Down the Lines: NFL Week 9 predictions

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Lynne Sladky | Associated Press

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Hopes are high Tagovailoa will be the best of the 22 quarterbacks to start for Miami since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season.

Wes Sanderson, Columnist

Week 9 of the NFL is sort of a snooze fest in terms of big match-ups. With four teams on the bye week, three of which have been great investments on a week-to-week basis against the spread, Week 9 should be used to recover potential losses, or better yet take a break. 

Nevertheless, there is still value in some games this weekend if you are only looking at the money lines. Here are three games that should provide for potential upside starting on noon sunday.

 

NFL Week 9

Chicago Bears (+6.5) vs. Tennessee Titans O/U: 46.5 Kickoff: noon Sunday

Underperformance is the word I would use to depict this 5-3 Chicago Bears team. While Head Coach Matt Nagy did make a change at quarterback early this season, replacement Nick Foles has not done any better than his predecessor Mitch Trubisky. Foles has completed less than 65% of his passes and has eight touchdowns to seven interceptions. 

The Bears offense sits in the bottom-six of the league, according to ProFootballFocus. Running back David Montgomery’s inability to run between the tackles and find open turf has made an already struggling offense very one dimensional.

Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (9) kneels on the field in the closing minutes of a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (Kelvin Kuo | Associated Press)

The Tennessee Titans offense though is run by one of the most physical running backs in the AFC. Derrick Henry has been the Titans workhorse this season. Henry has rushed 161 times from scrimmage for eight scores and is averaging just under five yards per carry. The Bears front seven will need to find a way to neutralize Henry and prevent the fifth-year back from making a meal out of Sunday’s match-up.

I’m not going to make a pick on who I think will win this football game, but my gut is leaning towards a Titans win at home. I will say that I like the under at 46 points just due to defensive play on both sides.

 

Miami Dolphins (+3.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals (-198) O/U: 48.5 Kickoff: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

The Miami Dolphins are coming off a strong performance last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Correction; a strong defensive performance against the Rams. Anyone who watched the Dolphins offense struggle to find anything through the air wondered why the fins, who are in the hunt for a possible playoff spot, benched veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for rookie Tua Tagovailoa.

In his debut, Tagovailoa threw for only 93 yards, one score and also committed a fumble. It is very hard to grade this offense after just one week with Tagovailoa behind center, but PFF still has Miami as one of the 10 worst offenses in the league. I cannot imagine it will look better this week with running back Miles Gaskins being placed on injury reserve.

The Cardinals on the other hand, are in a position to win the NFC West division and pay out dividends to those of us who put stock in this offense to start the season. Quarterback Kyler Murray has looked good in Phoenix this season, completing 13 touchdowns for almost 1,900 yards. Murrays ability to run as well has logged him another seven scores and just under 500 yards rushing. 

Murray is not the only threat on the Cardinals offense. Running backs Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds have contributed for 700 yards and five scores between the two of them. Edmonds has also proven to be a threat catching out of the backfield, logging 222 yards and two touchdowns receiving. Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk have also logged eight scores this season and both averaging over 10 yards per reception this season.

I’m taking Arizona outright in this game just due to the volatility of the Cardinals offense. I also like the over on the points for the same reason.

 

New Orleans Saints (+188) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers O/U: 51.5 Kickoff: 7:20 p.m. Sunday

This could be Tampa Bay’s statement game to place a chokehold on the NFC South. While the Saints offense has looked very flat since losing receiver Michale Thomas during it’s week one showdown against the Bucs, Tampa Bay has turned into one of the top-10 offenses in the league, according to PFF.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) eludes Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) as he throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken) (AP)

Thomas is expected to return for the first time since week one, but will the addition of Thomas be enough to out duel this Tampa Bay offense? I argue no because quarterback Tom Brady has again found form at the right time. Brady has thrown for just under 2,200 yards, 20 touchdowns to four interceptions, making him one of the five most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. 

The Buccaneers offense is stacked at all skill positions. Running backs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournetter are both averaging 4.5 yards-per-carry, making them effective change-of-pace players. 

Tampa Bay’s receiving corp is one that is going to prove again to be hard to cover. Receivers Scotty Miller, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have combined for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Longtime Brady target, Rob Gronkowski also has over 300 receiving yards and three scores on the year. This Buccaneers offense looks unstoppable, but now add in wide receiver Antonio Brown and you are looking at the clear favorite to play in the Super Bowl.

Whether the Saints have Michael Thomas back or not, I’m not sure it’s going to matter much against a stout Tampa Bay team that can hurt you on both sides of the ball. I’m taking Brady and the Bucs outright and the over.