It’s Halloween time, the World Series is over, and the NFL’s regular season is entering its second half. For a handful of elite teams, the next nine weeks are just about keeping up the pace. But for many teams in the NFL, who will make the playoffs is still a burning question.

The New England Patriots look to stay undefeated as they travel to face their toughest opponent so far: Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Their Sunday night clash highlights the Week 9 matchups.

In London, the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars square off to settle the score in a tightly contested AFC South division. The Colts and Titans also look to keep the pace with wins over the Steelers and Panthers.

Some games were really hard to pick, like Vikings at Chiefs and Bears at Eagles. For Chicago-Philadelphia, it’s all about which team decides to show up this week.

Picks Record

Week 1: 9-6-1

Week 2: 9-7

Week 3: 11-5

Week 4: 6-9

Week 5: 10-5

Week 6: 9-5

Week 7: 10-4

Week 8: 12-3

Overall Record: 76-44-1 (63.3%)

After three straight solid weeks, I reach a new season-high for wins a week with 12. I’m most impressed that I picked one game’s score exactly correct:

I was even close on few other games. I predicted the Patriots to beat the Browns 27-10: and I was only 3 points off, as New England did indeed score 27 points to Cleveland’s 13 points. Similarly, I picked the Seahawks to win 27-16, and they beat the Falcons 27-20.

I picked the Bears to win 16-13, and they lost 17-16.

In Week 8 I incorrectly predicted:

  • Panthers over 49ers
    • I thought the Panthers would be the 49ers toughest test yet, but they rolled over Carolina on the heels of a dominant defensive performance.
  • Bills over Eagles
    • I knew Buffalo’s offense couldn’t be trusted, but I thought the defense would do a better job handling Carson Wentz.
  • Bears over Chargers
    • Chicago had a field goal attempt to win it at the end, but they came out with a loss. Hard to feel bad about this win, and I was very close on the score.

Thursday Night Football

Image result for 49ers panthers
(Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

San Francisco 49ers (7-0) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)

Line: San Francisco 49ers (-10.0)

Arizona’s three-game win streak (beating the Falcons, Bengals, and Giants) came to a screeching halt when they had to play a real team: Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The 31-9 score makes it look ugly, but the Cardinals actually kept the game close for most of three quarters.

Against a less than stellar 49ers offense, I think Arizona’s defense could have another strong start on Thursday Night. But if Kyler Murray isn’t able to sustain drives, the Cardinals defense will be asked to stop Jimmy G and the 49ers too many times. This game basically plays out like Cardinals-Saints: close and low-scoring in the first half, before San Francisco pulls away in the second half.

49ers win 28-15, 49ers win ATS

London Game

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(Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images)

 

Houston Texans (5-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)

Line: Houston Texans (-1.5)

It’s hard to believe just one win separates these two teams. The Texans are out here beating teams like the Chiefs and… oh wait, that’s their only win against teams with a winning record. They’ve fallen to the Saints, Panthers, and Colts.

Of course, the Texans are the better team, but the gap may not be as large as you think. The Jaguars season has played a similar tune, feasting on bad teams (4-0 vs. Titans, Broncos, Bengals, and Jets) but winless against those with a winning record (0-4 vs. Texans, Saints, Chiefs and Panthers.)

The Texans won the first matchup this season by the narrowest of margins: winning 13-12 at home. The Jaguars are robbed of a proper home game against the Texans, but have experience going to London the past few years.

I think this game is a slug-fest with the winner emerging in the fourth quarter. I almost want to pick the Jaguars, but the Texans are so much better than their last opponent, the New York Jets. Watson gets it done in clutch time for Houston.

Texans win 24-20, Texans win ATS

Sunday Day Games

New York Jets (1-6) at Miami Dolphins (0-7)

Line: New York Jets (-3.0)

Miami has had winnable opportunities against the Redskins and Steelers, but failed to pick up their first win of the season. Yet this could be their best chance yet to avoid a winless season.

The Jets struggled in Florida last week, not too far away in Jacksonville. They weren’t as hopeless as they were against the Patriots the previous week, but New York still didn’t play well. With just one win, it’s fair to say they are one of the worst teams in football.

The Dolphins only being 3-point underdogs has to be their closest margin of the season. If you had asked me about this matchup coming into the season, I would’ve went with the Jets. But at this point, I think the Dolphins may finally break through into the win column.

Dolphins win 17-16, Dolphins win ATS

Washington Redskins (1-7) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)

Line: Buffalo Bills (-9.5)

I think Buffalo’s loss to the Eagles last week was more a sign of things to come than a fluke game. I’d be worried about back-to-back losses, but it’s the Redskins we’re dealing with here. The Bills are just 2-2 at home (undefeated on the road.) But again, it’s the Redskins.

Even so, Washington may be able to cover this nearly double-digit spread. Buffalo’s offense doesn’t really score over 20 points, so if the Redskins can break 10 points, viola, spread covered.

Bills win 20-13, Redskins win ATS

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(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota Vikings (6-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

Line: No Line at time of writing

There’s no line listed on ESPN for an appropriately difficult matchup to pick: Vikings at Chiefs. I have Minnesota ranked at #5 in my Post-Week 8 Power Rankings, as they’ve been pretty dominant for most of the season.

The Chiefs looked great on Sunday night with Matt Moore under center. If the opposing quarterback was anyone other than Aaron Rodgers, they probably would’ve been able to win.

Minnesota’s defense against Kansas City’s multi-faceted offense should be an interesting battle to watch. I like the Chiefs coming out on top in a lower-scoring affair than they’re used to.

Chiefs win 20-17

Chicago Bears (3-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

Line: Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5)

Another tough matchup to pick. You’d think the Bears would be out of it with all the doom, gloom, and talks of getting rid of Mitch Trubisky coming out of Chicago. But the Bears are far from abysmal, they’re just not living up to expectations. Their loss to the Chargers stung, but the Bears would be 4-3 if their game-winning field goal attempt connected.

Chicago’s four losses have come to the Packers and Saints (excusable), Raiders (not so much) and Chargers (a bad loss but could’ve been a win.) Their three wins weren’t anything special though, over the Redskins, Broncos, and Vikings (most quality win.)

The Eagles season has been nothing short of a rollercoaster. They’ve seen wins over the Packers, Redskins, Jets, and Bills, with an equal four losses, to the Falcons, Vikings, Lions, and Cowboys. Through eight weeks, Philadelphia has had a pair of two-game losing streaks and one two-game winning streak.

The picture I’m trying to paint is the wild inconsistency of both teams.

Just pointing this out doesn’t exactly lead me to the answer of who the better team is. On paper, I’d like the Bears squad in a neutral site on full rest. But the Eagles fared well last week against the Bills: a team that was winning games with good defense and just enough offense. The Bears employ a very similar strategy, and I think Wentz plays well: for one more week.

Eagles win 26-18, Eagles win ATS

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4)

Line: Indianapolis Colts (-1.0)

The Steelers are hot, with three wins in their last four games. Oh and this Colts team is doing pretty well too, with three straight wins and five wins in their last six games.

The Indianapolis Colts have been playing hard all season, and have grinded out wins over quality opponents like the Chiefs (with Mahommes) and the Texans. Amazingly, all seven games the Colts have played have been decided by less than a score. Some would say their 5-2 is a bit lucky in that regard, but quite conversely, it’s a testament to their ability to close out games.

Last week’s 15-13 win over the Broncos may have not been pretty, but Jacoby Brissett emerged as the victorious quarterback once again this season.

The Steelers let the Dolphins jump out to a 14-0 lead on Monday Night Football before battling back. They won’t have as much margin for error against the Colts on Sunday.

Colts win 23-17, Colts win ATS

Tennessee Titans (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (4-3)

Line: Carolina Panthers (-3.5)

Kyle Allen’s personal 4-0 start to this season and 5-0 start for the season came to a screeching halt with a 51-13 loss to the 49ers last week.

The Titans come in to town with just as many wins, and also riding a backup quarterback: this one by choice rather than injury. Ryan Tannehill has won back-to-back starts after supplanting Marcus Mariota as the starter.

Tennessee has shown their ability to win games, but I like the Panthers to bounce back in this one. Too much Christian McCaffery for the Titans to handle.

Panthers win 27-20, Panthers win ATS

Detroit Lions (3-3-1) at Oakland Raiders (3-4)

Line: Oakland Raiders (-2.0)

I’m not so sure what to think of this one. I was high on the Lions a few weeks ago, and while they did win last week, it was only against the Giants, at home, by a single score. I do still believe the Lions are above average though. I’m not sure I can say the same about the Raiders.

Oakland isn’t bad, but I just don’t like my odds betting on Carr and Gruden. They can have some pretty good games, and some duds. I think Matthew Stafford lights them up and the Raiders indeed lay a dud here.

Lions win 31-15, Lions win ATS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2)

Line: Seattle Seahawks (-6.0)

The Seahawks struggled to keep their foot on the gas in the second half against Atlanta last week, but they still won 27-20. Seattle has won six times in eight tries this season, with seven of the matchups decided by a single score. Like I said with the Colts, a couple close wins could be a fluke, but consistently winning tight matchups is really a show of strength.

Though the Buccaneers can show up every now and then, but there’s no reason to predict they would in Seattle. More likely, Winston struggles against the Seahawks defense.

Seahawks win 31-22, Seahawks win ATS

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(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Cleveland Browns (2-5) at Denver Broncos (2-6)

Line: Cleveland Browns (-3.5)

While I was hesitant to buy into the Cleveland Browns hype, I ultimately picked them as a playoff team in the preseason. After all, a season after winning seven games, they only needed to improve by a win or two to get nine wins and sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard. And with Odell Beckham Jr. added to the team, why wouldn’t they?

The Browns have under-performed immensely this season. They were catching flak at 2-2, but now they’ve dropped three straight games to fall to 2-5. To be fair, those games were against the two undefeated teams, and the Seahawks.

Last week, the Broncos nearly won, losing 15-13 but also losing quarterback Joe Flacco. Brandon Allen will get the call at home, a place where the Broncos are always a threat.

I think Cleveland stops the bleeding, and bounces back after their brutal three-game stretch of opponents. Maybe we even get an OBJ sighting.

Browns win 23-16, Browns win ATS

Green Bay Packers (7-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)

Line: Green Bay Packers (-3.5)

Over the last three weeks, the Packers have proved to me they’re not good, but great. Though it didn’t come without some officiating drama, Aaron Rodgers willed the Packers to a Monday Night Football win over the Lions. Rodgers then posted the first perfect passer rating in Packers history against the Raiders, then last Sunday, outdueled a capable, Matt Moore-led Chiefs offense in Arrowhead Stadium.

There are four elite teams in the NFL: the Patriots, 49ers, Saints, and Packers. I don’t see the Chargers defense slowing Rodgers down, and I don’t see Rivers putting up enough points to make this a duel.

Packers win 30-17, Packers win ATS

Sunday Night Football

Image result for patriots 2019
(Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP)

New England Patriots (8-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Line: New England Patriots (-3.0)

Lamar Jackson vs. Tom Brady for the first time. The Patriots offense will be able to put up 20-30 points, so the story of the game will be how Jackson fares in his first go against Bill Belichick. 

I’m not sure who gets the edge in a first meeting. Belichick has definitely studied Jackson and how to contain him, but as Pete Carroll said after Jackson exposed the Seahawks, he’s incredibly hard to stop when he improvises his runs. Designed runs are a bit easier for opposing defenses to deal with.

This will easily be the toughest opponent the Patriots have faced this season (though the Bills gave New England frustration in their matchup.) If Baltimore’s defense can find even a fraction of the success the Bills had against Brady and the Patriots, the Ravens will have a great chance to win the game.

New England’s defense is incredibly disciplined and yet still prime to make turnovers happen. I could really see this game going either way for Jackson, and his play will have the most impact on the game out of any of the 106 active players on Sunday night.

I’d love to pick the Ravens, but I’m trying to get as many picks right as possible. And betting against the Patriots is rarely a smart thing to do.

Patriots win 27-26, Ravens win ATS

Monday Night Football

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(Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at New York Giants (2-6)

Line: Dallas Cowboys (-7.5)

The last time the Cowboys came to MetLife Stadium, the Jets stunned them in Sam Darnold’s return. In their return, they can’t overlook the Giants as opponent.

Since dropping his first two games to the Giants in 2016, Dak Prescott is 5-0 in his last five meetings with his NFC East rival. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in those five games. Not too shabby.

Last week was a loss for the Giants in Detroit, but in many ways it was their best game in weeks. Their 26 points were the most since Week 3 against the Buccaneers, and Daniel Jones had his best passing day of his young career.

New York also has added Leonard Williams, who just had to switch locker rooms in MetLife Stadium.

Just like last season, the Giants are still not far behind in the division race despite owning one of the league’s worst records. A head-to-head win over Dallas would do wonders, so you can bet the Giants will at least show up for this game.

I think they’ll hang around for two or three quarters before the Cowboys offense puts the Giants in a hole they can’t get out of.

Cowboys win 30-20, Cowboys win ATS

Teams on Bye

Atlanta Falcons (1-7):¬†The helpless Falcons haven’t won since Week 2, are down Matt Ryan at quarterback, and still have to play the Saints twice, Panthers twice, and 49ers once. It’s gonna be a long season for Falcons fans.

Cincinnati¬†Bengals (0-8):¬†While the Falcons at least have a win to their names, the Bengals do not. They’ve played four games by a single score margin, and if I had to bet, I don’t¬†think they’d go winless. The Bengals announced the benching¬† of Andy Dalton, on his birthday, in favor of rookie Ryan Finley.

Los Angeles Rams (5-3): The Rams have won three, lost three, and won two to start the season. Their latest two wins have been over the Falcons and Bengals, so we still have to see more from this Rams team. Their next three games are against the Steelers, Bears, and Ravens.

New Orleans Saints (7-1):¬†By my mark, the Saints are the second-best team in the NFL. They’ve fallen only once this season (the game where Brees was injured) and played great with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Having a fresh Drew Brees for the second half of the season could be a blessing in disguise.

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Header photo credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

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