Welcome to another exciting weekend in the NFL.
Our VSiN experts — Adam Burke, Dave Tuley, Will Hill, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown from Pro Football Focus — combine to give their opinions on every Sunday game in Week 9.
Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday night.
Here are our Week 9 best bets:
Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (-5.5, 46)
Brown: Myles Gaskin’s utilization is consistent, but he lacks efficiency, which is true for the entire Dolphins offense. He handled more than 50 percent of the Dolphins' rushing attempts over the past two weeks and easily eclipsed 11.5 carries as a result. Early-season questions about total snap percentage have dissipated, as Gaskin has played over 50 percent of the offensive snaps in six of eight games this season.
The problem is that his rush attempts are dictated by game script. Gaskin has been involved when the Dolphins remain relevant in a game and Week 9 is the best opportunity for Miami to play ahead based on spread expectations. All of this points toward Gaskin easily finishing with over 11.5 carries due to the Dolphins showcasing their ground-and-pound offense Sunday.
Pick: Gaskin Over 11.5 Rush Attempts (-110)
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys (-10, 49.5)
Tuley: On VSiN, you’ll hear hosts talk all the time about coaches making horrible game-management decisions, with misuse of timeouts or challenges, deciding to go for two, etc. But I nominate Denver’s Vic Fangio for the worst we’ve seen since Anthony Lynn. It wasn’t his fault that his running backs kept fumbling, but he also called for a pass play on second down of their final drive that was incomplete and gave Washington a chance, especially after Melvin Gordon fumbled on third down. Somehow, Washington wasn’t able to do anything with its extra opportunity and the Broncos won in spite of Fangio.
I’m mentioning all this because, as hard as it is to trust Fangio, I’m still taking the Broncos because this line has steamed to double digits. The advance line was only Cowboys -7.5, but then the Cowboys upset the Vikings (and a lot of bettors) 20-16 on Sunday night with Cooper Rush replacing Dak Prescott. That’s going to attract a lot of bandwagon jumpers, especially with Prescott expected to return this week. However, the Broncos’ defense (even without the departed Von Miller) can contain Dallas’ offense and keep it closer for Teddy Bridgewater to do what he does best — cover as an underdog.
Pick: Broncos %plussign% 10
Reynolds: Fair play to Dallas for going on the road to Minnesota in a primetime game and winning with its backup quarterback in Rush. The Cowboys are now 6-1 SU and the NFL’s only perfect team ATS (7-0). This week, Dallas is -10 (-7.5 lookahead) and it is already priced in the market that Prescott will be returning under center.
Von Miller, the longest-tenured Bronco, was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a second and third-rounder in 2022. He was not likely to re-sign in Denver, so the Broncos got what they could for him. They expect to get Bradley Chubb back near the end of the month after the bye week. However, other pass rushers have been stepping up to fill the void including Malik Reed, nicknamed “The Dream Killer” by former teammate Miller, who had two sacks last week and recent acquisition Stephen Weatherly (trade from Minnesota) posted a sack in his debut.
The Broncos still have yet to defeat a team with a winning record, but they are not phoning in the season with the AFC West being as up and down as it is presently. The offense has not generated a lot of big plays, but Jerry Jeudy did return last week and Bridgewater continues to be efficient (completing 70.4 percent of his passes for 7.4 yards per pass, 13 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions) and take care of the football. Bridgewater is 23-5 ATS on the road as an NFL starter, including 10-0 ATS versus winning opponents.
Clearly, this is a step up in class for Denver, but Dallas is priced at the highest end of the market and you do not necessarily want to buy stock on a 52-week high.
Pick: Broncos %plussign% 10
Brown: Dallas’s transformation into a ball-hawking defense is led by Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys’ high-variance coverage performance has enticed bookmakers to offer the under on Bridgewater’s interception prop at a plus price for the first time all season. Dallas has clearly played above expectation, turning 80 percent of turnover-worthy throws into interceptions, which could start to regress toward the mean.
Even if it doesn’t, Bridgewater has always been known for taking care of the football. His 3.3 percent turnover-worthy play rate this year is the highest of his career and still only equates to less than one turnover-worthy throw per 30 dropbacks. Interception props are always decided by one play, and the plus price, along with Bridgewater’s history, makes it the perfect chance to fade recency bias on the Cowboys.
Pick: Bridgewater Under 0.5 Interceptions (%plussign% 115)
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens (-6, 50)
Tuley: The Vikings certainly were pitiful in their Sunday night loss to the short-handed Cowboys, but this is a chance to buy low on them. The Ravens will be a popular public play coming off their bye (and tons of people betting against the Vikings because they let them down so badly in such a high-profile game), but when you objectively break down these teams, they’re a lot closer than most people think.
The Vikings still have plenty of offensive firepower (though averaging a modest 23.3 points per game), while the Ravens are allowing 23.4 points per game. Granted, the Ravens offense is the best unit in this game with Lamar Jackson playing great, but I still don’t see them scoring the 30 points that will probably be needed to cover. The Ravens should be favored at home, but I have this being decided by a late field goal, as both these teams have a tendency to play close games.
Pick: Vikings %plussign% 6
Brown: Injury situations wreak havoc on thin teams, and nowhere is that more apparent in Week 9 than along the Vikings' defensive line. Danielle Hunter’s pass-rush ability will be sorely missed on a defense tasked with containing Jackson. Hunter's absence will result in more time to throw for Jackson, who already leads the league in that category.
It’s true that Jackson’s rushing attempts have dropped off in 2021, but he's on pace for a career-high in scrambles. The six-point spread means we should see a vintage Jackson performance, which means accumulating plenty of yards on the ground regardless of the final score.
Pick: Lamar Jackson Over 59.5 Rushing Yards (-113)
New England Patriots (-3.5, 41) at Carolina Panthers
Youmans: Everyone remembers P.J. Walker’s run with the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL two years ago, right? Walker led the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He’s not bad, but he’s not a quarterback who will torch a Bill Belichick defense. Walker is set to start this week if Sam Darnold is unable to go after suffering a concussion in Week 8. Whether it’s Darnold or Walker, expect a run-first offensive game plan from the Panthers, who rarely produce explosive plays when running back Christian McCaffrey is not on the field. McCaffrey hopes to play this week, but his workload should be limited even if he does return. Carolina scored a total of 22 points in its past two games and its offense ranks 22nd in the league in scoring.
Belichick’s schemes controlled Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, and the New England defense should be even better in this matchup. The Patriots are content to grind out long drives with Damien Harris’s running and Mac Jones’s efficient passing. This total has dropped 2.5 to 3 points for good reason, but 41 is a key number when betting totals so it’s still playable unless it dips to 40.5.
Pick: Under 41
Buffalo Bills (-14.5, 48.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Burke: Is the bye week a detriment for teams this season? Teams coming off of the bye are just 3-7 ATS and two of them went head-to-head on Sunday Night Football last week between the Cowboys and Vikings. One of those ATS wins belongs to the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills covered late against the Dolphins, but it was not a pretty game whatsoever and the cover does not properly illustrate how poorly Buffalo actually played. Defensively, the Bills were stout again, holding Miami to 4.1 yards per play to improve upon a league-leading mark of 4.6 yards per play allowed. The weak schedule that Buffalo has played is a major factor, but it isn’t like the Bills are playing the Ravens, Rams or Cowboys this week. They’re playing the lowly Jaguars.
A Jacksonville team that had only 4.2 yards per play last week against the Seahawks. Buffalo’s defense should be able to do what everybody else has done to the Jaguars so far this season. The Bills are also tied for the league lead in takeaways, so they should win the turnover battle and get some extra possessions here.
Buffalo’s offense was out of sync and a little stagnant last week with just 5.3 yards per play. I’m expecting a much better effort this week. The weather looks great for a potent offense and the Bills have a lot of weapons to go up against a Jacksonville defense allowing 6.1 yards per play.
Pick: Bills -14.5
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5, 47)
Burke: The Browns are still extremely banged up and added another significant injury to the report this week. Right tackle Jack Conklin will miss the next few weeks, so that means Blake Hance will play RT opposite Jedrick Wills Jr., who has not been healthy pretty much all season. Against the new and improved Bengals defensive front, this seems like a big problem, especially with how the Browns like to run the ball.
Cincinnati’s run defense has held the opposition to just 3.9 yards per carry, which ranked fourth in the league coming into this week. The Browns actually have the best run defense in the league, but the Bengals are going to run the offense through Joe Burrow. That is a problem for a Browns defense that has struggled against speed at the wide receiver position this season.
Mike Williams had eight catches for 165 yards against the Browns. Tyreek Hill had 11 catches for 197 yards. The Cardinals wide receivers gave the Browns fits, especially in the first half of the Week 6 game. The Bengals have the Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase connection. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd could also present problems for the Browns secondary.
With Baker Mayfield hurt and continued troubles along the offensive line, a lot of things just don’t line up favorably for Cleveland in this game. Now there’s also OBJ drama. I’m surprised to see the Bengals still at -2.5 in all honesty.
Pick: Bengals -2.5
Reynolds: The market overreacted to the Bengals win in Baltimore and the injury to Jets quarterback Zach Wilson as Cincinnati was as high as 11.5-point favorites. Yes, the Bengals lost as big favorites against the Jets, but they were also in their third consecutive road game, which is never an ideal situation.
Now it’s the Browns in the difficult scheduling spot as they take to the road for a divisional game after three consecutive home games (where they lost two of three). Cleveland is just 1-5 ATS in its last six AFC North contests. Meanwhile, the Bengals are 3-0 ATS in their last three divisional games and Burrow is 7-1 ATS as a starter off a loss in his short time as the starter in Cincinnati.
Cleveland is also banged up, especially on the offensive line, and that is the primary reason the Browns have failed to eclipse 17 points in any of their last three games.
Many seem to be leaving the Cincinnati bandwagon, but when everyone else is jumping off, that is the time to come aboard.
Pick: Bengals -140 ML
Las Vegas Raiders (-3.5, 46) at New York Giants
Youmans: For mysterious reasons, the Giants are the most dangerous as road dogs — 23-7 ATS in their past 30 in that role — and not so tough at home. However, the Giants did whip the Panthers 25-3 as 3-point home underdogs in Week 7, and the New York defense did show obvious improvement in the past two games. This game means a lot to coach Joe Judge and quarterback Daniel Jones, who have their backs against the wall as the losses pile up. Judge’s job is in jeopardy.
The home dog figured to be live in this spot even before the Raiders’ latest controversy. After the stunning resignation from coach Jon Gruden, the Raiders rallied to beat Denver and Philadelphia before their bye week. Now the team must deal with a tragic situation involving second-year wideout Henry Ruggs III, who was released Tuesday after his involvement in a fatal auto accident.
Veteran quarterback Derek Carr and interim coach Rich Bisaccia are proving to be strong leaders for the franchise, so it’s certainly possible the Raiders overcome another high hurdle and continue their roll on the field. Carr has become a quarterback you want to bet on, unlike Jones. Still, the situation is better for the home dog getting a field goal.
Pick: Giants %plussign% 3.5
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-6.5, 41.5)
Brown: The New Orleans defense is good, yet still overvalued. PFF ranks the Saints defense third overall, first in run-defense grade and third in coverage grade. This matchup's total continues to drop, as it now sits as the third-lowest total in Week 9. Putting preferences on the 42.5-point game total aside, this means the Falcons team total sits at 17.5 points. Atlanta's low-end expectation projects for at least two touchdowns.
Ryan throwing both of the touchdowns at a plus price is enticing, as Atlanta has thrown over 70 percent on red-zone plays. Even check-downs to running backs are more likely than a goal-line carry. If you believe the Falcons will have some offensive success Sunday, then the perfect approach to play is betting Ryan to throw for at least two passing touchdowns.
Pick: Matt Ryan Over 1.5 Passing TDs (%plussign% 115)
Los Angeles Chargers (-2, 49) at Philadelphia Eagles
Hill: How quickly things change in the NFL. A couple of weeks ago, the Chargers were the darlings of the league. They had beaten the Chiefs and Browns in thrilling shootouts and were 4-1. Everyone (raises hand) was ready to cash their Brandon Staley Coach of the Year tickets and the Chargers were widely considered a dangerous team in the AFC. They became overvalued then, but I think have become undervalued after two clunkers against the Ravens and Patriots.
Wink Martindale and Bill Belichick, the masterminds of the last two defenses Justin Herbert has faced, can baffle any young quarterback. Think of a young slugger trying to face a veteran pitcher with a nasty array of off-speed pitches. Well, this week the matchup is more favorable for Herbert. He faces an Eagles defense that is vulnerable in the secondary, and while it’s dangerous to simply boil the game down to quarterback vs quarterback, it’s hard to ignore the massive disparity between Herbert and Jalen Hurts.
Hurts has struggled this year, especially in games against the Cowboys and Bucs and when an opponent can score early and often, it’s hard for Hurts to hold serve and match point for point. The Eagles offense is based off of running the ball and using play-action because the straight drop back passing game simply isn’t developed and Hurts has thrown for just over 600 yards his last 4 games.
The Chargers are bad against the run, and maybe it’s “square” to focus so intently on the gap in QB play, but I am buying low here on the Chargers and selling high on the Eagles after their rout of the Lions. I’ll eschew the line and lay the extra pennies on the Chargers getting back on track in this one with the moneyline. Maybe it’s time for the Eagles to play Gardner Minshew.
Pick: Chargers ML (-130)
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5, 48)
Burke: The Aaron Rodgers COVID announcement did more than alter the spread. The total for this game dropped significantly as well. The total was up in the mid-50s and now sits at 48 with Jordan Love getting the call. You can say what you want about the spread adjustment and likely be justified, but this total has been over-adjusted in my opinion.
It is a leap of faith to bet on Love in this situation given that we haven’t seen much of him in his young career, but it is far from a leap of faith to fade this Chiefs defense. Kansas City’s defense has been put in some suboptimal spots because of turnovers, but has allowed the most yards per play in the NFL with 6.4 and can’t really stop the run or the pass.
The Chiefs have not done a good job of generating pressure this season, which should give Love the opportunity to go through his progressions. Kansas City also came into this week 26th in yards per carry allowed, so Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon could find some success on the ground.
The 19 turnovers are a huge story for the Chiefs, but when you consider that they’ve had all of those and have still scored on over 44 percent of their possessions, you have to think about how much talent this offense still has. Even with the picks and wasted possessions, the Chiefs are fourth in passing touchdowns and fifth in passing yards per game.
It will be a much nicer day at Arrowhead compared to the nighttime weather we saw on Monday night against the Giants. The absence of Rodgers may hurt Green Bay’s offense, but the Chiefs defense may be just the cure.
Pick: Over 48
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-2, 45)
Youmans: The Cardinals won the first meeting 17-10 in Week 5, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan lost the game with dubious game-management decisions. (As a self-acclaimed genius, Shanahan never would admit he blew it.) San Francisco had the edge in total yards (338-304) and yards per play (5.7-5.1), and its defense was effective in containing Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray, who’s hobbled by an ankle injury and is questionable to go. The 49ers should be the right side in the rematch whether it’s Murray or Colt McCoy starting.
Shanahan might not admit rookie quarterback Trey Lance is not ready to start in the NFL, but Lance started against Arizona the first time and was unimpressive. Jimmy Garoppolo did play well in a 33-22 win at Chicago in Week 8. Garoppolo passed for 322 yards and ran for two touchdowns while Elijah Mitchell carried the ball 18 times for 137 yards. Maybe that performance can be a turning point for Garoppolo and the offense. San Francisco has not won a home game in more than a year, so this would be a good time to stop the skid. The 49ers can get to .500 and resurface in the NFC playoff conversation with a much-needed win. The line has fluctuated because of Murray’s status. I bet the 49ers %plussign% 2.5 before the line swung to San Francisco as a favorite. The Niners are still the right side.
Pick: 49ers -2
Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams (-7, 52.5)
Tuley: The advance line was just Rams -4 last week before both teams won on Sunday and then was reopened at Rams -6.5. I was a little surprised at that adjustment, but then it was announced that RB Derrick Henry suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury against the Colts. The line then jumped the key number of 7 to Rams -7.5.
We talk all the time about how oddsmakers and the public overreact to QB injuries and adjust the lines too much. Well, this is a case where they’re doing it for a RB. Every analyst/expert I’ve heard has said how this is devastating news for the Titans. Now, I’m a Henry fan as much as the next guy, but we see top running teams in college and pro football plug in backups all the time and there’s barely a dropoff. Now, I don’t expect Jeremy McNichols or newly signed Adrian Peterson to put up the same numbers as Henry, but I don’t think the dropoff will be as much as most people expect.
I’ll gladly take the hook at 7.5 just in case the Rams do win by a TD, but I think this line should be closer to 3 or 4 with the game coming down to a field goal one way or the other.
Pick: Titans %plussign% 7