Week 9 NFL Picks Against the Point Spread

fantasy football player rankings week 5

Believe it or not, it began as expected. The tide slowly – and subtly – began to shift.

As noted in last week’s introduction, the 2016 season has been incredibly odd, but not because of wild swings of action or random bouts of luck – although they have also been present – but for the general outcome of one week after another. That is, a few key teams continue to perform at a surprisingly high rate.

The twist in the story actually arrives in the beginning, as the first half of the season – specifically, the first quarter of the season – has gone almost exclusively in the direction of underdogs. Not only is this a rarity – both underdogs and favorites usually balance out by the end of the year – but it is counter-intuitive of ‘easy teams’ covering games on a consistent basis. Until we find the exceptions.

In Week 8, we determined that the Patriots would not fall victim to a ‘letdown’ or ‘trap’ and cover the spread as one win for a relatively ‘easy’ team. The rest of the games would not follow suit. This was evident by our confidence pick of Chicago to close out the week.

With a shuffled schedule in Week 9 – no specific traps are laid out for the latter Primetime contests – we need to find the high and low points accordingly. Thankfully, we are closely following this trend, as the 2016 season has cleverly placed a few mines that trigger at just the right time. Even if the bulk of the field was navigated properly.

Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.

*Confidence Picks – 2016 Season: 27-27-1 (Last Week: 4-2)

(2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2)

All Picks Against Spread – 2016 Season: 57-61-2 (Last Week: 7-6)

(2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4)

DFS Plays

New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers (+3.5)*

The New Orleans Saints are that team that many refuse to count out of a race, almost certainly due to its explosive offense and star quarterback. Indeed, in today’s league that greatly favors offense, the ability to seemingly score at will does keep hope alive for the Saints. But doesn’t it also bury them?

As noted basically every week that New Orleans takes the field, the Saints have one of the worst defenses in the game. They have allowed the second-most points, fifth-most yards, and third-most net-yards-per-pass-attempt. As much of a boost as New Orleans gains from its offense, it loses when its defense is on the field.

Enter the San Francisco 49ers, the team that currently has the most to gain from facing the Saints’ defense – San Francisco ranks last in the league in yards. And, by virtue of a bye week and the Browns playing a competitive game against the Jets while the Bears beat the Vikings, San Francisco now holds the second-worst point differential in the league at -75 – worst in the NFC by 27 points. Forget playing the Saints, if any team needed a bye week, it was the 49ers.

As is often the case, the spread for Sunday’s matchup in San Francisco is remarkably eye-opening. Despite all of San Francisco’s struggles, the head-to-head statistics against the Saints – New Orleans ranks second in offensive yards and points while the 49ers’ scoring defense is the only unit worse than that of the Saints – the spread is only three-and-a-half points. Trap.

After the Bears pulled off the home upset of the Vikings – outright and against the spread, although we pay closer attention to the latter – the 49ers are the only team in the league with just one win against the spread, all season. San Francisco is tied for the second-worst average points-per-game against the spread – basically, how poorly a team does against the spread itself – and has now gone six consecutive games without beating a spread. In those six games, the closest margin of defeat was seven points. The other five games were by an average score of 39-19.8.

The spread is three-and-a-half points.

San Francisco pulls off the outright upset as head coach Chip Kelly tweaks the offense in the bye week – Kelly is 2-1 after a bye with only a four-point loss in the one defeat – wins by four, and beats the spread.

Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers (-7)*

These Indianapolis Colts are beyond maddening. Led by one of the league’s best quarterbacks, the Colts cannot decide if they are ready to compete in the winnable AFC South or begin rebuilding. Unfortunately, we are given a large spread to contemplate.

Normally, we enjoy seeing a large number of points given to an underdog that has the ability to move the football and, thus, score at otherwise meaningless times of the game to beat the spread. But we also identify traps when the spread is small, as an indication that the game is going to be far closer than we would have otherwise thought. We cannot, therefore, use both sides of the same coin.

The Colts should be good enough to play within a touchdown of any team. But they aren’t. They cannot keep quarterback Andrew Luck on his feet – by far, the Colts have allowed the most sacks in the league, over 20 percent more than the next-highest total – and Green Bay averages the fifth-most sacks-per-pass-attempt. If Indianapolis cannot find a way back into the game via the air, it won’t be in the game, at all.

Preventing an aerial attack is easily the most important gameplan for Green Bay on Sunday, mainly because the Packers’ defense was shredded by Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the final drive of last week’s showdown. For a defense allowing the seventh-fewest yards in the league, such a collapse was uncharacteristic. It will not happen in back-to-back weeks.

Green Bay wins by seventeen and covers the large spread.

Click here to sign up for Sporfolio to see the rest of Mario Mergola’s NFL picks against the point spread. Mergola finished with the highest total of correct NFL picks against the spread for the past two seasons – tracked by NFLPickwatch, and finished 2015 with an accuracy of 60.53% for his confidence picks.

Featured Image Credit: By original: Mike Morbeckderivative: Diddykong1130 (Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Mario Mergola
Mario Mergola is a writer, avid sports fan, former ESPN Radio producer, husband, and father who specializes in finding the hidden gems of the less-explored option. Follow @MarioMergola