As longtime readers of MTS will tell you, we like to do things early around here. When it comes to the NFL, each week we preview all the game action about ten days in advance. Why? Because, like any organism, we’re trying to carve out a niche! Last week, we gave you an early Week 9 preview on Wednesday. As promised, below is the update to that preview, incorporating up-to-date lines now that the Week 8 action has wrapped up.
In Week 9, a season-high six teams have byes (including the Cards and Seahawks), but there are still a number of intriguing matchups. The Browns and Bengals kick off the week on Thursday Night Football (which is exclusive to the NFL Network starting in Week 9), while NFC powerhouses Green Bay and Carolina highlight the early Sunday games. Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis is the must-see game in the late afternoon.
The week will wrap with the Eagles and Cowboys battling on Sunday Night Football and the Chargers hosting the Bears in the Monday nighter.
Let’s take a closer look at each game on the slate.
Cleveland (2-6) at Cincinnati (7-0) – Spread: Bengals -12
One of the more shocking results in the NFL last season was the Browns’ 24-3 win at Cincinnati on a Thursday night in early November. The Bengals returned the favor and won in Cleveland 30-0 five weeks later. Last season’s split continued a trend as these teams have each won three of the last six, head-to-head.
This year, Cleveland is 1-3 on the road and 2-2 against the spread. They were blown out by the Jets and Rams, but covered in a narrow loss in San Diego (30-27), and a tight win over the Ravens (33-30). Cincinnati returns home after back-to-back road games. The Bengals won in Buffalo (34-21) in Week 7 and then survived a shoddy Andy Dalton performance at Pittsburgh in Week 8 (16-10) to stay undefeated. Cincinnati is 3-0 at home and 2-0-1 ATS. They won close home games against the Chargers and Seahawks while knocking off Kansas City by two scores.
Miami (3-4) at Buffalo (3-4) – Spread: Bills -3
The Dolphins didn’t show up when these teams met in Week 3; Buffalo crushed Miami 41-14 in a game that was every bit as lopsided as the score would suggest. This time around, the Fins (and new head coach Dan Campbell) will have extra time to prepare after their blowout loss at New England on Thursday in Week 8. Miami is 2-2 straight up and against the spread on the road. They won back-to-back games over Tennessee and Houston following their Week 5 bye.
The Bills will also have ample time to prep for this game, coming off of a Week 8 bye. Since starting the year with a win at home over Indianapolis, the Bills are 0-3 straight up and ATS at home, dropping games to New England (40-32), Cincinnati (34-21), and the Giants (24-10).
St. Louis (4-3) at Minnesota (5-2) – Spread: Vikings -2.5
After easy home victories over the Browns and Niners, the Rams (1-2 away, 1-2 ATS) leave St. Louis for a tough road test in Minnesota. They have lost at Washington (24-10), won in Arizona (24-22), and fallen at Green Bay (24-10) this season.
The Vikes return of Minny on the heels of back-to-back divisional road wins over Detroit and Chicago. Minnesota has played well at home, going 3-0 overall and ATS with double-digit victories over Detroit and San Diego, plus a 16-10 win against Kansas City.
Green Bay (6-1) at Carolina (7-0) – Spread: Packers -2.5
This was almost a rare Week 9 meeting of undefeated teams. But the Packers lost (badly) in Denver on Sunday, and now only the Panthers are perfect at this stage. Carolina had to survive an overtime test against Indianapolis on Monday Night Football to stay unbeaten in Week 8, and failed to cover as touchdown-plus favorites. But thanks to wins over Houston (24-17), New Orleans (27-22), and Philadelphia (27-16), the Panthers are 4-0 at home (2-2 ATS).
The Packers (2-1 road, 2-1 ATS) had a Week 7 bye before their lackluster performance in Denver (29-10). Green Bay won and covered road games in Chicago and San Francisco already this year and are 5-2 all-time against the Panthers in Carolina.
Washington (3-4) at New England (7-0) – Spread: Patriots -14.5
Washington returns from a bye with a difficult road ahead. Following this game against the Patriots, they’ll host a resurgent New Orleans and then travel to division-leading Carolina. The team is 0-3 on the road and 1-2 against the spread on the year, losing by double-digits in New York against both the Giants and Jets, and falling 25-19 in Atlanta in OT.
New England destroyed Miami on Thursday in Week 8 (36-7), giving Bill Belichick a little extra time to prep for Washington. The Pats are 4-0 at home and 2-0-2 ATS. They beat the Steelers (28-21) to kick off the year, crushed Jacksonville (51-17), and held off the Jets (30-23) before walloping the Fins.
Tennessee (1-6) at New Orleans (4-4) – Spread: TBA – Marcus Mariota status uncertain
Tennessee hits the road for a second straight week after losing four straight at home. Last Sunday, the Titans fell in Houston (20-6), and then promptly dismissed head coach Ken Whisenhunt. The team is now 1-2 away (and 1-2 ATS) after starting the year with a big win at Tampa Bay (42-14) before losing in Cleveland (28-14).
New Orleans started 0-3 but have gotten back in the mix by winning four of their last five. The Saints, once dominant at the Superdome, lost to Tampa Bay, 26-19, at home in Week 2, marking their unprecedented sixth straight home loss. But they got back on track in their next two in the Bayou, holding off the Cowboys (26-20 in OT) and beating the Falcons (31-21). On Sunday they beat the Giants at the Superdome, 52-49, in a shootout for the ages.
These teams last played in 2011 when the Saints beat Tennessee, 22-17.
Jacksonville (2-5) at New York Jets (4-3) – Spread: TBA – Jets QB’s are banged up
The Jaguars had a bye in Week 8 after beating Buffalo in London, 34-31. Jacksonville is 0-3 in true road games, though, and 1-2 ATS. They lost at New England (51-17), Indianapolis (16-13), and Tampa Bay (38-31). They also went 0-8 SU away from home last season.
The Jets are coming home after traveling west and getting smacked in the face by Oakland in Week 8 (34-20). New York is 2-1 straight up and against the number at home. They smoked the Browns, 31-10, to start the year, lost to Philadelphia, 24-17, and then topped Washington, 34-20, in Week 6. They had a chance to take down the Pats in Foxborough in Week 7 – even holding the lead in the fourth quarter – but ended up on the wrong end of a 30-23 score.
Oakland (4-3) at Pittsburgh (4-4) – Spread: Steelers -4.5
Some of the most heated and important football games of the 1970s were contested by the Raiders and Steelers. Oakland holds a 15-12 edge all-time, but Pittsburgh has won two straight and four of five.
The Raiders (2-1 road, 2-1 ATS) won at San Diego, 37-29, in Week 7 and also beat the Browns, 27-20, in Week 3. Their lone road loss was at Chicago (22-20) in Week 4. Last Sunday, Oakland pummeled the Jets at home, 34-20.
Heinz Field has not been overly kind to the Steelers this year (2-2 home, 2-1-1 ATS). They dropped a tight tilt with Cincinnati at home over the weekend (16-10) and, more significantly, running back Le’Veon Bell was lost for the season with a knee injury. The also dropped a heartbreaker to Baltimore in Week 4 (23-20 in OT). They do own decisive home wins over the 49ers (43-18) and Cardinals (25-13), though.
New York Giants (4-4) at Tampa Bay (3-4) – Spread: Giants -1
The Giants are 1-3 on the road (3-1 ATS) after a shootout loss in New Orleans on Sunday. New York lost at Dallas by a point to begin the year (27-26), beat the Bills in Buffalo (24-10) in Week 4, and then fell at Philadelphia (27-7) in Week 6. With Odell Beckham Jr. laboring somewhat, the G-Men edged out the Cowboys at home in Week 7 (27-20) on the strength of their special teams play.
The Bucs are 1-2 straight up and ATS at home; Tampa lost badly against Tennessee (42-14) and Carolina (37-23), but beat the Jaguars (38-31). In Week 7, they blew a massive lead on the road to Washington, falling 31-30 on a last-minute TD. Tampa Bay nearly repeated that feat in Week 8, but managed to edge Atlanta 23-20 in OT. They’ll be looking to snap a four-game skid against the Giants.
Atlanta (6-2) at San Francisco (2-6) – Spread: Falcons -7.5
One-time division rivals, the Falcons and 49ers meet in the Bay Area with roles reversed. San Francisco has dominated the series going 46-30-1, including 27-11 at home. However, the Falcons are the playoff contender this year, and though Atlanta has won just two of their last 13 in San Francisco, both of those have came in the last three tries.
The Falcons are 3-1 on the road and 2-2 ATS, most recently winning but failing to cover at Tennessee (10-7) in Week 7. San Francisco is 2-2 SU and ATS at home; in their last two, they beat Baltimore (25-20) in Week 6, but put in a dismal performance against Seattle (20-3) just four days later. Both teams are coming off losses: Atlanta fell to Tampa Bay (23-20) last week and the Niners got trampled by the Rams (27-6).
Denver (7-0) at Indianapolis (3-5) – Spread: Broncos -4.5
This could be Manning’s final game in Indianapolis, where he made the Colts franchise relevant for a decade. Peyton is having the worst statistical season of his career (second most interceptions in the league), but comes to town toting a dominant defense that has spurred the team to a 4-0 (3-0-1 ATS) record on the road. (Denver has already won at Kansas City, Detroit, Oakland, and Cleveland.) The Broncos also dominated Green Bay at home on Sunday, 29-10.
The Colts are 1-3 at home both straight up and against the number. Their lone win came in Week 4 over the Jaguars, 16-13 in OT. (Their lone cover was in a 34-27 setback to New England.) In addition to the loss to the Pats, Indy has also fallen to the Jets and Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium. Week 8 brought more bad luck – make that bad Luck – as the Colts fell 30-27 in OT in Carolina (needing an epic, 17-point fourth-quarter comeback just to force the extra frame).
Philadelphia (3-4) at Dallas (2-5) – Spread: Eagles -2.5
The Cowboys (1-2 home, 0-3 ATS) beat the Eagles in Philadelphia, 20-10, in Week 2, but saw QB Tony Romo leave part way through the game with a shoulder injury. The Cowboys have lost five straight since then – all without Romo – including home games against Atlanta and New England. Dallas has also dropped two straight to the Eagles at home. The Cowboys came up a point short in Seattle on Sunday (13-12), as the offense continued to sputter without its leader.
Philly, which had a bye in Week 8, is 1-3 on the road straight up and ATS this year. They gave up the division lead with a 27-16 setback in Carolina in Week 7, and also fell at Atlanta and Washington. Their only road win was in Week 3 against the Jets (24-17).
Chicago (2-5) at San Diego (2-6) – Spread: Chargers -4
The Bears (1-2 road, 2-1 ATS) play their fourth road game of the season, and third with a healthy Jay Cutler. Without their starting QB, they were shutout in Seattle early in the season; with Cutler, they won at Kansas City and lost a tight, high-scoring game in Detroit (covering in both). They lost at home to Minnesota, 23-20, on Sunday.
The Chargers are 2-2 (1-3 ATS) at home but have lost two straight in southern California. After wins over the Lions and Browns to start the year, San Diego fell short against Pittsburgh and was then massacred by Oakland. The Chargers not only fell on a last second field goal in Baltimore last weekend, but star wide receiver Keenan Allen was lost for the season with a lacerated kidney. (Ouch!)
(Photo credit: Billy Bob Bain (http://www.flickr.com/photos/astros/2120408008/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)