There are a handful of great games on the board this weekend and some very useful trends worth taking into consideration before locking in your Week 9 plays. Let’s jump right into it.
Steelers at Ravens (-2.5), Over/Under 47
Game Matchup: The Steelers and Ravens will meet in a pivotal game that should go a long way in determining the eventual winner of a crowded AFC North. Baltimore knocked off Pittsburgh in a dominant 26-14 Week 4 win at Heinz Field back in late September, but the two teams have trended in opposite directions since then. The Steelers rallied with three-straight wins by a combined 102-56 margin to take over first-place in the division, while the Ravens have sputtered, losing three of their last four in falling to .500.
It’s been a particularly excruciating two weeks for Baltimore. Justin Tucker’s first career missed extra point led to a devastating 24-23 loss at home to the Saints two weeks ago. They then visited Carolina last week as a small favorite only to be thoroughly dominated by the Panthers. Of particular concern for Baltimore is that its supposedly elite defense looks suddenly vulnerable. It surrendered 154 rushing yards and failed to sack an efficient Cam Newton on its way to yielding 36 points to what has otherwise been an average Carolina offense.
Tomorrow… #Ravens #Panthers #NFL pic.twitter.com/zOLLg2kaXl
— TheBaltimoreFeather (@bmorefeather) October 27, 2018
So much for that.
The Steelers’ defense, meanwhile, allowed only 237 total yards in a convincing 33-18 win over the Browns, a defensive effort that effectively sealed the deal on the firings of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley earlier in the week.
There have also been offensive concerns for the Ravens, and, if we’re being honest, barring a second-half revival, Joe Flacco’s time in Baltimore may be running out. Despite an encouraging start to the season and an overall improved team offensive output, the Ravens are averaging only 6.4 yards per pass (26th in the NFL) and completing only 60.9% of attempts (28th in the NFL) after Flacco completed only 22 of 39 pass attempts for 192 yards last week. Flacco will have his work cut out for him against a Pittsburgh defense allowing only 6.6 yards per pass attempt and a 61.8% completion percentage. Both marks are among the league’s best. The Ravens’ run game has also struggled, generating only 3.6 yards per rush (31st) and 96.6 yards per game (24th). That doesn’t bode well against a Steelers’ run defense that is top-ten in opponent yards per rush (10th), rush yards per game (6th), and opponent rush touchdowns per game (7th).
Ben Roethlisberger leads the league’s No. 2 passing offense against the league’s No. 1 pass defense. The Ravens are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete only 59.5% of their pass attempts and 5.7 yards per pass, both of which are league-bests. Roethlisberger will look to change his recent luck at M&T Bank Stadium, which hasn’t been kind to him:
Steelers must overcome past offensive struggles at M&T Bank Stadium to beat Ravens:
Ben Roethlisberger: 2 TDs, 5 INTs last four games in BAL, where he's never thrown for 300 yards
Steelers avg 16.1 ppg in BAL since 2011, losing four of last five
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) November 1, 2018
Expect him to rely on tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald. The duo has combined for 42 receptions and 14 yards per catch this season. On the ground, James Conner was limited to only 19 yards rushing back in late September, but he has been a stud this season, totaling 599 rushing yards on 127 carries and nine touchdowns. Just how good has Conner been?
Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale on absent Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell: "There are a lot of stats [since 2015] that the Steelers are actually better without him. That might be why he’s riding a jet ski down in Miami right now."
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) November 1, 2018
That’s quite the burn. Ouch.
The Ravens need more out of Flacco this week, but this game will likely be won or lost for the Ravens on the defensive side of the ball. Stop me if you have heard that one before.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Gambling trends: The Ravens opened as a 3-point favorite, but heavy action on the Steelers has pushed the line down under a field goal at some books as of Friday morning. It’s always a good idea to shop around for the best lines, but especially here. The 3-point spread, available at SugarHouse, is a critical number and several books are currently offering the Ravens at -2.5. Check BetStars NJ for some divergent lines. The majority of the action remains on Pittsburgh, with 76% of point-spread bets and 71% of the point-spread money backing Mike Tomlin’s team.
Things to know: There are some convincing trends that overwhelmingly favor Baltimore. The home team has won 24 of the last 35 meetings between these two teams. The Ravens are 5-1 ATS in their last six against the Steelers and 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a loss. They are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games in which they are coming off a loss of 14 points or more.
Since 2016, Baltimore is 10-5 ATS in division games, while Pittsburgh is only 7-9 ATS. It’s not all bad for the Steelers, there’s just not as much that leans in their favor. Pittsburgh, however, is 8-0-1 straight up over their past nine road games and 4-1 ATS in its last five games.
Prediction: While I’m a bit concerned about the availability of players like C.J. Mosley, Ronnie Stanley, and Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens are a better team than they have shown over the past two weeks. The revenge factor here doesn’t concern me as much, given the success of the home team in this matchup and that Baltimore should be the far more desperate team. The Ravens have shown excellent ATS resiliency after poor performances under Harbaugh, and have been particularly good lately against the Steelers. I don’t see why that would change this time around. Oh, and I get an opportunity to fade over 70% of the betting public that is on the Steelers? I’m here for it.
Ravens 26, Steelers 20
Rams at Saints (+1), Over/Under 58.5
Game Matchup: This one should be fun. The NFC’s current top two teams will meet in what has the potential to be a classic shootout. The total is pushing 60, but with both teams averaging more than a combined 66 points per game, I’m not sure that’s high enough. The Saints come in riding a six-game winning-streak, including a 30-20 revenge win over the Vikings in Minnesota last week. Hey, by the way–could you imagine having a Vikings first half moneyline bet in that game? Man, that would’ve been brutal.
The setup: The Vikings led 13-10 and were in the midst of putting together an impressive drive to extend their lead just before the end of the half, and then this happened…
Thielen fumble in the red zone inside two minutes. Yikes pic.twitter.com/OfHyEbCqW9
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) October 29, 2018
Could you imagine?
Well, I could imagine because I lived it, so that’s neat.
Anyway, the Rams are a perfect 8-0 after surviving Green Bay at home a week ago. Big ups go to now former Packer Ty Montgomery for the assist:
Ty Montgomery : 2 carries for 6 yards (Fumbled during a kickoff with under 2 minutes left) pic.twitter.com/q0s9ITEW4l
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life25) October 29, 2018
Los Angeles is cooking right now and head coach Sean McVay may be the best chef in the game. The Rams are racking up 33 points and 442.6 yards per game and are among the NFL’s elite in several key offensive categories. Todd Gurley leads the NFL with 800 rushing yards and has gained 1,151 total yards from scrimmage to go along with his 15 total touchdowns. He paces an NFL-best rushing attack that’s netted 150.9 yards per game. Honestly, I’m not sure that any team can keep Gurley in check right now, but he faces a difficult matchup against a Saints defense that is No. 1 in the NFL in both opponent yards per rush (3.2) and total yards per game (74.1).
Even if the Saints slow down the Rams’ rushing attack, Los Angeles’ offense should have plenty of opportunities to make plays through the air. The Rams are No. 1 in the NFL, averaging 9.2 yards per pass, and will go against a New Orleans secondary that’s allowing 8.3 yards per attempt.
When the Saints have the football, it’s all about Drew Brees. There’s a reason the Saints are dropping 33.4 points per game this season, and it’s not hard to figure out why. The Rams’ pass defense is in the top-half of the league in most statistical categories, but Brees has been otherworldly this season. He’s completing a career-best 77.4% of his attempts for 1,990 yards and 14 touchdowns against only one interception.
Despite having high-profile running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the Saints have averaged only 3.9 yards per carry this season. That, however, is a bit misleading. Kamara’s yards per carry average is down from 6.1 ypc a season ago to 4.4 ypc this season, but he’s still been an effective runner and has hauled in 47 receptions for 393 yards. Here is video evidence that Kamara does in fact remain excellent:
Check out @A_kamara6's TDs #NOvsMIN #GoSaints pic.twitter.com/LWlodRkZ90
— Midwest Sports Network (@midwest_network) October 30, 2018
Expect the Saints to move it on the ground against a generous Rams rush defense that’s allowing 4.8 yards per carry.
Betting trends: The Rams opened as a one-point road favorite earlier in the week and as of Friday morning sit anywhere between a one to two-point favorite, depending on the sports book. The total volume of point-spread bets is split dead even, but 59% of the money backs the Saints.
Things to know: There are a few trends supporting the Saints that I like, but there’s one that really stands out. Drew Brees is 15-2 ATS when facing an unbeaten opponent and 26-7 ATS when facing an opponent with a winning-percentage between 75-100%. The Rams, meanwhile, are 1-2 ATS under McVay (a very small sample size) against teams with the same winning percentage. Brees is 37-26-2 ATS throughout his career as an underdog and 8-4 ATS in his last 12 games as a home underdog. More recently, New Orleans is 4-1 ATS as a home underdog since the start of the 2016 season.
Want more? Good, because I’ve got more.
The Saints are 21-10 ATS against conference opponents over the past three seasons and 10-0-1 ATS between Weeks 5-9 since the start of the 2016 season. In recent seasons, Brees has been:
1) Money against good teams
2) Excellent at home
3) Excellent against conference opponents
4) Absolutely lights out during this portion of the schedule
Prediction: I’ve bet against the Saints each of the past two weeks and it has burned me. I’m a little bit wary of arriving late to the party, only to find out that it’s over, but the aforementioned trends make a pretty convincing argument that they are the right side in this one. The Rams are absolutely electric offensively, and Aaron Donald may be the game’s best defensive player, but the Rams showed some cracks a week ago when they barely survived Green Bay. I’m relying on Drew Brees, home-field advantage, and what has been a quietly improving Saints defense in recent weeks to make a key stop and back up the trends.
Saints 34, Rams 30
Houston (+1) at Denver
I absolutely hate that 72% of point-spread bets and 69% of the money is currently on the Texans in this game, but I do LOVE <3 the following trends:
- Denver is 6-12-2 ATS as a home favorite off a loss in their last 20 games
- Denver is 7-11-2 ATS as a home favorite since 2015
- Denver is 4-12-1 ATS against AFC opponents over the last two seasons
- Denver is 3-10 ATS in their last 13 games following a loss
- Denver is 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine games as a favorite
- Denver is 4-7-2 ATS when favored by three points or less since the start of 2015
- Denver is 7-15-2 ATS under Vance Joseph
- Denver is 1-6 ATS after a division game since 2017
- Houston is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 road games against a team with a losing home record.
- Denver is 1-9 ATS under Vance Joseph when they were an underdog in their previous game
See a theme here? I’m a huge believer in Deshaun Watson, I like the jolt Demaryius Thomas will bring to the Houston offense, and the Texans are a team that’s built to win on the road. Also, did you see those trends?!?
Texans 23, Broncos 16
Titans (+6) at Cowboys
The Cowboys traded away a first-round draft pick for Amari Cooper. While Cooper immediately becomes Dak Prescott’s best weapon in the passing game, I suspect the Dallas offense isn’t about to suddenly morph into a juggernaut. The Titans, meanwhile, have been underwhelming in recent weeks and are coming off a bye after a brutal 20-19 loss in London two weeks ago to the Chargers. Dallas is only 3-4 ATS as home favorites since the start of last season and is 7-11 ATS as home favorites since the start of the 2015 season. Both teams have been good in non-conference games with the Cowboys going 7-2-1 ATS in such games since the start of the 2016 season, while Tennessee is 4-1 ATS since the start of the 2017 season. I don’t think highly of either of these squads, and I view them as similar in many ways. That’s while I’ll gladly line up and grab the six points with Tennessee.
Packers at Patriots (-5)
Green Bay is going to coast-to-coast after playing in Los Angeles a week ago and now heading to New England this Sunday night. The Packers played well enough to win a week ago against the undefeated Rams, but here’s the thing–they didn’t. Still, Aaron Rodgers is a cyborg and he’s clearly pissed about last week’s result:
#Packers QB Aaron Rodgers reacts to Ty Montgomery's fumble, sealing a victory for the #Rams. Once again, Rodgers is denied an opportunity to lead a comeback pic.twitter.com/OuMZRiLeFT
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) October 28, 2018
It’s typically never a wise move to side against Rodgers, particularly an angry Rodgers, but consider this:
- New England is 8-4 ATS in non-conference games since the start of the 2016 season
- New England is 16-7 ATS as home favorites since the start of the 2016 season
- New England is 33-13 ATS in all games over the last three seasons
If I’m going to bet against Rodgers, I’m going to do it when Tom Brady is standing on the opposite sideline.
Patriots 36, Packers 28
Off the Record
Don’t count it against me if these teams lose, but absolutely give me credit if they win:
Chargers, Falcons, Bears, Lions, and Bucs
Be sure to check SugarHouse Sportsbook if you’re in New Jersey for the latest odds and get a $250 deposit bonus when you sign up.
UPDATE: SugarHouse will soon become BetRivers sportsbook.