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Betting Against the Spread: NFL Picks For Week 9

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We are down to four NFL teams who have yet to lose a game and the debate is raging on as to their power rankings. We can all agree that the New England Patriots are No. 1 and they may not necessarily be the most talented of the group. I'm putting the Denver Broncos second because they have the best defense as well as Peyton Manning, who despite some struggles, is still someone I trust when it matters. Carolina would check in at third for me because of the Panthers’ defense and Cam Newton, who is putting up pretty good numbers even though he only has a reliable TE and Ted Ginn Jr., who is quite the opposite, to throw to. Finally, there’s Cincinnati, who comes in last mainly because of Andy Dalton. He still has a lot of work to do in order to gain the public's trust in the playoffs.

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Record: 20-12-1 (2-3 last week)

Cleveland Browns (2-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) (Thursday)

The Bengals are coming off a hard-fought win over the Steelers on the road. Because of the amount of energy exerted in that one, who knows how much of a focused effort they will have against a lesser team. Cleveland has lost three straight and will have Johnny Manziel and not Josh McCown under center because of a shoulder injury to the latter. The Browns’ offense is one-dimensional and even that isn't very reliable. They should struggle against a Cincy defense that is pretty good. The Bengals have held three straight opponents to fewer than 260 yards passing. These two teams have played three unders in their last four meetings. Cleveland has gone under in nine of its last 13 AFC North games. I don't see how the Browns score in this one so it becomes how much an unfocused Cincinnati wants to score. SELECTION: Under 46

St. Louis Rams (4-3) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

The Rams have won two straight and three of their last four entering this one on Sunday. St. Louis has been playing better football due to a solid run game and an opportunistic defense. Minnesota has won three straight and is winning pretty much the same way. Neither team is in an unfocused spot although I have a little more faith in Teddy Bridgewater then I do in Nick Foles. Foles has not thrown for more than 200 yards since Week 1 against Seattle while Bridgewater has done so three times this season. Last year Minnesota won this game 34-6 in St. Louis. Minnesota is an ATS monster, covering in six of seven this year and 25 of its last 39 overall. SELECTION: Vikings Moneyline -139

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-5)

The Eagles are coming off their bye week hoping to start out their second half with a win over Dallas. The Cowboys have lost five straight games and are nowhere near efficient on offense right now with Matt Cassel under center. Dallas managed just 220 yards of total offense in a 13-12 loss at home to the Seahawks last week. The good thing for the Cowboys is that the defense has been on point since adding Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain. The Eagles’ struggles on offense have been well documented. This unit has performed better recently, especially in wins over the Saints and Giants, but neither defense is that much of a challenge statistically speaking. These two NFC East rivals played a 20-10 game back in Week 2 when Philly rushed for just seven total yards. The Eagles have won their last two in Dallas, as there just isn't much of a home-field advantage in Jerry World these days. SELECTION: Under 45 (Also consider Eagles ML -139)

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Chicago Bears (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (2-6) (Mon.)

The records aren't good, but there will be a lot of talent on display for “Monday Night Football.” San Diego has lost four straight, but all were within one score and a lot of these were winnable in the end. Philip Rivers is putting up very good numbers despite a banged-up offensive line and now must make do without target monster Keenan Allen. The Bears’ defense has allowed 20 points or more in all but one game this season. Somehow this unit is holding its own in terms of yards allowed, but preventing opponents from scoring has been an issue. On offense, Chicago will be without do-everything running back Matt Forte and possibly wide receiver Eddie Royal tool. The Chargers have a respectable secondary with Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, although linchpin Eric Weddle has been hurt and out the past few games. San Diego is 8-3 ATS the last three years in non-conference games while the Bears are 10-17 ATS the last three years as an underdog. SELECTION: Chargers -4

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Notes:

— One of the more intriguing matchups on Sunday is in Pittsburgh as the Steelers host the Raiders. The home team is without All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell for the rest of the season, but DeAngelo Williams has filled in nicely. Ben Roethlisberger was not himself either after missing a few games. Oakland, meanwhile, has won two straight and is in the mix for a playoff spot. They are doing so with a stingy run defense and a budding passing attack led by Derek Carr throwing to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Oakland is in unchartered territory with a winning record and expectations. I lean to the Steelers’ moneyline in this one as I just don't trust the Raiders on the road. Problem is they should be able to move the ball on the awful Steelers secondary.

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— Carolina hosts Green Bay, who is coming off a horrible effort in Denver where the team managed just 140 total yards. Aaron Rodgers isn't the same, but neither are his weapons. Now the Packers head to Carolina to take on a Panthers team that has to be a bit emotionally spent after Monday night’s overtime win over the Colts, which was preceded by another close victory against the Eagles. Last year a better Packers team won this game at home 38-17. The availability of defensive backs Sam Shields and Quinten Rollins is important in this one. I don't like laying points on the road for the most part, but I'm strongly considering the Pack in this one. It's a bad spot for the Panthers.

— I completely understand why the Falcons are a huge favorite on Sunday, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Atlanta has scored a total of 51 points in its last three games, with two of them resulting in losses. The third game was a woeful 10-7 win at Tennessee. Devonta Freeman has slowed down from his historic start and the struggles in the run game are hurting Matt Ryan a bit. San Francisco is a car fire and a train wreck wrapped in one. The team is turning to Blaine Gabbert to lead its offense, whose backfield will consist of the fourth-string running back and a pair of recently signed free agents. San Fran doesn't have Vernon Davis and may not have Anquan Boldin’s services either. The 49ers have scored 10 points or less four times this season. The problem is that the defense has shown a pulse at home on a few occasions. I don't highly recommend the Falcons on the road unless you want to top off a moneyline parlay.

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.