This is probably my least favorite week of the NFL season in terms of picking five sides. There are some attractive matchups on the card, but nothing made my major wager category.
I did bet two totals early in the week — Lions-Raiders over 50½ and Packers-Chargers over 47 — and each have ticked up a little.
As for the Circa Sports and Westgate contests, I consider this a “survive and advance” type of week when you hope to go 3-2 and stay alive. My top five sides — which differ some from my contest picks — based on today’s lines for Week 9:
* EAGLES (-4) over Bears:
It appears this is a sharps-versus-squares battleground game, and in those cases the sharps are usually on the underdog. That’s the case here. But I have no faith in Chicago’s coach-quarterback combo of Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky to suddenly figure things out. It could happen, because a lot of strange things happen in this league, but I’ll go with Philadelphia at a cheap price. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is expected to play today, and his speed will help stretch the defense for Carson Wentz.
* CHIEFS (plus-4) over Vikings:
Patrick Mahomes is out with a knee injury, meaning Matt Moore gets a second chance to make a winning first impression. Moore played well enough to win last week against Green Bay, completing 24 of 36 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and two sacks. The Packers took advantage of an atrocious Kansas City defense and prevailed 31-24 due to the wizardry of Aaron Rodgers. Kirk Cousins has been hot, but he’s not Rodgers. This is an opinion on the inflated line. The Vikings were plus-2 on the contest card previous to the Mahomes news.
* Colts (plus-1.5) over STEELERS:
The absence of T.Y. Hilton because of a calf injury is a setback for Indianapolis and maybe the most impactful injury news of the week. Pittsburgh has a problem, too. James Conner, who ran for 145 yards on 23 carries Monday, is doubtful with a right shoulder injury.
The Indianapolis offensive line is one of the league’s strongest, paving the way for running back Marlon Mack and making things easier for Jacoby Brissett. Mack ranks eighth in the NFL with 590 rushing yards (4.3 per carry), and Brissett has been efficient with 14 touchdown passes to three interceptions. The Steelers have defeated the Bengals, Chargers and Dolphins — teams with a combined record of 3-20. The Colts were flat in home spots against the Broncos and Raiders, but they have played well on the road (2-1 SU, 2-0-1 ATS) and beat Kansas City with Mahomes at full strength.
* RAIDERS (-2.5) over Lions:
Jon Gruden deserves props for the Raiders being 3-4 after a brutal scheduling stretch with five away games in six weeks. But the first home game after a long time away is a tricky spot in every sport. Oakland’s optimism is all about its offense. Derek Carr tops the league in completion percentage (72.1), and the Raiders scored 24 points or more in each of their past four games against good defenses. The Raiders rank 25th in total defense, 28th in scoring defense (27.4 ppg) and 30th in pass defense (285.3 ypg). There are issues on all three levels. The suspension of linebacker Vontaze Burfict was a blow, and rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell, a surprise pick at No. 4 overall, is not making an impact. It was a major setback when rookie safety Johnathan Abram, another first-round pick, suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1.
Detroit ranks 32nd in pass defense (289.7 ypg) and just attempted to deal its top cornerback, Darius Slay, at the trade deadline. The injury report is ugly, especially on the defensive side. The Lions are 5-2 over the total this season. This line has moved to 3 at some books. Expect a shootout between Carr and Matthew Stafford.
* RAVENS (plus-3) over Patriots:
Plenty of trends support New England and all of that is obvious. There are conflicting trends with the Ravens, who are 0-5 ATS in their past five home games yet 5-1 ATS in their past six as underdogs. The biggest concern for Baltimore will be Lamar Jackson’s ability to run against Bill Belichick’s disguised defensive schemes. John Harbaugh had a bye week to prepare Jackson and his defense, and the home ‘dog off a bye is a big reason for this play. Baltimore is 9-1 SU, 8-2 ATS at home after the bye since 2002. Harbaugh is a tough ‘dog who has given Belichick problems in the past. Tom Brady produced only a touchdown and a field goal at Buffalo in Week 4 and has not had to break a sweat on the road since. I took 3½ with the Ravens early in the week. This will turn out to be one of the biggest-bet games of the regular season.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread