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Week 9 NFL best bets: A play on every game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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Week 10 of the very unique 2020 NFL season is here. 

With COVID-19 concerns in several games, be sure to check injury reports as we get closer to kickoff. Our experts Drew Dinsick, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans combine to give their opinions on every game.

Seattle Seahawks (-3, 55) at Buffalo Bills

Tuley: Here’s the first of several games this week that I mentioned in Point Spread Weekly where the line comes up too short for me to take the underdog. The Bills should be the play here as a live home ‘dog, but I can’t pull the trigger at + 3 -120 or even -110 where available -- and some books are at + 2.5. This does, however, make for a good spot to include our weekly recommendation for including some teasers to our betting portfolios. Our teaser plays didn’t fare too well last week with the Falcons and Raiders winning but the Lions and Packers losing (though we warned everyone that it wasn’t a good week for teasers). The Bills + 8.5 or + 9 looks good as the Seahawks tend to play close games, and we also suggest mixing and matching them with the Colts + 8.5 vs. the Ravens, Texans -1 at Jaguars, Giants + 9 at Washington, Raiders + 7.5 at Chargers and Patriots -1.5 vs. Jets.

Pick: Pass, except for starting teasers with Bills + 9

Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons (-4, 50)

Tuley: It wasn’t pretty, but the Broncos came through for us Sunday vs the Chargers. Denver has been competitive all year at 5-2 ATS with a defense that keeps them in games while QB Drew Lock has been serviceable with RB Phillip Lindsay adding a spark to the running game along with Melvin Gordon. The Falcons got a much-needed win against the Panthers last Thursday, but I have no problem fading them here as their No. 28-ranked defense (allowing 410.6 yards and 28 points per game) should make the Broncos look even better.

Pick: Broncos + 4

Dinsick: These are two under-performing teams on the season, each of which is coming off a hard-fought comeback divisional win in Week 8. The Broncos finally found their form on offense against the Los Angeles Chargers; down by 21 points in the second half, Drew Lock and company exploded for 28 points on route to a shocking 31-30 victory. Meanwhile the Falcons survived a road trip to Carolina where they overcame an 8-point first half deficit on their way to a 25-17 win in the wind and rain on Thursday Night Football. 

The Falcons have extra rest heading into this contest while the Broncos leave home for the first time in three weeks, but weather will not be a factor as this is inside a dome and these two teams lack familiarity preparing/playing against each other across conference. In a neutral game state, both defenses are conceding worse than league average EPA per play with the Broncos defense ranking 17th at 0.053 expected points per play and the Falcons ranking 21st (.102), so it is surprising to see a total that is below the league average considering the situation. My numbers make a fair total 52 in the dome and over 50 is worth backing in a game that has the potential to be a back-and-forth scoring affair.

Pick: Over 50

Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans (-6.5, 46.5)

Tuley: The Bears are 5-3 SU and ATS despite back-to-back SU losses to the Rams and Saints, but it surprises me that people are knocking them so much. After all, they lost by just a field goal to the Saints and have also beaten the Bucs, the supposed “best team in the NFC”. The Titans are coming off an embarrassing 31-20 loss to the Bengals, so a lot of people are looking for them to rebound and run over the Bears. I’m not so sure. The Titans tend to let teams stick around and play games that come down to field goals, so I’m on the Bears here (though note that I didn’t like them enough to include on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page when the line was 5.5 earlier in the week, but I’m feeling better about it as the line has drifted higher).

Pick: Bears + 6.5 or better

Dinsick: Two promising starts have gone sideways for Chicago and Tennessee, as both winning teams are suddenly on the wrong end of two game losing streaks. This matchup is strength-on-strength and weakness-vs-weakness with the No. 4 offense for the Titans by DVOA taking on the No. 6 defense from the Bears, while Chicago’s poor offense (27th in DVOA) takes on the Titans’ mediocre D (20th in DVOA). The Titans are bottom five in the league at generating pass-rush pressure, which plays to the strength of Nick Foles: Foles thrives with time to throw (20-of-28 for 187 yards, two TDs and no picks with a clean pocket against the Saints) and will likely continue his success in this game.

The Titans are too good offensively to be stifled two weeks in a row, but the pass rush created by the Bears dynamic defensive line is reminiscent of the Steelers unit that gave Ryan Tannehill fits just two weeks ago and should help keep the Bears live in this game. A fair spread is + 4 by my numbers so the Bears are a decent play at + 6.5.

Pick: Bears + 6.5

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-4.5 52)

Tuley: Last week’s advance line for this game was Vikings -2.5, but then Dalvin Cook ran over the Packers and it crossed the key number to -3.5, and now -4. The Lions got routed by the Colts in the fourth quarter last Sunday, but if you throw that performance out, they’ve been playing better than the Vikings overall this season. So, thanks to recency bias, we’re not getting more than a FG in a game that should be much closer to pick’-em. Now, this selection comes with a big caveat as Detroit QB Matthew Stafford was added to the COVID-19 list earlier this week, but he’s still expected to play Sunday if he passes all the protocols the rest of the week. 

Pick: Lions + 4.5 with Stafford

Baltimore Ravens (-2.5, 47) at Indianapolis Colts

Dinsick: The Ravens have been a shocking disappointment on offense in 2020 so far; after putting up eye-popping statistics in 2019 and leading the Ravens to the No. 1 DVOA in the league, former MVP Lamar Jackson has been well below league average so far this season and the Ravens find themselves 20th in offensive DVOA through seven games. This matchup against the Colts is a nice spot to find positive regression for the Ravens offense along with negative regression for the Colts defense, which is fourth in EPA per play allowed but has faced the easiest schedule of offenses of any team in the NFL. Indianapolis was exposed defensively by the physical rushing attack of the Browns earlier this season and they generally play a conservative style of zone defense that Jackson has found his greatest success against throughout his NFL career.

In the absence of several key players on the Baltimore defense, the Colts offense should also have a solid performance as their outstanding offensive line can counter the blitz-heavy attack that the Ravens deploy. When you also consider the potential for turnovers and defensive scores, this relatively low total is about 3 points lower than the fair price by my numbers, so over 47 is in play in what should be one of the most entertaining games of the week.

Pick: Over 47

Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5, 52)

Tuley: OK, so I took the loss with the Jets + 20 against the Chiefs last Sunday, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try to fade them again. This week, Carolina visits KC with QB Teddy Bridgewater flinging the ball around to WRs Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, plus the Panthers get back star RB Christian McCaffrey. I’m still not sold on the Chiefs’ defense now that they’re facing a better offense, so this should be a shootout and we just need the Panthers to keep within 10.

Pick: Panthers + 10.5

Houston Texans (-6.5, 50.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Dinsick: The Jaguars will be starting a complete unknown quantity at quarterback with rookie Jake Luton, while the Texans have a bottom-five defense in 2020 by DVOA and will be without several starters who are inactive due to COVID protocols. I was surprised that there was a clear buy-point on Jacksonville at + 7 here, but there is far too much uncertainty in this game to find a meaningful edge in the betting market in my opinion.

Pick: Pass

New York Giants at Washington Football Team (-2.5, 41.5)

Tuley: The Giants fell to 1-6 with their 25-23 loss to the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football and I was listening all Tuesday to people knocking them, which I found surprising as I was happy with them covering as 12.5-point underdogs. Yes, Daniel Jones missed a ton of receivers and the defense doesn’t scare anyone, but they continue to exceed my expectations at 5-3 ATS and they’ve been more consistent overall than Washington. These teams also just met three weeks ago with Giants winning 20-19, though they needed a scoop-and-score fumble return and had to hold on by stopping a late two-point conversion attempt. I made the Giants a best bet at + 3 in Point Spread Weekly, but if the line stays at + 2.5, I’ll just include the Giants in teasers.

Pick: lean Giants + 2.5, though might just tease up to + 8.5

Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (PK, 51.5)

Youmans: The Raiders go from the cold and wind in Cleveland to a fast track in L.A., so their offense will get back on track and their defense will return to its poor form this week. Las Vegas is allowing 29 PPG, rank 25th in the league in scoring defense. The Chargers, who have been riddled by defensive injuries all season, allow 26.4 PPG. Derek Carr is not getting hyped like Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, but Carr has been sharp all season while completing 71 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns to two picks. The Raiders dropped 40 points on the Kansas City defense last month, and six of their seven games went Over the total that’s posted in this game.

Pick: Over 51.5

Dinsick: Amazingly the Chargers continue to find innovative ways to lose football games despite the clear emergence of Herbert, who is performing at a top-10 level in both EPA per play and completion percentage over expectation. Herbert should continue to thrive as he faces a Raiders defense ranked 31st in DVOA and with the betting market drifting all the way to pick-'em, the buy point for Los Angeles is getting close. This is a pass for the time being, but the Raiders on their second week of back-to-back travel are slightly overvalued by the market in this spot and I will be watching for the opportunity to back the Chargers as a small dog as the weekend approaches.

Pick: Pass

Pittsburgh Steelers (-14, 42) at Dallas Cowboys

Tuley: This game was off the board last week and early this week with the uncertain status of Dallas QB Andy Dalton. He was declared out after being placed on the COVID-19 list Tuesday, and the Steelers were made 13.5-point road favorites. I love home underdogs (5-1 ATS last week) and especially double-digit home dogs, but dare I say this is another line that is actually too short with the Cowboys’ terrible defense and an offense looking lost no matter which QB Dallas trots out there.

Pick: Pass

Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-4.5, 48)

Youmans: There are several reasons to be optimistic about Miami, beginning with coach Brian Flores’ defense. The Dolphins lead the NFL in scoring defense (18.6 PPG) after allowing a total of 17 points in their past two victories over the Rams and Jets. The opposing quarterbacks in those games -- Jared Goff and Joe Flacco -- are a couple of stiffs, however. Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not a reason for encouragement, at least not yet. Tagovailoa got his first win as a starter in Week 8, but he did not exactly earn the win and passed for only 93 yards. Miami’s offense produced two touchdown drives covering one and 33 yards. The Dolphins have the 28th-ranked rushing offense, and leading rusher Myles Gaskin is out with a knee injury. 

It’s doubtful that Tagovailoa can match scores with quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, a team averaging 29 PPG with the league’s second-ranked rushing offense. This would not be a play for me if Ryan Fitzpatrick was leading the Dolphins, but I’ll bet against Tagovailoa in his first road start.

Pick: Cardinals -4.5

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4, 51.5)

Youmans: Since dropping the season opener at New Orleans, the Buccaneers are 6-1 SU with a one-point loss at Chicago. Tom Brady has been one of the most efficient passers in the league since Week 2, totaling 18 touchdowns with two interceptions in the past seven games. An offense that is vastly improved since Week 1 now adds wide receiver Antonio Brown. The good news for the Saints is wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas have returned to practice, so Drew Brees should have all of weapons loaded for the first time since mid-September. Despite losing the opener by 11, Tampa Bay has a point differential of 82. New Orleans is 5-2 SU with a point differential of 9, which means the Saints have been grinding out narrow wins. The gap between these defenses is significant, and the Buccaneers are much better in respect to run defense (first, 70.4 YPG) and scoring (seventh, 20.6 PPG). I picked Tampa Bay to win the NFC South before the season, and I think this is when Brady and the Bucs take control of the division.

Pick: Buccaneers -4

Tuley: I grabbed the Saints 6 on Tuesday but still feel they’re the right side all the way down to 4 in the rematch of the season-opener that the Saints won 34-23 and looked like the best team in the NFC. Now, most people are giving the Buccaneers that title as they’ve won six of their last seven games, but I don’t think I need to point out to anyone that the Saints also beat the Bears, the team that dealt the Bucs their only other loss. OK, I know that the Buccaneers beat the two teams that have beaten the Saints (the Packers and Raiders), so I’ll grant that to those on the other side; however, all things being considered I believe there’s a ton of value in getting the Saints at anything more than a field goal.

Pick: Saints + 4 or higher

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