If you're looking for compelling matchups that feature top teams in critical games, Week 9 of the NFL season probably isn't the best place to be searching.
Of the 13 matchups on the slate this week, just one—Monday Night Football between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers—features two teams with winning records. Meanwhile, only one other—the New Orleans Saints vs. New York Jets—showcases two squads with at least four wins.
Despite that big ball of "meh," though, there are still plenty of matchups that oddsmakers anticipate to be close.
Here's a look at my Week 9 picks, along with a closer glance at some teams that will make easy work of those tiny spreads.
|Week 9 NFL Picks|
|Away Team||Home Team||Spread||Predicted Winner|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Miami Dolphins||Bengals -1.5||Bengals 31-20|
|Atlanta Falcons||Carolina Panthers||Panthers -7.5||Panthers 24-10|
|Minnesota Vikings||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys -10.5||Cowboys 35-31|
|New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||Saints -5.5||Saints 24-17|
|Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams||Titans -3||Titans 20-13|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills||Chiefs -3||Bills 24-20|
|San Diego Chargers||Washington Redskins||Pick 'em||Chargers 35-17|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Oakland Raiders||Raiders -1||Raiders 24-20|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks -16.5||Seahawks 28-10|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||Ravens -2.5||Browns 17-13|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||New England Patriots||Patriots -7||Patriots 20-17|
|Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||Colts -2.5||Colts 27-17|
|Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||Packers -10.5||Packers 45-30|
|Spreads via Covers.com|
San Diego Chargers (pk) at Washington Redskins
The status of Robert Griffin III could drastically swing this matchup one way or another, but according to head coach Mike Shanahan—via ESPN's Chris Russell—it sounds as though the dynamic QB will be fine:
Assuming RGIII is in the lineup, we are headed for a shootout. Both teams rank in the bottom four in the NFL in yards allowed per play, and both have the offensive talent to put points on the board in a hurry.
It's going to be difficult to pick against San Diego in this one, however.
Philip Rivers, who is leading the league with a 73.9 completion percentage and has tossed 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions, is playing arguably the best football of his career under new hires Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt. That, in turn, has opened up defenses for a healthy Ryan Mathews, who has surpassed 100 rushing yards in the last two games.
Perhaps even more importantly than the clicking-on-all-cylinders offense, San Diego's defense has played much better as of late, most recently shutting down Andrew Luck's Colts and holding the Jaguars to six points on the road.
Although this is a pick 'em game, likely because the Redskins are at home, the Chargers have traveled well, are coming off a bye and have simply looked like the better overall football team.
Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins
A few weeks ago, I probably would have been willing to roll the dice with Miami. Andy Dalton looked terribly inconsistent, the Bengals were playing down to their opposition—win against Green Bay, loss to Cleveland, win against New England, win against Buffalo in overtime—while the Dolphins had a nice start to their season.
However, each team is now moving in the opposite direction.
Dalton has thrown 11 touchdowns in the last three games and the Bengals have won four in a row after a 49-9 mauling of the New York Jets. Suddenly, they look like the Super Bowl contender everyone thought they were back in August.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have lost four in a row. According to NFL.com's Jeff Darlington, they are reportedly beginning to question Mike Sherman's offense (via NFL.com's Ian Rapoport):
Thursday games are almost impossible to predict, which is probably why the line is as low as one point in some places, but the Bengals are playing too well right now.