There are six teams on bye for the second straight week, but there are still some big games on the slate in Week 9. In a battle of NFC playoff contenders, the Redskins head across the country to take on the Seahawks and the Cowboys host the Chiefs in an interconference game involving teams vying for playoff berths. I went 7-6 last week, giving me an overall record of 66-53 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Byes: Bears, Browns, Chargers, Vikings, Patriots, Steelers
Thursday Night Football
Bills at Jets (+2.5) – Both these teams have been surprisingly good this season, with the 5-2 Bills looking like they have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Bills made a trade before Tuesday’s deadline, acquiring WR Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers for a couple of draft picks. I don’t think he’ll have much of an impact on this game with a limited amount of time to learn the offense, but I don’t think the Bills need much production out of him to win this game. I’ll give the points on the road.
Sunday 1PM games
Falcons at Panthers (-2.5) – These two disappointing teams are playing to stay alive in the NFC South race. The Panthers were on the other end of the Benjamin trade, and losing him downgrades their passing game. I think the Falcons are the better team so if they’re getting points I’ll take them.
Bengals at Jaguars (-4.5) – The Jaguars are leading the AFC South based on their defense, not their offense. QB Blake Bortles isn’t good, but RB Leonard Fournette is having a good rookie season. He missed the team’s last game before the bye, but he is practicing this week and may be able to play on Sunday. I think the Jags’ D will be able to limit Cincinnati’s offensive production so I’ll take the home team.
Broncos at Eagles (-7.5) – The Broncos offense hasn’t looked good in recent weeks and QB Trevor Siemian is being benched this week, with the team announcing that QB Brock Osweiler will make the start. They’ll have to rely on their defense if they want to beat the 7-1 Eagles, who made a trade of their own this week and acquired RB Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins. I expect the Eagles to win the game and I think they cover.
Ravens at Titans (-5.5) – The Titans are saying QB Marcus Mariota is at full health, but the same may not be true about Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who left the team’s last game with a possible concussion. Head coach John Harbaugh is saying Flacco is not suffering from any symptoms, but if he can’t play — at all or for the whole game — that would leave the offense in the hands of Ryan Mallett. Either way, the offense is questionable. I’ll give the points with the Titans.
Colts at Texans (-12.5) – The Texans have had one of the best offenses in the league this season with rookie QB Deshaun Watson starting for them. He has a couple of good targets to throw to in WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V, but the team hasn’t had much of a run game this season with RB Lamar Miller. On the other side, QB Jacoby Brissett hasn’t been great for the Colts this season. I am certain the Texans will win, but I don’t like that big of a spread. The Colts were at least competitive with the Bengals last week, losing by just a point, and I think they can keep it within 10 points in Houston.
Rams at Giants (+3.5) – It’s always a challenge for a West Coast team to fly to the East Coast and play in an early game, but I don’t think that’ll hurt the Rams too much because they’re a significantly better team the Giants. QB Jared Goff should lead them to a road victory, and I think they’ll cover the 3.5 points.
Buccaneers at Saints (-7) – The Saints look to stay atop the NFC South against the last-place team in the division. The Buccaneers didn’t look good at all last week as QB Jameis Winston had a bad game. For the Saints, their defense has been better this season than it has been in recent years and with QB Drew Brees leading the offense, I don’t think this game will be that close. I’ll give the points.
Sunday 4PM games
Cardinals at 49ers (+2.5) – This may be the best chance yet this season for the 0-8 49ers to pick up their first win. With Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, backup Drew Stanton will make his first start in more than a year. The opposing quarterback will likely be C.J. Beathard. The 49ers traded for QB Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots this week, but he probably will not be ready to go under center on Sunday. It’s a battle of bad quarterbacks so I’ll go with the team with the better offensive weapons around the pass-thrower, and that is the Cardinals with WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB Adrian Peterson.
Redskins at Seahawks (-7.5) – The Redskins are coming off a loss to the Cowboys while the Seahawks scored 41 in winning a shootout against the Texans. After that game, they made a trade with the Texans to acquire OT Duane Brown, who should help the offensive line and, in turn, provide a boost for the running game. The Seahawks are the better team, and although I’m not confident in it, I’ll give the points.
Chiefs at Cowboys (-0.5)- Once again, the Cowboys don’t know the status of star RB Ezekiel Elliott for this week’s game. Earlier in the week, a federal judge reinstated his six-game suspension, but he is seeking an emergency stay while he appeals. As of now, he is suspended and won’t be able to play Sunday. If that holds, RBs Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden will get the bulk of the work on the ground, which would be a significant downgrade. Whether Elliott plays or not I think the Chiefs are the better team, especially on the defensive side, so in what is essentially a pick ’em, I’ll take the Chiefs but I’ll feel better about that pick if Elliott doesn’t play.
Sunday Night Football
Raiders at Dolphins (+3.5) – This looked like a good Sunday nighter coming into the season, but it doesn’t look as good now that both teams have struggled to live up to expectations in 2017. Dolphins QB Jay Cutler missed last week’s game while recuperating from a rib injury but he is expected to play this week as he has been fully practicing. That said, he’s not good anymore and even though Raiders QB Derek Carr has regressed from last year, he’s still the better quarterback in this game. And with the Dolphins having traded Ajayi this week, it’ll be up to unproven RBs Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake to carry the run game. That probably won’t go well. I’ll take the Raiders on the road.
Monday Night Football
Lions at Packers (+2.5) – Another game that doesn’t look as promising now as it did at the beginning of the season, but that’s mainly because of QB Brett Hundley filling in for injured Aaron Rodgers for the home team. The Packers are getting points at home, which is tempting even without Rodgers under center. But it’s essentially a field goal and the Lions have a pretty good offense behind QB Matthew Stafford so I’ll take the visitors and give the points.