NFL Picks Week 9 – TJ Calkins Weekly

TJ Calkins NFL Weekly

Thanks for stopping back for week 9. This is our last week of the season with a 9:30AM EST London game, sadly meaning our last week of the year with 14 or 15 consecutive hours of football. We are starting to see some real heat on poor head coaches, and Anthony Lynn even played the last get out of jail free card he had in firing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Freddie Kitchens is also skating on thin ice in Cleveland as the Browns continue to be undisciplined and a penalty magnet with a propensity for turnovers. These things would be more easily overlooked if the team wasn’t legitimately costing itself wins. Matt Nagy is certainly feeling the heat and becomes more and more like Adam Gase in his coaching and press conferences every week. Speaking of Gase, he may lose two head coaching jobs in two seasons as well. We also have more quarterback carnage as Joe Flacco is out for week 9, meaning Brandon Allen will make his first NFL start. Patrick Mahomes is looking like he has a very real chance to return this week after missing just one week with the dislocated kneecap.

This piece is being created a bit earlier in the week than normal so I am left projecting news a bit, with Patrick Mahomes being the largest piece of news that is an unknown. The reason for this being early is my best friend is getting married on Friday and I’ll be out of town for a few days. I will attempt to leave a mini flow chart for news on each pertinent play. Let’s get to the games and plays this week.

Play Of The Week

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

4:25 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Broncos -1 and 43
  • Current Line: Browns -2 and 40

The big news early in the week is Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco being ruled out, making way for Brandon Allen to make his first career start against the Browns ample pass rush. The Broncos enter at 2-6 and the Browns enter at 2-5, but there are polar opposite looks to these teams. The Broncos are slow paced and low scoring and attempt to let their defense win games. The Browns have shown the capability behind their hype, but simply can’t get out of their own way in the penalty and turnover departments. The players and coaching staff are wholly aware of these issues and it should be a spot where the warts get a band aid for a week or so. This is also the second game the Browns are playing this season against a quarterback playing their first NFL game. The outcome in the first one was a 23-0 shutout win, and we could be in for something similar here. Even if the passing game is held in check by the Denver secondary, Browns running back Nick Chubb has emerged as a true high end rushing threat, and will be the difference if this game is played close, but I suspect the Browns will run away with this one as our play of the week.

Betting Play: Browns -2

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

9:30AM EST in London

  • Opening Line: Texans -2 and 47.5
  • Current Line: Texans -2 and 47

The Jaguars play their yearly London game, and it is a divisional matchup with the Texans. The Texans continued their propensity for playing very close games at the level of their competition as they beat Oakland by three at home. The Jaguars tend to have a wider range of outcomes each week and it generally reflects the performance of quarterback Gardner Minshew. He was quite solid last week and the Jags rolled to an easy win over the Jets. The offense on the other side is more potent this week, but the Jags generally have more trouble with capable running teams than they do high end passing offenses. The Texans certainly fall into the category of the latter and I don’t anticipate the Texans putting on a scoring clinic this week. This is a strength vs strength and weakness vs weakness game as the Texans offense and Jaguars defense are certainly better for their respective teams. While I think the Jaguars offense will be the determining factor in this game and lean towards them, I believe it to be most prudent to fade this game.

No plays

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Bills -10 and 36.5
  • Current Line: Bills -10 and 37

The Bills loss last week dropped them to 5-2 on the season after being gashed by the Eagles run game, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. They obviously have a high end record through seven games, but their total point differential is only +16 and they are another team that has a propensity for playing bad teams close and eeking out wins. The Redskins certainly fall in the category of bad team, and with the run heavy style of Bill Callahan, they play slow boring games. If quarterback Case Keenum is cleared from the concussion protocol and named the starter for this game, it’s simply one to stay away from because of the Bills track record. The Bills (and any other team the Redskins might be playing on any given week) would however, become a play if Dwayne Haskins were named the starting quarterback for the Redskins. It would be quite a reasonable bet for a shutout at that point and 10 would seem like a very small point spread.

Betting Play (if Haskins starts): Bills -10

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Panthers -4 and 40
  • Current Line: Panthers -3.5 and 41

The Titans got their second consecutive win last week since Ryan Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback. The first game had the look of receivers Corey Davis and AJ Brown coming alive and adding an element of dynamism to the offense, but the pair face planted in a Charmin soft matchup with the Bucs last week, despite getting the W. The matchup this week is much more difficult for the passing game and the Titans have had real difficulty running the ball effectively. They could have tough sledding moving the ball against the Panthers balanced defense. Kyle Allen had his worst game as a starter last week and suffered his first loss in five games in the blowout by the 49ers. The offense completely sputtered outside of the league’s best player, Christian McCaffrey. In a game that may be lacking for points, the side with McCaffrey is without a question the side to lean towards. He will get the job done as both a runner and a receiver, and the defense will hold up their end. I believe the Panthers to be objectively better than the Titans on both sides of the ball.

Betting Play: Panthers -3.5

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Eagles -3 and 45
  • Current Line: Eagles -5 and 43.5

Skipping to the end for a moment, this was an unfortunate line movement as it took any value out of a potential Eagles play at home. Bears coach Matt Nagy finally committed to the run last week and rookie David Montgomery rewarded him with 135 yards and a score on 27 carries. This is a plus for the outlook of the Bears going forward as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has proven he is anything but the future of the franchise and has peaked at best and more likely regressed despite being just 25 years old. For this week, attempting to run in volume against the Eagles is generally a fool’s errand and this is a spot that could make or break Trubisky’s future in an extremely exploitable passing matchup. Can he step up and get the job done? I guess, maybe, but it’s certainly not something to place a wager on. On the Eagles side of the ball, this finally looks to be the week that wide receiver Desean Jackson gets back on the field and adds that element to the passing game that brings it to the next, indefensible level. Teams are left with the choice of paying him extra attention deep or keeping the tight ends in check in the middle of the field without room for both. Additionally the Eagles running game has stepped up of late and the Bears are hurting in that department without run stuffer Akiem Hicks. This game is Eagles or pass and with the line already spiking to 5, pass is the better option.

No plays

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Chiefs -3 and 46
  • Current Line: Pickem and 48

The Vikings kept rolling last week in an easy matchup with the Redskins bringing them to 6-2 on the season. The early portion of the season appeared as if the offense was going to be completely one dimensional with Dalvin Cook leading the way on the ground, but they have found balance in recent weeks and quarterback Kirk Cousins has played much better. The defense is good and balanced, but the outcome of this game likely isn’t decided by anyone on the Vikings. It appears Patrick Mahomes returns for the Chiefs this week, and his presence is likely the determining factor. Coach Andy Reid had some atrocious mistakes at the end of last week’s loss to the Packers, including a cowardly and ill advised punt late in the game and idiotic time out use that cost the team 40 seconds with them in full need of getting another possession. He did do one thing correctly, and that is go back to his top running back Damien Williams after Lesean McCoy lost a fumble in the third quarter. With Williams playing the majority of the snaps in the fourth quarter, they found the end zone and snapped a touchdown drought that spanned the entire second half and an additional eight plus minutes to close the first half. Mahomes and Williams had extremely real chemistry in 2018 and he has been the missing link that has kept this offense from maintaining juggernaut status in recent weeks. If Mahomes is under center, the line will move, and KC is a play at -3 or less. If it is Matt Moore under center again and the line is Minnesota -1 or less, they are a play.

Betting Play: See above…

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Jets -6.5 and 41
  • Current Line: Jets -5.5 and 41

There’s not much good afoot when a football team opens as less than a touchdown favorite against the Dolphin, and that line is immediately bet even lower. This is simply a matchup of two very bad football teams, entering with a combined record of 1-13. The Jets are simply a struggling offense, as has been the MO of Gase coached teams. Not even LeVeon Bell has been able to get going, but this matchup could be a get right spot for him. The Jets defense is sound against the run and more exploitable by the pass, and Miami has woken up in that department on offense since Ryan Fitzpatrick was reinserted as the starting quarterback. I never dreamed I would be saying this a month ago, but with Miami playing vastly improved football with Fitzpatrick, they are truly in play to win this game. I think this will be a close game the whole way and will ultimately be decided by less than a score, and the underdog is attractive here. Take the points with the Dolphins.

Betting Play: Dolphins +5.5

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Pickem and 43
  • Current Line: Colts -1 and 43

The Colts got a win last week, but it was an ugly one, only scoring 15 points and beating the lowly Broncos by two. The Colts are another team that generally plays close games as evidenced by their 5-2 record but only sitting at +7 on point differential. The Steelers are quite similar in that regard, they have a +5 point differential, yet they sit at 3-4. Both teams play sound defense, want to run the ball and have limitations to their passing games after losing their starting quarterbacks at one point or another in 2019. If this game is decided before late in the fourth quarter, it will mean one team turned the ball over far more than the other. Very close game to sit out of.

No plays

Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders

4:05PM EST

  • Opening Line: Pickem and 51
  • Current Line: Lions -2 and 50.5

The Lions had a second consecutive game last week that saw their passing game return high end numbers, the difference was it was in a win last week after unsuccessfully trying to catch the Vikings the week before. Losing Kerryon Johnson relegates the Lions to more of a passing team with a mixed back at running back that can’t truly carry the load. That will play to their advantage this week against a Riaders secondary that’s allowed nine passing touchdown over the last two weeks in consecutive losses. The Raiders are sound at stopping the run and running the ball, but have real trouble covering intermediate and deep routes and their limitations in the passing game make them a team that has a tough time coming back once they’ve surrendered a lead. The Lions are the opposite, and even if they are losing early, some volume for Stafford in this matchup will give them every opportunity to come back in a game they’re losing and also to hold any lead they grab. Take the Lions with the favorable line on the road.

Betting Play: Lions -2

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks

4:05 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Seahawks -5.5 and 53.3
  • Current Line: Seahawks -6.5 and 52.5

The Buccaneers are a mistake prone team, albeit with a high end passing game. They aren’t great at running the ball on offense but Chris Godwin and his sidekick Mike Evans give them a dynamic duo of wide receivers that generally keep their own point total high enough to be competitive. On the defensive side of the ball, they remain a pass funnel that is stout against the run. This type of team is one that can give the senile and inept brain trust of the Seahawks issues. The Seahawks were our play of the year last week against Matt Schaub in a spot start, and lead 24-0 at half. To put an emphasis on how much the coaching holds this Seahawks team back, the final ended up being 27-20 despute Schaub being under center. This is another spot where there simply won’t be enough passing volume for Russell Wilson to cover comfortably, and the underdog is going to be the correct play in most Seahawks games. Take the Bucs and hope Jameis Winston limits himself to just one turnover in this one.

Betting Play: Buccaneers +6.5

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

4:25 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Broncos -1 and 43
  • Current Line: Browns -2 and 40

The big news early in the week is Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco being ruled out, making way for Brandon Allen to make his first career start against the Browns ample pass rush. The Broncos enter at 2-6 and the Browns enter at 2-5, but there are polar opposite looks to these teams. The Broncos are slow paced and low scoring and attempt to let their defense win games. The Browns have shown the capability behind their hype, but simply can’t get out of their own way in the penalty and turnover departments. The players and coaching staff are wholly aware of these issues and it should be a spot where the warts get a band aid for a week or so. This is also the second game the Browns are playing this season against a quarterback playing their first NFL game. The outcome in the first one was a 23-0 shutout win, and we could be in for something similar here. Even if the passing game is held in check by the Denver secondary, Browns running back Nick Chubb has emerged as a true high end rushing threat, and will be the difference if this game is played close, but I suspect the Browns will run away with this one as our play of the week.

Betting Play: Browns -2

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Chargers

4:25 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Packers -4 and 46
  • Current Line: Packers -3 and 46.5

The Packers were able to escape with a victory in Arrowhead last week thanks to Chiefs coach Andy Reid having his achilles heels pop up and bite him, despite being against journeyman backup uarterback Matt Moore. The Packers sit at 7-1 but have the look of having more fraudulence than the other high end teams, and oddsmakers agree as they are only a three point favorite at the 3-5 Chargers. The Packers offense almost wholly revolves around the running back position, and Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams form a sound 1-2 punch, but they have true limitations throwing to wide receivers when Davante Adams is off the field. He could return this week and it would make me lean the Packers way, but the Chargers have a funny way about them of playing to the level of their competition despite incompetent coaching. We also don’t know what the running deployment will look like after the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy or if there will be any real changes to the offense as a whole. This is a situation to avoid.

No Plays

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

8:20PM EST

  • Opening Line: Patriots -6.5 and 46.5
  • Current Line: Patriots -3.5 and 44.5

The 8-0 Patriots travel to Baltimore, I’ll just say it point blank, to get their ninth win of the season. Their defense remains a juggernaut having allowed just 61 points in eight games. The oddsmakers were slightly disrespectful to the Pats opening this line at 6.5, but the betting public has lost its mind betting this down to just 3.5. The Patriots have lost just once to the Ravens in the regular season since their inception. The Ravens have real limitations in the passing game with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, and they will be unable to move the ball through the air, likely turning it over in the process. The Pats offense will do what it always does, steadily move the ball with balance and score plenty enough to make the game not in question at the end of it. The only way the Ravens keep this close is if Mark Ingram has a massive day on the ground, and that is highly unlikely once the Pats jump out in front. Take the Pats on Sunday night.

Betting Play: Patriots -3.5

Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

8:15PM EST Monday Night

  • Opening Line: Cowboys -9 and 47
  • Current Line: Cowboys -7 and 48

The Cowboys travel to the east coast for a divisional matchup with the Giants and the teams’ second meeting of the season. The Cowboys won the first matchup at home handily, but the Giants still had Eli Manning under center for that one and despite the limitations of Daniel Jones, he’s still an upgrade. The oddsmakers definitely opened this point spread too wide, as the Cowboys have been suspect on the road this season. Bettors caught on quick and attacked the Cowboys on the road. Their only win has come at lowly Washington and they have even lost to the 1-7 Jets. This matchup likely boils down to how efficient Dak Prescott can be with receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. The presence of elite playmakers Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram on the Giants likely keeps this game close, but the Cowboys have had offensive success against the Giants and there just isn’t an attractive play after the line was bet down. Sit out on Monday night.

No plays

Want to get the latest news and exclusive offers?

Sign up for our newsletter now!