Expert NFL Picks for Week 9, Including Seahawks-Bills and Saints-Buccaneers
Chris Altruda of NJ Online Gaming, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Chris Altruda, a national betting industry analyst for NJ Online Gambling, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 9 games, including the Seahawks flying cross-country to take on the Bills in Buffalo and a Sunday Night Football showdown between the Saints and Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Seattle Seahawks (6-1) (-3, -150, O/U 55) at Buffalo Bills (6-2)
A compelling matchup because … the Seahawks travel to Buffalo to take on a Bills team that is riding high after knocking off the Patriots and taking control of the AFC East. The Seahawks have scored more than 30 points in all of their games this season except one and will take on a Buffalo defense that, while shaky at times, has only given up 30 points or more twice in 2020.
Altruda’s Angle: Both teams are coming off crucial divisional wins at home that kept them atop their respective divisions. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson continues to be the frontrunner in the MVP race and is on pace to set career bests in all the important statistical categories. His 10.2 percent touchdown passing rate is on pace to be the third-best single-season mark in NFL history and would be just the fifth above 9.0 since 1976. The Bills have a firm grip on the AFC East after dropping the Patriots four games behind them at the season’s halfway point — the Miami Dolphins are now their closest pursuers. Buffalo showed previously they can play with anyone, especially at home, earlier this season when they defeated the Los Angeles Rams, but the Bills are still at the tier below elite. Seahawks running back Chris Carson’s availability is a concern, but this still feels like a game Seattle can win ugly. Give me the square play of the Seahawks on the moneyline.
Gable’s Guess: Seattle probably had their best defensive performance of the season against the 49ers in Week 8 and it looks like safety Jamal Adams should be back for them this week. The Seahawks are also certainly clicking offensively and lead the league in scoring at 34.3 points per game. The Bills are pretty good offensively, too, and are averaging 24.8 points per game. I think Josh Allen should be able to throw the ball in this one for the Bills. Seattle has the worst pass defense in the league and they’re allowing more than 300 passing yards per game. And I think both offenses should be able to put points on the board here with the defenses struggling a bit. We actually opened this with the Seahawks laying 3 and a total of 51. So the total has already gone up quite significantly from the opener. I’d be looking to lay the points with Seattle. They’re 7-1 against the spread in their last eight road games against teams with winning records.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Seahawks (5-2 against the spread) rebounded from their first loss of the season against the Cardinals in Week 7 with a 37-27 victory over the 49ers last week, easily covering as 1-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Bills are riding a two-game winning streak and coming off a 24-21 win over the Patriots, although they failed to cover as 4-point home favorites. This line opened with Seattle listed as a 3-point road favorite. The public is all over the Seahawks laying a short number. However, despite two-thirds of bets backing Seattle, this line has either remained at Seattle -3 or dipped down to 2.5. This signals liability on the Bills getting the key number of +3. Buffalo has value as a short contrarian home dog and Seattle is at a disadvantage as a West Coast team traveling East for an early 1 p.m. ET game. Buffalo also has buy-low value as a bad ATS team (3-5 ATS) against a sell-high good ATS team (5-2 ATS). I’ll back Bills Mafia +3 and hope they keep it close.
Our Pick: Seattle’s offense is too good. Take ’em and lay the points.
Chicago Bears (5-3) (+6, +215, O/U 46.5) at Tennessee Titans (5-2)
A compelling matchup because … after starting off the season hot, both of these teams have lost two in a row and are in need of a win to avoid slipping into the middle of the pack in their respective conferences. Despite having five wins, the Bears have a -5 point-differential on the season, largely due to the struggles of their offense against good competition.
Altruda’s Angle: The Titans played uphill from the start offensively last week at Cincinnati after a turnover and a missed field goal on their first two possessions and never flustered Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow defensively as he threw for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns without getting sacked. Derrick Henry, coming off his fourth 100-yard rushing effort of the season, will test a stout Bears defense put under enormous pressure by the team’s offensive shortcomings. Adding to Chicago’s woes is an offensive line thinned by injuries and COVID-19-related issues. Tennessee has revamped its defense, cutting Vic Beasley and Jonathan Joseph while acquiring cornerback Desmond King II from the Los Angeles Chargers. Fellow cornerback Adoree’ Jackson could make his season debut after being sidelined with a knee injury and would be a welcome help to contain top Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II. The Bears did just enough for a backdoor cover in pushing the Saints to overtime at home, but the hedge is the Titans get back on track and cruise in Music City. Take the Titans and lay the points, but wait out the line to see if moves in Chicago’s direction before doing so.
Gable’s Guess: It’s a good matchup here with Henry going against a very good Chicago defense. The Bears are playing to the under this year due to their struggles on offense and the good defense. They’re 4-1 to the under in their last five games. The 46.5 is actually their highest total of the season for any of their games. For the Titans, I think quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s going to need to make quick, intelligent decisions. Defensively, the Titans have struggled a bit. They’re generating only one sack per game. At least they catch a break here with Nick Foles, who’s continuing to struggle for the Bears. Hopefully he can get it turned around for the Bears. I would look at taking the Bears in this one getting the points.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bears (5-3 ATS) battled hard but came up short against the Saints last week, losing 26-23. The Titans (2-5 ATS) are coming off a disappointing loss to the lowly Bengals, falling 31-20 and losing straight up as 7-point dogs. This line opened with Tennessee listed as a 6-point home favorite. The public is split and doesn’t know whether to grab the points or lay them. This line has shown liability to the Bears throughout the week, briefly dipping to 5.5. The line has since evened out to 6 or even 6.5. Chicago fits one of my favorite systems: short road dog +6 or less (32-13 ATS, 71%). I’ll back Chicago to lose by less than a touchdown.
Our Pick: We’re unsure about both teams’ scoring ability, so we’ll go with the under.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (-2, -131, O/U 47) at Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
A compelling matchup because … the Colts have won two in a row and five games overall, but have only beaten one team with a winning record this season. The Ravens have also won five games, but have failed against the iron of the AFC with losses to the Steelers and Chiefs. A win here for Indy would go a long way in proving the Colts should be taken seriously.
Altruda’s Angle: While the Ravens can be labeled as the best of the second tier of AFC teams behind Kansas City and Pittsburgh — the two teams they have lost to this season — there may have been a silver lining in last weekend’s 28-24 loss to the Steelers: Baltimore rediscovered its ability to run the ball both through quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins. The trio combined for all of Baltimore’s 265 rushing yards, with Dobbins totaling 113 in his best game as a pro. Jackson has plenty of talent as a passer, but the Ravens offense operates best when he is a dual threat. Indianapolis has found a groove offensively in scoring 72 points in back-to-back wins, but those victories came over Cincinnati and Detroit. The Colts also have not played any elite teams — their best win came against offensively challenged Chicago on the road — and this may be a measuring stick game where they likely will come up short. The narrow spread makes the Ravens an attractive road favorite, so I’m laying the points.
Gable’s Guess: It’s a break for Philip Rivers that the Ravens won’t have cornerback Marlon Humphrey, an All-Pro, after he tested positive for COVID-19. The Ravens also lost their starting left tackle last weekend in the game against Pittsburgh to injury, so they’re a little banged up. This is an interesting stat: NFL teams are 1-6 this year the week after playing the Steelers. The Ravens just played the Steelers. Jackson did not look confident throwing the ball at all on Sunday. I think the Colts match up very well defensively with the Ravens in this one. If the spread was at 3 or 3.5, I would take the Colts. I’d probably stay away from playing at 2.5 or 2.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Ravens (3-3-1 ATS) just fell to the Steelers 28-24, losing straight up as 4-point home favorites. On the other hand, the Colts returned from their bye with an impressive 41-21 win over the Lions, easily covering as 3.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Baltimore listed as a 3-point road favorite. The public is rushing to the window to lay the points with Baltimore, expecting a huge bounce-back win and cover after a disappointing loss. However, despite this lopsided support we’ve seen the line fall from 3. This signals sharp reverse line movement on the Colts. The Ravens will be down their top cornerback along with several other players. Give me the Colts, maybe even on the money line.
Our Pick: Simply not sold on the Colts. Lay the points with Baltimore.
Miami Dolphins (4-3) (+4.5, +170, O/U 48) at Arizona Cardinals (5-2)
A compelling matchup because … two young quarterbacks who should be running their teams for a long time to come face off here with Tua Tagovailoa making the first road start of his career against Kyler Murray in Arizona. Both of these teams have fared better than expected to start the season, with Arizona’s strength being offense and Miami’s defense.
Altruda’s Angle: A pair of surprising playoff contenders collide in the desert with the Cardinals coming off their bye week and seeking a fourth straight victory to keep pace in the ultra-challenging NFC West. The line on this game could move all the way up to kickoff as Arizona had to place cornerback Byron Murphy on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Linebacker Devon Kennard may also wind up on that list after he reported testing positive but being asymptomatic. That further thins a defense that has been uneven all season and has often been bailed out by Murray. The second-year quarterback is showing improvements across the board as a passer and a runner and the offense has put up 30 or more points in each game during the winning streak. Dolphins coach Brian Flores, though, has shown an ability to scheme for an opponent after Miami’s defense scored a touchdown and nearly had a second score in last weekend’s win over the Los Angeles Rams. But this is also Tagovailoa’s first road start, and the feeling is the Cardinals may be able to put game pressure on him to possibly force turnovers. I’ll lay the points with Arizona to make it four in a row.
Gable’s Guess: The Cardinals are 4-1 ATS in their past five games against AFC teams and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games overall. The Cardinals are also playing to the under a lot, having gone under in five of the last seven. Miami has played to the under in four of their last five game as well. Miami’s defense is leading the NFL in points per game. They’re only letting up 18.6. Arizona’s defense has been better than average and they’re ninth in the league, allowing 20.9 points per game. Tua was not very impressive at all in his debut, but didn’t really need to be with the defense and special teams leading the team to victory. With the total being 48 and both teams trending to the under, I’d be looking to take it here.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Dolphins (5-2 ATS) were victorious in Tua’s debut last week, beating the Rams 28-17 and winning straight up as 3.5-point home dogs. The Cardinals (5-2 ATS) are coming off a bye week after beating the Seahawks 37-34 as 3.5-point home dogs. This line opened with Arizona listed as a 5-point home favorite. The public is split and doesn’t know which team to back. But we’ve seen this line drop from Cardinals -5 to -4.5, signaling some respected money backing the Dolphins and the points. Miami has value as a short road dog +6 or less (32-13 ATS, 71 percent). Give me the short road dog. This feels like a field goal game.
Our Pick: Arizona at home versus a rookie seems promising. Lay the points.
New Orleans Saints (5-2) (+4.5, +180, O/U 51.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
A compelling matchup because … in addition to being a matchup of the two best teams in the NFC South, this game also pits the oldest starting quarterbacks in the league, Drew Bress and Tom Brady, against one another for the second time this season. With 560 regular-season touchdowns in his career, Brees is second on the NFL’s all-time list behind Brady, who has 561. That record could change hands at least once during the game.
Altruda’s Angle: The NFC South leaders meet for the second time after Brees and the Saints got the better of Brady and the Buccaneers with a 34-23 victory in Week 1. That game swung early in the second half when Janoris Jenkins had a pick-6 against Brady to give New Orleans a 17-point lead. Brady and the Tampa Bay offense have since evolved into a more cohesive unit despite injuries to the receiving corps, and tight end Rob Gronkowski has rediscovered his wavelength with Brady in recent games. Chris Godwin could return for this game, but the big news is wideout Antonio Brown — who had a short-lived stint with the Patriots last year — is also expected to make his Buccaneers debut. New Orleans did just enough to fend off Chicago in overtime on the road last week, but it feels like something is slightly off with the Saints. Some of that can be attributed to Michael Thomas’s absence, but another part is Brees no longer stretching defenses with deep passes. The result has been the Saints winning the possession game — they have held the ball at least 34:41 or more in each contest during their current four-game winning streak. Tampa Bay may have been caught peeking ahead to this game after escaping with a victory Monday night versus the New York Giants, but this feels like a game where New Orleans’ luck finally runs out. Seven of the last nine games between the teams have resulted in 51 or more points, so the play is a teaser of taking the Buccaneers as a pick’em and moving the line down to clear an over of 46 points.
Gable’s Guess: I’m not quite sure if anyone knows what to expect from Antonio Brown in his first game with the Buccaneers. Obviously there’s some history there with Brady, but how much he’s used or targeted remains to be seen. Even without him, Brady has plenty of targets he can throw to. I would look for him to have a bounce-back game here from how he looked against New Orleans in Week 1. The Saints secondary has been giving up a lot of big plays. They’ve allowed seven passes of 48 yards or more in the last five games, which is a lot. That’s not good when you have Brady and all the weapons he has coming in. Since Sean Payton has been the coach of the Saints, they’ve won 66 percent of their games in the month of November. Alvin Kamara continues to be very big for the Saints, but I just don’t know if it’s going to be enough. I would be laying the points here with the Buccaneers.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Saints (2-5 ATS) have won four straight games, most recently beating the Bears 26-23 but failing to cover as 5.5-point road favorites. Meanwhile, the Bucs (4-4 ATS) are riding a three-game win streak and just took down the Giants 25-23 on Monday Night Football, although they failed to cover as 12.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Tampa Bay listed as a 4.5-point home favorite. This line reached -5.5 early but then got hit hard with New Orleans buyback, dropping it down. New Orleans has value as a road divisional dog and a short road dog +6 or less (32-13 ATS, 71 percent). New Orleans also has a rest advantage as the Bucs are on a short week. Primetime dogs are 17-8 ATS (68 percent) this season. I’ll back the Saints in a tight game.
Our Pick: Primetime means points and these teams can score. Go over.
Last Week: 3-2, Season: 22-18
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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