Lines for the 14 games in Week 9 suggest that we could have a lot of competitive matchups. The week starts with a double-digit favorite in Indianapolis, but Jets vs. Colts is one of just two games with spreads of 10 or more after we had four in Week 8 and three in Week 7. We even had a 20-point favorite two weeks ago.
Some bad teams are facing other bad teams in Week 9 and the Lions are on a bye, so we have a lot of games that look pretty interesting on the surface. Several games are lined around the key number of 3, so you’ll want to watch for line moves early in the week to determine the initial sharp sides.
Here are three games I have my eye on for Week 9:
Buffalo Bills (-14, 49) at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bills did not play well against the Dolphins after their bye week, but still found a way to cover the number. To this point, teams coming off of the bye have not played overly well. The Falcons won, but failed to cover in Week 7 against Miami. The Jets got destroyed by the Patriots. The 49ers lost in an ugly game at home. The Saints barely beat the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
This past week, the Chargers lost at home to the Patriots. The Bills were off the bye and covered, but it was a struggle. The Jaguars came back from London and got pummeled by the Seahawks. The Steelers won and looked great defensively, but the offense looked bad once again versus the Browns.
Maybe the bye week is a detriment, as teams are better off keeping up that intensity and focus. The Bills held the Dolphins to 4.1 yards per play, but the offense was uncharacteristically out of sync and Josh Allen was displeased at multiple junctures on the sideline. That should lead to a much-improved performance against another bad team in the Jaguars.
The Bills have the Jets on deck, so there isn’t a lookahead factor here. Jacksonville only managed 4.2 YPP against a Seahawks defense that had allowed 5.7 YPP prior to that. The robust Buffalo offense should get good weather in the Sunshine State to get the offense going and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have the chance to let the Jaguars see what they missed out on by hiring Urban Meyer over him.
This has all the makings of a blowout, and that is precisely what I expect to happen.
Pick: Buffalo Bills -14
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-3, 45.5)
The Bengals were in one of the most obvious situational spots imaginable against the Jets in Week 8. They couldn’t have played better against Baltimore the week prior and had this Browns game on the docket next. Cincinnati was lackadaisical against New York and paid the price with a stunning 34-31 loss as a double-digit favorite.
I’ve watched every Browns game and one thing that has consistently given this defense trouble is speed at the wide receiver position. Mike Williams and Tyreek Hill both carved up the secondary. The Cardinals ran free most of the game back in Week 6. The Bengals have speed at the position with Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.
The Cincinnati defense has also played really well this season and the Browns have had major issues with any defense that can stop the run. The Bengals boast a top-10 run defense by yards per carry allowed. This just looks like an extremely bad schematic matchup for Cleveland, and this is still an banged-up Browns team heading into Sunday’s game.
The optics of losing to the Jets are bad, but the benefit for us is that the Bengals are lined lower than they should be. There are some 3s out there as well, but 2.5 is a far better number if you can find one.
Pick: Cincinnati Bengals -2.5
Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5, 54)
We talk all the time about what might happen when a team steps up in class. The Rams are stepping up in class this week against the Titans. Los Angeles has played the Seahawks, Giants, Lions and Texans over the last four games. The Seahawks did have Russell Wilson at the start of the game, but he was injured midway through the third quarter.
While Tennessee has a much stronger offense than those four teams, the defense isn’t that much better. The Rams should get their points in this Sunday Night Football matchup, but the Titans should get theirs as well. The Bucs had 6.3 YPP and the Cardinals had 6.2 against the Rams earlier this season. This Tennessee offense is a lot closer to those two teams than the others that Los Angeles has faced.
A lot of defensive statistics are heavily skewed to a team’s strength of schedule in terms of opposing offenses. The Rams are still in the middle of the pack in yards per play allowed, though some garbage-time offense has certainly had an impact. Nevertheless, the Rams are close to the bottom third of the league against the run, so Derrick Henry could have a big day, and Ryan Tannehill’s weapons are getting healthier in the passing game.
(Author's note: After publishing on Sunday night, it was announced Monday morning that Henry suffered a serious foot injury. This is obviously a huge loss and changes the outlook for the game. We'll see where the total settles this week, but it will go down and this bet looks a lot less attractive now.)
Pick: Over 54