With the arrival of Week 9, the NFL season has officially reached the midway point.
For a select few teams, the time has come to make a divisional title push, while much of the league still harbors hopes of entering the playoff discussion. And in cities like Cleveland and San Francisco, football fans are left hoping for the losses to continue in hopes of nabbing the first overall pick in next year’s draft.
For proof of this growing divide between the haves and have-nots, just look at last week’s slate, which saw favorites reel off an 11-1 record straight up while going 8-4 against the spread.
Sufficed to say, Week 9 is a pivotal point in the year, and bettors know that more than most.
On that note, a quick scan of the betting board at online sportsbook Bovada shows a few spots where heavy favorites will look to beat up on overmatched underdogs.
The surging New Orleans Saints (5-2) host the bumbling Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5), but based on the pundits’ preseason predictions, those records were supposed to be reversed.
The Bucs were anointed as dark horse contenders in the NFC South, but with quarterback Jameis Winston struggling through injuries, the team has failed to gel in any meaningful way while losing four in a row. As for the Saints, most experts saw the team experiencing a downswing this season, expectations which appeared to be spot-on after an uninspiring 0-2 start.
But thanks to a revamped, run-focused offensive scheme – and the emergence of rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore as a shutdown defender in the secondary – the Saints have strung together five straight wins.
Tampa Bay is also 0-3 on the road, and given New Orleans’ longstanding dominance in the Superdome, the bookmakers are giving the Saints a healthy 7.5-point advantage as home favorites.
Home field advantage always helps, and no team has proven that better than the Seattle Seahawks (5-2) over the last decade. They’ve gone 3-0 while playing in front of the “12th Man” this year, including last week’s epic 41-38 shootout against the Houston Texans (3-4).
This week Seattle hosts the Washington Redskins (3-4), a team that has shown flashes of brilliance interspersed with long stretches of futility. The ‘Skins have lost two straight divisional clashes, both by 10 points or more, while coping with an injury-ravaged offensive line.
That doesn’t bode well for Washington as it heads to the loudest, most hostile climate in football, as evidenced by Bovada making them big 7.5-point road underdogs.
In what’s widely expected to be the game of the week, the Dallas Cowboys (4-3) host the Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) – but the potential loss of running back Ezekiel Elliot looms large. Dallas just learned that Elliott’s on-again/off-again six-game suspension has been reinstated, and pending a last-ditch appeal, the second-year standout will be sidelined for this crucial contest.
Elliott has put up at least 140 yards rushing in two straight games, both blowout wins for the ‘Boys, and he even added a 72-yard touchdown scamper on a screen pass two weeks ago. Losing his offensive punch would put Dallas in a perilous position against the vaunted Kansas City defensive front.
The Chiefs have surrendered 2,089 yards through the air, however, putting them 30th in the league at defending the pass. If quarterback Dak Prescott can shake a sophomore slump and sling it around to receivers Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley, Dallas may be able to make up for Elliott’s expected absence.
With so many questions left lingering, the consensus lean understandably puts this one into the pick’em column.