Week 9 is here, and with the Playoffs fast approaching, Nick Ballistreri gives his 5 best bets as teams begin fighting for playoff positioning.
NFL ATS Season Record: 26-20-2
Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills
The Bills are coming off frankly an embarrassing performance last week at home against the Eagles. The Bills were supposed to be much improved, coming into that game at 5-2 and looking to prove to the world they were a legit contender. They failed.
They lost 31-13 in a game they were thoroughly dominated in. However, nothing cures a team’s struggles quite like seeing the Redskins on the schedule. The Redskins are 1-7, with a point differential of -96. They are coming off a 19-9 loss to the Vikings in which the offense couldn’t get going. Now, things get worse, as they have to go back to rookie Dwayne Haskins at QB, who has shown that he isn’t ready for the bright lights yet.
The Bills are 9 point favorites at home in this game. I believe they’ll come into this game with a chip on their shoulder after their putrid effort last week. They are a playoff team who wants to prove to the world that they belong to be there. 9 points is a lot to cover, but I don’t expect the Redskins offense to get anything going against the Bills defense. Expect a low-scoring game, with the Bills offense doing just enough to cover the spread.
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs
Remember when the Chiefs were 4-0? That seems like light-years away, as the Chiefs now sit at 5-3 with 3 straight losses at Arrowhead. They put up a valiant effort last week against the Packers, but Aaron Rodgers was simply too much for the undermanned Chiefs to pull out a victory. One solace the Chiefs can take from that game was that backup QB Matt Moore nearly went score for score with Rodgers in that game. The Chiefs offense seems to have found it’s groove again, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Vikings are 6-2 and winners of 4 in a row, coming off a 19-9 victory against the Redskins last Thursday night. The Vikings offense is firing on all cylinders as of late, as their running game, lead by Dalvin Cook, keeps their offense on schedule at all times. Kirk Cousins has been playing lights out as of late, winning Player of the Month for October.
The Chiefs are 1.5 point underdogs at home, where they have lost 3 in a row. Without Pat Mahomes, the Vikings are the better team. However, the Chiefs right now are desperate, and a desperate team plays above their talent level. Combine the desperation with Andy Reid coaching, and this team has the recipe needed to surprise someone. This will happen this week, as the Chiefs will squeak out a close win in a much-needed rebound effort.
Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers hot streak ended in a big way last Sunday, getting beaten in every aspect of the ballgame in a 51-14 loss to the 49ers. Now, the 49ers are a great team, but the Panthers got destroyed.
The good thing about the NFL is that it’s a week to week league. Last week’s results don’t always travel to the next, and oftentimes, they can be used as motivation. The Panthers now sit at 4-3 in a crowded NFC field, on the outside of the playoff picture. Put simply, this week is a huge game for them.
The Titans continue to be the most inconsistent team in the league. They are 4-4, and winners of 2 in a row after losing their previous 2 games. Last week, they were victorious 27-23 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, in a game where they harassed Jameis Winston into throwing 2 picks. The Titans are right in the thick of the playoff race in a weaker AFC, and like the Panthers, are needing a win in a bad way.
The Panthers are 3.5 point home favorites in this game. Cam Newton has again been ruled out, leaving it up to Kyle Allen to lead them to victory. I think he will do just that. With the help of CMC, the Panthers offense will put up enough points to come out with a close victory. With them being favored by 3.5 points, the smart thing here is to buy a point in case of a 3 point win.
Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Chargers
Don’t let the venue fool you, this will be more like a home game for the Packers and not the Chargers. Since the Chargers moved to Los Angeles, they’ve struggled to get fans to come to their games. They’ve even had players complain about their lack of support. Against a team like the Packers, that is not a welcome thought.
The Packers are rolling, winners of 4 in a row and sporting a 7-1 record. Aaron Rodgers has been out of this world as of late, and may have jumped to the top of the MVP race. Rodgers is doing this without his star WR, Davante Adams, but it would be inaccurate to say he is doing it without help. Rodgers is getting help from both running backs, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, who are running hard and catching countless passes out of the backfield.
Since the Chargers welcomed back Melvin Gordon, things have not been well on offense. Gordon is struggling to find lanes and it’s letting their opponents key in on WR Keenan Allen. The Chargers are struggling at 3-5, but they pulled out a huge win last week against the Bears when their kicker missed a kick as time expired. It may have kept their season alive.
This game will be close. The Chargers know their season is on the line, and they will play like it. However, with Davante Adams due to return this week, the Packers offense will be too much to handle. The Packers with the points is the play here.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos
The Cleveland Browns enter this game with a 2-5 record and losers of 3 straight games. However, there is a reason they still feel like they are in the playoff race, and that’s because of their upcoming schedule. The Browns have had a tough schedule as of late with their last 3 games being against the 49ers, Seahawks, and Patriots. It’s no wonder they went 0-3 in those games.
The Broncos have an even worse record at 2-6. They are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Colts in which they lost on a last-second field goal. To make matters worse, QB Joe Flacco has been placed on the IR with a herniated disk. If you thought things would get better in Denver, think again.
The Browns are favored by 3.5 points on the road in this game, and that’s not enough. Expect RB Nick Chubb to find plenty of running lanes to gash, and I even expect Odell Beckham Jr. to finally make a splash with a big play or two. Take the Browns in a game I expect to be at least a 10 point victory.