Oof, a rare goose egg came out of last week’s action, though to be fair, that was easily one of the most bizarre football slates any of us had ever seen. When something like Mike White beating the surging Bengals outright to sink our teaser happens, just try to laugh and move on.
- Over/Unders: 3-3-1
- Spreads: 4-3
- Teasers: 5-2
- Props: 3-4
- Overall Record: 15-12-1, -0.15 unit
New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers
Normally, a large crowd gathering to watch panthers take on pretty much anything set in their path would result in a mauling for the latter. For this particular instance, however, brace for the opposite.
This is one of those times where Bill Belichick just senses blood. True, the starting quarterback for the home side isn’t even official yet, but does it matter?
Either Sam Darnold — the same guy who recently confessed to seeing ghosts in a matchup against Belichick’s defense — or XFL character P.J. Walker will get the nod.
And either one would be a great main ingredient to initiate an under. Darnold, who is still questionable due to a concussion and shoulder injury, has notched a piss-poor 46.4 passer rating (!) in his three lifetime meetings with the Patriots. Plus, if he somehow ends up starting, he’ll obviously be very limited.
Walker, meanwhile, carries all the makings of a career backup — if he lasts, that is.
To his credit, the former undrafted Temple product did lead Carolina to a win last year in his lone other start (albeit opposite the Lions). At the same time, he isn’t good. How often do you find a guy that has less completions than incompletions?
Only 71 passes have been made by Walker in the NFL, but still, it’s been more than enough to note his very low ceiling.
Then you have him facing the great mastermind that is Belichick? Even aside from reputation alone, the future Hall of Fame head coach is far more dangerous when taking on a freshman or backup QB.
Going back the last 10 years, in fact, Belichick has seen a backup quarterback 25 times. His defenses greeted said signal-callers by shackling them collectively to a humbling 81.7 passer rating and registering nearly as many interceptions (23) as passing touchdowns allowed (27). Altogether, these backup QBs combined to average just 16.6 points.
That’s a pretty concrete track record to lean on and must point to a low-scoring afternoon for Carolina. If Darnold starts instead, well, his Jets teams plated 17 points — total — in their three Belichick bouts.
Of course, the over/under is low enough where it can also be decided by one offense striking for a crooked number. Fortunately, I don’t believe we have to sweat that out for New England, either.
Mac Jones is in the midst of a very respectable rookie campaign. The No. 15 overall pick in this year’s draft is on pace for nearly 4,000 yards and has guided the Patriots to .500 after a troubling 1-3 start.
Even so, Jones has ways to go before he’s running a consistently explosive offense akin to the recent previous iterations in New England. And he’ll have one of his toughest assignments to date in this road outing, encountering a very stout defense.
There’s one player in particular who will be of extra note to the Pats: Stephon Gilmore.
The All-Pro corner and even former NFL Defensive Player of the Year spent four-plus years as a Patriot before unceremoniously being cut for financial reasons. He made his season (and team) debut just last week and Gilmore looked like he hadn’t missed a beat at all in completely shutting down Kyle Pitts, as Atlanta mustered only 13 points at home.
That’s just scratching the surface as to what this defense is now capable of with a shutdown cornerback like Gilmore aboard. Pick: UNDER 41.5 (-110)
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Browns +2/Bengals -2
Let’s play a game of who’s trending up and who’s trending down. It could just decide this Week 9 AFC North showdown.
Clearly, the Bengals are trending up. Despite last week’s absurdly inexplicable loss to the lowly Jets and their no-name backup QB, they’ve been one of the AFC’s genuine contenders halfway through, further punctuated after the whooping they delivered to the first-place Ravens.
Cincy was mostly in control of their game against New York, too, even leading by two scores with less than half of the fourth quarter remaining. A horrible blown call by the refs prevented them from forcing overtime (or winning on the last drive).
Point being, the Bengals are still doing just fine and will be amped in this spot. Win and you further solidify playoff positioning as the season rolls on. A loss, though, sets them back and leads to questions about their legitimacy. Hmm, I’ll take the former.
The world is for the taking of Joe Burrow. In just his second year, he’s already ranking in the top 10 in yards per game (276.9), completion percentage (67.9 percent), touchdowns (20) and passer rating (108). Burrow clearly benefits from having one of the better supporting casts.
Defensively, the Bengals are sound as well. Much improved from last year’s corps, they’re allowing the sixth-fewest points (20.3) each week. Cleveland sports a solid defense as well but it’s the offense that arguably has the club trending down.
After the Odell Beckham Jr. drama, this looks like a potential downfall is coming. As it is, the Browns haven’t topped 17 points scored in three consecutive weeks.
Now they’re looking for a spark by casting away a supreme talent like Beckham? Responding strongly from something like this can be really challenging. Look for Cincinnati to extend their rival’s swoons. Pick: BENGALS -2 (-110)
- Texans +6 —> Texans +19
- Falcons +6 —> Falcons +19
- Bills -14.5 —> Bills -1.5
- GB-KC O48 —> GB-KC O35
A starter for the four-game teaser is always first identifying which enormous favorites there are on the schedule and evaluating the possibility of an upset.
In the case of Bills-Jaguars, I don’t see how anyone can make a case for Jacksonville scoring their second win against potentially the AFC’s best team. So we shall build around that one gimme.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s a couple of sizable underdogs worth teasing to push it to three scores.
Anyone familiar with the Falcons-Saints rivalry knows they almost always play each other close. Having Matt Ryan getting 19 points only makes sense considering there’s been just one instance in his 25 games (!) against New Orleans where the Falcons lost by more than 17.
Then there’s a battle of one-win teams in South Beach. Apparently, the linemakers forgot Tyrod Taylor is returning. That’s the only explanation I can think of why the Dolphins are favored by a good chunk, meaning they’d really have to blow Houston out of the water to ruin this teaser. Considering Miami enters on a seven-game skid, that’s not happening.
Finally, we will include the main event from the 4 p.m. window, albeit with the Packers not having Aaron Rodgers. Even so, this is a Chiefs home game, so Patrick Mahomes can be assured of putting up something notable in front of the hometown faithful.
The key will be Green Bay at least getting into double digits while trotting out Jordan Love behind center for his first career start, which I think they can accomplish. After all, look at the defense he’s facing.
Tyrod Taylor Over/Under 18.5 Rushing Yards
It’s been a long last six weeks for the Texans, in which they’ve had to navigate the treacherous waters of the NFL with Davis Mills at QB1. They went 0-6.
But finally, after his latest injury, Taylor is ready to roll again. He also presents a really interesting buy-low opportunity.
Look, when Taylor is healthy, the veteran has proven he can be one of the more dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the game. In other words, he usually draws a rushing-yards prop considerably higher.
We’ll try to capitalize on that. Taylor isn’t suddenly going to play his game any different; he never has. Well, considering he’s hit at least this number of yards on the ground in 38 of 51 career starts — or about three out of every four times — that makes this a good proposition to tap into. Pick: OVER 18.5 Rushing Yards (-110)