Last week was BRU-TAL, so please excuse me while I indulge in a brief Bart Simpson chalkboard moment.
I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again. I Will Not Go 4-9 Ever Again…
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 4-9 (Season Record – 57-60-3)
Straight Up – 6-6-1 (Season Record – 64-54-2)
Locks of the Week – 1-3 (Season Record – 23-20-1)
And that’s about all I have to say about Week 8 of the NFL season.
Now, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Once the Falcons and the Bucs kick off on Thursday night — in what should be a sneaky good, NFC South battle, by the way — we’ll officially be closer to the end of the NFL regular season than the beginning.
It’s officially crunch time for every NFL team hoping to make something out of their season and there’s no better time than Week 9 for these squads to either solidify their standing as a contender of a varying degree (Super Bowl contender, playoff contender, No. 1 overall pick contender, even?).
Week 9 is seriously loaded with divisional matchups that will play a vital role in shaping the NFL’s playoff picture when it’s finally solidified eight weeks from today.
So let’s dive right in and see if we can’t sort out who’s going to win and why — or at least let’s try and do a better job than we did last week.
As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS Sports.
(5-3) Atlanta Falcons @ (3-4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4.5) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS – Buccaneers
Straight Up – Falcons
Level Of Confidence – Feeling pretty… pretty good
Last week’s victory over the Packers in what was one of the best games of the season was a huge one for the Falcons. It put them two games over .500 and firmly in the driver’s seat in the NFC South — at least for the time being.
According to NFL.com, the Falcons came into the year tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the hardest schedule of any team in the NFL. It’s becoming evident why, especially when you look ahead at what the Falcons have to deal with over the next four weeks.
After facing upstart division rival Tampa Bay on the road this week in primetime on a short week, they’re at the Eagles in Week 10, then home against the Cardinals and Chiefs in consecutive weeks.
Plus, if they drop this game to the Bucs, their division lead over Tampa — who they lost to 31-24 in Week 1 — drops to just a game AND they’ll lack the tiebreaker over the Bucs.
And don’t be fooled and think heading to Tampa on a short week will be easy for the Falcons. The Bucs will throw the kitchen sink at them in this one and should be able to give them a run for their money in what should be a high-scoring affair, as it seemingly always will be with the Falcons.
I like Atlanta to pull it out, but count on the Bucs and Jameis Winston getting theirs against a susceptible Falcons defense.
No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week
(4-4) Detroit Lions @ (5-2) Minnesota Vikings (-6) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
There’s blood in the water and the entire NFC North can smell it. The once impervious-looking Vikings are wounded and with Norv Turner resigning as offensive coordinator today due to “different view” with coach Mike Zimmer, whose new favorite thing to do is call everybody in his immediate vicinity “soft,” the Vikings seem ripe for the picking.
The problem is that without Adrian Peterson the Vikings’ offense has become predictable and stale, and even worse is there’s a very simple formula for beating them and that’s by getting to Sam Bradford early and often.
The Lions have done a nice job of pressuring and getting to opposing QBs all year and have 18 sacks to show for it, which is tied for 12th in the NFL. As stout as the Vikings’ defense may be, the lack of production and ability to control the clock and sustain drives for the offense the last two weeks has hampered their effectiveness.
My feeling here is that the Lions know the formula to beat this team in their current state and they’ll be able to execute it. Minnesota just has too many issues on offense to win here unless they find a running game and an offensive line within the next few days.
(3-5) New York Jets @ (3-4) Miami Dolphins – (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Dolphins
Remember when this was the most heated rivalry in the AFC East before the Patriots made hating any team in the division that wasn’t the Patriots impossible because they win all the damn time?
Good times. Good times.
Both of these once left for dead AFC East teams are riding two-game winning streaks into this one and something HAS to give, because if this one ends in a tie somehow, my head will explode.
For argument’s sake, let’s pretend that this game has some actual AFC East Wild Card implications to it, which I suppose it could, even though in reality, neither of these teams seem destined for more than a .500 record at best.
The Dolphins’ back-to-back wins over the Steelers (Big Ben-less) and Bills at home are unarguably more impressive than the Jets’ against the Ravens and the Browns in back-to-back weeks, especially when you remember that it took a Herb Brooksian speech from coach Todd Bowles to even get the Jets past the winless Browns.
Plus, Ryan Tannehill is playing much better football in the last few weeks and has weapons on the outside that will make the Jets’ secondary look foolish.
Dolphins win and cover.
(2-5) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (5-2) Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chiefs
I jumped off of the Jaguars bandwagon a few weeks back and don’t see myself getting back on at any point this season. This is just a bad football team.
Talented, but bad. At this point, you have to think a lot of that falls on their head coach, Gus Bradley.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are the epitome of stability under coach Andy Reid. They don’t do anything overwhelmingly well, or poorly, they just play hard-nosed football and win.
At home, in the throes of a tightly-contested division race, the Chiefs won’t falter here. They’ll have their way with the Jags en route to a 6-2 record.
(3-4) New Orleans Saints @ (1-6) San Francisco 49ers (+3.5) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Saints
Would you look at what’s going on in New Orleans? After starting the year 0-3 and looking like one of the worst teams in the NFC, the Saints have turned it around and are on the cusp of being a .500 football team.
The only thing that stands in their way? The San Francisco 49ers and all 25 of their fans that will be making the trek up to Santa Clara to watch them play this weekend.
Note the sarcasm, folks.
The 49ers have one of the worst offenses in the NFL whether it’s Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert taking snaps under center and even though their passing defense — and defense in general — isn’t that bad, they won’t be able to contain Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense.
Saints win by at least 10.
(3-5) Indianapolis Colts @ (4-3) Green Bay Packers (-7) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Packers
This… is a tough one.
On one hand, you have my unrepentant distaste for picking the Indianapolis Colts, a team with an offensive line and a defensive unit as porous as a strainer. On the other hand, my love of picking Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at home against teams with said mediocre defense.
Actually, maybe it’s not that hard.
Packers by two touchdowns.
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(4-3) Pittsburgh Steelers @ (3-4) Baltimore Ravens (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Steelers
I take no joy in picking against your team on a weekly basis, Ravens fans, but honestly, I just don’t see what the the betting world sees in them here.
Yes, I know the Steelers have been playing equally as uninspired the last two weeks, but at least they have a semblance of a running game.
So how the Ravens are favored against the Steelers, with or without Ben Roethlisberger, is beyond me.
This is not to suggest that the Steelers have looked stellar of late by any means. In fact, the notion that this game will actually be for first place in the AFC North is kind of laughable.
Alas, somebody has to win and I think it’ll be the Steelers.
I think their offense does enough against the Ravens to get the job done and I DEFINITELY think they cover the spread at the very least in what should be a grueling, divisional game.
(4-3) Philadelphia Eagles @ (4-3) New York Giants (-2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Eagles
Yet another HUGE divisional matchup to look forward to in Week 9 when these two arch-rivals square off at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants are home and are coming off their bye week, which should in theory have them more than ready to roll in what will likely be the biggest game of their season to this point, but here’s why I like the Eagles.
When they win, they win big this year — by an average of 19 points so far this year to be exact. But more importantly, when they lose, it’s by a slim margin. Their three losses have all been decided by a touchdown or less, including a one-point loss to the Lions and their overtime loss to the Cowboys.
Their other loss came at the hands of the Redskins, so a loss to the Giants would put their division record at 0-3, which they have to avoid at all costs.
I think they’ll do it thanks to their defense.
The Giants’ offense — though potent in doses with Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning — has been inconsistent and ranked 26th in the NFL in points per game with 19.
The Eagles’ defense, though they didn’t look the part late in Week 8 against the Cowboys, is formidable and will give Manning and Co. trouble throughout the day.
Eagles win a close one.
(6-1) Dallas Cowboys @ (0-8) Cleveland Browns (+7.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Browns
Straight Up – Cowboys
This might just be the ‘trappiest’ of all the trap games ever. Coming off a monstrous win over the rival Eagles in primetime, the Cowboys’ next test is the hapless Cleveland Browns.
So why on Earth do I think the Browns will keep this one close.
Because the Cowboys will come out just a little bit sluggish, thinking to themselves, just a little bit, ‘hey, it’s the Browns, we’ll be fine,’ which has never, ever, bode well for any NFL team playing another NFL team.
I think Cleveland gets a jump on sleeping Dallas and the Cowboys are forced to mount a road comeback against a lesser foe, just like they did in San Francisco in Week 4.
‘Boys win, but it won’t be that easy.
(2-5) Carolina Panthers @ (3-4) Los Angeles Rams (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Panthers
Cam Newton is not a happy camper of late and facing the Rams’ vaunted front four and a Gregg Williams-led defense likely won’t leave him smiling once this game is over.
Still, Newton and the Panthers responded last week with their season on life support and have an opportunity to keep things rolling against a Rams team that’s lost three straight.
The concern here for the Panthers — other than Williams pacing the sideline barking at his players to get after Newton — is the cross-country travel.
The Panthers are 0-3 on the road this year and traveling all the way to the West Coast is going to be a major test for them, especially against a team that’s going to try and slug it out in a physical game for 60 minutes.
I think the Panthers get the job done though and continue their comeback story for at least another week.
(6-2) Denver Broncos @ (6-2) Oakland Raiders (-1) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Broncos
We all thought the Raiders would be much improved in 2016, but tied for the division lead with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos heading into a Week 9 showdown for AFC West supremacy? Even the most optimistic Raiders fan couldn’t have seen this one coming.
And, they’re favored!
This is a true litmus test game for the Raiders and as much as I like what they’re doing this year, I don’t see them being ready for a game of this magnitude against a team of this caliber.
This one will show that they’re a year away from true contention, even though it’s closer than it is far.
Broncos by a touchdown.
Heads or Tails
(3-4) Tennessee Titans @ (3-5) San Diego Chargers (-5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
This is actually going to be a really good football game. The Chargers’ offense, led by Phillip Rivers as always but more surprisingly by second-year back Melvin Gordon, who has been nothing short of spectacular, meet a Titans team with an upstart offense and a potent defense, especially against the run.
My weird penchant for picking the Titans aside, I’ve definitely stepped off of the soapbox that I’ve been using to convince anyone and everyone who will listen that the Chargers are a disaster of a football team.
Still, I like the Titans here, mostly to cover the five-point spread but I think they pull off the upset, too. It’s too high of a number for what should be a game decided by a field goal or less.
(4-4) Buffalo Bills @ (4-2-1) Seattle Seahawks (-7) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Bills
Straight Up – Seahawks
The Bills deserve a ton of credit for pulling themselves off the mat after an 0-2 start and getting to 4-2, but unfortunately for them, they’ll have to do it once again following two straight losses to division rivals against one of the toughest teams in the NFL on their own turf.
Seattle, to the surprise of no one, is undefeated at home this year and it’ll take everything the Bills have to keep this one close.
That being said, I think the Bills have the makeup to do that, but I think this is just too tall of a task for Rex Ryan’s squad against a more talented team in their own building.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.
Post Author: bryan.altman.