As we hit the midway point of the 2021 season, the era of parity, at least in the NFC. Everybody has two or more losses in the AFC, and the team currently with the best record (Tennessee at 6-2) lost Derrick Henry, which should knock them down several pegs. Tampa Bay is 6-2 in the NFC and has the fifth-best record in the conference behind Arizona, Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams (all 7-1) and Dallas (6-1).
In many respects, it has made gambling easier, because the difference between the good teams and the bad teams is so pronounced. The Week 9 slate of games, there is only one game featuring two teams with records above .500 (the Tennessee Titans and Rams). On the flip side, there are three games featuring teams with records below .500 – lowlighted by the battle of 1-7 scrubs Houston and the New York Jets.
Every game has some significance – some more than others – and here is a prediction for each game that can help take you to the pay window in the midseason mine field.
New York Jets (+380) at Indianapolis Colts (-540)
So, what do the Jets get after pulling off an impressive win over Cincinnati? They’re 10.5-point underdogs. I’m not overly impressed with the Colts early, who got smacked around after building a 14-0 lead early. The numbers I like here is the Over/Under (46.5 points at -110 for both the Over and Under). Both defenses can hold down the other offense enough that, barring a defensive or special teams touchdown, this should be a tough number to hit. Take the Under (-110).
Cleveland Browns (+115) at Cincinnati Bengals (-140)
Neither of these teams have been easy to figure out, but both have legitimate playoff aspirations. While I’m leaning toward the Bengals, the one thing I’m more confident in is that both offenses can make enough big plays to hit the Over/Under (46.5 points at -117 Over, -103 Under). Although each team has a solid defense, the passing game for both teams will make the difference. Take the Over (-117).
New England Patriots (-190) at Carolina Panthers (+155)
The Patriots know too much about Sam Darnold (concussion) to ignore in this, and I don’t think the Patriots are getting enough credit as the point-spread road favorites (3.5 points at -108 Patriots, -112 Jets). New England’s defense is going to get Darnold on the move, where bad things tend to happen. Take the Patriots and lay the 3.5 points. (-108).
Minnesota Vikings (+205) at Baltimore Ravens (-260)
After Minnesota squandered away its season last week against Dallas, there is little reason to have any confidence that they can get the job done against a Ravens team coming off its bye with two weeks to prepare for the Vikings. The spread has the Ravens favored heavily (6.5 points at -115 Vikings, -105 Ravens), but they have the horses to make Minnesota miserable and Lamar Jackson may run for 100 yards and two scores. Take the Ravens and lay the 6.5 points (-105).
Buffalo Bills (-1100) at Jacksonville Jaguars (+650)
Once again, the Jags are double-digit underdogs — and for good reason. However, the Over/Under is suspiciously high (48.5 points at -105 Over, -115 Under). While the Bills are capable of scoring 35 points, I’m not convinced the Jags can provide the 14 needed to hit the point in this one Take the Under (-115).
Houston Texans (+230) at Miami Dolphins (-300)
Talk about a game nobody aside from friends and family want to watch, personally I wouldn’t bet anything on this game. But, if I have to, I will look at the Over/Under (45.5 points at -115 Over, -105 Under). It’s not because I think the offenses will light it up. I think each quarterback will throw a Pick-6 that will make hitting the point easier for both teams. Take the Over (-115).
Denver Broncos (+330) at Dallas Cowboys (-450)
The Cowboys rolled the dice by benching Dak Prescott (calf), and they still got the win. But, with the field at the top of the NFC crowded, every win is going to be critical. Dallas is a heavy favorite (9.5 points at -110 for both the Over and Under). Prescott looked healthy enough to play last Sunday. I think he’s back on the field, and Sunday will be the first of many times Denver’s defense will miss Von Miller in critical situations. Take the Cowboys and lay the 9.5 points (-110).
Las Vegas Raiders (-145) at New York Giants (+120)
You have to wonder how many more hits the Raiders can take? First Jon Gruden gets sent packing. Now, the tragedy surrounding Henry Ruggs. I’m not a huge fan of this line that has the Raiders as a mild favorite (2.5 points at -120 Raiders, +100 Giants). I’m one who drinks the Kool-Aid about West Coast teams heading east, but the Giants may not have more than a couple of healthy wide receivers, and Saquon Barkley is a question mark. Take the Raiders and lay the 2.5 points (-120).
Atlanta Falcons (+200) at New Orleans Saints (-250)
The Saints have serious question marks at quarterback, because Drew Brees isn’t coming out of retirement to bail them out. The line I think I like the best here is the peewee Over/Under (41.5 points at -112 Over, -108 Under). The Saints have an improved defense, but they take chances, and Matt Ryan has the savvy to cover Atlanta’s end of the deal. Take the Over (-112).
Los Angeles Chargers (-130) at Philadelphia Eagles (+105)
I’m still not 100 percent sold on the Chargers as a legitimate contender to roll through the playoffs, and losing at home to New England didn’t help that. However, the Eagles are banged up and in recent history have begun their slide to mediocrity or worse in November. Los Angeles is a small favorite (2.5 points at -108 Chargers, -112 Eagles). While I have my West Coast-heading-east concerns, this game has a late start time which eases some of those concerns. Take the Chargers and lay the 2.5 points (-108).
Green Bay Packers (+265) at Kansas City Chiefs (-350)
Given their respective teams and the Chiefs coming off a short week, I was prepared to be all over Green Bay. Then the news of Aaron Rodgers’ COVID-19 diagnosis came out, and I changed my mind completely. So did those setting the odds. Now Kansas City is a huge favorite (7.5 points). The Over/Under is still high at 48.5 (-105 Over, -115 Under), and I don’t believe Jordan Love can provide enough spark – even against a vulnerable Chiefs defense – to get his end of the job done. Take the Under (-115).
Arizona Cardinals (-112) at San Francisco 49ers (-108)
The Cardinals are the better team and have the ability to come back from down double digits. I don’t see the 49ers as being capable in their current state of running away with a big lead, and they don’t have the offensive firepower to make up a big deficit. San Francisco is the smallest of favorites (.5 points at -112 Cardinals, -108 49ers). I never understand this bet, because nobody taking the Cardinals should consider the moneyline. By taking the half-point, you win in the event of a tie. Take the Cardinals and the 0.5 points (-112).
Tennessee Titans (+280) at Los Angeles Rams (-370)
The loss of Derrick Henry turned what could have been an epic matchup into a game that the Titans will almost have to be perfect. I’m on the Rams train to advance deep into the playoffs. Although the spread is big for Los Angeles (7.5 points at -108 Titans, -112 Rams), I think they have the playmakers on both sides of the ball to get the job done in Von Miller’s possible debut (ankle injury). Take the Rams and lay the 7.5 points (-112).
Chicago Bears (+210) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-270)
The offenses for both teams have sputtered, but the shockingly low Over/Under (39.5 points at -117 Over, -103 Under) sets off alarms for me. I have a hard time ever taking an Over of more than 56 or 57 or believing an Under of less than 40. The point has been set outside that barrier, and I just can’t help myself. One special teams or defensive touchdown should almost guarantee to seal the deal. Take the Over (-117).
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