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Thursday, 2 November 2017

NFL Week 9 Picks 2017 (November 2-6)

The reason I dislike the middle of the season in the NFL is for selfish reasons.

Basically it messes up my Fantasy teams for a few weeks as it means searching for replacements to get you through a difficult period while also trying to maintain a push towards the Play Off.

That's a silly reason to dislike the bye weeks, but it is what it is.

This week we saw the trade deadline in the NFL and it was arguably the most active we have seen in this League for many a year. The headline was Jimmy Garoppolo being traded to the San Francisco 49ers from the New England Patriots which was a surprise when it was announced it was 'only' for a Second Round Pick.

You would have thought the Cleveland Browns would have offered more than that, but the rumour is that Bill Belichick had no desire to help the team who once fired him and so Garoppolo heads to the West Coast where he will be given time before he takes over as the San Francisco Quarter Back.

There were other surprises with Jay Ajayi leaving the Miami Dolphins for the Philadelphia Eagles and Kelvin Benjamin going from the Carolina Panthers to the Buffalo Bills. It is clear the Eagles and Bills really believe in their chances of a solid Play Off run with the Eagles in particular looking like a team that could win the Super Bowl at the end of this season.

Philadelphia will also received a bonus of seeing their biggest rivals in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys, lose Ezekiel Elliot. This time it looks like the six game suspension for Elliot is going to stand although it has probably been on and off at least six times in the time I have spent writing out this post.

My current top five did not has as many changes between Week 8 and Week 9 as it did the week prior and below are my top five teams:

1) Philadelphia Eagles (7-1): I said I could have moved the Eagles up a spot last week and this week I am simply because of the second placed team.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2): The Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to win in Week 8, but I actually think they were very fortunate to win considering the shocking play-calling Detroit put together in the Red Zone.

3) Minnesota Vikings (5-2): A dominant win in London keeps the Vikings at the head of the queue in the NFC North.

4) New England Patriots (6-2): There are questions for the New England Patriots to answer in the bye week... Namely how can they turn Field Goals into Touchdowns.

5) New Orleans Saints (5-2): Five straight wins and the chance to move to 2-0 in the Division by the end of Week 9 keeps the Saints above the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.

The NFL Picks have not really had a lot of luck which was highlighted by Detroit's failure to cover in a game they should have won. I would appreciate a little more fortune going in Week 9 and the chance to get this season back on track. The Week 9 Picks follow.

Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets Pick: The AFC East has a couple of surprising teams in the 2017 season and the two of them will play in this Thursday Night Football game. Out of the two teams it is the Buffalo Bills who are more likely to be challenging for a Play Off place, but the New York Jets have to be respected having won three games more than most would have thought they would throughout the 2017 season.

The Jets have hit a rough patch though and they will have their problems Offensively in this one against the Buffalo Bills. While they have played better than expected, the Jets haven't faced a Defense like the one they will be seeing on Thursday and maybe not since they first met in the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 when New York were held to just 12 points.

Buffalo haven't really given much away at all despite facing some strong Offensive units and the Bills should feel confident in this one. Josh McCown is going to have to do the majority of the work if the Jets are going to earn the upset and that is mainly because he won't have much of a run support in this one.

Keeping the Jets in third and long will make it very difficult for McCown to make the plays down the field against what has been a solid pass Defense. Watch out for the Bills to get the pass rush going again in those situations and get the better of the Jets Offensive Line while McCown has to be wary of the Interceptions that the Bills have been able to manage to earn.

I do think the Bills will have their moments putting some drives together considering the injuries New York have on the Defensive side of the ball. The Jets could be missing both starting Corner Backs on the short week and that will give Tyrod Taylor the chance to utilise his new weapon in Kelvin Benjamin, although I do expect the big Wide Receiver to be limited in this one at best.

Taylor is also a threat to move the ball with his legs and should have success along with LeSean McCoy on the ground. While the majority of the Jets talent on this side of the ball remains in the Defensive Line, it has been possible to run against them and Buffalo should be able to have their successes.

However the Bills are not likely to put up a lot of points themselves with what has to be considered a pretty vanilla Offense. That may change once they get Benjamin accustomed to the plays, but this feels like a game in which Buffalo will very much look to the Defensive unit to help win the field position game and thus the overall game.

Buffalo are 6-2 against the spread in the last eight in the series and I like their chances here even if the Jets have been money at the window. It might not be the most pleasing game on the eye, but Buffalo are a team that look capable of a Play Off spot and they can't afford to drop this game. Backing the Bills to cover the spread in another win over the Jets looks the right side in this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints Pick: The New Orleans Saints have put together five straight wins to remove the memory of the 0-2 start to the season when it felt like this was going to be a team in transition. There are still some big tests in front of the Saints in the tough NFC South and they face one of those in Week 9 as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While the Saints have been something of a surprise this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been a real disappointment. They have lost four straight games and the Buccaneers have to know that time is not on their side when it comes to turning things around as they get to the halfway mark in their regular season schedule at the end of Week 9.

The problems in Florida back in September due to Hurricane Irma means Tampa Bay don't have a buy this season and that is a real problem for them as they have looked a little banged up. The biggest issue has been the shoulder injury that Jameis Winston has been trying to battle through, although the Quarter Back has been given some relief from Ryan Fitzpatrick who has entered a couple of games.

It will be Winston who goes in Week 9 and he has won in the Superdome before which means there shouldn't be any intimidation when going into the lion's den to face the NFC South leaders. However Winston will have to play to his better levels having had some problems in recent weeks, especially as the Saints Defensive unit has been playing at a better level than we have seen in years.

Winston is throwing into a Secondary who have played some big time Defense when they have needed it as some of the high Draft Picks have made off for the Saints. There are some solid weapons Winston can throw to which has to be respected, but he could find himself under pressure behind his Offensive Line and the Quarter Back also has to be more careful with the ball.

There could be some help for Winston as Doug Martin may have one of his better outings in recent weeks. While the Tampa Bay Offensive Line have not paved the way for big runs, they may have a better chance when facing this Saints Defensive Line who have had issues against the run.

Mistakes almost cost New Orleans the win over the Chicago Bears in Week 8 and those were mainly committed by Mark Ingram as two fumbles gave the Bears life in the Fourth Quarter. Ingram does have a chance for redemption with a good match up against the Buccaneers whose Defensive Line has been worn down a little bit, although Ingram will have to accept Alvin Kamara is going to get a few more touches after the fumbles last week.

Running the ball is exactly what Sean Payton wants from the Offensive unit to give the Saints the balance which will allow Drew Brees to thrive at Quarter Back. Brees has played well this season as he is usually well protected behind his quick release and being to play from third and short does make a big difference for the veteran.

The Tampa Bay Secondary have shown some improvement, but the Saints should be able to move the chains efficiently enough in this one which will force Winston and the Tampa Bay Offensive unit to play keep up.

The two teams have had contrasting results and performances in recent Divisional games and I like the New Orleans Saints in this one. They are 10-2 against the spread in their last twelve Divisional games and they look to have a better balance both Offensively and Defensively which can see them win a sixth game in a row.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonvilla Jaguars Pick: With the really unfortunate injury to Deshaun Watson, the Jacksonville Jaguars may have taken over the favourites to win the AFC South and make the Play Offs this season. A Division that has Watson and Andrew Luck sidelined and Marcus Mariota banged up definitely looks there for the taking, although the Jaguars haven't done a lot of winning in recent years which means there is a mental obstacle to overcome.

They are looking for rare back to back wins this Week as they host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10 and I have to say I was surprised with the point spread that came out for this game.

Imagine then how I am feeling when not only has the spread come out the way it did with Jacksonville as a fairly strong favourite, but that number has continued to rise as the Jaguars are now being asked to cover a Touchdown worth of points. Perhaps I have got this game completely wrong, but I do like the Bengals with the points.

That's not to say it will be easy for the Cincinnati Bengals to score points against a legit Jacksonville Defensive unit that are playing as well as any in the NFL. They have been getting to the Quarter Back with regularity that 'Sacksonville' is usually a trend on social media during their games and now the Jaguars are facing a struggling Offensive Line that have not been able to protect Andy Dalton.

Cincinnati have to establish the run to help their Quarter Back out and Jacksonville have recently traded for Marcell Dareus to try and prevent the runs they have given up. There is some talent in the Bengals Running Back corps, but they can be guilty of moving away from the ground game a little too quickly.

Without a run game it will be difficult for the Bengals to move the chains with any consistency, while Dalton has to avoid the turnovers which have blighted his game. There is nothing wrong with leaning on the Defense as their hosts have shown and the Cincinnati Bengals Defensive unit is certainly capable of keeping this one close.

While the Bengals have struggled to establish the run, Jacksonville are very much a get down and grind it out Offensive unit. Leonard Fournette is back this week at Running Back and the Jags have been able to run the ball, but this Cincinnati Defensive Line has shown they can limit the damage on the ground and that is going to be a key to their success.

If the Bengals can force Blake Bortles to have to make plays, the Cincinnati Secondary have to feel they can make the difference for their team. The Quarter Back position remains the one that most feel Jacksonville need to upgrade the most and Bortles could be put under pressure by a strong pass rush that the Bengals will bring to the table.

Mistakes have been less frequent from Bortles so far this season which is all the Jaguars are asking from him, but I am still to be convinced that the Jaguars can go as far as they want with this Quarter Back. Losses to the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams are still a concern for the Jaguars and I do think this is a lot of points for them to cover when you see how close the teams are matched Defensively and Offensively.

The Bengals are 3-0-2 against the spread in the last five in the series and I can't ignore that Jacksonville have gone 9-19-1 against the spread in their last twenty-nine games after a win. The Jaguars are also 8-20 against the spread in their last twenty-eight games following a win by 14 points or more and I will take the points with the Bengals to keep this one close.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans Pick: Both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts will know that they are going to have to fight without their starting Quarter Backs the rest of the season in what looks an open AFC South Division. However I don't think anyone will be rushing out to pick either team being the one to make the Play Offs as they look to have fallen behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans in the Division.

In Week 9 it is all about trying to win this Divisional game to give themselves a chance, but the injury to Deshaun Watson is a huge blow for the Texans who have already lost their star Defensive player in JJ Watt for the season. Watson had been a revelation for the Texans since coming in as the starting Quarter Back, but Houston have to go back to Tom Savage who simply doesn't have the same athleticism as Watson nor the same accuracy on the pass.

The ability to scramble around the pocket and make plays with his legs meant Watson's move into the starting line up had hidden the problems the Houston Offensive Line have had. Now they have a less mobile Quarter Back and also have traded away Left Tackle Duane Brown which means the Colts have every chance of stalling drives by bringing down Savage and rushing his passes.

Watson had also helped spark the running game for the Texans and that might be a little more difficult without him. However that is unlikely to be seen until later in the season as the Colts have had some problems bringing down runners so Houston should be looking to lean on Lamar Miller to try and keep Savage and the Offense in third and manageable spots.

Indianapolis won't have much sympathy for Houston to be without a starting Quarter Back as they have had to deal with being without Andrew Luck themselves. Jacoby Brissett came in from the New England Patriots, but it is clear the Quarter Back is learning on the job which has led to some critical mistakes including a pick-six last week which saw the Colts lose narrowly at the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Colts have had some major Offensive Line issues of their own, but the Texans are missing the likes of Watt and Whitney Mercilus. That shouldn't be too much of a problem in this game as Jadaveon Clowney has been playing at a high level and it has to be expected that Brissett is going to have to move a lot if he is going to find any real time to throw down the field.

Brissett does have some nice throws though and the Houston Secondary have had their problems that the likes of TY Hilton and Dante Moncrief will look to expose. Frank Gore has also been running the ball well enough to at least ease the pass rush a little bit and Indianapolis have to keep the team in third and short like the Houston Texans do if they want to move the chains themselves.

It has all the feel of a tight game with two Quarter Backs who have to avoid the fatal mistakes that have blighted them. Tom Savage was horrible in Week 1 which saw him lose the starting Quarter Back job to Watson by half time, and that makes it really hard to back him to cover this many points, especially as I think Jacoby Brissett will have his moments too.

The Colts are 3-0-1 against the spread in their last four visits to the Houston Texans. This looks too many points being given to them in what feels like a close game and I will take the road underdog here.

Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: The NFL has had a rash of big name players go down with injuries this season which have taken the headlines, but both the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks will know all about that. They might not be the injuries that everyone will appreciate, but you would be ignorant to dismiss them out of hand too.

For Washington the issues begin on the Offensive Line which looks to be a mix and match unit at best in Week 9. It doesn't matter who the Quarter Back is if they are not given any time to make plays and that has to be a real concern for the Redskins when visiting the Seattle Seahawks who Sacked Deshaun Watson five times last week.

The edge rushers should have the advantage through much of the afternoon which will make it tough for Kirk Cousins when he does try and step back to throw. Losing Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed as Receiving weapons only increases the pressure on Cousins, although he might be encouraged by the fact that Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor could both be missing.

Those top Safeties would be a big miss for Seattle, but Cousins might not have the time to throw down the field as he would like. Interceptions have been a little too frequent from the Quarter Back over the last three games which is unsurprising when throwing under the heat that Cousins has been, but that could be a critical factor again.

Earlier in the season Washington may have looked to the run to rip off some big gains, but Seattle have strengthened up front. That is also an area where an Offensive Line of back ups can be a problem and it will be tough for anyone to get going at Running Back for the Redskins in this one.

Both teams do look healthier on the other side of the ball, but it is the arrival of Duane Brown at Left Tackle that must be music to the ears of Russell Wilson. Brown is a solid blocker and may mean Wilson is not running for his life, at least not as much as he has been forced to for much of the season. The Washington pass rush is an effective one though so Wilson will have to scramble some, although he is right up there as one of the best passers on the move.

It isn't an easy Secondary to throw into, but the scrambling means it gives the Receivers more time to try and get open. Seattle also have a big threat in Jimmy Graham who remained here through the trade deadline, while others outside of Doug Baldwin have made plays which will encourage the Seahawks.

Much of the Offense will come through Russell Wilson as Seattle have simply not been able to run the ball as they would have liked. Injuries and lack of form from the Running Backs has been an issue while the Redskins have played the run pretty effectively.

Of course Wilson has a chance to make those plays with his legs, but the Seahawks will want to get the run game going sooner rather than later as we get into November. For Week 9 it does feel like the Seahawks will be good enough with the Defensive unit likely to step up and restrict what the Redskins can do agains them and Wilson currently playing at a high level.

The Redskins are also 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six against Seattle and the favourite is 5-1-1 against the spread in the last seven. Washington have also gone 1-5 against the spread in their last six Conference games and I think the Seattle Seahawks are able to cover in this one.

MY PICKS: Buffalo Bills - 3 Points @ 1.86 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Cincinnati Bengals + 6 Points @ 1.95 William Hill (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 8 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)

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