Just when we thought it was safe, here we go again with COVID possibly interfering with the NFL schedule. Week 9 will see the Chicago Bears taking on the Tennessee Titans in Nashville down four starters and now a backup. If they actually get to play the game that is. This isn’t the only game to be impacted by COVID as the virus is popping up in more facilities.
We went 2-1 last week picking winners (thanks Carolina) but when it came to the spreads, fuggedaboutit. That does bring us to 6-7 on the season (don’t call it a comeback). Despite the COVID concerns, there is still money to be made. And, as usual, if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!
COVID Impacting Primetime Moneymakers in Week 9
Green Bay Packers (5-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
Spread: 49ers +7
We get to see the impact of COVID right away in Week 9, as both teams have been affected. The Green Bay Packers (5-7 ATS) will be without running back Jamaal Williams due to COVID and still aren’t sure Aaron Jones is ready to return. Green Bay has the second-ranked offense in Football Outsiders DVOA, thanks in large part because of Aaron Rodgers. He’s thrown 20 touchdowns to just two interceptions. But the Packers also have the 29th ranked defense in DVOA. They typically need every bit of that offense.
No team has been hit harder by injuries than the San Francisco 49ers (4-4 ATS). They have already lost a lot of talent, including Nick Bosa. Now, Jimmy Garoppolo is set to miss the rest of the season (#NickMullensSZN) and George Kittle could return in Week 17, though there likely won’t be much incentive to do so. San Fran has managed to rank ninth and 12th in offensive and defensive DVOA, respectively.
It bears mentioning that the Packers are 2-2 against the spread in their last four contests, though the 49ers are too so it probably doesn’t help you much. What does is the health of these teams. For as beat up as the Pack has been at running back they aren’t even sniffing what the Niners are going through. A Green Bay win is the easy call. Also, seven points just don’t seem like nearly enough here for San Francisco. Three of their four covers came against the dregs of the NFL. The other was against the up and down Rams.
New Orleans Saints (5-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
Spread: Buccaneers -4
This is easily the game of the week, yes, even over Seahawks-Bills. The New Orleans Saints (2-5 ATS) should get Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back for this one and Antonio Brown will make his Tampa Bay debut. Did I mention this is easily the game of the week? New Orleans comes in as winners of four straight. They haven’t exactly beaten a murderer’s row of opponents (they were a combined 13-17) but they are still seventh (offensive) and eighth (defensive) in DVOA.
It truly has become Tom-pa Bay after Tom Brady (successfully) lobbied for Brown after his head coach made it clear that wouldn’t be a possibility. At any rate, Brown joins a Buccaneers (4-4 ATS) offense that ranks sixth in DVOA and is flush with weapons. That’s good for Tampa in theory but can Brown stay in line if he isn’t being fed a heavy dose of targets? At any rate, the Bucs have won three in a row after their one-point loss to the Chicago Bears back in Week 5.
Can the Buccaneers superior pass-rush penetrate the Saints top-notch line? Can Tampa, who might be without guard Ali Marpet, hold up against a New Orleans rush that is pretty average? Neither team has been great against the number and clashes like these are often unpredictable. Given the Bucs are at home, though, and their superior defense (first in DVOA), they should be able to make it four straight. Forget the spread but jump on the over.
New England Patriots (2-5) at New York Jets (0-8)
Spread: Jets +7.5
Yuck. Ideally, that would be the end of this entry but, alas, we must break it down. These two teams are more in a race for the first overall pick than contention for anything. Adam Gase has managed to alienate players en route to a 7-17 record over the last two years and still have a job. Cam Newton is quickly finding out how little patience New England Patriots (3-4 ATS) fans have for celebrity athletes that don’t perform to snuff. This was viewed as a transitional season anyway, but New England hasn’t started 2-5 since 2000. They finished 5-11 that season. They did, however, win the Super Bowl the next season.
Sam Darnold is dealing with a shoulder injury but the New York Jets (1-7) are confident he will play in this one. Will it matter for a Jets squad that ranks 32nd in points and 31st in totals yards? Darnold has missed two games this season and has thrown just three touchdowns to six picks. He did have an impressive rushing score against the Broncos a few weeks ago, but he is on track for his worst touchdown rate and second-worst interception rate of his young career. As bad as Newton has been in New England, Darnold hasn’t been much better.
It just doesn’t make any sense to bet on the Jets to do anything right. Their lone cover came in a shocker against the Bills but they have been mostly uncompetitive in 2020. New England, and Newton, in particular, started well but talent deficiencies have been evident as Cam has struggled post-COVID. He’s still facing the worst team in the NFL. If he can’t pull this one off, no matter who his weapons are, it might just be time to see what Jarrett Stidham can do. Don’t get cute, take the Pats. And while you might feel alright about the under might be the better play with how bad these two teams have been.