Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 9 NFL Picks
Those who kept faith in Bleacher Report's expert consensus picks despite a bumpy ride during an unpredictable September and early-October have likely been rewarded for their patience.
The consensus was batting just .427 at the six-week mark, but our group of analysts has gone 19-8-1 the last two weeks. The combined record for panelists Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski is also back to even (174-174-15), thanks primarily to the streaking Davenport. The always-modest veteran fantasy football guru out of Ohio has gone 41-29-3 against the spread in the last five weeks.
As a result, he holds a small edge over his cohorts.
Here's where our predictors now stand through eight weeks (last week's records in parentheses).
1. Gary Davenport: 60-56-5 (11-3)
2. Brent Sobleski: 59-57-5 (9-5)
3. Brad Gagnon: 55-61-5 (8-6)
Consensus picks: 57-59-5 (9-5)
Can the crew keep rolling? Let's jump in.
Lines based on consensuses at OddsShark as of Wednesday.
Detroit Lions (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1)
The Detroit Lions have never lost at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
OK, it's just a two-game sample, but it's worth noting that the Lions have outscored their division rival by a combined margin of 36-23 in a pair of road games at Minnesota's new stadium the last two years. And even though they've yet to face the Vikes with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, the majority of our analysts believe Detroit can at least keep it really close when the two meet Sunday in Minnesota.
"Pressure has been a problem for Cousins all season," Gagnon said. "And despite the absence of Ziggy Ansah, the Lions pass rush has the No. 1 sack rate in the league. The Vikings have already suffered two losses to the Lions at this venue as well as two tough home losses so far this season. So while I wouldn't be surprised if Minnesota won this game, I'm not willing to lay 4.5 points with this mistake-prone, inconsistent Vikings team against a familiar opponent that may have their number."
This is definitely a tricky one, though. Can't fault Davenport for believing that the Vikes bounce back after losing to the New Orleans Saints in devastating fashion—they were arguably outplaying New Orleans before they were victimized by a 17-point swing resulting from an Adam Thielen fumble late in the first half—or that the Lions are due for a loss at this stadium following a dud performance at home against the Seattle Seahawks.
Davenport: Minnesota (-4.5)
Gagnon: Detroit (+4.5)
Sobleski: Detroit (+4.5)
Consensus: Detroit (+4.5)
Score Prediction: Minnesota 24, Detroit 23
Chicago Bears (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (2-6)
Are you ready for another chapter of the Nathan Peterman Experience?
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported early in the week that with Josh Allen and Derek Anderson injured, Peterman is expected to start for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
That alone might explain why the Bears are double-digit road favorites in Buffalo, and why the majority of our panelists are still taking Chicago to win and cover.
"This is a lot of points to lay to pick a Bears team that hasn't been especially impressive on the road against a Bills team that stayed with the New England Patriots for three quarters last week," said Davenport. "If Derek Anderson was starting at quarterback for the Bills, it might be a different story. Hell, if Morten Andersen was starting at quarterback it might be a different story. But they aren't. Nathan Peterman—a passer capable of tossing three interceptions in the time it took you to read this paragraph—is."
Yeah, among 397 quarterbacks with at least 75 pass attempts in the last 40 years, Peterman's interception rate (11.1) ranks No. 1. It's amazing he's still on an NFL roster, let alone on track to start in Week 9, and it's hard to imagine the Bills keeping things close with anyone under those circumstances.
But as Davenport points out, the Bears have yet to shine on the road (they barely beat Arizona and lost to the Miami Dolphins), while Buffalo did hang with the mighty Patriots on Monday night. Their defense has performed well, and it could keep them in this game, which is why our experts lack unanimity on this pick.
Davenport: Chicago (-10)
Gagnon: Buffalo (+10)
Sobleski: Chicago (-10)
Consensus: Chicago (-10)
Score Prediction: Chicago 23, Buffalo 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-2)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost just one game by more than five points this season, and they're 1-1 with an even scoring margin in their last two road matchups with the division rival Carolina Panthers. With Ryan Fitzpatrick—the league's highest-rated passer despite his warts—back under center, the majority of our experts figure the Bucs can at least come through as a 6.5-point underdog Sunday in Charlotte.
"Is the Fitzmagic really back?" asked Sobleski. "A touchdown spread against the NFL's top-ranked offense seems a bit excessive, especially since the unit has been better with Fitzpatrick leading the way compared to the recently benched Jameis Winston. The Panthers are counted among the NFC's best teams, but Tampa Bay can still rack up plenty of yards and points."
But our dudes again don't agree unanimously thanks to Davenport, who can't look past the fact the Panthers have been lights-out at home.
"This pick gives me indigestion," he said. "I expect the Panthers to win their ninth straight at home here, but covering could be another matter, especially if they come out flat defensively against a Tampa offense that has had little problem scoring this season. But I feel like the Panthers are putting things together, and Tampa's defense was awful even before they lost Kwon Alexander. Tampa is dead last in the NFL in points allowed and turnover differential. I'll begrudgingly lay the 6.5 points."
Gagnon admitted he'd be more confident if the Bucs were getting a full touchdown, so our experts probably wouldn't recommend anyone bet more than their Halloween candy on this one.
Davenport: Carolina (-6.5)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+6.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+6.5)
Consensus: Tampa Bay (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 24
Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-5-1)
The Kansas City Chiefs had been money against the line all season before finally falling short of a cover in a Week 8 victory over the Denver Broncos. But Denver has been feisty this year, and it played Kansas City well in both of their early-season meetings.
Even at home, our experts don't imagine the tempestuous Cleveland Browns will put up as much of a fight—not after firing their head coach and their offensive coordinator.
"As a long-suffering Browns fan, I will confess I'm not exactly disappointed to see Hue Jackson go—if 'not exactly disappointed' means dancing around the room with my dog while yelling 'YES!' over and over again. (Don't you judge me)," Davenport said. "But the installation of Gregg Williams as head coach and Freddie 'Who?' Kitchens as offensive coordinator isn't going to fix all that ails this team. Or even most of it. Too much chaos swirling around the Browns this week. Chiefs by two scores—or at least I hope it's just two."
In their last home game, the Browns were smoked 38-14 by the Los Angeles Chargers, who lost to the Chiefs by double digits at home earlier this year. While the transitive property can't be used to predict NFL scores, that's enough for our crew to agree unanimously that the Chiefs can cover 8.5 points Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The backdoor cover is always a risk when you're backing a heavy road favorite, though, so our analysts are blowing on the dice with both Chicago and Kansas City laying more than a touchdown.
Davenport: Kansas City (-8.5)
Gagnon: Kansas City (-8.5)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-8.5)
Consensus: Kansas City (-8.5)
Score Prediction: Kansas City 31, Cleveland 16
New York Jets (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-4)
The Miami Dolphins pitched a first-half shutout and surrendered just 12 points in an easy road victory over the New York Jets in Week 2. At home against the same opponent in Week 9, why should we expect a different result?
Two of our three analysts followed that logic in picking Miami to beat the Jets by at least three points in South Florida for the third consecutive season, even though the Dolphins will once again be using backup quarterback Brock Osweiler on Sunday.
"Divisional matchups between mediocre teams are always tough to predict," Gagnon said, "but the Dolphins are 3-1 at home and should have a chance to bounce back after a couple tough losses. They're more rested than their opponent following a Thursday night game in Week 8, and they're only laying three points against a Jets team that might not have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the fact Ryan Tannehill remains out."
The Jets offense has exploded without warning on a few occasions, though, and an argument could be made that they're also due following consecutive one-sided losses. With that in mind, Sobleski isn't even willing to lay the field goal, and our guys lack a unanimous agreement.
Davenport: Miami (-3)
Gagnon: Miami (-3)
Sobleski: New York (+3)
Consensus: Miami (-3)
Score Prediction: Miami 21, New York 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
The Baltimore Ravens handily defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in Week 4. Since then, however, the Ravens have lost three of four while the Steelers have gone 3-0.
Our panel unanimously agrees that both teams will continue to move in those same directions when they meet Sunday in Baltimore.
"The Ravens are laying three points because the books often sit on those lines in favor of home teams in matchups between relatively evenly matched division rivals," Gagnon said. "Baltimore has recently played Pittsburgh tough on the road, but the Steelers dominated the Ravens in Maryland last October. Pittsburgh is flying high on offense, while the Ravens D was suddenly exposed the last two weeks by the Saints and Panthers. I'm taking the Steelers outright, and those three points are just gravy."
Anything can happen when the Ravens and Steelers get together, but trends are trends. The Baltimore defense had only two takeaways in October, while quarterback Joe Flacco posted a 72.9 passer rating over that span. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense has been rolling sans Le'Veon Bell.
Either trend could be suddenly interrupted Sunday, but the Steelers look like the safer bet with three points in their back pocket.
Davenport: Pittsburgh (+3)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (+3)
Sobleski: Pittsburgh (+3)
Consensus: Pittsburgh (+3)
Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 26, Baltimore 21
Atlanta Falcons (3-4) at Washington Redskins (5-2)
Only four teams in the NFL have better records than the surprising Washington Redskins.
Are they the real deal? At the very least, our analysts agree that they should defeat a well-rested, desperate and experienced Atlanta Falcons team to move to 6-2 on Sunday.
"Washington has quietly gone about its business and established itself as the NFC East's best team," Sobleski said. "It also improved this week with the addition of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix just before the league's trade deadline. Defense may be optional around the rest of the league, but Washington is stout on that side of the ball, especially along the defensive interior. Da'Ron Payne Payne and Jonathan Allen can derail the Falcons offense since Atlanta is down to its third and fourth starting guards."
When the Falcons are in a groove, they can outscore anyone. But as Sobleski noted, they're far from healthy on that side of the ball, and the bye week didn't change that. Plus, defensive injuries were already a major problem for a team that surrendered 150 points in four games before allowing the offensively challenged New York Giants to score 20 in Atlanta before the bye.
Go back and watch that game. For much of the night, it didn't look as though the Giants even wanted to score points.
It's hard to believe this is practically a pick'em, but it's possible Vegas needs to see one more strong performance from a Redskins team that has allowed 17 or fewer points in three consecutive victories.
Our experts need less convincing.
Davenport: Washington (-1.5)
Gagnon: Washington (-1.5)
Sobleski: Washington (-1.5)
Consensus: Washington (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Washington 27, Atlanta 21
Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) at Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
Are the Seattle Seahawks getting enough respect?
The well-coached, well-quarterbacked, experienced and clearly resilient Seahawks have won four of their last five games and are coming off a lopsided road victory over a high-quality opponent three time zones over. But they're hardly favored to beat the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday at home.
The majority of our experts are backing Seattle with just a 1.5-point line at CenturyLink Field, and Gagnon isn't even a bit concerned about a Bolts team coming off its bye.
"You're seeing a lot of hype about the superb season Philip Rivers is having," he said, "but look at Russell Wilson. The man has a 127.1 passer rating and an 11-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio during a five-game stretch in which the Seahawks have gone 4-1. His running game is helping immensely, his offensive line is suddenly no longer a liability and the defense continues to consistently make plays despite the Legion of Boom's demise. Let's not forget that Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Frank Clark can play, and that the Seahawks are often infallible in Seattle."
The Chargers are riding a four-game winning streak, and their only losses this season have come against the 7-1 Chiefs and the 8-0 Los Angeles Rams, but this team has a reputation for shooting itself in the foot. There might not be much margin for error Sunday.
The Chargers are likely more talented than the Seahawks, so it's understandable that Sobleski has the better team winning, but Seattle looks like the safer pick based on momentum and home-field advantage.
After all, the Seahawks are 39-11 at home with Russell Wilson at the helm.
Davenport: Seattle (-1.5)
Gagnon: Seattle (-1.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (+1.5)
Consensus: Seattle (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Seattle 27, Los Angeles 23
Houston Texans (5-3) at Denver Broncos (3-5)
How powerful is home-field advantage in Vegas? The Denver Broncos are 3-5, and they just traded a starting wide receiver to the Houston Texans, who have won five consecutive games. Those two will meet Sunday in Denver, and the Broncos are small favorites.
Our panelists agree that the books have gone a bit too far there.
"This is a game featuring two teams heading in opposite directions," Davenport said. "The Texans have peeled off five wins in a row, while the Broncos have lost five of six after starting 2-0. There's also the weird dynamic of Demaryius Thomas being traded from Denver to Houston just before the two teams play. The Texans have found a run game the past few weeks with Lamar Miller, while the Broncos can't stop the run. That's going to open up the passing game for Deshaun Watson, who had a few extra days rest after playing on Thursday in Week 8. Houston wins this game outright and Thomas scores what may well be his last touchdown ever at Mile High—for Houston."
That right there is a bonus prediction for those playing props or considering starting Thomas in fantasy football. But the focus here is on the Texans overcoming a tough road environment to win their sixth straight game.
The Broncos are 2-2 at home, with their only two losses there coming by a combined seven points at the hands of the mighty Chiefs and mightier Rams. But they may be due for a home blowout against a team that just traded for one of their best players. That has to be tough to swallow for a Broncos offense that might lack balance when facing the AFC's top-ranked run defense in terms of yards-per-carry allowed.
If they can't manage that and Texans running back Lamar Miller (233 yards in his last two outings) can stay hot against the Broncos' poor run defense, this could be a road blowout for the streaking Texans.
Davenport: Houston (+1)
Gagnon: Houston (+1)
Sobleski: Houston (+1)
Consensus: Houston (+1)
Score Prediction: Houston 27, Denver 17
Los Angeles Rams (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (6-1)
It's another virtual pick'em in New Orleans, where the Saints are laying fewer than two points in a home matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.
Though the Rams have yet to lose this season, the majority of our experts believe that'll change Sunday at the Superdome.
"Beating the Ravens and Vikings in back-to-back road games might be tougher than beating the Rams at home," Gagnon said, alluding to the Saints' last two victories. "Los Angeles cut it close against the Green Bay Packers at home last week and beat Seattle and Denver by only five combined points in its last two challenging road games. I guarantee you Sean Payton learned some things from that tape, as well as tape of his team's 26-20 loss to the Rams in L.A. last season. We know the Saints have the weapons, and I think they're ready to come through with a statement victory at home."
New Orleans' defense has been more vulnerable than the Los Angeles D this season, while the Rams' high-scoring offense can never be counted out. This is far from a no-brainer, as evidenced by Sobleski's decision to side with the unbeaten Rams.
We wouldn't fault you for enjoying this one as a sports fan rather than a bettor.
Davenport: New Orleans (-1.5)
Gagnon: New Orleans (-1.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (+1.5)
Consensus: New Orleans (-1.5)
Score Prediction: New Orleans 31, Los Angeles 28
Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) at New England Patriots (6-2)
The Green Bay Packers have been multiple-point underdogs twice this season. On both occasions, they covered in non-winning performances (a two-point loss to the Rams and a tie with Minnesota). That's exactly what the majority of our analysts figure will happen when they face the New England Patriots Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
"The Patriots are simply better than the Packers at the moment," Sobleski said. "However, Green Bay tends to keep games close, thus giving Aaron Rodgers a chance to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat. Usually, that's all he needs. More than half of Green Bay's games this season have been decided by three points or fewer, which makes a 5.5 spread all the more enticing."
Davenport isn't convinced.
"This is either my contrarian special of Week 9 or my 'What the hell was I thinking?' special—I'm not entirely sure which," he said. "And I'd feel better about this pick if I knew Sony Michel was a go for the game after watching New England without him Monday night. But the Pats have won 11 in a row a home, and during that stretch, they're 9-2 against the spread. Throw in a cross-country ride for the Packers after a crushing loss in L.A., the loss of starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and a Green Bay defense I didn't trust before that trade, I'm laying the points against Rodgers. Pats win and cover—barely."
Those among us who pick against the majority as lone wolves are 33-31 this season, for what it's worth. But the Patriots were sluggish against the Bills in Week 8, and they're now facing a desperate team on short rest.
Our panelists would probably prefer to have a touchdown in their back pockets, but they're still clearly leaning in Green Bay's direction.
Davenport: New England (-5.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (+5.5)
Sobleski: Green Bay (+5.5)
Consensus: Green Bay (+5.5)
Score Prediction: New England 30, Green Bay 28
Tennessee Titans (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (3-4)
The Dallas Cowboys are averaging 28.7 points per game at home this season, where they've won all three of their games. That's where they'll be Sunday against a Tennessee Titans team that has lost three in a row, but our experts still feel they're laying too much as 6.5-point favorites.
"Aside from an aberrational 21-0 loss to the Ravens in Week 6," Gagnon said, "the Titans have hung around consistently. Five of their last six games have been decided by three or fewer points, and Dallas' bye-week advantage is negated to an extent by the fact Tennessee is also coming off a bye week."
The Cowboys rarely capitalized on home-field advantage in recent seasons—they were only 12-16 at AT&T Stadium in their last 28 home games prior to this year—and it's possible they're due for a dud in Arlington.
Even if that doesn't happen, there's a good chance they'll defeat a talented-but-inconsistent opponent by fewer than seven points to wrap up the week on Monday night.
Davenport: Tennessee (+6.5)
Gagnon: Tennessee (+6.5)
Sobleski: Tennessee (+6.5)
Consensus: Tennessee (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Dallas 21, Tennessee 20
Oakland Raiders (1-7) at San Francisco 49ers (2-7)
The ninth and final battle of the Bay Area could be quite sad. In their last ever meeting with the San Francisco 49ers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in 2014, the Oakland Raiders earned a double-digit victory over San Francisco despite the fact Oakland entered that game with a 1-11 record.
Our experts envision a similar result when the 1-6 Raiders "travel" to Levi's Stadium for a matchup with a depleted 1-7 geographic rival.
"The Raiders may be the NFL's worst team—at least the most dysfunctional—but they still have enough talent to beat another team struggling for victories," said Sobleski. "Injuries destroyed the 49ers roster this season, and a second quarterback change makes this a potential one-sided affair. C.J. Beathard is nursing a sore right wrist, and the 49ers may turn to Nick Mullens, who has yet to play in an NFL game, to lead the offense."
As it turns out, the 49ers are going with Mullens, which ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported three hours before kickoff.
With that in mind, it's stunning to see the 49ers listed as favorites. Even with Beathard, they've scored just 25 points in their last two games and are coming off an embarrassing loss to the just-as-bad Arizona Cardinals. That made them 0-2 against Arizona in October, with the other loss coming at home (where they've been outscored by 39 points in their last two games).
The Raiders are indeed a mess coming off three straight double-digit losses, but the circumstances (attrition, travel) that often put road teams in tough spots on Thursday nights might not be a factor since they're basically staying home to play a severely injured opponent. Quarterback Derek Carr performed really well in a Week 8 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, which could be an indication Oakland is due for its first road win in the second Jon Gruden era.
Davenport: Oakland (+2.5)
Gagnon: Oakland (+2.5)
Sobleski: Oakland (+2.5)
Consensus: Oakland (+2.5)
Score Prediction: Oakland 26, San Francisco 20
Update: San Francisco won 34-3.