An appealing slate of games is on tap for Week 9, with the opportunity to exploit vulnerable lines. I expect to keep things rolling after three consecutive winning weeks.
Indianapolis will be motivated after showing up flat last week, needing a last-second field goal to defeat lowly Denver, and I’m eager to take advantage of this number given Pittsburgh is so banged-up at running back. The Steelers have a short turnaround after rallying from 14-point deficit to beat Miami, but more importantly, James Conner (145 yards rushing last week) left the game in a sling after injuring his shoulder. He hasn’t been ruled out yet, but he won’t be 100%, and the Steelers also lost back-up Benny Snell (75 yards rushing two games ago) to a knee injury.
The Steelers are scheduled to get Jaylen Samuels back, but the Colts have gotten much healthier on defense in recent weeks and can take away the run from one-dimensional opponents. In this meeting of back-up quarterbacks, Jacoby Brisset rates a huge advantage over counterpart Mason Rudolph. Brisset was awesome two weeks ago, throwing for 326 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against a stout Houston defense, and he made the plays down the stretch leading the Colts to a comeback win over Denver. Rudolph put Pittsburgh in a 14-0 hole with his bone-headed play in the first quarter last week, and Pittsburgh came back on the strength of their defense and ground game.
— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) October 27, 2019
This line makes no sense to me because Pittsburgh has been opportunistic recording their wins over bad teams, forcing multiple turnovers to beat Cincinnati, Miami and the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Chargers, but the offense remains extremely limited and the defense is vulnerable against the pass. The Colts are one of the better teams in the AFC and are my bet of the week!
Free pick: Indianapolis pick ‘em
Miami can earn their first win of the year. The Dolphins have covered three straight and return home to face a dysfunctional Jets team that gained only 367 total yards the last two weeks. New York is only 1-6 ATS in its last seven games when favored, and Miami has dominated this series of late, winning five of the last six with a 4-1-1 ATS record.
These teams are moving in opposite directions. The Jets are spiraling downward in recent weeks, with Sam Darnold continuing to see “ghosts” while tossing another three interceptions in a dismal performance at Jacksonville. Miami appears to be advancing towards a win, jumping out to a 14-0 lead against Pittsburgh before giving way in the second half. Pittsburgh has a top-notch offensive line, while the Jets can’t block anybody with arguably the worst offensive line in the league.
The difference between first-year coaches Brian Flores and Adam Gase is enormous in my estimation. Flores has a young Miami team with little talent playing at a NFL level in recent weeks, and Gase has badly mismanaged the Jets assets starting 1-6, and losing the last five games by a combined 110 points.
Free pick: Miami +3
Seattle is always risky as a favorite. They’re 1-4 ATS in the role this season, and dropped to 1-8 ATS versus the NFC North when failing to cover at Atlanta last week. Russell Wilson finds ways to pull out tight games, but the Seahawks should not be laying this many points to any team with a competent offense given their pass defense ranks 27th by allowing 273.2 passing yards per game. A soft pass defense plays to the strengths of Tampa Bay, which has arguably the best receiving corps in the league and the fifth highest-scoring offense at 28 points per game.
Arians on Jameis Winston:
“Jameis didn’t throw one damn interception that was his fault. His receivers let him down today…
You can write what you want. Not one of those interceptions was his fault, and it’s a damn shame.” pic.twitter.com/lMf4swvYlk
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) October 27, 2019
Tampa is 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to the Pacific Northwest and has been competitive in every game this season, including a win at the Los Angeles Rams. They had the opportunity to beat Tennessee last week if not robbed by a referee’s mistake, but the Bucs cost themselves the game by committing four turnovers. Protecting the ball is the key for Jameis Winston because Tampa’s offense is prolific, and Winston has pleased new coach Bruce Arians with his work ethic and determination despite tossing seven interceptions the last two games. Points are appealing given Seattle has several defensive backs banged up and sustained a huge loss when center Justin Britt went down last week.
Free pick: Tampa Bay +6
Cleveland is capable of regrouping with a big win over Denver, which is ripe for a letdown after outplaying Indianapolis but allowing the game to slip from their control due to conservative play-calling. The Broncos announced Joe Flacco is out due a “herniated disc,” becoming the second player in as many weeks to disappear from the line-up after criticizing the pedestrian offense (Emmanuel Sanders was traded away). Back up QB Brandon Allen has never played a snap during the regular season. Cleveland’s defense should have a field day.
Vic Fangio on his new starting quarterback.
Who is Brandon Allen? pic.twitter.com/m49sqFpRkQ
— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) October 30, 2019
The Browns were not adequately prepared for last week’s game, missing assignments and making bone-headed mistakes to fall behind 17-0 after three quick turnovers, but the defense was outstanding as they constantly harassed Tom Brady (20-for-36) and outgained New England, holding the Patriots to only 79 rushing yards. Sloppy offensive play has plagued the elite defensive unit this season, but Cleveland can still take advantage against bad teams like Denver.
Free pick: Cleveland -3
New York has played better on the road since last year, turning in home stinkers against Arizona, Buffalo and Minnesota this season, and owns a 2-9-1 ATS record in the last 12 home games. Dallas appeared to turn a corner when thrashing Philadelphia last week, and the Cowboys have won and covered the last four meetings against the Giants.
Daniel Jones is hot off a career-best game, throwing for 322 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, but it’s important to remember how inconsistent the rookie can be behind a subpar offensive line. Case in point: Jones threw seven interceptions in the previous four games. Dallas finally played like an elite unit last week and the Giants defense remains a serious liability, ranking 28th overall. Dallas’ balanced attack figures to keep the G-Men on the field for long stretches, and the Cowboys will prove too much for New York once again.