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NFL forecast: Cardinals to stymie Dolphins, Tua

Here’s a stab at forecasting the Week 9 NFL games, with some fun facts and analysis.

And unlike last week, when there were vicious winds in addition to rain//hail/snow at several venues, it looks like weather won’t be an issue anywhere.

The odds are current as of Saturday afternoon and provided by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

 

SUNDAY

NY Giants (1-7) at Washington Football Team (2-5)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Redskins by 2.5

Facts: The NFL schedule maker has issued this week’s atomic wedgy to NYG, the only team this year that will play on short rest (off a 25-23 MNF loss to Tampa Bay) on the road against a team off a bye. … At this stage of the season in 2018, Washington held a 1.5-game lead in the NFC East at 5-2. Since then it has gone 7-25. … Second-year Giants QB Daniel Jones, 4-16 as a starter, had his best-ever game at Washington in 2019 with a 132.1 rating in a 41-35 win. 

Analysis: Although the Giants’ sole victory this year came against Washington, 20-19 in Week 6, the offense scored only one TD, that on a 27-yard drive. Washington, meanwhile, has improved drastically on defense since last season, going from 30th on the passer-rating chart to eighth this year. That’s bad news for  the turnover-prone Jones who has no feel for the pass rush.

Forecast: Redskins 24, Giants 10

 

Seattle Seahawks (6-1) at Buffalo Bills (6-2)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Seahawks by 3

Facts: This is the weekend’s only game featuring division leaders. … The Seahawks are making their third trip east across three time zones this season, already having defeated Atlanta and Miami. Dating to 2018, Seattle has won 10 in a row back there, going 8-1-1 against the spread (ATS). … The Bills are coming off a 24-21 win over the Patriots, the longtime AFC East powerhouse. But Bills beware: The last four clubs to face NE have lost straight up/ATS their next game.

Analysis: The Seahawks had the league’s top-ranked defenses in 2013 and ‘14, but the Legion of Boom has long since dissolved and now Seattle has the worst-ranked unit and is on pace to allow a record 460.9 yards a game. Plus, Seattle is hurt at running back. Meanwhile, Buffalo should thrive offensively behind WR Stefon Diggs, the league’s most-targeted receiver.

Forecast: Bills 29, Seahawks 23

 

Denver Broncos (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Falcons by 4

Facts: Denver QB Drew Lock orchestrated a comeback from 21 points down in the second half vs. the Chargers last week, winning 31-30, allowing him to vault from last to next to last on the passer-rating chart. … The Falcons are coming off extended rest after winning at Carolina 25-17 on Thursday. … Denver’s defense had trouble getting off the field last week, allowing LA to run 84 plays for a 25-snap edge. Over the past three weeks, Atlanta has had a 66-play advantage.

Analysis: Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is leaps and bounds better than Lock at this stage and with WR Julio Jones back in the mix (seven catches, 137 yards last week), have a formidable offense. And it won’t help the Broncos that their top cornerback, A.J. Bouye, will sit out with a concussion.

Falcons 31, Broncos 19

 

Chicago Bears (5-3) at Tennessee Titans (5-2)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Titans by 6.5

Facts: Tennessee, in a tie with Indianapolis for the AFC South lead, has lost two in a row and has allowed four foes to convert 10-plus third-down tries this year. All other teams combined have been victimized only eight times. … Since the Bears’ Nick Foles came on in relief of Mitch Trubisky to throw three TD passes in the final seven minutes of a 30-26 comeback win over Atlanta in Week 3, he’s totaled five scores (with six INTs) the next five games, with Chicago going 2-3.

Analysis: There’s been no let-up from last year’s rushing champ, Titans RB Derrick Henry, who averages a league-best 110.7 yards a game and has a norm of 4.8 a carry. Chicago’s team averages only 85.6 a game, ranking 31st, and has a 3.8 norm. Plus QB Ryan Tannehill rates a big edge over Foles. 

Forecast: Titans 27, Bears 16

 

Detroit Lions (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-5)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Vikings by 4

Facts: Minnesota threw a league-low 14 passes last week in its 28-22 win at Green Bay, with RB Dalvin Cook shrugging off a groin injury to rush 30 times for 163 yards and three TDs. He’s not on the injury report this week, either. … Lions QB Matt Stafford was on the reserve/COVID-19 list as of Saturday afternoon. … The Vikings have lost five straight home games dating to last season, the second longest current stretch in the league. The longest belongs to Detroit (seven).

Analysis: According to Stafford’s wife in a social media post, her husband hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19 and he was in quarantine for contact tracing purposes. So, the gamble inside the gamble is that he will be allowed to play instead of career backup Chase Daniel or second-year David Blough, who steered the Lions to five straight losses to close 2019. Stafford should be able to take advantage in calm conditions against a secondary that’s down three CBs.

Forecast: Lions 28, Vikings 21

 

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Ravens by 1

Facts: Baltimore is the only team that has had a starting field-position edge in each of its games. By comparison, Dallas hasn’t had any such advantages. … Indy, which routed host Detroit 41-21 last week, has won five of six since its  inexplicable Week 1 loss at Jacksonville, which hasn’t won since. … Baltimore outrushed the Steelers last week 265 yards to 48, but fell 28-24. It’s the most ground yards by a defeated team this season.

Analysis: The Ravens stayed close to the unbeaten Steelers last week despite four turnovers but could have extra trouble this week against an Indy defense that allows a league-low 3.4 yards a rush and is the only club in the NFL to have more INTs (11) than TD passes yielded (10). Plus Baltimore will be without a pair of All-Pros — offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and DB Marlon Humphrey (COVID).  

Forecast: Colts 24, Ravens 21

 

Carolina Panthers (3-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Chiefs by 10.5

Facts: Kansas City is a double-digit favorite at home for the fourth straight time. In Week 5, however, the Chiefs were 40-32 losers to Las Vegas as a 10.5-point choice, the only game this year out of nine league-wide in which a double-digit pick was defeated. … Carolina has activated All-Pro RB Christian McCaffrey after he missed the past six games with a high ankle sprain. The Panthers won their first three games after he went down, but now are on a three-game losing streak. 

Analysis: The Chiefs, coming off a 35-9 home rout of the winless Jets, have a two-game lead in the AFC West and are 1-to-40 favorites to win the division, but they won’t dare take their foot off the gas in their quest to catch unbeaten Pittsburgh for the top seed in the AFC playoffs and the only bye. 

Forecast: Chiefs 31, Panthers 10

 

Houston Texans (1-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

Time: 11 a.m.

Line: Texans by 6.5

Facts: Four weeks ago the Texans beat the Jags 30-14, the only time this season a Houston foe was held below 28 points. … Rookie Jake Luton will start at QB for Jacksonville in place of injured Gardner Minshew (thumb). Luton was a sixth-round draft choice out of Oregon State. Minshew was a sixth-round pick a year earlier. … Houston QB Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is having a robust year, ranked sixth in passer rating and with a league-best 8.8 yards a throw.     

Analysis: The knocks on Luton are his lack of mobility and his inexperience. But he’ll be going against a demoralized team that’s used to winning division titles, recently fired its head coach and now has the league’s worst defensive passer rating and COVID issues on the unit. In this battle to stay out of the cellar in the AFC South, the Jags should be able to at least hang tough.

Forecast: Texans 21, Jaguars 20

 

Las Vegas Raiders (4-3) at LA Chargers (2-5)

Time: 2:25 p.m. 

Line: Pick-em

Facts: The Chargers opened as 3-point choices a week and a half ago, before their 31-30 loss at Denver and Vegas’ 16-6 win in Cleveland. … LA has held leads of 16-plus points in its past four games yet won only once (Jacksonville). … In the Raiders’ 16-6 win at Cleveland last week they rushed for 209 yards, the first time in four years they eclipsed 200. Josh Jacobs had 128 of the yards on 31 carries, fresh off a 17-yard performance a week earlier.

Analysis: QBs Derek Carr of Vegas and rookie Justin Herbert LA are both capable of having outstanding outings, but Carr might find himself in more of a comfort zone with star LA edge rusher Joey Bosa doubtful (concussion). And that will be especially true if the Raiders can keep the ground game going.

Forecast: Raiders 27, Chargers 24

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

Time: 2:05 p.m.

Line: Steelers by 14.5

Facts: There hasn’t been a heavier road favorite in the NFL since the Patriots were 16.5-point picks vs. Washington in Week 5 of 2019, winning 33-7. … Dallas has a 0-8 mark against the spread to open the season, which hasn’t been done by anyone since the Raiders in 2003. The last team to lose nine straight ATS during any stretch of a season were the 2015 Falcons. … The Cowboys reportedly will be going with Garrett Gilbert at QB, their fourth different starter under center. He was acquired off Cleveland’s practice squad Oct. 12 and has never started a game.

Analysis: One thing for sure, with Steelers games upcoming against Cincinnati and Jacksonville, they won’t be looking past America’s Team, which showed some rare spunk in holding the Eagles to 15 points on offense and only 222 yards in a 23-9 road loss Sunday night. But Dallas’ offense can’t get much worse, not having scored a touchdown in back-to-back games. And now RB Zeke Elliott (questionable) has a hamstring issue. Pittsburgh’s blitz-happy defense should have its share of strip-sacks against Dallas’ QB du jour.

Forecast: Steelers 31, Cowboys 12

 

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

Time: 2:15 p.m.

Line: Cardinals by 4.5

Facts: In rookie Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa’s starting debut vs. the LA Rams last week, the Dolphins won 28-17 on two return scores and TD drives of 1 and 33 yards, a season league-low eight first downs and only 145 yards offense, the first time a team won with less than 200 yards since Miami gained 175 in a win over Buffalo in 2018. And it came against a team off short rest traveling coast-to-coast. … The last we saw Arizona was in its stunning 37-34 victory in overtime over the previously unbeaten Seahawks two weeks ago.

Analysis: The Dolphins enjoyed a perfect storm last week, since they managed to win despite Tagovailoa throwing for only 93 yards, the lowest total for a team this year. Considering Arizona has the league’s top-ranked offense (419.1 yards a game), Miami will be hard-pressed to keep pace, especially with key RBs ailing, and against QB Kyler Murray and a well-rested stout defense that just reacquired pass-rushing standout Markus Golden.  

Forecast: Cardinals 34, Dolphins 13

 

New Orleans Saints (5-2) at Tampa Bay Bucs (6-2)

Time: 6:20 p.m.

Line: Bucs by 4

Facts: In the season opener in New Orleans, the Saints won 34-23 in the Superdome, intercepting Tom Brady twice and sacking him three times. Brady’s had only two INTs in guiding TB to a 5-1 record since. … This marks the second straight week the Saints face a foe coming off a MNF game. Last week in Chicago, they won 26-23 in OT, but didn’t cover the number. Teams on short rest vs. teams on full rest have gone 83-109-4 ATS since 2014.

Analysis: All signs point toward the Bucs getting their revenge. What are the chances New Orleans will have a 24-yard edge in starting field position again (42-18)? Also, WR Antonio Brown will join Brady again after having a cameo with him in New England last year. For the Saints, WR Michael Thomas again is iffy (questionable/hamstring, ankle) and QB Drew Brees skipped midweek drills with a shoulder issue. But he’ll no doubt start.

Forecast: Bucs 35, Saints 24

 

MONDAY

New England Patriots (2-5) at NY Jets (0-8)

Time: 6:15 p.m.

Line: Patriots by 9.5

Facts: Not only are the Jets winless, but only 1-7 vs. the spread, that win coming in a close-enough 18-10 home loss to Buffalo two weeks ago when the Bills were playing their second straight game on a short rest. … The Patriots, who lost their fourth straight game last week, 24-21 in Buffalo, are hopeful RB Sony Michel will be full go in his return from injury. … NYJ is scoring a league-low 11.8 points a game, but that’s better than last year’s norm of 11.0.

Analysis: As badly as Patriots QB Cam Newton has struggled in recent weeks, NYJ QB Sam Darnold has him beat, not only having the league’s lowest passer rating (65.9) but is dealing with a bruised shoulder. He’s not assured of starting this week, which means Joe Flacco could get his third start. If he had the qualifying number of passes, he’d be at the bottom of the passer chart.

Forecast: Patriots 23, Jets 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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