Big Five Picks for NFL Week 9 (2021)

When you're hot, you're hot! I am not sure who came up with that phrase but it pretty much sums up how the Big Five Picks have gone for us lately. 4-0-1 for Week 8! Overall we are 25-14-1 which would rank 150th in the Supercontest hosted by Westgate Casino in Las Vegas. If not for the back door cover by Houston (which resulted in a push with Rams at -16), it would have been a coveted 5-0 week. Rams were up 38-0 in the 4th quarter so I am unsure why they let the foot off the pedal. Sometimes games like that make you wonder if the coaches/players have action on the game.

Well I digress ... how about Week 9? Again, we are leaning on the linear regression model I have built for predicting point differentials and using DVOA from Football Outsiders as the input. More specifically, it's the delta between two teams' DVOA that is used as the explanatory variable with, of course, the point differential as the response variable. In case you are curious about the correlation coefficient between DVOA differential and true point differential, it's 0.68. That means that 46.24% (square of correlation coefficient) of the variability in point differential can be explained by DVOA differential. It has worked well for us this season and last season so don't fix it if ain't broke! Who came up with that phrase, I do not know but I like it!

Here is a table displaying the model's point spread analysis for all Week 9 games.


You will see that the model was nearly spot on for the Thursday Night Football game between the Jets and Colts. The betting public was leaning towards NY but, as usual, the betting public is dumb. The Colts dominated that game and won by 15 which helps give the model more credibility. I am confident the model will experience similar accuracy on Sunday. Without further ado, here are the Big Five Picks for Week 9.

  1. Cleveland +2.5

This one is a head scratcher. The Browns offense has been anemic lately by scoring under 20 points in its last 3 games. However, tDVOA is significantly higher for the Cleveland than for Cincinnati. THe Bengals were flying high after dominating Baltimore two weeks ago 41-17 but then were shocked in the Big Apple by losing to the hapless Jets 34-31. Against a backup QB! Something tells me that the Bengals right now lack some maturity and may have overlooked the Jets. They are, after all, a young team still trying to forge an identity. What the Browns do well is run the ball so they know exactly who they are. The Bengals have defended the run well this year but in two of their losses they have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground in each of those games and nearly 100 yards to the Jets. Here is the evidence.

Week 2: Chicago 34 carries for 123 yards
Week 5: Green Bay 22 carries for 133 yards
Week 8: NY Jets 27 carries for 97 yards (but 14 receptions for 166 yards to RBs)

The Browns had an amazing 1-2 punch with RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hunt is on the IR but D'Ernest Johnson is plenty capable to complement Chubb, especially given Johnson's impressive game on TNF during Week 7. That performance speaks volumes of Cleveland's offensive line. The Browns also defend the run well so I expect the Browns to dictate the tempo by slowing down the pace and forcing the Bengals to get away from their shootout mentality. In the battle of Ohio, I expect a good old-fashioned slug fest indicative of the Rust Belt. Browns win the battle in the trenches and ultimately win the game 24-17.

  1. New Orleans -6

Another head scratcher but for a different reason. It seems that the public has not given the Saints enough love since Drew Brees' retirement. I am not sure why. Brees is, of course, one of the greatest QBs in the last 30 years and a first ballot Hall of Famer. However, the lack of respect by the betting public for the Saints totally overlooks the Saints amazing defense and phenomenal coaching. In fact, the Saints run defense is one of the best in the NFL with a crazy high run defense DVOA of -30.3%. Meanwhile, the Falcons are one of the worst teams at running the ball with the 2nd lowest run offense DVOA. When the Falcons face a team with a stout defensive line, the results are not pretty. Atlanta was crushed by Tampa Bay earlier in the season and New Orleans is a good comparison. What's crazy is that New Orleans had a great game against Tampa Bay last week so I am still perplexed why the spread is so low. The model thinks the spread should be higher and that is how we are going to roll. Saints march all over the Falcons 34-14.

  1. Buffalo -14.5

Just like last week, don't over think the large spread for Buffalo. The Bills a team on a mission and the Jaguars are shit. Buffalo simply beats the living crap out of inferior teams. While last week's cover was close, I don't expect another close call tomorrow. Typically divisional opponents play each other tight but the that won't be the case against Jacksonville. We can analyze this game all we want but the bottom line is that you have a Super Bowl contender playing one of the worst teams in the league. Buffalo dominates Jacksonville 35-10.

  1. Green Bay +7

Now we venture into the murkiness of the NFL slate. The Packers will be without Aaron Rodgers which caused the line to shift 7 points in favor of Kansas City. We saw last week, however, that having a backup QB thrust into a starting role doesn't mean you are doomed. In fact, I would say the opposite. What game film was out there with Mike White for the Jets or Cooper Rush for the Cowboys? None. All those two backups did was win as underdogs last week. One thing that helps is that they have been with their teams for at least a couple of seasons. They know the coaching staff well and the playbook. Like those two, Packers backup QB Jordan Love has held the clipboard for at least a full season with Green Bay and he is no slouch. The uber talented offensive weapons for the Packers are still there. You know who else is still there? The Chiefs' pathetic defense and sieve-like offensive line that has made QB Patrick Mahomes run for his life all season long. The Chiefs might still win the game but won't dominate. Again, the betting public is dumb. This is not the Chiefs of last year. The Packers can still win without Rodgers and should keep the game close. I like to live on the wild side so let's predict a Packers upset at Arrowhead Stadium. Packers win on the road 29-27 with a Mason Crosby last second field goal.

  1. Arizona +3

This line has moved all over the place and could still keep moving. The Cardinals opened as a 5.5 point underdog with news that QB Kyler Murray will not play to then a 1 point favor in the middle of the week to now a 3 point underdog. The Cardinals have provided conflicting news about Murray's playing status and should Murray play tomorrow, you can bet (ha!) that the line will move back to Arizona as the favored team. For sure the Cardinals will be without WR AJ Green and might have to rest WR DeAndre Hopkins. Still, the Cardinals are a loaded team on both sides of the ball and are also well rested having played on TNF last week. Arizona ranks high in most metrics and for most positions. Defensively the Cardinals can shut down the inconsistent 49ers offense and should find ways to move the ball given that the 49ers don't have much of a pass rush (5th worse adjusted sack rate). If we get Murray back and have Arizona at +3, count your lucky stars. If Colt McCoy starts at QB, we should still be OK. Like the Packers, we will live wild and free. Arizona wins 28-20 and questions about Kyle Shanahan's and John Lynch's future with the 49ers will start to swirl again.

Not too much chalk this week. Consider the road dogs that are plenty talented but are fighting the injury bug. They should outright win their games against mediocre teams and of course New Orleans and Buffalo should dominate. You can parlay the three early games and then parlay the two afternoon teams. If you do a moneyline bets for the dogs, you can win big. I like our odds!