Underdogs got off to a hot start in Week 9 of the NFL schedule after the Miami Dolphins shocked the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday with a game-winning safety in overtime.
With 12 games on the docket, Miami won’t be the only squad to knock off a favorite. Division races are heating up as the season hits its midway point, and there are sure to be plenty of tightly contested games and surprises.
Read on to find picks for every game and detailed previews for three of them. Lines are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
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Lines courtesy of Vegas Insider
St. Louis Rams (+3 vs. Tennessee Titans)
The St. Louis Rams may have come up just short against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, but if there is a such thing as a moral victory in the NFL (here’s looking at you, Jerry Jones) that was it.
The Rams' defense will pressure Jake Locker in much the same way it did Russell Wilson. Wilson completed just 10 of 18 passes for 139 yards, and he took seven sacks for a total loss of 48 yards.
Locker’s mobility is still a concern as he comes off an injury, so look for St. Louis to bring the pressure once again and try to force mistakes.
While Locker will give the Titans a lift, we are still talking about a team that ranks near the bottom for total offense against a dangerous Rams defensive unit.
Zac Stacy will control the clock with the running game, and St. Louis will come away with the upset at home.
Cleveland Browns (+1.5 vs. Baltimore Ravens)
The Baltimore Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, and the Cleveland Browns have made a comfortable home for themselves at the bottom of the AFC North in recent years, but this will be an upset in Week 9.
Who you got?
The Ravens have been on somewhat of a roller-coaster ride all year and are currently 3-4. However, they are only 1-3 on the road, and the Dog Pound will be rocking for this divisional showdown.
Cleveland’s underrated defense will give Joe Flacco fits. It ranks sixth in the NFL in net passing yards per game and is tied for third in sacks with 26. Led by cornerback Joe Haden, the secondary can perform well when the line gets a push up front.
Meanwhile, Jason Campbell will avoid the mistakes that Brandon Weeden seemed to make every week previously. Look for Josh Gordon or Jordan Cameron to catch a lot of balls and carry the Browns to victory.
Minnesota Vikings (+9.5 at Dallas Cowboys)
The sports world, fueled by Twitter and 24/7 media coverage of everything NFL, probably overreacted to the whole Dez Bryant-blows-up-on-the-sidelines thing, but something is clearly off in Dallas.
And by something I mean the secondary and defense as a whole.
The Cowboys rank dead last in the league in passing yards allowed per game. While it helps that Minnesota's passing game has been completely ineffective this year, there's no better remedy for a struggling unit than a defense that gives up over 300 yards per game on average.
Dallas also gives up over 100 yards per game on the ground, so Adrian Peterson will hope to exploit that statistic.
This is still a notable stretch to give the nod to a Vikings team on the road that has been a disaster this year, but special players have destroyed Dallas this season. Peyton Manning dropped a cool 51 on that defense earlier in the year, while Calvin Johnson racked up 329 receiving yards.
That’s not even accounting for Matt Stafford channeling his inner “Comeback” Joe Montana in the final moments against the Cowboys.
Regardless of the Vikings’ quarterback debacle, Peterson will be the latest in a line of superstars to dominate Dallas. Look for Minnesota to send shockwaves through the middling NFC East race by knocking off the division leaders.