It seemed like, even with the NFL trade deadline, it was going to be a relatively quiet week in the league — and then Wednesday happened.
Perhaps the biggest news story of the 2021 season dropped on Hump Day when it was reported reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers would miss a must-see Sunday showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the deadline behind us, we’re on to Week 9, with a handful of high-profile showdowns on tap. NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle made against-the-spread picks not only for those games but each contest on the Week 9 slate.
You also can hear them break down the best games of the week on “The Spread,” NESN’s football picks podcast.
Here’s how they fared last week.
And here are their Week 9 picks, with lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.
THURSDAY, NOV. 4
New York Jets at (-10.5) Indianapolis Colts, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Jets. I promise I’m not falling into a Mike White trap, but he does have some capable playmakers around him. New York should be able to move the ball through the air against a shaky Indy secondary. Not to mention, laying 10.5 with Carson Wentz feels reckless.
Ricky: Jets. Wentz ranks 31st in offensive grade among all quarterbacks since Week 4, per Pro Football Focus, and the Jets actually are fairly decent at creating pressure, which could lead to a mistake or two from the Colts QB that keeps this game within the number.
SUNDAY, NOV. 7
(-3.5) New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Carolina won’t score a lot of points, but the Patriots probably won’t, either. New England scored just one offensive touchdown last week and faces a better defense this week. The Panthers’ run defense is average at best, but it’s definitely better than LA’s.
Ricky: Panthers. Carolina’s defense ranks second in success rate and third in EPA per play, meaning it’ll be a difficult afternoon for Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones. Don’t be surprised if New England’s momentum comes to a screeching halt in the second of back-to-back road games.
(-14) Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Makes me wonder what number this would have to be to even consider Jacksonville. It probably begins with a “2.”
Ricky: Bills. Buffalo beat Miami by 15 last week despite the Dolphins playing tough for most of the afternoon. And the Jaguars, one could argue, don’t have that level of fight in them.
Denver Broncos at (-9) Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Banking on another vintage Teddy Bridgewater performance here, where the Denver QB protects the ball and doesn’t allow the Cowboys defense to run wild. Even that still might not be enough, but I’ll take my chances with a lot of points.
Ricky: Broncos. Wouldn’t it be something if Dallas actually flopped with Dak Prescott returning to the lineup? Anyway, Denver’s defense is respectable, ranking eighth in dropback success rate and ninth in adjusted sack rate. This feels like one the ‘Boys will need to earn.
Atlanta Falcons at (-6) New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. Atlanta faces a tough test without its top receiver against a strong Saints defense. But it’s also hard to see the Saints — who rank 26th in yards per drive — generating much offense if they don’t have good field position. As long as Atlanta protects the ball, it should hang in there.
Ricky: Saints. Is this a letdown spot for New Orleans after knocking off Tampa Bay in Week 8? Maybe. But it’s also an opportunity for the Saints’ defense — which ranks third in DVOA and fourth in EPA per play — to flex its muscle against a Falcons offense that is just wildly inconsistent.
Minnesota Vikings at (-6) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. We might be reaching the end of this Vikings “era,” as Mike Zimmer was especially unimpressive last week in a bad loss to Dallas. Baltimore, coming off its bye, certainly has the coaching advantage this week, and it feels like a spot for the Ravens to put the Vikings out of their misery.
Ricky: Ravens. The Vikings’ offense remains way too conservative, with Kirk Cousins ranking 32nd among quarterbacks in intended air yards per pass attempt (6.6). For comparison’s sake, Lamar Jackson leads all QBs with 10.5 intended air yards per attempt. The bye came at a good time for the Ravens, who now are positioned to roll just two weeks after an eye-opening loss to the Bengals.
(-3) Las Vegas Raiders at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. Just blindly fading the very public road favorite, with the Raiders getting nearly 80% of the bets and money as of Thursday morning. Should work great!
Ricky: Raiders. I don’t know what the heck is going on with the Giants’ COVID situation, but I don’t like it. Plus, New York has been banged up and is coming off a Monday night loss in Kansas City, whereas Las Vegas just had its bye.
Cleveland Browns at (-2.5) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. This spread is more or less saying these teams are even, with the Bengals maybe a point better. I think the gap is even bigger than that, though, with Cincinnati’s defense — 13th in DVOA — being the difference-maker here. The Bengals are better equipped to slow the run game than they have been in the past, and they have the better QB here.
Ricky: Bengals. Not overreacting to Cincinnati’s loss to the Jets in Week 8. That was a classic sandwich game, with the Bengals pummeling the Ravens in Week 7 and another divisional contest on tap for Week 9. The Browns, meanwhile, have some legitimate issues.
Houston Texans at (-6.5) Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. The Dolphins have spent the entire week talking about how they’d like a different quarterback. Feels like that’s less than ideal. Don’t watch this game, either way — it’s gonna stink.
Ricky: Texans. Took Houston to cover last week thinking Tyrod Taylor might be back. He wasn’t. Taylor is starting this week, though, so I need to double down, right?
(-2) Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. There should be a disclaimer that I have been able to get no read on the Eagles this season, but this might be a good spot for them. The Chargers simply cannot stop the run, and while Philly won’t have Miles Sanders, Boston Scott has shown in small sample sizes he can also be an effective runner.
Ricky: Chargers. Leaning on this to be a get-right spot for the Chargers after a blowout road loss to the Ravens and a close home loss to the Patriots dropped their record to 4-3. Philadelphia will have a hard time relying on the ground game if Los Angeles can jump out early.
Green Bay Packers at (-7) Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Liked the Packers when they had Aaron Rodgers and still kind of like them without him. Jordan Love looked fine in Week 1 mop-up duty, and he is a former first-round pick. More importantly, he’s surrounded by weapons, and the Chiefs have struggled with worse offenses this season.
Ricky: Packers. Green Bay had an excellent game plan last week against Arizona, and I suspect that’ll be the case again this week as Matt LaFleur leans on the Packers’ rushing attack and simplifies things for Love in the QB’s first career NFL start. The Chiefs’ defense stinks, whereas the Packers’ defense is building momentum. The rest advantage is worth noting, too, as Green Bay played on Thursday night in Week 8, four days before Kansas City closed out the slate with an uneven Monday night performance.
(-1) Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. This line keeps going toward San Francisco, which opened the week as a 3-point underdog. Regardless, I’m rolling with the Niners, who slowed the Cardinals’ offense in their Week 5 matchup. San Fran’s running game has come alive in its last four games and should have its way with a questionable Arizona run defense.
Ricky: 49ers. Starting to grow concerned that Kyler Murray either won’t play or won’t be at full strength for this divisional road game, in which case the Cardinals are prime upset candidates. DeAndre Hopkins still is nursing an injury, as well, adding another layer of uncertainty to Arizona’s offense.
Tennessee Titans at (-7.5) Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Rams. I’m still kind of high on Tennessee in the long run, but losing Derrick Henry obviously will require an adjustment period. Ryan Tannehill could be under siege this week without the threat of Henry and the play-action slowing down the opposing pass rush.
Ricky: Rams. The Titans’ offense might need to rebrand itself with Henry sidelined, as the All-Pro running back is so unique in his ability to wear down defenses and open up Tennessee’s passing attack. And this will be a challenging week for those adjustments. The Titans’ offensive line ranks 29th in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders. Good luck stopping Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd.
MONDAY, NOV. 8
Chicago Bears at (-6) Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Chicago ranks 31st in points per game and last in yards per play. Now, the Bears get a Steelers team that has strung together some wins on the back of a defense that ranks third in the NFL in QB pressure. This game could bear resemblance to the Bears’ ugly Week 3 loss in Cleveland.
Ricky: Steelers. Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t as vaunted this season, with both its quarterback pressure rate and its turnover prowess lagging behind what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in recent years. But it’s still good. Really good, even. And that should be enough to take down rookie QB Justin Fields under the lights at home by a touchdown.