without their talented safety.

The line movement is probably as a result of the Patriots looking underwhelming in their Monday night game in Buffalo, but the Patriots were probably not giving their best effort against the Bills with this game on deck and they still covered anyway, winning 25-6. That game doesn’t really change my opinion of the Patriots much at all. They also should be healthier this week, with Rob Gronkowski another week removed from his back spasms and running back Sony Michel, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower all possibly returning from injury this week. The Packers are still a tough opponent even without Clinton-Dix, so there isn’t enough here to bet the Patriots confidently as 5-point favorites, but they should be able to win this one by at least a touchdown.

New England Patriots 34 Green Bay Packers 27

Pick against the spread: New England -5

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

When I saw the Ravens open as mere 2.5-point home favorites against the Steelers, I expected to bet them this week. They were 3-point home favorites on the early line last week, but their blowout loss in Carolina shifted this line off the key number of 3 down to 2.5, a significant line movement when you consider about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal. The Ravens didn’t look good in Carolina last week, but they could have easily been caught looking forward to this game. The previous week they were 3-point home favorites a strong New Orleans team and were competitive in that game, coming within a missed extra point of sending it to overtime.

That Saints team is better than this Steelers team, so it’s a bit of an overreaction for this line to be lower. As favorites of less than 3, the Ravens basically just need to win to cover. The Steelers got off to a slow start, but are now an overrated team again after ripping off three straight wins against a banged up Falcons team, a banged up Bengals team, and a struggling Browns team. They’re considered top level contenders because of their history, but their defense is still not the same as when they had a healthy Ryan Shazier. They have just 3 wins by more than a touchdown since he went down, a span of 13 games in which they’ve allowed 24.8 points per game.

We should be getting significant line value with the Ravens, but the problem is left tackle Ronnie Stanley, arguably the Ravens most important offensive player other than the quarterback, will be out with an ankle injury and this line did not move to compensate. The Ravens could be getting left guard Alex Lewis and cornerback Marlon Humphrey back from two game absences after they made their returns to practice this week, but they’ll still be without right tackle James Hurst for the 3rd straight game and his bookend Stanley will join him on the sidelines this week, creating a tough situation for the Ravens upfront even if Lewis can play.

The Steelers have a key injury with right tackle Marcus Gilbert out for the second straight week, but they’re overall in a much better injury situation and could easily take advantage of that like they did against the Falcons and Bengals. I’m still taking the Ravens because I think even without Stanley these two teams are about even, meaning this line should still be at 3, but without Stanley I can’t be confident betting on them.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -2.5

Confidence: Low