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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (August 17-19)

The first round of Premier League Fixtures are in the books and it can be very easy to get carried away from one set of results and make swe...

Sunday, 4 November 2018

NFL Week 9 Picks 2018 (November 1-5)

Week 8 proved to be a very productive one for the NFL Picks with a 7-1 record meaning plenty of returns but it was also a week in which the Vegas layers had a terrible time.

That does mean you have to be careful in getting behind too many public teams with things likely to go the other way sooner rather than later. It has been a decent year for the layers in the NFL for much of the 2018 season, but Week 8 was so bad that I would expect things to go back in favour of those who set the spreads.

Being a little more careful with the Week 9 Picks is my plan as most teams begin to get halfway through their schedules.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Cleveland Browns Pick: After the week the layers had with the NFL you have to wonder about every tempting spread that is laid out and one of those comes from this game between the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sharp work has meant the spread has dropped by around 1.5 points since the line first opened and it hasn't been affected by the public being heavily behind the Kansas City Chiefs. Week 8 saw the public dominate across the board so it is a concern that the Chiefs are getting as much action as they are, but they do look the right side to be behind in this game.

The Browns will have found it very difficult to prepare for this game in the manner they would have liked with both Hue Jackson and Todd Haley removed as Head Coach and Offensive Co-Ordinator. A new game plan against a team who have played as well as they have so far in the 2018 season is going to be tough to put together for the Cleveland Browns, although there have been suggestions that the Offensive unit will not be too bothered about seeing the back of Jackson and Haley.

For all the plaudits the Kansas City Chiefs have earned in the 2018 season they are still having some troubles on the Defensive side of the ball. I would expect Cleveland to want to keep the powerful Chiefs Offense on the sidelines for as long as possible and that means a steady diet of Nick Chubb running the ball against a Kansas City Defensive Line who have allowed some big chunks of yards on the ground.

It is all important for Cleveland to run the ball effectively to ease some pressure on Baker Mayfield who has been banged up at Quarter Back. While there are holes in the Kansas City Secondary to exploit, Mayfield doesn't really have a consistent Receiver to target and being hurt has made it more difficult for the rookie Quarter Back.

Add in the pass rush pressure Kansas City generate against a Cleveland Offensive Line and it will be a very difficult day for Mayfield if his team are not able to run the ball as effectively as they would want.

Another crease that could go against Cleveland's ability to run the ball will be if Kansas City continue to churn out the points as well as they have all season. Patrick Mahomes has been a revelation at Quarter Back but he has a number of play-makers that are difficult to contain and the Browns are banged up in key Defensive positions which will make it very difficult to stop the Chiefs with any kind of consistency.

Kareem Hunt should be able to get the run game going against the Browns Defensive Line which has allowed 5.3 yards per carry in their last three games as there has been some decline up front. Tyreek Hill is expected to play which means there could be a number of sweep plays that could be run to keep the Browns off balance, while the Secondary has given up big yards in recent games that will be exploited by Mahomes.

The only real way Cleveland can think about keeping the Chiefs from moving up and down the field has to be finding a way to create some turnovers. The Browns Secondary have picked up some Interceptions of late, and Mahomes has made a couple of poor throws, but overall it feels like the Chiefs are going to be too powerful for the Cleveland Browns.

A back door cover is a concern, but the Chiefs have been very good at cashing at the window and this may be too few points for the home team. The road team is 4-1 against the spread in the last five in the series between these teams and Kansas City are 19-7 against the spread in their last twenty-six road games.

With all the upheaval in Cleveland I think it could be difficult for them in Week 9 and I will back the Chiefs to cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: There was much hope for the Baltimore Ravens after the start made to the 2018 season, but things have taken a turn for the worse following back to back losses to drop back to 4-4. It makes this Week 9 game that much more important for the Baltimore Ravens who can't afford to drop further behind the Pittsburgh Steelers who are leading the AFC North and 1.5 games clear of the Ravens.

The Steelers have won three in a row and they look to have turned a corner while putting the Le'Veon Bell issue to the back of their minds. It has helped significantly that James Connor has been able to fill the gap left by Bell's holdout and the entire team look to have really pulled together to show they are more than one player.

It was never going to be the case that Bell's absence would derail an Offensive unit which has other key playmakers and those have stepped up without the Running Back. Connor has been a revelation running the ball behind a powerful Offensive Line and it is going to be important for Pittsburgh to try and establish the run against this Baltimore Defensive Line that has begun to show some signs of wear and tear.

Baltimore have given up some big points in their last couple of games, but this is still a team who has belief in their Defensive players. That was shown by little action ahead of the trade deadline and the Ravens have been good enough to win in Pittsburgh earlier in the 2018 season that has to be taken into consideration.

The feeling is that Pittsburgh are more in sync with one another Offensively that could make the difference, but the three wins in a row have come against Atlanta, Cincinnati and Cleveland and Baltimore should be a big step up in terms of quality for the Steelers to face. None of those teams can really boast a Defense like the one that the Ravens have although they will likely need some inspiration from the Offensive unit which has been struggling for consistency in the last couple of games.

Joe Flacco had a very good game when the Ravens faced Pittsburgh on the road earlier in 2018 and it feels like much is going to be on his shoulders again when they meet in Week 9. Ty Montgomery has been traded from the Green Bay Packers to give the running game a spark, but Baltimore have not been able to find any consistency running behind their Offensive Line and I think they are going to have a difficult time establishing the run against this Pittsburgh Defensive Line.

All that means is that there is going to be more pressure on Flacco at Quarter Back against a Pittsburgh team whose Defensive Secondary have shown signs of improvement. Some will question whether the teams they have faced have helped, but I also think the team have found some rhythm Defensively and that should make it a little more difficult for Flacco.

The pass rush pressure generated by Pittsburgh could also be a problem even if Flacco has been well protected for the most part in 2018. The Quarter Back has to make better decisions with the ball in his hands though, especially with Lamar Jackson potentially taking over if the slide continues for the Ravens who could be cleaning house in the off-season if they miss the Play Offs again.

Most of the public seem to be firmly behind Pittsburgh here, but I think the Ravens are better than back to back losses would suggest. They perhaps should have beaten the New Orleans Saints a couple of weeks ago and Baltimore have already gotten the better of the Pittsburgh Steelers who are not exactly a strong public team to back when so many are behind them.

Baltimore are 6-1-1 against the spread in the last eight against this Divisional rival and the Ravens are 8-3 against the spread in their last eleven when losing a game by 14 points or more. The Steelers are 2-8 against the spread in their last ten following a straight up win and they are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven against Divisional rivals so this looks an opportunity to back an underrated home team whose record is perhaps not as strong as it should have been.

Chicago Bears @ Buffalo Bills Pick: It might come as something of a surprise to see the Chicago Bears leading the NFC North, but there is very little between the top three teams in the Division. At this moment you can see a situation where two of the four NFC North teams are able to make the Play Offs as long as they don't feast on each other and drop silly games outside of the Division.

That is what it feel like for the Chicago Bears if they are not able to win at the Buffalo Bills in Week 9 as a big favourite on the road. 2018 looks to be another lost season for the Bills who are 2-6 and simply don't have the Offensive power to stay with the Chicago Bears or most opposition they have faced this season.

You can't take anything away from the Buffalo Defense, but it is going to be hard to be motivated with Nathan Peterman back at Quarter Back after Derek Anderson was banged up last week and Josh Allen is still absent. Peterman is the highest argument for lawyers of Colin Kaepernick to suggest their client has been blackballed by the NFL because he is not a serviceable Quarter Back at this level.

In his limited starts and relief outings for the Buffalo Bills, Peterman has been a turnover machine and there had been a suggestion the senior Bills players were going to have a full mutiny against the Coaching staff if Peterman was going to be given the chance to play with Allen injured. That sparked the signing of Anderson, but Buffalo are out of options in Week 9.

Khalil Mack could be missing for the Bears which is a blow to the pass rush, but the Bears have remained a strong Defensive team that should be able to stop LeSean McCoy and then force Peterman to beat them through the air. Most teams understand the Bills best Offensive weapon is in the backfield so stopping the run has been important to any team they have faced, and most have had success against the Buffalo Offensive Line.

McCoy could have some success at times, but it is going to be very difficult for the Buffalo Bills to move the ball with any kind of consistency in this one.

It may not be such an issue for the Chicago Bears especially if the Bills Defensive players get worn out from spending as long on the field as they may have to do if the Offensive unit can't move the chains for much of the afternoon. Both Jordan Howard and Tariq Cohen should be able to have big games running the ball for Chicago which should make Mitchel Trubisky's life much easier at Quarter Back even if he is looking like someone who may become the biggest weakness of this team.

Trubisky has had some decent numbers through the air, but it is his scrambling ability which has helped the Bears keep the chains moving. He should have some success throwing against a decent Bills Secondary, especially if Chicago are able to move the ball on the ground, but Trubisky has to be wary of the pass rush that the Bills can generate while they are motivated.

The spot is a tough one for Buffalo playing on a Sunday after Monday Night Football against a Divisional rival. With Nathan Peterman back at Quarter Back I do worry that the players could easily quit on him and the Bears have every chance of covering a big road number. Buffalo could struggle to score more than 10 points barring mistakes from Mitchell Trubisky and Chicago should be able to create a turnover or two to help them edge over this spread.

Buffalo are 3-12 against the spread when losing by double digits at home like they did on Monday Night Football. There are trends that oppose the Chicago Bears who are not exactly a road favourite I want to back, but most things are pointing to a comfortable Bears win.

Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints PickThe New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams both come into Week 10 as Divisional leaders and games like this could have huge implications as to how the Seeding will pan out in the NFC Play Offs come January. The Los Angeles Rams are going to be playing in January as NFC West Champions, but the New Orleans Saints have a real challenger in the NFC South where the Carolina Panthers are only a game behind in the standings.

That won't be the concern for the Saints as they return home after playing four of their last five games on the road and winning tough battles in Baltimore and Minnesota ahead of this one. New Orleans do feel they have something to prove with the Rams taking some of the Offensive limelight away from the Sean Payton-Drew Brees partnership which has been leading the way for the NFL in Offensive playmaking over the last few years.

There is much respect for what Sean McVay is putting together for the Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff, but you know Payton and Brees have been thinking about finding some new creases to their own Offense to impress the viewers.

It looks like being a really fun game with both teams capable of scoring big points. The Saints will feel their balance can at least keep the Rams guessing with both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara likely to find bigger spaces when they look to run the ball than they have for much of the season. For all the talent invested on the Los Angeles Defensive Line, they have not been able to control the run as well as they would like, while Kamara figures to be a real threat catching the ball out of the backfield too.

That is key for Brees who is going to be seeing a pass rush in his face from the Rams, although this is a Quarter Back who can get decipher Defenses as well as any in the NFL. He can throw the ball very quickly to those spaces too and Brees is someone who tends to look after the ball so I expect the Quarter Back to have a similar success as Aaron Rodgers did in Week 9 when coming close to leading the Green Bay Packers to an upset of the Rams on the road.

You should expect the Rams to have some real success throwing the ball too with Goff comfortable in the system built around him, while also having the returning Cooper Kuup to boost his Receiving weapons. As well as the Saints Secondary played against the Minnesota Vikings last week, this is a team who have brought in Eli Apple from the New York Giants to help a team whose young players have perhaps not kicked on as well as hoped.

Where the Saints do have success is on the Defensive Line with a strong ability to clamp down on the run which means they could give Todd Gurley some problems this week. Gurley has shown he is a Running Back who can wear down those Offensive Linesmen over the course of 60 minutes so he will get his numbers, but the Saints could at least force a few third and long spots and then get after Goff even without Marcus Davenport.

The Rams Offensive Line has had some difficulties protecting Goff so the Saints will believe they can stall drives if they can keep tabs on Gurley for much of the game.

I do like the Saints as the home underdog to end the unbeaten start to the season for the Rams. The home team is 6-0 against the spread in the last six between these teams and New Orleans have a very strong 24-5 record against the spread in their last twenty-nine home games against a team with a winning road record.

They thrive against the better teams in general as shown by a very strong 46-20-1 record against the spread in their last sixty-seven games against teams with a winning record overall. The Saints remain a very tough team to beat inside the SuperDome too, and I will take the points with New Orleans.

Green Bay Packers @ New England Patriots Pick: You couldn't really ask for a better Sunday Night Football offering than seeing Tom Brady lead the New England Patriots into a showdown with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The best Quarter Back of all time versus the most talented Quarter Back of all time is how it will be billed and this is likely the last time we will have the pleasure of seeing Brady versus Rodgers barring a Super Bowl between these teams sooner rather than later.

The promos for this match up have not been disappointing and there is a big game feel about this game even if it is a non-Conference game.

The New England Patriots were just on primetime when blowing out the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football and that has helped them move back to their familiar position of leading the AFC East. A bigger focus for the Patriots will be trying to earn the Number 1 Seed in the AFC so every game remains important for them.

It is a big game for the Green Bay Packers too as they are in the midst of a really tough NFC North battle and dropping the game in Los Angeles last week in the manner they did will hurt. Aaron Rodgers will be expecting his team to shake things off and get back on the horse immediately, but the decision made by Ty Montgomery to run the ball out of the End Zone with under two minutes left has cost him his place with the Packers and he was traded to the Baltimore Ravens.

That decision is a good one for the likes of Aaron Jones who will now be the leading Green Bay Running Back and he has a good chance to begin with some strong numbers. Whenever you have a Quarter Back like Rodgers you know teams are going to be very worried about the pass, but the Packers have shown considerable balance on the Offense all season and Jones should be able to produce on the ground against a Patriots Defensive Line who have given up 4.5 yards per carry over their last three games.

Ultimately Bill Belichick will know that finding a way to slow down Aaron Rodgers is the key, but that is going to be some challenge for the Patriots. The Secondary have some talented players, but they have not played up to the level you would expect of New England and Aaron Rodgers is someone who can carve up most Defensive units he faces.

Rodgers can scramble away from any pressure and remain very effective throwing the ball and he has been very good at avoiding Interceptions this season which means you have to think Green Bay move the ball well for most of this game.

Tom Brady is expected to have a big game too, but he may be without Sonny Michel and Rob Gronkowski which will make his day a little more difficult. Without Michel you would think the Patriots are going to use screens and quick passes in place of a running game and expect to see James White used in a way to get him into space and matched up with players who can't keep up with his quickness.

There are some young players with a bright future in the Green Bay Secondary, but trading away Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was an interesting move. While they have depth, Clinton-Dix may be their best player in the Secondary and so it is going to be tough for the Packers to stop Brady and the Patriots even if Gronkowski sits.

The Packers played very well in Los Angeles last week against the Rams and gave their team a chance to win the game, but without Clinton-Dix it will be interesting to see how they cope.

Even then I do think getting the points with Rodgers and the Packers for a second week in a row is appealing. There is every chance a late drive to get within the number is possible for the Packers and I do think the match up is one that will make Green Bay difficult to be stopped Offensively.

Make no mistake about it- I hate backing against Tom Brady in Foxboro where his Patriots have cashed plenty more times than they haven't in recent years. As much as Brady states his admiration for Rodgers, he would love to put a big number on the Packers to underline his own status, and that makes Brady dangerous. However I think Aaron Rodgers as a big underdog is always worth a second look and I will back the Packers with the points.

Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: Monday Night Football may not be putting together the elite of the NFL, but these two teams are still very much in contention in their respective Divisions. At the halfway mark of the regular season you are beginning to lose opportunities to recover from losses though and I think both the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys know the huge difference between a 3-5 record and a 4-4 record.

Both teams head into this Week 9 game at 3-4 and both are coming off their Bye Week and looking to get things turned around. The Dallas Cowboys clearly feel they are closer to doing something significant this season having been one of the active teams at the trade deadline when giving up a First Round Draft Pick to bring Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders and perhaps giving Dak Prescott someone reliable to whom he can throw the ball.

There will definitely be a hope in Dallas that Cooper can spark an Offensive unit who have been inconsistent to say the least. Allowing Dez Bryant to leave in the same year as Jason Witten retiring and heading to the commentator booth has left Dallas short of reliable weapons for Prescott to throw to and that is where Cooper's arrival is expected to be a difference maker.

Injuries on the Offensive Line have not helped the Dallas cause as they have not been able to run the ball through Ezekiel Elliot as well as they would have liked. Some of that could also be down to the fact that teams have not respected the passing game, but the Cowboys have still had some trouble getting Elliot going and that may not be any different on Monday.

For all the problems that Tennessee have had this season the Titans Defensive Line is where the strength of this team lies. The Titans have been tough to run the ball against and they will be looking to clamp down on the run up front and force Dak Prescott to find an immediate connection with Cooper and move the ball through the air.

Prescott has been guilty of holding onto the ball too long and keeping him in third and long situations will give the Titans a chance of bringing the pass rush to him. You have to believe it is something the Cowboys will have worked on during their Bye Week to get Prescott to speed up his reads, but this looks like a game in which Dallas won't find it easy to move the chains with consistency as Tennessee have seen their Secondary also produce some solid outings.

The key to the game is whether the Titans can get their own Offensive unit back on track as they have struggled to protect Marcus Mariota and allow the Quarter Back the time to make his plays downfield. Mariota has not been able to scramble as well as he would have liked, but the passing game has really struggled with the Offensive Line having a number of injuries up front.

Tennessee will have used the Bye Week to get a little healthier on the Offensive Line and they will need to be strong to keep the Dallas pass rush away from Mariota. The Cowboys certainly have the players who can win up front and that is a concern for Mariota who doesn't have the consistent Receivers he can look to in order to move the chains consistently through the air.

The Titans have also got to be trying to get back on track running the ball which is the key to the entire Offense. Both Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry have had their chances to take over the Running Back job, but neither has really impressed enough to have the bulk of the carries and both look set for a tough game against this Cowboys Defensive Line.

On the face of things this looks like being a low-scoring game and that makes the points given to the underdog look very appealing. Add in the factor that only the defeat to the Baltimore Ravens was a game in which Tennessee were not competitive and the other six games played in the NFL have all been tight and closely contested and you can see why the points look intriguing.

However Dallas have been much better when they have played at home this season and their numbers have been improved across the board here. Dallas are 3-0 in Arlington and they are 13-6 against the spread in the last nineteen games off a Bye Week.

Tennessee have not been as good off a Bye Week with a 2-5-1 record against the spread in their last eight in this situation. The Titans are 11-23 against the spread in their last thirty-four road games and they are 9-27-3 against the spread in their last thirty-nine games against a team with a losing record.

As long as Dallas can come out and dominate up front on the Defensive Line I think they are going to have a little too much for the Titans and I like them here. The sharp money has driven this number down from the opening line, but I think it is now low enough to back the Cowboys and I will look for them to win and cover on the Monday Night Football.

MY PICKS: Kansas City Chiefs - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Chicago Bears - 10 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers + 6 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Washington Redskins - 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

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