NFL cheat sheet: Here’s who to watch and why in Week 9
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BEARS at BILLS
Time: Noon, Fox-32.
Line: Bears by 10. Total: 37½.
Records (overall/ATS): Bears 4-3/4-3; Bills 2-5/3-4.
Outlook: Bears defense vs. a withering Bills offense — 31st or 32nd in almost every key category — with Nathan Peterman at QB looks like a decisive match-up for the Bears. Since beating the Vikings 27-6 on the road in Week 3, Bills’ offense has scored a net 21 points in five games, with Derek Anderson and Peterman throwing pick-6s. But Bills defense gives them a chance.
Pick: Bears 20, Bills 13.
LIONS at VIKINGS
Line: Vikings by 4½. Total: 49.
Records (overall/ATS): Lions 3-4/5-2; Vikings 4-3/4-3.
Outlook: Vikings likely bounce back in a big way after losing to the Saints 30-20, when they out-gained the Saints 423-270 but committed two costly turnovers. Lions ran into a Russell Wilson buzz-saw last week. It remains to be seen how they’ll respond after Golden Tate was traded to the Eagles.
Pick: Vikings 23, Lions 16.
BUCCANEERS at PANTHERS
Line: Panthers by 6½. Total: 55.
Records (overall/ATS): Bucs 3-4/3-4; Panthers 5-2/4-3.
Outlook: Bucs turn back to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who rallied them from two TDs down to tie the Bengals (before losing late) after Jameis Winston threw four INTs to put them in a hole. That figures to provide a boost, but the Bucs might be on tilt after their franchise QB failed again.
Pick: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21.
JETS at DOLPHINS
Line: Dolphins by 3. Total: 45.
Records (overall/ATS): Jets 3-5/3-5; Dolphins 4-4/4-4.
Outlook: Dolphins have lost 4 of 5 (beating the Bears) since their 3-0 start — which included a 20-12 road victory over the Jets. With better support from his run game, rookie Sam Darnold should be better than he was in Week 2, when he threw for 334 yards and a TD, but was picked twice.
Pick: Jets 21, Dolphins 17.
FALCONS at REDSKINS
Line: Redskins by 1½. Total: 47.
Records (overall/ATS): Falcons 3-4/2-5; Redskins 5-2/5-2.
Outlook: Falcons have gotten off the mat with two straight victories after a 1-4 start — and they’re coming off their bye week. But the Redskins are on a roll of their own, winning three straight and four of five and riding a revived Adrian Peterson. At 33, Peterson — three years removed from his last 1,000-yard season, if fifth in the NFL with 587 rushing yards, including 345 (5.2 avg.) in his last three games.
Pick: Redskins 31, Falcons 28.
RAMS at SAINTS
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Line: Saints by 1½. Total: 59½.
Records (overall/ATS): Rams 8-0/4-4; Saints 6-1/5-2.
Outlook: Rams are Super Bowl favorites with a knack for winning. But they also seem to be playing with a little fire and due for a fall. The Rams are 1-4 ATS in their last five games, covering only against the one-win 49ers. Saints beat the Vikings by 10 — with Drew Brees throwing for 120 yards. He’s due.
Pick: Saints 27, Rams 23.
PACKERS at PATRIOTS
Line: Patriots by 5½. Total: 56½.
Records (overall/ATS): Packers 3-3-1/3-4; Patriots 5-2/4-3.
Outlook: Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady getting the well-deserved hype, but the Packers really need this one after losing to the Rams when Ty Montgomery’s fumble on a kickoff robbed Rodgers of a chance for a winning FG drive — Rodgers figures to be on point in this one. He’s 1-0 SU/ATS vs. Brady, winning 21-16 in 2014.
Pick: Packers 27, Patriots 26.
TITANS at COWBOYS
Time: 7:15 p.m., Mon., ESPN.
Line: Cowboys by 6½. Total: 41.
Records (overall/ATS): Titans 3-4/4-3; Cowboys 3-4/3-4.
Outlook: Cowboys looking for the fire-the-offensive-line-coach bump after replacing Paul Alexander with former Bears tackle Marc Colombo after a disappointing loss to the Redskins. That usually doesn’t work, but might here. Titans also coming off a bye.
Pick: Cowboys 24, Titans 14.
TEXANS at BRONCOS
Time: 3:05 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 1. Total: 46
Records (Overall/ATS): Texans 5-3/3-5, Broncos 3-5/3-4-1
Outlook: Mid-season trades make a big impact in baseball — Steve Pearce going from the Blue Jays to the World Series MVP with the Red Sox being the latest good example. But not so much in football. With so many moving parts, even skill-position players need a lot of things going their way to succeed with a new team.
But the times seem to be changing. In-season trades have become more and more popular in recent years. Last year, Jay Ajayi gave the Eagles running game a boost after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal with the Dolphins. And Jimmy Garoppolo turned the woebegone 49ers into a team to watch for 2018 when he went 5-0 after being acquired from the Patriots.
The NFL seems to be coming around to the idea that, for all the offseason, preseason and in-season work teams do to meticulously develop the chemistry and familiarity needed to function as a well-oiled machine, the right guy can fit right in. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a disappointment in Green Bay. Now he gives the Redskins a formidable safety tandem with D.J. Swearinger. We’ll see how that works out.
Two wide receiver trades might be the ones to watch. The Lions traded Golden Tate to the Eagles. And the Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas to the Texans — a particularly intriguing move considering the Broncos play the Texans on Sunday.
The Thomas deal makes sense. Thomas, while past his four-time Pro Bowl prime, helps fill the void left by Will Fuller’s injury. The Broncos are making room for up-and-coming receiver Courtland Sutton. Maybe NFL teams should do this more often.
Pick: Texans 23, Broncos 18.
STEELERS at RAVENS
Line: Ravens by 3. Total: 47½
Records (overall/ATS): Steelers 4-2-1/4-3; Ravens 4-4/4-4.
Outlook: Ravens won 26-14 in Week 3, but things have changed for both teams since then. Steelers have scored 41, 28 and 33 points in victories over the Falcons, Bengals and Browns, with James Conner rushing for 110, 111, and 146 yards. Ravens have allowed 43 points in their last five quarters in losses to the Saints (24-23) and Panthers (36-21).
Pick: Steelers 27, Ravens 17.
CHIEFS at BROWNS
Line: Chiefs by 8½. Total: 51.
Records (overall/ATS): Chiefs 7-1/7-1; Browns 2-5-1/5-3.
Outlook: Browns starting over yet again after firing coach Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley after losing to the Steelers. Gregg Williams takes over as interim coach. Chiefs counter with steady Andy Reid and a well-oiled offensive machine led by red-hot Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown 4 TDs in each of his last three games.
Pick: Chiefs 34, Browns 17.
CHARGERS at SEAHAWKS
Time: 3:05 p.m.
Line: Seahawks by 2. Total: 48.
Records (overall/ATS): Chargers 5-2/3-4; Seahawks 4-3/4-2-1.
Outlook: Red-hot Russell Wilson has sparked a Seahawks revival. Wilson has a 140.6 rating (9 TDs, 1 INT) in his last three games — a 33-31 loss to the unbeaten Rams and victories over the Raiders and Lions. Seahawks aren’t the team they once were, but Wilson’s indomitable will can carry them a long way.
Pick: Seahawks 37, Chargers 17.