Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (3-4) at Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

The Ravens have to follow up this game with a short week and a Thursday Night Football matchup, which usually isn’t good news for a favorite’s chance of covering the spread, as favorites have covered at just a 41.8% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football. However, the Ravens are only facing the lowly Dolphins, so next week’s game probably won’t be a huge distraction and, more importantly, the Ravens should also be completely well rested, not just coming off of a bye, but somehow in their fourth straight home game. Including the bye week, the Ravens haven’t had to travel for a game since their week 4 trip to Denver. 

There isn’t much data on teams in their fourth straight home game and even less so on teams in their fourth straight home game coming off of a bye, or with a bye at some point during the homestand, but teams in their third straight home game cover at a 54.9% rate and it stands to reason that trend would extend to the fourth straight. For the record, teams are 6-3 ATS over the past 30 seasons in their fourth straight home game, which is a small sample size, but it adds further evidence that this should be a good spot for the Ravens.

We’re also getting a little bit of line value with the Ravens at -6, as my calculated line has them as 7-point favorites. The Vikings have played better than their 3-4 record and haven’t lost by more than one score, but they just lost probably their best defensive player Danielle Hunter for the season, which hurts their outlook significantly going forward, and the Ravens are one of the better teams in the league, so they could easily hand them their first multi-score loss. There isn’t enough here to be confident betting the Ravens, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Baltimore Ravens 35 Minnesota Vikings 27

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -6

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (7-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-4)

The Cardinals have significant injury uncertainty this week, with their star quarterback Kyler Murray and their top offensive playmaker DeAndre Hopkins both missing practice all week and being considered gametime decisions at best. Normally in situations like this, I like to wait until there is more certainty on the injury situations and often times there won’t even be a line posted, but the 49ers are currently listed as 2-point home favorites against the injury riddled Cardinals and at that number the 49ers are good enough to bet even if both Murray and Hopkins play, assuming both will be going at less than 100% if they can even play.

The 49ers are just 3-4 this season after going 6-10 last season, but their biggest problems in both seasons have been injuries and turnovers. The 49ers had the most adjusted games lost to injury last season and the 2nd worst turnover margin in the league at -11, while this season the 49ers rank 4th worst in turnover margin at -6 and have continued to be as injury plagued as any team in the league, with key absences on both sides of the ball throughout the season.

The good news is that the 49ers are getting healthier, most notably with stud tight end George Kittle set to return this week, and also that turnover margin is very unpredictable week-to-week. Despite the 49ers injury absences, they still rank 6th, 10th, and 14th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively, which are much more predictable and predictive than turnover margin, so the 49ers have overall played noticeably better than their record and should be better going forward with key players returning in the past couple weeks. The Cardinals, meanwhile, also are without top interior defender JJ Watt, even if Murray and Hopkins are able to go.

Even if Murray and Hopkins played, I would have the 49ers a point better than the Cardinals in my roster rankings and if they don’t play, we are obviously getting a steal with the 49ers as just 2-point favorites. The 49ers are also in a great spot, as they are favored in the first of two tough games, with favorites covering at a 54.1% rate all-time when facing an opponent with a winning percentage of more than 60%, before facing another such team the following week (in this case, the 49ers’ game against the Rams). Lock this in at -2 (or anything under 3) while you can.

San Francisco 49ers 26 Arizona Cardinals 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -2

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)

The Eagles are just 3-5, but they have the best point differential of any 3-win team at +12. That’s largely because they blew out the Falcons and Lions, two of the worst teams in the league, but despite those two easy games, they have still faced one of the toughest schedules in the league. Their defense in particular has faced a tough schedule, as they have faced the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Buccaneers, who rank 1st, 2nd, and 4th in offensive efficiency. Overall, their defense has held up pretty well considering their tough schedule and currently ranks 4th in defensive efficiency when adjusted for schedule. 

The Eagles’ offense got off to a slow start because of some offensive line injuries, but they have also improved on that side of the ball, now ranking 10th in offensive efficiency when adjusted for schedule. The Eagles’ efficiency ratings might be skewed by two blowout wins, but when you compare it to the Chargers, who rank 12th in offensive efficiency and 9th in defensive efficiency, it’s hard to justify the Chargers being favored by a couple points on the road, especially since the Eagles also have a significant special team advantage over the Chargers, who once again have one of the worst special teams in the NFL. The Eagles also hold a point differential edge (+12 vs. -5). 

The Chargers may have a better record, but just one of their wins came by more than one score and dating back to last season, they have just three wins by multiple scores, with one coming against the 1-win Jaguars and one coming against the Chiefs backups in a meaningless week 17 game. This is a slightly improved team over a year ago, but they’re not as good as they looked during their 4-1 start, especially now that they are missing two of their top-3 cornerbacks. My roster rankings have the Eagles as the better team overall and, given that they are at home as well, we are getting a great value with them as 2-point underdogs. This is my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Los Angeles Chargers 20 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

This is a matchup between one of the best teams in the league and one of the worst, with the Bills ranking 1st in point differential and 2nd in mixed team efficiency, while the Jaguars rank 28th in point differential and 30th in mixed team efficiency. However, this line is pretty high, expecting the Bills to win by more than two full touchdowns on the road. I don’t have a strong lean on this game, but the Jaguars should be the right side, as this line has shifted from favoring the Bills by 10.5 on the early line last week to 15 this week.

Despite that big line movement, the public, which is due to get crushed by the sportsbooks one week this year, is all over the Bills. My calculated line has the Bills favored by 11 points, which isn’t that much line value, but it’s worth noting. As bad as the Jaguars have been, they lost by 18 to the Titans and 12 to the Cardinals, who are comparable teams to the Bills, which gives the Jaguars some hope for covering an inflated spread like this, as 15-point underdogs. I wouldn’t bet on this, but the Jaguars look like the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Buffalo Bills 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +15

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

New York Jets (2-4) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

Neither of these two teams are in a good spot this week. The Jets are coming off of a surprising upset victory over the Bengals as 11-point home underdogs, winning their first game with backup quarterback Mike White under center, but the Jets were in a great spot last week, embarrassed after a blowout in New England the week before, facing a Bengals team that was in a trap game spot between a big upset of the Ravens the previous week and another big divisional game against the Browns on deck, meaning they were likely to overlook a 1-win team starting a backup quarterback.

This week, the Colts will have more tape on Mike White than the Bengals did a week ago and the Jets win last week also puts them in a bad spot this week, as teams tend to be flat after a big home upset victory, covering at just a 41.1% rate all-time after a win as home underdogs of 5 points or more. The Jets had a similar situation earlier this year, pulling a home upset victory over the Titans as 6-point underdogs, only to be mostly uncompetitive against a mediocre at best Falcons team the following week.

Making matters worse, Mike White and the Jets will have to go on the road to face a solid Colts team on a short week. It tends to be very tough for a team to go on the road and face a superior team out of the division on a short week and, as a result, non-divisional road underdogs cover at just a 35.0% rate on a short week, with that percentage dropping to 27.5% as underdogs of 7 points or more. The Colts are just 3-5, but they are much better than their record, as all three of their wins have come by double digits, while three of their five losses have come by one score against teams that currently have two losses or fewer (Rams, Ravens, Titans). 

Of the Colts’ two losses by more than one score, one was a competitive 9-point loss, also against the Titans, in a game that could have been even more competitive had Colts quarterback Carson Wentz not been playing with two sprained ankles, which he has since healed from, while their other double digit defeat was back in week one. The Colts also were without their top two offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith for 4 games and 6 games respectively and have seen them return from those injuries in the past couple weeks, though Nelson remains at less than 100%. Despite the Colts’ underwhelming record, it will be tough for the Jets to come on the road and be competitive with them on a short week.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting any line value with the Colts, who are favored by 10.5 points, despite still missing some regular contributors on both sides of the ball. The Colts are also in a terrible spot because their loss to the Titans last week came in overtime, putting them in a near impossible spot on a short week, with teams historically covering just 6 times out of 34 on Thursday Night Football after an overtime contest the week before. 

As bad of a spot as the Jets are in, the Colts are in an even worse spot and, if anything, we’re actually getting some line value with the Jets, who I have calculated as 10-point underdogs. White is likely to struggle much more than he did a week ago, but he could still be the Jets’ best quarterback, so the Jets don’t like as bad of a bet as they did a few weeks ago. There are too many conflicting things going on in this game to bet on the Jets confidently, but they are the better side for pick ’em purposes as they are in the slightly better spot and are getting a little bit of line value.

Indianapolis Colts 24 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +10.5

Confidence: Low