Friday, November 6, 2015

NFL Week 9 Primer (With Picks): And the Race is On

Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis with the chance to break two of the NFL's most significant records against his old team.
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe

It's crazy to think, but the NFL season is now half-done, and playoff races are already in full swing. While a bunch of divisions are wrapped up, as we said last week, there are still some exciting divisional races, as well as Wild Card battles, going on in both conferences.

I won't waste any more of your time, here are our games of the week and picks against the spread.

Game(s) of The Week

Oakland at Pittsburgh (1 pm, Sunday, CBS)

Beaten and bruised Pittsburgh renews its rivalry with now up-and-coming Oakland in the Steel City. It may seem like a breakthrough for the Raiders to beat the Steelers, but Oakland has actually won the last two against Pittsburgh, a streak the Steelers will want to break at home.

The winner here would get big boost in the race for an AFC Wild Card spot.

Green Bay at Carolina (1 pm, Sunday, FOX)

The Panthers are undefeated, winning with defense and the timely play-making of Cam Newton. Green Bay, meanwhile, has a loss, but is playing surprisingly good defense, and struggling on offense due to injuries. This will be a statement game for both teams and (gasp) could determine home field advantage in the NFC.

Denver at Indianapolis (4:25 pm, Sunday, CBS)

Peyton Manning can set a pair of records against the team he began his career with, in a city that still loves him. With 284 passing yards, Peyton will jump past Brett Favre for the most yards through the air all time, and a win against the Colts will push Manning past Favre for the most wins ever by a starting quarterback, with 187.

Oh yeah, and the Broncos are looking to remain undefeated, while Andrew Luck and the Colts are just trying to get their feet back under them.

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams in CAPS)

Cleveland (+12) over CINCINNATI

I really thought we had this one for a little bit...

Oakland (+4.5) over PITTSBURGH

JC: With Bell out and Roethlisberger still not quite Roethlisberger, Oakland's offense should keep this one pretty close.

JP: The Raiders are rounding into form on both sides of the ball, and Pittsburgh will have to go without LeVeon Bell, and with a still hobbled Ben Roethlisberger. I could see them maybe gutting this game out at home, but no way I'm giving more than a field goal with Pittsburgh's injury situation (missing two starters on the OL as well).

St. Louis (+1.5) over MINNESOTA 

JC: Look, I like the *idea* of Minnesota's offense. Teddy Bridgewater, Stefon Diggs, Mike Wallace, Adrian Peterson - they've got a lot of talent. But the offensive line is shaky and if Peterson doesn't get going then their playaction falls apart. St. Louis should be able to bottle up Peterson and get enough pressure that Minnesota can't take their shots down the field.

JP: There's nothing Gurley about the way this kid Todd plays, amirite? Not that there's anything wrong with playing like a girl, I mean, uh... I'm sorry ladies.

Miami (+3) over BUFFALO

JC: I came into the season thinking both of these teams could be sneaky playoff contenders. Now I hate them both. I hate Miami slightly less, and they're getting the points, so, sure.

JP: Phins up!

NEW ENGLAND (-14) over Washington 

JC: The Patriots vs. The NFC East is going to be an entertaining 4 games this year.

JP: This line would probably have to be around 24 before I'd pick Washington.

Philadelphia (-3) over DALLAS

JC: Dallas kept the Seattle game way closer than I anticipated, but that was probably a mirage. Philadelphia's defense is actually really good, and while the offense is still hit-or-miss, on the weeks where they're hitting, a three-touchdown win isn't unrealistic.

JP: Well, the Cowboys have lost five in a row without Tony Romo, and he's still not playing, so...

Atlanta (-7) over SAN FRANCISCO

JC: I mean, Blaine Gabbert is starting. Let's be serious, here.

JP: Things have gotten so bad for the San Francisco offense, that you can literally not cover their receivers and simply hope that Colin Kaepernick doesn't realize it... And this strategy works! Atlanta is starting to come apart a little bit, but they'll bounce back, at least for one week, against maybe the worst team in football.
Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: NEW YORK JETS (-7.5) over Jacksonville

The New York defense randomly forgot how to tackle last week, and I don't expect it to happen again. Chris Ivory should be able to run amok and Ryan Fitzpatrick seriously is a huge upgrade over Geno Smith (as absurdly ridiculous and inexplicable as it sounds). 

JP: Jacksonville (+7.5) over NEW YORK JETS 

Do you really trust the Jets giving more than a touchdown against anybody after the egg they laid in Oakland last week? I don't, plus a bunch of the Jags skill guys are saving two of my fantasy teams right now, so I'll roll with Jacksonville and the fighting Allens (Robinson and Hurns).

JC: New York Giants (-2.5) over TAMPA BAY

The Giants are a weird team. They could finish the season 12-4 and it wouldn't faze me. They could also finish 6-10 and it wouldn't faze me. Tampa Bay is just a bad team that's gotten lucky a few times. 

JP: TAMPA BAY (+2.5) over New York Giants 

I don't know what to make of the Giants (or anybody in the NFC East, except that none of them are great), but I did just write a piece about how the Bucs are improving, so I should probably pick them this week.

JC: Chicago (+4) over SAN DIEGO

At the very least, Chicago has stayed close in recent weeks, and I'm not too concerned about the Matt Forte injury given San Diego's 32nd-ranked rushing defense. No matter who lines up in the backfield should be able to keep the clock and the sticks moving. 

JP: SAN DIEGO (-4) over Chicago

The Bears aren't quite as awful offensively now that Jay Cutler is back, but Matt Forte might miss this one, and their defense is still among the NFL's worst. San Diego should be able to take this by at least a touchdown at home. 

JC: NEW ORLEANS (-9) over Tennessee

Drew Brees threw for seven touchdown passes last week. Seven. SEVEN. 

JP: Tennessee (+9) over NEW ORLEANS 

The Titans are about to get the interim coach bump! After firing a coach that nobody ever really believed in (Ken Whisenhunt), Tennessee has promoted its tight ends coach to interim head coach. It's like they're the Dolphins, only a month later!

The only difference is their tight ends coach isn't a fire-breathing former player that gets the entire locker room excited, it's fellow failed head coach and journeyman assistant Mike Mularkey, but hey, it's not like the Saints have been consistent this year. Why can't the Titans keep this within 10/snatch a backdoor cover?

JC: INDIANAPOLIS (+6) over Denver 


JP: Denver (-6) over INDIANAPOLIS 

I don't trust anything about the Colts, but I do know the Broncos have the league's best defense, and Peyton Manning has gone from awful to solid game manager. That should be enough to win by a touchdown in the House that Peyton Built.

JC: CAROLINA (+3) over Green Bay

It's the same corollary that served me well last week - if an undefeated team is getting points at home, I take that team.

JP: Green Bay (-3) over CAROLINA 

I've just got to think that, injuries or not, Aaron Rodgers will have this Packers offense playing better sooner than later. The Panthers have a great defense, but the Pack need a statement win, and these are the kinds of games great quarterbacks deliver in.

Jeremy's Record: 
Last Week: 9-5
Season: 64-50-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-2
Season's Disagreements: 16-13-2 

Joe's Record: 
Last Week: 10-4
Season: 61-53-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-1
Season's Disagreements: 13-16-2

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