Nostrathomas Predicts: NFL Week 9 Including the AFC North Battle for Ohio

We’re close to the new halfway point of this NFL season and there are some interesting postseason races taking shape in both conferences. A handful of teams are running away with the top spots but there is a logjam of teams hoping to make a name for themselves and win a playoff spot over the final 10 weeks of the season.

As for Nostrathomas’ fortunes in 2021, I struggled early in the season against the spread but stayed within shouting distance of the .500 mark. I finished Week 8 with a 9-4 record straight-up and 7-5-1 against the spread.

Now, after two straight weeks over .500 against the spread and a positive result Thursday night with the Indianapolis Colts covering the 10-point spread against the New York Jets, I’m 80-43 straight-up, 59-60-2 against the spread and 14-11-1 against the spread on Best Bets.

It’s time to peer through the crystal beer mugs and get my record for the season on the winning side of .500 (and that’s while picking every game of every week of the season).

Game of the Week

Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals -2.5 (1PM ET; Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH)

The Cincinnati Bengals was holding the brass ring, top seed in the AFC heading into Week 8, then laid an egg against first-time starting quarterback Mike White and the New York Jets. Now in Week 9, both Cincinnati and the Cleveland Browns will be fighting for position in the tough AFC North.

These teams go about their business on offense differently. The Browns operate behind Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb. One of the reason Cleveland was upset last week by the Steelers was that Chubb was held to 61 yards on 16 carries. Cincinnati is fourth in the NFL on defense, giving up only 3.9 rushing yards per attempt so getting Chubb going will be a major challenge for the Browns.

Cleveland needs Chubb to get into a rhythm because they sit around the middle of the league with their pass attack. Bakery Mayfield is 14th in the league with a 94.5 passer rating and is 13th in net yards per pass attempt. Generating a pass attack to take pressure off their ground game is going to be a problem though.

Cleveland cut ties this week with Odell Beckham Jr. after controversy between him, the team and Mayfield. Now the chemistry needs to be re-established between Mayfield and Jarvis Landry to get the Browns stalled offense out of the mud.

As for the Bengals, they can run the ball with Joe Mixon but they travel most effectively through the air with second year quarterback Joe Burrow having Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins to spread the ball around to.

I believe the Bengals main problem last week was that they got caught looking ahead to this battle with their long-time division rivals. Both of these teams are fighting in a tough division for a spot in the playoffs and Cincinnati looked past the one-win team in front of them. Until they show otherwise, Nostrathomas is looking at the Bengals effort last week as an anomaly and that they are as good a team as they were before Week 8.

Take the Cincinnati Bengals to win and cover at home.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Cleveland Browns 20

Best Bets

Buffalo Bills -14.5 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1PM ET; TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL)

The Buffalo Bills are at the top of Nostrathomas’ statistical power rankings this week and they’re playing the team that is thirtieth.

Last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars were coming off their bye week and travelled to face a Seahawks team that was trying to keep themselves afloat with Geno Smith as starting quarterback. They failed to even compete.

In their 24-7 loss, their only touchdown came from a garbage time toss from Jeff Lawrence to Jamal Agnew.

Buffalo isn’t a team like the Rams, who went into the fourth quarter of their game against Houston up by 38, then gave up 22. The Bills are a team that likes to kick opponents when they’re down. So far this season they’ve beaten the Miami Dolphins by 35, the Washington Football Team by 22, the Houston Texans by 40 and the Kansas City Chiefs by 18.

Take the Bills to continue their rampage through the AFC while covering the two-score spread.

Buffalo Bills 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

New England Patriots -3.5 vs Carolina Panthers (1PM ET; Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC)

Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots offense was doing a good job moving the ball but were terrible at finishing. The past two weeks have seen New England begin to turn that trend around.

The Patriots put up 54 points on the New York Jets two weeks ago and scored 27 in their victory over the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Carolina’s defense is the next challenge that New England’s offense has to face.

The Patriots will have a tough time protecting quarterback Mac Jones against a Carolina front that boasts Haason Reddick, Brian Burns and Derrick Brown. Still, New England has very capable weapons for Jones with Damien Harris at running back and Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver.

Carolina’s challenge will be moving the ball against an always tough Patriots defense. Quarterback Sam Darnold has been cleared from concussion protocol but is still fighting a shoulder injury. Running back Christian McCaffrey has been activated off injured reserve and is eligible to play in this game but how effective will he be in coming off a hamstring injury.

There is still a possibility that P.J. Walker will have to start this game at quarterback. That’s not a positive for a team that is hoping to fight their way back into playoff contention. The Panthers have been struggling to begin with after opening the season with three straight wins.

The Patriots are improving as the season goes on while Carolina tries to find a cure for their struggles on offense. New England wins their third in a row and keeps ramping up the pressure in the AFC postseason race.

Minnesota Vikings vs Baltimore Ravens -6 (1PM ET; M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD)

The Minnesota Vikings came off their bye week and laid an egg at home, losing to backup quarterback Cooper Rush and the Dallas Cowboys 20-16.

Minnesota’s defense is struggling and they’ll be without sack leader Danielle Hunter and cornerback Patrick Peterson against a Ravens offense that will be looking to wash the taste of a 41-17, Week 4 loss to Cincinnati out of their mouths.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has the opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable Baltimore pass defense but he struggled through the month of October.

Baltimore is 10-3 coming out of their bye week under head coach John Harbaugh. Add another win to that record after the Ravens best Minnesota at home.

Baltimore Ravens 30 Minnesota Vikings 21

Best of the Rest

Denver Broncos vs Dallas Cowboys -10 (1PM ET; AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX)

From all indications, Dak Prescott will start this game for Dallas. That gives the Cowboys offense an insurmountable advantage against Vic Fangio’s struggling Denver defense. Especially when that defense traded away Pro Bowl pass rusher Von Miller before Tuesday’s deadline.

In their last five games, the Broncos are averaging 16.2 points per game. It gets tougher for Denver’s offense when they’re playing a winning team.

Take Dallas to win over a team that showed this past week that they’re ready to start rebuilding.

Dallas Cowboys 32 Denver Broncos 14

Las Vegas Raiders -3 vs New York Giants (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)

The New York Giants gave the Chiefs all they could handle last week before losing 20-17, but Kansas City has been struggling mightily this season. Otherwise, the Giants haven’t been competitive against playoff caliber teams. They’re also another week away from getting key offensive players back.

If New York had a pass rush I’d give them a good chance to pull off the upset in this game but Derek Carr will have all the time he needs and still has solid receiving talent on this team, even without Henry Ruggs.

Las Vegas wins this game and covers.

Las Vegas Raiders 24 New York Giants 17

Atlanta Falcons vs New Orleans Saints -6 (1PM ET; Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA)

The New Orleans Saints will be starting Trevor Siemian at quarterback this week while Taysom Hill out of concussion protocol and available off the bench.

Saints running back Alvin Kamara’s production has been down so far this season, 480 yards and a 3.6 yards per carry average but if he’s going to break out, it should be this week against Atlanta. The Falcons average 4.4 yards per carry allowed on defense and their defensive front gets pushed back on nearly every snap.

New Orleans is very good on defense and the Falcons just don’t have enough reliable weapons on offense, especially with Calvin Ridley away from the team, to make a serious game of this.

I believe the Saints win this game and cover the number.

New Orleans Saints 22 Atlanta Falcons 13

Los Angeles Chargers vs Philadelphia Eagles +1.5 (4:05PM ET; Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA)

The Philadelphia Eagles have dominated two teams this season, the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. Both of those wins were on the road. Their third win was a tight battle against Carolina, also on the road. Philadelphia is 0-3 at home in 2021.

The Los Angeles Chargers looked like certain AFC playoff contenders after opening the season 4-1. In the last two weeks though, they’ve lost some of the new car smell that they were enjoying under first-year head coach Brandon Staley.

Philadelphia employed a run-heavy strategy last week in their blowout win over the Lions. Los Angeles is last in the league in rushing yards per carry allowed so a repeat of that game plan could be the perfect move for Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.

Boston Scott, Jordan Howard and Kenneth Gainwell evenly split 36 carries for 144 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts added seven rushes for 71 yards.

Los Angeles needs more than running back Austin Ekeler and wide receiver Keenan Allen to carry the heavy freight for quarterback Justin Herbert on offense. If Mike Williams and tight end Jared Cook don’t emerge as reliable weapons this is going to be another long afternoon for the Chargers.

If Nick Sirianni runs with the same scheme on offense that he showed last week, and from what I’ve come to understand, that’s a big if, Philadelphia should get their first home victory of the season.

Philadelphia Eagles 25 Los Angeles Chargers 20

Arizona Cardinals +3 vs San Francisco 49ers (4:25PM ET; Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA)

This game has swung over from the Arizona Cardinals being favored by three points to the San Francisco 49ers being favored by the same spread.

These are two beaten up teams that are going to have question marks about their lineups right up to game time.

Colt McCoy in place of the injured Kyler Murray is not an option you want to see on the field for Arizona, especially if DeAndre Hopkins is also incapable of playing. However, Jimmy Garoppolo not having Deebo Samuel or running back Elijah Mitchell available to him is just as bad.

Nostrathomas says stay as far away from this game as you can. For the purposes of making a pick, the Cardinals will still be the better team on the field Sunday. Don’t overreact to what the 49ers did in Chicago last week. It was the Bears worst defensive effort of the season.

Also, San Francisco is currently riding a seven-game home losing streak and have lost 10 of their last 11 at Levi’s Stadium.

Arizona Cardinals 21 San Francisco 49ers 17

Green Bay Packers +7 vs Kansas City Chiefs (4:25PM ET; GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)

Last season, Kansas City would have feasted on the opportunity to play the Packers without Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. This season the Chiefs will be feeling a sense of accomplishment if they can just stay out of the AFC West basement.

It’s already well known that Rodgers has tested positive for Covid-19 and his remarks concerning his contracting the disease are all over social media.

The problem for the Chiefs is that this Green Bay team is a lot more than just Aaron Rodgers. Their defense will still be tasked to shut down Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on the ground and Davante Adams and friends through the air. Even if it is Jordan Love throwing them the ball this week.

The interesting thing about this season is, everyone looks at these Chiefs and seeing the Super Bowl editions. They’ve fallen far short of that standard this season, both on offense and defense.

Green Bay Packers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 20

Tennessee Titans +7 vs Los Angeles Rams (Sunday Night Football; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)

The Tennessee Titans have won four straight games with a couple of tough teams thrown into that streak. They currently sit at the top of the AFC with their 6-2 record.

Tennessee might no miss Derrick Henry as much as everyone has been thinking. In his last two games, against Kansas City and Indianapolis, he rushed 57 times for only 154 yards. Jeremy McNichols has been effective for the Titans as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 21 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown. Now he’ll get a chance to show what he can do carrying the ball.

The Rams have swept through their competition nearly unchallenged so far this season but Tennessee will give them a good test.

Los Angeles is tied for third in points scored this season but the Titans are sixth in the league. They are also close when it comes to red zone touchdowns. The Rams have 25 in 38 trips to the red zone, Tennessee has 20 in 29 trips.

Los Angeles is cruising right now and their offense should take control of this game but they can’t take the Titans lightly either.

I’m taking the Rams to win at home but Tennessee is tough and will make them earn it.

Los Angeles Rams 28 Tennessee Titans 25

Chicago Bears vs Pittsburgh Steelers -6.5 (Monday Night Football; Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh pulled off the upset against the Cleveland Browns last week while the Chicago Bears fell apart on defense in a 33-22 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers.

Justin Fields had what was arguably the best game of his rookie season last week, completing 19 passes in 27 attempts for 175 yards, one touchdown and one interception for an 84.6 passer rating. He plays a much tougher defensive front this week though.

This is going to be a run-heavy game for both offenses, an advantage for the Bears, but their only advantage in this game.

The Bears have lost four straight prime time games and five of their last six. Somehow, Pittsburgh has fought their way back into the AFC playoff picture and Mike Tomlin and company won’t be letting Chicago knock them back out.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Chicago Bears 13

Game of the Weak

Houston Texans +5.5 vs Miami Dolphins (1PM ET; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL)

Surprisingly, the spread for this game only dropped from Miami being favored by 7.5 to the current number after the Texans announced that Tyrod Taylor would be returning as the team’s starting quarterback.

Most of the analysis stats for the Texans that Nostrathomas uses to pick games but they were compiled by the immortal Davis Mills.

Miami doesn’t have much going on up front that will help them against Taylor and they haven’t been much better with their pass defense.

The Dolphins are 0-3 at home this season. I’m picking Houston to win as the road dogs this week.

Houston Texans 25 Miami Dolphins 13

Point spreads from VegasInsider.com and is accurate as of this writing.

You can follow Tom Pollin on Twitter @tjpollin

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