Early leans & analysis Wk 9
Early leans & analysis

NFL 2021

Week 9

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.

We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. We made that change two years ago and ended up going 81-57 (+64 units) in 2018, 65-59 in 2019 (+16 units) and 55-62 in last year's unusual pandemic season. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

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Week 9

Cleveland +2½ at CINCINNATI

1:00 PM EST. The Browns are trending downward after a couple of ugly weeks, which included a 15-10 loss to the Steelers. That followed a 17-14 Thursday night win over the Broncos, but the Browns were without most of their top offensive stars, including quarterback Baker Mayfield. If the lukewarm results on the field weren’t enough, the cherry on the Browns shit sundae is the apparent exodus of one Odell Cornelious Beckham Junior. OBJ was sent home from practice on both Wednesday and Thursday and according to the Browns’ beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, It’s “likely he’s played his last ball for the Browns”. Meanwhile, LeBron James sent a message calling for OBJ’s “freedom”. Uh, hey LBJ, hyperbole much

While this situation might appear as a negative from the outside, we can’t help but think that Mayfield and the rest of the Browns are relieved that OBJ is being shown the door. Dude hasn’t done anything but bitch and complain since he got to Cleveland. Beckham Jr. can’t even keep a lid on his old man, who has been trolling the Browns and Mayfield all week. Do you think head coach Kevin Stefanski is going to shed any tears over this motherfucker? What about Mayfield? Dude’s pops has pretty much run a one-man campaign to sully Baker and his apparent inability to hit his son, who is apparently always open. The Beckham’s are a bad joke, so it’s good riddance, as any distraction is usually a big negative.

A bounceback for the Bengals is all but assumed here. Why? It’s not like Cincinnati was unlucky in losing to the Jets and becoming the 1 in 1-7. In fact, they were lucky to lead throughout the game, as the Jets shot themselves in the foot again and again. When the Jets stopped messing up, they took the lead and won the game. On every square inch of that field, the Bengals were dominated by the Jets. First downs (32-to-18), total yards (-193) and time of possession (36:20-to-24:40). The only thing that kept Cincinnati in that game were three Jets’ turnovers. We don’t want to overreact to a Cincinnati loss to the Jets. Cincy had won four of five prior to that and might’ve been understandably a little flat and full of themselves after beating Baltimore 41-17 the prior week. Thus, this is not a fade on the Bengals. This is more about playing on the Brownies for two reasons. First, Cleveland’s stock is very low and second, the price screams Cleveland. Recommendation: Cleveland +2½

Denver +10 -105 over DALLAS

1:00 PM EST. No Dak, no problem! At least it wasn't in Minnesota last Sunday night, as the Cowboys with Cooper Rush at the helm took down the Vikings 20-16. As for this week, Dak Prescott is on track to start this game, and it appears the market likes that he’ll be back in the lineup. Those injury chasers figure to be eager to zig-zag here after fading the ‘Boys on Sunday Night Football, but that would not be the prudent play here.

With Dak, the Cowboys were putting up Madden-like numbers nearly every week. Those crooked numbers have value as do Dallas’ other surface stats. The ‘Boys lead the league with 454.9 yards per game with Ezekiel Elliot being the top rusher in the NFC. In three home games, Prescott has 10 touchdown passes. That, too, increases one’s curb appeal. However, Dallas has been bit by the injury bug and if its quarterback being banged up wasn’t bad enough, the Cowboys could be without the two other hardest positions on the offense to replace in left tackle Tyron Smith and star wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper. Both wideouts practiced this week, but were limited and are definitely not 100%. Meanwhile, Smith is likely to play after coach and known idiot Mike McCarthy said he would be hard “pressed to play this week”. Losing one’s starting left tackle, the man whose primary job is to protect the quarterback, is not ideal.

Did the Broncos do much in a 17-10 win over Washington to stop their tanking stock? Not likely. Losing tight end Noah Fant won’t help their shine, but with the return of Jerry Jeudy last week, Teddy Bridgewater has nearly a full complement of receivers to choose from. The big news of the week out of Denver was the trade of Von Miller to the Rams. Sure, it looks like the Broncos were sellers, but they got a big haul for a franchise player that wants a shot to win the Super Bowl before it’s all over. This was not some fire sale. It’s like sending Ray Bourque to the Avalanche or Marion Gaborik to the Kings to chase a Stanley Cup.

Unfairly, this one will be billed as Prescott vs “Wobbly Balls”, but because of that, the Broncos are being discounted, while the Cowboys’ value is severely inflated. That combination creates a situation here where far too many points are being offered to a team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. How else do we know the price is inflated? The Cowboys are the lone unbeaten point spread team and the books are sick of paying out on them. Recommendation: Denver +10 -105

JACKSONVILLE +14½ over Buffalo

1:00 PM EST. What could we write here that would possess you, our fine readers, to walk to the window and get down on the 1-6 Jaguars? The case is not an easy one to make. The Jags appear to be a mess from the top down. Their coach is a skirt-chasing sociopath, who’s staff hates him. Trevor Lawrence has not yet proven himself the savior after years of hype as the most coveted NFL prospect of his generation. The Jaguars front office fancy themselves as analytics darlings, but none of their apparent success on the spreadsheet has transferred to the field of play. We’re not here to discredit the “stat nerds” either. In fact, we are one with them, but that declaration does not qualify us to run an NFL team’s player ops department. The Jags have no market appeal. Zilch. Zero. Notta. What little they did have went up in smoke in a 31-7 Geno Smith-led frog stomping in Seattle.

The Bills are the class of the AFC so you are without question paying a premium to back them at this point. Buffalo has been favored by double-digits twice this season and is 1-0-1, with that push coming last week against Miami. If you watched any of that game, you know that it took the Bills a while to warm up. That can happen throughout a long season that now spans 17 games. How realistic is it to ask the Bills to travel to Jacksonville for a Week 9 sleeper against a one-win team and be totally jacked up? This is the NBA equivalent of the Bucks playing in Orlando on the third Tuesday in February. Will the Bills win? Most likely. But a win and a cover are two different beasts. The Buffalo Bills are on cruise control. Last week they played Miami. This week they play Jacksonville. Next week they play the Jets. Hell, they’re probably talking among themselves about their upcoming game in New Orleans on Thanksgiving Thursday as the next time they’ll actually get their competitive juices flowing again. Buffalo’s “C” game here is much more likely than its “A” game and that’s just the prompt we need to step in. Recommendation: JACKSONVILLE +14½

Arizona +2½ -105 over SAN FRANCISCO 

4:25 PM EST. The status of Kyler Murray is up in the air, but this line suggests that he will be joining DeAndre Hopkins on the sidelines for this game. The Cardinals opened as a small road favorite before Murray missed practice but have since moved to the pooch. Is that swing justified?

Colt McCoy is obviously no Murray, but there is a reason this dude has hung around in this league as long as he has. He’s an intelligent and capable backup that has value in a mentorship role. If the status of Murray and the loss of Hopkins wasn’t enough to lower the Cards’ stock this week, both receiver A.J. Green and tight end Demetrius Harris were placed into COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday. While the talking heads might be concerned about who McCoy will have at his disposal in this game, we are not. The arrival of Zach Ertz and a pair of young but talented wideouts in Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore are more than capable of stepping in. Next man up, baby.

The 49ers, on the other hand, are getting healthy, which will only increase their already inflated curb appeal. George Kittle is set to return, giving Jimmy Garoppolo his favorite target back. Speaking of Jimmy G, he had his best game of the season against the Bears, so his stock is trending upwards after that four-game losing streak. It appears that Jimmy G has quieted the catcalls for Trey Lance, at least for another week, but it is only a matter of time before Lance is the man in San Francisco whether Joe Montana likes it or not.

To review, we’ve got the 7-1 Cardinals being sold short due to a number of injuries, but that is not going to stop us from giving them a long look. This is still a pretty damn good football team that should be eager to get back on the field after suffering its first loss and having an extra week to stew on it with its bye. The Cardinals should be well-rested, fully prepared and ready to put the 49ers out of their misery for another year. Recommendation: Arizona +2½ -105

Tennessee +7½ -105 over L.A. RAMS

8:20 PM EST. The 6-2 Titans won their last four games and own the best record in the AFC. Now for the bad news. Their offense is designed around, and predicated on, Derrick Henry who finally proved human with a broken foot. The 7-1 Rams are also on a four-game winning streak and are tied for the best record in the NFC but already lost their starting running back before the season kicked off.  A road game to play the Rams is about the worst destination right after Derrick Henry is gone.

What you read above is what you're going to be hearing every time you tune in to read or hear about this matchup. Once Tony Dungy chirps in with his brilliant analysis before the Sunday nighter, the foundation will be set for the injury chasers to step up to the window and place their bets. If you bet the Rams because Derrick Henry is out, you may cash your ticket, but we assure you that there are no oversights here by oddsmakers. They know Derrick Henry is out.

The Rams were up 38-0 on the Texans last week before pulling the dogs off. That 22 points they allowed was all garbage points and meant absolutely zilch. The Rams checked out after three quarters. However, over the last three weeks, the Rams have played the Giants, Detroit and Houston and one can get into a lot of bad habits over three weeks playing those three dregs. More importantly, when a major injury happens, the market overreacts to a large degree, as if they trust they are getting a great price to bet against said team when the opposite is actually true. On Sunday night when the lines were released, the betting sentiment was, “better get in on the Rams quickly before oddsmakers realize Derrick Henry is out”, which is beyond absurd thinking. Since the price came out as Rams -6½, the “Derrick Henry is out” chasers have bet it up and over a key number to the price you see here: We are the benefactors of the overreaction. Recommendation: Tennessee +7½

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