Week 9 in the NFL kicks off with a Thursday Night matchup between the Jets and Colts, and while it will be interesting to see whether “Magic” Mike White and Carson Wentz can continue their heroics and mistakes, respectively, most NFL fans will be looking forward to the Sunday slate, which features several plot twists in high-profile games. The weekend’s action features the Titans at the Rams, the Packers at the Chiefs, the Brows at the Bengals, and the Chargers at the Eagles.
This “Games of the Week” column may not always point to a spread or total, but it will look for an angle for you to bet so you can make the biggest games even more enjoyable. All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams (LAR -7.5, Total 54)
Model Projection: Los Angeles Rams 29.75 – Tennessee 21.51 (LAR -8.24, Total 51.26)
BET: 1 UNIT Los Angeles -7.5, 2 UNITS UNDER 54
This matchup changed markedly in the early part of the week as the Titans announced that running back Derrick Henry will miss the rest of the season and the Rams acquired edge rusher Von Miller from the Broncos.
You can read The Professor’s full breakdown of the Henry injury here; the short-term analysis is that this is a bad week to have to reinvent an offense. It’s worth considering that Tennessee’s offense didn’t take off until Ryan Tannehill took over for Marcus Mariota at quarterback and that based on Tannehill’s film as a Titan, it’s hard to expect him to completely fall apart because he lost Henry. Tannehill has great athletic traits and throws the ball particularly well at the intermediate level; with left tackle Taylor Lewan and left guard Rodger Saffold starting to find a groove after some early-season injuries, Tennessee’s group of running backs should be enough of a presence to keep their trademark play-action pass concepts productive.
The biggest concern this week is at right tackle, where right tackle David Quessenberry will now face Miller and Leonard Floyd. The Titans will need to help him with chips from the tight ends and backs, and their communication across the offensive line will need to be on point, as Miller’s addition gives them numerous options to run stunts with Floyd and Aaron Donald. The potential A.J. Brown-Jalen Ramsey matchup is also one to watch; Ramsey hasn’t consistently followed top receivers this season but it might make sense this week given how well Brown has played and the lack of receiving depth Tennessee has behind him.
The Rams’ defense should have the edge on a Tennessee offense in flux; I’ll put one unit on the Rams at -7.5 and two units on the under 54.
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (KC -7.5, Total 48)
Model Projection: Kansas City 25.48 – Green Bay 23.38 (KC -2.1, Total 48.86)
BET: 2 UNITS Green Bay +7.5, 1 UNIT OVER 48
Kansas City has struggled during this NFL season, but despite that, the Aaron Rodgers-Patrick Mahomes matchup was still set to headline the weekend. Instead, Rodgers will miss the game due to COVID, which robs NFL fans of a rare regular-season matchup but arguably makes the game more interesting for Packers fans.
Second-year quarterback Jordan Love has seen limited time on an NFL field but his preseason performance against Buffalo this year showed a player with outstanding traits. Love has easy arm talent, the athleticism to operate the quarterback run game, and the ability to throw with precise placement. The consistency of that accuracy is yet to be determined but Love should have a solid command of the offense after a season and a half in the system, particularly as he will get to practice with the first-team offense ahead of this game. Love also showed that he’s picked up some tricks from Rodgers in that Bills preseason game when he recognized a free-play situation; he’s a mystery, but there’s upside here, particularly with receiver Davante Adams set to return from the COVID list. The Packers would prefer to have Rodgers but there is an obvious silver lining to seeing what they have in Love without losing Rodgers long-term.
On offense, Kansas City’s physically imposing offensive line seems capable of leading a productive run game but despite the 97 yards running backs Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore gained on 24 carries against the Giants, the Chiefs threw the ball 48 times in a game where quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his receivers were making consistent mistakes. Mahomes is a transcendent talent but with opposing defenses focused on taking away the deep ball, his offense needs to refocus on fundamentals and take what the defense is giving them for the big plays to open back up.
Aaron Rodgers once had an outstanding performance against the Dallas Cowboys in relief of Brett Favre; I’ll hope that Love does the same and put two units on Green Bay at +7.5 and one unit on the over 48.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (CIN -2.5, Total 46.5)
Model Projection: Cincinnati 27.58 – Cleveland 22.51 (CIN -5.07, Total 50.09)
BET: 3 UNITS Cincinnati -2.5, 1 UNIT OVER 46.5
The Cleveland Browns have a bizarre situation on their hands with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Professor is in the camp that Beckham simply doesn’t look like the other-worldly talent who once torched any NFL defense he faced. Beckham has suffered significant injuries and his unwillingness to even attempt some of the spectacular catches that once made him so fun to watch have taken some of the superstardom from his game. The reports that Cleveland struggled to find a trade partner were not a surprise; Houston receiver Brandin Cooks has been a markedly better player this season and was also presumably on the trade market.
It appears that Beckham will be inactive this week after he wasn’t at practice Tuesday, which leaves quarterback Baker Mayfield down a target as he prepares to face Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who will be looking for redemption after his late interception on a screen pass opened the door for the Jets to steal a win. Cincinnati played a sloppy game on both sides of the ball last week; receiver Ja’Marr Chase dropped a routine touchdown early and linebacker Logan Wilson played his worst game of the season, consistently failing to close on New York’s running backs in the passing game, but this team has the talent to bounce back from the disappointing loss.
Mayfield has not been helped by some of the drops and turnovers of his skill position players but it’s difficult to argue that he is in the same class of quarterback as Burrow. Cleveland’s defense has had its moments of dominance but has not been consistently better than Cincinnati’s over the season, which should give the Bengals the edge in this AFC North matchup.
Burrow made a devastating mistake late in the Jets game but I expect it to be a footnote in his career; I’ll put three units on Cincinnati at -2.5 and one unit on the over 46.5.
Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles (LAC -2, Total 50)
Model Projection: Los Angeles Chargers 26.75 – Philadelphia 22.53 (LAC -4.22, Total 49.28)
BET: 3 UNITS LAC -2
There is concern about the Chargers following their home loss to the New England Patriots, while Philadelphia is riding high coming off a beatdown of the Detroit Lions. The betting market has moved significantly in the wake of those results, moving from Chargers -3.5 to a ‘pick em and then back to Chargers -2.
Philadelphia’s rushing numbers were great on Sunday but the production came against a terrible Lions defense; given what happened to the Eagles after their dominant Week One showing against an equally bad Falcons defense, it’s difficult to have a high level of confidence that anything from their run-happy performance will translate moving forward. The fact that the coaching staff decided to start running the ball the same week that lead back Miles Sanders was undoubtedly ironic but doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stick to this plan when they face another high-powered opponent offense, which was the reasoning behind head coach Nick Sirianni’s recent pass-heavy plans.
Quarterback Justin Herbert made mistakes that New England quarterback Mac Jones did not last week and the Chargers need receiver Mike Williams to get back to his early-season production, but Sunday’s game seemed to announce that the Patriots will be a factor in the AFC Playoff picture rather than that the Chargers are cooked. Safety Derwin James had a dominant performance keeping the Chargers in the New England game; the offense and defense both have a chance for a notable rebound performance this week.
Los Angeles is on a skid but they are the more talented team in this matchup; I’ll put three units on the Chargers at -2.
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!