Early Week 9 NFL Picks: 3 Bets Our Staff Made Right Away
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images. Pictured: Tua Tagovailoa
We’re (almost) halfway through the NFL season!
Our staff outlines three of the Week 9 bets they made promptly after lines opened. Let’s jump right in.
Early Week 9 NFL Picks
Brandon Anderson: Seahawks -2.5 at Bills
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | More Game Info
It’s a weird thought, but the Seahawks and Bills are kind somewhat mirror images of each other.
Both are leading their respective divisions and in good shape. Both are well coached by defensive-minded staffs, but both have played bad to terrible defense much of this season. Both teams came into the season as defense-first, run-the-ball, old-school kinds of teams but instead shocked everyone from Week 1 by opening up the offense and handing the keys to a quarterback that’s been among the league leaders in the MVP race, spraying the ball downfield to excellent, dangerous weapons.
Instead of both teams’ run-first identities of the past couple years, each continues to go as far as their MVP candidate quarterback takes them.
Russell Wilson has been awesome in four games this season. Seattle has won easily in all four. He’s had only one bad game, against Arizona. He still put up 388 yards and three TDs but also threw a trio of interceptions and lost the game in overtime, barely. He’s been the clear bellwether of team success.
Josh Allen has been awesome in four games. The Bills won all four. He’s been average or bad three times. Buffalo lost twice and looked like they’d lose a third time again on Sunday before Cam Newton fumbled late. Through four games, Allen completed 71% of his passes with 15 TDs and one interception. In the four games since, he’s dropped to 63% with five TDs and four picks, and Buffalo has been dominated twice and barely beat the Jets and Patriots.
If teams are mirror images and go on the play of the quarterback, then take the better QB. That’s still Russell Wilson, especially as Allen and the Bills fade a bit. I’m grabbing this one early in the week while Seattle is favored by 2.5 before the line jumps that key number of -3.
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Raheem Palmer: Chargers -1.5 vs. Raiders
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | More Game Info
What would this line be if the Chargers didn’t blow a 24-3 third-quarter lead?
Los Angeles made history on Sunday when it became the first team to blow leads of 16 points or more in four straight games. The Chargers now sit at 2-5 after losing five of their last six games.
The Chargers out-gained the Broncos in total yards (485-351), got more first downs (28-17) and were superior in third-down efficiency and time of possession. The Chargers were up 24-10 with 1:36 left in the third quarter with the ball in the red zone when a Justin Herbert interception ended a drive that could have all but iced the game.
Looking at the win probability chart of their last four games should tell you just how difficult it is to have a 1-3 record in these games. Nonetheless, we should expect this even out over the long run.
Despite an inability to close games, the Chargers have held leads of a touchdown or more over the Buccaneers, Saints and the defending Super Bowl-champion Chiefs, which says a lot about the overall quality of this team.
Herbert has been impressive in his rookie season, ranking in the top 10 in DVOA, third in passing yards per game (303.3), seventh in touchdowns (15) and eighth in ESPN QBR (77.1). With weapons like wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams around him, we should expect a big offensive performance against a Raiders team that is 31st in defensive efficiency and ranks 30th with just seven sacks this season.
With the Raiders playing their second-straight road game and still sporting a patchwork offensive line without Trent Brown, I expect Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu and Melvin Ingram to have their way in this matchup.
The lookahead line was Chargers -2.5, and it’s clear they’re a better team than the Raiders. I’ll take Los Angeles to bounce back and would play this up to 2.5.
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Mike Randle: Cardinals -4 vs. Dolphins
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | More Game Info
Kudos to the Miami coaching staff for an impressive 28-17 home win over the Rams. Head coach Brian Flores used the Dolphins’ bye week to again create a defensive scheme to stifle Jared Goff. However, a Week 9 trip to Arizona presents a far greater set of challenges.
Now, the Cardinals come off their bye week and will face rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in only his second career start. The Miami defense was the main catalyst in the Dolphins’ victory on Sunday, forcing Goff into four turnovers. Tagovailoa now travels to Arizona for his first road contest, against a Cardinals pass defense that ranks 10th in the NFL, according to FootballOutsiders DVOA.
The Dolphins’ offensive line remains among the league’s worst run-blocking units, creating just 3.98 adjusted line yards per attempt. They will need to establish a strong rushing presence for lead back Myles Gaskin, in order to keep Tagovailoa from needing to make too many big plays.
On Sunday, Tagovailoa only completed 12 of 22 passes for an anemic 92 yards.
The Cardinals rank fourth among all teams in rushing efficiency and face a Miami defense that is dead last in run defense DVOA. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray also presents a much more difficult matchup than Goff.
Murray ranks third among all quarterbacks in rushing yards per game (62.4) and rushing touchdowns (seven). Facing Arizona’s potent and versatile offense coming off its bye week, is a difficult task for any defense.
The Dolphins have played well on the road this season, with wins at Jacksonville and San Francisco. However, the commitment to Tagovailoa, coming off a home win as an underdog, makes this a bit of a freeroll spot for the 4-3 Dolphins. With a win, the Cardinals stay just one game behind Seattle (with a head-to-head-win) in the NFC West race.
I’m taking the high-scoring Cardinals and laying the 4.5. I would bet this line up to -5.5.