Week 8 is just one game away from being in the books, with the Dolphins and Steelers set to close out the slate on Monday Night Football. After a rather ho-hum 19-9 Vikings win over the Redskins on Thursday night, Sunday brought several exciting games, with the home teams defending their turf better than in recent weeks.
The road squads managed just four wins on the Sunday ledger, with the Seahawks, Eagles, Chargers and Packers prevailing. Three of those victories were noteworthy, however. Philadelphia got a much-needed win in one of the toughest environments in the NFL, Buffalo’s New Era Field. Then, the Chargers were finally on the right side of luck for once, as they escaped Soldier Field with a one-point victory after Eddy Pineiro missed a game-winning field goal. And Sunday night, the Packers managed to go into Arrowhead in prime time and hand Kansas City its third home loss of the season.
Week 9 kicked off with the San Francisco 49ers staying unbeaten against the Arizona Cardinals. Other highlights of the ledger include the final game of the 2019 International Series in London between the Texans and Jaguars, a Vikings-Chiefs interconference showdown that could feature Patrick Mahomes’ return to action, a Bears-Eagles battle of underachievers at Lincoln Financial Field, and a Patriots-Ravens AFC Sunday night tussle in Baltimore that could be one of the bigger threats New England will face to its undefeated record this season.
Without further ado, here’s a live look at the lines at sportsbooks in the US as we begin looking toward Week 9.
NFL Week 9 odds
Week 9 predictions and analysis
49ers (-10) at Cardinals — Thursday night
If there was even a shred of doubt about the 49ers’ legitimacy as a powerhouse this season, that should have been convincingly eradicated with their 51-13 walloping of a quality Panthers team in Week 7. San Francisco sacked Kyle Allen seven times and brought about the young signal-caller’s first three career interceptions. The extent of the Niners’ domination was such that were it not for Christian McCaffrey’s 40-yard run, Carolina would have checked in at under 200 total yards.
On their end, the Cardinals were the subject of a manhandling themselves. Drew Brees made them the victims in his triumphant return from thumb surgery, as he lit up Arizona’s defense for 373 yards and three touchdown passes. But the Cards weren’t just trampled through the air. Latavius Murray racked up 102 rushing yards and a touchdown and added another score on nine catches as well. And to make matters worse, Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds had to exit the game early with a hamstring injury, making him highly questionable for Thursday’s game.
An Edmonds absence would only further deplete a ground game that is also likely to be without David Johnson (ankle). Johnson could potentially be pushed to play if Edmonds is ruled out, but that would likely be an unwise choice. Johnson is clearly dealing with a lingering sprain, as evidenced by the fact he lasted only three snaps in Week 7 before being pulled against the Giants. There’s also the matter of how futile it could be for anyone taking handoffs for Arizona anyhow, considering the Niners are still allowing just 95.7 rush yards per game despite springing the aforementioned leak against McCaffrey on Sunday.
The Niners have a solid matchup on offense whether they choose to attack via ground or air. The Cards were tough against the run early in the season, but they’re now allowing a bloated 130.1 rushing yards per contest. Matt Breida could miss the game for the 49ers after exiting the Week 8 game with an ankle injury, but Tevin Coleman (11-105-3 against Carolina), Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, Jr. are all more than capable fill-ins. In the passing game, Patrick Peterson’s presence theoretically makes Arizona’s secondary better, not that it was evident against New Orleans. Emmanuel Sanders wasted no time getting into the end zone in his first game as a Niner on Sunday, and he should be a bit more incorporated into the offense Thursday night as well.
For the season, the 49ers are 5-2 (71.4 percent) ATS, including 3-1 (75.0 percent) on the road. The Cardinals are 5-3 (62.5 percent) against the number overall, including 2-2 as a home team specifically.
Considering the 49ers have been so dominant and the Cardinals have such a shaky situation in the backfield, this number arguably doesn’t seem big enough. The short week perhaps lessens expectations to an extent, but given San Fran barely had to break a sweat against Carolina on Sunday, even that might not be accurate.
Texans (-1.5) at Jaguars (London)
The Texans survived a roller-coaster affair against the Raiders in Week 7, and they suffered a significant season-ending injury in the form of star defensive ace J.J. Watt. Their already inconsistent defense will suffer as a result, and it’s worth noting Houston also was forced to play against Oakland without three starters in the secondary.
For their part, the Jaguars were impressive in a home win over the Jets, making Sam Darnold’s afternoon a living hell with three interceptions and eight sacks. What’s more, Gardner Minshew bounced back from a couple of so-so performances to author a 279-yard, three-touchdown, interception-free effort.
The Jags gave the Texans plenty of trouble in Houston back in Week 2, with Jacksonville losing by a single point in what was Minshew’s first NFL start. The Watt-less Texans defense automatically becomes more vulnerable on both sides of the ball, which makes the potential threat from Minshew, his passing game weapons and Leonard Fournette all the more prominent with a less intimidating front seven.
Jacksonville kept Deshaun Watson to 159 passing yards and sacked him on four occasions, although Carlos Hyde was able to rush for 90 yards at a clip of 4.5 yards per carry. The Jags are giving up 108.3 rushing yards per contest, so Hyde and Duke Johnson have a chance to keep the chains moving here once again and the heat off Watson in the process. The health of Will Fuller (hamstring) will be another factor to monitor heading into this London matchup. Kenny Stills (3-22) and Keke Coutee (no snaps despite full health) didn’t make up for Fuller’s absence against the Raiders.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Fuller is already confirmed out for a second straight game. Coach Bill O’Brien confirmed this past week that Coutee’s lack of usage was apparently just due to an oversight on his part, certainly a confusing/suspicious explanation. Nevertheless, if Coutee is incorporated this week, he and Stills should be able to make some inroads against a Jags secondary that will undoubtedly have A.J. Bouye shadow DeAndre Hopkins. The spread here has come down a half-point, making it all the tougher to handicap. Instead, an Under bet on the 46.5-point total as of Friday night looks a lot more viable.
Bears at Eagles (-4.5)
The Bears have become experts at losing games in every imaginable way. Sunday, the football gods seemed to issue some karmic retribution for the 16-14 squeaker Chicago managed against the Broncos in Week 2 on the strength of a highly questionable roughing the passer call, as Eddy Pineiro misfired on a would-be game-winning 41-yard field-attempt as the clock hit zeros against the Chargers.
Meanwhile, the Eagles put their own recent inconsistency behind them for at least one game by notching an impressive 31-13 win in notoriously difficult New Era Field against the Bills. The early exit for Miles Sanders due to a shoulder injury is a concern, even though it appears the running back avoided major injury as per Monday afternoon reports.
The biggest issue for the 3-4 Bears in this spot is Mitchell Trubisky, who committed two key fourth-quarter turnovers against the Chargers on Sunday. Trubisky’s 253 passing yards, coupled with rookie running back David Montgomery’s 135-yard tally on the ground, should have certainly led to more than 16 points for Chicago were it not for Trubisky’s ball security problems. The Eagles also have the ability to make teams largely one-dimensional with an elite run defense, and their secondary is almost finally back to full health with the recent returns of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby.
The extremely windy conditions in Buffalo on Sunday made it difficult to judge the Eagles’ passing game. Carson Wentz was solid anyhow given the conditions. There’s also a chance, albeit remote, that DeSean Jackson (abdomen) finally returns in Week 9. Coach Doug Pederson stated Monday that Jackson would be worked back into practice this week. Meanwhile, if Sanders is unable to return for this contest, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott would appear capable of holding down the fort on the ground, with Howard getting a crack at his former teammates.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The Eagles’ projected advantage came down another half-point over the course of the week, but given the inconsistency of both of these teams this season, this is another stay-away game for me in terms of the spread. However, a projected point total that’s now down to 41.5 points as of Friday night seems especially low. Neither team’s defense has lived up to its reputation. Additionally, Sanders has shed his injury designation, while DeSean Jackson has a legitimate chance to return after practicing in limited fashion all week. Therefore, I’d roll with the Over in this scenario.
Colts at Steelers (-1)
It isn’t always pretty and usually a pretty close call, but the Colts keep finding ways to get it done more often than not. Indianapolis survived a game Broncos squad at home in Week 8 by a thin 15-13 margin. Adam Vinatieri’s 51-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining did the trick on this occasion versus a Denver team whose pedestrian offense was further depleted by the recent trade of Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers.
The Steelers are set to take the field Monday night against the Dolphins, so this number will likely be modified to some extent based on their performance. Pittsburgh is an interesting team at the moment, considering that Mason Rudolph seemed to be making strides under center before suffering a concussion against the Ravens in Week 5. He could well enjoy a successful return facing the questionable Miami secondary in Week 8, potentially raising the expectation for the Steelers in this spot.
Indy always brings the threat of a balanced attack on offense and a bend-but-don’t-break defense that’s capable of limiting big plays against the run and pass. That allows them to travel well, even in tough environments like Heinz Field. With Pittsburgh’s outlook still incomplete as of Monday afternoon due to their pending matchup against the Fins, we’ll check back Friday to revisit the line and the game as a whole.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The Steelers came out of the Monday night victory over the Dolphins with a pair of costly injuries in their backfield in the form of James Conner (shoulder) and Benny Snell (knee). Snell is already ruled out while Conner is doubtful, so it almost certainly will be Jaylen Samuels, coming off his own meniscus injury, that will helm the backfield. Losing a back the caliber of Conner would dampen the prospects of any offense, but Samuels is actually a very good replacement that can play just as big a role in the passing game as his injured teammate as well.
Then, Conner’s absence is further neutralized by the Colts suddenly losing T.Y. Hilton to a calf injury for what is projected to be multiple weeks. That’s not only led to a lowering of the projected total to a meager 40 points, but to the line flipping toward the Steelers as favorites between Thursday and Friday. The loss of Hilton arguably affects the Colts more than Conner’s absence does Pittsburgh, leaning me in the direction of a Steelers cover/moneyline bet here.
Vikings (-2.5) at Chiefs
What could turn out to be the showdown of the week will unfold at Arrowhead Stadium, the surprising sight of constant disappointment for Kansas City this season. The Chiefs shockingly will come into this contest with a 1-3 mark on their hallowed home field, with their most recent stumble there coming against the Packers on Sunday night. Naturally, that loss carries a massive asterisk next to it in the form of a Patrick Mahomes absence, but fill-in Matt Moore actually played exceptionally well – 267 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. The good news for Kansas City is that Mahomes should be in uniform for this Week 9 game, considering he’d already worked back into practice on a limited basis last week.
The Vikings will be making the trip to the Midwest on plenty of rest, given they played the opening Thursday night contest in Week 8. Minnesota wasn’t at its sharpest in that game, but against the Redskins, they didn’t have to be. The Vikes were also missing Adam Thielen (hamstring), who is expected back for Week 9. Even without him against Washington, Kirk Cousins (285 yards, 88.5 completion percentage) and Stefon Diggs (7-143) kept the air attack humming.
The biggest story of the week will be the health of Mahomes, who’s set to return to practice Wednesday. If his participation is confirmed, this line will flip to an unknown degree, and the intrigue surrounding this game bumps up exponentially. If it happens to be Moore at the helm again, the KC offense may have a difficult time looking as smooth as it did versus a Minnesota team with extra time to prepare. The Chiefs also had a softer matchup to contend with on the ground against the Pack, which helped in protecting Moore to an extent. A Vikes D yielding 89.5 rushing yards per contest is a different story altogether.
Dalvin Cook could be the most important player in this game next to Mahomes. The Chiefs defensive line was pushed around yet again in Week 8 and also gave up a huge game through the air to running back Aaron Jones (7-159-2). If Cook meets with the success this matchup, on paper, promises, Cousins could be deadly while scanning the field for Diggs and Thielen. Cook’s ability to keep the chains moving would also be instrumental in keeping Mahomes off the field if he does suit up.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The statuses of Mahomes and Thielen remain firmly up in the air as of Friday night. Both players are listed as questionable and trending toward game-time calls. Thus, the line has remained steady at 2.5 in favor of the Vikings. If Mahomes indeed misses, I like Minnesota to grab the cover here with extra rest and time to prepare for Matt Moore, whose limitations the Vikes’ ferocious defense could well exploit. Thielen appears likelier to play than Mahomes based on late-week reports, so I’m going on the assumption he’ll suit up. If Mahomes manages to play as well, then there will be some notable and significant late movement of this number, and I’d favor a Chiefs moneyline wager and cover of any line that sees them giving four points or fewer.
Jets (-3.5) at Dolphins
The Jets suffer the indignity of being the smallest favorite against the Dolphins this season, but they’ve earned the skepticism that accompanies that number. Their 33-0 shutout at the hands of the Patriots in Week 7 was one thing; it was New England after all. But to follow that up with a 29-15 defeat at the hands of the Jaguars – one in which Sam Darnold was subjected to eight sacks and threw three picks – is quite another. Neither side of the ball looks competent for New York at the moment, and the Monday trade of 2015 first-round pick Leonard Williams doesn’t exactly help the defense’s outlook in the short term.
The Dolphins will be facing off with the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Monday night, so they’ll play this Week 9 game on short rest. Miami has shown improvement over the last two games in particular, and this contest will give Ryan Fitzpatrick a chance to go up against another one of his former squads. Miami appears to have finally settled in on a tighter backfield rotation, having traded Kenyan Drake to the Cardinals on Monday. Mark Walton and Kalen Ballage make for an interesting and potential-laden running back tandem moving forward.
The Dolphins defense has been a cure for what ails many offenses this season, so Darnold, Le’Veon Bell, Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder could all be in for a “get-right” game. The focus this week for New York will undoubtedly be getting that side of the ball back to the form it displayed against the Cowboys in Week 6, Darnold’s first game back from injury. Bell somehow logged just 12 total touches in Week 8 against Jacksonville, but a Miami squad that goes into Monday night surrendering 160.8 rushing yards per contest seems like the perfect opponent to rectify matters against.
The line will very likely move based on the outcome of the Dolphins-Steelers matchup, so this is one to delve into much further on Friday.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The line has moved another half-point in favor of the Jets over the course of the week. However, this easily remains the thinnest number associated with a Dolphins game this season. Miami once again played competitively against the Steelers in the Week 8 Monday night matchup. The short rest may ultimately get the better of them in the second half here, though, so I lean toward a Jets cover late.
Titans at Panthers (-3.5)
So far, so good for the Ryan Tannehill era in Tennessee. The 2012 first-round pick of the Dolphins threw for another three touchdowns Sunday against the Buccaneers on the way to a 27-23 victory. Derrick Henry more than held his own against the toughest run defense in the NFL by turning 16 carries into 75 yards, although 34 came on one play. And coach Mike Vrabel may do well to give athletic tight end Jonnu Smith more opportunities moving forward, even when veteran Delanie Walker returns from his ankle injury – Smith showed off his athleticism and speed with a 6-78-1 line that was highlighted by a 26-yard reception.
On their end, the Panthers undoubtedly would love to see their Week 8 performance wiped out from the annals of NFL history. Carolina was crushed by the 49ers, 51-13, in a game during which they gave up seven sacks and turned it over three times on Kyle Allen interceptions. What was particularly alarming was the performance of the Panthers’ normally stout defense, which allowed 388 total yards and 6.2 yards per play.
Tannehill has much more of an ability to keep defenses honest than Marcus Mariota, but he has his own limitations. A Panthers defense that’s much better than what it showed Sunday against San Francisco has the ability to make life difficult on him. Carolina has allowed a modest 215.1 passing yards per contest and is tied with San Fran for second-most interceptions (10). The Panthers have also logged 30 sacks and Tannehill is a quarterback who’s known for occasionally holding the ball too long.
For the Panthers, Allen is going to get a shot at redemption, as Cam Newton (foot) has already been ruled out by head coach Ron Rivera for Week 9. The Titans defense has solid numbers against both the run and pass, but they can be exploited in both areas by the right play-calling/matchup. Christian McCaffrey is the right “matchup” against any defense, as he once again demonstrated versus the 49ers. At minimum, Carolina should have a much easier time maintaining offensive balance than they did in Week 8.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The Panthers’ projected advantage has come down a half-point over the course of the week. I actually think it should have climbed a bit if it was going to move at all. Tannehill will be going on the road as the starter in Tennessee for the first time, and that could well lead to a downturn for an offense that’s already inconsistent. Walker is also confirmed out for a second straight game, lessening the Titans’ firepower. I see Carolina bouncing back in a fairly big way here to grab both the win and cover.
Redskins at Bills (-10.5)
The Redskins continue to play hard for interim coach Bill Callahan, but that’s resulted in just one win over three games thus far. Washington actually gave a solid accounting of itself in Week 8 against the Vikings, losing by just a 19-9 score in a game that Minnesota did play without Adam Thielen (hamstring). Callahan has held true to his word of focusing on the running game, and Adrian Peterson has proven up to the task thus far. However, there’s an interesting quarterback situation potentially at play, with Case Keenum having exited the loss to Minnesota with a concussion. Rookie Dwayne Haskins took over in the contest and could potentially draw another start in this Week 9 spot.
Buffalo will come into the matchup against Washington still smarting from a 31-13 spanking at the hands of the Eagles on Sunday. In fairness, the game was played in a wind tunnel of sorts, with the passing game particularly compromised. This sets up as a nice bounce-back opportunity for the Bills at home, as the matchup on both sides of the ball sets up as more attractive versus the Redskins, especially if the weather cooperates this time around.
Washington’s biggest challenge will likely be keeping any semblance of a consistent passing attack going, especially versus Buffalo’s usually stingy defense on its home turf. If Keenum is able to suit up, he’ll reclaim his starting job, according to Callahan. His veteran presence will give the Skins more of a fighting chance. However, the fact remains Washington doesn’t have a consistent way to threaten any defense downfield except for star rookie Terry McLaurin. By this point, defenses are certainly hip to that fact, which significantly ups the chances of double and even triple coverage.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Haskins will start this game for the Redskins after all with Keenum ruled out. That’s pushed the projected advantage for Buffalo up another full point. Given they’ll be at home and have just the type of defensive scheme that could easily goad the interception-prone, inexperienced Haskins into mistakes, I lean toward Buffalo doing enough here to cover despite the rising number.
Lions at Raiders (-2.5)
The Lions got to flex some offensive muscle in Week 8 at the expense of the Giants. Matthew Stafford eclipsed the 300-yard mark for the third time this season and fired multiple touchdown passes for the second consecutive contest. Detroit had to lean heavily on the pass with Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve. However, they also looked vulnerable on the other side of the ball with a secondary that was missing Darius Slay (hamstring) and Quandre Diggs (trade) – Daniel Jones totaled 322 yards and four touchdown passes.
The Raiders were highly competitive against the Texans before ultimately dropping a 27-24 decision to the Texans. Derek Carr continued to demonstrate considerable improvement under coach Jon Gruden’s tutelage, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdown passes. Josh Jacobs fought through a shoulder injury to turn in a serviceable performance on the ground, enough to keep Houston’s defense off balance.
The lack of a cohesive running game may not be a big deal for Detroit in Week 9, either. The Raiders have been much tougher against the run than the pass, so if Stafford is forced to once again air things out, it wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world for the Lions. Oakland comes in allowing 285.3 passing yards per contest and will face an uphill battle trying to cover the likes of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Jr., Danny Amendola and Marvin Hall.
Then again, this could easily turn into a shootout. That’s because as bad as the Raiders’ secondary has been, the Lions’ unit has been worse. Detroit is now surrendering an NFL-high 289.7 passing yards per contest following Jones’ Week 8 aerial assault. Carr could therefore find himself frequently connecting with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, newcomer Zay Jones and Darren Waller. Jacobs should also be healthier here. He’ll have a solid matchup himself, with Detroit surrendering the seventh-most rushing yards per contest (130.7).
FRIDAY UPDATE: The Raiders saw another half-point added to their projected advantage over the course of the week. However, the spread doesn’t interest me here, considering each squad has managed to be consistently inconsistent throughout the season. Instead, I’m looking at a projected total of 50.5 points as intriguing, given the offensive firepower and corresponding defensive deficiencies of each squad. I like the Over, especially with it having a combined 9-5 mark in the teams’ games this season.
Buccaneers at Seahawks (-4.5)
The Buccaneers appear to have a problem at the most critical position on the roster – quarterback. Jameis Winston turned the ball over another four times and would’ve had a fifth had another one of his fumbles not been recovered. Mike Evans was outstanding against Tennessee in the 27-23 loss with 11 receptions for 198 yards and three touchdowns, but Winston’s mistakes also short-circuited plenty of opportunities.
The Seahawks got more than what they likely bargained for against a Matt Ryan-less Falcons squad on the road. But, they still left the Peach State with a 27-20 win. Any secondary that gives up 460 passing yards to Matt Schaub in 2019 as Seattle’s did Sunday has its share of issues, however. A vertical passing attack such as Tampa’s could certainly exploit that, even in the road matchup.
Just as with Lions-Raiders, the air yards could quickly pile up in this interconference showdown. Despite Winston’s significant ball security issues at the moment, coach Bruce Arians isn’t going to refrain from going vertical. It’s a staple of his offense, even more so considering his team’s running game is average at best. Seattle is also a much tougher defense against the run. They’re ranked in the top half of the league with just 103.1 rush yards per game allowed. In contrast, they’re yielding the sixth-most passing yards per game (273.3). Evans and Chris Godwin could therefore thrive, even if Winston isn’t exactly efficient once again.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would prefer to lean on the ground game as much as possible, but Arians’ playcalling may force him out of that tendency. Russell Wilson would probably be more than glad to oblige, given that he’s fully capable of flipping the switch and conjuring up a 300-yard passing performance in conjunction with a stable of receivers that include Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore and Jaron Brown. The Buccaneers’ run defense is another reason why Chris Carson may find his opportunities limited Sunday — Tampa is allowing a league-low 68.6 rushing yards per contest.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The betting public has shown some faith in the Buccaneers playing well in this spot. The Seahawks’ projected advantage has been bet down from six to 4.5 points over the course of the week. Tampa is in desperation mode here at 2-5 and could be even more aggressive than usual against a vulnerable Seahawks secondary. Therefore, I like the Bucs to slide under the 4.5 points while also contributing to the Over on the projected total of 52.5.
Browns (-3.5) at Broncos
It ultimately ended in another loss for the Browns, but Cleveland at least fought valiantly after a disastrous start against the Patriots before succumbing by a 27-13 margin in Week 8. Baker Mayfield remained mired in a pretty significant sophomore slump by throwing for just 194 yards and an interception while getting sacked on five occasions. Nick Chubb continued to profile as one of the elite backs in the league by slicing up New England’s usually stout unit for 131 yards on the ground, but he was his own worst enemy with two fumbles.
Then, the Broncos suffered another frustrating loss in a season of frustrating losses. Denver saw Adam Vinatieri’s 51-yard field goal with 22 seconds left lead Indy to a 15-13 win. Monday brought the news that Joe Flacco – who called out the play selection Sunday in his postgame press conference – will miss this Week 9 matchup at minimum due to a neck injury. That leaves Brandon Allen, who’s 27 but has never made a regular-season pass attempt, set to helm the offense against Cleveland.
The Browns will encounter another extremely stingy pass defense in that of the Broncos. Denver is allowing just 194.8 passing yards per game, with Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris leading the way. However, their work against the run is a different story. Denver has improved since Leonard Fournette gashed them for over 200 yards early in the season but still allow 109.8 rushing yards per game. Additionally, Chubb has proven matchup-proof, as most recently evidenced in Week 8.
The Broncos offense will be a mystery coming into this matchup. Denver has been one of the most pedestrian teams in the league with the ball this season. With Allen in for Flacco and Emmanuel Sanders now in San Francisco, their struggles could worsen. Their best bet may therefore be the talented two-headed rushing monster of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman — the Browns are allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per contest (143.3). However, given Allen’s inexperience and the host of unproven commodities at receiver outside of Courtland Sutton, Cleveland will have the luxury of stacking the box against the ground game.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Cleveland gained another half-point on its projected advantage during the week. The Browns have been difficult to trust all season and Mayfield could once again struggle versus a Broncos secondary that’s been elite. Therefore, while I see Cleveland having enough here with Chubb to notch a win of relatively modest margin, the Under on the projected total of 39 points is also one I’d lean toward.
Packers (-3.5) at Chargers
The Aaron Connection was in full effect again Sunday night against the Chiefs. Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones combined for 531 total yards and five touchdowns. Two of Rodgers’ three passing scores went to Jones, who had 159 yards total through the air. Of some concern for Green Bay is a secondary that allowed journeyman Matt Moore to throw for 267 yards and two scores. Nevertheless, the Pack come into this Week 9 matchup with a sparkling 7-1 record, including 3-0 on the road.
The Chargers were able to finally disassociate the final gun from gut-wrenching heartbreak in Week 8 against the Bears. For a change, they were the ones celebrating another team’s misfortune on the way into the postgame locker room after Chicago’s Eddy Pineiro missed a potential game-winning field goal. That was good enough get the Bolts their third win, but problems persist – they still have no consistent running game despite presence of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, and there are serious concerns about the run defense that’s now allowing 122.8 rushing yards per contest.
Green Bay is an especially dangerous opponent for Los Angeles, which hasn’t been able to establish a defensive identity this season. While shutdown corner Casey Heyward is still around and playing well, the back end of the defense is nowhere near as effective with Derwin James on injured reserve. And while the Bolts have been better of late, Rodgers is the best quarterback they’ve faced this season and he should have Davante Adams (toe) back for this contest according to reports. Then again, given how Jones and Jamaal Williams are playing, there’s no need to have to overly rely on the pass, not with the Chargers matching the Packers’ 122.8 rushing yards allowed per game.
For Los Angeles, they’ll have chances to fix that dysfunctional ground attack against the Packers. Although they did a good job in Kansas City on Sunday night, Green Bay has still struggled more often than not against the run. Gordon and Ekeler could therefore finally get rolling, especially if coach Anthony Lynn opts to take the air out of the ball and keep Rodgers, Jones and company on the sideline for as much as possible. When Rivers does drop back, the matchup isn’t prohibitive, however – after some stellar performances early, the Packers secondary is now surrendering 251.8 passing yards per game. Prior to facing Moore in Week 8, they allowed 463 yards to Dak Prescott, 265 to Matthew Stafford and 293 to Derek Carr over the previous three games.
FRIDAY UPDATE: This lines remains exactly where it was at the beginning of the week. Adams appears to be heading toward a game-time decision as of Friday night reports, but the team has already proven it can win without him. However, this is a desperate Chargers team that could have a much more run-centered approach this week after firing offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Given Green Bay’s struggles against the run and the talent of both Gordon and Ekeler, they could well successfully play keep-away from Rodgers and company and do enough to at least come in under the number.
Patriots (-3) at Ravens
The Patriots continued to steamroll their way through the league in Week 8. The 27-13 final score over the Browns doesn’t scream domination, but New England never seemed to be in danger of losing control of the game. A balanced offense and another suffocating defensive effort did the trick, even as Nick Chubb did exploit some rare holes on the ground in the Pats’ front seven. Tom Brady managed to get new addition Mohamed Sanu modestly involved (two receptions), and the veteran wideout should be a lot more incorporated by the time this game kicks off.
The Ravens come into this showdown off their bye week, so rest and preparation should certainly be on their side. Baltimore looked very impressive in a Week 7 win over the Seahawks in Seattle. Lamar Jackson eclipsed 100 yards on the ground yet again and the defense held Chris Carson to 3.1 yards per rush while also notching Russell Wilson’s first interception of the season.
Considering the Ravens’ Week 8 bye, the prime-time matchup and Baltimore’s home-field edge, the Patriots will be walking into a hornet’s nest here. Naturally, New England has proven to be matchup-proof, but the Ravens certainly have the run defense to make life difficult on Sony Michel. However, given the versatility of the other members of the backfield – James White and Rex Burkhead – New England can still manufacture a ground game via the short pass that both White and Burkhead are so adept at.
For Baltimore, their work will naturally be cut out for them facing New England’s defense. However, it’s worth noting that the Patriots haven’t faced a quarterback like Jackson this season. Given his elite ability in space, Jackson is a true x-factor that’s virtually impossible to fully contain on the ground. That will also likely keep New England’s defense just a bit more off balance than usual, perhaps leading to a handful more out-of-position plays than the normally ultra-disciplined unit is guilty of.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Marquise Brown (thigh/ankle) officially carries a questionable tag for the Ravens. Late’week reports indicate he’s expected to play but likely log less than a normal workload. Any injury to a key offensive player particularly stings against a defense the caliber of New England, but having Brown out there as at least a decoy could certainly help. Ultimately, I don’t see Baltimore having quite enough to overcome the defending champs, but I can see a loss by less than a field goal.
Cowboys (-7) at Giants – Monday night
The Cowboys stroll into MetLife Stadium for their second and final meeting with the division-rival Giants fresh off a Week 8 bye. Dallas headed into their time off on a high note, wiping out another fellow NFC East club in the Eagles by a 37-10 margin in a Sunday night Week 7 battle. After a pair of games where the offense was trending in the wrong direction, Dak Prescott (239 yards, one TD), Ezekiel Elliott (111 rushing yards, one TD) and Amari Cooper (5-106) were all in solid form against Philadelphia.
The Giants put up a valiant effort against the Detroit Lions on the road in Week 8 before falling, 31-26. Daniel Jones enjoyed his best game since his first NFL start back in Week 3 against the Buccaneers. Jones racked up 322 yards and four touchdown passes, hitting fellow promising rookie Darius Slayton on two of those scores. Saquon Barkley put another week between him and his ankle injury suffered in that aforementioned contest against Tampa Bay, compiling 143 scrimmage yards and a receiving score.
Dallas played well in the Week 1 meeting between the clubs, a contest they prevailed in by a 35-17 margin. Prescott played particularly well with 405 yards and four touchdowns while Michael Gallup and Cooper combined for an eye-popping 13 receptions, 264 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys figure to be able to press that advantage through the air again. New York has continued to struggle against the pass. They’ll come into this matchup allowing 264.4 passing yards per contest. Then, Elliott wasn’t overused in that season-opening matchup, having just ended his holdout days earlier. But he’ll be in a good position to carry the load Week 9, coming out of the bye and facing a Giants D allowing 122.4 rushing yards per contest.
The Giants found success with both Barkley and Evan Engram in that Week 1 game, and the two players could well play a key role again. Dallas has been fairly solid in allowing just 96.9 rushing yards per contest, but Barkley has eclipsed 100 yards on the ground in two of his three career games against the ‘Boys. Meanwhile, Engram gets another crack at a Cowboys defense that’s allowed a 41-458-3 line to tight ends in seven games, with the latter total the seventh highest in the league.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The line remains right where it was to start the week. Shepard has officially cleared concussion protocol and will play, putting him, Golden Tate, Barkley, Engram and Slayton all on the field together for the first time. Dallas will be extremely well rested here, but I see the Giants having enough firepower to keep any loss to less than a touchdown, with an outright upset also in play here.