November is here, and the NFL trade deadline is behind us, which means it’s time for the playoff push to begin in earnest across football.
Most teams in the league are at the halfway point of their season, and we’re just now learning who the contenders and pretenders are.
We can’t say the same for NESN.com’s trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian when it comes to their weekly against-the-spread picks. There’s still plenty of time to be gained and lost, but here’s where they stand after a Week 8 slate in which the public cleaned up.
Mike Cole: 6-8 (55-62-2 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 10-4 (59-58-2)
Andre Khatchaturian: 11-3 (62-55-2)
Here are their Week 9 picks, with lines courtesy of OddsShark.
THURSDAY, NOV. 1
Oakland Raiders at (-2.5) San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. Through the air or on the ground, the Raiders have struggled to stop anyone this season. But it’s been the run defense that’s been especially miserable lately, allowing 166 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks. Bad news when you’re going into a matchup with one of the Shanahan clan.
Ricky: Raiders. Gun to my head, I’ll go with the Raiders — right after I plead with the person to pull the trigger, because this game blows chunks.
Andre: 49ers. San Francisco has the worst turnover differential in the league, but Oakland doesn’t force takeaways. C.J. Beathard has showed signs of competency at times and he shouldn’t have trouble moving the chains at home against a defense that allows the most passing yards per play in the NFL.
SUNDAY, NOV. 4
Atlanta Falcons at (-1.5) Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. Atlanta is coming off the bye and getting healthy on the offensive side of the football, at least. They won’t be able to do much of anything on the ground, but Matt Ryan (13 touchdowns, zero interceptions in the last five games) will find a way to get it done.
Ricky: Redskins. Starting to think the ‘Skins are one of the NFL’s most underrated teams. They have a very good defense, a solid ground game and they take care of the football. Washington’s overall potential is capped because of its pedestrian passing attack — where’s Kirk Cousins when you need him? — but Atlanta’s atrocious defense won’t provide much resistance this Sunday.
Andre: Redskins. The Redskins have the third-best turnover differential in the NFL because Alex Smith only has two picks this season. It helps that Adrian Peterson is drinking from the fountain of youth and Atlanta’s rush defense has been suspect this season, allowing 4.8 yards per carry (sixth-most).
(-10) Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. I know Nathan Peterman is starting on a short week against a good defense. But don’t sleep on the Buffalo defense, either. The Bills allow the fifth-fewest yards per play and actually limited Tom Brady and Co. to one offensive touchdown. I don’t know if you all know this, but Mitchell Trubisky is not Brady.
Ricky: Bears. The Bills don’t just struggle to move the ball on offense. They also cough it up at an alarming clip, with only the Buccaneers turning over the bacon more frequently this season. It’s almost as if the Bills can’t wait to get rid of the football — who can blame them, really? — and the Bears, who rank second in takeaways, will happily grant their wish.
Andre: Bears. Actual footage of what will happen Sunday. Peterman is expected to start and he has thrown an interception once every 11 pass attempts in his career. The Bears are second in the league in interceptions.
Detroit Lions at (-4.5) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. What’s going on in Detroit? Matt Patricia is snapping at reporters over their posture in response to questions about trading Golden Tate. That move — the trade, not the posture critiques — might hurt them this week. Tate, who’s fantastic after the catch, is a valuable third-down asset and would have come in handy against the best third-down defense in the NFL.
Ricky: Vikings. The Lions still have issues defensively. And while Detroit has a better rushing attack than it’s had in years past, Minnesota’s stout run defense will mitigate that improvement. The Vikings are positioned well to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Saints.
Andre: Vikings. The Vikings struggle when they can’t run the ball. Fortunately for them, the Lions allow the second-most yards per carry. Minnesota should be able to take some load off Kirk Cousins, who is third in the NFL in pass attempts. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 114.2 against the Lions this year.
(-8.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. The Chiefs are getting 88 percent (!!) of the bets right now. Since 2003, teams getting less than 20 percent of the bets have covered 56 percent of the time, so we’ll hold our nose and go with the Browns while hoping they get a bump from the coaching change.
Ricky: Chiefs. The Browns are the worst tackling team in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. They also rank dead last in special teams, per PFF. That’s a terrifying reality with Tyreek Hill coming to town, especially with Cleveland’s coaching staff in flux.
Andre: Browns. Wow, great stat by Mike. Sometimes you have to honor a colleague and friend. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 77 against the Browns’ defense. Some of those opposing quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. The Chiefs win the game, but the Browns D keeps it close at home.
New York Jets at (-3) Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. This looks like an awful football game. If the Jets were at 100 percent, I’d probably take them, but they’re depleted at wide receiver with injuries to Robbie Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, not to mention running back Bilal Powell.
Ricky: Jets. The Bears were a terrible matchup for the Jets last week, hence New York’s 24-10 loss. The Jets should have an easier time moving the ball this week, though, putting them in position to steal a game against a Dolphins team that’s relying on Brock Osweiler in Ryan Tannehill’s absence. Also, for what it’s worth, the Jets are 14-4-1 ATS in their last 19 road games against the Dolphins.
Andre: Dolphins. The Dolphins allow 8.6 yards per passing play, but they make up for it by forcing turnovers. They are second in the NFL with 11 interceptions and Sam Darnold leads the league in picks. Darnold has struggled without Enunwa and Anderson, only completing 44 percent of his passes over the last two weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-3) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. The Steelers are 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. Baltimore, with the under hitting in five of their last seven. If it’s going to be a low-scoring game, I’ll take the better defense.
Ricky: Steelers. These teams aren’t afraid to trade punches — more than half of the Ravens-Steelers matchups since 2010 have been decided by three or fewer points — so I’m inclined to take the points, especially with Pittsburgh finally establishing an identity both offensively and defensively.
Andre: Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger has taken just two sacks over the last four games. Roethlisberger’s passer rating jumps nearly 50 points when he’s kept clean, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens lead the NFL in sacks, but have only recorded one sack over the last two games against teams with similarly good offensive lines (Panthers and Saints).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-6.5) Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked great for the Bucs last week in relief; can he do it again this week with Carolina having a week to game-plan for him? Ehhh. Meanwhile, Cam Newton is playing out of his mind.
Ricky: Panthers. The whole “FitzMagic” thing was cute earlier this year. But I’m over it. The Panthers are the better team. The Bucs’ defense stinks. Carolina should have no problem rolling at home.
Andre: Panthers. Newton is on pace to being sacked fewer than 25 times for the first time in his career. As a result, he has posted career bests in completion percentage and interception percentage. He looked like a monster against the Ravens’ stingy defense and should continue to dominate against a Bucs defense that has just one interception this year and allows the most yards per pass play.
Houston Texans at (-1) Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Texans. It’s kind of weird that Denver traded Demaryius Thomas to the Texans while in the midst of game-planning for the Texans? Like, doesn’t Thomas know the gameplan? Anyway, I think Houston’s just better, too.
Ricky: Broncos. Houston’s offensive line has performed better of late, but Denver’s pass rush (tied for second in the NFL with 24 sacks) could cause problems. Also, have you seen the Broncos’ recent schedule? They’ve lost five of their last six games, but that stretch includes losing to the high-powered Chiefs (7-1) twice and the undefeated Rams (8-0) in addition to the Ravens (4-4) and Jets (3-5).
Andre: Texans. The Broncos are a ground and pound team, but the Texans allow just 3.6 yards per carry and Royce Freeman is banged up. If the Texans force Case Keenum to throw a lot, the Broncos are in trouble. Keenum has thrown a pick in every game this season.
Los Angeles Chargers at (-1.5) Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. I was on the Lions last week because I thought they could run on Seattle. Instead, they threw on 15 of their 24 first-half plays and fell behind 21-7. That was dumb. I think the Chargers, especially if they have Melvin Gordon back, won’t make the same mistake.
Ricky: Seahawks. Just how good are the Chargers? This game could go a long way toward telling us. Los Angeles is 5-2, with the losses coming against the Rams and Chiefs (combined 15-1 record) and the wins coming against the Bills, 49ers, Raiders, Titans and Browns (combined 9-27-1 record). Special teams and third down will be the difference this Sunday in Seattle, where the Seahawks are 12-0 against AFC opponents with Russell Wilson at quarterback. The Chargers also rank poorly in run defense (31st) and tackling (28th), per Pro Football Focus, so Seahawks running back Chris Carson could have another big game.
Andre: Chargers. The Chargers lead the NFL in yards per play differential. Seattle is 22nd in rush defense, so if Gordon plays, he will be successful in moving the chains and taking pressure off Philip Rivers.
Los Angeles Rams at (-1.5) New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Maybe last week’s scare vs. the Packers was a nice little reminder of how hard it is to win in the NFL. The Rams won’t take it for granted this week. I think Sean McVay will devise a pass-heavy gameplan to attack a Saints secondary that’s allowed opposing quarterbacks to post a 111.5 passer rating this season.
Ricky: Saints. New Orleans is one team that can negate the Rams’ biggest strengths. The Saints protect the quarterback well and are efficient offensively. They also have an excellent run defense — first in the NFL in opponent rush yards per game (74.1) and yards per attempt (3.2) — and boast a good pass rush. This game will come down to the performance of Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Andre: Saints. I’m not confident in this pick at all because of the Saints’ pass defense, but I do like the Saints’ rush defense neutralizing Todd Gurley some bit. I also like Drew Brees being at home in a big situation against a young quarterback. Brees gets excellent protection (nine sacks) and he’s not going to make many mistakes; he’s thrown one pick all season.
Green Bay Packers at (-6.5) New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Aaron Rodgers has a ridiculous 118.0 passer rating in the fourth quarter this season. As long as the Packers’ defense can force a stop or two (which is admittedly no given), I think Rodgers can at least keep Green Bay in the game, perhaps getting it within the number with a late score.
Ricky: Packers. New England’s defense looked really good in Week 8 — against a horrendous Buffalo offense led by Derek Anderson, a 35-year-old journeyman who started just four games in the NFL since 2010 before signing with the Bills this season. Safe to say it’ll be more difficult for the unit to do its job this Sunday night, especially if the Patriots have some hiccups on the other side of the ball.
Andre: Packers. Green Bay is one of two teams (Pittsburgh) that is top 12 in yards per play and yards allowed per play. New England doesn’t generate a pass rush, so Rodgers will have time to throw and keep this game close.
MONDAY, NOV. 5
Tennessee Titans at (-6.5) Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Two mediocre offenses and a pair of pretty decent defenses. It’s going to be a low-scoring game, so I’ll take the touchdown and feel better that I’m not siding with Jason Garrett.
Ricky: Titans. Talk about two teams that have been difficult to evaluate this season. Inconsistency has been a theme for both the Cowboys and Titans, which steers me toward taking the points here.
Andre: Cowboys. Dallas has allowed the third-fewest yards per play and the Titans are 28th in yards per play differential. Dak Prescott is great at home with five touchdowns and no picks.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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