Week 9 NFL picks: Steelers get it done in Baltimore and more of Jason La Canfora’s best bets
Another winning week! I’ll take it. The Chiefs left some points on the board which kept us from going 3-0 again, but at 12-6-1 I believe we are hitting our stride. I have to admit I didn’t love this week’s slate of games as much at first glance, and dabbled with the idea of maybe only picking two games, but ended up locking in on three, including some teams that regular readers will know I have been going to a lot lately.
Steelers +3 at Ravens
I know it is a rivalry game where anything can happen, and Pittsburgh has struggled at Baltimore lately. And the Ravens already beat them once, just a month ago. But these teams have changed a lot since then, and I think the Steelers are catching them at the right time. Baltimore’s offensive line is all beat up, Joe Flacco is not playing well, and outside of John Brown there is no one showing up on a regular basis in the Ravens’ attack or doing anything remotely explosive. The Ravens can’t cover seam routes or tight ends and running backs, and Pittsburgh has plenty of those guys who can catch the ball. Pittsburgh is much more balanced on offense than the first meeting, the pass rush has ramped up, and I will gladly take the points here (Ravens were also favored over New Orleans and Carolina and lost both outright).
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Patriots -5.5 vs. Packers
The Patriots always win these kind of games at home. They just do. Green Bay struggles to turns yards into points — we saw it again last week — and you need seven and not three to stay with New England in Foxborough. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels know Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine all too well from his time in New York and Cleveland, and they will meticulously pick his unit apart. I am hopeful for a Sony Michel return, and if Pettine opts to blitz Tom Brady, James White might catch 17 balls for 277 yards and three TDs. Aaron Rodgers can only do so much with this crew around him, as we see pretty much each week.
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Vikings -4 vs. Lions
I tried to believe in the Lions for a few weeks. It didn’t go so well. They lack the kind of pass rushers I believe can really make Kirk Cousins squirm and while the run defense is better with Snacks Harrison there, it still could be a major issue. Taking Golden Tate out of their lineup certainly doesn’t it make more difficult for Mike Zimmer’s defense to defend. After a blowout loss to the Saints, I can’t see the Vikings bringing anything less than their best stuff into what is a huge divisional game for them. This is the first of three straight NFC North games that will likely dictate the outcome of that division, and with the Vikings getting healthier on offense and defense, I expect them to start making a statement here.
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