B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 9
November is (basically) here, and we've got 121 games down with 135 to go.
The 2019 NFL regular season is essentially halfway done, and Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski are essentially positioned where they were at the start of the year when it comes to picking every game against the spread.
Here's an updated look at where they stand (last week's records in parentheses):
1. Brad Gagnon: 64-57 (7-8)
2. Brent Sobleski: 61-60 (6-9)
3. Gary Davenport: 54-67 (7-8)
Consensus picks: 60-61 (7-8)
Moneyline consensus: 83-37-1 (14-1)
There's plenty of time for any or all of them to find a groove and just as much time for this train to derail. This is a critical slate as the crew tries to bounce back from a sub-.500 week across the board and build on a near-perfect performance straight-up.
Here's where they stand for all 14 games on the weekend schedule.
Lines from Caesars as of 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
San Francisco 49ers (7-0) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)
Teams that finished 2018 with losing records were 1-6-1 ATS on Thursdays last season against teams that finished with winning records. Right now, the Arizona Cardinals have a losing record, and the San Francisco 49ers most definitely have a winning record.
Good teams often trample bad teams on short rest. And while the Minnesota Vikings fell short of covering in a similar situation last week against the Washington Redskins, our crew figures catching on to that trend will pay off in Week 9.
"The Cardinals' continued improvement makes a 10-point spread quite enticing," Sobleski admitted. "But the 49ers showed exactly how good they are last weekend when they annihilated the Carolina Panthers. Kyler Murray will make a few plays with his feet because he'll be running for his life most of the contest thanks to the game's best defensive line. Plus, Arizona can't cover tight ends. At all. Hello, George Kittle."
Based on DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), Football Outsiders ranks the Cardinals dead last in the NFL at defending tight ends in pass coverage. They've been roasted this year by T.J. Hockenson, Austin Hooper, Mark Andrews and Greg Olsen, and Kittle is one of the most skilled players at the position.
While it's still fair to consider a double-digit spread too much in Glendale, Arizona's struggles against quality opponents this season ought to be taken into account. Against teams that currently have losing records, the Cardinals are 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 3.3 points. But against teams that currently have a winning record, they're 0-4 with three losses by at least 17 points (and two at home).
Davenport: San Francisco (-10)
Gagnon: San Francisco (-10)
Sobleski: San Francisco (-10)
Consensus: San Francisco (-10)
Score Prediction: 49ers 30, Cardinals 13
Houston Texans (5-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)
Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans generated plenty of buzz with a thrilling Week 8 victory, but that win came by a mere three points at home against a tired and mediocre opponent. Now they're traveling nearly 5,000 miles to essentially play a road game against a familiar opponent that will be well-prepared for them in London.
That has the majority of our experts backing the Jacksonville Jaguars in a semi-pick'em.
"This is one of those picks you regret six nanoseconds after you make it," Davenport said. "Then I watched a replay of Deshaun Watson's superhero act last week, and that regret amplified exponentially. But the Houston secondary is a mess, the front seven is reeling after losing J.J. Watt to a season-ending injury, Gardner Minshew II is coming off arguably his best game of the season, and the Jaguars usually play well in London. All that's almost enough to make me feel good about this pick. Then I look at my ATS record for the season and just weep for a little while."
But Davenport is at least joined on this one by Gagnon, who has been the group's top picker by a wide margin this season. So whether you believe in riding a hot hand or taking advantage of expected regression to the mean, the Jags might be the pick for you.
For what it's worth, the Jags have fared pretty well in their British second home of late—they've won and covered in three of their last four games across the pond—and the Texans have been demolished by injuries.
Defensive backs Johnathan Joseph (shoulder), Bradley Roby (hamstring) and Tashaun Gipson Sr. (back) were all out in Week 8, they lost corner Lonnie Johnson to a concussion, starters Tytus Howard and Will Fuller V remained out on the offensive side of the ball, and they lost left tackle Laremy Tunsil to a shoulder injury against the Oakland Raiders.
Watson is a legitimate MVP contender who is tough to bet against, but he and the Texans have also been inconsistent this season.
He posted a passer rating of 110 or higher three times in the first five weeks of the season, but all three of those performances were directly followed by poor outings with sub-80 passer ratings. This week, he's coming off his fourth 110-plus-rated game, and he's facing a tough and talented defense that has held him to a sub-90 rating in each of their last three matchups.
Davenport: Jacksonville (+1.5)
Gagnon: Jacksonville (+1.5)
Sobleski: Houston (-1.5)
Consensus: Jacksonville (+1.5)
Score Prediction: Jaguars 24, Texans 23
Chicago Bears (3-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles were fighting for their lives in a season-saving road victory. Will the Chicago Bears have the same mentality in Philadelphia this week? The majority of our gang figures a still-banged-up Eagles team could be running into the wrong opponent at the wrong time.
"I think this line is inflated," Gagnon said. "The Eagles are coming off an emphatic, season-saving victory over an opponent many perceive to be of high quality. Meanwhile, the Bears haven't won a game in over a month. But Philadelphia is still in pretty rough shape, and let's not forget this is essentially the same Chicago team that went 12-4 last year and started this season 3-1. How likely are they to lose four in a row? You'd have to imagine that talented defense will be as hungry to save its season as the Eagles were last week.
"Besides, in this case, the Bears can afford to lose a fourth consecutive game as long as it remains close. I'd think twice if this line were inside three points, but Chicago has been blown out just once this year, and that came against a much hotter New Orleans Saints team. This'll be a field-goal game."
Then again, it's entirely possible the Bears' season has already been derailed.
It looks as though they've completely lost confidence in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, they have plenty of injuries of their own, and the defense hasn't been the same without veteran interior presence Akiem Hicks. Davenport can't bring himself to back a team under those circumstances, which is why we lack a unanimous consensus here.
And for what it's worth, those picking against the majority as lone wolves are 99-95 since the start of last season.
Davenport: Philadelphia (-4.5)
Gagnon: Chicago (+4.5)
Sobleski: Chicago (+4.5)
Consensus: Chicago (+4.5)
Score Prediction: Eagles 23, Bears 20
Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4)
Considering the Pittsburgh Steelers trailed one of the worst teams in NFL history at halftime in Week 8 and are now on short rest for a matchup with a high-quality opponent, the majority of our analysts are surprised the Indianapolis Colts are laying just one point for Sunday's battle at Heinz Field.
"The Steelers simply don't play well against good teams," Sobleski noted. "Pittsburgh's three wins came against squads with a combined 3-20 record, while they lost all four contests against winning squads. The 5-2 Colts are the perfect foil since they take care of the football. Much of the Steelers' success so far is predicated on an opportunistic defense creating turnovers, but Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett has only thrown three interceptions."
The Colts have turned the ball over just seven times in seven games, and the venue might not scare them. Pittsburgh's poor Week 8 performance came at home, and the Colts have yet to lose in regulation on the road this season.
Still, Pittsburgh could put up a fight.
The Steelers are likely desperate, they haven't lost by more than four points since Week 1, and Indy's banged-up secondary has struggled to contain top-end receivers this season. Julio Jones, Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins have already gone off on that defense this season, and Pittsburgh could steal this one if JuJu Smith-Schuster can do the same.
This is one you might want to watch purely for entertainment purposes.
Davenport: Indianapolis (-1)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (+1)
Sobleski: Indianapolis (-1)
Consensus: Indianapolis (-1)
Score Prediction: Colts 23, Steelers 20
New York Jets (1-6) at Miami Dolphins (0-7)
The Miami Dolphins have lost by at least 10 points to every team they've played this season except the Washington Redskins. But considering the New York Jets appear to be in Redskins-like shape right now, the majority of our guys are willing to take three points with the Dolphins at home for Sunday's matchup between two sorry AFC East foes.
"In at least one way, it's fitting that I'm picking the Dolphins: We're both wallowing in the basement," Davenport joked. "But over the last couple of weeks with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, the Dolphins have actually shown a sign of life or two. The Jets, on the other hand, are in a free fall. The team traded Leonard Williams and was reportedly open to the idea of moving Le'Veon Bell. Sam Darnold has regressed badly in 2019, so much so that I'm not laying points with this gangrenous Gang Green team. Even against the Dolphins."
It's an understandable approach with a push as a potential fallback. After all, Miami has held second-half leads in back-to-back road games against opponents who are superior to the Jets, and New York does appear to be reeling following a tumultuous stretch on and off the field.
Still, it's easy to see why we don't have a unanimous consensus. The Dolphins are down top corner Xavien Howard, and it's hard to get behind a team that appears to be losing deliberately. Miami might have built up a lead in Pittsburgh, but then it allowed 27 unanswered points and is entering this game on short rest.
Your best approach is probably to stay far away from this one.
Davenport: Miami (+3)
Gagnon: New York (-3)
Sobleski: Miami (+3)
Consensus: Miami (+3)
Score Prediction: Jets 21, Dolphins 20
Tennessee Titans (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (4-3)
If our guys had a choice, they wouldn't have to pick games involving the wildly frustrating Tennessee Titans. They are 3-5 picking Titans games this season, so feel free to fade them here. They aren't going to try to convince you to spend your hard-earned money on or against unpredictable Tennessee, especially considering the circumstances surrounding its Week 9 opponent.
Even with a spooky Halloween weekend hook in place, Davenport and Sobleski are siding with Carolina in what they expect to be a bounce-back game for the Panthers. They'd won four straight games before getting demolished on the road by the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers, but now they're back at home to face a Titans team that isn't 49ers-caliber.
This number dropped a bit in light of Carolina's ugly loss and Tennessee's second straight win, but the Titans could easily have lost each of those games if not for considerable mistakes from their opponents/the officials.
The majority of our experts are looking to take advantage of some extra line value there, especially considering that Tennessee is in rough shape from a health perspective. The Titans are hoping to get cornerback Adoree' Jackson back from a foot injury, but that's no guarantee, and top Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans had a field day against a Jackson-less Titans defense in Week 8.
"But Jackson was on the practice field to start the week," said Gagnon in dissent, "as was injured veteran guard Rodger Saffold III. Those two should give the Titans a boost, and let's not pretend the Panthers have passing-game weapons like Tampa Bay. Panthers interim starting quarterback Kyle Allen has come crashing back to earth, and Tennessee's top-notch run defense should limit Christian McCaffrey's damage. Plus, how can we trust that the Panthers aren't about to suffer the same second-half plummet that was sparked by an equally embarrassing midseason loss last season? I'm not willing to give up 3.5 points under those circumstances."
So yeah, no unanimity here. And it should be pointed out that Gagnon is 5-3 picking Titans games this season.
Davenport: Carolina (-3.5)
Gagnon: Tennessee (+3.5)
Sobleski: Carolina (-3.5)
Consensus: Carolina (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Panthers 21, Titans 16
Washington Redskins (1-7) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)
The Buffalo Bills have averaged 16.8 points per game the last four weeks, while the Washington Redskins have surrendered just 14.7 points per game the last three weeks. With that in mind, the majority of our analysts aren't willing to predict that the Bills will defeat Washington by a double-digit margin on Sunday.
"The Bills offense simply isn't good enough to demand a two-score difference in the spread," Sobleski said. "Opponents aren't exactly scoring a ton of points on Washington's defense, either. If Bill Callahan's offense manages anything, Washington should be able to cover."
And the Redskins should at least avoid a shutout against a defense that surrendered 21 points against the tanking Dolphins and then gave up 31 at home against Philadelphia.
Washington has also enjoyed extra time to prepare after surprisingly hanging with the Vikings in Minnesota on Thursday night last week, and the Redskins are a lot healthier now than they were when they were embarrassed by the Bears, New York Giants and New England Patriots in three straight games earlier this season.
You might want to wait to see who Washington starts at quarterback with Case Keenum dealing with a concussion, but the Redskins still look like the safer pick here.
Davenport: Buffalo (-9.5)
Gagnon: Washington (+9.5)
Sobleski: Washington (+9.5)
Consensus: Washington (+9.5)
Score Prediction: Bills 21, Redskins 16
Minnesota Vikings (6-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)
At the time of publication, there remained no point spread for Sunday's tilt between the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, solely because the status of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains up in the air. With limited information, our guys are willing to make a preliminary consensus pick in favor of a Vikings team that is a lot healthier and more rested than Kansas City.
Even if Mahomes plays, he'll likely be far from 100 percent. Against an underrated defense that has seven takeaways and 12 sacks during a four-game winning streak, that could be a problem.
"Don't forget that the Chiefs weren't playing well even before Mahomes suffered that knee injury," Gagnon said. "They're 1-3 at home, and injuries to Chris Jones, Kendall Fuller, Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Bashaud Breeland and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif all count for something. Meanwhile, with Adam Thielen possibly returning, the Vikings are extremely healthy. These two teams are just on different levels right now."
Check back for a line and a potentially revised score prediction when there's more clarity on Mahomes. But for now, our analysts have a good feeling about Minnesota on the moneyline.
Score Prediction: Vikings 27, Chiefs 21
Detroit Lions (3-3-1) at Oakland Raiders (3-4)
The Oakland Raiders have been at their best this year when facing quarterbacks who aren't considered game-changers. They generally shut down Jacoby Brissett, Chase Daniel and Joe Flacco in their three victories. But they struggled in losses to Mahomes and the Chiefs, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers and Watson and the Texans.
They faced Rodgers and Watson the last two weeks, with those two MVP candidates completing 74 percent of their passes for 10.1 yards per attempt along with eight touchdowns to zero interceptions for a combined passer rating of 144.3.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford might not be playing at the same level of those two, but he ranks behind only Russell Wilson with 16 touchdown passes, he's a top-five quarterback in terms of both yards per attempt and yards per completion, he ranks second in the league in air yards per attempt, and he leads the NFC with 29 deep completions.
Stafford is quietly having a big season, and at least two of our three panelists imagine he'll have another impressive performance against that vulnerable, short-handed Raiders D on Sunday.
"The Lions and Raiders are two of the league's most inconsistent teams, which makes this a difficult projection," Sobleski confessed. "The difference lies in Detroit's fifth-ranked pass offense, while Oakland owns the 30th-ranked pass defense. Expect Stafford to have a big day."
But as Gagnon will point out in dissent, the Lions offense has once again become one-dimensional with running back Kerryon Johnson down.
"Stafford hasn't played particularly well in his last two road games," he said, "and there'll be a lot of pressure on him three time zones over in Oakland. The home team is only giving up two points, and it's not as though Derek Carr can't also take advantage of a weak pass defense."
Detroit has also surrendered eight touchdown passes to zero picks the last two weeks, but against Cousins and New York Giants rookie Daniel Jones. They inexplicably traded starter Quandre Diggs last week, and defensive backs Tracy Walker and Darius Slay are both dealing with injuries heading into this game.
The Lions are surely the better team, but that might not be enough to merit anything more than a friendly bet in this spot.
Davenport: Detroit (+2)
Gagnon: Oakland (-2)
Sobleski: Detroit (+2)
Consensus: Detroit (+2)
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Raiders 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
For the first seven years of the Russell Wilson era, the Seattle Seahawks had the best straight-up home record and the second-best ATS home record in the NFC. But this year, Seattle is 2-2 straight up and 0-4 against the spread with a scoring margin of minus-18 at CenturyLink Field.
You could argue that they're due for a big home victory Sunday against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the majority of our analysts aren't willing to lay nearly a touchdown with Seattle.
"The Buccaneers have two big advantages in this game," Gagnon said. "First, on defense they should be able to dominate in the trenches. Not only is Jason Pierre-Paul back in support of a talented defensive front featuring Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and Shaquil Barrett, but an already weak Seattle offensive line just lost veteran center Justin Britt to a torn ACL.
"That could be problematic, as could the fact the Seahawks' vulnerable secondary will likely have its hands full with red-hot Tampa receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, especially if a Seattle team with the league's fourth-lowest sack rate can't consistently pressure Jameis Winston."
Of course, the risk is that even if the Bucs pass rush gets through and the league's top-ranked run defense shuts down the Seattle rushing attack, Wilson could single-handedly take over this game at home. That explains why we don't have a unanimous consensus here, but our two pickers with winning records still can't justify spotting the Bucs six points.
Davenport: Seattle (-6)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+6)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+6)
Consensus: Tampa Bay (+6
Score Prediction: Seahawks 26, Buccaneers 23
Cleveland Browns (2-5) at Denver Broncos (2-6)
The Cleveland Browns have just two wins this season, but both came on the road by double-digit margins. With that in mind, the majority of our experts are more comfortable giving up a field goal and a hook with Cleveland than gambling on the Denver Broncos sans Emmanuel Sanders (who was traded last week), Joe Flacco (who went down with a neck injury on Sunday) and possibly even Ja'Wuan James (who suffered a knee injury in the same game).
"Remember when everyone thought the Browns were going to be good?" Davenport said. "Those were good times. There isn't a team in the NFL that has shot itself in the foot more this year than Cleveland, and it's hard to run fast without toes. But there's still talent on the Browns—enough to beat a Broncos squad led by Brandon 'Who?' Allen."
Allen—a sixth-round pick by the Jaguars in 2016 who spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams—has never thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game. Flacco wasn't playing particularly well, though, and the element of surprise could hurt a Browns team that few would call well-coached.
One factor more certain to work to Denver's advantage is its pass rush, which has recorded five-plus sacks in three of the team's last five games. The Broncos pass defense brings the heat and shuts down the run routinely, which is why it ranks behind only New England and San Francisco in terms of DVOA. Baker Mayfield has been one of the league's worst passers under pressure this season, and his poor offensive line could be in trouble on the road in this spot.
So it's no surprise we lack a unanimous consensus. Still, the Browns are healthier and more talented in general. And while the Broncos look resigned to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season, Cleveland knows it still has a chance to climb back into a wide-open AFC wild-card race. The Browns are likely to be the more desperate team.
Davenport: Cleveland (-3.5)
Gagnon: Denver (+3.5)
Sobleski: Cleveland (-3.5)
Consensus: Cleveland (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Browns 23, Broncos 17
Green Bay Packers (7-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)
Ravaged by injuries to start the year, the Los Angeles Chargers have become slightly more healthy of late. And they're coming home after playing two tightly contested road games. But their secondary remains quite depleted, and after hanging in against Ryan Tannehill and Mitchell Trubisky, they'll be in for a tougher test against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
A test none of our experts believe they can pass.
"The Packers are riding high after a big win at Arrowhead," Davenport said, "and the team hopes to have wide receiver Davante Adams back for their trip west to face the Chargers. But even without Adams. I have no problem at all laying the points here and taking Green Bay. The Chargers managed all of 231 yards of total offense last week, and had the Bears not wanted the loss just a little more, the Bolts would be sitting at 2-6. The Chargers are a bad team that will be playing a 'home' game in front of 75 percent Packers fans—at least. This is easy money."
That lack of home-field advantage has become a problem for the Bolts this season. It might be even more demoralizing to feel like a road team in your own building than to simply be a road team, which could explain why the Chargers have won nine of their last 11 regular-season games outside of Los Angeles but have lost four of their last five games at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Packers fans are everywhere, they travel well and they're passionate. So in this case, Green Bay sure does look like a no-brainer with only 3.5 points to give up.
At press time, some books were still offering the Packers minus-three. If you can't do that but can pay to remove that hook, go for it to be safe. But our guys are still willing to roll with Green Bay regardless.
Davenport: Green Bay (-3.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (-3.5)
Sobleski: Green Bay (-3.5)
Consensus: Green Bay (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Packers 28, Chargers 17
New England Patriots (8-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
The New England Patriots might be in for their biggest challenge yet as they travel to Baltimore to face an experienced team that is getting healthier and has had two weeks to prepare for them. But New England is laying just a field goal against the Baltimore Ravens, which has our entire crew backing an undefeated team that hasn't won by fewer than six points in any of its last 13 games (playoffs included).
"I went back and forth on this one," Davenport admitted. "The Ravens are getting points at home, coming off an impressive win at Seattle and have had an extra week to get ready to face the defending champs. But Bill Belichick excels at taking away what an opponent does best—Lamar Jackson is not running for 100-plus yards in this contest. The Patriots are going to spy Jackson, try to keep him in the pocket and dare him to beat them with his arm. I just don't believe Jackson can do that against the AFC's best secondary. I also have my doubts about Baltimore's defense. The Pats will get it done, as they usually do."
And while the Ravens might get Marquise Brown and Jimmy Smith back from injury, safety Earl Thomas was out of practice to start the week due to a knee injury.
The Patriots also consistently dominate young quarterbacks, and this might be too tall a task for Jackson. Baltimore might simply be too exploitable on both sides of the ball, and it should be noted that the Ravens are just 1-8 against the spread at home dating back to last October.
This line could be inflated toward Baltimore simply because the Ravens have historically played well against the Pats. But this is a very different Baltimore team—one that has one of the worst defensive sack rates in football. We all know the key to beating Tom Brady is a heavy natural rush, but the Ravens might not have that in them.
In some cases there's a hook working against the Patriots here, but Caesars is offering New England minus-three. You'd be smart to take that, because this could easily be a field-goal margin between two teams that often play tight matchups.
Davenport: New England (-3)
Gagnon: New England (-3)
Sobleski: New England (-3)
Consensus: New England (-3)
Score Prediction: Patriots 26, Ravens 20
Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at New York Giants (2-6)
A lot has changed since the Dallas Cowboys hammered the New York Giants 35-17 in Week 1, and those changes have the majority of our analysts convinced the G-Men can hang with a Dallas team giving up more than a touchdown on the road.
"Daniel Jones is coming off his best game as a pro so far," Sobleski said. "He threw four touchdown passes against the Lions. With Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate and Evan Engram back in the lineup, the Giants are far more formidable than the squad that took the field during the season opener, while the Cowboys aren't nearly as good as the team that started 3-0. This second matchup between the two rivals should be far more competitive."
It's also in New Jersey rather than Dallas, where the Cowboys have won 10 of their last 12 games. Meanwhile, they've lost back-to-back road games, including one at this site against the Jets three weeks ago.
Jones has been up and down, but he gives the Giants more energy than Eli Manning did, and he has a much more complete supporting cast now. You'd think that even in the worst-case scenario he'd give his team a shot at a backdoor cover in front of a home crowd in prime time.
The key for Dallas will be to pressure the young quarterback, but the Cowboys have the 11th-worst adjusted sack rate in the league. And Barkley, who averaged nearly 11 yards per carry in the first meeting, could make life easier on Jones.
It's not a unanimous consensus, though, and you can't fault Davenport for lacking trust in the unpredictable Giants. Tread carefully.
Davenport: Dallas (-7.5)
Gagnon: New York (+7.5)
Sobleski: New York (+7.5)
Consensus: New York (+7.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Giants 23