Betting News & Analysis

NFL Week 9: Best spread bets for Sunday's games, including big Bengals bounce back

Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) drops back top pass during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

• Bet Bengals -7.5 at Panthers: Prior to their blowout loss in Cleveland, the Bengals were favored by nine points over Carolina. After Cincinnati played its worst game of the season on Halloween, we get a discount.

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• Bet Titans +12.5 vs Chiefs: Tennessee has been extremely profitable on the moneyline in this spot, and 12.5 points is a gift; PFF Greenline and Jurgens' model align on the Titans.

There's arguably no sport more difficult, nor exciting, to bet on than NFL football. Information is both scarce in utility, and abundant in opinion. Markets are so finely tuned and so heavily wagered that there are few opportunities to gain an edge over the oddsmakers.

Enter a model capable of making ATS picks with long term success.

A majority of the most profitable NFL bettors use some kind of projection tool to help guide their wagers. Such a tool will be provided to the reader today, and for the rest of the NFL regular season. It is important to note that these projections are not a gospel, but merely a compass toward identifying an edge in a razor-thin market that is betting NFL spreads.

The purpose of this article is to identify model picks which coincide with current trends, and mismatches on the field. The hope is that in deliberately doing so, long-term profitability will follow. This season has been a difficult one so far, though variance is inherent, and an unfortuitous start is not necessarily indicative of a broken process. 

Chicago Bears (+5) vs Miami Dolphins

Model Line — Dolphins (-3.5)

Chicago's Offense: The philosophy has clearly pivoted, and the team has wisely molded its offense around QB Justin Fields’ athleticism. Chicago has averaged 31 points and 380 yards of offense over the past two games, when the offense is No. 10 in EPA / Play, including third in EPA / Play when rushing the ball. This is admittedly a small sample size, but such performances have come versus the third- and fifth-rated defenses per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. 

Home Field Advantage: According to Ben Baldwin’s Market-Derived Team Tiers, the Dolphins would be a six-point favorite over the Bears on a neutral field. It not only feels wrong to attribute one point of HFA to Chicago playing at home, but this is a blatant misjudgement of the advantage which Soldier Field affords the team. I encourage you to check out Robby Greer’s work for a useful visualization of Chicago’s HFA in relation to NFL average. 

Bottom Line: Chicago’s coaching staff is starting to get the most out of its personnel, and the Bears should be able to keep things close at Soldier Field. After the Bearsplayed only one home game over the past five-plus weeks, this is not the time nor the place to back Miami.

Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5) vs Carolina Panthers

Model Line — Bengals (-9.5)

Trends and Money: Two key trends to know: over the past two seasons, the Panthers are 4-8 ATS on the road, and since 2020, the Bengals are 14-6 ATS following a loss. Carolina is no doubt a sexy pick this week, as greater than 50% of the bets have been placed on the Panthers to cover the spread. However, PFF Greenline shows a 2:1 ratio of cash being bet on the Bengals. Such differentiation is an indication that many sharp bettors have taken a position on Cincinnati this week. 

Still a Bad Football Team: Carolina’s inspired performance of late should not be confused as an indication the Panthers might be a good football team. They still comfortably rate 30th per PFF’s Power Ratings, 28th in DVOA, and 27th in EPA / Play. 

Buy Low: Cincinnati played its worst game of the season on Halloween, and we get to bet them at a discount because of it. Prior to the team’s blowout loss in Cleveland, the Bengals were favored by nine points in this matchup. Further, maybe the team’s loss to the Browns was not so egregious? Cincinnati has now lost five straight games in Cleveland. 

Bottom Line: The full detriment of Cincinnati WR Ja’Marr Chase‘s absence is still unknown, but feel comfortable backing the Bengals to rebound in this spot. Cincinnati is the better team across the board, and most importantly has a massive advantage at the QB position

Kansas City Chiefs vs Tennessee Titans (+12.5)

Model Line — Chiefs (-9.5)

Mike Vrabel: Tennessee HC Mike Vrabel has thrived in these spots, and his teams have had success versus the Chiefs in the past. Vrabel is 2-1 SU and ATS as a double-digit road dog, with the lone loss coming at the hands of the Buffalo Bills earlier this season. Further, Vrabel is 2-1 SU and ATS versus KC in his coaching career, having been an underdog in all three games.

Game Script: The Titans' identity is no secret. They want to pound the rock with All-Pro RB Derrick Henry, and thus, dictate the game’s pace. Tennessee should have no issue doing so versus a marginal KC run defense, and the Titans defense is capable, at times, of stalling Kansas City. Since Week 5, Tennessee ranks first in EPA / Play. The Titans favorable schedule over this span should be noted, but keep in mind that the team also rates tenth in defensive DVOA on the season, and that this metric does adjust for opponent strength. 

Closer Than You Think: PFF Greenline power rates Kansas City second in the NFL, and Tennessee fifth. Our analysis sees negative value in betting on KC this Sunday, and this model tends to agree. Perhaps Tennessee is a middling team with an exceptional record, but this has been the Titans' narrative for the past few seasons. 

Bottom Line: This is too many points for a game likely to be shortened by Tennessee, and the Titans’ defense is more than capable of stalling KC in opportune moments. The Titans have been extremely profitable on the moneyline in this spot, and 12.5 points is a gift. 

Tommy's ATS picks went 1-2 in Week 8, bringing his overall season record to 15-19 (-5.8 units).

How PFF contributor Tommy Jurgens' Projections Work:

A myriad of both objective, and subjective ratings are employed in a logistic regression model to determine the likelihood that each team will win the game outright. By this determined win-probability, a spread is assigned to each game and compared to the consensus line.

This model has successfully identified the outright victor at a near 67% rate, and has chosen the ATS winner at an efficiency greater than 53% since 2006. 

One can find all of the projected picks for Week 9 here


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