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September 17, 2014

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Week 9 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

AFC West dismantling NFC East on the field and in the sports books

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) kneels in prayer with Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Clay Harbor (86), defensive end Tyson Alualu (93) and running back Justin Forsett (21) after an NFL game in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013.

It’s an unfortunate year for the NFL’s inter-conference scheduling rotation to feature the AFC West playing the NFC East.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 9

Which team would you bet in the San Diego at Washington pick ’em?
Chargers — 74.0%
Redskins — 26.0%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The two divisions are at opposite ends of the league’s hierarchy, and not in the way anyone expected. At 22-8 straight up and 18-9-3 against the spread, the AFC West is the NFL’s toughest set of four teams.

The NFC East is just as clearly the worst at 11-20 straight up and 15-16 against the spread. Those records are fattened up from the teams’ head-to-head meetings, as the AFC West has gone 9-1 straight up, 7-3 against the spread when facing the NFC East this year.

Four more matchups remain between the divisions, with two taking place during Sunday’s slate of week 9 games. The Philadelphia Eagles travel to take on the Oakland Raiders as 2.5-point underdogs in a 1 p.m. kickoff, while the San Diego Chargers visit the Washington Redskins in an early game installed as a pick ’em.

The Sun’s panel of sportswriters focused heavily on the latter in this week’s contest as each used one of their six picks, available at the bottom of the page, on the game.

Two went with the home team, calling for the Redskins to defend their FedEx Field with a win and cover for only the second time this season. The third decided to buck the tired rule of not backing a West Coast team in a 10 a.m. game on the other side of the country.

For the year, the Eastern time zone hasn’t lived up to its reputation of giving the Pacific-based teams fits. Teams from the far West are 5-1 against the spread and 4-2 straight up when playing on the opposite coast.

The Chargers have already prevailed twice in the situation, beating the Eagles 33-30 as 7.5-point underdogs in week 2 before striking the Jaguars 24-6 as 7.5-point favorites two Sundays ago.

Recent work by SportsInsights, however, found that the blabber about West Coast teams traveling east was more than just noise. Over the past eight years, according to the article, teams from the Pacific time zone are just 44-57 against the spread when losing three hours.

The record falls all the way to 16-38 against the spread when the team is coming off a win, as the Chargers are in this instance. Betting against San Diego this season hasn’t been a wise move, though.

At 5-1-1 against the spread, the Chargers fall behind only the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys, who are 7-1 versus the number despite being only 4-4 straight up, as the most profitable team to bet on in 2013.

The San Diego offense has experienced a resurgence under first-year coach Mike McCoy, ranking third in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. It’s the best that unit has performed since 2009, when the Chargers went 13-3 to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Philip Rivers is playing at an even higher level this year. He’s second in DVOA among quarterbacks, putting together a career year according to both advanced metrics and traditional statistics. A deep receiving corps, which featured Eddie Royal scoring five touchdowns in the opening two weeks and rookie Keenan Allen recently having back-to-back 100-yard games, has certainly helped.

Contrary to what many believe, Washington’s offense isn’t the biggest reason for its underwhelming 2-5 straight-up and against-the-spread record. Even with Robert Griffin III initially looking rusty coming off knee surgery, the offense ranks right in the middle of the league at No. 15 in DVOA.

Some better rushing games from Griffin along with the emergence of rookie tight end Jordan Reed has helped that mark in recent weeks. The defense remains the issue.

Washington ranks 27th in defensive DVOA, five spots ahead of dead-last San Diego. The over/under is the highest on the board at a towering 51.5 points for a reason.

Seven of 10 AFC West vs. NFC East games this year, incidentally, have gone over the total.

Check below for all of the Sun’s week 9 picks against the spread. Games are listed in order of kickoff time.

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 27-21 (6-0 last week)

Redskins pick ’em vs. Chargers

Eagles plus-2.5 at Raiders

Chiefs vs. Bills over 40.5

Ravens minus-2.5 at Browns

Colts vs. Texans under 45

Bears vs. Packers under 49.5

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 24-22-2 (2-4 last week)

Chargers pick ’em at Redskins

Ravens minus-2.5 at Browns

Chiefs minus-3 at Bills

Falcons plus-7.5 at Panthers

Vikings vs. Cowboys over 47.5

Colts minus-2.5 at Texans

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 20-28 (3-3 last week)

Falcons plus-7.5 at Panthers

Titans minus-3 at Rams

Redskins pick ’em vs. Chargers

Browns plus-2.5 vs. Ravens

Steelers plus-7 at Patriots

Bears plus-11 at Packers

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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