Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham looks ahead to some huge NFL Week 9 clashes, which includes the final of the four London games this season, as the Jacksonville Jaguars ‘host’ the Houston Texans.

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Thursday Night Football offer an intriguing clash between two NFC West rivals who tend to play close games. No less than six of the last 11 meetings have seen just three points separating the pair, but the Cardinals have won the last eight meetings, including the last five contests at home. The Cards have won the last three at home by a field-goal margin.

BetVictor’s NFL odds see the Cardinals as 9.5-point underdogs against the 49ers, whose 51-13 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday maintained their unbeaten record and saw their odds tumble to 8/1 fourth favourites on the Outright Super Bowl LIV Winner market.

The Cardinals lost 31-9 at New Orleans, taking their record to 3-4-1 for the season, although they have won four of their last five. They will be without running backs David Johnson and Chase Edmonds, though. Because of their respective injuries, the Cardinals traded for Kenyon Drake on Monday and while he will see plenty of action in this Halloween contest, the former Miami Dolphin rusher won’t scare a 49ers defense that has given up just two rushing touchdowns.

The onus will be on rookie passer Kyler Murray, who has failed to throw a touchdown pass in the last two games – against the New York Giants and Saints – to lead an injury-riddled squad past a defensive unit boasting an elite front seven.

Jaguars were beaten by San Francisco

The Niners are playing smart offensive football, with QB Jimmy Garoppolo – now 15-2 as a starter, having missed last season with a knee injury – effectively using play-action off a strong running game (232 yards last week against the Panthers). A balanced attack, coupled with a defense that is giving up an average of just 11 points per game, means the Niners are now 7-0 for the year and will see plenty of action on the book with the spread a tick below double-digits.

This is not a happy hunting ground for the Niners and a natural let-down, against a division opponent coming off an embarrassing loss, means the Cardinals will give their best effort in their only prime-time game of the season. It may not be enough, though.

TIP: San Francisco 49ers -9.5 points at

 

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite winning the AFC South divisional title five times in the past eight seasons, the Texans remain the only franchise in the NFL not to have appeared in a conference championship game.

Given the weakness of the AFC this season, it is highly possible that should Bill O’Brien’s team beat the Colts at home In Week 12 (November 21), they will probably be in pole position for the division and make a run at the elusive title game.

The next month will be pivotal for the Texans, who are currently 14/1 to win the AFC, as they face Baltimore, Indianapolis and New England in successive weeks after their bye, although they do take on the Colts and Patriots at home.

At 5-3, following their 27-24 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the Texans are still a game ahead of the 4-4 Jaguars, who downed the New York Jets 29-15.

Houston edged the Jaguars 13-12 at home in Week 2. Winning the second clash will effectively put the Jags three games behind them and on the outside of any potential playoff position with seven games remaining, because Houston would own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Jags, who are a massive 50/1 to win the AFC, now face three tough successive road games, in London – where they are the ‘home’ team – at Indianapolis and at Tennessee.

Jaguars win over Broncos

It is imperative they win two of those three, and in particular Sunday afternoon’s Wembley tilt against a team missing defensive end J.J. Watt, but boasting an MVP candidate in quarterback Deshaun Watson – who had a season-low QB rating of 70.9 in his last outing against the Jags.

The key to this battle could be how well rookie passer Gardner Minshew plays in relief of Nick Foles, who is not scheduled to return until November 17 at the earliest.

The Jags’ defense has been excellent since star cornerback Jalen Ramsey was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams and while restricting Watson, receiver DeAndre Hopkins and tight end Darren Fells to less than 24 total points at 9/10 will be tough, it is high time that the underdog triumphed in a London game.

Favourites have a 20-6-1 record straight up and are 17-10 against the spread in the UK and with the Texans’ pass rush severely hampered, and the defense carrying plenty of significant injuries, it is interesting to see the Jaguars still considered underdogs by 1.5 points with BetVictor.

That looks something of a gift, and we go for a Wembley double-dip tip.

TIP: Jacksonville Jaguars +1.5 points at

TIP: Jacksonville Jaguars to score over 22.5 points at

 

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

There are a couple of handicap lines which have us more excited than usual this week, and here is the second of them.

On Tuesday evening, Cleveland were asked to concede just 1.5-points at Denver. But the money came for the Browns and the line moved to a field goal, which looks almost spot-on.

Yes, Cleveland have been disappointing in winning just two of their seven games, especially with their talent. Yet we were not about to get on the hype train at the start of the season, as with so many new pieces, a wet-behind-the-ears coaching staff and a tough early schedule, there were always going to be teething troubles.

The Browns, 14/1 to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season, are out to 50/1 now, following their 27-13 defeat by the undefeated New England Patriots. That was their third defeat on the spin and their fourth in five, dropping games to the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Those teams are a combined 26-5. They did beat the Baltimore Ravens, who boast a 5-2 record. That is a tough slate by any standards.

So, taking on the Broncos, who have won just one of their four home games to date – blanking Tennessee 16-0 – and being asked to successfully concede just 3.0 points at BetVictor NFL odds of 10/11 looks an interesting proposition. In fact, the Browns should be nearer a touchdown favourite, even though the Broncos almost beat the Colts on the road last week.

The disparity of what the handicap is, to what it should be, has plenty to do with history. The Browns have not won back-to-back games in Denver since 1971/72 and have won just two of the last 14 trips to the Mile High city since, including last December, when winning 17-16.

Turnovers, indiscipline and penalties – a result of poor coaching – have killed the Browns this season. Their 12 yellow hankies against the Patriots on Sunday took them to a league-high 70 on the season.

For all the big talk, QB Baker Mayfield needs to back up his braggadocio, since he, along with Tampa’s Jameis Winston, leads all quarterbacks with 12 interceptions through the first seven weeks of the season.

Yet penalties can be cleaned up, and Mayfield is arguably a better QB than Brandon Allen, who was picked up on waivers from the LA Rams on September 1 and makes his first NFL start in place of Joe Flacco. Allen is the sixth starting QB for Denver since 2016 and he will try to spark a Broncos team that is a lowly 26th in yards and 28th in points per game.

While their defense has been excellent in recent weeks and the Browns do not have a good record here, it is hard to see Cleveland not taking advantage.

Whatever the outcome, the moral is this: There is often value to be had by looking at the BetVictor NFL odds early in the week. We may have missed the boat, but the handicap waters are still inviting.

TIP: Cleveland Browns -3 points at

 

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

Another handicap line that looks interesting is the three points the New York Jets are asked to concede to 0-7 Miami, at odds of 10/11.

The Jets may be an incompetent, dysfunctional football team, yet they at least have some talented players in running back Le’Veon Bell – who is keen to justify his hefty contract – receiver Robbie Anderson and QB Sam Darnold, who won’t be seeing any ghosts in Miami, since they have been traded away for draft picks, along with every talented player, in a bid to grab a franchise QB in the draft.

Brian Flores is coaching his tail off, despite the all-too-obvious ‘tanking’, and the irony is the best player on most people’s draft boards is not a QB, but Ohio State defensive end, Chase Young.

It is hard to see the Dolphins going 0-16, despite losing every game by an average differential of 23 points, as they face the Jets (twice) and the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jets could also be in the hunt for the first pick in the draft, but they at least do have one win – and that came against Dallas.

They have not lost four consecutive games in Miami since 1994/97 and despite having lost five of their last six to the Fins, they have better talent along both lines, a running game that will likely prove the difference and a fan base that will likely out-weigh the home support.

Take the Jets to give head coach Adam Gase a much-needed win. Thus getting one over on his former employer.

TIP: New York Jets to win at

 

Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers

The schedule-maker did Carolina Panthers no favours by asking them to trek to London before heading back to the west coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers off their bye. The travelling caught up with them as they were hammered on Sunday.

The Panthers’ defense, which looked so good against the Buccaneers two weeks ago, had a wake-up call – and now it is time to get back on track, as Tennessee’s pop-gun attack will likely struggle in Charlotte.

Ryan Tannehill has at least provided some hope to the Titans, who somehow managed to scrape past the Buccaneers at home, 27-23, last week, giving them two successive wins to move to within a game of the AFC South lead with a 4-4 record.

However, they cannot win with defense alone, despite limiting opponents to an average of just 16.9 points per game. They boast the seventh-worst offense in terms of points per game (18.5), they average less than 300 yards per game, and only five teams have given up more penalty yards.

Panthers should beat Tennessee. Yet recent history will play on the mind of head coach Ron Rivera, who saw his side whip Tampa last year to move to 6-2 before being walloped 52-21 at Pittsburgh.  Things quickly unravelled. In a seven-game span, the Panthers went from 6-2 to 6-9, losing five straight by seven or fewer points.

Having thumped Tampa to move to 4-2, only to be crushed 51-13 by another good team on the road last week, the Panthers need to bounce back, as Green Bay await next week and a three-game losing streak could see things fall apart again.

Kyle Allen is still 4-1 as a starter in place of injured Cam Newton (0-2 as a starter this term), and he will need to lean on Christian McCaffrey and the running game, as he was frustrated trying to throw deep on a windy day in San Francisco. Allen’s is not known for his accuracy beyond 10 yards in any case.

This is the ideal bounce-back spot for the Panthers, who have yet to defeat Tennessee at home in their history. A field goal may prove the difference, so we take the Titans and the points.

TIP: Tennessee Titans +4 points at

 

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo’s defense can carry the Bills to victory over a Redskins team who continue to struggle to move the ball.

Buffalo has had its struggles in recent weeks, almost losing at home to the Dolphins before managing to put up only 13 points in an 18-point home defeat to an Eagles team that had previously given up at least 20 points to all bar the Jets.

If QB Josh Allen is far from the finished product, Washington’s offense could be woefully one-dimensional if rookie passer Dwayne Haskins receives his first NFL start, with Case Keenum in concussion protocol.

The Redskins hung tough in defeat by Minnesota last week and have had three extra days to rest, but their record in Buffalo is spotty – they have lost their last four trips, all by double-digit margins – and the Bills have a point to prove after an embarrassing loss in front of their own crowd.

TIP: Buffalo Bills -9.5 points at

 

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

If any team is equipped to hand the New England Patriots a first loss of the season, it is the Baltimore Ravens.

On Sunday night the two AFC powerhouses clash in Baltimore, where the hosts may be good enough to raise their game and give the Patriots all they can handle. We can take advantage of the 3.5-points offered at BetVictor American Football odds of 10/11 on the handicap.

Despite their 8-0 record, the Patriots’ offensive line has under-performed and the running game has taken a step back as a result.

The Ravens will need to establish the running game, and it is not just QB Lamar Jackson who is dangerous – he ranks 10th in the league in rush yards (576) heading into Week 9 – Mark Ingram should get plenty of carries.

How the Patriots attack the Ravens’ running game remains an interesting question. They will likely focus on making Jackson throw the ball but will have to keep receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and tight end Mark Andrews quiet.

The Patriots’ defensive strength is their secondary, and they have given up over 100 yards on the ground three times this year – to the Browns, Redskins and Bills – who boast largely one-dimensional attacks.

Keeping the ball out of the hands of Tom Brady with long, clock-munching drives will help Baltimore’s chances, as will avoiding turnovers against a team who do nothing but create them.

While we would like a few more points on our side, the Ravens have a legitimate shot of winning at home, so we will take the field goal margin.

TIP: Baltimore Ravens +3.5 points at

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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