NFL Week 9 Best Bets: Betting Picks for NFL Sunday

Get NFL Week 9 best bets and predictions for the Sunday slate.

NFL Week 9 Best Bets & Predictions

We’re onto Week 9 of the NFL season, and there are tons of tantalizing matchups on deck. We have you covered here at Lineups with matchup previews, player prop recommendations, and wide-ranging analysis. In this article, I’ll cover my top plays on spreads and over/unders for the week. As always, check out my Twitter profile @wayne_sports_ to see the latest bets I’ve placed for the NFL and college football. Let’s get to work.

NFL YTD: 71-52.5 (57.4%)

Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers

We were caught out last week with the Bengals as I had placed the official bet on them prior to the news about Ja’Marr Chase, and his absence clearly hampered their offense significantly. Check out the following numbers when Joe Burrow throws to Chase versus the rest of the team:

Burrow to Chase: 10.3 yards per attempt, 16.1 yards per completion, 9.7% touchdown rate

Burrow to everyone else: 7.6 yards per attempt, 10.6 yards per completion, 4.5% touchdown rate

Without Chase on the field, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd see their efficiency decrease as defenses play the Bengals differently. It doesn’t help that Cincinnati still can’t run the ball, either – they rank 24th in rushing success rate and 17th in average line yards.

The Panthers are getting Jaycee Horn back in the lineup this week, which is huge for them. On 212 coverage snaps this year, he’s allowed just 46 yards on 19 targets, and he’ll see a ton of Higgins in coverage in this matchup.

Carolina’s run defense has been excellent as they rank 7th in rushing DVOA, 8th in rushing success rate allowed, and 10th in yards per carry allowed, so we shouldn’t expect a big game for the Bengals’ run game, particularly without Chase’s presence stretching out the defense.

On the other hand, Carolina will be able to run the ball this week. The Bengals have allowed the fifth-highest rushing success rate since D.J. Reader got hurt earlier in the season, and D’Onta Foreman is averaging 5.2 YPC.

P.J. Walker should also find success in this game, and he’s been surprisingly great in his limited action. He’s ranked as PFF’s eighth-best quarterback, and he has the highest big-time throw rate among qualified quarterbacks. He also only has one turnover-worthy play this season.

The Bengals lost Chidobe Awuzie, their top cornerback, to a season-ending ACL injury on Sunday. He had allowed just a 41.9% completion rate, which ranked third among qualified cornerbacks. D.J. Moore is averaging 5.3 catches for 76.5 yards per game with Walker under center, and he’ll have another big day against Cincinnati’s injured secondary.

Cincinnati is playing on a short week after their Monday Night Football game last week, and Carolina has been reinvigorated under interim head coach Steve Wilks. While the Panthers were sellers at the deadline, playoffs are very much in the picture in the weak NFC South, and the Panthers will fight hard this week.

Best Bet: Panthers +7.5 (play to +7) and consider a ML sprinkle

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Commanders

Here we go again. I tried fading the Vikings last week against the Cardinals, and while that was a back-and-forth, high-scoring game, Minnesota escaped with the win and the cover. However, they are still being outgained in average yards this season, and all of their wins since Week 1 have been by one possession.

The Commanders cashed for us last week, and I was impressed with their defensive effort. Since William Jackson was benched in Week 5, the defense has improved considerably, and they rank eighth in EPA per dropback allowed since that point in time. The Commanders have a particularly stout run defense as they rank fourth in success rate and second in DVOA.

The strength of Washington’s defense is their pass rush, led by Montez Sweat whose 19.5% pass-rush win rate ranks seventh among all edge defenders with 200+ pass-rush snaps. Washington ranks fourth in pressure rate overall and Minnesota ranks 27th in pressure allowed.

Kirk Cousins hasn’t been nearly as good this year when operating under pressure. His passer rating when kept clean ranks 14th while his passer rating under pressure is ranked 26th. While the addition of T.J. Hockenson provides another outlet for Cousins when he’s under fire, the Commanders are poised to limit his offense.

However, Cousins’s splits under pressure versus in a clean pocket aren’t nearly as staggering as Taylor Heinecke’s. When kept clean, he leads the NFL in passer rating this year, and when under pressure, he’s ranked dead last among qualified passers per PFF.

Luckily for Heinecke, the Vikings rank just 21st in pressure rate, and while Za’Darius Smith has 37 total pressures, the fourth-most among edge rushers, there simply hasn’t been enough consistency alongside him. Heinecke has been great for Terry McLaurin, who has had his best production as of late.

Taylor Heinecke is now 2-0 SU and ATS as a starter this season, and he had a 7-8 overall record last season. It might not always be pretty, but he knows how to win games, and he’ll have success against Minnesota’s soft shell defense that ranks second-to-last in yards per pass allowed. Give me Washington with the points at home.

Best Bet: Commanders +3.5 (play to +3) and sprinkle ML

Los Angeles Chargers at Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ last two games have had an average of 61.5 points, while three of the Chargers’ last four games have had 58+ points scored. Yet the over/under for this game is set below 50. That immediately caught my attention, and the over in this game was one of the first plays I made.

However, I also love how the Falcons are set up here. The Atlanta rushing offense has been excellent this year, and there appears to be a strong chance that Cordarelle Patterson is available for this game. Even if he isn’t available, Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley will be able to move the ball behind this O-line.

The Falcons rank 10th in rushing DVOA and success rate, and it’s due to their offensive line that ranks 11th in adjusted line yards. Despite running the ball at the second-highest rate in the NFL, the Falcons rank fourth in early down EPA – that flies in the face of what we know about the efficiency of run-first offenses.

The Chargers spent the offseason retooling their run defense, and while they do rank 9th in rushing success rate allowed, they rank 23rd in run defense DVOA and 32nd in yards per carry allowed as they’ve given up too many chunk plays on the ground. LA’s pass defense has also suffered as they rank 22nd in PFF’s coverage grades.

With the run game flowing, Marcus Mariota has executed the team’s play-action offense at a high level. 48.1% of his throws have been on play-action, by far the highest rate in the NFL, and he’s completing 65.9% of his play-action throws. With 10.1 average air yards, he’s pushing the ball downfield with success as he ranks 13th in EPA+CPOE.

Offensively, the Chargers should be able to move the ball. Atlanta can’t get any pressure – they rank 32nd in pressure rate – and their defense has been carved up through the air in recent weeks due to cluster injuries in the secondary. While Justin Herbert is missing Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, he will likely pass for 300+ yards for just the third time all season.

While the Chargers are coming off their bye week, Atlanta is the much healthier and better-coached team right now, and they’re playing at home. Arthur Smith is a sneaky Coach of the Year candidate, and I’ll happily take the points with his team against a Chargers squad that never seems to be able to get out of its own way.

Best Bet: Over 49 (play to 50.5) and Falcons +3.5 (play to +3)

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Lions’ defense is the worst in the NFL. Actually, it’s the worst in over 22 years if you utilize TruMedia’s EPA per drive metrics that date back to 2000. However, the Packers’ defense hasn’t been much better – Green Bay ranks 32nd in early down EPA.

Green Bay’s defense has excelled in areas where you should expect a lot of variance. They rank second in third-down defense and fourth in red-zone defense. Their strength is their pass-rush led by Rashan Gary and Kenny Clark that ranks fifth in pressure rate, but Detroit’s offensive line ranks 13th in pressure allowed and 2nd in adjusted sack rate.

The Lions’ offense has been excellent, ranking 10th in overall DVOA, fourth in yards per play, and seventh in points per play despite facing the second-most difficult schedule of opposing defenses and dealing with injuries to their top players. With Amon-Ra St. Brown back to full strength, the Lions should have no problem putting up points at home.

The Packers’ offense has been good in a couple of key areas, namely on early downs. They rank third in early down success rate and sixth in early down EPA, and they’ll have success on the ground this week with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon facing Detroit’s 30th-ranked defense in rushing DVOA.

However, there are reasons to expect growth from the Lions on the defensive side. They are relying on a ton of young players on that end who should improve as the season goes on. They also fired defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant, and a different look on the back end could work wonders. Green Bay’s pass-catching weapons are limited, as well.

The Lions are 0-4 ATS in their last four games, and it’s time to buy back in on Detroit. Divisional home underdogs have hit at a 60% rate since 2015, and this is the Lions’ best chance to upset the Packers in a while with how poorly Green Bay is playing. In what should be a shootout between two bad defenses, give me the home dog with the better offense.

Best Bet: Lions +3.5 (play to +3) and sprinkle ML

Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears

I love what the Bears are doing with Justin Fields as of late. Over the last two games, Fields has executed 15 designed runs for 78 yards. The creativity deployed in the run game featuring Fields has put defenses in a bind as they’ve been forced to play closer to the line of scrimmage. As a result, Fields has been working against softer coverage on the back end.

Over his last two games, Justin Fields ranks seventh in success rate and ninth in EPA per play among quarterbacks with 30+ dropbacks. The Bears admitted to stealing plays from the Ravens’ offense, and it’s working as they are maximizing Fields’s talents as a runner and thrower. His off-target throw rate has dropped from 21.7% over the first six weeks, the highest in the NFL, to 11.4% over the last two games.

https://twitter.com/SONTChicago/status/1586775008357105669

The Dolphins’ defense wants to put pressure on opposing passers, and they blitz at the 11th-highest rate. However, they get pressure at just the 29th-best rate. That’s why they made the aggressive trade for Bradley Chubb at the deadline, but we’re not talking about a Myles Garrett-level game-wrecker here, and Fields just surprisingly excelled against the Cowboys who lead the NFL in pressure.

All that said, Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins should be able to put up points on their end. Tagovailoa is the best quarterback in the NFL by EPA+CPOE composite, PFF passing grade, and passer rating. The Bears rank 18th in pass defense DVOA but 26th in passing success rate allowed, so the Dolphins will be able to move the ball through the air.

Both offenses should find success in this game, so I’m playing the over, despite the location not being historically ideal for high-scoring games. However, the precipitation is at 0% and 15 mph winds aren’t crazy. I’ll also play the Bears +4.5, though, as they have continued to impress me with their approach on both ends. They could pull off the outright upset, so put a small amount on their ML as well.

Best Bet: Over 45 (play to 46.5) and Bears +4.5 (play to +4)

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

The Jets have been a jekyll-and-hyde team this season, but their defense has been outstanding. This is the product I expected to see on that end when Robert Saleh was hired as the head coach. New York ranks top-ten in pass and run defense DVOA, and they rank fifth in the all-important early down EPA metric.

Most impressive is their ability to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing. The Jets rank third in pressure rate despite blitzing at the fifth-lowest rate. Quinnen Williams is having a fantastic breakthrough season as he leads all interior defensive linemen with 32 total pressures and seven sacks.

Behind that elite pass-rush, the Jets play incredibly sound coverage. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are both in the top five cornerbacks in PFF’s coverage grades and they’ve combined to allow just a 48.1% completion rate for 352 total yards all season. Josh Allen is the best quarterback they’ve faced this season, but this is also the best defense the Bills have faced all year.

On the other side, the Bills’ defense should have a significant advantage. Buffalo has faced three bottom-ten offenses by DVOA this year (Rams, Titans, and Steelers), and they held those three teams to just 6.6 points per game. The Bills will also be able to generate pressure on a beat up Jets’ offensive line with the likes of Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau.

Zach Wilson’s numbers under pressure are comically bad. He has just a 7.1 passer rating under pressure and a 21.5 PFF grade, both of which are by far the worst in the NFL. He also has nine turnover-worthy plays under pressure. However, even if Wilson throws a pick-six in this game, there’s plenty of cushion baked into the total. Give me the under all day here.

Best Bet: Under 47.5 points (play to 44.5)

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

All week leading up to this game, you’ll hear about how Sam Ehlinger is at a significant disadvantage as an inexperienced quarterback going against Bill Belichick’s defense. However, this New England defense simply doesn’t have the same teeth as prior year’s versions of the unit, and I’m not overly concerned for Ehlinger’s ability to succeed.

I was skeptical of Ehlinger’s ability to succeed last week, but he completed 11 of 13 passes for 150 yards in the second half and generally looked poised. He also offers upside as a rusher in this game against a New England linebacker corps that has struggled against mobile QBs due to its lack of speed.

The Colts’ defense is getting healthier with Shaquille Leonard, Kwity Paye, and DeForest Buckner working their way back to full speed. Despite those injuries in the front seven, Indianapolis ranks sixth in run defense DVOA, and they’ll have the ability to force New England into a one-dimensional offense.

The weakness of the Colts’ defense is its secondary, but Mac Jones isn’t capable of taking advantage. He’s struggled this season, ranking 25th in adjusted EPA per dropback among qualified passers. He’s also ranked 38th out of 39 qualified QBs in PFF’s grading.

Last year, this Colts defense held Jones to a 57.8% completion rate and picked him off twice. That was a more confident, healthier Jones not embroiled in a quarterback controversy. Whether we see Jones or Bailey Zappe this week, this Patriots offense is far from a high-octane group.

The line in this game would seem to indicate that the Patriots are at least a full field goal better than the Colts on a neutral field, and I simply don’t believe that to be the case. In fact, I believe the Colts are a better team.

Last week, Zach Wilson threw three picks, and the Patriots still only won by five. So long as Ehlinger can play a solid, efficient game, the Colts’ defense will keep them in this contest, and they could pull off the outright upset.

Best Bet: Colts +6 (play to +4.5) and sprinkle ML

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

I expected these teams’ meeting earlier in the year to be a high-scoring shootout, and it was anything but. They both averaged about 4.5 yards per play and the final score was a 19-9 Seahawks win. This week, the Cardinals are slight home favorites, but I’m staying in the flames with Seattle.

I’ll talk about the Seahawks’ offense in a minute, but their defense has truly impressed me. They rank second in early down success rate allowed while the Cardinals rank just 19th on early downs on offense. In their matchup a couple of weeks ago, the Seahawks sacked Kyler Murray six times and held the Arizona offense to just three points – their lone touchdown came on a fumble return.

The Cardinals now have DeAndre Hopkins at their disposal, which transforms their offensive approach. However, the Seahawks’ Tariq Woolen has hit the ground running in his rookie season and has surprisingly allowed just a 50.2 passer rating in coverage, which is the sixth-best mark among corners who have played 70+ coverage snaps. He has the speed and length to bother Hopkins.

Seattle’s offense wasn’t great against Arizona a couple of weeks ago, but Geno Smith has been excellent overall. He ranks fourth in EPA+CPOE, third in PFF’s grades, and third in passer rating. He’s also well prepared for Arizona’s blitz-heavy defense after seeing it a couple of weeks ago.

Last week, Smith played the Giants’ defense that blitzes at the highest rate in the NFL, and he had four big-time throws with no turnover-worthy plays. Smith has the third-best completion percentage and the fourth-best passer rating of 40 quarterbacks under pressure, and his comfort level should be strong in this matchup.

The Seahawks are one of two teams that rank top-11 in offensive, defensive, and special teams DVOA. They’re incredibly well-coached in all facets, and they play efficient, confident football. None of those things are true for the Cardinals, and while the Seahawks simply won’t cover every week, I believe they have one more game in them before it might be time to start fading them.

Best Bet: Seahawks ML

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s hard to believe these teams played for a spot in the NFC Championship just a handful of months ago, and both have fallen well short of expectations this year with a combined 6-9 record. This is arguably a lose or go home match for these teams.

One year after setting the league on fire, Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense have struggled immensely. The Rams rank dead last in offensive EPA and 31st in yards per play. They can’t run the ball whatsoever, ranking dead last in rushing success rate.

Cooper Kupp, who is the lifeblood of the Rams’ offense, tweaked his ankle last week. While he’s expected to play, his connection with Stafford is entirely dependent on timing and precision. If his ankle injury causes him to be even a half-step slow coming out of his breaks, it could derail the entire offense.

The Rams’ pass-rush has surprisingly been entirely ineffective as they rank 31st in pressure rate. There’s been no consistent presence other than Aaron Donald in that respect. Tom Brady has completed 70.6% of his passes for over 2,000 yards and nine touchdowns to one pick from a clean pocket this year, so there’s reason for optimism for him.

The Bucs still can’t run the ball, but this might be the perfect week to unleash their play-action attack. The Bucs rank fourth in EPA per dropback in play-action, but they have used it at the third-lowest rate in the league. The Rams rank 31st in success rate and 30th in EPA per dropback against play-action this season.

The Buccaneers have the better offense, defense, and special teams unit in this game. They’re also playing at home with extended rest following their Thursday Night Football game last week. Neither team can run the ball, and the under is the obvious look given the ineptitude of both offenses, but I’m also laying the points with the home team.

Best Bet: Buccaneers -2.5 (play to -3) and Under 42.5 points (play to 41.5)

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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