Bets for NFL: Week 9
Injuries and positive COVID tests continue to pile up across the NFL, spoiling what otherwise would have been a slate filled with intriguing matchups all Sunday long.
Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID earlier in the week, turning our first-ever Patrick Mahomes vs. Rodgers matchup into Mahomes vs. Jordan Love. Sam Darnold was out for revenge against the team who caused him to see ghosts when he was a member of the Jets, but a concussion and a shoulder injury looks like it’ll cause the Panthers to turn to P.J. Walker against New England. A torn ACL for Jameis Winston means we’ll see either Trevor Siemian or Taysom Hill take on the Falcons. Tua Tagovailoa is questionable against the Texans with a thumb injury. Kyler Murray was spotted in a walking boot earlier in the week, bringing his availability into question against San Francisco.
And of course, in perhaps the biggest post-Week 8 news, Derrick Henry is most likely shelved for the year after a broken bone in his foot forced him onto the operating table. Not only is it a huge blow to the Titans, it swings the door wide open for the Colts to get back into the AFC South hunt, especially after the demolition of the Jets on Thursday night.
Taking all this into account, the Week 9 slate is a difficult one, so here are my two favorite best and my teaser of the week for our first weekend of November football. Don’t forget to check out my full slate of picks as well.
New England Patriots -3 (-125)
Patriots 4-4 vs. Panthers 4-4
The Patriots are -3.5 everywhere, and while I rarely do it, I’m recommending buying a half-point at no lower than -125 to bring this line down to the key number of three. I hate nothing more than laying the hook, especially in a game that promises to be low-scoring with a total of just 41.
There hasn’t been much love for New England this season in the media, despite their 4-4 record with a rookie quarterback and an almost entirely new roster. Many have cited that coming into last week, their only three wins came against the Texans and Jets (twice). And while that was true, they put on an impressive display against the Chargers in Week 8, flying across the country to beat LA coming off their bye week. In the few weeks prior, they gave both the Buccaneers and the Cowboys all they could handle as well. Even when Tom Brady was in New England, they were a November and December team – not a September and October team. The same is true this year, and it’s amplified as all the new pieces, including Mac Jones, get acclimated to playing together and playing at this level. Because the perception around the Patriots is still that they’re not a very good team, we’re getting a ton of value against a worse team – Carolina.
The wheels have completely come off the Panthers’ wagon since Christian McCaffrey went down with injury. They’re 1-4 without their star running back, with their only win coming last week against a shorthanded Falcons team. They’re 29th in offensive DVOA, only ahead of Chicago, Detroit, and Houston. That’s right – they have a worse offense than the Dolphins, Jaguars, Giants, and Jets. And now they’ll be even worse off no matter who starts under center. If Sam Darnold starts, he won’t be 100% or even close, really. If P.J. Walker starts – good luck. Walker isn’t a rookie, but he’s close enough. He’s got one career start and 71 career pass attempts under his belt, and we know what it’s like for inexperienced quarterbacks to face Bill Belichick. It’s a losing proposition nearly every time. And Walker has been terrible in limited snaps this year. He’s 3/15 for 33 yards and he’s taken three sacks on the year. Have fun!
New England’s 11th ranked defense should have no problem containing this shorthanded Carolina offense, even if they are on the road for the second-straight week. Shop around for a book that’ll let you buy this one down to -3.
49ers /Cardinals Under 46 (-110)
49ers 3-4 vs. Cardinals 7-1
This game comes with a ton of question marks. Will George Kittle return from IR? Will Kyler Murray play? Judging by the line movement, it looks like Kittle has a better shot of playing than not, but it sure seems like Murray will sit.
This is eerily similar to last week’s Cowboys / Vikings game where the line movement towards Minnesota clearly indicated someone knew something about Dak Prescott’s status. And sure enough, despite a pretty convincing pregame warmup, Prescott sat out and we sailed under the total without dripping a bead of sweat. Side note – some of you messaged me that you took the Cowboys -1 bet in case Prescott did play, along with the under, and cashed both. If you’re one of those people like I was, congratulations!
Onto this game – we’re going to take a nearly identical approach as we did last week. If Kyler Murray is out, that means Colt McCoy is in. And if Colt McCoy is in, this total is far too high. This offense goes as Murray goes, and it’s built around his strengths – namely his ability to use his legs. Not only to run for big gains, but to make things happen behind the line of scrimmage and improvise to keep plays alive. McCoy may have possessed that ability in college 12 years ago, but his 35-year old legs that have only started 30 NFL games no longer do. Adjusting the offense in just a week’s time to fit McCoy isn’t easy. And while the Cardinals backfield is a good one, they don’t exactly have a Derrick Henry or a Jonathan Taylor to hand the ball to 30 times to give their offense at least a puncher’s chance to keep the ball moving.
On the opposite side of the field is the 49ers offense, and boy have they struggled of late. Excluding last week’s 33-point output against the hapless Bears, San Francisco is averaging just 16.3 points per game since the beginning of October. They’ve slid all the way down to 17th in offensive DVOA in the process as well. The Cardinals have the second-ranked defense per DVOA, so things aren’t going to get any easier for the 49ers. Also, these teams played to a 17-10 final in their first meeting this year, and Kyler Murray played in that game. It doesn’t look like he will here, so the under is the right side.
Note: If indications later in the week show Murray will play, pivot this bet to Cardinals in a pick ‘em, and play Arizona down to -1.5. If he plays, he won’t be 100%, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable laying any more than a point and a half.
Two-Team Teaser Of The Week:
Los Angeles Rams (-1.5) / Cleveland Browns (+8.5)
Pretty simple teaser here, and it fits the Wong rules as well which is something I always try to do. The Rams are one of the two or three best teams in football, and they play in the best division in football – the NFC West. They also do not lead that division outright – they’re tied with Arizona at 7-1. Los Angeles knows they need every game, because home field advantage in the playoffs is critical. Luckily for them, they’re getting a Titans team in a brutal spot. They just lost Derrick Henry and had to sign Adrian Peterson off the street to fill the void. The Titans’ defense is awful as well, so they won’t be able to stop the Rams, and without Henry in the backfield, they’re going to have trouble scoring and even more trouble slowing the game down and keeping the Rams offense off the field. Julio Jones is hobbled, so Jalen Ramsey should shadow A.J. Brown which should all but negate him. This is a great spot for LA, and a solid survivor pick if you’re still alive.
As for Cleveland, I think they’re also in a great spot despite struggling basically the whole year. Clearly Odell Beckham Jr. was a distraction. Baker Mayfield didn’t seem overly bothered that he was dismissed from the team, and quite frankly neither did anyone else. With Beckham out of the picture, I think the Browns play a bit looser to prove to not only the NFL but to themselves that they’re better off without him. They’re also fighting for their lives. At 4-4, they’re still very much in the playoff hunt. But the AFC North is crowded, and they need to knock off every division rival they can. Enter Cincinnati – a team that somehow just lost to the Jets. Some think the Bengals will be motivated to avenge that puzzling loss. I think that was a huge blow, and one Cincinnati will have trouble bouncing back from and getting focused after.
Mike is an avid sports bettor and fantasy football player, and has been writing since 2013. He previously worked for NBC Sports Philadelphia and Alliance Football Focus, and currently contributes to BettingPros as a featured writer. Mike is a resident of New Jersey, a graduate of Rider University, and currently works as a research analyst. When he isn’t searching for his next wager or watching the New Jersey Devils, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, his dog and his two cats.