Last Minute Odds, Picks Against the Spread for NFL Week 9
The fascination that resides within picking NFL games takes on a different angle when factoring in the spread.
Obviously that takes away from each contest being straight up, and considering how many close calls there are each week, the betting lines can be quite menacing. Just look at the Sunday night matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.
For one, Dallas is an inconsistent and struggling team desperate for a victory. Atlanta sits at 7-0 and pro football's final perfect team for 2012. That said, the Dirty Birds aren't favored by an immense amount.
However, revert back to the 2009 season and the Cowboys played spoiler to the then-perfect New Orleans Saints. Big D is not only capable of beating the spread, but winning this game as well. With that, here are picks utilizing the spread in Week 9 of the NFL.
Note: All lines are courtesy of FootballLocks.com
Denver Broncos (-5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are slumping and thus sinking back into the realm of "The Bungles."
Riding a three-game losing streak, Cincy welcomes Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Aside from a pass rush, the Bengals don't present a stellar rush defense or coverage. Manning has certainly been finding a better rhythm with each new week and Denver fields impressive balance.
As for Cincinnati's offense, Andy Dalton to A.J. Green among others remains the best threat. Still, the Bengals don't present a dominating ground attack, which will hurt when trying play-action. Von Miller and Co. are a great pass-rushing front seven and Denver has improved versus the pass as well.
Take the Broncos against the spread
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Cleveland Browns
It's certainly reasonable to pick the Cleveland Browns over the Baltimore Ravens this week. Cleveland enters the home game at 2-1 over its past three games and fought well against the Ravens in Baltimore.
Here, the Browns are definitely the healthier team. That said, Baltimore is coming off a bye and is much more explosive and balanced offensively. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are better-established receivers than Greg Little and Josh Gordon, and Joe Flacco is, without question, better than Brandon Weeden.
On the bright side, Weeden has improved throughout 2012, but the Ravens still possess the talent to get quarterback pressure. Unless Trent Richardson takes over this game from kickoff, Baltimore will cover.
Take the Ravens against the spread
Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers (-10)
If the Arizona Cardinals aren't able to establish minimal impact on the ground, Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers will crush this game.
Getting work done in the trenches is important because it takes pressure off the pass protection and limits an opponent's pass rush. Unfortunately for Arizona, the Cards have allowed 39 sacks through eight games and Green Bay has collected 26.
In short, don't anticipate much from Arizona's offense because the Pack will force turnovers. As a result, Aaron Rodgers thwarts the Cardinals defense even more with additional possessions.
Take the Packers against the spread
Chicago Bears (-4.5) at Tennessee Titans
We can't let the Tennessee Titans fool us because this team has played a rough schedule thus far and is better than at first glance. Nonetheless, Tennessee is playing host to the 6-1 Chicago Bears.
The Monsters of the Midway are just that, a different kind of monster than the Titans have faced to this point in 2012. Chicago is well-versed against the pass, has a knack for forcing turnovers and is incredible at stuffing the run.
On the flip side, Tennessee lacks defensively, whereas the Bears present one of the NFL's best two-back tandems. Include Devin Hester's special teams contributions and the Bears win each phase of the game.
Take the Bears against the spread
Miami Dolphins (-1.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Arguably the game of the week, the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts each sport a 4-3 record and rookie quarterbacks leading the way.
Also, the defenses are better than advertised despite differing strengths. Miami is stronger against the run, whereas Indy locks down in coverage. Ironically, though, both can also get to the quarterback. So, this game will be decided by the quicker established rushing attack.
The Colts can't afford to abandon the ground game and the Dolphins must get balance to set up play-action. The quarterbacks are mobile as well; therefore, a dual-threat back will be the true difference: Reggie Bush.
Still, this will be a nail-biter and Miami takes it by one point.
Take the Colts and the points
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-3)
The battle of the past two Heisman Trophy winners in Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III takes place in our nation's capital.
Neither defense is capable of slowing down the opposing offense because each are suspect versus the pass and vulnerable to the run. As luck would have it for the defenses, both quarterbacks are dual-threats with strong arms and an array of receiving targets.
Expect a high-scoring affair, although turnovers will be one major factor. There, the Panthers enter Week 9 at minus-5 and the Redskins are plus-7.
Take the Redskins against the spread
Detroit Lions (-5.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars may have lost a few close games in 2012, but Mike Mularkey's team has not scored more than 23 points yet this season. Interestingly enough, Jacksonville's lone victory came by scoring 22 against the Colts from an 80-yard Cecil Shorts catch-and-run. Otherwise, the Jags would be 0-7.
Taking on the Detroit Lions in Week 9, Jacksonville's underachieving defense won't help its offense. The Lions still possess much explosion with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, plus Jacksonville has no legit pass rush.
And while Detroit's offense is moving the ball and controlling the tempo, Jacksonville's offense will fail to remain balanced or keep pace.
Take the Lions against the spread
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-10.5)
The Buffalo Bills' only chance against the Houston Texans is to run the rock early and often.
After all, Buffalo averages 5.3 yards per carry, which is third best in pro football. A counterbalance to the Bills, though, is Houston's stellar rush defense. The Texans allow only 3.9 yards per attempt and just 83 rushing yards per game.
Nonetheless, Buffalo has to keep at it because Houston will basically do the same. The Bills defense allows an average of six yards per carry, which ranks last in the NFL. Now, Houston doesn't get six yards a pop between the tackles, but Arian Foster is one of pro football's premier running backs.
Take the Texans against the spread
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-4)
One of the more underrated games to watch in Week 9 will be the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. Each offense knows how to run the rock quite well, and the defenses are capable of totally isolating the ground attack.
A distinction, however, comes in the form of the overall defense. Seattle is emphatically better against the pass and presents just as strong of a pass rush. Minnesota is vulnerable to play-action and has not been as consistent versus the run.
The young quarterbacks are mobile and the running back punishing, although Russell Wilson is provided with a more reliable receiving corps and Zach Miller is just as dependable as Kyle Rudolph.
Take the Seahawks against the spread
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders (-1.5)
A rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII, but not exactly. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a similar offense when compared to a decade ago, with a strong-armed quarterback, big play receiver and punishing running back.
Defensively, only Ronde Barber still exists, which will cause problems for the Oakland Raiders' aerial assault—surprise, surprise. Don't anticipate five picks like the Bucs did off Rich Gannon, but Tampa is quite opportunistic these days and Carson Palmer can get into a funk from time to time.
The key for Oakland is Darren McFadden versus the Bucs rush defense. The more Tampa is forced to honor the run, the better chances are that play-action with some of pro football's fastest receivers will pay dividends. The downside is Oakland's vulnerable defense against the pass, which won't be able to stack the box against Doug Martin.
In a close contest, the more consistent ground game wins.
Take the Buccaneers and the points
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants (-3.5)
Easily one of the best games for Week 9, the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a sound win at home versus the Washington Redskins.
As for the New York Giants, Big Blue avenged their Week 1 loss from the Cowboys and ride a four-game winning streak. The offenses are unquestionably built around Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Both have two Super Bowl victories and are among the best around regarding efficiency and late game magic.
Add in a bunch of reliable receiving targets and ground game and this matchup falls on the defense. Uncharacteristically, Pittsburgh been suspect at times versus the run, whereas New York remains vulnerable to the pass.
One advantage for Big Blue, though, is a more consistent pass rush from the defensive line.
Take the Giants against the spread
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)
For the Atlanta Falcons to keep perfection alive, Matt Ryan and Co. have to attack the Dallas Cowboys from the get-go, meaning air it out on the first few possessions and force the defense to back off in coverage to minimize the pass rush.
Because the Cowboys are a team desperately needing victory, expect Big D to bust out the entire playbook in all three phases. One favorable edge to Dallas is Atlanta's rush defense, which allows 5.1 per carry.
Tony Romo utilizing the run to set up the pass is imperative because the Falcons are technically sound against the pass at suffocating in coverage. However, Dallas has also yet to build consistency this season and until the Cowboys do, wins will be scarce.
Take the Falcons against the spread
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-3)
Cross off the Philadelphia Eagles if the pass rush continues to be nonexistent. Even with guys such as Trent Cole and Jason Babin, Philly has no shot to defeat New Orleans without pressuring Drew Brees.
Although the Eagles' coverage is lockdown on the outside and underneath, down the seams remains an issue when presenting a Cover 1 and 2 look. Brees will spread the field and move the ball, so it's up to the pass rush to limit the damage.
Elsewhere, Michael Vick cannot turn the ball over. New Orleans has the league's worst defense, so lots of scoring will happen if ball control occurs. And that is a duty best suited for LeSean McCoy, as the Eagles have not lost when Shady is fed 20-plus carries.
The concern, though, is whether McCoy actually does receive 20-plus attempts.
Take the Saints against the spread
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