After an unsatisfying 1-1-1 week, we’re back for Week 9’s slate, which features a lot of QB uncertainty and a bunch of short lines: eight of the 13 spreads are a field goal or less. Fear not, I found three puppies I like. They may not be cute and cuddly, but I have a feeling they’ll love you back this weekend.
Bears + 8½ at Saints
Sure, New Orleans is coming off a double-digit win in Indy, snapping a two-game slide, while Chicago is still being led by rookie Tyson Bagent. I get that. But the Bears are quietly playing better football on both sides of the ball and gave their defense a little boost this week with the trade for pass rusher Montez Sweat.
This pick is more about my lack of faith in the Saints as big favorites. Head coach Dennis Allen has never covered the spread as a favorite of more than five, and Derek Carr is also terrible as a favorite, just 8-24-1 ATS in his career when favored by more than three. Both teams are just 2-5-1 against the spread this season, and in a matchup where the total is 41 and both teams should lean on the running game, 8½ is too many points. Feels like a 23-17 kind of game. I’ll take the points.
Vikings +3½ at Atlanta
It’s hard to know what to expect in this matchup between rookie Jaren Hall and Taylor Heinicke, but I know the Falcons shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal. QBs making their first starts cover at nearly a 60% clip over the last decade, and the Vikings’ brass will have a smart, conservative plan in place to help Hall succeed, with Josh Dobbs waiting in the wings if he’s shaky.
Look for Cam Akers to take over the running duties, and he’ll find some room against a usually stout Falcons run defense, which is missing stud D-lineman Grady Jarrett. And the Falcons struggle mightily to cover tight ends. Enter T.J. Hockenson, who will likely serve as Hall’s security blanket – he may see 15 targets on Sunday.
I like Heinicke, but he has historically been terrible against the blitz, something Brian Flores does as often as he exhales. Look for him to make a couple of key mistakes by trying to do a little too much. The Falcons may win this one, but it will be close.
Jets +3 ½ vs. Chargers
I hate waiting until Monday night to see if I can swing a 3-0 week, but this is my favorite game of the slate. If you’re familiar with this blog, you know I like to fade LA when they’re favored, especially on the road.
The Jets are coming off an ugly, extremely lucky 13-10 win over the Giants, but they’ve won three in a row, including the shocker over the Eagles a couple of weeks ago. Zach Wilson is beginning to show the ability to make big plays when his team needs him to, and the defense remains lights out.
Look for New York to lean on Breece Hall against a lousy Chargers run defense and on Sauce Gardner to make things difficult for Keenan Allen. You can count on LA to show up when they’re underdogs, but they have a tough time covering as faves. Expect another low-scoring primetime game. LA may pull it out, but I doubt they win by more than a field goal.
Last Week: 1-1-1