The Professor’s NFL Week 9 Best Games to Bet column profiles four games that the Professor is betting on this weekend, but this article will start by highlighting the fact that the current Week 9 spreads offer several opportunities for six-point teasers through the key numbers three and seven. Several of the games involved are broken down in The Professor’s NFL Week 9 Games of the Week column, while the Arizona-San Francisco matchup will be written up below, but I will kick things off by placing bets on a pair of six-point teasers for two units each: the Los Angeles Rams at -1.5 and the San Francisco 49ers at +7.5 along with the Cleveland Browns at +8 and the Philadelphia Eagles at +8. For those of you looking to put together a similar bet, the Kansas City Chiefs can also be teased from -7.5 to -1.5.
All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers (NE -3.5, Total 41)
Model Projection: New England 21.95 – Carolina 18.14 (NE -3.81, Total 40.09)
BET: NE -3.5, 3 units, Under 41 1 unit
Star running back Christian McCaffrey may return from his hamstring injury against the Patriots after practicing in a limited capacity this week. That would give Carolina’s offense a boost but this matchup is still a repeat of the “seeing ghosts” game for quarterback Sam Darnold, which does not bode well for the Panthers.
New England cornerback J.C. Jackson is likely to travel with Carolina’s top receiver, D.J. Moore, which could largely negate Darnold’s top option in a game where Darnold is likely to see a lot of blitzes from “show” fronts with most of the defenders on the line of scrimmage threatening to blitz and either Cover 0 (man without a safety) or Cover 1 (man with a deep safety) behind it.
There have been positive stretches for Darnold in Carolina but his decision-making has remained suspect and Bill Belichick’s defenses have a history of bringing out the worst in him. Linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerback Stephon Gilmore returned to the field last week, which significantly improved this defense and set Gilmore up for an immediate revenge game against New England, but Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has been a markedly better decision-maker than Darnold and is less likely to make a critical error. It doesn’t hurt that Jones plays behind a significantly better offensive line, though the Patriots lack Carolina’s top-end skill talent.
It should be a low-scoring game, but New England is likely to be in command throughout. The total has been bet down from 43.5 to 41 since the look-ahead numbers came out, so I’ll put three units on New England at -3.5 and one unit on the under at 41.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (ARI -1.5, Total 45)
Model Projection: Arizona 25.59 – San Francisco 22.15 (ARI -3.44, Total 47.74)
BET: ARI -1.5, 2 units
Kyler Murray has not practiced this week but the expectation is that the Arizona quarterback will be able to play on Sunday. At the very least, Murray’s mobility will be somewhat diminished, which will be an interesting test of how he has progressed in terms of operating when he is restricted to the pocket.
Murray’s injury makes the health of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is battling a hamstring injury, notably more important. The Cardinals will already be without receiver A.J. Green, who is on the COVID list, and while they have quality depth in tight end Zach Ertz and receivers Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore, it wouldn’t hurt to have a relatively healthy Hopkins if Murray is confined to the pocket. Arizona also needs both players for the long-term, so it doesn’t make sense to push either, but there’s a slim margin for error in the NFC West after the Rams acquired edge rusher Von Miller this week.
The 49ers got back on track with a road win over the Bears but will face notably improved competition in the Cardinals and Rams over the next two weeks. San Francisco could still make a Wild Card run if they get through that stretch 1-1, which would leave them at 4-5 heading into a road trip to Jacksonville, but it’s difficult to envision them rebounding from a 3-6 start. Arizona has been the better team this season but NFC West matchups end to be competitive; it wouldn’t be a stunner if the 49ers pick up the win to split the season series.
The concern around Murray’s injury has played a role in this line moving to Arizona -1.5 but I believe he can do enough from the pocket to pick up this road win. I’ll put two units on Arizona at -1.5.
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens (BAL -6, Total 50)
Model Projection: Baltimore 28.23 – Minnesota 20.74 (BAL -7.49, Total 48.97)
BET: BAL -6, 2 units
The Vikings have to go on the road after a brutal home loss to a Cowboys team quarterbacked by Cooper Rush, while the Ravens will come out of their bye and look to rebound from their loss to the Bengals two weeks ago.
Minnesota lost more than the game against Dallas, as star pass rusher Danielle Hunter is done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. It’s a frustrating injury for a defense that appeared to be finding its stride before an injury to cornerback Patrick Peterson a few weeks ago; with Hunter out on top of Peterson, the unit is likely to take a step back.
These injuries are particularly frustrating because rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who debuted around the time Peterson was injured, has been an upgrade at a problem spot on the offensive line. There has been a “whack-a-mole” feel to how the Vikings have a new issue pop up every time they solve one; it isn’t unique in the NFL but certainly has seemed to plague head coach Mike Zimmer during his tenure in Minnesota.
The Vikings are an above-average team but don’t appear to be on Baltimore’s level at this point. Sunday Night’s performance aside, Minnesota should have enough offensive firepower to make a game of it if Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense get going but Jackson seems more likely to make the critical play in a close game. I’ll put two units on Baltimore at -6.
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys (DAL -10, Total 49.5)
Model Projection: Dallas 30.9 – Denver 17.93 (DAL -12.97, Total 48.83)
BET: DAL -10, 2 units
The Denver Broncos waved the white flag on the 2021 NFL season when they traded edge rusher Von Miller to the Los Angles Rams. It was a curious move on the heels of Denver trading for inside linebacker Kenny Young (Rams) and edge rusher Stephen Weatherly (Vikings) in recent weeks but we’ll set that discussion aside for the offseason.
Dallas continued their outstanding season with a win over the Vikings with backup quarterback Cooper Rush and are set to have starter Dak Prescott back after he practiced in full on Thursday. The Cowboys defense is continuing to get better as they gain experience together and seems likely to produce multiple turnovers against a mistake-prone Broncos offense; look for defensive end Randy Gregory, linebacker/defensive weapon Micah Parsons, and cornerback Trevon Diggs to add to their respective Pro Bowl cases in this game.
The gap in talent between these two teams is massive and any good vibes created by Denver’s win over Washington were wiped out by the trade of their franchise icon. When the Broncos drafted edge rusher Bradley Chubb fifth overall (ahead of some quarterback named Josh Allen), it appeared Denver would transition smoothly from a Demarcus Ware-Von Miller tandem to a Miller-Chubb tandem; instead, the pair was rarely on the field together in the two and a half seasons they overlapped.
I’ll put two units on Dallas at -10.
This article previewed four prominent NFL matchups for the coming week and talked about how to bet them. For more content from The Professor, including the rest of his game previews and his fantasy content, check out The Professor on BeerLife Sports!
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.