Week 9 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday night with the Philadelphia Eagles improving to 8-0 with a win over the Houston Texans. However, Houston covered the spread as a 13.5-point underdog in a 29-17 loss. Six teams are on a bye this week, but there's still 12 games between now and Monday night for us to parse through. Today, we're taking a look at three pairs of games with similar point spreads and discussing which side we'd rather be on if we were forced to make a choice.
The Baltimore Ravens lead the AFC North and have had a mini bye-week after playing on Thursday night last week. However, there's a chance they'll be without their best offensive weapon in Mark Andrews. On Monday night, the Ravens are a 2.5-point favorite in New Orleans against the Saints. Elsewhere, the Las Vegas Raiders are coming off a brutal shutout loss at the hands of the aforementioned Saints. It seems like Derek Carr has regressed under Josh McDaniels. However, the Raiders are 2-point road favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. Jacksonville has lost five straight one-possession games. Which road favorite would you rather back?
Greg: The Saints ran through the Raiders like two-day-old Taco Bell. Travis Etienne is quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s best running backs and should live más against Vegas, but Josh Jacobs is likely to find equal success against a Jags defense ranked 25th in EPA per rush. This game will boil down to how effective Trevor Lawrence can be versus a Raiders secondary that’s more generous than the giving tree.
I’m not sure whether the Ravens line is a trap or not. I don’t believe New Orleans is back back, but I do think there’s value in them winning the NFC South (+400). There should be a national holiday recognizing the defensive coordinators who have to gameplan against Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill. The return of Tyus Bowser and the addition of Roquan Smith couldn’t come at a better time for a Baltimore team allowing the 10th-most points per drive. I’ll take the Ravens in a squeaker.
Pete: New Orleans is one of those annoying teams this year it seems. Preseason, I thought they could be competitive, and then numerous times this year I've been ready to write them off as a bad team, and then they come back with a gem of a performance that highlights their potential. I acknowledge that this line feels weird, but I think I like the Ravens here. Mark Andrews would be a big loss, but Isaiah Likely has flashed throughout training camp and his limited opportunities in the regular season.
The Raiders would be tough to back after their performance last week against the aforementioned Saints. They didn't cross midfield with Derek Carr in the game. It felt like Carr was in line for a big season with McDaniels and Davante Adams in the picture, but somehow it appears he was at his best throwing to Hunter Renfrow every drop back under the tutelage of Rich Bisaccia. Jacksonville has lost heartbreaker after heartbreaker, and the law of averages says one of these close games will go their way. I'm more interested in Baltimore than the Raiders here.
The Green Bay Packers have been one of the bigger disappointments of the NFL season. They've lost four straight games to drop to 3-5 on the year. If Green Bay has any hopes of salvaging their season and making a push for the playoffs, a win on Sunday feels like a must. The Packers are 3.5-point road favorites in Detroit against the Lions. Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings are off to a 6-1 start and have a commanding lead in the division. This week, they're in Washington to face the Commanders. Washington has won three straight games, including two impressive wins with Taylor Heinicke under center. Can they continue their recent streak? The Vikings are 3-point road favorites. Which NFC North road favorite would you rather back?
Greg: Matt LaFleur entered 2022 having never lost back-to-back regular season games. He’s now lost four in a row. If they lose to the NFL’s worst defense, cheeseheads will roll. I like their chances of covering if Allen Lazard plays, but I’m not confident enough to place a bet on it.
The Vikings are good, but they’re not quite as good as their 6-1 record, which is two wins above expected. Each of their last five wins have been by one score. It’s hard to put teams away with a weak secondary. Minnesota’s defense ranks 28th in EPA per dropback. That’s going to be a problem come playoff time. We spoke last week about how Taylor Heinicke is a wild card we don’t want to bet on or fade, then he goes out and drives Washington 89 yards with less than three minutes left to beat the Colts. Commanders win in another stunner, give me the Packers.
Pete: If Green Bay is as big of a tire-fire as it seems at times, they lose this game and don't even bother with the whole playoff push thing down the stretch. I think they showed me enough against Buffalo to say that maybe there's hope. They ran the ball well, which is a recipe to beat the Lions. Green Bay gets the comfortable win here and lives to die another day.
The Vikings have us in a weird spot, Greg. We were both high on them entering the season. I think you're even holding a Kirk Cousins MVP ticket, you wild animal. So while we were right about the Vikings being good, it also sounds like we're in agreement that the 6-1 thing is a little fraudulent. The whole smoke and mirrors thing is even reflected in the line. They're laying just three points in Washington. Green Bay was laying five in the same spot a few weeks ago. Minnesota's due for some negative regression, and I might stay away from them for a few weeks as a result. I'll roll with the Packers as well.
The Buffalo Bills are the favorites to win the Super Bowl according to BetMGM. This week, they're at MetLife Stadium to take on the 5-3 New York Jets. The Jets have a good record, but there's a lot of concern about the quarterback position. New York is a 11.5-point home underdog. Elsewhere, the Kansas City Chiefs are viewed as Buffalo's biggest competition in the AFC. They're a 12.5-point home favorite against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night. Which of these top-end AFC teams would you rather lay the massive number with?
Greg: Tennessee knows they can beat the Chiefs, because they beat them by 24 points last year. Their defense is league-best against the run and third in EPA per play. I didn’t expect them to be this stout after they lost Harold Landry before the season started. Patrick Mahomes will probably work his same old magic, but teams have been shredding Kansas City on the ground. I like Mike Vrabel and Derrick Henry to steal this one if Ryan Tannehill is able to suit up.
As someone who watched three years of Sam Darnold playing in a Jets uniform, I’d love to hear what you think of Zach Wilson. If I had a “who is he throwing that to / what is he doing?” jar in my house, I’d be a millionaire. New York could be a frisky playoff team with nearly any other starting quarterback. They can’t afford to waste all the talent on this roster by keeping Wilson under center. There’s no switch to turn on with him, the switch is already on, this is what he’ll be for his career. Oh, and I’ll take the Bills.
Pete: Funny you mention that as I was with a bunch of Jets fans to watch their big game this past weekend. Yes, a Week 8 game against the Patriots is a big game for the Jets with how things have gone in recent years. It was actually really sad watching all of their faces as they slowly but surely started to realize over the course of that game they likely once again whiffed on a franchise quarterback. What really sucks for them is that this team has weapons, looks to be decently coached and has a ferocious defense. It's 2009-2011 all over again, except Zach Wilson wishes he was Mark Sanchez. And Mark Sanchez held that team back greatly.
As far as their game this weekend against the Bills, I know sharp money and line movement is favoring the Jets here as we approach the weekend, but I'm not sure how they keep it close. Maybe their defense plays out of their mind and they bleed the clock by running the ball and lose a 17-7 type of game? Buffalo is going to key in on the running game, which is already depleted due to Breece Hall's injury, and force Zach Wilson to beat them. I don't think that goes well for the Jets.
As far as the Titans-Chiefs game, that's a lot of points to give the Titans. As you said, Tennessee worked them last year. I know we were both down on the Titans entering the year, but it looks like we were wrong. They continue to find a way to be good. Mike Vrabel is really good at this. It seems like the market is slow to believe in them as well. I mean, they were basically a pick'em against the Texans last weekend. That's disrespectful, no matter who played quarterback. As long as Tannehill plays, I'm loving the Titans this weekend as a big underdog, which means I'd rather lay the points with Buffalo.