Week 9 NFL odds, picks: Saints give Rams first loss, Packers get past Patriots, Steelers over Ravens

The Rams are the NFL’s only unbeaten team but they’ll meet their match in New Orleans on Sunday where a Saints win would put them in the driver’s seat for a first-round playoff bye and, more importantly, home-field advantage. Los Angeles filled one of the few holes on its roster when it traded for pass rusher Dante Fowler before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade  deadline, but the Saints appear to be hitting their groove after a rocky start; they’ve won in Baltimore and Minnesota in consecutive weeks.

The Rams, meanwhile, eked out a home win over the Packers last Sunday, thanks mostly to Ty Montgomery’s misguided decision to return a kickoff with two minutes left. He fumbled, the Rams recovered, and Aaron Rodgers was robbed of an opportunity to lead the game-winning drive. He won’t have to wait long for another chance; this week’s game against the Patriots in Gillette Stadium will almost certainly come down to the wire. 

It’s also likely that the latest chapter in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry will be decided by a field goal. If Pittsburgh prevails, it will widen its AFC North lead; if the Ravens win, they’ll avoid falling to 4-5 before hitting their bye.

Alright, let’s get to all the games below.



Oakland at San Francisco

Line: 49ers -3

The Raiders lost again last Sunday, this time to the resurgent Colts, but they looked better while doing so. Specifically, Derek Carr had a strong outing, completing 75 percent of his throws for three touchdowns and no turnovers. The 49ers, meanwhile, lost to the hapless Cardinals. So can Oakland build off last week’s improved play or are these teams equally terrible and the outcome is basically a coin flip? (We’re not kidding, by the way; Football Outsiders ranks the Raiders 29th in team efficiency and the 49ers are 30th, ahead of only the Cardinals and Bills.)

Pick: Raiders 21, 49ers 18

Result: 49ers 34, Raiders 3

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Chicago at Buffalo

Line: Bears -8.5

The Bears’ offense can be hard to watch because Mitchell Trubisky is so maddeningly inconsistent from one snap to the next. But compared to what the Bills’ offense perpetrates against the game of football on a weekly basis, Trubisky looks like Aaron Rodgers. These are two of the league’s best defenses so the question becomes: Who’s likely to make fewer mistakes: Trubisky or Nathan Peterman, who will start in place of a concussed Derek Anderson?

Pick: Bears 28, Bills 9

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Line: Ravens -3

The Steelers didn’t put up much of a fight when these teams met in Pittsburgh in Week 4. Now, a month later, the Steelers have hit their stride and lead the division. Meanwhile, the Ravens are 1-3 since leaving Pittsburgh, including a loss to the Browns. Now 4-4, Baltimore does not want to head into the bye week a game below .500. The Steelers, meanwhile, need to stockpile wins now because their schedule gets immeasurably tougher over the final two months (four of their final eight games are against the Panthers, Chargers, Pats and Saints).

Pick: Steelers 21, Ravens 20 

Atlanta at Washington

Line: Redskins -2

It looks like this Redskins defense will have to carry the team into the postseason because Alex Smith has been more game-manager than franchise quarterback. Shocking, we know, though in his defense, they have no deep passing game to speak of, unless you’re willing to consider Adrian Peterson’s team-leading 16.8 yards per reception. The Falcons won two straight heading into their bye and at 3-4 there’s virtually no margin for error in a division that includes the Saints (6-1) and Panthers (5-2).

Pick: Redskins 28, Falcons 26

Detroit at Minnesota

Line: Vikings -4

Which Lions team will show up in Minnesota? The one that beat the Patriots and Packers? Or the one that lost to the Jets and 49ers? It’s impossible to trust this team for that reason and the defense, which was supposed to improve under Matt Patricia, is one of the league’s worst. The Vikings (4-3-1), who are just a half-game behind the Bears atop the division and had their chances against the Saints on Sunday, are a much more consistent team. No, the defense isn’t as good as it was a season ago, and yes, the offensive line needs to play better, but Kirk Cousins has proven he’s worth the $84 million contract and Adam Thielen has already made a convincing case that he’s the NFL’s best wideout.

Pick:  Vikings 34, Lions 24

Kansas City at Cleveland

Line: Chiefs -8

It’s hard to envision a situation where the Chiefs lose this game. What would have to happen? Alien abduction? Chiefs don’t show up till halftime? The Browns are allowed to play 15 guys at a time? The league forces Hue Jackson to coach the Chiefs? You get the idea. The Browns canned Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley following last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is currently winning Game of Thrones, Cleveland edition, was named interim coach. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been taking care of business on the field, thanks in large part to Patrick Mahomes’ MVP-type season. Maybe the Browns’ defense puts up a good fight early but since they’re likely to spend much of the afternoon on the field because Cleveland’s offense has been so bad, expect them to tire down the stretch and for Kansas City to earn win No. 8.

Pick: Chiefs 40, Browns 17

N.Y. Jets at Miami

Line: Dolphins -3

Brock Osweiler has started the last three games for the Dolphins and he could make it four this Sunday; it’s still unclear if Ryan Tannehill, who is battling a shoulder injury, will be ready. The Dolphins won the Week 2 matchup in New York, 20-12, and on paper they’re the better team; according to Football Outsiders they’re 11th in efficiency while the Jets are 20th. And while both teams have similarly efficient defenses, New York’s offense has struggled. That’s not really a surprise given that rookie Sam Darnold has eight career starts, but the Jets need a win to get back to .500 while the Dolphins (4-4) can stay within sight of the Patriots (6-2) with a victory.

Pick: Jets 20, Dolphins 18

Tampa Bay at Carolina

Line: Panthers -7

Mercifully, Jameis Winston has been benched. That’s in everyone’s best interest, including Winston, who needs to take a long hard look at why he’s making so many terrible decisions. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the long-term answer but he’ll certainly do over the final two months. Unfortunately, the Bucs’ defense remains terrible while the Panthers seem to get better each week. The Panthers may currently be the second-best team in the NFC South but they might be one of the best teams in the NFL when it’s all said and done.

Pick: Panthers 34, Buccaneers 28

Houston at Denver

Line: Broncos -2.5

Demaryius Thomas, as he’s done for nine seasons, will report to Mile High Stadium for the Broncos’ next game. This time, however, he’ll be in the other locker room; Denver traded the wideout to the Texans, who also happen to be coming to town for the Week 8 matchup. Whether Thomas can replace injured burner Will Fuller is another matter but it’ll be fun to watch him and DeAndre Hopkins on the field together. Houston stumbled to an 0-3 start but has won five straight. The Broncos, meanwhile, have been a disappointment. After a 2-0 start, they dropped four straight before beating the Cardinals two weeks ago, and quarterback Case Keenum looks to be the latest in a long line of underachieving quarterbacks brought in by general manager John Elway.

Pick: Texans 20, Broncos 17

L.A. Chargers at Seattle

Line: Seahawks -2

Since 2002, these teams have faced off every four years. They’re 2-2, each winning once at home and once on the road. The only time Philip Rivers faced off against Russell Wilson came in Week 2 of the 2014 season when the then-San Diego Chargers won, 30-21. Rivers threw three touchdowns, Wilson threw two touchdowns; Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal led the Chargers in receptions and Ryan Mathews led the team in rushing while Marshawn Lynch topped both categories for the Seahawks. Seattle would go on to lose the Patriots in the Super Bowl and the Chargers lost three of their final four games to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. This season, the Chargers have a top-5 offense and a top-10 defense and are just behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. And the Seahawks are one of the biggest surprises of the first two months of 2018; the offensive line has outplayed expectations and the defense, which dismantled the Legion of Boom in the offseason, ranks fourth among all units.

Pick: Seahawks 24, Chargers 21

L.A. Rams at New Orleans

Line: Saints -1.5

The best team in football got better just before Tuesday’s trade deadline, acquiring edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. from the Jaguars. Fowler fills one of the few holes on L.A.’s depth chart and anything he can provide against ageless future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, all the better. This game could not only be a preview of the NFC Championship matchup but could determine where that game is played. The Saints have shown they can win on the road — they just did it in Baltimore and Minnesota — but no reason to tempt fate by having to travel to Los Angeles in January for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

Pick: Saints 30, Rams 28

Green Bay at New England

Line: Patriots -5.5

Bill Parcells once famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” The Packers are 3-3-1 and in third place in the NFC North. But they were jobbed out of an early-season victory over the Vikings, and it seems reasonable that, with two minutes to play, Rodgers had a very good chance of leading a game-winning drive against the Rams last Sunday if Ty Montgomery hadn’t fumbled the kickoff return. But hey, excuses are for losers, which is why you never hear the division-leading Patriots bemoaning their fate. Sunday’s game has bigger implications for the Packers — the Pats are winning the division — but it’s incredibly difficult to win in Gillette Stadium.

Pick: Packers 35, Patriots 31

Tennessee at Dallas

Line: Cowboys -6.5

When these teams last met in Week 1 of the 2014 season, it was Tony Romo vs. Jake Locker. The Cowboys cruised to a 26-10 victory and went on to finish 12-4; the Titans limped to a 2-14 mark. Now both are sitting at 3-4; the Cowboys have alternated losses and wins every week while the Titans are sitting on a three-game losing streak. Both teams desperately need a victory to keep pace in their respective divisions. If this comes down to the final drive, we’ll take rookie coach Mike Vrabel, who has shown a willingness to take chances with the game on the line, something Jason Garrett has never been accused of.

Pick:  Titans 24, Cowboys 23

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