We’re back with the ninth edition of MTS’ weekly picks against the spread for the 2016 season. After much ridiculing throughout the week, Perry put up a respectable 7-6 record in Week 8. His “Pledges” were just 2-2, but hey, I’m sure he’ll take the victory.
Perry is back for another kick at the can in the second-straight bye-filled week for the NFL. While Week 8 may not have been a great one for Perry, it was a step in the right direction, and good enough to avoid being blasted by Josh Norman. Onto Week 9.
An asterisk denotes one of Perry’s “Pledges of the Week.” (Don’t call them “locks”; there’s no such thing!)
Week 9 Picks ATS
Thursday, November 3
Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs just gave up 498 yards through the air against Oakland in Week 8, and now have to deal with Julio Jones and the second-ranked pass offense in the league.
When these two teams met in Week 1, Atlanta struggled to cover Tampa Bay’s big receivers, and couldn’t capitalize on their own opportunities. The Falcons have come a long way since then, and are starting to formulate a pass rush – 14 sacks in their last four games.
Atlanta gets revenge and wins by a touchdown.
Pick: Falcons (-3.5)
Sunday, November 6
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-6)
Finally, the Vikings are revealing some major weaknesses. Minnesota has now allowed a 100-yard rusher in two straight games, and Sam Bradford has been sacked 11 times in that span.
The Lions may not be able to take advantage of the Vikings on the ground, as they haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Week 2. But, they do rank 12th in the league with 18 sacks on the season, and that’s without Ziggy Ansah having a sack to his name in five games played.
Minnesota’s offense is a mess, and now may be without guard Alex Boone, as well. Matt Stafford will keep this game within a field goal.
Pick: Lions (+6)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
The Ravens may rank fourth in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, but they are very banged up right now, and have allowed 779 total yards and 51 points in their last two games. Baltimore will be without Elvis Dumervil in Week 9, and possibly Lardarius Webb, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Shareece Wright.
On the bright side for Baltimore, it won’t be Ben Roethlisberger exploiting the backups, and they’ll be lining up against a Steeler defense that has allowed 362 yards on the ground in their last two games.
With both teams coming off their bye, I’ll put my faith in Landry Jones to put the ball in the hands of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, while the Ravens putrid rushing attack continues to struggle.
Pick: Steelers (+3)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)
I know we didn’t expect Jay Ajayi to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back games, and this may not be very bold, but he won’t do it for a third straight week. The Jets are only allowing 3.3 yards per carry on the season, and just held one of the top rushing teams in the league (Browns; seriously) to 68 yards on the ground in Week 8.
However, the Jets did give up 339 yards through the air to the same Browns, and possess the league’s worst pass defense.
Now that Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert are back, the Dolphins’ offensive line actually resembles a functioning unit, both in the run game and in pass-pro. (Ryan Tannehill has only been sacked once in the past two games.) But they face a very tough test this week against the Jets’ front, and their defense will have to continue to prove they can stop the run after holding the Bills to just 67 yards on 22 carries.
Although I believe Miami will win this game, the line is a half-point too much for me. The Jets’ front will expose the other three men on the Dolphins’ offensive line, and Matt Forte will have another solid day on the ground.
Pick: Jets (+3.5)
Dallas Cowboys (-7.5) at Cleveland Browns
The Cowboys have yet to rush for less than 100 yards in a game this season, and haven’t gone for less than 180 on the ground since Week 2. The Browns possess the second-worst rush defense in the league, and have allowed an average of 193 yards’ rushing over their last three games.
Cleveland has seen its own rushing attack start to fade, gaining less than 70 ground yards in three of their last four games. Josh McCown is clearly the quarterback that gives the Browns the best chance to win, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good chance.
I don’t care where this game is being played, the Cowboys are going to pound the rock, and the Browns won’t be able to keep up. I’m expecting at least 200 from Zeke unless Dallas finally does the smart thing and rests him when the game is decided.
Pick: Cowboys (-7.5)*
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-9)
After another horrible offensive output, not counting garbage time, the Jaguars fired their offensive coordinator, Greg Olson. Jacksonville will be hoping Nathaniel Hackett, previously the quarterbacks coach, can get the running game going and bring some simplicity back to the passing game.
The Chiefs are now 3-0 since their bye, and are hoping the six sacks they recorded against the Colts last week are not just a product of Indianapolis’ bad offensive line. Whether it’s Alex Smith or Nick Foles under center for KC, it won’t change the Chiefs’ run-first mentality.
If the Chiefs are without Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles, it’ll be Charcandrick West who steps up and pounds the ball against the Jags 27th-ranked rush defense. It may be a lot of points, but I can’t rely on Blake Bortles at Arrowhead.
Pick: Chiefs (-9)
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-2.5)
The Eagles have dropped three of their last four, but put up one hell of a fight on the road against the top team in the NFC last week. They now remain on the road against another divisional foe coming off a bye week.
The Giants don’t have the rushing attack to exploit the fact that the Eagles are giving up 4.7 yards per carry (28th), but they do have the run defense to make Carson Wentz shoulder the load offensively.
The key to this game will be how well the Giants offensive line can protect Eli Manning. New York has given up the second-fewest sacks (11) in the league, while Philadelphia has recorded the third-most (22).
Wentz has shown well thus far, but he’s not ready to out-duel a Manning yet.
Pick: Giants (-2.5)
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Los Angeles Rams
The Panthers came out of their bye week strong and snapped their four-game losing skid with a 30-20 victory over the Cardinals. Don’t be fooled by the 316 yards Carolina gave up through the air; their defense played very well. Most notably, their pass rush finally showed up, sacking Carson Palmer eight times.
The last time the Rams played a running team (the Bills), they gave up 193 yards on the ground. Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart will pound away at the Los Angeles defense, while Case Keenum won’t be able to take advantage of a Panther defense that ranks 30th against the pass.
Pick: Panthers (-3)*
New Orleans Saints (-3) at San Francisco 49ers
It was hard to imagine a quarterback performing at a worse level than Blaine Gabbert, but Colin Kaepernick has shown us how it’s done. In two starts, Kaepernick is completing 46-percent of his passes, averaging 165 yards through the air per game, and has a disgraceful 66.2 passer rating.
Without NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers’ defense has fallen apart. They have now allowed a combined 1,005 total yards and 79 points in the last two games. Drew Brees will have a field day, while Kaepernick will rush for more than 100, but only turn it into 17 points.
Pick: Saints (-3)*
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers (-5.5)
On paper, this matchup lines up well for the Chargers. They possess the league’s sixth-ranked defense against the run, and Rivers will face the 20th-ranked pass defense.
However, the Chargers haven’t faced many formidable rushing attacks this year. They have only played one team that ranks in the top ten in rushing (Oakland), and only two that rank in the top half of the league (Atlanta).
The Titans had not allowed a 300-yard passer until Week 6, but have now allowed three straight. That stat can be a little misleading, though, as a lot of those yards, specifically against the Browns and Jaguars, came with Tennessee up big, sitting in a prevent defense.
What I’m getting at is this: the Titans will be able to run the ball and they’ll get after Philip Rivers.
Pick: Titans (+5.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers (-7)
The Colts continue to be haunted by their poor offensive line, which has allowed Andrew Luck to be sacked a league-high 31 times. Unfortunately, their defense is no better. Indianapolis ranks 29th in total defense and 28th in scoring. But Luck has done everything he can to keep them competitive, aside from taking less money.
Looking to Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers is starting to show his MVP form, and he almost beat the Falcons basically on his own last week. In Week 9, he’ll have the opportunity to continue his strong play against the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense.
When playing at home, Rodgers is 53-14 and has a passer rating of 108.7. When playing outdoors, Andrew Luck is only 13-11 with an 82.7 passer rating.
Pick: Packers (-7)*
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (Pick)
The last time these two played, Khalil Mack recorded five sacks and the Raiders won 15-12. Through eight games this season, Mack has five sacks, and Oakland has only recorded 11 as a team (fourth-fewest). That stat may not be put to the test often, as Denver will look to take advantage of the Raiders’ 28th-ranked rush defense.
The Broncos pass rush (tied for first with 26 sacks) will certainly have its opportunities to get after Derek Carr. Oakland is a pass-happy team, attempting 323 passes this season (fifth). But whether Von Miller and company can get home is another question; the Raiders have allowed a league-low nine sacks on the year.
After putting up 498 yards through the air last week, Oakland’s offense will have to rely on its rushing attack to get them through this one. But, I expect Donald Stephenson to do a much better job on Mack than Michael Schofield did last year, and Denver’s offense will score just enough to pull this one out.
Pick: Broncos (pick)
Monday, November 7
Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks (-7)
In a game where I expect neither offense to be able to move the ball, the outcome will come down to which team will play it safe and stubbornly pound the rock.
The Seahawks may have the advantage in that case; they possess the seventh-ranked rush defense, compared to the Bills, who rank 25th against the run. However, Darrell Bevell continues to force a hobbled Russell Wilson to make plays behind a Swiss-cheese offensive line, and now three of his four appendages (both legs and his throwing arm) are banged up.
Bevell’s horrible play-calling will continue, and the Bills, who are tied for the league lead in sacks (26), will take advantage. I don’t see the Bills winning on the road, but they’ll break enough big runs to keep it within a touchdown.
Pick: Bills (+7)
Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].