NFL Predictions 2019: Week 9

Well I’ve never had a week picking every winner and that streak continues thanks to the Bears and their inability to kick a clutch field goal. I called that game for them to win 20-17 and had the field goal gone through the Chargers lose 19-17 and I get all the winners right. I’ll settle for 14-1 (79-41-1 overall) and be happy because I had some seriously good picks. Pittsburgh 24-16 over Miami (27-14 actual) Green Bay 26-20 over Kansas City (31-24) New England 28-12 over Cleveland (27-13) Houston 27-21 over Oakland (27-24) Detroit 27-22 over the Giants (31-26) Tennessee 20-19 over Tampa Bay (27-23) Seattle 35-31 over Atlanta (27-20) I mean heck that’s almost half the games with very close projections to the actual margin of victory. Even after going +4 against Vegas I’m still digging out of the hole at -15 on the season.

San Francisco (7-0) @ Arizona (3-4-1): I understand why the Cardinals took Kyler Murray. They needed a quarterback and Josh Rosen was a sunk cost. He’s proving that in Miami. However, Nick Bosa is looking every bit the animal his older brother is and his presence has turned their defense elite. Murray has given his team a fighting chance to win games and it’s harder to find a quarterback so they did what they had to do I suppose. On a short week, on the road after a huge win is a trap spot for the 49ers. They are not only undefeated this season, only one of their wins was by fewer than 9 points and five have come by two touchdowns. I don’t care who they have played, that’s impressive. Carolina is the third team they have absolutely wrecked and they are 4-0 on the road. Arizona has already been tossed twice at home, by those same Panthers and also Seattle. Their string of wins against losing teams came to a halt last week when a winning team, New Orleans, set them down 31-9. I do think they are capable of playing hard in primetime at home. A major issue for them is sacks allowed (27) and the 49ers have given up just 11, mostly because they rely so heavily on their running game. No team has thrown fewer passes this season. The 49ers have the top pass defense in the league and if the numbers hold will have about 4 sacks in the game. Those are drive killers and they should have at least 1 interception to obviously end another drive. The Cards have Peterson back to bolster their pass defense that has allowed 20 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions, but at least they can boast 22 sacks. San Francisco is second in rushing offense even with injuries at tackle they dominate. Arizona averages 4.8 per carry thanks to their mobile quarterback, but has a depleted backfield at the moment. The Cardinals are near the bottom defensively and if the stats hold they will give up over 150 in this one. The 49ers are solid and can definitely hold it down. It’s hard to win by a lot on the road in this spot, so I’m hesitant to call for a rout. I do think the visitors want to show a national audience they are for real though, and Bosa is motivated to prove he should have been the first pick: San Francisco 31, Arizona 17 (SF -7/over 43)

Houston (5-3) @ Jacksonville (4-4): This feels like a season changing game for the AFC South, potentially. The Texans are a different defense without Watt, and this time they don’t have Clowney to fall back on. They can muscle up here and push a rival down the standings with a season sweep or pull them right up level if they lose. It was a gritty comeback over Oakland last week and their bye week on deck comes at just the right time with Watson’s eye injury. Out of the break they play at Baltimore, host Indianapolis and then host New England. Good grief that’s an 0-3 stretch waiting to happen if they aren’t careful. The offense has to keep humming and compensate for a defense sure to lag without Watt. The Jaguars have clawed (sorry) their way back into the hunt with a couple double-digit wins over bad teams. They are also off next week and fully focused on this one. The defense hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in three straight, but it’s time to see how life after Ramsey will look when they face these receivers. The week 2 meeting ended with a poor play call on a two-point conversion when Jacksonville tried to go for the win with 30 seconds left and fell 13-12. Watson was inaccurate (55.2%) while Fournette plodded to 47 yards on 15 carries as the offenses both failed to reach 290 total yards. This is Minshew’s first rematch as a pro and he was decent in the first meeting. Jacksonville has thrown only 2 interceptions over the first half of the season and that’s helped them compete. Houston has 6 and has taken 24 sacks. Their pass defense is trash, having allowed 18 touchdowns against just 3 picks. The Jaguars are average, but have 7 interceptions and 29 sacks. This defense can make life hard on Watson and already has once this season. Both teams are top 6 in rushing offense but Houston is #5 and Jacksonville #17 in run defense. The visitors can come in here and take charge on the ground. Even thought this is a “home” London game for Jacksonville I believe in Houston. They are resilient and I like their offense to carry the day: Houston 24, Jacksonville 20 (HOU -1/under 47)

Chicago (3-4) @ Philadelphia (4-4): Well this has got to be hard for Bears fans. A week after their kicker choked away a potential game-winning field goal they face the team that knocked them out of the playoffs ending with the now infamous field goal off the upright. It’s looking like they are going to finish the first half with a losing record and a lot of questions moving forward. The Eagles, however, turned in a huge road win at Buffalo to finish their first half even and at least in position to make a move in the NFC East. Trubisky is about to get run out of town and I can’t disagree with the critics. Wentz hasn’t been his MVP self from 2017, but has kept the offense moving. Last week was the fourth time they scored 31-plus points and not surprisingly those are the games they have won. Their focus is solely on this game with a bye week on deck, and they return home after playing three straight on the road. The Bears haven’t played a true road game since September 23 and at least they won’t have to hear the boos. The defense is wearing down. Chicago is one of the worst passing team in the league and the only team that hasn’t completed a pass of 40-plus yards yet. Philly is average, but they have more talent. The Bears have the better pass defense for what it’s worth. However, the Eagles are a lot better in rushing offense and while both teams have a solid run defense the hosts have Howard running hard against his former team. I like their offensive balance a lot better. This shouldn’t be all that close: Philadelphia 22, Chicago 13 (PHI -3/under 45)

Indianapolis (5-2) @ Pittsburgh (3-4): The Colts are a talented team and Brissett has held it down in the wake of Luck’s preseason retirement out of nowhere. Needing a long field goal at the end to beat Denver last week wasn’t a great look, but they are finding a way to win. All of their games have been decided by a single score, and at some point that tends to bite a team. They are teetering on the edge, but with Miami on deck they have a real chance to be 7-2 before facing their three division foes on consecutive weeks to ostensibly decide the AFC South. The Steelers are only two back in the AFC North, and they would be level if not for an OT loss against Baltimore. It’s a short week for them after a comeback win over hapless Miami. Falling behind 14-0 was ugly, but the 27-0 run after that showed what this team could be as they evolve post-Roethlisberger. It’s a pivotal game for them. Neither passing offense is great, but they protect their passers having allowed a combined 18 sacks in 14 games. The pass defenses are just above average and the Steelers have 10 interceptions plus 24 sacks and the home field advantage so that’s an edge. Indianapolis has the better rushing offense, but their run defense allows over a yard more per carry (4.8 to 3.7). It’s going to be cold and this is not a great spot for the dome team. It probably seems like the visitors are clearly the better team, but are they? I think the hosts can rise up here and keep their playoff aspirations alive with a clutch defensive performance: Pittsburgh 19, Indianapolis 16 (PIT +1/under 42.5)

NY Jets (1-6) @ Miami (0-7): You are what your record says you are, but that doesn’t always reflect the full truth. The Jets have talent. Their quarterback got mono and it derailed their season before it started. The Dolphins are in full tank mode, trading away everyone in sight and their latest genius move was acquiring an injured player. The only thing Flores can do is start Fitzpatrick and he’s doing that. Yes, New York has looked like a mess in the first half of the season but they are not better than these guys right now. Darnold is a turnover machine right? He has 8 interceptions and Fitzpatrick has 7. This one is about which team can limit mistakes. Bell is by light years the best back on the field and no one can name a rusher for the Dolphins. The Jets don’t have a star receiver, but they have guys who have been around the block. The Dolphins just don’t match up and now their secondary is down another man. These are two of the three worst passing teams in the NFL so that’s fun. A combined 11 touchdown passes against 23 interceptions and 62 sacks allowed in 14 games? That’s fun. Only the Bengals have a worse running game than these two teams, who have combined for 5 rushing touchdowns and neither side has a run of at least 20 yards yet on a total of 277 attempts. It’s ineptitude. On defense the Dolphins have allowed 18 touchdowns against 2 interceptions and that’s the key difference between two below average units plus they give up almost two more yards per attempt. They are also second-worst in rushing defense, while the Jets are tenth. It won’t help that they dealt Leonard Williams, but their defense is just a lot better. Two hopeless offenses, one better defense makes it pretty simple. Home field just doesn’t mean very much: NY Jets 26, Miami 17 (NYJ -3/over 41)

Minnesota (6-2) @ Kansas City (5-3): Before Mahomes went down this would have been an easy call for the Chiefs. Before Moore showed out on SNF it might have been an easy call for the Vikings. Kansas City’s offense could be okay while they wait for his return, but upon further review let’s consider that Green Bay just can’t stop anyone. Minnesota definitely can. It’s a whole different world they will be faced with this week and being one-dimensional is going to be a problem. McCoy is averaging 5.2 yards per rush, but has only 69 carries. The Williams duo has that many combined and has mustered only 186 yards (2.7) off of them. That’s not balance. Cook has 156 by himself and is at 5.3 a pop. His backup Mattison has 68 rushes and and is at 4.9. These guys can attack this defense. Arrowhead is a rocking stadium, but they are only 2-2 here this season with two losses while Mahomes was healthy. The Vikings weren’t great against Washington, an ugly 19-9 win. However, it was on TNF and that gives them a couple extra days rest which becomes valuable as the season wears on. I think the passing offense edge still goes to Kansas City even with Moore at the helm. Both teams protect their quarterback and whatever anyone wants to say about Cousins they have only 3 interceptions. Minnesota has only a slight edge in pass defense actually, and both teams can get after the quarterback with 48 combined sacks. As aforementioned the Vikings have a huge edge in rushing offense, churning out almost double the yardage per game (160.1 to 83.0) and double the touchdowns (12-6). The Chiefs are third-worst against the run allowing 4.9 yards per carry and 145.0 per game. The Vikings are seventh (4.0, 89.4). Defense is going to determine this outcome, plain and simple. The better one wins: Minnesota 23, Kansas City 20 (MIN +3.5/under 48.5)

Tennessee (4-4) @ Carolina (4-3): This is an interesting matchup between teams who could be contenders. The AFC South is a muddled mess. The Colts have talent, but at some point Brissett is going to limit their ceiling I believe. The Texans just lost Watt and that’s going to be rough on their already struggling secondary. The Titans might face the Chiefs without Mahomes next week and if they want to compete in this division it’s crucial for them to battle to 6-4 before they face all of their division foes within a four-game stretch, sandwiched around a tough trip to Oakland. Their schedule is pretty unforgiving, and they were lucky to win last week. A blown call saved them. Their wins are against struggling teams and to this point the schedule hasn’t been rugged yet here they sit at 4-4. The Panthers are not contenders in the NFC South unless the Saints lose both quarterbacks and even then I’m not sure. They came out of the bye week flying high after four straight wins, having scored 34-plus points in three of them. A trip to San Francisco (okay, Santa Clara) changed all that in a hurry. They were humiliated 51-13 and that’s the gap between contenders and pretenders. They go to Green Bay and New Orleans in the next three weeks, and being on 6 losses before December is goodbye to playoff hopes in the NFC. Both passing offenses have been shaky, and their preseason backups are now the starters. Tannehill is a veteran so he’s got the edge, but his team has allowed 34 sacks in half a season. The Panthers have 30 sacks and 10 interceptions on defense and rank fifth against the pass. Carolina also runs the ball much better with McCaffrey ready to break some records. Tennessee is a lot better against the run. The hosts allow 5.0 per carry and 135.1 per game. It’s a tight game. I think coaching goes to the home team for sure, and I prefer the side with a game changing back: Carolina 28, Tennessee 24 (CAR -3.5/over 40)

Washington (1-7) @ Buffalo (5-2): The Bills were exposed a bit last week in getting crushed on this field by Philly. They did give the Patriots a fight, but the rest of their resume is being a bunch of bad or mediocre teams in unimpressive fashion. Luckily for them here’s another one on the schedule. The Redskins are well rested after actually showing well in a 19-9 loss at Minnesota on TNF. It was their second consecutive game without a touchdown and even the good news of left tackle Trent Williams returning to the team is negated because he failed his physical. They are a mess and will spend their bye week deciding how hard they want to play the rest of their schedule. Their rookie quarterback is not ready to play, but what do they have to lose? Washington is second worst in passing offense. Buffalo isn’t great, but Allen is at least capable of making plays. The Bills are also third in pass defense and ready to make amends for a poor effort last week on that side of the ball. The Redskins are ordinary on the back end. Buffalo has a solid rushing attack whereas Washington is limited on the ground even though AD is still running hard. The visitors are worse against the run and it all adds up to a sound victory for the home team. The margin of victory depends on how soon the visitors quit. I think by halftime they do: Buffalo 28, Washington 13 (BUF -9/over 36.5)

Tampa Bay (2-5) @ Seattle (6-2): The Bucs were screwed last week, plain and simple. The refs made a horrible mistake and buried any slim chance this team had at an unlikely playoff push. Now they have to feel deflated and are traveling across the country to a hostile environment against a team that can put them down in a hurry. Scoring hasn’t been an issue, but they can’t stop anyone having allowed 27-plus in five straight now. The Seahawks are very much contenders in the NFC and need to not look forward to next week’s epic MNF showdown at San Francisco. They opened up a huge lead in Atlanta and held on to win 27-20 while allowing Schaub to throw for about 900 yards. Winston probably will here as well or could. The rules are such that defenses hardly have a chance. Tampa Bay is ninth in passing offense, but has thrown 12 interceptions and taken 28 sacks. Seattle by comparison has 1 interception and 19 sacks allowed in one more game played. The Bucs are second worst in pass defense and the Hawks aren’t much better. This one should produce plenty of passing and scoring. Seattle has comfortably the better running game and clearly more mobile, polished quarterback. However, the Bucs are first against the run allowing just 3.0 per carry and 68.6 a game. The Seahawks allow 4.9 per rush and have allowed 10 rushing scores. I don’t think this is a blowout at all, but I don’t see an edge for the visitors that could carry them over the top: Seattle 34, Tampa Bay 28 (SEA -4.5/over 51.5)

Detroit (3-3-1) @ Oakland (3-4): The epic road trip is finally over for the Raiders and they survived it. The refs did them dirty last week in a loss at Houston, but they are still in the hunt. They have five games left in this stadium and I think they can win all of them to potentially wind up as a wild card. This stretch at home (Chargers, Bengals next) will determine if they are up to the task of being a contender or not. The Lions have had their chance to compete, but the NFC and their division in particular make that a difficult task. They scratched out a 31-26 win over the Giants last week, and with a couple breaks easily could be sitting at 6-1 honestly. Finishing is tough in the NFL because the competition is brutal. Detroit is fifth in passing and Stafford is always going to put up numbers. Oakland is average, but has allowed only 8 sacks joining the Steelers as the only teams still in single digits for that category. The Lions are dead last in pass defense and face an offense getting better with Williams healthy and Jones working into the lineup. The Raiders are equally bad having given up 19 touchdowns against 3 interceptions, but the defense has in spots played well. Oakland is by far the better rushing offense and Jacobs is a OROY candidate. The Raiders are also a lot better against the run, yielding a yard fewer per rush. The ground game is crucial here as the weather starts to turn. I prefer a balanced attack that makes the most sense to me. Oakland is fired up to be at home. The Black Hole is going to be rocking and I don’t think Stafford’s aerial efforts can keep up: Oakland 33, Detroit 27 (OAK +0/over 50)

Green Bay (7-1) @ LA Chargers (3-5): The Chargers stopped the bleeding last week ending a three game slide thanks to a choked field goal in Chicago. They are still on life support and this three game stretch in California (at Oakland, vs. Kansas City next) will determine their fate. I don’t see signs they are the team they were in 2018 and can get on a roll. Rivers is a baller, no question. He has weapons but can he keep pace with Rodgers? The Packers delivered a solid 31-24 win at Kansas City on SNF, but their defense is shaky having let Moore keep pace with them. It seems only a matter of time before they fail to outscore a team again, as happened in a 34-27 loss against Philadelphia. This isn’t sustainable. I don’t mind them much on the road here because this stadium has no advantage. Traveling fans will probably lift them in fact. These passing offenses are obviously both solid. Clearly Los Angeles is better against the pass and has Bosa as a disruptor. Green Bay is better running the ball by a comfortable margin and while their backs aren’t necessarily more talented they are more effective. Both rushing defenses are suspect and the Packers actually allow more per carry (4.8 to 4.2). This could easily be an upset if the home team protects the ball and plays smart. However, Rodgers is at home in California and will have some crowd support. He’s also on a roll. I can’t bet against him getting it done when it matters: Green Bay 31, LA Chargers 26 (GB -3/over 46)

Cleveland (2-5) @ Denver (2-6): It’s now or never for the Browns. I’m not an idiot so I knew heading into the season it would be more difficult for them as “contenders” than it was coming off a winless campaign with no expectations. Their schedule has been rough let’s face it. They played five straight teams who have all won 5-plus games to this point and went 1-4. There are only two such teams left on the schedule plus three winless teams so we’ll see what they are made of. The margin for error is now zero. The Broncos are officially done after not taking advantage of the Mahomes injury two weeks ago and giving up a long field goal at Indianapolis last week at the end. They have had their chances, losing three times now by 2 points. Flacco mouthed off and now suddenly he’s got a neck injury so it’s Brandon Allen starting at quarterback. Who? They have their bye week next and then play four of the next five on the road. The worst part is that no matter how much they lose they likely won’t even pick first because the Dolphins and Bengals are so bad. This defense is proud and still plays hard. For how long though? Cleveland has the better passing offense even if they have underachieved with their LSU teammates reunited at wide receiver. The 12 interceptions have killed them and Kitchens is a dreadful head coach. The pass defenses are both in the top 7, but the Browns have allowed more passing touchdowns (14 to 6) by a wide margin. Cleveland is the better running team and averages an insane 5.6 yards per carry. How are they 2-5 with that number? Their run defense allows 4.8 so that’s one reason. Denver is just okay against the run. This is a hard game to call. Allen at quarterback is a liability. Can the visitors rise up on defense and take some pressure off their offense? How much do the Broncos really want to win? I’m stupid. I think Mayfield can make plays and Chubb is a game changer. They are both upset at giving away any shot at a victory last week against a New England team that based on perception should have beaten them a lot worse. If not for two Chubb fumbles they make that game interesting. I think they steal this one and get on a run: Cleveland 15, Denver 13 (DEN +3.5/under 43)

New England (8-0) @ Baltimore (5-2): I would be fine with these teams being on national television every time they meet while Belichick and Harbaugh are the coaches. It’s been awesome to watch them butt heads over the years even though the Patriots have gotten the better of the action since Ray Lewis retired. Now the rub is Lamar Jackson seeing what he can do against a defense that at times struggles against dynamic signal callers. The Ravens had a week off to prepare for this game, a rare time the NFL has given an edge to an opponent of their favorite team. The defense has tightened up in recent weeks and needs to step up huge here. Offensively they face a huge challenge against what could be a historically great defense. Naturally they want to disprove that here and the ghosts of their 2000 unit will hope to help them do it. Everyone knows New England is very good, but they have feasted on some awful teams so far. Seven of their foes have losing records and the exception (Buffalo) just got creamed 31-13 by Philadelphia on a field they beat that same team 16-10. This is a prove it game and they love to prove it. The Patriots are obviously better in the passing game, and their ruthless nature resulted in the addition of Sanu and subtraction of Gordon as they keep it moving. The Ravens are not great against the pass, but have allowed only 7 touchdowns through the air. They also have just 12 sacks and failing to pressure Brady is a sure way to lose. New England has an insane pass defense that is on pace for 38 interceptions against 4 TD passes allowed with 62 sacks. Again, they have played a lot of bad teams. Baltimore is first in rushing offense thanks to their mobile quarterback who is going to run for over 1,000 yards this season. New England averages 3.2 yards per carry, but it doesn’t matter because they can gain yards on every play if they want to. They scheme and make it happen. These are two top four rushing defenses. However, neither really shuts it down when it comes to the averages. New England (4.6) and Baltimore (4.3) are both vulnerable in theory. I don’t see it. Jackson is going to be forced to win with his arm and he can’t. It’s just that simple: New England 23, Baltimore 16 (NE -3/under 46.5)

Dallas (4-3) @ NY Giants (2-6): This is on MNF because both fan bases are huge, but it’s a game most people can do without watching. In the season opener it was Prescott throwing for 405 yards and 4 scores in a 35-17 win. Barkley ripped off a 59-yard run, but Eli threw 44 times trying to bring them back from behind. He’s on the bench now of course. The Giants couldn’t stop anyone in October, allowing 27-plus points while going 0-4. The Cowboys are well rested off their bye week and probably lost some momentum after their huge 37-10 win over Philadelphia. Three of their next four starting here are on the road. For now the NFC East is theirs to claim, but these are the type of games they can’t afford to let get away. It’s primetime against a rival on the road so in theory anything can happen. Dallas is significantly better in passing offense and on defense as well where they have allowed only 6 scores. The Cowboys are also much better running the ball although it’s fun to watch Zeke battle Barkley on the stat sheet. They are also better against the run. On paper it’s a sure win, but when rivals get together funny things happen. I do see the rested team with the better quarterback eventually settling this: Dallas 27, NY Giants 19 (DAL -7/under 48)

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