Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger will face off in a week nine showdown Sunday.
The NFL is, without a doubt, the most popular professional sports league in America. Whether you're a passionate football fan or you just love sports gambling, the NFL stands alone atop the major sports.
Week nine features a slew of toss-up games, but there are several appealing lines to bet on. The closest games on paper seem to be the Steelers at Giants, Vikings at Seahawks and Eagles at Saints.
Heavy favorites, such as the Green Bay Packers over the Arizona Cardinals this week, are obvious choices straight-up, but the hefty point spreads can be hard to cover. But overall, there are several appealing lines this week.
Let's take a look at five betting guidelines for week nine in the NFL.
All odds provided by "Danny Sheridan's Odds" via USA Today
Peyton and the Broncos should enjoy another win this week at Cincinnati.
Chicago Bears (-3) at Tennessee Titans
Jay Cutler, a Vanderbilt alum, returns to Nashville as the Bears starting quarterback. The Titans are allowing 32.1 points per game, while the Bears are scoring an average of 26.4. That's a recipe for a lob-sided win for Chicago.
Even if the Titans establish the running game with Chris Johnson and are able keep the game close, the Bears should win this one by a touchdown.
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Cleveland Browns
The Browns played the Ravens tough in their first meeting. And now, Baltimore is without Ray Lewis and—perhaps more importantly—starting cornerback Lardarius Webb.
But despite the Browns' impressive rookie trio of Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, Cleveland only scores an average of 19.1 points per game. That likely won't win a game against Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens.
This could be another ugly game, but the Ravens should have no problem covering the 3.5-point spread. Baltimore is a safe bet to cover.
Denver Broncos (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati is a dangerous team moving forward, but Peyton Manning has the Broncos rolling right now. Manning has thrown 12 touchdowns compared to just one interception in the past four games.
And perhaps even more impressive than Manning is Denver's defense. The Broncos held Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints to just 14 points last week.
Cincinnati's defense, on the other hand, has been quite disappointing this season, ranking 26th in the league in scoring defense. The Bengals are allowing an average of 26.7 points per contest this season, while the Broncos rank 4th in the league in scoring. Denver should cover the 3.5-point spread fairly easily on the road.
Josh Freeman and the Bucs were impressive last week, but this week is a toss-up at Oakland.
Miami Dolphins (-2.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is iffy to play Sunday, but Miami is still a decent team with Matt Moore under center. Both teams enter Sunday's matchup in Indianapolis at 4-3.
The Colts have been atrocious against the run this season, allowing 137.4 yards per game on the ground. Needless to say, it could be a big day for Dolphins running back Reggie Bush.
Despite the Colts playing at home, Miami's defense should keep them at bay. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck could struggle against the Dolphins, who are allowing just 18 points per game through seven weeks. It should be a close game between two evenly matched teams.
Oakland Raiders (-2) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay looked impressive last week against the Minnesota Vikings, winning 36-17 on the road.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has been terrific the past three weeks following Tampa's bye week. Freeman has posted a passer rating of at least 104.2 in three consecutive games, in which he's thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception.
Freeman should enjoy another solid day against the Raiders' weak defense that has just ten sacks on the season. But on the other hand, this looks like a game where Raiders running back Darren McFadden could get back on track. It's a toss-up in Oakland.
Seattle Seahawks (-4) vs. Minnesota Vikings
After an impressive start to the season, the Minnesota Vikings seem to be at a crossroads at 5-3. With a tough second half schedule ahead of them, the Vikings could be in trouble if they fall to Seattle this weekend.
It figures to be a low scoring game in Seattle; Minnesota ranks 11th in the league in scoring defense, while the Seahawks rank 3rd. For Minnesota to get its offense going, Adrian Peterson will need to have a big day. But that's going to be hard against a Seattle defense allowing just 84.9 rushing yards per game.
The Seahawks are the clear favorite in this game, but a 4-point spread may be a little steep for a struggling Seattle offense to cover. Avoid this game.
The Bills could be in for a long day this weekend playing at Houston.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
Houston has one of the better running games in the NFL, and the Bills have been atrocious against the run this year. Buffalo allows an average of 176.9 rushing yards per game. One hundred and seventy-six.
And in comes Houston's deadly duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
The Texans are gaining an average of 140.9 yards per game on the ground and another 230.6 through the air. Despite the Bills' impressive defensive line, they haven't been impressive at all through the first half of the season.
If the Bills have any hopes of winning, they'll need to establish the run with C.J. Spiller. Unfortunately for them, J.J. Watt & Co. are allowing just 83 rushing yards per game.
Houston should win this game, and it probably won't be close.
Green Bay's offense struggled last week without Jordy Nelson.
Jordy Nelson vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Packers struggled offensively against the Jaguars without Nelson last week. And the wideout has yet to practice again this week with an injured hamstring. If Nelson is unable to go, the Packers may struggle to cover the massive 10.5-point spread. Nelson is expected to test his hamstring at Friday's practice, so stay tuned.
Sean Weatherspoon vs. Dallas Cowboys
Weatherspoon has officially been declared out for Sunday's game. Weatherspoon has developed into one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL, so Sunday could be another big game for Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Atlanta is the league's only remaining undefeated team, but they could be tested by a hungry Dallas team.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Indianapolis Colts
Tannehill split the first-team reps with Matt Moore on Wednesday, before taking over all the first-team reps Thursday. The latest out of Miami is that Tannehill will be on a short leash if he ends up playing this weekend against the Colts. Miami is a better team with Tannehill under center, so keep an eye on his status heading into the weekend.
Rashard Mendenhall vs. New York Giants
Mendenhall was limited in Wednesday and Thursday's practice. The running back's status continues to be up in the air for Sunday's game. But for what it's worth, backup Jonathan Dwyer says Mendenhall should be the starter if he's available to play. Continue to monitor Mendenhall's status, as the Steelers are a more complete offense when he's in the lineup.
RG3 vs. Cam Newton will be entertaining. Anything could happen.
Washington Redskins (-3) vs. Carolina Panthers
There have been a lot of comparisons between Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton had perhaps the best rookie season ever for a quarterback, and Griffin has been similarly impressive thus far in 2012. However, Newton hasn't played nearly as well this season, and Griffin enters Sunday's game following his worst game of the season against the Steelers.
Carolina comes into the game at 1-6, while Washington sits at 3-5. Between the two quarterbacks and a pair of inconsistent teams, anything could happen Sunday. Which is exactly why this is the stay-away game of week nine.