Tips for Week 9 NFL picks: Seattle’s 12-0 trend, why Bills could cover, teaser of the week and more

The Bills are in an interesting spot this week, potentially playing their second straight game as double-digit home underdogs if the line stays at Bears -10 or higher. Though the Bills were unable to cover against the Patriots on Monday night, hopping on double-digit home ‘dogs has proven a profitable trend over the years. The Pro-Football-Reference database turns up 183 instances of a team being a double-digit home-dog, and those teams are cashing in at a 109-71-3 clip, which is a better than 60 percent hit rate.

But the Bills are on track to be one of only 32 teams to be double-digit home ‘dogs more than one time in the same season. And when you look at the previous 31 times it’s happened, you find something interesting.

In the sample size, which ranges from the 1987 Falcons to the 2017 Browns, 27 of the 31 teams managed to cover at least once as a double-digit ‘dog at home when they faced multiple instances of the scenario in the same season. Just four teams went oh-fer, and one of those managed a push in one of their two data points. As a group, the 31 teams went 44-27-2, which is about a 62 percent rate of covering. And again, more than 87 percent of those teams had at least one cover.

The Bills are 0-1 as a double-digit home ‘dog in 2018. Will they be 1-1 after Sunday?

If you want to know which sides I like this week, you can find that info at the SportsLine link below, where all my rated plays appear during the season along with my five SuperContest picks each week and plenty of great analysis from a fantastic collection of experts. You can also check out where all our CBS Sports staff lands on each game each week right here.

Each week in this space, I’m going to go behind the lines and picks to bring you a bit of a deeper dive into what you should know before locking in your plays. This week for the first time, I’m going game by game to show you the stats I’m considering now that we’re halfway through the season. That includes a 12-0 trend on the Seahawks that you’re going to want to learn about.

My picks

Over at SportsLine, I have a Thursday pick posted for Week 9, and I’ll have plenty more by Friday night. Join now and use promo code WHITE for $1 on your first month and you can get mine and every SportsLine expert’s picks throughout the year, as well as my SuperContest picks each Saturday.

However, you can get one free pick with my teaser of the week at the end of this article. Enjoy!

Raiders at 49ers (-2.5)

Home-field advantage: 2 points
Power rating line: 49ers -2
Lookahead line: 49ers -2.5

The 49ers come into this game as the stronger team in yards per play and in points per drive, but the Raiders have a slight edge in DVOA, thanks largely to a top-10 passing attack in terms of efficiency. The 49ers aren’t exactly great at slowing down the pass, ranking 20th in net yards per attempt on defense while allowing 18 passing TDs and managing just two interceptions.

My numbers give the 49ers a two-point home-field advantage, so if you think the 49ers are a slightly better team, this line makes sense. I have the two teams dead even in my power ratings, which means I’d project a line of 49ers -2. And there isn’t any movement off the lookahead line to consider.

This game might come down to the 49ers’ injuries. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is questionable due to a wrist injury on his throwing hand, and even if he plays it figures to be at less than 100 percent. The 49ers have also ruled out linebacker Reuben Foster and a pair of safeties, while corner Richard Sherman and the team’s top two running backs are among other questionable players.

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Lions at Vikings (-4.5)

Home-field advantage: 4 points
Power rating line: Vikings -8.5
Lookahead line: Vikings -6

The Vikings seem like they’re putting up solid point totals week in and week out, but according to points per drive, they rank in the bottom half of the league. Their rush offense hasn’t been great, and with a middle-of-the-pack pass offense, it makes sense that their numbers are lagging behind. But they now get the benefit of playing a bad Lions defense that ranks 26th in net yards per attempt, 30th in yards per carry allowed and in the bottom three in both pass and rush DVOA.

The Lions will have to try and win this game with their offense, one that’s been surprisingly effective running the ball. But the Vikings come in with a top-10 DVOA against the run and the fifth-best yards-per-carry allowed in the league. Throw in the Lions’ excellent adjusted sack rate facing an offensive line that has had issues in protection, and this could be a game where points are at a premium.

With the Vikings getting a four-point bump for a strong home-field advantage, they only need to be a point better than the Lions on a neutral field to make them a value play. Yet my power ratings have a five-point gap between the two teams that’s also reflected in the overall DVOA difference between them.

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Chiefs (-8) at Browns

Home-field advantage: 2 points
Power rating line: Chiefs -5.5
Lookahead line: Chiefs -7

This game gives us a marquee matchup, with the No. 1 pass DVOA offense taking on the No. 1 pass DVOA defense. Even if the Browns can somehow figure out a way to slow down Patrick Mahomes, their numbers against the run (27th in DVOA, 24th in yards per carry) suggest Kareem Hunt may be able to take over on the ground. The Browns also have the opportunity to find success on the ground with Nick Chubb against the Chiefs’ No. 32 ranked DVOA.

Even though my numbers say there’s a little value on the Browns as home ‘dogs of over a touchdown, I don’t know that I’m running out to play them the week after the Chiefs’ only non-cover of the season. I would expect a bump from the Browns offense after the coaching change, but you may want to play it safe and see how the team responds before going all-in on an improvement.

Steelers at Ravens (-3)

Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Ravens -3
Lookahead line: Ravens -3.5

The Steelers come into this one on a three-game winning streak, while the Ravens have dropped two straight, but aside from yards per play differential, the stats favor the Ravens here. Baltimore ranks just 10th against the pass per DVOA, but they have posted a league-best 5.2 net yards per attempt against while holding offenses to the least amount of points per drive in the league. That could mean some difficulty for a strong Steelers offense that managed just 14 points at home in their previous meeting this year.

The line metrics think the number is pretty spot-on for this matchup, so there likely won’t be much value to be had. I expect the line drops to Ravens -2.5 at some point, which is where I’d look to grab it if you like the home team. If you’re siding with the Steelers, you’d be wise to take the three points while you can.

Buccaneers at Panthers (-6)

Home-field advantage: 2.5 points
Power rating line: Panthers -5.5
Lookahead line: Panthers -5

The Panthers are entering a stretch where they’ve been excellent historically, as they’re 14-5 straight up in November over the last five years and 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 November games. If you believe DVOA, this matchup will be a bloodbath, and the differential there would project this line to be in double digits. But yards per play disagrees, with the Bucs’ big-play pass offense giving them a chance to hang around virtually every week, as they’ve lost by five just once this year despite a tough schedule and quarterback uncertainty.

If you take the Panthers here, you’re expecting the offense to steamroll a bad Bucs defense and the Carolina defense to make Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Jameis Winston last week. If you go Bucs, you’re probably looking for more FitzMagic and a backdoor cover if you need it.

Jets (-3) at Dolphins

Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Dolphins -1.5
Lookahead line: n/a

The Jets haven’t done a whole lot on offense this year, cracking 200 passing yards just twice in eight games while posting basement-level numbers in DVOA across the board, but this could be a good week for them. The Dolphins have given up 27 points or more in five straight games. They’ve been particularly bad against the run in that stretch, allowing 181 rush yards per game, while their pass defense DVOA along with a 31st ranking in net yards per attempt suggest Sam Darnold could be in for a nice day. 

The Jets’ defense appears to be the best unit in this game, and with Brock Osweiler under center, I have the Jets as two points better in my power ratings, which would make them a 1.5-point ‘dog in Miami. If the line moves, I’d expect it to be down to 2.5, so if you like the Jets, now’s the time to play them.

Falcons at Redskins (-1.5)

Home-field advantage: 2.5 points
Power rating line: Redskins -2.5
Lookahead line: Redskins -1.5

The Falcons are on a 7-2 ATS run coming out of the bye, a stretch that begins with Matt Ryan’s second season. He’ll need to be on top of his game in this matchup against an underrated Washington defense that’s fifth in net yards per attempt allowed and sixth in yards per carry allowed along with their strong pass defense DVOA and points per drive mark.

The line is right where it is on the lookahead, and since I have the Redskins with a slightly below-average home field, my numbers would make this line Redskins -2.5. But I’m not so sure the Falcons aren’t the play; if their offense gets rolling in the first half, I don’t think the Redskins can keep up in a shootout, even considering the poor state of Atlanta’s defense. They’ve been rolled by the Saints, Bengals, Steelers and Buccaneers, four offenses with a lot more firepower than that of Washington.

Bears (-10) at Bills

Home-field advantage: 2 points
Power rating line: Bears -9
Lookahead line: n/a

The value might be on the Bills here, especially when you consider the double-digit home ‘dog trend we talked about at the top, but good luck getting anyone to bet them with Nathan Peterman under center. The Bills’ 32nd rank in points per drive and passing DVOA undersells the state of their offense; the Bills are nearly twice as bad as the 31st-ranked passing DVOA, and they’re averaging a mere 0.91 points per offensive drive. That includes a stretch where they’ve scored just 37 points in a five-week span; three teams reached that point total in Week 8 alone.

The Bears haven’t exactly been road warriors this year, letting a one-legged Aaron Rodgers rally to beat them in Week 1, eeking out a win over the woeful Cardinals offense in Week 3 and losing in overtime to Brock Osweiler coming out of their bye in Week 6. But again, this is the Bills we’re talking about. The total is a disgustingly-low 37.5 points, and I want to play the Under anyway. At the very least, taking Under 13.5 or 14 on the Bills team total seems like a sure thing.

Texans at Broncos (-1)

Home-field advantage: 4 points
Power rating line: Broncos -2.5
Lookahead line: Texans -1

Here’s a matchup of strength vs. strength, as the Broncos are No. 2 in rush DVOA and No. 1 in yards per carry facing a Texans defense with a league-best rush DVOA that ranks third in yards per carry allowed. It’s also a matchup of weaknesses: teams have the most success running the ball against the Broncos, but that’s not what the Texans do well. This could come down to the Broncos’ pass rush against a bad Texans offensive line.

Even though the lookahead line was Texans -1, this line got as high as Broncos -3 before they sent receiver Demaryius Thomas to Houston. I don’t think their offense will miss him too much with talented rookie Courtland Sutton deserving of more targets, and I was surprised to see it drop all the way to pick ’em after the trade before settling at -1. Considering the Broncos’ plus home-field advantage, there appears to be nice value on the home team.

Chargers at Seahawks (-2)

Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Seahawks -2
Lookahead line: Pick ’em

The stats love the Chargers, who top 1.0 in yards per play differential while also ranking third in overall DVOA. But the Seahawks’ No. 2 DVOA defense has what it takes to slow down the Chargers’ excellent offense, and the Seahawks rank slightly better than the Chargers defense in both rushing and passing when Seattle has the ball.

But here’s why I’m hesitant to jump on the Chargers: the Seahawks as 12-0 straight up in the Russell Wilson era when they play AFC teams at home. That includes a comeback win over Tom Brady’s Patriots in Wilson’s rookie year, a shootout win against the electric Deshaun Watson last year, a win over the always tough Steelers in 2015 and another against Peyton Manning’s Broncos in 2014 before his decline. Russell Wilson has been tested time and again by the AFC’s best at home and has yet to lose. Will the Chargers be the ones to break the streak?

Rams at Saints (-1.5)

Home-field advantage: 3 points
Power rating line: Saints -1
Lookahead line: Rams -1.5

Here’s an interesting matchup of two elite, well-rounded offenses facing two defenses that play well against one part of the game but struggle immensely against the other. DVOA has less of a problem with the Rams’ run defense as passing is an inherently more valuable aspect of offense in this era, but the Saints defense has been playing better as of late. Yards per play sees the Rams with the clear edge, and before Week 8, the lookahead line did too.

For me, I can’t get past the fact that we can get points, even if it’s not many, taking a team that’s undefeated halfway through the season. And this line feels more likely to go up than down, with people just assuming this is the week the Rams lose their first game. But teams don’t follow a logical script when it comes to that kind of thing; it’s not like they’re a lock to beat the Seahawks at home the following week either.

Packers at Patriots (-6)

Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Patriots -7
Lookahead line: Patriots -7.5

Don’t let their yards per play differential fool you; the Patriots are used to lagging behind their stats and still stringing together wins and covers anyway. DVOA shows how they’re pretty strong across the board, though Aaron Rodgers is the great equalizer on the other side. The Patriots have scored 38 points in four of their last five games, while the Packers have given up 29 points in five of their last six (the Bills were the outlier in both cases).

We should clearly expect a ton of points from the Patriots, so it’ll be on Rodgers and a strong rush offense to keep pace and put themselves in the position for a backdoor cover if they need it. Rodgers doesn’t find himself as a six-point ‘dog often but just covered in that situation last week. Expect the public to roll with him to do it again.

Titans at Cowboys (-6.5)

Home-field advantage: 1.5 points
Power rating line: Cowboys -2.5
Lookahead line: Cowboys -4

Note that this line is 2.5 points off the lookahead number, despite neither of these teams playing last week. What gives? Really the only thing you can attribute the move to is the Amari Cooper trade, but he hadn’t been playing well in Oakland and he enters a Dallas offense that just doesn’t throw the ball with any consistent success. Sure, the thinking is obviously that he’ll improve those passing game numbers — that’s why they made the trade — but will it be a massive boost right out the gate?

Another thing working against the Titans is that they seems to won games early in the year somewhat with smoke and mirrors. DVOA isn’t as impressed with their defense as other stats are. It’ll be interesting to see how the Titans come out after an extra week to get healthy and to prepare for what has to feel like a must-win spot at 3-4.

Teaser of the Week

Rams +7.5 at Saints
Patriots PK vs. Packers

Teasing the Rams above a touchdown is a no-brainer; who is going to blow out an 8-0 team that’s considered Super Bowl favorites? Even if the Rams are somehow outside the number in the second half, we can rest assured knowing they have an offense that can roll up points in a hurry.

Since 2001, when some guy named Tom Brady joined the Patriots, the team is 79-10 straight up in home games where they’re favorites of at least six points. Teasing them down to a pick ’em is about as safe a play as we can find.

The teaser of the week is 5-3 after the Bears and Bucs came through last week. We’ll see if it keeps rolling in Week 9.

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