Week 9 picks from a "dog or pass" point of view"
We’re hitting the midway mark of the NFL season this weekend (Week 9 of the 18-week schedule, though each team plays 17 games, so good luck pinpointing the exact midpoint) and hope to turn the corner after three straight disappointing weeks in the Tuley’s Takes home office.
I went 2-3 ATS with my Best Bets last week in this column, winning on the Buccaneers +8.5 at the Bills on Thursday and the Broncos +8.5 vs. the Chiefs on Sunday, but lost on the Patriots +9.5 at the Dolphins, Browns +3.5 at the Seahawks (losing by 4!) and Bears +8.5 at the Chargers.
We’ve actually fallen below .500 at 19-21-1 ATS on the season after a hot start. But this is a marathon and not a sprint, so we continue our quest for Excalibur. Not to mix metaphors, but sports betting is supposed to be fun, so let’s “have fun storming the castle!” (Princess Bride movie reference for those who know and are here for the entertainment as much as the picks)
.For newcomers to this column (waves hi to newbies), I’m a “dog-or-pass bettor,” and my breakdown of each game will usually be from that point of view as we try to determine if the dog is getting enough points to make them a play – or if I recommend passing on the game, which is a very valid and valuable betting decision when trying to come out ahead against the books! Even if I don’t have an official Best Bet, I’ll still at least give my recommended “pool play strategy” for those who are in contests where you have to pick every game.
Many people are referring to the Titans’ 28-23 upset of the Falcons as Will Levis’ arrival as he threw four TD passes in his NFL debut. I’m not sure I’m ready to jump on the bandwagon. Besides, the line on this game was Steelers -4 when the schedule was released on May 11 and was still -3.5 on the advanced line last week, so the value has been sucked out of it. Instead, I’ll just use the Titans +8.5 in 2-team, 6-point teasers to get them through the key numbers of 3 and 7. I’ll combine them with the Dolphins +7.5 and the Buccaneers +8.5 in the early Sunday games as well as the Bills +8 in the Sunday nighter.
Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teasers with the Titans +8.5 and the aforementioned teams (pool play: Steelers 55/45 in all my rare SU & ATS contests that use the Thursday night game).
(Game being played in Frankfurt, Germany)
As mentioned above, I love the Dolphins here in teasers as they’ve shown they can score with anyone. Meanwhile, the Chiefs tend to let teams stick around (and that’s even with teams that have less potent offenses than Miami). With the Chiefs getting upset 24-9 by the Broncos this past Sunday, it’s tempting to call for the minor upset by the Dolphins, but we feel teasing is the way to go. We usually have a preferred 2-team, 6-point teaser on the early Sunday slate, and this week it’s Dolphins +7.5/Buccaneers +9.
Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teasers with Dolphins +7.5 (pool play: Chiefs 55/45 in all SU & ATS contests).
The Vikings have won four of their last five to get back to .500 at 4-4, but they lost QB Kirk Cousins in their 24-10 win at the Packers on Sunday. It looks the potential trade for Jameis Winston has fallen through and Minnesota will start rookie QB Jaren Hall. I usually don’t back QBs making their first NFL start (see Titans above), but with the Falcons going with Taylor Heinicke in place of Desmond Ridder, I feel this line has been adjusted too much (it was Falcons -1.5 just last week). Some of my favorite underdog plays are when a QB is injured and the market overadjusts the line by not giving enough credit to the backup, who is usually highly motivated to prove themselves in the “next man up” role.
Best Bet: Vikings +5 (pool play: Vikings 67/33 in ATS contest, but Falcons still 60/40 in SU pools).
After the Ravens ended up not covering as 9.5-point favorites in their 31-24 win at the Cardinals on Sunday, my first thought when I saw this line was that maybe I would take the Seahawks too. But the more I looked at how these teams match up, I decided this wasn’t enough points. The advance line last week was Ravens -4.5, so we only pick up the “dead number” of 5. I keep thinking back to the Ravens’ 38-6 rout of the Lions in their last home game and have to pass.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Ravens 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Speaking of the Cardinals, they were more competitive early this year (or at least overachieving after being widely regarded as the NFL’s worst team entering the season), but then rallied to get the back-door cover vs. the Ravens. We have another QB change here, with the Cardinals switching from Josh Dobbs to Clayton Tune (assuming Kyler Murray is not ready to play). Meanwhile, the Browns are still expected to go with P.J. Walker again, with Deshaun Watson taking another week to recover from his strained right rotator cuff. If this line was less than a TD, I’d probably pass, but Arizona looks like the right side here.
Best Bet: Cardinals +8 (pool play: Cardinals 67/33 in ATS contests, but Browns 75/25 in SU pools).
Most books were at Packers -3 -120 as of the deadline for this column Wednesday afternoon, while DraftKings was already at -3.5 +100 (so that’s why I list it is -3/-3.5). This is probably my top play of the weekend, especially at +3.5, as I’m not sure the right team is favored. The Rams are 3-5 while the Packers are 2-5, plus the Rams have the more consistent offense (ranked No. 9 at 354.5 yards per game compared to the Packers at No. 25 at just 287 yards per game) and even the better defense (No. 17 at 333.6 YPG, compared to the Packers at No. 21 and 339.1 YPG).
Best Bet: Rams +3.5 (pool play: Rams 67/33 in ATS contests – though lower if only offered +3 or especially +2.5 – but Packers 55/45 in SU pools).
I’ve already been on both of these teams in the underdog role early this season, but tough to take the Bucs will this short of a spread, though it is getting a little more tempting with several books offering Buccaneers +3 (though at -120). Instead, we feel the best way to play this is to tease the Bucs through the key numbers of 3 and 7 to +9 (+8.5 acceptable if that’s all you can get).
Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teasers with Buccaneers +9 or +8.5 (pool play: Buccaneers 55/45 in ATS contests but Texans 60/40 in SU pools).
The Patriots let us down in Week 8 by failing to cover in their 31-18 loss at the Dolphins, but that’s not the only reason we don’t feel they should be favored by more than a field goal here. QB Sam Howell continues to play well, and it looked like he might pull an upset of the Eagles this past Sunday before Philly rallied and pulled away (though Howell did end up getting the back-door push for those who had Commanders +7). With the Breeders’ Cup this weekend, I’d say Washington is stepping down in class. Besides, Bill Belichick “doesn’t have the horses.”
Best Bet: Commanders +3.5 (pool play: Commanders 67/33 in ATS contests while Patriots just 55/45 in SU pools).
Bears QB Justin Fields is expected to miss this third straight game and Tyson Bagent getting another start. The Bears came up short this past Sunday night, losing 30-13 at the Chargers as 9.5-point road underdogs. However, I’m back on them again as I saw enough to trust them to keep this a one-score game. Besides, it’s not like the Saints’ 38-27 win at the Colts was overly impressive to want this line going from Saints -5.5 on the advanced line to over a full TD.
Best Bet: Bears +7.5 (pool play: Bears 67/33 in ATS contests, but Saints 70/30 in SU pools).
While it’s usually easy to see the reasons for line movement, this one doesn’t make sense to me. The advanced line for this game last week was Colts -2.5. They then went out and lost 38-27 vs. the Saints while the Panthers won their first game of the season with a 15-13 win vs. the Texans, yet the line has climbed to 3 at a lot of books. Many regular readers will recognize this as a “swagger play” with the Panthers having just snapped a 6-game losing streak to start the season, but the number’s too short from me, and I’ll also pass on teasing the Panthers up over a TD.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Panthers 55/45 in ATS contests, but Colts 60/40 in SU pools).
I know several Giants fans who are coming to Vegas this weekend for this game, but I haven’t heard many people talk about being interested in betting on either side. I considered adding the Giants to my teaser portfolio but decided to pass once Raiders owner Mark Davis fired Josh McDaniels, as we often see teams get at least an immediate boost from players trying to prove themselves after a chance at the top of the coaching staff.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Raiders 60/40 in all SU & ATS contests).
This is clearly the marquee game of the three-game afternoon slate with the NFC East-leading Eagles (7-1) hosting their nearest rival, the Cowboys (5-2). Notwithstanding the embarrassing 28-16 loss at the Cardinals in Week 3 and the 42-10 loss at the 49ers in Week 5 (does Oct. 5 really feel that long ago?), the Cowboys have looked as complete of a team as anyone. The Eagles are no slouch, but we haven’t been afraid to fade them, and this just looks like a prime upset spot for the Cowboys.
Best Bet: Cowboys +3 (pool play: Cowboys 60/40 in ATS contests – higher if offered +3.5 – but Eagles still 65/35 in SU pools).
This is a rematch of the Bengals’ 27-10 win last January in Buffalo in the AFC Divisional Playoffs (and also the “Damar Hamlin Game”) and obviously why it was installed as the Sunday Night Football game this week. It was losing a tinge of its luster with the Bengals’ slow start to the season, but now could be a key game in the playoff chance, especially with the winner here holding the tiebreaker in the AFC wild-card chase. The line is too short for me to take the Bills ATS, but we’ll anchor some 2-team, 6-point teasers with the Bills up over at TD at +8. If I’m not alive with teasers from the aforementioned games, we’ll do a SNF/MNF teaser with Bills +8/Jets +9 (and probably add it regardless).
Best Bet: 2-team, 6-point teasers with Bills +8 (pool play: Bills 55/45 in ATS contest, though Bengals 55/45 in SU pools).
Well, the Chargers’ “back them as dogs/fade them as chalk” plan didn’t work Sunday night as they covered as 9.5-point home favorites in their 30-13 win vs. the Bears (hey, Matt Youmans, you hear any more on the return of the McRib at McDonald’s? I need some. McRibLocater.com has the closest Modesto, Calif. Road trip?). Anyway, we’re not afraid to try and fade them again in the chalk role, especially as the Jets have enough talent on both sides of the ball to pull off the MNF upset as live home dogs. Granted, their 13-10 OT win vs. the Giants was the definition of “winning ugly,” but don’t forget before their bye, they handed the Eagles their only loss of the season so far with a 20-14 upset.
Best Bet: New York Jets +3 (pool play: Jets 60/40 in ATS contests, and let’s go 55/45 in SU pools with a slight majority of our entries on the Jets pulling the minor upset).