The NFL season has hit November and the Atlanta Falcons remain the lone undefeated team after a dominant win last week over Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. This week, the Falcons continue its NFC East tour, hosting Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.
The rest of the NFL slate features a number of interesting matchups, starting with the aforementioned Cowboys-Falcons battle. Elsewhere in the NFC East, the Giants host Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Robert Griffin III and the Redskins take on Cam Newton and the struggling Panthers. This week’s Monday night game features two teams in a must-win situation, as Michael Vick and the Eagles travel to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, I followed last week’s dominant performance with a mediocre effort. I went away from certain themes, such as giving additional credit to teams on a bye week. This week, I steered back in that direction, as you will see with my Cincy pick. In the end, it’s a tricky week for spreads, with seven games falling into a 3½-point line. A 50/50 win total would leave me plenty satisfied, considering some of the games.
Last Week: 6-8
This Season: 65-53
Last Two Seasons: 144-112 (2010) and 131-125 (2011)
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 9’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2012 NFL Week 9 Picks Against the Spread
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers (-8.5)
The Chargers disappointed last week, scoring just six points in a loss to the Browns. This week, San Diego faces the Chiefs at home – and on short rest. Each team is suffering through multiple game losing streaks, so something has to give here. San Diego won the first match between these two teams by 17 points. That, plus San Diego’s second ranked run defense will be a challenge for Jamaal Charles and the KC run game. The Chiefs have just one win on the season, plus one close loss to the Ravens. Every other defeat has been by double digits, including a 28-point loss to the Titans and 18-point loss to the Bills. While my gut keeps trying to steer me away from the yearly Norv Turner slump, the stats are stacked too heavily against the Chiefs, especially with San Diego playing at home. Chargers cover.
KP’s Pick: San Diego
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (+2.5)
Miami has the NFL’s third ranked run defense, allowing just 82 yards per game and 3 TD’s. Indianapolis is not a run first team, and is ranked 17th overall on the ground. The Dolphins have 22 sacks on the season and could pressure rookie Andrew Luck into some throwing errors. It’s also a good possibility that Miami’s stout run defense will force Luck into having to carry the Indy offense. The Colts are suffering more in the injury department, missing Vontae Davis, who is out indefinitely, as well as others such as Coby Fleener and Robert Mathis. The Colts have the home field advantage, but Miami has thrived this season in tight games – and that’s why I’m giving the edge to the Dolphins.
KP’s Pick: Miami
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-10.5)
Both teams are coming off a bye week to allow for plenty of rest and preparation. The Bills have the NFL’s worst run defense, by allowing 176.9 ypg on the ground, along with a league worst 13 rushing touchdowns. Houston thrives off its run game, led by back Arian Foster. The Texans own the NFL’s sixth ranked rushing offense, averaging 140.9 ypg on the ground, while scoring 11 touchdowns, which is the second most in the league. There’s a clear advantage there. Both teams have only allowed 8 sacks on the year, leaving each quarterback to potentially have plenty of time in the pocket. The Bills also boast a solid run game, which is ranked 4th in the NFL. However, the Texans counter that with the league’s 4th ranked run defense. All in all, the clear advantage is with Houston, while playing at home and owning one of the NFL’s most balanced teams. Texans cover at home, and win by double digits.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers (-10.5)
The Cardinals have lost four straight games, including a Monday night home blowout loss at the hands of the 49ers. Green Bay doesn’t pack the same defensive punch that San Francisco does, but the Packers have a much more potent offense. Statistically, it’s an interesting matchup as the Cardinals have allowed the NFL’s most sacks (39), while the Packers have allowed the second most (28). On the other side of the football, these two teams lead the NFL in sacks, with 26. Arizona’s pass defense is actually 4th in yards allowed and has 8 INT’s on the season. Green Bay, while potent, is dealing with numerous offensive injuries, with Greg Jennings out, while both John Kuhn and Jordy Nelson are questionable. Arizona is desperate for a win and will do all it can to stay in this one. The Cards may not have the weapons to hang with the Pack in Green Bay, but Arizona should keep this one in single digits. Take the Cardinals and the points.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+3.5)
Cleveland is coming off an impressive home victory, where it held a solid San Diego offense to just six points. The Ravens are coming off a bye and have had plenty of time to stew over its last game, a blowout loss to the Texans. Both teams are ranked in the bottom ten against the run, which could mean solid days for both Trent Richardson and Ray Rice. Baltimore’s defense is depleted, but still has more interceptions than touchdowns allowed. Therefore, Brandon Weeden will still face challenges, especially with Ed Reed returning to the field. Cleveland should hang tough playing at home, but the Ravens have too much talent on offense, especially with a week to rest and prepare. Baltimore covers.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
The Bears had a surprisingly tough time with the Panthers last week, while the Titans dropped a heartbreaker to the Colts in overtime. The Tennessee offense has played well over the last three weeks, mostly thanks to the improved play by Chris Johnson, who has rushed for 90+ yards in each of those games, adding balance to the offense. But the Chicago defense has 23 sacks on the year (3rd in the NFL), as well as the league’s top run defense (77.9 ypg), plus 16 INT’s, too. Chicago has also allowed just one rushing TD on the year. The Titans have been playing better football, but Chicago’s defense is among the league’s elite and will prove to be too much on this day. Bears cover.
KP’s Pick: Chicago
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-3.5)
The quarterback matchup of Cam Newton vs. Robert Griffin III might just be the most interesting this week. Carolina had the Bears on the ropes last week, but couldn’t put them away. Robert Griffin III will make flashy plays, but so will Cam Newton, especially against Washington’s horrible pass defense, which has allowed 19 TD’s and is ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed (314.2 ypg). Carolina is seeing improved play on defense from players like rookie Luke Kuechly, who should provide a challenge against Washington’s solid run game. After watching the Panthers play inspired last week against the Bears, it’s hard to imagine Newton not getting the ball to both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. I’m taking the Panthers and the points.
KP’s Pick: Carolina
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (+3.5)
Peyton Manning and the Broncos are coming off a really dominating performance against a New Orleans defense that has really struggled. Cincinnati has had a week off, with plenty of time to prepare for Manning. Cincinnati also has 23 sacks on the season, which is tied for 3rd in the NFL. Last week, I went away from giving an edge to teams coming off a bye, and I will not make that mistake again. The key matchup in this game will likely come down to how A.J. Green can handle Champ Bailey and the Denver secondary. Again, with a tricky spread like this, I’m looking to the rested home team to keep this game at three points or less. I’m cautiously taking Cincy and the points, obviously because I realize that Peyton Manning has pushed the Broncos to score 30+ points in three of its last four games.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5)
Jacksonville held its own against the Packers last week, which was a major surprise considering its struggling offense that was without Maurice Jones-Drew. This week, MJD is out yet again. Detroit is another solid offense that has a lot of weapons to throw at the Jags. The Lions put up 28 points against a very strong Seattle defense last week. Until Jones-Drew returns to the lineup, the Jags are a tough team to pick against the spread, especially when the line is this close. Detroit covers.
KP’s Pick: Detroit
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)
The Vikings have a few extra days of rest after playing the Bucs last Thursday night. Seattle is a very strong team when playing at home. Minnesota’s offensive success clearly depends on Adrian Peterson, especially since Christian Ponder has been struggling mightily over the last few weeks. Seattle has the NFL’s fifth ranked run defense, and will cause problems for Peterson and the run game. The Seattle pass defense is also solid, holding opponents to a 78.6 QB rating on the year. Minnesota’s pass rush (23 sacks on the year) will cause problems for Russell Wilson. Digging deeper, Marshawn Lynch has been the leading rusher in all but one of Seattle’s games. That back was Frank Gore, who managed 131 yards on the ground against the Seahawks. Adrian Peterson has the elite talent and if Christian Ponder can limit his mistakes, while the Vikings pass rush gets to Russell Wilson, there’s no reason to believe that this can’t be a three or four point game by the final buzzer. Take Minnesota and the points.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders (-1.5)
Josh Freeman has been red hot, throwing for three touchdowns in each of the last three games. The Bucs have also had an extra few days of rest after a big win in Minnesota last Thursday. Tampa Bay’s defense is sixth in rushing yards allowed (85.1 per game). The Bucs are an abysmal 31st in passing yards allowed, but have managed 10 interceptions, while allowing just 9 TD’s. Oakland is coming off a few victories against soft teams in Jacksonville and Kansas City. While the Raiders are playing at home, it’s still a situation where Tampa Bay may be able to limit Darren McFadden and the run game. I’m riding the hot hand, and see Freeman continuing his run. Bucs win on the road.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants (-3.5)
The Steelers lead the NFL in passing yards allowed (182.6 per game), yet have only managed three interceptions. The Steelers are also ranked in the league’s top ten in rushing yards allowed, and have been playing much better over the last few weeks. Both passing offenses are ranked in the top ten, with both Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger playing at a high level this season. Neither team allows significant pass pressure, with the Giants allowing a league low seven sacks. Some of New York’s players may have had a tough week, dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. This could lead to less practice and hectic times. Pittsburgh dealt with the storm as well, but not the strongest part. In a game matching two strong teams, the safe bet is to assume a late field goal. That’s why I’m taking the Steelers and the points.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
Tony Romo has really struggled this season, already throwing 13 interceptions. But Romo isn’t the biggest key to this game. It’s DeMarco Murray, who is listed as questionable currently. If Murray plays, the Dallas run game could see a spark, which will provide more balance to the offense. Atlanta is feeling the heat as the league’s only undefeated team, with every opponent gunning for them. Dallas has the offensive weapons to thrive on turf and in a dome, potentially pushing this game into a track meet. Atlanta thrives off its potent pass game that features weapons Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. The Cowboys’ pass defense is ranked 3rd in the NFL (187.7 ypg), while allowing just seven TD’s through the air. This game will be won through the air, and considering that Rob Ryan will throw a lot of looks at Matt Ryan, here’s banking on the fact that Dallas manages to keep this game closer than the current spread. Take the Cowboys and the points.
KP’s Pick: Dallas
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
This could be the game of the week, featuring two teams with their backs against the wall. Michael Vick is playing for his job, while the Saints are fading out of the playoff picture quickly. Drew Brees is playing at an elite level as always, but the New Orleans defense is giving up yards (and points) in bunches. The Eagles have just nine sacks on the season, which means that Drew Brees could have plenty of time in the pocket. On the other side of the football, Michael Vick has been a turnover machine. Last week, Vick was finally turnover free, but the Eagles still lost by double digits to the Falcons. The New Orleans defense has been easily scored on and has just 3 picks on the year. Therefore, we are looking at a likely shootout. After watching what happened with the Saints against Denver last week, it’s hard to pick them to win a game by four points, even at home. Take Philly and the points – oh, and take the over, too.
KP’s Pick: Philadelphia
Bye Week: St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers