What is worth betting in the NFL in Week 9? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Eric Moody, Tyler Fulghum, Seth Walden, Anita Marks and Aaron Schatz are here to provide their thoughts.
Note: Odds by ESPN BET.
There are some huge matchups this week, starting with Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) in Germany. Also, there’s the Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-3) and Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens (-6). Which of these games do you feel strongest about and why?
Fulghum: How about I give you the sides I like in order of confidence:
#1 is Eagles -3. Philadelphia once again looks like the class of the NFC and although Dallas has looked dominant against some weak or mediocre competition this season, the one time they stepped up into the elite class of the NFC, they got hammered 42-10 in Santa Clara by the 49ers. With this game in Philly, I like the Eagles to win and cover.
#2 is Ravens -6. Lamar Jackson is 17-1 in his career vs. NFC competition. The Cardinals scored 10 points in the final 1:18 last week to get the back door cover against Baltimore. They are starting to peak. Seattle is a good team, but the fact this number is a touchdown should tell you something. The Ravens are one of the best teams in the league.
#3 is Chiefs -1.5. This is a coin flip. It could go either way and nothing would surprise. Patrick Mahomes off a loss? Sure, I’ll take it.
Walder: Give me Dolphins +1.5. The Chiefs wide receiver problem is absolutely for real: Kansas City ranks by far the worst in team receiver tracking metrics. In other words: It’s not just your eyes, the data backs up that these wideouts aren’t getting open, generating YAC and – most drastically – making catches as much as an average group of WRs would. Mahomes can make up for that against many opponents, but it will be tough against Miami who has clearly the best offense in football and, now, Jalen Ramsey back on defense.
Schatz: I’m also going with Dolphins +1.5. I don’t really like any of these lines as bets, but if I want to choose one, I’m going with the record-setting Miami running game against a weak Chiefs run defense (23rd in DVOA, 31st in Run Stop Win Rate) that will be missing linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay. There’s also just the general idea that offense is more consistent than defense and special teams, which favors improvement from a Miami team that ranks No. 1 in offense but could get positive regression from defense (22nd, and just got Jalen Ramsey back) and special teams (25th).
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (-2). This snaps a streak of 26 consecutive games that the Bills were favored. Are you betting on the Bills or the Bengals in this one?
Moody: I’m betting on the Bengals, who are on a three-game winning streak and will play the Bills at home. Buffalo is perceived as having a high-flying offense, but since Week 5, they have averaged 21 points per game. Josh Allen and this team won’t intimidate the Bengals because Cincinnati beat Buffalo in the AFC Divisional Round last year. We all watched what Burrow and company did to the mighty 49ers defense last week. On Sunday, the Bengals should be able to take care of business against the Bills’ injury-plagued defense. Buffalo is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games.
Fulghum: This is a tough one. I really want to back the Bills to validate my pre-season fade of the Bengals, but after their dreadful start, Cincinnati is starting to look as dangerous as ever. That win in San Francisco was very impressive, even if the 49ers were missing LT Trent Williams and WR Deebo Samuel. Joe Burrow looks completely healed from his calf injury, and Buffalo’s pass defense has taken big hits with the injuries to CB Tre’Davious White and LB Matt Milano. I’m probably going to stay away from betting this game, but I understand the love for the Bengals -2.
Schatz: I know the Bills defense has been awful since losing Matt Milano, Tre’Davious White and DaQuan Jones, while the Bengals defense has been better in recent weeks, and Joe Burrow finally looked back to himself against the 49ers last week. And yet, I wonder about a little bit of recency bias here. The Bills still have a very good offense, and their defense should be closer to average instead of bad. The Bengals still have some questions on defense, and the great Burrow game was still just one game. I would rather push this to Bills +3 if I can get reasonable odds, but if I have to choose on the given line, I’ll go Bills +2.
Marks: I’m taking the Bengals -2. A healthy Joe Burrow is one you cannot stop! His last three games have been terrific, especially last week against the 49ers when Burrow tossed 19 straight completions. He is sporting a 118 QB rating the last three games. The Bills defense is dealing with injuries to their linebacker core and secondary. Buffalo will have a difficult time slowing the Bengals offense down.
Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes are the co-favorites (+375) to win MVP ahead of their matchup this week. Which do you see with the better chance to win, or is there another player you prefer at the current odds?
Moody: Tagovailoa has the better chance to win. With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins offense leads the league in passing yards and points scored per game. Hill’s pursuit of making NFL history also benefits Tagovailoa. With 1,014 receiving yards, he leads the league and is on pace to become the first receiver to surpass 2,000 receiving yards in a season for the first time in NFL history. In addition, the Dolphins have a more favorable schedule for the remainder of the season than the Chiefs. Outside of tight end Travis Kelce, Mahomes is also hampered by a lack of viable receivers.
Fulghum: Are we sleeping on Jalen Hurts (+400)? The Eagles, not the Dolphins or Chiefs, own the best record in the NFL at 7-1. Philadelphia’s schedule is brutal for the next seven weeks (DAL, @ KC, BUF, SF, @ DAL, @ SEA). All that does, though, is provide ample opportunity to seize control of the award. If they get through that gauntlet maintaining the best record in the league, Hurts will emerge as an odds-on favorite. Frankly, I think they can and will do so.
Walder: For me the choice is between Mahomes or Josh Allen (+1200). Relative to Tagovailoa, I think Mahomes is the easier choice for two reasons: He’s the better player and He has the narratives working in his favor, while Tagovailoa doesn’t. If the Chiefs win, it will be because Mahomes did it without wide receivers. On the Dolphins, it’s not even clear if Tagovailoa is the MVP of his own offense considering Tyreek Hill’s performance. Ultimately I think Allen is still a strong contender. Buffalo has the second-best EPA/P on offense this season and while he is absolutely within striking distance of going on a run.
What is your favorite prop bet on Sunday?
Fulghum: Chuba Hubbard OVER 46.5 rush yds (-114). Hubbard has taken over the lead role in the Carolina backfield. In week 8, Hubbard played 67% of the snaps and handled 75% of the RB rush attempts. The Colts are a team that plays at such a fast pace they juice opponent play volume. Plus, they’re not particularly effective at defending the run. I expect Hubbard to maintain that stranglehold on the Panthers backfield and earn 15+ touches in this game.
Moody: Davante Adams OVER 73.5 receiving yards. Adams hasn’t been happy with how he’s been used this season. Following an overthrow from Jimmy Garoppolo on what would have likely been a touchdown, his frustrations boiled over on Monday Night Football against the Lions. Following that game the Raiders have fired head coach Josh McDaniel and named Aidan O’Connell the starter for the remainder of the season. Adams should be heavily targeted and successful against the Giants’ young and exploitable secondary. The veteran receiver has had 59 career games with 10 or more targets. In those games, Adams averaged 103.6 receiving yards.
Walder: Montez Sweat UNDER 0.5 sacks (-114). My model prices this at -149 and while that’s accounting for Sweat now being on a substantial underdog in this game, it’s not specifically working in that he no longer has the benefit of playing alongside to Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Chase Young. Chicago’s pass rush is much worse, and that hurts Sweat’s chances to record a sack.
Schatz: Dalton Kincaid over 37.5 receiving yards. Kincaid has 140 yards in two games since the Bills lost Dawson Knox. The Bengals are 29th in DVOA against tight ends, allowing 59 yards per game to the position.
Is there anything else you’re playing on Sunday?
Fulghum: Raiders-Giants UNDER 37.5. Woof. The Giants have scored an NFL-low 95 points this season. Ninety-five! That’s 11.9 PPG. LOL. I don’t care if it’s Daniel Jones or Tyrod Taylor or Tommy DeVito quarterbacking this team. The offense is terrible. The Raiders just fired Josh McDaniels and demoted QB Jimmy Garrapolo. Antonio Pierce, a former linebacker, will step in as the interim head coach. The Raiders are likely to become a tough-nosed, grinding type of team down the stretch.
Moody: Rashee Rice OVER 45.5 receiving yards. Rice has surpassed 45.5 receiving yards in three consecutive games. He’s averaged 5.0 targets per game over that time frame. In last week’s shocking loss to the Broncos, Rice played the most snaps among all Chiefs receivers. Against the Dolphins, Kansas City will be looking to bounce back. Rice has a very favorable matchup against Miami slot cornerback Kader Kohou. I’d be shocked if head coach Andy Reid and Mahomes don’t take advantage of this matchup.
Moody: Jonathan Taylor OVER 64.5 rushing yards. Taylor has rushed for 64.5 yards in two consecutive games. Last week against the Saints he played a season high in offensive snaps since returning from injury. Although Taylor is still in a committee with Zack Moss, the Panthers’ matchup on Sunday is too juicy to pass up. The Panthers’ defense has allowed 139.4 rushing yards per game to opponents. This season, the Colts’ offensive line ranks ninth in run block win rate. Over the course of his career, Taylor has rushed at least 10 times in 40 games. In those games, he averaged 97.4 rushing yards.
Walder: Nate Landman OVER 7.5 tackles + assists (-110). My model projects 8.2 tackles + assists for Landman, but I think even that is low given that Jaren Hall will likely be starting in place of the injured Kirk Cousins. Yes, that is reflected in the spread and therefore to some degree in the model. But I think it means the Vikings will have to shift into less of a pass-first team and that is not reflected in the model’s forecast. Thus, the over.
Schatz: Buccaneers-Texans OVER 39.5 (-120). The Texans and Buccaneers both struggle to run the ball, and the Texans defense is better against the run than the pass. (The Bucs defense is roughly even.) That means offenses likely going to the air to move the ball, which suggests a faster pace and more scoring. Both teams are above average in pace this season. These teams can’t continue to be as successful on third downs – they are second and first in DVOA, respectively – but I still think they can score enough points to go over this line.
Marks: Joe Burrow MVP: The proof is in the pudding. The Bengals have gone 3-0 since Burrow has healed from his calf injury. He is sporting a 78% completion percentage, 118 QB Rating and has tossed 8 TDs his last three games (compared to 2 TDs his first four games). If the Bengals win the AFC North, it will be because of Burrow, and one can argue no one is more valuable to their team than Cool Joe!