Week 9 was, in a word, weird. There were three pushes, also known as ties with the point spread, after just one in the previous eight weeks (123 games). Sunday's action kicks off with the NFL’s first regular-season game in Germany and there are some intriguing matchups as the playoff races start to take shape.
Underdogs went 7-3-3 against the spread (ATS) last week and are 72-60-4. Road favorites went 1-5-2 ATS last week and are 24-29-3. There are only two road favorites this week.
My most confident picks ATS are Dallas, Seattle and Arizona. Stay away from New Orleans-Pittsburgh and be careful with Indianapolis-Las Vegas.
SEATTLE (6-3) VS. TAMPA BAY (4-5)
TV: NFL, 9:30 a.m.
Tampa Bay by 2.5; O/U: 44.5
The London games over, we move on to Germany (and then next Monday night it’s onto Mexico City). Seattle has won four in a row (all covers) with Geno Smith, a great 1-2 WR punch in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and a bunch of young, hungry players on both sides of the ball feeding off Pete Carroll’s energy. The always-upbeat coach could probably make you feel good about sitting in traffic on the Belt Parkway, so what’s a 10-hour flight to Munich? The Bucs (0-6-1 ATS in their last seven) have been stuck in neutral all year, and don’t be fooled into thinking last week’s last-second win will fix all their problems. Seattle is the better team and it will show in an entertaining win.
The pick: Seattle
1 p.m. Games
GAME OF THE WEEK
MINNESOTA (7-1) AT BUFFALO (6-2)
Buffalo by 3.5; O/U: 43.5
This point spread kept dropping because of the possibility that Josh Allen (elbow) might not play. If he was fully healthy, I’d expect a double-digit Bills win. If he’s 75%, Buffalo can still cover this small spread. Heck, even if Case Keenum gets the start, I’m backing the home team. I’ve been saying it for weeks: Minnesota is good, not great, its six-game win streak by margins of 4, 3, 7, 8, 8 and 3 points. Buffalo, off a humbling loss to the Jets, will be extra-motivated to remind the league it’s still a Super Bowl contender. Look for receiver Stefon Diggs to have a big game against his former team.
The pick: Buffalo
HOUSTON (1-6-1) AT GIANTS (6-2)
Giants by 5.5; O/U: 40.5
The Giants (6-2 ATS) have been the best-coached team all season, so of course I like them with two weeks to prepare. My enthusiasm was curbed a bit by the Xavier McKinney bye-week injury news, but this is still a pretty, pretty, pretty good spot for Big Blue. Yes, it struggles to stop the run so impressive rookie Dameon Pierce should have success. But Wink Martindale’s blitzes will force Davis Mills INTo making mistakes, and the Texans can’t stop the run either so expect Saquon Barkley to have a big day. With Houston and Detroit at home before a month of NFC East games, Brian Daboll’s team takes care of business.
The pick: Giants
JACKSONVILLE (3-6) AT KANSAS CITY (6-2)
Kansas City by 9.5; O/U: 50.5
This is a classic trap game for Kansas City: the three-win Jaguars sandwiched between two Sunday night games, the first a draining OT comeback win. It seems as if KC has one or two of these games every year when it’s a big favorite and winds up in a dogfight. Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne (5.7 yards per carry) can keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline. All six of Jacksonville’s losses have been by eight points or fewer, and KC is 0-4 ATS at home with wins by 3, 3 and 1 and a loss by 4.
The pick: Jacksonville
DENVER (3-5) AT TENNESSEE (5-3)
Tennessee by 2.5; O/U: 38.5
Denver’s second-ranked defense (288.4 yards per game allowed) has the edge against Tennessee’s last-ranked offense (278.5), but do you feel comfortable backing this Broncos team? They haven’t lost in two weeks (London win, bye), but it’s hard to ignore all the bad before that. If Ryan Tannehill (ankle) plays, and it’s trending in that direction, take the much-better coached team at home. Play the under, too.
The pick: Tennessee
CLEVELAND (3-5) AT MIAMI (6-3)
Miami by 3.5; O/U: 49.5
Miami’s offense is nearly unstoppable. Only problem? Its defense can’t stop anyone. That sets up close, high-scoring games like last week’s 35-32 win at Chicago. I expect a similar game, with Miami holding off a Cleveland team that is off the bye and desperate to stay relevant in the AFC North.
The pick: Cleveland
DETROIT (2-6) AT CHICAGO (3-6)
Chicago by 3; O/U: 48.5
Are the Bears the most fun 3-6 team in NFL history? Now that Chicago has realized how to use Justin Fields, the offense is off and running with 33, 29 and 32 points the last three weeks after averaging 15.5 points the first six weeks. Neither of these defenses can stop anyone so play the over.
The pick: Chicago
NEW ORLEANS (3-6) AT PITTSBURGH (2-6)
New Orleans by 1.5; O/U: 40.5
In a toss-up game, the home underdog Steelers have more going in their favor: Mike Tomlin knows Andy Dalton well from his NFC North days, the Saints are still dealing with multiple injuries to key players and Pittsburgh could be getting back its best player in linebacker T.J. Watt.
The pick: Pittsburgh
4 p.m. Games
LOCK OF THE WEEK
DALLAS (6-2) AT GREEN BAY (3-6)
Dallas by 5; O/U: 43
Remember when the Jets went into Lambeau last month and dominated the Packers, 27-10? That’s how I see this game playing out. On one side, Micah Parsons and Dallas’ relentless pass rush rattling Aaron Rodgers. On the other, Dallas’ rushing attack led by Tony Pollard getting big chunk plays. Green Bay suffered several injuries in last week’s loss to Detroit, and this offense was already a mess at full strength. The Packers (3-6 ATS) have lost five in a row and show no signs of turning things around. The Cowboys (6-2 ATS) are off a bye and must keep pace in the competitive NFC East. Lay the points as Mike McCarthy enjoys a comfortable win against his old team.
The pick: Dallas
ARIZONA (3-6) AT L.A. RAMS (3-5)
Los Angeles by 1.5; O/U: 40.5
Sean McVay is 11-1 against Arizona, including a 20-12 win in Week 3. I usually back the Rams in this rivalry but not this week. Even before the news of Matthew Stafford being placed in concussion protocol, I felt this was a good spot for the Cardinals, who play better on the road (2-2 this year and 8-1 last year, including a win at L.A.). The Rams aren’t the same team as last year and last week’s demoralizing loss at Tampa Bay could carry over.
The pick: Arizona
INDIANAPOLIS (3-5-1) AT LAS VEGAS (2-6)
Las Vegas by 4.5; O/U: 41.5
This game has more subplots than a telenovela. Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar in 2018, they rebounded by hiring Frank Reich and now we won’t get that matchup because Reich was fired on Monday. But wait, there’s more: Jeff Saturday, the former Colts center turned ESPN analyst, was hired as interim coach. It’s an odd move, but he’s a fiery guy and maybe his energy can wake this team out of its slumber. The fact I’m even considering the Colts shows you just how bad things are in Las Vegas, which is too inconsistent to be trusted as big favorites. McDaniels is on the hot seat himself after losing for the third time when leading 17-0. A loss here and he and Reich might share even more history.
The pick: Indianapolis
L.A. CHARGERS (5-3) AT SAN FRANCISCO (4-4)
TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m.
San Francisco by 7; O/U: 45.5
When the 49ers are on their game, they might be the most complete team in the NFL. Teams are 7-3 straight up after their bye and the rested 49ers could roll here. Then again, the Chargers are always playing these close, wild games and this spread is the magic number of 7. If it was 6.5, I might have flipped to the favorites.
The pick: L.A. Chargers
WASHINGTON (4-5) AT PHILADELPHIA (8-0)
TV: ESPN, 8:15 p.m.
Philadelphia by 10.5; O/U: 43.5
Double-digit favorites are 3-7 ATS, including 0-3 last week. One of those losses was Philadelphia, which won by 12 as a 14-point favorite at Houston. It got off to a slow start in that game, but I expect Jalen Hurts & Co. to fly early after the mini bye (TNF to MNF). The Eagles beat the Commanders, 24-8, in Week 3.
The pick: Philadelphia
STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS
(best bets in bold; all picks against the spread)
71-61-4 overall, 4-5 best bets
Last week: 5-5-3
Carolina Seattle Giants Buffalo Jacksonville
Tennessee Cleveland Chicago Pittsburgh Dallas
Arizona Indianapolis L.A. Chargers Philadelphia
61-71-4 overall, 3-5-1 best bets
Last week: 6-4-3
Carolina Seattle Giants Minnesota Jacksonville
Tennessee Miami Chicago New Orleans Dallas
L.A. Rams Las Vegas San Francisco Washington
62-70-4 overall, 3-6 best bets
Last week: 5-5-3
Atlanta Seattle Giants Minnesota Kansas City
Tennessee Miami Chicago Pittsburgh Dallas
L.A. Rams Indianapolis San Francisco Washington