The theme for Week 9 in the NFL is historically big underdogs. The Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers are three teams that find themselves in the unfamiliar position as either large home or road underdogs.
For example, this Sunday the Steelers find themselves as the biggest underdog with Ben Roethlisberger under center since 2007.
The unique underdog situations could be an indication of the public's overreaction to teams that struggled in Week 8, which should give alert bettors a chance to shine in Week 9.
New York Jets (+7) over New Orleans Saints
The Jets have traded wins and losses in every game they've played this season. Their current roller coaster trend bodes well for a home game against the Saints.
The Jets get value as an underdog coming off an embarrassing 49-9 blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8. The Saints were merely a -3.5 favorite prior to that blowout, but obvious public over reaction has caused the line to inflate. Expect a week of highly motivated practice to pay off for the Jets.
Combined with the Saints 35-17 rout of the Buffalo Bills, the 58-point swing makes the Saints overvalued as a favorite, especially on the road where they have covered less than half the time under Sean Payton.
Rex Ryan will be looking to outduel twin brother Rob Ryan, who is the defensive coordinator in New Orleans.
A Saints team that has struggled outdoors as of late (8-11 against the spread since 2010) should run into an emotionally charged Jets team looking to redeem itself from last week's rout.
Prediction: New York Jets, 19-17
Atlanta (+9) over Carolina
The national media has fallen in love with Cam Newton and the Panthers three-game win streak. But Carolina's recent success is misleading. Despite being dominant since another slow start, the combined record of Carolina's last three opponents is just 6-24.
The Falcons are coming off an embarrassing performance at Arizona, in which Matt Ryan threw four interceptions. Playing in a divisional game, and potentially on its last leg, the usually competitive Falcons will be in desperation mode and figure to overachieve on the road.
The Falcons are 16-1 coming off a loss of six points or more in their last 17 games. Meanwhile, this will mark just the third time in three seasons under Cam Newton that the Panthers have been favored by six points or more.
The Panthers have scored 30 or more points in three straight games and are due to come out flat, since that type of scoring is mostly unsustainable—even in today's NFL.
A veteran Falcons team should take advantage of a young team due to come down, and one that is not used to being a large favorite.
Prediction: Atlanta, 27-24
St. Louis (+3) over Tennessee
The Rams will be playing as a home underdog against a Titans team that head coach Jeff Fisher coached for 16 seasons. The Rams will benefit from the locker room knowledge Fisher accumulated during his decade and a half with the franchise.
Even before Sam Bradford's injury, the Rams offense were transforming into a full-fledged run-first attack. Behind surprising rookie Zac Stacy, the Rams rushed for 200 yards against Seattle's vaunted defense on Monday Night Football.
The Titans are giving up the ninth-most yards per game on the ground, which will play into St. Louis' favor. The Titans may be looking ahead to a two-game stretch against divisional opponents following their nonconference game against the Rams.
Jeff Fisher has shined in his career as an underdog, where his teams are 61 percent against the spread. St. Louis should dominate on the ground while taking advantage of Fisher's knowledge of his old team en route to a victory.
Prediction: St. Louis, 20-13
Week 8 ATS: 1-2
Season ATS: 12-11-2