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Packers (+7) over Chiefs
On Wednesday the NFL got some shocking news when Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and was ruled out of Sunday's game. That sparked a million conversations that don't need to be rehashed here; we're just talking about football and what the Packers face this week against the Kansas City Chiefs. It will be daunting.
The Packers are 7-point underdogs at BetMGM, an 8-point shift in the spread after the Rodgers news. Jordan Love, who didn't play at all last season and played OK in the preseason, will get his first start. The Packers having to turn to Love, the pick that set off all the offseason Rodgers drama, is rich with irony.
I’ll take the Packers, figuring they'll play hard and well around Love. It’s also a fade of the Chiefs, who have been miserable against the spread for more than a year. The only way to make the Rodgers story even crazier would be the Packers winning without him.
Here are the Week 9 against-the-spread picks, with the lines from BetMGM:
Bengals (-2.5) over Browns
Either the Bengals were a bit fraudulent and propped up by a huge win over the Ravens that ultimately proves fluky, or they are a young team that had a letdown against the Jets after it got a taste of success. I’ll bet on the latter.
Broncos (+10) over Cowboys
No ATS streak lasts forever. Maybe the Cowboys will run the table against the spread, but I highly doubt it, and that leads to a reluctant pick on Denver.
Texans (+6.5) over Dolphins
I really have no idea what to make of this game between an awful Texans team that has no talent, and a Dolphins team that is doing nothing with the talent it has. Take the points, I guess.
Saints (-6) over Falcons
Here's another case of taking a team with its backup quarterback. I think the Saints will be just fine with Taysom Hill, assuming he plays. It’ll be different, but they’ll figure out a way. I don’t know that I can say the same for the Falcons offense without Calvin Ridley.
Giants (+3) over Raiders
I don’t like talking about a serious news story in terms of how it will affect a football team, but this game will be played and people will care about the outcome. I don’t know how the Raiders can be too excited to play after the horrible situation with Henry Ruggs this week.
Panthers (+3.5) over Patriots
It’s a Christian McCaffrey pick. He has had time to get healthy and the splits of the Panthers offense with and without McCaffrey are pretty startling. Carolina is going to be much better with him, of course. I could see the Patriots forcing a ton of Sam Darnold turnovers too, so it’s not a confident pick.
Bills (-14.5) over Jaguars
This tests the “whoever is playing the Jaguars” theory I’ve been trying out since Week 1. This is a lot of points to lay with a Bills team that is starting to look disinterested for stretches. But I’m still not taking the Jaguars to cover against my Super Bowl pick.
Vikings (+6) over Ravens
Aside from one great game against the Chargers, who can’t stop the run, the Ravens have either lost or won an incredibly close game each week. The Vikings aren’t a bad team and they love close games themselves. The line is too high here.
Chargers (-1.5) over Eagles
At some point I’ll quit thinking every year that the Chargers will be good. But I haven’t kicked that habit yet. If the Chargers have any realistic goal of winning the AFC West, they have to handle business here against a mediocre Eagles team. If the Chargers lose, maybe I’ll finally give up on them. Maybe, I said.
49ers (+1) over Cardinals
OK, this is one time I won’t be picking a team with its backup quarterback ... or a hurt starter. Kyler Murray's status isn't certain yet, due to an ankle injury. I thought this was a good surprise spot for the 49ers anyway. I’m being stubborn about them too. I think there’s still a good team lingering somewhere in there. And Murray does so much for the Cardinals that it’s hard to see them winning much without him (or with him hobbled with a bad ankle).
Titans (+7.5) over Rams
How much should a running back mean to a spread? The look-ahead line for this last week was Titans +4.5. Derrick Henry is out, and the line went up three points. Henry is a phenomenal player, but adding three points and going over the key number of +7 is too much for me. We’ll find out how valuable Henry is.
Bears (+6.5) over Steelers
It won’t be fun to sweat a Bears bet for three hours on Monday night. But are you ready to trust the Steelers offense to win by a touchdown? The Steelers’ 15-10 win last week was a template for what they have to do: Ugly up the game, keep it close and let the defense finish the job. Don’t expect many points.
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