Even though it is a bye week for the Patriots there are still plenty of good football games worth watching on Sunday. Detroit is at Chicago in what should be the best early afternoon game, and then there are a pair of good late games: Carolina at San Francisco and Denver at San Diego. The day wraps up with an appealing Sunday night game as the Saints host Dallas for bragging rights in south central U.S.


Denver Broncos (7-1) at San Diego Chargers (4-4) ★★★★★
Late game on CBS
Let’s see, on one side we have Philip Rivers: #1 with 72% completions, #4 with 309 yards passing per game, 17 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. On the other side there is Peyton Manning, #2 with 71% completions, #1 with 365 yards per game, and 29 TD to just 6 picks. The San Diego defense somehow ranks 11th in points allowed (21.8) despite not creating turnovers (5, 32nd in the NFL), not stopping the run well (4.9 yards per carry, 30th), and not doing well in the pass defense (8.5 yards per attempt, 31st). Yeah, this game should be fun to watch…
Pick • Broncos 45, Chargers 35
Broncos -7
Over 57½
Final Score: Broncos 28, Chargers 20 … Denver covers by 1 … under by 9½


Carolina Panthers (5-3) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2) ★★★★★
Late game on FOX
After a rough start the Panthers find themselves in the playoff picture, winners of four straight and five of the last six. Carolina has scored at least 30 points in each of those victories, while allowing no more than 15 points in any of those games. The Panther defense now ranks 3rd with just under 300 yards per game, and 2nd with just 13.3 points per game against. Still, many are unconvinced; those five wins have been against opponents with a combined record of 8-33. We will all get a better idea if this team is for real over the next two weeks, with games against the 49ers and Patriots. The 49ers have outscored their opponents 174-61 over their five straight wins while Carolina has outscored their opposition 130-48 during their four game streak. This looks like it should be a great game to watch; I’ll side with the home team over the unproven upstart traveling coast to coast.
Pick • 49ers 27, Panthers 24
Panthers +6½
Over 41½ (one unit) ✘ -110
Final Score: Panthers 10, 49ers 9 … Carolina covers by 7½ … under by 22½


Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at New Orleans Saints (6-2) ★★★★
Sunday night on NBC
The Cowboys are so up and down this year I don’t know what to expect. The Saints are coming off a tough road loss, and will play with a chip on their shoulder. drew Brees is on pace for another 5,000 yard season and should be able to toy with a porous Dallas defense that is 31st in both yards allowed (419) and passing yardage (305), and the Saints get RB Darren Sproles (concussion) back for this game. While both teams have potent offenses, the difference between the two clubs is the fact that New Orleans actually has a defense. Like the Broncos game, get your popcorn ready (and beverages chilled), and sit back and enjoy the festivities.
Pick • Saints 31, Cowboys 27
Cowboys +7
Over 53 (two units) ✔✔ +200
Final Score: Saints 49, Cowboys 17 … New Orleans covers by 25 … over by 13


Detroit Lions (5-3) at Chicago Bears (5-3) ★★★★
Early game on FOX
The Lions are coming off their bye looking to build on a dramatic 31-30 victory over Dallas when Calvin Johnson caught 14 passes for a whopping 329 yards. The Bears surprisingly find themselves in a first place tie after upsetting the Packers in Green Bay, with the previously silent Shea McClellin and Julius Peppers coming up with key defensive plays. Chicago now gets Jay Cutler back at quarterback. Detroit is allowing 4.7 yards per carry, so Matt Forte (6th in the NFL with 658 yards rushing) should have a big game. The Bears are scoring 30.0 points per game, second to only Denver, and the Lions are inconsistent, losing three of the four games they have had that follow a win.
Pick • Upset: Bears 27, Lions 24
Bears +3
Over 50
Final Score: Lions 21, Bears 19 … Chicago covers by 1 … under by 10


Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (3-5) ★★★★
Early game on CBS
Dealing with injuries is a recurring theme today, and the Bengals have their share. All Pro DT Geno Atkins is out for the year with a torn ACL, joining CB Leon Hall (achilles), S Taylor Mays (shoulder) and DE Robert Geathers (elbow) on IR. On top of that LB Rey Maualuga (knee, concussion), OT Andrew Whitworth (knee) and RB Giovanni Bernard (ribs) are less than 100% for this game. The Ravens are doing what bad teams do, finding ways to lose close games; they have lost four of their lost five, with those four losses coming by a combined 14 points. The Baltimore offensive line is in need of a major upgrade. They just don’t open up holes to run the ball at all (dead last with 2.8 yards per carry), and they don’t pass protect well either (25 sacks allowed, 11th most). Five of the last six games between these two rivals have been decided by eight or fewer points points; I would expect another close game here.
Pick • Bengals 24, Ravens 20
Bengals -1
Under 44½
Final Score: Ravens 20, Bengals 17 in OT … Baltimore covers by 2 … under by 7½


Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-3) ★★★
Early game on FOX
Not long ago this was shaping up to be a must-see game, between Michael Vick and the up-tempo Philly offense versus Aaron Rodgers and the prolific Green Bay passing attack. Now it’s a battle of the backups, with Nick Foles and Seneca Wallace taking center stage. Wallace has lost 9 of his last ten starts and is 6-15 in his NFL career, while Foles is coming off an NFL record-tying 7-touchdown performance. Even so, I still like the Packer running game, and the Green Bay defense is leaps and bounds better than the Eagle D. The Eagles looked like playoff contenders last week, but that was against the Raiders. Philly has yet to beat anyone with a winning record this season; their four wins are against clubs with a combined record of 8-24.
Pick • Packers 24, Eagles 21
Packers -2½
Under 47½
Final Score: Eagles 27, Packers 13 … Philly covers by 16½ … under by 7½


Seattle Seahawks (8-1) at Atlanta Falcons (2-6) ★★★
Early game on FOX
The 2013 Falcons are an example of the importance of depth as opposed to the yearning of most fans to focus on ‘difference makers’ and top end big names. While their slide from 13-3 to 2-6 can be attributed to injuries, other clubs like the Patriots and Packers have dealt with numerous injuries as well and yet continue to sport winning records. Seattle themselves has had its share of injuries to contend with: Max Unger, Russell Okung, Sidney Rice, Chris Clemens, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, Brandon Browner, Bobby Wagner and Breno Giacomini have all been sidelined – yet while Atlanta keeps losing, Seattle keeps winning. On offense Seattle’s biggest issue has been dealing with edge rushers, and I don’t see the Falcons posing much of a threat in that regard. We saw the Patriots able to run at will on Atlanta, so expect Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 125 yards last week, to do the same here. On defense the Seahawks will miss the presence of Red Bryant (concussion), to keep the final score respectable.
Pick • Seahawks 27, Falcons 20
Seahawks -6½
Over 44½
Final Score: Seahawks 33, Falcons 10 … Seattle covers by 16½ … under by 1½


St. Louis Rams (3-6) at Indianapolis Colts (6-2) ★★★
Early game on FOX
While the Rams have looked better recently (Zac Stacy ran for 127 yards last week; 7 sacks vs Seattle the week prior), I’m still not completely sold on them. In the last three games the Rams have turned the ball over 7 times while only forcing two turnovers, and the Colts rank 6th in the NFL with a +7 turnover differential. St. Louis ranks 30th in third down conversions (32%) and is 30th with three and outs (29%); until they find a way to improve in those areas teams like the Colts will find a way to beat them. Still, Indianapolis seems to play to the level of their opponents and this could be a let down game as they look ahead to next week’s game at division rival Tennessee.
Pick • Colts 27, Rams 24
Rams +10½
Over 43½ (one unit) ✔ +100
Final Score: Rams 38, Colts 8 … St. Louis covers by 40½ … over by 2½


Houston Texans (2-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-4) ★★
Late game on CBS
QB Case Keenum has been a really nice surprise for Houston (4 TD, 0 INT, 621 yards in 2 games), but that is about the only good news for them. The Texans once again blew a big lead and has now lost six straight, and head coach Gary Kubiak is sidelined indefinitely. Arizona is allowing just 88 yards rushing per game (4th) and 21.8 points per game (11th), and RB Arian Foster (back) may not be able to go for Houston. As long as QB Carson Palmer doesn’t make too many bad decisions (a big if, I know) and just lets RB Andre Ellington (7.7 yards per carry!) do his thing, then Arizona should come out on top.
Pick • Cardinals 24, Texans 17
Cardinals -2½ (one unit) ✔ +100
Under 41½
Final Score: Cardinals 27, Texans 24 … Arizona covers by ½ … over by 9½


Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) ★★
Monday night on ESPN
Who would have guessed that the storyline for this game is an off field distraction – and it wasn’t about the Bucs? Tampa Bay is 0-4 in games decided by three points or less this year, and is 3-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less in the last two seasons. After halftime the Bucs have been outscored by a 95-36 margin this year, including a 77-26 difference in their last five games. That is a sign that either the coaching staff is not making good in-game adjustments, or the players are giving up – or both. Some of the play calling has been questionable, especially on critical third downs late in the game: against New Orleans the Bucs ran on 3rd and 6, and against Seattle they passed on 3rd and 2. At this point the Bucs may be better off remembering when they missed out on Ndamukong Suh a few years ago and follow the Indianapolis blueprint from 2011 when the Colts Suck for Luck was in full gear; too many wins could leave them out of contention to draft Teddy Bridgewater or Jadeveon Clowney. Does Miami play with an ‘us against the world, take no prisoners’ mentality after all the negative press they have received in the last week, or will it cause them to be unfocused on this game? I’m guessing the latter, since they will have had 11 games between games – but even so, Tampa Bay finally plays with a renewed confidence and gets their first win.
Pick • Bucs 23, Dolphins 21
Bucs +3
Over 40½
Final Score: Bucs 22, Dolphins 19 … Tampa Bay covers by 6 … over by ½


Washington Redskins (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (1-7) ★★
Thursday night on NFLN
More on this game here.
Pick • Washington 27, Minnesota 24
Redskins -2½
Over 49
Final Score: Vikings 34, Redskins 27 … Minnesota covers by 5½ … over by 12


Buffalo Bills (3-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
Early game on CBS
Both clubs are attempting to end three game losing streaks in this battle of Rust Belt clubs. Buffalo has some good news with QB EJ Manuel expected to return as starter, while the Steelers are dealing with questions from last week, in which they gave up the most points in a game in the franchise’s 80-year history. The Bills get a bit of a break after games against the Saints and Chiefs; they are coming off a tough home loss where they out-gained the Chiefs 470-210, but still lost due to two turnovers that the KC defense returned for touchdowns. Buffalo is averaging 4.3 yards per carry (12th) and 146 yards rushing per game (7th) while the Pittsburgh defense ranks 19th in yards per carry and 31st with 131 rushing yards per game. With the Steelers surrendering 197 yards on the ground to Oakland and New England in both of the last two games, Manuel may find himself handing the ball off quite often to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. My guess is that the Steelers play with a big chip on their shoulder after last week, and find a way to win at home despite their defensive deficiencies.
Pick • Steelers 24, Bills 21
Bills +3½
Over 43
Final Score: Steelers 23, Bills 10 … Pittsburgh covers by 9½ … under by 10


Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) at Tennessee Titans (4-4)
Early game on CBS
Tennessee snapped a three game losing streak last week by rediscovering their running game, to the tune of 198 yards on the ground to defeat the Rams and keep their playoff chances in order. That’s bad news for Jacksonville, who ranks last in run defense (162 yards per game) and is 29th at 4.8 yards per carry – and will be without WR Justin Blackmon for the rest of the year (or perhaps beyond).
Pick • Titans 31, Jaguars 10
Titans -12½ (one unit) ✘ -110
Under 41½
Final Score: Jaguars 29, Titans 27 … Jacksonville covers by 14½ … over by 14½


Oakland Raiders (3-5) at New York Giants (2-6)
Early game on CBS
The Giants come off their bye week with some signs of life, having won their last two games after an abysmal 0-6 start. Miraculously they are just 2½ games behind Dallas for lead in the NFC East and are finally on the right side of the turnover battle: in both of their wins they had 3 takeaways while only turning the ball over once. Oakland was absolutely torched at home last week as Nick Foles threw for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns, and the Raiders gave up 49 points and 542 yards of offense to Philadelphia. Now they make a coast-to-coast trip for a kickoff at 10:00 am their time, with RB Darren McFadden (knee) and QB Terrelle Pryor (knee) banged up. The Raiders have lost seven straight road games and 10 of 11 away games since last year; I would not expect that trend to change here.
Pick • Giants 23, Raiders 17
Raiders +7½
Under 44½
Final Score: Giants 24, Raiders 20 … Oakland covers by 3½ … under by ½


Three Game Teaser (one unit) ✘ -110
Jaguars at Titans -3½
Texans at Cardinals +6½
Missouri -4½ at Kentucky

Three Game Parlay (two units) ✘✘ -220
Jaguars at Titans -12½
Auburn -7 at Tennessee
Missouri -13½ at Kentucky

Three Game Parlay (one unit) ✔ +600
Cowboys at Saints over 53
Rams at Colts over 43½
Texans at Cardinals -2½


College Games

Missouri (-13½) at Kentucky (two units) ✔✔ +200
The Tigers remain undervalued based on the rest of the SEC and their 2012 season, but they are 8-1 both straight up and ATS. Meanwhile the Wildcats are playing out another forgettable season, winless in the conference and 2-9 with an inept offense.
Final Score: Missouri 48, Kentucky 17 … Tigers cover by 17½

Vanderbilt (+10½) at Florida (one unit) ✔ +100
Vanderbilt (+350) at Florida (one unit) ✔ +350
As a Gator fan I hate to do this, but this is what this offense has come to: 105th in scoring, and 109th in passing.
Final Score: Vanderbilt 34, Florida 17 … Commodores cover by 27½

Brigham Young (+8½) at Wisconsin (one unit) ✘ -110
BYU is physical enough that they match up well against the Badgers running game, and the Wisconsin defense does not do well against dual-threat quarterbacks like Taysom Hill.
Final Score: Wisconsin 27, BYU 17 … Badgers cover by 1½

Arkansas at Mississippi (-16½) (two units) ✘✘ -220
Ole Miss is quietly headed towards a nine-win season, while the Razorbacks are struggling, in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
Final Score: Ole Miss 34, Arkansas 24 … Razorbacks cover by 6½

Texas (-6) at West Virginia (one unit) ✔ +100
The Longhorns caught a lot of grief for twp early season losses, but since then have won five in a row. Texas has allowed just 20 points in the last two games combined while West Virginia has lost three of their last four.
Final Score: Texas 47, West Virginia 40 in OT … Longhorns cover by 1

Arizona State (-6½) at Utah (one unit) ✘ -110
The Utes just don’t have the weapons to keep pace with the Sun Devils, who have scored 53 or more points in each of their last four conference games.
Final Score: Arizona State 20, Utah 19 … Utes cover by 5½

Mississippi State at Texas A&M (-19) (one unit) ✘ -110
Mississippi State at Texas A&M (over 68½) (one unit) ✔ +100
This will be the final game at College Station for Johnny Manziel; you know that he wants to make it a memorable one.
Final Score: Texas A&M 51, Miss St 41 … Bulldogs cover by 9 … over by 23½

Top Pick Of The Week:
Auburn (-7) at Tennessee (three units) ✔✔✔ +300
The Auburn offense ranks 17th with 495 yards per game, 28th with 36.8 points per game, and 5th with 306 rushing yards per game. The Vols defense ranks 79th with 29.4 points allowed per game, they have the worst run defense in the SEC and rank 100 nationally, and once they fall behind they can’t get back into the game because they have the nation’s 108th ranked passing offense.
Final Score: Auburn 55, Tennessee 23 … Tigers cover by 25

Houston (+10½) at Central Florida (one unit) ✔ +100
Houston at Central Florida (over 63½) (one unit) ✘ -110
The Knights are getting a lot of deserved love after victories over Penn State and Louisville, but QB John O’Korn (22 TD, 4 INT) and the Cougars’ prolific offense (43 ppg over the last five games) should keep this close – and entertaining.
Final Score: UCF 19, Houston 14 … Cougars cover by 5½ … under by 30½


$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

There was no carryover from a pretty good week 8 (+1160), as it was followed up by a rather so-so week 9 (8-5 straight up, 5-8 against the spread). I recall thinking that I was too heavy going with the chalk, and sure enough I was -340 picking favorites. Overall I just did not give enough significance to the difficulty of winning on the road, as I was wrong on the Bengals at Miami, Saints at Jets and Chargers at Washington. Once again I went up early on college games, and gave it all back on the NFL games.


Tale Of The Tape

Week 9 Results

Straight Up: 8-5, 62%
Underdogs to win straight up: 1-0, 100%

Against the Spread: 5-8, 38%
ATS picking favorites: 3-5, 38% (1-3, -340)
ATS picking underdogs: 2-3, 40% (0-0, +000)
ATS Confidence Picks: 1-3, 25% (-340)
One Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, -120
Two Unit Plays ATS: 0-1, -220
Three Unit Plays ATS: none
Four Unit Plays ATS: none
Five Unit Plays ATS: none
550 risked, net -340; -61.8% ROI

Over Under Total: 6-7, 46%
Picking Over: 6-2, 75% (2-0, +200)
Picking Under: 0-5, 0% (0-2, -330)
O/U Confidence Picks: 2-2, 50% (-130)
One Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, +90
Two Unit Plays O/U: 0-1, -220
Three Unit Plays O/U: none
Four Unit Plays O/U: none
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
550 risked, net -130; -23.6% ROI

Best Play of the Week: incorrect (Colts-Texans under); -220

2-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Teasers: 1-1, -10
2-Game Parlays: none
3-Game Parlays: 0-1, -110
4-Game Parlays: none

College Games: 5-2; 1760 risked; net +170; 9.7% ROI

Week 9 Total: 9-9; 3190 risked; net -420; -13.2% ROI


Season Totals

Straight Up: 93-40 (70%)
Underdogs to win straight up: 13-11 (54%)

Against the Spread: 60-70-3 (46%)
ATS picking favorites: 33-37-2, 47% (16-18, -930)
ATS picking underdogs: 27-33-1, 45% (8-5, +420)
ATS Confidence Picks: 24-23, 51% (-510)
One Unit Plays ATS: 13-10, 57% (+200)
Two Unit Plays ATS: 8-9, 47% (-370)
Three Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 33% (-360)
Four Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 50% (-480)
Five Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, 100% (+500)

Over Under Total: 71-62 (53%)
Picking Over: 38-24, 61% (11-9, +370)
Picking Under: 33-38, 46% (12-11, +40)
O/U Confidence Picks: 23-20, 53% (+410)
One Unit Plays O/U: 14-10, 58% (+300)
Two Unit Plays O/U: 6-8, 43% (-560)
Three Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, 67% (+270)
Four Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, 100% (+400)
Five Unit Plays O/U: none

Best Play of the Week: 5-3, 68% (+900)

2-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Teasers: 6-4 (+640)
2-Game Parlays: none
3-Game Parlays: 1-3 (+160)
4-Game Parlays: 0-1 (-110)

College Games: 24-8-1, 75% (+2180)

Grand Total: 78-58-1; 24,320 risked; net +2,770; 11.4% ROI


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