NFL Week 9: Frightening Slate of Games for NFL’s Halloween Weekend
Halloween is upon us and, in honor of the holiday, the National Football League has laid out a slate of games that are frightening. Not in that there are strong matchups; only one game (the Chicago/Green Bay tilt) features two teams with winning records. It is in the fact that these games may be so close that it would be a better option not to head to the bookmakers to lay down a bet!
We don’t let that daunt us here, however. We’ll break each game down, as horrendous as the schedule might be, so you can have a treat in some knowledge in making your wagers (home team in CAPS, choice for game in BOLD, lines from the Mirage in Las Vegas).
Cincinnati Bengals (-3) vs. MIAMI DOLPHINS
The Bengals have been one of the surprises to this point in the season, but it has been a quiet surprise. The ‘Cats from Cincy have a 6-2 record halfway through the season (a full 2½ games better than the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens) and quarterback Andy Dalton has been using his array of offensive weapons (WR A. J. Green and RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard) to their utmost efficiency in achieving that record.
After starting the season strong, the Dolphins have fallen on hard times. Last week’s loss to the New England Patriots was their fourth in a row and they are in danger of falling out of the wild card chase with a loss in this game. Expect that to happen as the Bengals just have too much offense for the ‘Fins defense to stop.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) vs. BUFFALO BILLS
The final undefeated team left in the NFL, the Chiefs barely eked out a win last week over Cleveland last week to keep that record intact. Still, the Chiefs have been doing what you have to do – beat the teams on your schedule – even if said teams are a bit on the weak side (the Chiefs have yet to face a team with a winning record and the eight opponents they have played are a combined 20-41).
Buffalo might provide the Chiefs with a bit of a road test, but it will be the home field advantage at Ralph Wilson Stadium and the defense that provides the edge rather than the offense. Injuries have ravaged the Bills to the point that QB Thad Lewis is the starter and RB C. J. Spiller has been sitting for a few games. I’d like to go with the Bills here, but I just don’t see a way that they can mount enough offense against the Chiefs. The first Chief loss isn’t coming in this game.
Minnesota Vikings vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (-10)
On their home turf in Jerry Jones’ football palace in Arlington, the Cowboys have been close to unbeatable. The only home tilt they lost was a shootout against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and, in their four home games, the ‘Pokes have averaged 36.5 points per game. The woeful Vikings coming to town should have QB Tony Romo whetting his fingers to sling the football around AT&T Stadium and the Cowboys defense, without any significant passing game from the ‘Vikes to worry about, can concentrate on stopping RB Adrian Peterson. This one could get ugly fast.
Tennessee Titans (-3) vs. ST. LOUIS RAMS
After nearly pulling off the upset on Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams have a short week in turning around for a Titan team that is looking to keep pace with the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. How the Titans have been doing it is the proverbial “smoke and mirrors” trick. QB Jake Locker has been adequate in the pocket, but RB Chris Johnson has been a huge disappointment. Due to the quick turnaround (and the factor that the Rams will put QB Kellen Clemens in for his second consecutive start), expect the Titans to take this one down.
New Orleans Saints vs. NEW YORK JETS (+6.5)
This is one of the tougher games to handicap this weekend. The Saints’ last trip outside of a dome was to New England, who handed them their first loss of the season. New York beat the Patriots at home two weeks ago (due to the “second level push” penalty called in overtime). With those things in mind, you might believe that the Jets would pull this one out. I can’t go with a Jets win outright (not against QB Drew Brees), but I can see them keeping it close enough that they cover the spread.
San Diego Chargers (Pick ‘em) vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Although it looks like ‘Skins QB Robert Griffin III is beginning to round into form, he took some pretty devastating hits against the Broncos last week in a loss. San Diego, coming off a bye week, will be as close to full strength as possible. With their sixth ranked passing game from a revitalized Phillip Rivers and a fifteenth ranked running game, the ‘Bolts will be able to beat the “West Coast team heading east” curse that can sometimes be a great predictor of games.
Atlanta Falcons vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (-7.5)
The Panthers are threatening to be one of the teams that contend for a wild card berth from the NFC at the end of the season (it is highly unlikely they’ll catch the Saints for the division title). Behind QB Cam Newton, who seems to have rediscovered the skills that he had in his rookie year, a physical running game and a stout defense, the Panthers are only a half-game back for the final playoff spot.
The Falcons have lost the illusion that they are a power team in the NFC, mostly due to injuries that have wreaked havoc on their wide receiving corps. After losing last week to the Arizona Cardinals (by two touchdowns), it will be tough to take the Dirty Birds again over the course of the remainder of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (-2.5)
The only reason to take the Raiders in this game is that they are at home. The Raiders defense seems to come alive in front of the “Black Hole” gang and QB Terrelle Pryor puts on his best performances also. The Eagles quarterback situation is in flux once again, with Michael Vick reinjured and Nick Foles a “probable” at game time. With the win, the Raiders can at least keep pace in what has become arguably the strongest division in the NFL (AFC West) and, with the loss, the Eagles can start looking at next year, even in the weak NFC East.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-16.5)
Normally I would take the points here (it’s tough to give up double-digit points, especially in pro sports), but the Seahawks home field advantage is so dominant that they should cover even a spread such as this easily. Tampa isn’t bringing much offense (especially with RB Doug Martin out for the game) and the ‘Hawks defense should feast on rookie QB Mike Glennon. Expect a big day out of Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch.
Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Browns would have had a chance in this game if their quarterback situation wasn’t one of the big soap operas of the NFL season. QB Jason Campbell will start again for Cleveland this week and, even though he led the Browns to a near-upset of the Kansas City Chiefs, I don’t expect him to do it two games in a row. The Ravens have to get RB Ray Rice into gear; to this point of the season, he is averaging less than three yards per carry. QB Joe Flacco and the receivers can only keep the Ravens afloat for so long, especially with the winds (and cold) of November coming.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-7)
There was a day when this game would have been appointment television. That day isn’t this weekend as an inept 2-5 Steelers squad that can’t pass, can run and can’t defend head into Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots. It’s not like the Pats have an awe-inspiring team this year either. They do have enough, though, to be able to take down the Steelers by more than the spread.
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS
It seems the bookmakers are giving out a treat for Halloween in this game. I find it hard to believe that a Colts team, hitting on all cylinders and coming off a bye week, is only a 2½ point favorite on the road against a Texans team that has benched its starting quarterback (Matt Schaub) in favor or Case Keenum. This one could be decided by halftime in the Colts’ favor.
Chicago Bears vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-11)
The oldest rivalry in the NFL (and, as pointed out above, the only game between two winning teams this weekend) would have been a great one had the Bears not suffered two tough injuries. QB Jay Cutler and LB Lance Briggs were both injured in the Bears last game and will not be in the lineup for this one. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a running game to assist his already stellar passing attack (even if it is with guys way down the depth chart), leading me to believe that the Packers will take this one handily.
Last Week: This is how you do it! A 9-4 week, the best record of the season to this point. Let’s see if I can hit double digits this weekend.
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