Expert NFL Picks for Week 9 Including Browns-Bengals, Packers-Chiefs and Titans-Rams

Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights on Sunday's best games

November 5, 2021 8:07 am
Tyler Boyd of the Bengals catches the ball against the Cleveland Browns
Tyler Boyd of the Bengals catches the ball against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium.
Andy Lyons/Getty

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, 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 Bengals looking to get back on track against the Browns in an AFC North slugfest and the Patriots heading south to find out if the Panthers are legit.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.

New England Patriots (-3.5, O/U 41.5) at Carolina Panthers

A compelling matchup because … New England will reunite with former Patriot Stephon Gilmore, who is now a member of the Panthers after the former Defensive Player of the Year was traded to Carolina for a paltry sixth-round pick. The Patriots have yet to lose a road game this year while the Panthers are a mediocre 2-2 at home. Though they have identical records (4-4), the Patriots have outscored the Panthers by a large margin on the season, 206-165.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Patriots (4-4 SU, 4-4 against the spread) just took down the Chargers 27-24, winning outright as 3.5-point road dogs. Meanwhile, the Panthers (4-4 SU, 4-4 ATS) just upset the Falcons 19-13, winning outright as 2.5-point road dogs. The win snapped a four-game losing skid for Carolina. This line opened with New England listed as a short 2.5-point road favorite. Respected money pounced on the Patriots early, steaming New England up from -2.5 to -4. We saw some buyback on Panthers +4, dropping the line back down to 3.5. If P.J. Walker starts in place of Sam Darnold, that’s a big edge for New England. Non-conference road favorites are 11-6 ATS (64.7%) this season. I’ll lay the points with the suddenly surging Pats.

Gable’s Guess: I think you do need to watch out for New England all of a sudden. They put up the 54 points against the Jets two weeks ago and then had a quality road win against the Chargers. They have some easier games ahead and could make a playoff push, but they’re going to have to take care of the teams they should beat. It starts here with Carolina. The Panthers haves a host of issues, from injuries to the play of their quarterback, Sam Darnold, who will probably miss this one. Mac Jones continues to look pretty steady for the Patriots and their offensive line continues to improve. I count on Bill Belichick to continue to push this team to show improvement. I probably would’ve laid three points with New England, but I’m going to take the under.

Our Pick: The Patriots have won two in a row. We’ll bet they’ll make it three and lay the points.

Cleveland Browns (+2.5, O/U 47) at Cincinnati Bengals

A compelling matchup because … after playing above their heads for much of the season, the Bengals came out with a Browns-esque performance in Week 8 and dropped a stinker to Mike White and the New York Jets. In Cleveland, things are a bit messy thanks to a stagnant offense and an unhappy Odell Beckham Jr., who could be cut by the time the game kicks off on Sunday. Despite Cleveland’s struggles, a win for the Browns would bring them even with Cincy on the season.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Browns (4-4 SU, 4-4 ATS) have lost three of their last four games and just fell to the Steelers 15-10, losing outright as 5-point home favorites. On the flipside, the Bengals (5-3 SU, 4-4 ATS) are 2-2 over their last four games and just suffered an embarrassing 34-31 loss to the Jets, losing outright as 11.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Cincinnati listed as a 3-point home favorite. The public is all over the high-flying Bengals and is down on the reeling Browns, yet we’ve seen this line drop from 3 to 2.5. This signals some sharp reverse line movement on Cleveland. Short road dogs +3 or less are 14-5 ATS (74%) this season. Conference dogs of +7 or less are 42-22 ATS (66%). I’ll buy low on Cleveland and take the points in a divisional game. I also like the Browns in a teaser (+2.5 to +8.5), which goes through the key numbers of 3 and 7.

Gable’s Guess: This is a weird one. I think the most surprising thing about last week is the number of points the Bengals gave up to a Jets offense that’s been pretty anemic. Now, they face a Browns offense that only put up 10 points in a losing effort to the Steelers. With the success the Jets had at moving the ball, Cincinnati’s defense needs to rebound here, because they’ve really been the bright spot for this team this season. They’ve been pretty good in points allowed and yards allowed. Cleveland needs to find their way on defense. They’ve held their last two opponents under 20 points, but that doesn’t really mean anything, because they weren’t exactly playing the most high-powered offenses in Denver and Pittsburgh. I think the Bengals will still be able to score on them, but I believe the points are a bit too high to lay, so I’m going to take the 2.5 with Cleveland.

Our Pick: Seems like a lost season for Cleveland. Doesn’t for Cincy. Lay the points with the Bengals.

Green Bay Packers (+7, O/U 48) at Kansas City Chiefs

A compelling matchup because … what should have been the first ever matchup between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers was ruined by COVID-19. Instead of two MVP quarterbacks going at it, we’ll see Mahomes take on Jordan Love in the second-year QB’s first NFL start. Still tied for last place in the AFC West, the Chiefs have yet to shake the Super Bowl hangover that has lingered in KC for much of the season.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Packers (7-1 SU, 7-1 ATS) have won seven straight games and just upset the Cardinals 24-21, winning outright as 6.5-point road dogs. Meanwhile, the Chiefs (4-4 SU, 2-6 ATS) have rotated wins and losses their last six games. Kansas City just beat the Giants 20-17 to get back to .500, although the Chiefs failed to cover as 10.5-point home favorites. This line opened with the Chiefs listed as a 3-point home favorite before Rodgers was ruled out. Green Bay enjoys a massive rest advantage. The Packers last played on Thursday night while the Chiefs are on a short week having just played on Monday night. Kansas City is just 9-15 ATS (37.5%) since winning the Super Bowl two years ago. Even with Love, I’ll buy low on the big move and take the Packers with the points. Green Bay also gets Davante Adams back. 

Gable’s Guess: The Chiefs will be on a short week after their win against the Giants. They continue to turn the ball over and now lead the NFL with 19, which is three more turnovers than they had all season last year. Their defense also can’t seem to get stops, They picked up Melvin Ingram from the Steelers, who should be able to help out in the pass-rush. But the Chiefs are just a team searching for answers in a lot of different areas, starting with Mahomes and whether or not he can get his turnovers under control. Obviously the line changed dramatically with Jordan Love starting. The Chiefs are now 8-point favorites in some spots. The other concern with Green Bay is they have no real backup to Love, as their third-string QB is also out. I will lay the points with the Chiefs.

Our Pick: Even with Rodgers out, both teams should be able to score. Roll with the over in KC.

Arizona Cardinals (PK, O/U 45) at San Francisco 49ers

A compelling matchup because … a divisional matchup between two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions is complicated by questions surrounding the health of early-season MVP candidate Kyler Murray. Behind Murray on the Arizona depth chart is Colt McCoy, who has not been a starting quarterback in the NFL for years but has usually been a competent backup. San Francisco has yet to beat a team with a winning record this season.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Cardinals (7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS) just suffered their first loss of the season last week, falling to the Packers 24-21 and losing outright as 6.5-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the 49ers (3-4 SU, 2-5 ATS) finally got back in the win column with a 33-22 victory over the Bears, covering as 4.5-point road favorites. The win snapped a four-game losing skid for San Francisco. This line opened with Arizona listed as a 3-point road favorite. Despite lopsided support for the Cardinals, we’ve seen the line fall down to a pick’em. Some books have even flipped to 49ers -1.5. This signals big money backing the 49ers at home. San Francisco has buy-low value as a “bad” ATS team (2-5) against a “good” ATS team (6-2). I’ll follow the sharp money and take San Francisco on the moneyline.

Gable’s Guess: This game is based on Murray’s health. He’s day to day right now with his ankle injury. If he can’t go, it will be a big drop-off with McCoy. The other bad news for Arizona is DeAndre Hopkins only played 15 snaps against Green Bay due to his hamstring injury. The Niners shut down Chicago in the fourth quarter when they needed to in Week 8. Their secondary, which has been decimated by injuries, was okay against the Bears, but Chicago also has the worst passing offense in the NFL. The Niners are starting to look healthier, but if Murray is a go it will change the dynamic of the game dramatically. If he’s out, I’d look to back the Niners.

Our Pick: Good teams can win a game without their starting QB. The Cardinals are good. Pick them for the W.

Tennessee Titans (+7.5, O/U 53.5) at LA Rams

A compelling matchup because … Sunday night’s game will mark the second time Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill will start a game for the team without Derrick Henry in the backfield. (He lost the first.) The primetime game will also mark Von Miller’s debut with his team as part of a frightening Los Angeles defense. Winners of four in a row, the Titans will put their winning streak on the line against a team that has also won four straight.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Titans (6-2 SU, 6-2 ATS) just upset the Colts 34-31, winning outright as 3-point road dogs. Meanwhile, the Rams just dismissed the Texans 38-22, although Los Angeles failed to cover as 16.5-point road favorites. The lookahead line on this game was roughly Rams -4.5 at home. But with the news of Henry likely out for the year with a foot injury, we saw this line re-open at Rams -6.5 and quickly get steamed up to -7.5. The Rams are in a prime teaser spot (-7.5 to -1.5), but I’ll back the Titans +7.5. Primetime dogs are 17-7 ATS (71%). Henry is great, but the overreaction to his absence seems a bit much. The Titans’ offense is still high-powered enough to keep this within a touchdown.

Gable’s Guess:  How lost will the Titans’ offense look without Henry? And how’s their defense going to stop the Rams? Their entire offense was really built around Henry. They hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC and now they just need to hold on until the end of the season and hope Henry can come back for the playoffs. They still have some very winnable games to play. The Rams picked up Miller, showing they’re all-in to win right now. He’s not the same player he was a couple of years ago, but he still should be able to contribute. I’m just not sure how this Tennessee defense stops the Rams. It’s going to take more than one week for Tennessee to figure out their offense without Henry. I’m going to lay the points here with the Rams.

Our Pick: The Rams are coming off a laugher. The Titans are not. Prime letdown spot. Lay the points with LA.

Last Week: 4-1; Season: 21-18-1

Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.