No luck on last week’s treble as the Vikings turned in their worst performance of the season to date and the Bengals looked to be heading towards a 3 point victory only for a late field goal to tie the game and bring it to an overtime that neither side could win. The weekend was salvaged somewhat with the Nap, the New England Patriots, easily covering the spread. Onwards then to the picks for week 9.
Carolina Panthers -3 @ 4/5 Vs. Los Angeles Rams (9.05pm – NAP)
It’s now abundantly clear that this is not the same Panthers team as 12 months ago that steamrolled opponents on its way to a SuperBowl appearance. However as bad as things have been throughout the early part of the season I always felt that they would at some point steady the ship and at least make a run at a wildcard spot. That turning point may have come last week with an impressive victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Despite being burned on them already this year that win gives me confidence to renew support for them this week.
The return of Jonathon Stewart at running back provides a boost to a Panthers team that is already ranked fourth in the league in scoring offense and which has put up 30 plus points in 3 of the last 4 games. Their secondary is still reeling from the loss of Josh Norman but that doesn’t worry me too much against a pass attack as mediocre as the Rams. Instead they will focus their effort on stopping Todd Gurley from making gains in the running game, something they did very well when facing the altogether more menacing David Johnson last week. The Rams will be fresh coming off a bye week and do have a strong enough defence to keep this one close but the Panthers should emerge with a victory of larger than a field goal.
Pittsburgh Steelers +1.5 @ 10/11 vs Baltimore Ravens (6pm)
This game which will go a long way to deciding the winner of the AFC north is probably the most intense rivalries in all of the NFL. When they meet it is generally a close run affair with 7 of the last 10 matchups being decided by 3 points or less. It is also the game which stands out to me as the one in which the layers have got it wrong. Yes it is influenced by the unknown playing status of Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger but even without Big Ben the Steelers should be at least a pick em in this matchup. Should he be able to start (and I believe he will) expect this handicap to change to around the Steelers -2 or -3. Therefore the advice is to get on early while you can still get the Steelers with points. Even if he doesn’t make it I still feel backup Landry Jones who performed admirably against the Patriots a couple of weeks ago will have enough to get Pittsburgh over the line. The Ravens offense has been woeful this season and having now lost four games on the bounce they have shown they can’t be trusted in a close contest.
New Orleans Saints -4.5 @ 20/33 Vs San Francisco 49ers (9.05pm)
After losing their three opening games of the season the Saints somehow find themselves with a glimmer of hope for the playoffs once more after winning 3 of their last 4 culminating in last week’s impressive victory over the Seahawks. If they are going to keep that streak going they are going to having to continue to play the same way and keep their underperforming defence off the field. That shouldn’t be problem here as they for once come up against a D that is worse than their own in the 49ers that rank dead last in the NFL. San Francisco has now lost 6 games in a row and is hurtling wildly towards yet another losing season. They will welcome back Carlos Hyde at running back and will be confident of putting some points up in this one themselves. However when you break this game down as a quarterback comparison between Colin Kaepernick vs. Drew Brees (who is having one of the best seasons of his already distinguished career) then the Saints can be backed with confidence to cover this one on the road.
These three combined make for an 11/2 treble while the preferred double is the combination of the Panthers and the Saints.
Best of luck.