NFL Week Nine Tips: Saints can use home advantage to topple the Rams
It's the midpoint of the regular season and although a few teams have the week off there are still a couple of fascinating encounters for Matthew Crist to analyse...
"Both teams have their eyes firmly set on Super Bowl XXXV in Atlanta next February and are certainly showing their championship credentials with the Rams yet to taste defeat all season and looking for their fifth road win of the year while the Saints have won six on the spin since the opening weekend of the season."
The Cardinals, Bengals, Colts, Jaguars, Giants and Eagles all have a bye this week, leaving fans with something of an abbreviated schedule, but could it be a case of less is more with a couple of tasty matchups this weekend?
The pick of the Week 9 schedule is the huge meeting between the so far unbeaten LA Rams and the 6-1 New Orleans Saints, two sides who are not just in great form but are also two of the top four teams in the Sportsbook's Super Bowl winner market.
Both teams have their eyes firmly set on Atlanta next February and are certainly showing their championship credentials with the Rams yet to taste defeat all season and looking for their fifth road win of the year, while the Saints have won six on the spin since the opening weekend of the season.
Much of the Rams' success so far has been built on the back of QB Jared Goff, who has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,425 yards including 17 touchdowns and five interceptions and has two or more touchdown passes in 12 of his last 16 games.
Combine this with the efforts of Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who together recorded 1,315 receiving yards and five touchdowns, not to mention Cooper Kupp who has notched 30 receptions, along with the on-fire Todd Gurley, and you can see why the Rams are looking so strong - especially when you consider their defence has only allowed 18.3 points and 327.4 yards per game.
But don't write off the Saints. They have won nine of their last 10 home games including the six game streak they are currently enjoying while Drew Brees is currently on fire completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 1,990 yards, resulting in 14 touchdowns and just one interception to date.
Like their opponents on Sunday night the Saints have been able to rely heavily on their receivers Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, who have combined for 1,062 receiving yards to complement Brees' accuracy which has resulted in six touchdowns, while Benjamin Watson has chipped in with 23 receptions.
Despite being favourites for the Super Bowl four of their last five wins have been decided by seven points or less and though the form-book will show that they are undefeated things could have easily been very different.
Meanwhile, the Saints have enjoyed back-to-back road wins and will play their first home game in nearly a month, so don't expect a blowout as New Orleans boasts one of the best home-field advantages in the league.
If the game was being played in Los Angeles, the Rams might have been favoured by a field goal, but the smart money might just be on the Saints to end the only unbeaten record in the NFL while staking their own claim for Super Bowl glory.
Pack value against the Pats
Talking of ending the Rams' unbeaten run, the Green Bay Packers came pretty close to doing just that in the Colosseum last weekend and might just be good for an outside bet against the high-flying New England Patriots on Sunday night.
The Packers' last three games have been decided by one possession and all but two have seen a winning margin of more than eight points while, despite boasting a 6-2 record, the Patriots have won two of their last three games by just one score.
The Patriots might be strong favourites for the win, particularly considering their home field advantage, but -6 in the spread might well be worth considering due to the somewhat unconvincing manner of some of their victories.
Acca of the week
It's a four-fold this week, all from the spread market: Kansas City (-8.5) Evs, Houston (-3) 19/20, Baltimore (-3) Evs, Miami (-3) Evs which, at the time of writing, is available at 15.06 on the Sportsbook.
With a record of 7-1 Kansas City surely have too much for the woeful Cleveland Browns who, despite forcing overtime four times this season have only picked up two wins.
As for the Houston Texans, they are enjoying a five-game winning streak and it's unlikely that Denver will be able to snap that run as the visitors set their sites on the AFC South while the same can be said for Pittsburgh in the AFC North.
As well as being a classic divisional matchup both the Jets and the Dolphins will also have their eyes on a Wild Card spot but expect Miami to pick up a narrow victory in this one.
The Houston Texans are the hottest team in the AFC at the moment with five wins on the bounce but that doesn't necessarily mean they're covering the spread. During that five-game winning streak, the Texans have gone just 3-2 against the spread and 3-7 on the road ATS, so Denver might be worth consideration at 9/10 on the Moneyline.
However, if you're someone who believes that a change in management brings about a turn in fortunes then why not put your money where your mouth is? The Cleveland Browns have been given +8.5 against the all-conquering Kansas City Chiefs who are just 5-14 against the spread when favoured by seven points or more since 2013.
Long shot of the week
This any time touchdown scorer four-fold is priced at 13.47 at the time of writing and features a quartet of players who are in fine form. My selections are Dion Lewis, Todd Gurley, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown.
If you are a fan of the 3TDs for both teams in each half bet then the choice this week must be
Tampa Bay @ Carolina at 150/1
From this week a syndicate has been set up for those who want to win more. You can join here and play for £100,000 but in it, seven games are picked with a variety of score margins.
My picks this week are as follows:
Pittsburgh by 1-6, 7-12 or Baltimore by 1-6
Carolina by 1-6 or 7-12
Atlanta by 1-6 or Washington by 1-6 or 7-12
LA Chargers to win by 1-6 or Seattle by 1-6
Rams to win by 1-6 or New Orleans by 1-6
New England by 7-12
Dallas by 7-12
I may have mentioned that there's an outside chance that Cleveland could benefit from the new Head Coach effect following the firing of Hue Jackson but I really can't see any further than a convincing Kansas City win on the road who will probably fill their boots against the hapless Browns.
The game I am struggling to call, however, is the matchup between Pittsburgh and Baltimore who can both put up a decent case for this one and that's why I'm covering my bases.
The full picks
I've picked every game bar the Thursday game according to their handicap on the SBK at the time of writing (home team in caps):
DOLPHINS (+3) over Jets
VIKINGS (-4.5) over Lions
Steelers (+3) over RAVENS
REDSKINS (-1.5) over Falcons
Chiefs (-8.5) over BROWNS
PANTHERS (-7) over Buccaneers
Bears (-10) over BILLS
Texans (+1) over BRONCOS
SEAHAWKS (-1.5) over Chargers
SAINTS (-2) over Rams
PATRIOTS (-6) over Packers
COWBOYS (-6.5) over Titans
Back New Orleans to win by 1-13 points at 17/10 on the SBK (Sportsbook)
Back Kansas City (-8.5), Houston (-3), Baltimore (-3) and Miami (-3) at 13.7 on the SBK (Sportsbook)
Back New England to win by 1-13 points at 7/5 on the SBK (Sportsbook)
Back each team to score over 3TDs in each half in Tampa Bay @ Carolina at 150/1 on the SBK (Sportsbook)