We will hit the official mid-point of the NFL season this weekend, and the league is finally making sense again. After a very up and down record across the first seven weeks, I went a superb 11-2 ATS in Week 8. That brings my record to 62-54-3 on the year, allowing me to brag that I’ve made a little money on this crazy season. But “a little” isn’t good enough for anyone (besides British synth-pop duo Erasure), so rather than wait for my Saints and Rams futures to pay off, let’s get back to killing it in Week 9.
Thursday, November 2
Buffalo Bills (-3.5) at New York Jets
The claim to fame of the Bills and Jets rivalry is that it’s an assault on the eyes, for both the color blind and fans of quality football. But this Thursday’s matchup looks far more intriguing than when the schedule originally came out, as Buffalo will look to run its record to 6-2, while the surprising Jets will try and keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. Last week, New York looked far more like the mistake-prone team we saw the Bills defeat 21-12 in Week 1; their special teams missed two field goals and muffed a crucial punt in a five-point loss to the Falcons. Home dogs have performed well this season (22-18 ATS), bolstered by a Jets team that is a perfect 4-0 when getting points at MetLife. However, Buffalo has been the league’s best team at generating takeaways, while New York is fourth highest in giveaways. As the Bills showed last week against the Raiders, all it takes is one ill-timed fumble to blow a game wide open, and the Jets seem destined to come out on the wrong side of that fumble.
Pick: Bills (-3.5)
Sunday, November 5
Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles (-8)
If you were hoping for a bounce-back performance from Trevor Siemian, you were let down: 19 of 36 for 198, one touchdown and three ugly interceptions certainly doesn’t qualify. The Broncos will begin considering other options under center, which could be a good sign for bettors. Either Paxton Lynch will come in and possibly breathe new life into this team, or Brock Osweiler will come in and we can all profit from his misery. Winners of six-straight (and five against the spread), the Eagles are absolutely due for a let-down game, especially with the bye week on the horizon. This Broncos pass rush can exploit Philly’s holes at tackle and make this one close; just beware of this bet should Osweiler be the starter.
Pick: Broncos (+8)
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at New York Giants
I’m not worried about the east-west travel for the Rams here. Even last season when they were terrible, they managed a respectable 2-2 record in the Eastern Time Zone. The Giants would rather be the team traveling here, as they’re 0-3 ATS at home this year. Not even a bye week could help with their major injuries, as the wide receiver corps still sounds like the cast of a bad CBS procedural. Tavarres King and Roger Lewis star in, Dropping the Ball.
Pick: Rams (-3.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5)
In a thin week for the NFL, this might actually be one of the better matchups we’ll see this Sunday. The Fighting Fournettes have yet to actually win a game in Jacksonville this year, going 0-2 straight up and against the spread. (They routed Baltimore in their third “home game,” but that came in London.) The Bengals remain on the periphery of the playoff conversation, after nearly blowing a game against Indy last week. If Joe Mixon is ever going to have a breakout performance, it needs to come this week against the league’s worst rushing defense: “Sacksonville” will feast if the Bengals are dropping back to pass too much in this game. I’m still a little wary of trusting the Jaguars, and the Bengals are 24-17-3 as an underdog since Andy Dalton came into the league, so I’ll roll with the striped cats to cover against the spotted ones.
Pick: Bengals (+4.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-7)
The Buccaneers need a miraculous win this week just to find themselves in the same 3-5 hole they dug for themselves last season. I’m even more skeptical of a comeback this time, considering the issues facing this team. Neither Jameis Winston nor the run-game can move the ball consistently, and they also aren’t hitting deep shots to their supposedly big-play receivers. Complemented by a laughable defense and a cursed special teams unit, I don’t know one reason for Bucs fans to be optimistic heading into the second half. You really fired Lovie Smith for this? Sheesh. And look at that, Tampa is such a mess, I ran out of space to say anything nice about the Saints. I guess my financial backing will have to suffice.
Pick: Saints (-7)
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-13)
DeShaun Watson might be lighting the NFL on fire, but that heat hasn’t actually reached his own team yet. Despite setting new records for passing TDs to start a career, the Texans sit at 3-4 on the season. A big win here is a must with three of the following four games coming on the road. Houston handled a bad Browns team at home in Week 6, winning by 16, and the Colts are a similarly bad team. Don’t let a tight loss in Cincinnati convince you otherwise.
Pick: Texans (-13)
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-2)
It doesn’t feel like these teams are one and 0.5 games back of New Orleans for the division lead, respectively. Neither offense inspires any confidence, despite being led by the past two league MVPs. In fact, of all the units playing in this game, I only have confidence in the Panther defense. Carolina hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in the last two games, and should be able to keep Matt Ryan uncomfortable all day. With Atlanta going just 1-3 ATS on the road this season, roll with a Panthers team that really should be giving three points here.
Pick: Panthers (-2)
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (-5.5)
This line is off the board at most books because of Joe Flacco’s status, but let’s be honest, if you like the Ravens here, it’s not because you suddenly have a great deal of confidence in their offense. Last week’s shutout of the Dolphins was basically the perfect game for this Baltimore team: the run game was working, the defense was dominant, and Flacco/Ryan Mallett didn’t give the game away. Tennessee is decent enough against the run to not let that happen, and with Marcus Mariota healing up during the bye, he should have this offense humming again.
Pick: Titans (-5.5)
Arizona Cardinals (-2) at San Francisco 49ers
This game is like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: it’s the sequel nobody asked for. After a painful Arizona OT win in Week 4, this time Cards-Niners has the uninteresting new wrinkle of Drew Stanton playing QB. The real hook to this game, Jimmy Garoppolo, will reportedly watch from the sidelines. I think I’ve called for the 49ers to get their first win of the season three times already this year. Maybe the fourth time is the charm?
Pick: Niners (+2)
Washington at Seattle Seahawks (-7)
With the Seahawks adding Duane Brown and Washington still supremely banged up, Seattle is entering the rare game where they may actually have the superior pass protection. Russell Wilson was electric last week, and seems to be doing his usual thing of heating up for the second half of the season. Despite getting no production from their running backs, the Seahawks tallied nearly 500 yards of offense against Houston. Running against Washington shouldn’t be that hard, but even if the ground game doesn’t get going, Wilson’s arm should allow Seattle to cover.
Pick: Seahawks (-7)
Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys (pick’em)
Having been burned before, I’m not even going to bother unpacking Zeke Elliott’s status for this game. Instead, I’m just going to side with the better team, regardless of running back situation. The Chiefs returned to their winning ways on Monday against Denver (29-19) despite not playing their best. Dallas returns home, where they are just 1-2 on the season and have allowed their last two opponents (Rams, Packers) to score 35 points apiece.
Pick: Chiefs (pick’em)
Oakland Raiders (-3) at Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are in the middle of a three-week stretch of ruining prime-time games, this time pitting their “league-worst offense” (according to Adam Gase) against a hapless Raiders team. Despite a -60 point differential, Miami is the team with the superior record entering this matchup, sitting at 4-3 while Oakland is a 3-5 mess. Yet the Raiders are favored because the public still believes a team this talented can’t be that bad. Even with Jay Cutler returning this week, no one believes that the Dolphins are actually in the playoff hunt, which is why management traded Jay Ajayi this week. However, faith in a team’s playoff chances and faith in a team’s chances to cover as a home underdog are two very different things.
Pick: Dolphins (+3)
Monday, November 6
Detroit Lions (-2.5) at Green Bay Packers
Matthew Stafford has a rather depressing history against the Packers, going just 3-10 against Green Bay in his career, including a 1-5 mark at Lambeau Field. But the biggest reason for those eight years of setbacks (Aaron Rodgers) won’t be on the field this week, giving the Lions a realistic shot at climbing to second in the NFC North race. With a bye week, Green Bay had extra time to tailor their offense to Brett Hundley’s strengths, but it’s still hard to be optimistic about the Packers’ chances. Detroit’s defense has been great against the run, and Darius Slay can take away Hundley’s favorite target (whoever it may be) by himself. The Lions offense was absolutely abysmal in the red zone last week, but just being able to generate a few field goals may be enough to win what should be an ugly game.
Pick: Lions (-2.5)