Week 9 in the NFL was make or break for a lot of clubs, and the trend for many teams on the early season bubble was not hopeful. Very few of those teams trying to turn things around were able to do so while most of the league’s elite continued to dominate.
Continued turmoil for teams such as Dallas and Philadelphia could bring the winds of change sooner than later. Ongoing dominance from the likes of Atlanta and Chicago should by now have the rest of the league taking notice. There is a wide array of circumstances in the league as we head into the second half, and some exciting revelations are surely on the horizon.
I have now put together two strong weeks in a row, going 21-7 (75 percent) against the spread during that stretch. Combined with even better numbers straight up as well as above average over/under marks I have officially pulled out of my early season slump to post these season totals:
Straight: 85-46 (65 percent)
Spread: 67-64 (51 percent)
Over/Under: 67-64 (51 percent)
That comes out right around 56 percent overall for the year, and after hovering right around .500 for the first few weeks it is nice to get back above the break-even mark in all three categories. Hopefully I can keep this hot streak going and continue to move closer to my preseason goals.
Here’s my take on this week’s contests.
Indianapolis Colts (-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U = 42.5)
Thursday night features Rookie of the Year hopeful Andrew Luck and the Colts taking on the Jags in Jacksonville. Luck set the all-time rookie record for passing in Week 9 with 433 yards and will look to keep it rolling against arguably the league’s worst defense.
The Jags come in licking their wounds after a pitiful loss to Detroit at home last week and continue to struggle in all aspects of the game. While rookie WR Justin Blackmon did haul in a TD last week, it was just his first of the season, and he has failed to perform up to the standards many had set before he was drafted.
With the way Jacksonville has looked on both sides of the ball, it is tough to give them the benefit of the doubt here, even at home.
Detroit Lions (-2) at Minnesota Vikings (O/U = 47)
After coming out of the gates extremely strong, the Vikes have lost three of their last four and will look to rebound at home in Week 10. While Christian Ponder’s hot start under center has subsided somewhat, the running game continues to flourish behind Adrian Peterson. For that fact alone Minnesota cannot yet be taken out of the NFC Playoff conversation, but a loss here would be a huge step back.
The Lions appear to be coming into their own offensively after whooping the Jags last week, but that perception is likely a bit skewed since it was, after all, against the Jaguars. In a drastic turn from last season, it has actually been Detroit’s defense allowing some slip ups on the offensive side. If they hope to move out of last place in the division here, they will need another strong performance.
With all the divisional implications, this is poised to be one of the week’s better games to watch, and I’m predicting the Lions will continue to roll on the road.
New York Giants (-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (O/U = 46.5)
After pulling out four straight, the Giants were unable to keep their streak alive as they lost to Pittsburgh in an emotional game in New York. Following the devastation of hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, it was a somber atmosphere, and unfortunately for NY supporters, their team was unable to lift their spirits. With so much havoc going on around them throughout the week, however, it is easy to see how the Giants could slip up a bit in the loss.
Cincinnati was unable to maintain a fourth quarter lead against the Broncos in Week 9, and instead fell for the fourth week in a row. The Bengals once appeared to be AFC North contenders, but with this slide it will be tough to contend for their second wild card berth in a row.
While I don’t think the Bengals will lie down and die, I do believe that Eli and the vaunted NY passing offense will expose their secondary in a narrow road victory.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
Tennessee Titans (+6) at Miami Dolphins (O/U = 44.5)
Victimized by the strong Bears defense, the Titans fell in an ugly loss in Week 9 after turning the ball over five times. A late 80 yard touchdown burst by Chris Johnson served little purpose to anyone other than his fantasy owners as his two lost fumbles had already helped sour his team’s chances. The Titans have the worst point differential in the entire NFL heading into this matchup.
Yet again the Dolphins fell just short last week, tallying their third three-point loss of the year. At 4-4, they are just two OT field goals and another in regulation from being 7-1 in a tie for the AFC lead. Ryan Tannehill has shown the ability to lead this team effectively in his rookie season, and they still have a shot at a playoff berth if he can figure out how to win in the close ones.
I think the Dolphins are tired of the close contests and finally flex some muscle in a win here at home.
Buffalo Bills (+11) at New England Patriots (O/U = 51.5)
New England had a bye in Week 9 which should have provided some much needed healing time for a number of their players who have been knicked up early. There hasn’t been quite the same feel from this group in 2012 as years past, but they won two straight heading into the bye and with an extra week of prep should feel confident in this home matchup.
Although they are in last place in the AFC East the Bills find themselves just two games behind the leading Pats, and a win here heads up would really stir up the pot in this highly contested division. This, however, seems unlikely as the Bills have given up the second most points in the league. The Pats should be clicking after a week off.
Straight: New England
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at New Orleans Saints (O/U = 53.5)
The Falcons look to defend their undefeated record here as they travel to New Orleans to face the division-rival Saints. With a four game lead in the NFC South already, a loss here wouldn’t slow down ATL much, but taking the opponent into account it’s likely they want this one as bad as any. I look for them to throw deep early and often against an NO secondary that has been downright poor.
A win on Monday Night over the Eagles gave the Saints their first back-to-back wins of the year, and they finally appear to be working out of their early slump. At 3-5, however, there is still a long way to go to sure up a playoff spot. A win at home against the NFC’s best would be a huge step in the right direction.
While I expect the Saints offense to perform well in this big game, I think their defensive woes will be too much to overcome against this strong Falcons offense. Atlanta in a close one on the road.
San Diego Chargers (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (O/U = 47.5)
Rookie RB Doug Martin has had a real coming-out party over the past two weeks. His jaw-dropping four TD performance in last week’s win over Oakland came in as one of the Top 5 fantasy performances of all time, and it surely didn’t appear to be a fluke. This Tampa offense is absolutely rolling right now, and with a little defensive help they could make it three in a row at home this week.
The Chargers came off an ugly loss to the Browns in Week 8 to take care of business last week against the Chiefs on Thursday night. Philip Rivers posted some fantastic stats in the victory and could easily keep it rolling against a TB defense that has shown potential to give up the deep ball.
With the Bucs clicking as well as anyone in the league right now, I’m taking them to hold serve against the Bolts.
Straight: Tampa Bay
Spread: San Diego
Denver Broncos (-4) at Carolina Panthers (O/U = 47.5)
Peyton and the Broncos continued to roll with a road win against Cinci in Week 9, and hold the top spot in the AFC West by a single game. Manning is a legitimate contender for the league’s MVP at this point as he continues to bounce back seamlessly after shoulder surgery. It’s hard to bet against him at this point after the show he’s put on through the first half.
Finally, the Panthers were able to dig their way out of a five-game losing streak in a somewhat surprising road victory over the Redskins. Wideout Steve Smith caught what was unbelievably his first TD of the year, and not a moment too soon for Carolina fans. They head back home here with more momentum than they’ve had all year, and they will need it to slow down the Broncos.
While I think the Panthers are on the up-and-up, I don’t think they're quite up enough yet to pull out this one against a red-hot Peyton.
Oakland Raiders (+7.5) at Baltimore Ravens (O/U = 46)
Baltimore came off their bye week to win a much needed redemption game after being embarrassed by the Texans the week before. While they haven’t regularly blown people out, they have only lost twice and appear to be working through some major absences on the defensive side due to injury.
The Raiders took the blows thrown by Doug Martin in stride last week and almost survived until a typical late turnover ended all hope. They have impressed at times, but unfortunately underperformed repeatedly in big moments on their way to a 3-5 record at this point. The injury-prone Darren McFadden left their most recent contest and looks unlikely to suit up for this one against Baltimore.
After watching the Tampa run attack thrash the Raiders up front, I have a feeling we can expect a big game from Ray Rice in a convincing Ravens win.
New York Jets (+6.5) at Seattle Seahawks (O/U = 38.5)
The Jets ride a two game skid into this one, but come off a bye week to travel to Seattle for this matchup. After taking an ugly loss at the hands of Miami the week prior, it's clear this team is not as exceptional as Rex Ryan and they rest of the front office would like you to believe. A few more underwhelming performances and we could start to see a few more snaps for Tebow.
Seattle held their own against Minnesota last week in victory, and Russell Wilson’s comfort level with his receiving corps only appears to be improving. Sidney Rice has put together a few very solid weeks in a row, and I expect a couple long tosses to him against the Jets' D which is missing their top CB in Darrelle Revis.
The Jets are in a downward spiral at this point while the ‘Hawks are headed the opposite direction. I think those trends continue in a win for the home team.
Spread: New York
Dallas Cowboys (-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (O/U = 44.5)
Both the Cowboys and Eagles have disappointed fans this year, and each squad has to make a serious turnaround if they hope to be respected by years end, let alone make the playoffs. Having lost four in a row, the Eagles continue to make mental mistakes at crucial points in every game. Their offensive line has provided little help to a struggling Michael Vick, and if Andy Reid can’t his team together soon he may be finding work elsewhere.
The Cowboys haven’t been much better and sit with the same 3-5 record as their opponent. They haven’t won against a quality team since Week 1, and unless they pull this one out on the road they will have to answer many of the same questions as the Eagles.
This one should be good to watch since there is a lot on the line for both teams, but it’s a crap shoot as to who will pull it out. Dallas has looked more sound overall, so I give them the edge.
St. Louis Rams (+11.5) at San Francisco 49ers (O/U = 38.5)
After taking Week 9 off, the 49ers return to action against AFC West foe St. Louis as they look to grow their division lead even further. Having given up the least points in the league, so far the SF defense continues to stand atop the NFL in that respect and don’t appear to be slipping whatsoever.
The Rams have lost three straight, and also head into this one off of the bye. They have not showed many signs of life for yet another season, and even the presence of Jeff Fisher on the sideline hasn’t appeared to have much of an effect. It is going to take a major free agency pick up or draft pick to give this team some sort of excitement, and they have not been able to accomplish either in a long, long time.
Straight: San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco
Houston Texans (+1) at Chicago Bears (O/U = 41.5)
The undeniable Game of the Week features a clash between one of the best teams each conference has to offer. Chicago’s continued dominance on defense has been so encompassing that it has almost masked their equally fantastic offensive play. There aren’t a lot of holes in this team right now, if any, and the Bears appear to be a serious Super Bowl contender.
Houston has the second highest point differential in the league—behind only Chicago—so it’s clear they have been equally effective on both sides of the ball. J.J. Watt is making a serious bid at Defensive Player of the Year while their offense continues to score points and, more importantly, not turn the ball over.
I can’t wait to watch this game and truly believe it will be one of the best this season so far. It’s tough to pick against either team, but the Bears' defense in front of their home crowd will be nearly impossible to outperform.
Kansas City Chiefs (+12.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U =43)
A huge win for the Steelers against the Giants last week kept them just a game back of division-leading Baltimore, and it will be a much easier task to slow down this Chiefs team. They have displayed an almost unprecedented carousel at the running back position, but miraculously remained successful on the ground. With all three main ball carriers back to near perfect health it will be interesting to see who gets the most touches after each has performed well on their own.
The Chiefs have been one of the league’s worst teams this season and seem poised to be drafting in the Top 5 when it’s all said and done. The on-and-off tendencies of Jamaal Charles mixed with poor quarterback play has left them unable to compete against nearly all opponents. It will not be any easier to find answers against this black and yellow defense.
Just because I see Pittsburgh running a lot, I am giving the Chiefs the benefit of the doubt with the 12.5 point spread—but just barely.
Spread: Kansas City
Spread and Over/Under numbers taken from VegasInsider.com