The NFL regular season has more or less reached halftime, and what a wild season it’s been.
It’s somewhat fitting Week 9 will begin with the injury-depleted San Francisco 49ers taking on the Green Bay Packers in a game that, because of COVID-19 cases on each side, might not even happen between now and the time you read this.
The week ends with a “Monday Night Football” matchup featuring two legitimately bad teams: the New York Jets hosting the New England Patriots.
That’s right. The Patriots are now bad. 2020, right?
As the NFL puts its head down and grinds on, so does the NESN.com trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian with their weekly against-the-spread picks.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 8-6 (58-58-2 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 9-5 (55-61-2)
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-8 (57-59-2)
Now, here are their Week 9 picks, with all lines via consensus data.
THURSDAY, NOV. 5
(-7) Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Not even Green Bay can screw up this one, right? Of the seven offensive players who touched the ball in San Francisco’s NFC Championship Game rout of the Packers lat season, not a single one is playing Thursday night. If the Packers don’t roll, they’re in trouble.
Ricky: Packers. Honestly, between injuries and COVID-related absences, I’ve lost track of who’s playing and who isn’t. So, just give me the team with one of the best quarterbacks ever.
Andre: 49ers. I don’t think the drop-off between Nick Mullens and Jimmy Garoppolo is that much, and the numbers show it. San Francisco loves to run the ball (sixth in rush attempts), and Green Bay’s rush defense has shown it can be leaky.
SUNDAY, NOV. 8
Denver Broncos at (-3.5) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Atlanta is 0-4 ATS as a favorite and 0-4 ATS at home. The Falcons have a brutal pass defense, and Drew Lock should be able to build on a sensational fourth-quarter performance against the Los Chargers. Denver moneyline might be worth a look here.
Ricky: Broncos. This is what the Falcons do, right? They suck you in. They build you up to break you down. Sure, there’s a new head coach roaming the sidelines. But I’m not falling into that trap, and you shouldn’t, either.
Andre: Broncos. The Falcons love to run the ball (fourth in rush attempts), but they average just 3.8 yards per carry. The Broncos rank second in rush defense on Pro Football Focus. Denver is a sneaky good team. Its losses were against the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs — very tough competition. I trust the Broncos against the league’s bottom-feeders.
(-3) Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Two teams that are seemingly very much alike: high-powered offenses that find success through the air and don’t play much defense at all. The play I really like is the over 54.5 here, but on the side, give me the biggest difference-maker in two equal teams: Russell Wilson.
Ricky: Bills. Trying to zig when most of the public is zagging? Maybe. But there’s a decent chance Buffalo’s vertical passing game resurfaces this week against a Seattle defense ranked 30th against the pass, according to Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, and 31st in air yards allowed per completion.
Andre: Seahawks. Seattle’s advantage will be in the ground game. The Seahawks average nearly five yards per carry and Buffalo struggles against the run with the worst rush defense grade on Pro Football Focus. Seattle is third in turnover differential and Josh Allen has been careless with the ball lately, with four interceptions over the last four games.
(-2.5) Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. Indy’s run defense might be its greatest strength, which is important against a Baltimore team that lives on chunk rushing plays. The Colts can slow Lamar Jackson on the ground and force him to throw, which has been an issue at times this season for the reigning MVP.
Ricky: Colts. The Ravens will be without arguably their best defensive player (Marlon Humphrey), who tested positive for COVID-19, and their All-Pro left tackle (Ronnie Stanley), who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week against the Steelers. That puts even more pressure on Jackson, who continues to fall flat in statement games against good competition. The Colts’ defense, which just got back its heart and soul (Darius Leonard), poses quite a challenge for the struggling QB.
Andre: Colts. The Colts allow just 3.4 yards per carry and could mitigate the Ravens’ rush attack. Indianapolis’ offensive line has allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL. Also, the Colts lead the league in interceptions, and Jackson has four picks over his last four starts. If Indy can control the line of scrimmage, limit the Ravens on the ground and force Jackson to make some mistakes, it will pull off the upset at home.
(-7) Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden revealed rookie quarterback Jake Luton, who will start for the injured Gardner Minshew, hasn’t “called one of our plays in the huddle since training camp.” The tank is on.
Ricky: Texans. The Jags’ QB situation is a problem. So, too, is Jacksonville’s defense, which ranks dead-last in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA and now is tasked with slowing Deshaun Watson.
Andre: Texans. A dude named Jake Luton is starting for Jacksonville. Houston has a positive yards per play differential despite its horrible 1-6 record. Five of the Texans’ six losses have come against the Packers, Titans, Steelers, Ravens and Chiefs. The combined record of those five teams is 29-7. They’ll clean up Jacksonville easily.
Carolina Panthers at (-10.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. The Chiefs have looked somewhat inconsistent this season, which is understandable for a super-talented team coming off a Super Bowl title and just biding time until the playoffs start. They might get caught looking ahead to their bye week in this one, and Christian McCaffrey should get his in his return against KC’s shaky run defense.
Ricky: Panthers. Road underdogs coming off a loss are 24-13 ATS this season, suggesting there’s some value in backing the Panthers, especially with the line perhaps receiving an extra boost thanks to the Chiefs dismantling the winless Jets in Week 8.
Andre: Panthers. Carolina is a tough opponent. Four of its five losses have been by one possession. The Panthers rank ninth in the NFL in yards per play differential. McCaffrey returns to the lineup and should be able to gash a Chiefs rush defense that ranks 20th per Pro Football Focus. Carolina’s pass defense is among the NFL’s best, allowing just 6.6 yards per pass attempt, the second-lowest mark in the league.
Detroit Lions at (-4) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. I’m putting a lot of stock in Matthew Stafford’s COVID-19 tests coming back negative the rest of the week. If he plays, I like the idea of the Lions’ pass offense — ranking sixth in explosive pass rate — facing a defense allowing the fifth-most air yards.
Ricky: Vikings. The uncertainty surrounding Stafford evidently scares me more than it scares Mike. (He’s braver than I am.) Detroit already is without its best pass-catcher, Kenny Golladay, and Stafford’s absence from practice this week could be felt Sunday, even if the QB suits up.
Andre: Lions. Detroit’s losses have come against the Bears, Packers, Saints and Colts — all good teams. Minnesota’s strength is Dalvin Cook and its running attack, but the Lions are 12th in rush defense on PFF.
Chicago Bears at (-5.5) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. It’s probably not a coincidence the Titans have lost their two games without offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, right? Doesn’t get much easier this week against a stout Bears defense. The Titans win a low-scoring affair, but it’s a close one.
Ricky: Bears. Chicago has the NFL’s best red-zone defense, which it’ll need against Tennessee’s second-ranked red-zone offense. One or two key stops probably decides this matchup. Don’t be surprised if the Bears’ offense finds some traction against the Titans’ suspect defense, too.
Andre: Titans. The Bears are frauds. They rank 26th in yards per play differential and their record is inflated because of a couple of early-season comeback wins against crappy teams like Detroit and Atlanta.
New York Giants at (-3) Washington Football Team, 1 p.m.
Mike: Washington. The Giants might have just given their best effort in the Monday night spotlight against the Bucs and will have all kinds of problems trying to fend off a really good Washington pass rush.
Ricky: Giants. As CBS Sports pointed out, the Giants are 17-3 ATS in their last 20 road games despite an awful straight-up record. So, they’ll probably hang around, especially now that Daniel Jones has his most trusted security blanket, Sterling Shepard, back in the mix. Plus, it’s an awful NFC East matchup. Weird things happen.
Andre: Washington. No quarterback has more pass attempts under pressure than Jones, according to PFF. Jones has three touchdowns and five picks with a 52.9 passer rating when under pressure. Washington ranks second in sack rate.
Las Vegas Raiders at (-1) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. It didn’t take long for Justin Herbert to become the division’s second-best quarterback. There will be no shortage of chances to score against Vegas’ 29th-ranked defense (by DVOA).
Ricky: Chargers. Los Angeles has blown leads of at least 16 points in four straight games, an unsettling NFL record, to say the least. So, maybe the key here is just to trail for most of the game?
Andre: Chargers. The Raiders have the 32nd-ranked defense and coverage grade on PFF. They allow the sixth-most yards per play. Every Chargers loss this season has been by one possession. Something tells me they’ll be able to eke this one out at home against a divisional opponent.
Miami Dolphins at (-4.5) Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa’s numbers were ugly last week, but it’s not like he needed to do much given Miami’s defensive showing. That Dolphins defense, especially with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, is well-suited to slow down Arizona’s offensive arsenal and keep this close.
Ricky: Cardinals. Yes, the Dolphins beat the Rams by 11 points last week. But Los Angeles had way more total yards (471 to 145), yards per play (5.1 to 3.0) and first downs (31 to 8) while dominating time of possession (36:30 to 23:30). Tua and Co. will crash back down to earth this week on the road so long as the Cards take care of the pigskin.
Andre: Cardinals. Everyone is a bit high on the Dolphins right now after their big win against the Rams. So, it’s a perfect time to bet the other way. It’s Tagovailoa’s first road start against a Cardinals team that ranks fifth in yards per play differential. Arizona averages 5.2 yards per carry, while the Dolphins allow the fourth-most yards per carry.
(-13.5) Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. It’s square, and it’s a lot of points. But the Cowboys are debating whether it will be Cooper Rush or Garrett Gilbert against arguably the NFL’s best defense.
Ricky: Steelers. The undefeated Steelers are the NFL’s best team against the spread (6-1 ATS) this season, while the 2-6 Cowboys have yet to cover once (0-8 ATS). It’s hard to imagine Dallas putting up many — if any — points against Pittsburgh’s defense. Taking the ‘Boys requires blind faith that I simply don’t have in this particular instance.
Andre: Steelers. For the third straight week, Dallas’ mangled offensive line takes on an elite pass rush. This will get ugly very fast.
New Orleans Saints at (-5.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Tampa Bay should get back on track after a near slip-up in a lookahead spot on Monday night. The Bucs’ defense, ranked first in DVOA and second in EPA per play, is the real difference-maker against a Saints offense that now has to worry about a hobbled Alvin Kamara.
Ricky: Saints. New Orleans is 7-1 SU and ATS in the regular season as an underdog since the beginning of the 2018 season. The Saints often are undervalued on the road (and overvalued at home?), and this a decent chunk of points to be catching in an important divisional clash, a spot where New Orleans usually rises to the occasion.
Andre: Bucs. Tampa’s league-best rush defense limited Kamara to just 16 rushing yards on 12 attempts in Week 1. The Bucs have the edge in the rush defense department and also have a slightly better pass rush. But the real difference might be the deep ball. Drew Brees only has attempted 11 deep passes this season, while Tom Brady has attempted 43. Now, Brady gets Antonio Brown in his arsenal to go along with Mike Evans and (maybe) Chris Godwin against a Saints defense that ranks 24th in coverage on PFF.
MONDAY, NOV. 9
(-7) New England Patriots at New York Jets, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. Had Cam Newton held onto the ball, we might be talking about the Patriots getting back into the divisional race. The offense looked much better in the second half and could build on that here. Also: Where do the points come from for a Joe Flacco-led Jets offense?
Ricky: Patriots. New England has a bunch of issues, the biggest being that its roster simply isn’t talented enough. But let’s not get carried away. The Jets, who have yet to lose a game by fewer than eight points this season, are about as bad as an NFL team gets. New York’s minus-144 point differential is the league’s worst, miles ahead of Dallas’ second-worst mark of minus-81.
Andre: Jets. New York’s only strength is its rush defense. The Jets rank 12th on PFF in that department, which could mitigate the Patriots’ running attack enough to keep this close. The Patriots somehow also allow the most yards per pass attempt in the NFL.