NFL Betting Guide: Week 9
Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.
Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.
That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.
Week 8 Recap
Last Week: 3-2
Year-to-Date Record: 23-17-0 (57.5%)
Fear not, we did indeed bounce back.
Really, we were a handful of points in the right type of script from 5-0. The Texans just couldn't quite move the ball until late, and the Lions blew a sizable first-half lead to miss covering by one point.
Plus, both totals hit. We've had a winning week in seven of the eight weeks so far, so let's keep it rolling with some great lines ahead.
Pick #1: Bears (+4.5) vs. Dolphins
These two squads made splash acquisitions this week, but neither should have a massive impact this quickly.
I love the Bears in this spot coming off a blowout result to Dallas, but they really weren't blown out in practice. If Justin Fields touched Micah Parsons down, a 10-point spread would have been a close call against numberFire's top overall defense.
It's because Chicago's run game is a handful at present. In the past three weeks, they lead the NFL in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry (0.25), and it's directly due to Fields' continued involvement (34 carries) in that time.
With a windy, colder game on deck, Chicago's defense is also 12th in the past three weeks in Passing NEP per drop back allowed (0.07). That'll really cap the explosiveness of this Tua Tagovailoa aerial attack, and Miami hasn't shown the willingness to run the ball on the Bears' struggling front seven. They're eighth in pass rate above expectation.
Personally, this is just too many points with a live -- and rejuvenated -- home underdog. I easily can see Chicago winning outright in this space.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Bears 24-23
Pick #2: Jets (+11.5) vs. Bills
Speaking of too many points, this is a gift.
Now, the reason the Bills are such lofty favorites is that they're the best team in football. They're numberFire's second-best defense in conjunction with our third-best offense. However, they're just 4-3 against the spread (ATS), so this isn't an Eagles situation; the public continually squeezes every ounce of value out of a Buffalo spread.
The lone question I had to take New York (with the points) here was if they could move the football. Even without Breece Hall and Alijah Vera-Tucker, I believe their running game can have some success here. James Robinson is another week into the system, and Buffalo's 0.08 Rushing NEP per carry allowed the past three weeks is the 12th-worst in the NFL.
Gang Green's defense will let them hang around enough here.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Bills 26-17
Pick #3: Panthers (+7) at Bengals
Believe it or not, these are just two teams heading in different directions.
P.J. Walker has proved to be serviceable enough to inspire hope in Carolina's defense, which numberFire has pegged as the 10th-best in the league. Their 32% pressure rate is eighth-best in the league -- and a great formula for what's historically derailed Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati offense.
Though similar in record and pedigree, this isn't the same Atlanta matchup the Stripes lit up two weeks ago. Carolina's defense leads the way, and two key changes to the Bengals' lineup make them a very different team since then.
As my colleague Jim Sannes pointed out, Cincinnati has been a very different passing offense when Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins haven't been on the field together. Plus, star corner Chidobe Awuzie was lost out of a mediocre secondary on Monday.
I wouldn't sound the alarms for an upset here, but this is just too many points for a Panthers team that's not counting itself out of an ugly NFC South race just yet.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Bengals 22-16
I was waffling between the Commanders and Falcons early into Friday morning. They're both three-point home underdogs, but they both had incredibly concerning metrics over the past three weeks. Washington is below-average in both offensive categories facing the Vikings, and Atlanta is the league's worst pass defense entering a date with Justin Herbert.
Instead, I'm going off the board. This line is the "WTF?" one of the weekend. The Cardinals just lost 19-9 in Seattle a few weeks ago, and now they're favored here at home with a projected total of 49.5.
Here's what I uncovered, though -- quietly, this Arizona defense has rallied. They're now numberFire's 7th-best rush defense and 15th-best pass defense. The Seahawks have had a nice defensive run in recent weeks, but our nERD metrics place them 17th and 26th in those same categories.
This game also just means so, so much more to the Cardinals. To have any shot at the division, they must win here. At 5-3, Seattle is sitting comfortably in a place no one expected them to be.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Cardinals 27-23
This is a perfect matchup to deploy a road primetime underdog and represents my favorite line of the week.
For all the Chiefs juggernaut talk, they're just 3-4 ATS and are numberFire's 11th-worst defense overall. We think of the San Francisco defense as elite, but they're actually bottom-five in the NFL the past five weeks in Rushing and Passing NEP per play allowed.
Conversely, the Titans have molded the perfect recipe to beat the Chiefs in the past few weeks. They've allowed the 3rd-fewest Passing NEP per drop back in the past three weeks (-0.12), and they're 10th in Rushing NEP per carry when they've had the ball in that time.
Given the matchup, I'd actually prefer to see Malik Willis in conjunction with Derrick Henry given the duo looked unstoppable last week. Ball control and defense are the ingredients to beating K.C. at Arrowhead. Ryan Tannehill would be a more consistent passer for a backdoor cover should Tennessee trail.
I'd be shocked if this sturdy Titans' defense wasn't within a score late.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Chiefs 28-20
Totals of the Week
Pick #1: Raiders at Jaguars (Over 48.0)
Everything sets up for a shootout in Jacksonville this weekend.
Obviously, the Raiders will want to return to their scoring ways after a total meltdown in New Orleans. It's hard to even fathom what that was given Las Vegas -- with scoring down across the league -- had scored at least 29 points in the three games prior.
They'll have plenty of opportunities against a reeling Jags defense. They've ceded the third-most Offensive NEP per play (0.21) in the past three weeks, and they're now playing just a week after a trip to London. The Raiders have allowed the sixth-most Offensive NEP per play (0.15) in that same time.
This game rates out above average in pass rate and pace, but importantly, we're following the money here. Despite getting just 31% of bets in this spot, the over is getting 59% of the handle. Cha-ching.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Raiders 33-31
Pick #2: Rams at Buccaneers (Under 42.5)
The lone concern for me here is the pace.
My colleague Brandon Gdula labels this game as the fastest of the week in terms of average seconds per play so far. Here's the problem -- it hasn't actually translated to points.
Unders in Buccaneers games thus far are 6-2, and unders in Los Angeles Rams games are 5-2. These dynamic offenses last year have been sputtering and screeching all year, and the public still hasn't caught up all the way. These are the9th and 10th-worst offenses in numberFire's nERD rankings.
They also don't profile well to have success against each other. The Rams' pass defense is above average in those same rankings, and it's all Tampa's got sporting the worst rushing offense in football.
L.A. might also put forth its worst offensive performance of the year if Cooper Kupp (ankle) is limited in any way. They've posted 28.83 NEP on targets to Kupp, and they've posted -26.67 NEP doing anything else. Yikes.
This should be another ugly game for these two in 2022.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Buccaneers 19-16