I’m in a NFL contest where you need to submit five ATS picks each week. Through eight weeks, those picks are 23-17. Picking a single winner can be tough, much less picking five, but it’s a good challenge. It’s worth noting that the lines are set spreads released each Wednesday and selections are submitted Friday night.
Here are the five ATS picks I like for Week 9 in the NFL.
The New Orleans offense is second best in the NFL in fourth-quarter scoring. What has helped the Saints reach this mark is being efficient inside the red zone, as 30% of red zone plays for the Saints have resulted in a touchdown. As a result, they are averaging 14 points in the fourth quarter of games this year at home. The Ravens defense is the second-worst defense in points allowed in the fourth quarter. We’ve seen QB Lamar Jackson and Baltimore with a lead in every NFL game this year and they've either lost outright or won by a narrow margin. After looking further, six turnovers for Baltimore have come in the fourth quarter of games this year. This could be sweat down to the wire.
Commanders +3.5 vs. Vikings
Washington QB Taylor Heinicke is a highly capable quarterback that can exploit this Vikings secondary, which ranks 29th against the pass. In his two games, Heinicke has completed 67% of his passes with a 7.5 yard average. What I found most impressive is his ability to handle pressure, as witnessed last week in a game-winning drive against the Colts. Heinicke led the Commanders offense on a nine-play, 89-yard drive with 2:20 left for a big-time win. The Vikings defense is last in the league in red zone touchdowns allowed. Give me a mobile quarterback with spirit on a team with the better defense grabbing points at home.
Packers -3.5 at Lions
The Packers offense has struggled but it still has a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. The Lions are allowing the highest rate in the league of opponents scoring on drives, the highest rate of red zone plays to be touchdowns and the highest rate of third-down conversions allowed. This is where Rodgers should find his groove again. If he doesn’t, then problems for this offense run deep. Against a much better defense in the Bills, Rodgers found open receivers downfield, including a 37-yard pass with Samori Toure. The Packers receiver corps may not have household names but they have an opportunity to shine against the worst defense in the league.
Colts +5.5 at Patriots
Colts QB Sam Ehlinger was pretty good in his first start last week in a 17-16 loss against Washington, completing 74% of his passes. He was sacked twice but scrambled a few times to escape the pass rush and will have to do so once again against New England. This is more of a play against the Patriots offense, however. The Colts have a top-10 defense. Against a solid Jets defense last week, the Patriots were only able to produce one score in three red zone trips. The Pats defeated the Jets by just five points despite forcing three interceptions. I like the scrambling ability Ehlinger brings this week against the Pats defense.
Cardinals -2 vs. Seahawks
The Cardinals faced the Seahawks just a few weeks ago. One difference this time around is that Cardinals QB Kyler Murray now has WR DeAndre Hopkins. Although the Seattle defense looks improved, who have they faced? A run-heavy Giants offense, an injured Justin Herbert and a Chargers offense that has fallen well below expectations, and the Cardinals without Hopkins. This is a big test for Seattle. Before those three matchups, the Seahawks allowed 438 yards of total offense to the Saints and 520 yards to the Lions.