(23-16-1 against the spread this season)
By Danny Picard
BOSTON — Just like that, we’re already midway through the 2023 NFL season. Before you know it, we’ll be breaking down playoff games.
One week at a time though. I’ve had a solid first half. I’m looking forward to more winning weeks in the second half.
Here are my picks for Week 9:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+5.5) over Baltimore Ravens
-The 5-2 Seahawks are in first place in the NFC West, and so I think the five-and-a-half points is too high of a spread. The Ravens are 6-2 and are in first place in the AFC North. I would definitely be inclined to take the Ravens moneyline just because the game is in Baltimore, but again, the spread is too high. The Ravens have one of the best defenses in the league, statistically, but Geno Smith has shown the ability to beat good defenses, as he did last Sunday when he beat the best pass defense, statistically, in the NFL in the Cleveland Browns, 24-20. Smith threw two interceptions in the win, but he also threw two touchdown passes and was 22-of-37 for 254 yards. “The Geno Smith story” is hard not to root for right now. And while I do think Lamar Jackson and these Ravens are a force this season, I’m putting my money on Seattle to make this an absolute dog fight. Give me the points.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (+1.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
-Normally, I tell you to stay away from any and all games that are played overseas. This one will be played in Germany. But I’m going against my own advice this weekend. Take the Dolphins. This is their Super Bowl. The result of this game could very well be the ultimate tiebreaker for who has the No. 1 seed in the AFC when it comes time for the playoffs. Both teams are 6-2. The Chiefs are coming off a horrible loss to the Broncos, but Patrick Mahomes was battling the flu, apparently. Well, Mahomes doesn’t play defense, and Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes en route to the Broncos' 24-9 win. Tua Tagovailoa should be able to do something similar. So far, Miami’s toughest games on the schedule have resulted in losses to the Bills and Eagles. It’s time for the Dolphins to show out against a top team in the league, and I think they will at a neutral site with the Chiefs still licking their wounds from a bad loss in Denver. I'm taking Miami to win and claim the throne in the AFC.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-2.5) over Washington Commanders
-If the season ended today, the 2-6 Patriots would have the No. 5 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They’re in last place in the division. They have the worst record in the AFC, and there are only two teams with less wins: Carolina and Arizona. So, if you’re Bill Belichick, what now? I can tell you what he won’t do. Belichick won’t purposely tank to get the best draft pick possible. He just won’t do it. He’ll somehow manage to win a few more games this season by coaching up the defense and keeping the ball on the ground, offensively. One of those wins should come this weekend at home against the 3-5 Commanders. Washington is tied with Indianapolis for having the worst defense in the league, allowing 28 points per game. The Pats aren’t much better, allowing 26 points per game, but at least New England does have a top-10 rush defense, allowing less than 100 rush yards per game. Of course, I’m burying the lead here, because Washington just traded away defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat at this week’s trade deadline. And so, however bad you thought the Commanders’ defense was, it’ll be 10 times worse in Foxboro on Sunday. Patriots win by a touchdown at home.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-8.5) over Chicago Bears
-I look at the New Orleans Saints and all their weapons, and I wonder how they’re only 4-4. Their schedule has been soft, and their losses have been to Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Jacksonville. New Orleans is tied with Atlanta for first place in the NFC South. It’s an extremely winnable division for the Saints, but if they want to do what’s expected of them, then they have to beat the 2-6 Bears who are still rolling with their backup quarterback at the moment. This game really is all about New Orleans, in New Orleans, against the third-worst pass defense in the NFL. Derek Carr only has eight touchdown passes in eight games this season, but I think this is a game in which he goes off. Carr is used to throwing 24 touchdown passes per season, on average, and so his underwhelming start in New Orleans, with this offense, is a little confusing. If he struggles to find the end zone against the Bears at the Superdome this weekend, I’ll be shocked. Give me New Orleans by at least 10.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-2.5) over Buffalo Bills
-The standings show the 4-3 Bengals to be in last place in the AFC North, but anyone who’s been watching the NFL in recent weeks knows that Cincinnati might as well be the favorite to win the Super Bowl. That’s how good Joe Burrow has looked while winning his last three games. On the other end, the 5-3 Bills are coming off a win last Thursday against Tampa Bay, so Buffalo had a little extra time to prepare for this game in Cincinnati. The Bills are for real, for sure. But this season, they’ve definitely given everyone a few head-scratching performances. The Bengals seem to have gotten their head-scratching performances out of their system early on, when they lost three of their first four games of the season while Burrow was dealing with a calf injury. Well, Burrow now seems healthy, and that could be bad news for the rest of the AFC. Cincinnati went into San Francisco last weekend and beat the 49ers, 31-17. Burrow had only four incompletions while throwing for 283 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. In his last three games, Burrow has thrown eight touchdown passes to his two interceptions. The bottom line here is, I’m not betting against Burrow right now, especially in Cincinnati. I’m taking the Bengals to win and cover on Sunday Night Football.
Follow Danny on instagram @DannyPicard.