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Pigskin A Blanket: NFL Week 9 Picks

Point spreads, pigskin, and the pursuit of a profit: weekly football wagers from a wannabe wiseguy

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You can't win 'em all, as they say. While the Cowboys put the finishing touches on a winning Week 8, the Jets simultaneously delivered the first "Pick of the Week" loser in this column's brief history and did so in embarrassing fashion, thanks in part to the unforeseen and undesirable presence of Geno Smith.

The natural reaction would often be to make up for that afternoon debacle with a last-minute play on Sunday or Monday Night in hopes of ending the week on a better note. But as Kenny Rogers would put it, you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

As Jets-Raiders became a bigger bust with each snap, the time became increasingly appropriate not to make a panic move on a primetime contest, but rather to walk away while ahead and run to the Week 9 drawing board.

Carolina +3 vs. Green Bay

The Packers look like a different team away from home these days. In three road games, they've been dominated in Denver, struggled to score on San Francisco, and turned in a choppy performance at Chicago. Not that they're looking invincible anywhere - in back-to-back games at Lambeau Field preceding last week's Mile High meltdown, Green Bay had more turnovers than touchdowns against the Rams and needed a goal-line stand in the closing seconds to squeak by downward-spiraling San Diego. Jordy Nelson's absence may be looming larger than anticipated; whatever it is, the Packers right now don't look like the juggernaut we've come to know in the Aaron Rodgers era.

A case can be made for this point spread to be at pick 'em if not slightly favoring the Panthers. Without a sloppy Carolina finish in front of a Monday Night audience it likely wouldn't have reached +3, as the Panthers' previous three games saw them throttle the Bucs in Tampa Bay, win in Seattle, and beat the Eagles by double digits despite dropping the turnover battle 3-1. In a short week for both teams, Carolina has the advantage of playing its third straight home game while it will mark Green Bay's second straight on the road.

As much as Cam Newton's antics after any borderline success make every Panthers opponent more likable, so far this season he's backed it up with his play. If he stays on the same path in this one, the Panthers may not need the points.

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Teaser: St. Louis +8 at Minnesota, New York Jets -1.5 vs. Jacksonville

The Rams and Vikings are similar teams, with strong ground games featuring elite running backs and limitations at quarterback. While St. Louis brings a decided edge on defense, Minnesota's offensive line will get off the ball better on its own turf than if thrown into the dome the Rams call home. In what portends to be the lowest-scoring game of the week between evenly matched teams, getting more than a touchdown makes St. Louis a fit.

Another potential defensive duel rounds out the teaser, with Vegas pegging Jaguars-Jets as Sunday's second-lowest-scoring contest. While there's no rush to lay more than a touchdown on the Jets considering the projected premium on points and the egg they laid last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick's return at QB will boost the offense and the defense is poised to rebound after allowing 30+ points in back-to-back games. A return home and a matchup with Jacksonville should mean no trouble winning by at least a field goal, getting Gang Green feeling good again.

Pick of the Week: Tennessee +9 at New Orleans

Don't tell Denzel, but this looks like the perfect spot to forget the Titans, at least as they were known under Ken Whisenhunt. Interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey will spend the next two months striving to strip the prefix from his job title, and as the Dolphins showed in the aftermath of their recent midseason coaching change, players can be expected to respond in this kind of situation. Mularkey will bring a much more physical brand of football to Tennessee, and that combined with Marcus Mariota's return and a re-energized effort could be dangerous for a Saints defense that ranks dead last in the NFL.

Not only is the New Orleans defense a glaring weakness that makes building big leads a challenge against anyone - even when Drew Brees drops 7 TDs - but it has played particularly poorly against non-divisional opponents with whom they're unfamiliar. Without any game film yet on the Titans under Mularkey, it becomes an even more difficult game planning process.

For the Saints to be favored by this much when they struggle to stop anyone and haven't won by more than 10 points this season sets the bar awfully high. It also thrusts Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan and his vulnerable unit into a likely unwanted spotlight.

Week 9 Record: 3-0
Season: 18-11
Picks of the Week: 6-1

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