Our best bets for Week 9 in the NFL:
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5)
Over the last few years, betting Oakland on the road was the equivalent of lighting your money on fire. But the Raiders have turned the corner this year, and are 3-0 ATS on the road so far. The Steelers will be without Le’Veon Bell for the rest of the season after he tore his MCL, so second-stringer DeAngelo Williams will have to combat Oakland’s second-ranked rush defense. The Raiders have been porous when it comes to stopping the pass, but Pittsburgh is ranked only 21st in passing offense, so the Steelers will have some trouble putting points on the board. Oakland brings a more balanced offensive attack, ranked ninth in the league, with blossoming sophomore QB Derek Carr, RB Latavius Murray and WR Amari Cooper leading the way. The Raiders have a slight advantage on paper, but because of the volatile nature of NFL games, grab the points for insurance.
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The pick: Raiders +4.5
St. Louis Rams at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5)
Points will be at a premium in this matchup as the Rams (sixth in defense, 30th in offense) pay a visit to the Vikings (seventh in defense, 29th in offense). Since temporarily relocating to the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ stadium, the Vikings have gone 8-3 ATS in home games. St. Louis will offer the Vikings a heavy dose of Todd Gurley, the rookie RB who’s rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games. But three of the four defenses he faced during that streak rank in the bottom third in rush defense. Minnesota ranks 15th in rush defense overall but is first in rush defense at home (just 61.7 YPG allowed in three home games). Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson has embarrassed the Rams' rush defense in the few times he’s played them, including a 212-yard game back in 2012. Expect the Vikings to edge the Rams in a close, low-scoring contest.
The pick: Vikings -2.5
Atlanta Falcons (-7) at San Francisco 49ers
This is a big spread to lay with a road team, but the Falcons have a huge advantage in this matchup. They have one of the best offenses in football (ranked fourth in YPG gained) and will meet little resistance in San Francisco (ranked 27th in YPG allowed). Matt Ryan should have no problem locating Julio Jones and Roddy White all game long. And if he gets bored, Devonta Freeman can shoulder the load against a shoddy 49ers rush defense. On the other side, TE Vernon Davis left for Denver in a trade, Blaine Gabbert takes over for Colin Kaepernick at QB in a desperation move, and RB Carlos Hyde is a game-time decision against the NFL’s number-one rush defense. If he can’t play, Pierre Thomas, who would see his first action of the season after being signed this week as a precaution, would start. These are desperate times in San Francisco. Expect Atlanta to kick them while they’re down.
The pick: Falcons -7
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-7)
Washington Redskins at New England Patriots (-14)
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (-8)
Green Bay Packers (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers
New York Giants (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Denver Broncos (-3.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)