Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 9 NFL Picks
They've encountered some turbulence of late, but with the 2020 NFL season already nearly half complete, Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion remain above .500 picking games against the spread.
Here are the details:
1. Davenport: 64-53-2 (7-7 last week)
2. Gagnon: 63-54-2 (7-7 last week)
3. Kahler: 61-54-2 (6-8 last week)
4. Miller: 59-54-2 (3-11 last week)
5. Sobleski: 61-56-2 (3-11 last week)
6. Tesfatsion: 58-57-2 (6-7 last week)
Consensus picks: 55-45-1 (3-8 last week)
And here are 14 fresh takes and 13 new consensus picks for Week 9.
Green Bay Packers (5-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -6
Injuries and COVID-19 have done a number on Thursday night's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, both of whom are expected to be dramatically short-handed in Week 9. But the Packers at least have their future Hall of Fame quarterback and are a little healthier overall, and five of our six writers are laying nearly a touchdown with Green Bay in the Bay Area.
"The Packers aren't a team without problems," Davenport said. "Green Bay was gashed on the ground by the Minnesota Vikings last week, and the Pack's own run game has been hit hard by injuries of late. But Green Bay's issues pale next to the carnage in San Francisco—there isn't a more banged-up team in the league right now than the defending NFC champs.
"The Niners are short their starting quarterback. And top running back. And No. 1 wide receiver. And star tight end. And best edge-rusher. I'd probably lay a touchdown this week with Green Bay...even on the road."
Some of the injuries are part of a second wave of hits to the depleted Niners roster. They're a well-coached team that has hung around despite a slew of injuries thus far, but it's fair to wonder if it's all become too much. They've suffered two double-digit-point losses in the last four weeks, and they may not have the firepower to capitalize on Green Bay's poor run defense.
Even if the Packers don't get key cogs Aaron Jones and David Bakhtiari back, it's surprising this line hasn't hit a full touchdown yet.
Davenport: Green Bay
Gagnon: Green Bay
Kahler: San Francisco
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Consensus: Green Bay -6
Score Prediction: Packers 31, 49ers 20
Carolina Panthers (3-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -10.5
The Kansas City Chiefs have won back-to-back games by 26-plus points. They don't need to hit that margin Sunday at home against the Carolina Panthers to cover, and each and every one of our experts is predicting they'll clear a 10.5-point hurdle in another blowout victory.
"The Chiefs took care of business against the New York Jets even without key offensive starters Mitchell Schwartz and Sammy Watkins last week," Gagnon said. "Now, they could get both back for a matchup with a Panthers team that was overachieving before losing three consecutive games ahead of this one.
"Christian McCaffrey's expected return could be a factor considering Kansas City's issues on run defense, but he's unlikely to be close to 100 percent, and a Carolina defense with the fifth-lowest pressure rate in the NFL won't likely be able to exploit Schwartz's injury. Chiefs by three scores."
His colleagues won't fight him on that. You could consider buying back half a point, and the backdoor cover is likely to be a fear here, but the Chiefs look like the smart play.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: Kansas City
Miller: Kansas City
Sobleski: Kansas City
Tesfatsion: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City -10.5
Score Prediction: Chiefs 35, Panthers 17
Seattle Seahawks (6-1) at Buffalo Bills (6-2)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -3
Following a 4-0 start, the Buffalo Bills have been badly outscored during a 2-2 stretch in which their only wins came by one-score margins against opponents who are a combined 2-13 this season. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks bounced back from their first defeat of 2020 with an emphatic victory over the 49ers.
Seattle seems to be a lot more trustworthy than Buffalo right now, and it is only laying a field goal for Sunday's game in Buffalo. Five of our six predictors are cool with laying those three points.
"Many will look at Seattle's woeful defensive performance this season and believe the Seahawks are the perfect opponent for Bills quarterback Josh Allen to get back on track," Sobleski said.
"While that may be true, the bigger question mark is whether Buffalo can contain the dynamic trio of Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Currently, Buffalo allows a 97.7 passer rating and 7.3 yards per pass. The Bills defense isn't nearly as good as it was a year ago, and it will likely have trouble slowing this year's leading MVP candidate."
It's also worth noting that while Seattle's D has indeed been vulnerable, star safety Jamal Adams is expected to return to the secondary, and Allen has struggled with a 79.2 passer rating the last four weeks. That should be enough to feel comfortable laying the field goal.
Consensus: Seattle -3
Score Prediction: Seahawks 31, Bills 21
Chicago Bears (5-3) at Tennessee Titans (5-2)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -6
The Tennessee Titans have won just one game this season by more than six points, while the Chicago Bears have lost by more than a field goal on just two occasions this year. With Tennessee dealing with offensive line issues coming off back-to-back losses, five of our six writers are taking six points with a Bears team that brought the New Orleans Saints to overtime in Week 8.
"Chicago has played a lot of tight games this year," Kahler said. "Their average point differential over eight games is 5.5 points, and I think the Bears defense will keep this game close. Tennessee is coming off two straight losses, so this game feels like a close one to me."
Tennessee's pass defense ranks in the bottom 10 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders), and Bears quarterback Nick Foles went 28-of-41 in his highest-rated start of the season last week against the Saints. He's unpredictable, but that performance combined with Chicago's highly rated defense is enough to figure this will be a close game.
Could Foles fall on his face while Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry get a mentally strong Titans team back on track with an easy win? It's possible but unlikely. Take the points.
Consensus: Chicago +6
Score Prediction: Titans 24, Bears 23
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -2.5
The Baltimore Ravens haven't lost consecutive games since last September, but they're favored by just 2.5 points coming off an L last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The majority of our pickers figure an experienced team will bounce back against the dud-prone Indianapolis Colts, and if you're calling a Baltimore win, you oughta lay the 2.5 points.
"The Ravens shot themselves in the talon last week against Pittsburgh, committing four turnovers in a four-point loss to the Steelers—a loss that continued Baltimore's propensity over the past couple of years to come up short in big games," Davenport said. "However, it's difficult to imagine the Ravens playing that poorly two weeks in a row, and I'm still not sold on the Colts being as good as their record. Ravens get back on track and win by a touchdown."
Indy has won back-to-back games but has already fallen by nine against the Cleveland Browns and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. Hence that "dud-prone" label. Still, the Colts are a different team with a healthy Darius Leonard at linebacker, and the Ravens could have trouble adjusting to life without star left tackle Ronnie Stanley.
That's why it's fitting that it's a close vote in this case.
Consensus: Baltimore -2.5
Score Prediction: Ravens 26, Colts 21
Houston Texans (1-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
DraftKings Line: Houston -7
The vast majority of our correspondents are confused about why the struggling but talented Houston Texans are favored by just a touchdown in Jacksonville. After all, the Jags have lost six consecutive games, with the last five of those defeats coming by more than seven points, and now Jacksonville will be without starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
"The Texans have had a miserable season by just about any standard," Davenport said. "But at least Houston still has Deshaun Watson under center. The Jaguars will be trotting out rookie Jake Luton on Sunday for his first career start. Houston's only win this season came back in Week 5—an emphatic 30-14 win over these same Jaguars. Spotting the home team a touchdown isn't generally a great idea, but in this case it's the right play. The Texans may well be bad, but the Jaguars are much worse."
It's not just the Luton factor. Watson quietly has an unreal 117.3 passer rating the last five weeks, while the Jaguars have the league's worst-ranked pass defense in DVOA. That makes this a bad matchup for Jacksonville on both sides of the ball.
The Texans aren't exactly trustworthy, but seven points isn't much of a risk here.
Consensus: Houston -7
Score Prediction: Texans 31, Jaguars 13
Denver Broncos (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -3.5
As a viewer or a bettor, we wouldn't fault you for sitting out Sunday's matchup between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons in Georgia. Neither team has done anything to earn bettors' trust this season, and the home team is laying a field goal plus a terrifying hook in this case.
That last part might be the primary reason five of our six writers are unwilling to back the Falcons.
"There's just no way in hell I'm laying more than a field goal with the unreliable Falcons against a Broncos team that suddenly came alive last week with a comeback victory over the Los Angeles Chargers," Gagnon said. "Am I on the wrong side of literally every Falcons pick I make? Yes, but we all are and they're not letting us skip this one entirely, so I'll take a field goal and a hook with a Denver squad that outscored the Bolts 28-6 in the final 22 minutes last week."
Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, who is getting healthier every week, shined late in that comeback victory over L.A., and now he's facing the league's 29th-ranked pass defense in DVOA. It's a unit that might not have pass-rushers Takk McKinley and Dante Fowler Jr., both of whom have been out of practice for Atlanta. So we're not messing around with the Falcons here.
Consensus: Denver +3.5
Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Falcons 23
Detroit Lions (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-5)
DraftKings Line: OFF THE BOARD
With Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebacker Jarrad Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the line for Sunday's matchup with the Minnesota Vikings is off the board.
We can report, however, that our correspondents were split between Detroit and Minnesota when the Vikes were favored by four points at home prior to the removal.
New York Giants (1-7) at Washington Football Team (2-5)
DraftKings Line: Washington -3
The New York Giants' last three games have been decided by a point or two each, but the increasingly healthy Washington Football Team is coming off its bye and an impressive win over the Dallas Cowboys. With the Giants working on short rest, the majority of our predictors figure WFT can beat the G-Men by at least three points at home Sunday.
"The Giants started two rookies at left guard and left tackle this past weekend," Sobleski said. "That's troublesome considering how prolific Washington's pass rush can be. Pressure will almost certainly get to quarterback Daniel Jones, who's good for a crippling turnover or three."
Jones has committed four turnovers the last two weeks, while Washington put up six sacks in that 25-3 victory over Dallas. That pass D ranks second in the NFL in DVOA and first in the NFC in sack rate.
Still, it's fitting this is far from unanimous, as neither team has been trustworthy this season. Jones suddenly looked strong in a near-comeback Monday night, and Washington's offense ranks dead last in the NFC in DVOA.
Kahler: New York
Tesfatsion: New York
Consensus: Washington -3
Score Prediction: Washington 23, New York 17
Las Vegas Raiders (4-3) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-5)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -1
Sunday's AFC West battle between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers is essentially a pick'em between two teams that haven't exactly been reliable this season, but a small majority of our crew is backing the home squad under those circumstances.
"I'm here to tell you to stay away from this game," Gagnon said. "The Raiders just surrendered 45 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then just six against the Cleveland Browns, while the Chargers just blew a 24-3 second-half lead against another divisional opponent in Denver. It's too hard to get a feel for either squad."
But he's in the minority by reluctantly siding with the Raiders. Four of our six correspondents are picking the Chargers to cover a one-point spread, possibly because red-hot rookie Bolts quarterback Justin Herbert could have a field day against a pass defense that has struggled badly.
The Chargers are 2-5 for a reason, but the Las Vegas offense has also cooled off of late, and the Chargers actually have a stronger scoring margin this season than the Raiders. This could be a correction game.
Davenport: Las Vegas
Gagnon: Las Vegas
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -1
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Raiders 24
Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Arizona Cardinals (5-2)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -5
The Miami Dolphins were victorious in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's first career start Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, but Tagovailoa didn't do much in that game as the Rams outgained Miami by an incredible 250 yards in a losing effort. That isn't a sustainable model for the Dolphins, and the vast majority of our pickers expect a correction with the well-rested Arizona Cardinals laying five points at home against Miami in Week 9.
"To their credit, the Dolphins have been playing well, especially on defense," Davenport said. "No team in the NFL is allowing fewer points per game than Miami. But the Cardinals are rolling on offense coming out of their bye week, and with Chase Edmonds the clear No. 1 running back now, that offense should actually be better. Meanwhile, the Dolphins had fewer than 150 total yards last week. The disparity in the two offenses is just too great. Cardinals win here by double digits."
Arizona has scored 30-plus points in three consecutive outings, while Edmonds and his 6.1 yards-per-attempt average could be in store for a big day against the league's worst run D in DVOA.
The Dolphins are tough to get a feel for based on Tua's small sample and the defense has strong numbers against the pass and weak ones against the run, whereas the Cards are rolling and at home coming off the bye. There's not much debate here.
Consensus: Arizona -5
Score Prediction: Cardinals 28, Dolphins 20
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-6)
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -13.5
The large line for Sunday's Pittsburgh Steelers-Dallas Cowboys game hit the board late because of questions about who would start at quarterback for Dallas. Those questions remain, but at this point it's hard to argue the Cowboys have much of a shot regardless of whether Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush starts in place of Dak Prescott/Andy Dalton/Ben DiNucci.
No members of our crew were willing to take even 13.5 points and roll with a Dallas team that has been outscored 86-22 in three consecutive lopsided losses.
"The Steelers' ferocious defense will look across the line of scrimmage this weekend and see Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush under center," Sobleski said. "Is a further explanation needed why Pittsburgh is the easy choice despite the two-score spread?"
The Cowboys look defeated, while the Steelers are undefeated. They've recorded a league-high 30 sacks this season and should go off on whoever starts under center for Dallas. The backdoor cover is always a possibility with a spread like this, but if Dallas can't hang with Washington or the Philadelphia Eagles, this shouldn't be remotely close.
Consensus: Pittsburgh -13.5
Score Prediction: Steelers 31, Cowboys 10
New Orleans Saints (5-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -5
Two months ago, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a double-digit margin. So why are the majority of our experts picking Tampa Bay as a five-point favorite in Sunday night's rematch?
Well, a lot has since changed. In that Week 1 meeting, the Bucs were just coming together after major offseason adjustments, and that game took place in New Orleans. Now, they've meshed and taken off and they're at home for this Week 9 matchup with a Saints team that has underperformed of late.
"If the Saints have Michael Thomas, I might change my mind on this one," Kahler said. "But the Buccaneers will have Antonio Brown available too. This is going to be a great NFC South fight, but I think Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense is more of a threat than Drew Brees and the Saints. With Brown, they may unlock another level."
For what it's worth, Thomas and fellow veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders (who had COVID-19) have been practicing again as they try to fight back into the lineup. However, star wide receiver Chris Godwin has also returned to practice for the Bucs, who won't have much trouble supporting Brady with Brown, Mike Evans and Scotty Miller anyway.
Nothing's guaranteed when you're betting against Brees, Alvin Kamara and possibly even Thomas, but the Saints have outscored inferior opponents by just 15 total points the last four weeks, and the Bucs present a different challenge. They're the No. 1 all-around team in the NFL in DVOA.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: New Orleans
Kahler: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Tesfatsion: New Orleans
Consensus: Tampa Bay -5
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Saints 24
New England Patriots (2-5) at New York Jets (0-8)
DraftKings Line: New England -7
It ain't easy to pick the New England Patriots right now, but it's almost impossible to pick the New York Jets.
The Pats actually covered in a losing effort last week, while the winless Jets covered under the same circumstances in their last home game. But the Jets have been hammered so consistently this season that it's difficult to envision them hanging around, even at home against a Pats team that hasn't won a game since September.
The vast majority of our writers are fine with risking a touchdown with the Pats on Monday Night Football.
"The Patriots aren't good," Gagnon admitted. "But Bill Belichick has had extra time to prepare for a Jets team that has lost by at least eight points in every game it has played this season. Sam Darnold has little hope against a pass defense that remains decent, and even a struggling Cam Newton should have little trouble against a gutted D. This isn't a debate."
Davenport: New England
Gagnon: New England
Kahler: New York
Miller: New England
Sobleski: New England
Tesfatsion: No pick
Consensus: New England -7
Score Prediction: Patriots 28, Jets 13
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