This week we have some interesting games early and then some more typical games late. The early games are interesting in that there are five home underdogs, the most we’ve had in one week in about a month. Once you move into the late afternoon and Sunday/Monday evening, however, it’s all home favorites. Let’s take a look at what’s in store.
The predictions start with the over/under, which you can ignore as usual. Although the total and the models agree on one of the home ‘dog games: Bengals/Broncos should be a relatively exciting game if you like high scores. The Broncos held the Raiders to 6 points but otherwise have given up at least two touchdowns in every game and over 30 twice while scoring at least 21 in every game themselves; the Bengals have scored as low as 13 twice but also over 30 twice and have given up over 30 three times and at least 17 in every game except for against Jacksonville. These are two teams that like to see the ball move. As we’ll see shortly, I have this game as just about a toss-up but I lean a little bit towards the Broncos.
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The next set of predictions is the moneyline. One home underdog that isn’t too controversial is the Jaguars, hosting the Lions. I mentioned recently that the Lions need to start accumulating wins if they want any chance at a playoff spot; this is a critical relatively easy one. Another surprisingly critical game might be Browns-Ravens. The Browns are four point underdogs at home, but I have the game being a little closer. The Browns are only 2-6 while the Ravens are 5-2, but a quick look at even just their point differentials says that those numbers could be a little closer. The Ravens have a differential of +13; that’s well behind the class of the league like the Giants (+73 at 6-2), Bears (+85 at 6-1), or even the Patriots (+92 at 5-3) even though the Pats have one more loss. It also isn’t too different from .500 teams like San Diego (ahead at +28) or Seattle (behind at +6). The Browns, on the other side, are only at -32. Other really bad teams like Kansas City, Tennessee, and Jacksonville are all at -85 or worse; the Titans even managed to get 3 wins while giving up all those points. If we assume that the Browns are more like a 3-5 team and the Ravens are more like a 4-3 team, this game seems a little closer. Of course, the Ravens are occasionally really good, so we’ll see if that team shows up or if they let the Browns hang around like they did for the Eagles (which they lost), Chiefs, or even the first game against Cleveland, which they won after two Hail Marys came up short. The AFC North always seems to be a tight race, so any divisional game becomes very important.
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Next we have the spread picks. Our last two home underdogs are Tennessee hosting Chicago and the Colts hosting Miami. Tennessee is not very good while the Bears are 6-1 and were recently the top team in the league in my power rankings. So why only 4 point favorites? My models aren’t quite at consensus that the Bears should cover, but only because Yoshi 2 has the Bears winning by a little more than 4 and thus would pass on the game. Indianapolis-Miami, on the other hand, seems like more of a toss-up. The Colts are getting 2 points and have been up and down this year. They’re 4-3 but have been outscored on the season. They’ve beaten Green Bay and Minnesota, but lost to Jacksonville, got clobbered by the Jets, and needed overtime to beat the Titans. Miami, on the other hand, has been your more typical average team. They beat bad teams like the Raiders and Rams, split their series with the Jets (losing in overtime), and got beat up by the Texans in their one game against a clearly good opponent. So they’re also 4-3, but have a positive point differential. I think if the Colts show up they win, if not Miami could win big.
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Finally we have Bill Simmons‘ picks. There are a good series of games to end week 9, as we get Giants-Steelers in the afternoon, Atlanta-Dallas on Sunday night, and Saints-Eagles on Monday night. Bill thinks that the Steelers will make a statement and the Cowboys pull one out while the Saints perhaps drive Mike Vick to the bench. I’m not so sure about two of those. The Giants have been playing very well while the Steelers have not been great. This is a team that lost to Oakland and Jacksonville, don’t forget. I think some of this pick is actually because the Giants are at home, and they seem to be much more of a road team. That’s a little silly though. And if anything it should be a big advantage for the Giants because, due to the storm, I’ve read that the Steelers aren’t flying in until this morning. Even if the Giants aren’t great at home, having your opponent travel on game day is a good advantage. I also disagree with the Cowboys; they’ve been average at best (although admittedly frisky against, for example, the Giants and Ravens) while the Falcons have been pretty good (although not quite the best, if you believe me and a number of other power rankings). That isn’t to say, of course, that the Cowboys are incapable of winning, just that it’s unlikely.
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And to quickly wrap up with the Monday Night game: I don’t know what to expect from the Saints or Eagles. The Saints’ defense is awful and the Eagles could explode for 40; they might only go for 20 while turning it over four times for no good reason. The Saints have scored at least 24 points in every game except for one, yet they’re only 2-4 in those games. So I expect some scoring, but I really have no idea who will come out on top. The models lean towards the Saints though, so maybe we’ll see something like 35-27. Sounds like an entertaining Monday night, no?