Week 9 kicked off Thursday with the Philadelphia Eagles continuing their perfect start after a 29-17 win over the Houston Texans. Action continues Sunday with 10 more games during the day (six teams have byes). So what can we expect from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz offer their insight into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
Two of the most active teams at the trade deadline in Week 9 face off against each other Sunday. The Miami Dolphins (-5, 45.5), who added Bradley Chubb and Jeff Wilson, are 5-point favorites over the Chicago Bears, who traded away Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn and got Chase Claypool. The Bears are coming off a high-scoring affair with the Cowboys last week. What are your thoughts on the moves made at the deadline and this matchup?
Fortenbaugh: I think the play here is to bet Miami’s team total over 25.5 points. Chicago ranked 19th in the NFL in both scoring defense and opponent yards per play and that was before they traded away their two best defenders in Quinn and Smith. Miami’s offense is averaging 24 points per game this season, but keep in mind that starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa missed 2.5 of those contests, which skews the numbers in a negative way.
Fulghum: Ryan Poles and the Bears are doing an admirable job of acquiring assets (draft capital and cap room) to make some significant upgrades to the roster for next season and beyond. I must admit, this Bears team has been more competitive week in and week out than I imagined before the season began. OC Luke Getsy is getting more creative in ways to maximize Justin Fields‘ most dangerous weapon at the moment — his legs. The defense has played much better than I imagined. Credit HC Matt Eberflus for that, but we’ll see if the departure of Smith and Quinn hurts.
As for this weekend, I would love to take the points with the Bears as a home underdog, but since the weather looks like it’s going to be very comfortable for a November game in Chicago, I’ll play the total over 45.5. Miami’s offense is clearly the driving force behind this play, but don’t sleep on a Bears offense that just scored 33 points in a win at New England and 29 points on the road in a loss to Dallas and its elite defense. Miami’s defense is rather pedestrian, ranking 22nd in the league in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game, so I think Fields and the Bears offense can contribute their fair share on the scoreboard.
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Walder: Give me Miami. Here’s the number that jumped out to me recently about Miami: With Tagovailoa on the field, the Dolphins have averaged 0.16 EPA per play. That would trail only the Chiefs in terms of offensive efficiency. Had Tua not gotten hurt, I think there’s a decent chance we’re thinking of the Dolphins as being the fourth team in the top tier of the NFL after the Bills, Chiefs and Eagles. I know Fields and the Bears are playing better, but I’d lay the 5 with the Dolphins.
Snellings: I’ll agree with the over 45.5, as well as the Dolphins over 25.5 points. I’d also play a lot of player prop overs, including Fields over 169.5 yards passing and (way) over 48.5 rushing yards, Tyreek Hill over 86.5 receiving yards and Jaylen Waddle over 68.5 receiving yards. Neither defense should be all that strong this week, relative to the offenses. Fields and the Bears offense are improving; Fields has gone over 169.5 yards passing in four of his past five games and over 48.5 rushing yards in three straight and four of his past five. On the Dolphins’ side, the Bears trading their two best defenders should open things up, and when Tua has been healthy, both Hill and Waddle have tended to eat on a weekly basis.
Moody: I’d take the points with the Bears as a home underdog. Chicago leads the league with 35.6 rushing attempts and 188.4 rushing yards per game. And Fields and the Bears offense have been surprisingly effective recently. Getsy is finally calling more designed run plays for Fields, making the whole attack more dynamic and harder to defend. The Bears’ addition of Claypool might have been expensive, but it can only help the offense grow. I think the Bears will score some points against the Dolphins after putting up 33 points against the Patriots and 29 against the Cowboys. There is also a chance that Chicago’s weather will not be ideal, which may work against Waddle and Hill, Tua’s primary air threats.
Tyler Fulghum lays out why he expects the under to hit when the Bills take on the Jets in Week 9.
The only day matchup of winning teams is in the AFC East, where the division-leading Buffalo Bills (-12.5, 47) are in New Jersey to face the New York Jets. Who do you like in this matchup?
Fulghum: I don’t like a side here (I’d lean Bills or no play on the side), but I do think we can attack the total. I’d play it under 47. Six of the seven Bills games this season have come in under the total. With this game being at MetLife, I’ll give the Jets’ defense a chance at keeping Josh Allen and the Bills offense from reaching a ceiling game. Whether this game was played in New Jersey, Buffalo or the moon, however, I do not trust Zach Wilson and a Jets offense now lacking RB Breece Hall (plus a couple of key offensive linemen) to move the ball efficiently or find the end zone frequently against the Bills’ smothering defense.
Schatz: I’m also taking under 47, given the quality of these defenses. The Bills are currently fourth in defensive DVOA and the Jets are eighth. Both defenses are balanced to stop both the run and the pass. Add in the problems the Jets have had on offense and it’s the recipe for a low-scoring contest. A particularly good parlay would be the Bills money line and the under.
Snellings: I’ll join the under 47 brigade and supplement that with Jets under 16.5 points. The Jets lost the heart of their offensive explosiveness when Breece Hall went down, and without that home run threat I don’t think they’ll be able to consistently move the ball or score on the Bills. The Bills’ offense can be a juggernaut, but the Jets have a strong enough defense that, coupled with the likelihood of a quiet Jets offense, should suppress the entire game score.
What are the three most important things that our analytics say?
Walder: I’ll give you three takes on sides via FPI.
Los Angeles Chargers at Atlanta Falcons (+3)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
FPI prediction: Falcons by 1.1
I was as high as anyone on Justin Herbert entering the season and still believe in him long term, but at a certain point we have to put real stock in what the Chargers are showing this year offensively. And it’s not much. They rank 18th in offensive EPA per play. And while injuries may be partially to blame for that poor performance, they still aren’t healthy. Mike Williams is out and Keenan Allen said his hamstring injury worsened. So the Chargers could be down their top two receivers for this one. And while it may not be pretty, Atlanta’s offense has gotten it done, ranking fourth in EPA per play.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-5.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
FPI prediction: Patriots by 9.3
FPI holds a pretty strong prior on unproven quarterbacks without serious draft pedigree. And even though Sam Ehlinger had a solid game in his starting debut (67 QBR), it’s going to take more than that to move the model. For now it assumes a Patriots team with a very good defense should be able to handle the Ehlinger-led Colts.
Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals (-7)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford
FPI prediction: Bengals by 10.6
This is definitely an anti-recency play. The Bengals were a total dud against the Browns without Ja’Marr Chase. Losing Chase absolutely hurts, but the Bengals should be OK offensively without him. OK enough to outpace the Panthers, at least. PJ Walker‘s bomb to DJ Moore was incredible, but we’re still not buying Carolina’s offense.
Tyler Fulghum suggests taking the under for the Rams vs. Buccaneers matchup on Sunday afternoon.
What is your best bet for Week 9?
Fortenbaugh: Washington Commanders +3.5 over Minnesota. The Vikings may be 6-1, but they are being outgained by an average of 37 yards per game. How is that even possible? Washington has won three straight, excels at stopping the run, can generate consistent pressure and has a quarterback in Taylor Heinicke who is 8-2 ATS over his last 10 starts.
Fulghum: Los Angeles Rams–Tampa Bay Buccaneers under 42.5. The two most disappointing teams in the NFC, and perhaps the entire NFL, match up in Tampa on Sunday afternoon. Both are desperate for a win to keep hopes for a playoff berth alive. I expect this to be a physical, hard-fought game anchored by the strength of each team at the moment — their defenses. The two teams are a combined 11-4 to the under this season. Both offenses have legitimately pathetic running games. Both teams are dreadful along the offensive line, and that has resulted in poor play from the last two QBs in the league to lift the Lombardi Trophy. Points should be hard to come by in this one.
Schatz: Seattle Seahawks +2 at Arizona. The gap between these teams in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings is massive, with the Seahawks now all the way up to sixth and the Cardinals way down at 30th. Seattle is 11th on defense after a big improvement in the last three weeks; if they were one spot higher, that would put the Seahawks in the top 10 for all three phases. The Cardinals are below average in all three phases. When these teams played in Week 6, the Seahawks won 19-9 and Arizona’s only touchdown came on a weird aborted/fake (we’re not sure which) punt attempt by Michael Dickson. Vegas knows things very well, and it’s far from fait accompli, but I’m not sure how the Cardinals are favored here.
Snellings: I like Vikings-Commanders over 43.5 points. The Vikings are top 10 in the NFL in scoring average with 24.7 PPG. The Commanders have a lower scoring average on the season, but Taylor Heinicke has moxie and a strong relationship with wide receiver Terry McLaurin and should put up enough points to make the Vikings work. I could see this one going well over 43.5 points.
Marks: Falcons +9 and Jags + 7.5 in two-team, 6-point teaser. I’ll tease two teams that should be favored Sunday. The Chargers’ defense ranks last in yards allowed after contact, and Atlanta should be able to run the ball, control time of possession and win at home. The Raiders’ defense ranks 28th in the red zone, where Trevor Lawrence has had issues. Travis Etienne Jr. should have his way against a Raiders run defense that allows 150 yards per game.
Moody: I like Chargers-Falcons under 49.5. Los Angeles is averaging 23.4 points per game this season and the Falcons 25.0. Meanwhile, the Chargers are coming off a bye week and will be without Mike Williams and most likely Keenan Allen. Atlanta is averaging the third-most rushing attempts per game (33.5) this season and the fifth-most rushing yards (158.1), which also could contribute to a low-scoring game. In the Falcons’ last 39 games against teams with a winning record, the under is 29-10 and 7-2 after straight-up wins.
Tristan H. Cockcroft explains why Zach Ertz is primed for another big performance for his Week 9 matchup against the Seahawks.
What is your favorite player prop?
Fortenbaugh: Zach Ertz over 38.5 receiving yards (-133). We’re getting a cheap price because Ertz has caught just six passes for 55 yards in two games since DeAndre Hopkins returned from his six-game suspension, but take note that no team in the NFL has surrendered more receiving yards to opposing tight ends than the Seattle Seahawks (595 total, 74.3 per game). With a game total of 49.5, we should see plenty of offensive movement in this game.
Fulghum: Austin Ekeler to score a TD (-160). This is a slightly more expensive wager than I like to make, especially on something as variable as a touchdown being scored, but it’s hard not to love this spot for Ekeler. The Chargers are 3-point favorites in a domed game against Atlanta with a total of 49.5. The Falcons are also one of the worst defenses in the league, allowing 427 yards of offense per game and 25.6 points per game. The Falcons just allowed Panthers RB D’Onta Foreman to score thrice last week. Now consider the fact that WR Mike Williams is out with an ankle injury and WR Keenan Allen re-aggravated his hamstring injury and Ekeler is looking at something like 20-30 touches in this environment.
Walder: Aaron Jones under 28.5 receiving yards (-106). The Lions play man coverage 57% of the time, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Running backs are targeted less frequently against man coverage and convert targets into receptions less frequently. With that as a key factor, my model puts Jones at a mean of 24.3 receiving yards this week.
Schatz: Kyle Pitts over 39.5 receiving yards (-119). We all have memories of that game last year when Derwin James had Travis Kelce shut down until James got hurt and then Kelce went off. But the fact is the Chargers give up yardage to tight ends, whether James is healthy or not. Five tight ends have topped 40 yards against the Chargers this year in seven games. It’s frustrating when the Falcons seem to ignore the fact that Pitts is even in their offense, but when they want to throw it in this game, he’s the guy who’s likely to be open.
Snellings: Amon-Ra St. Brown over 72.5 receiving yards (-117). With T.J. Hockenson no longer playing for the Lions, his 6.1 targets per game are up for grabs. Last season, when Hockenson missed the past five games, St. Brown vacuumed in his targets and exploded to average 11.3 targets, 8.3 receptions and 91.7 receiving yards over those five outings. I expect Jared Goff to have tunnel vision for St. Brown when he puts the ball in the air every game moving forward.
Marks: Etienne over 104.5 rushing/receiving yards (-117). As I said earlier, the Raiders rush defense is allowing 150 yards per game on the ground and are ranked 31st against RBs in the passing game. Etienne is just so explosive; he has a run of 30-plus yards in each of the last four games.
Moody: Jared Goff over 0.5 interceptions (-133). Goff is averaging 0.86 interceptions per game this season and has five INTs over his last five games. The Packers secondary has allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game this season (174.8). Green Bay’s defenders match up well against the Lions’ receivers, including St. Brown, who will be covered by Jaire Alexander.