• The Star Staff

NFL Week 9 predictions: NYT picks against the spread


By Benjamin Hoffman


This week will offer a gut check for some of the season’s most exciting teams and players. The Buffalo Bills will follow their huge win over the Seattle Seahawks with a tough test against the Arizona Cardinals. The Miami Dolphins will try to keep their hot streak going against the Los Angeles Chargers, and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals will get his first big NFC North test when he faces the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams, lying in wait, will have a chance to steal a share of the NFC West lead in a matchup with Seattle.


Here is a look at NFL Week 10, with all picks made against the spread.


Last week’s record: 6-8

Overall record: 64-66-3

All times are Eastern.


SUNDAY’S BEST GAMES


Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Cardinals -1 | Total: 56


It’s a little unusual to rave about the defensive performance of a team that gave up 34 points, but the Bills (7-2) were up on Seattle by 27-10 in the third quarter last week before largely easing off on defense and cruising to a 44-34 victory.


Regardless of the points allowed, Buffalo sacked Russell Wilson five times, hit him another 11 times, pulled down two interceptions and recovered two fumbles. Not bad, considering it was facing an MVP candidate who leads the highest scoring offense in the NFL.


This week has nearly as difficult a challenge. The Cardinals (5-3) can do considerable damage, thanks to the running and passing of quarterback Kyler Murray, and would get an enormous boost if running back Kenyan Drake could return from an ankle injury.


With Buffalo’s Josh Allen coming off perhaps the best game of his career, it was no surprise for oddsmakers to predict this would be the highest scoring game of the week. But if Buffalo’s defense can perform near the standard it established last week, the Bills can walk away with a road win to be proud of. Pick: Bills +1


Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Rams -1.5 | Total: Off


What a lovely bye week for the Rams (5-3). They got some rest and watched every other team in the NFC West lose. Now they host the Seahawks (6-2) with a reasonable chance of getting a share of the division lead.


Los Angeles has been more effective running than passing, but Seattle’s secondary is so bad that it makes every offense look terrific — and Jamal Adams, an All-Pro safety acquired by the Seahawks in the offseason to stabilize the team, has been a huge part of the problem. There is every reason to believe the Rams have the advantage in this game, but if Russell Wilson wants to stay in the MVP race, this is the type of game he has to win. Pick: Seahawks +1.5


Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Dolphins -2.5 | Total: 48


The Dolphins (5-3) are the team people thought the Chargers (2-6) might be this season. It’s not that Los Angeles has been particularly bad, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about two wins in eight games. Miami has been an absolute joy to watch on both sides of the ball, and in its current 4-0 stretch, it has had a combined score of 129-65.


Quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa were in the same draft class, and appear on their way to starring in the league for years to come. For now, Tagovailoa’s team seems far better. Pick: Dolphins -2.5


Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Steelers -6.5 | Total: 47.5


Despite being on the COVID-19 reserve list because of a close contact, Ben Roethlisberger is in line to play this week, provided he doesn’t test positive himself. Regardless, he won’t be able to practice all week, which would be a bigger deal if the Steelers (8-0) were facing a defense more competent than that of the Bengals (2-5-1).


If Roethlisberger is at all limited, the Steelers can simply run their way to a win with James Conner. And while quarterback Joe Burrow has a bright future for Cincinnati, he is very likely not ready for Pittsburgh. Pick: Steelers -6.5


SUNDAY’S OTHER GAMES


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -5 | Total: 50.5


The Buccaneers (6-3) are almost certainly not as bad as they looked against New Orleans on Sunday night, but that loss, coming on the heels of a narrow win over the New York Giants the previous week, has taken a great deal of the shine off Tom Brady’s first season in Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers have picked a poor time to be struggling, as the Panthers (3-6) are rounding into shape. While running back Christian McCaffrey is not expected to play Sunday because of a shoulder injury, the team adjusted in recent weeks to take advantage of the versatility of Curtis Samuel, who excels as a runner and receiver. Pairing Samuel with wide receivers Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore makes the Panthers a team to fear, even for a talented young defense like Tampa Bay’s. Pick: Panthers +5


Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Ravens -7 | Total: 43.5


Both teams are coming off wins, but both wins might not sit all that well. The Ravens (6-2) struggled on offense for much of a victory over Indianapolis, while the Patriots (3-5) needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the winless New York Jets. There are degrees of struggle, however, and while Baltimore may have been exposed in recent weeks as being a step or two below Kansas City in the AFC’s pecking order, New England is only a few steps above the worst teams in the NFL. Pick: Ravens -7


Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Raiders -5 | Total: 51.5


In their past four games, the Raiders (5-3) beat Kansas City, were blown out by Tampa Bay, throttled Cleveland’s high-powered offense and outgunned the Chargers. Not a perfect stretch, but enough to have Las Vegas in line for a playoff spot if the season ended now. The Broncos (3-5) can’t claim the same, but they are at least making things exciting, with 21 points in the fourth quarter in each of the team’s past two games.


To keep up with the Raiders, the Broncos would need to find a way to even out the team’s productivity. Pick: Raiders -5


Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Browns -3 | Total: 53.5


Nick Chubb, the star running back of the Browns (5-3), is practicing this week, and if he is able to go, that would be terrible news for the Texans (2-6), who have a comically inept run defense. While Kareem Hunt has talent, and is a great second option to Chubb, Cleveland is far scarier when the offense goes through Chubb.


Cleveland’s running game might become quickly irrelevant, though, if Deshaun Watson and the Texans can get off to a fast start against a mediocre secondary. Watson was able to carve up Jacksonville’s defense last week with long touchdowns to Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller, and a few of those early in the game could take away the Browns’ primary advantage. Pick: Texans +3


San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -9.5 | Total: 50


It appears as if running back Raheem Mostert may be healthy enough to come off injured reserve to play in this game, but with the 49ers (4-5) collapsing under the weight of a season lost to injuries, a reasonable question is: Why would he do that? A loss to the Saints (6-2) in New Orleans seems all but certain, and if Mostert sits out this game, he gets a bonus week off before the team’s Week 11 bye and can be close to full strength for a division game against Los Angeles in Week 12.


After watching New Orleans throttle the full-strength Buccaneers on Sunday night, it’s hard to believe oddsmakers didn’t make the point spread in this game far wider. Pick: Saints -9.5

Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m., Fox


Line: Packers -12.5 | Total: 51.5


Remember last year when there was concern that coach Matt LaFleur’s offense was relying too heavily on running back Aaron Jones and that quarterback Aaron Rodgers was being minimized? Through eight games, Rodgers is on a pace for 4,506 yards passing, 48 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and the Packers (6-2) are averaging 31.6 points a game. This week, Rodgers is facing the Jaguars (1-7), who have the least efficient pass defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.


How much damage can Rodgers do, at home, against a team that inept? As much as he wants. Pick: Packers -12.5


Washington Football Team at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Lions -3.5 | Total: 46.5


All it took for Alex Smith to get back to starting in the NFL was 17 surgeries on his right leg, the implosion of Dwayne Haskins and a gruesome injury to Kyle Allen (though one far less complicated than Smith’s). It was an improbable path, but the 36-year-old Smith has fought through adversity in his career and won a lot more than he has lost.


So where does that leave the Footballers (2-6)? Certainly no worse off than they were a week ago, when they lost to the lowly Giants, especially when you consider that Washington outscored New York once the switch was made to Smith after Allen’s injury.


The Lions (3-5) are playing at home, and unlike last week when he was on the COVID-19 reserve list, Matthew Stafford will be able to practice. But Smith’s first start in nearly two years might inspire an upset, or something close to one. Pick: Footballers +3.5


Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Eagles -3.5 | Total: 44


Games between NFC East teams should be entertaining because the talent levels are similar. Instead, they are often mistake-filled disappointments in which both teams find new ways to fail. The Eagles (3-4-1) are leading the division, mostly by default, and the Giants (2-7) hardly seem likely to challenge that unless the league finds a way to add several more games against Washington to their schedule. But while the Eagles can and should win, the team rarely covers the spread. Pick: Giants +3.5


MONDAY’S MATCHUP


Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Vikings -2.5 | Total: 45


In coach Mike Zimmer’s six seasons at the helm of the Vikings (3-5), the team has struggled to a 6-19 record in road games against opponents with winning records. That’s the situation Minnesota finds itself in this week, though these Bears (5-4) are far different from your typical winning team.


It’s not that Chicago is inept. The Bears are terrific at defending the run and the pass, but the team’s quarterback, Nick Foles, is a wild card who can look brilliant and ineffective — often in the same series. That has led to Chicago struggling so much to score that the quality of the team’s defense is often irrelevant.


So what will it look like when a Minnesota team that can score but can’t defend faces a Chicago one that can defend but can’t score? Probably a bit of a mess. But the Vikings have the best player on the field in running back Dalvin Cook, they have played well in five of their past six games and the Bears make it much too hard to believe in them, even at home. Pick: Vikings -2.5

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