There was probably a bit of circumstance involved, but it looked like CBS cleared the decks for the Los Angeles Rams-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in Week 9.
Rams-Bucs is one of just two games in the late-afternoon window on Sunday. Two games in that window is the fewest you'll find. Some of the near-exclusivity for Rams-Bucs is that many West Coast teams are either on bye or playing on the road. But it feels like CBS and the NFL was happy to have almost all the TV viewership on a matchup between two teams expected to compete for a Super Bowl.
By the time the game came around, it was just a matchup between two struggling teams with losing records.
The 3-4 Rams will take on the 3-5 Buccaneers and both teams are a mess and hard to figure out right now. The Buccaneers are a 3-point favorite at BetMGM, but it's hard to imagine anyone feels great about taking the Bucs as a favorite. Or the Rams as a small underdog.
The Rams' issues have been on display all season. They can't block. They can't run the ball. They have no offensive weapons other than Cooper Kupp. And to make this game even more disappointing, Kupp is dealing with an ankle injury. He injured his ankle with a little more than a minute left in last week's game with the Rams trailing by 17 points. Kupp being in the game then is horrific mismanagement by Sean McVay. It's part of a disappointing Rams season that keeps getting worse.
The Buccaneers have their own problems. They are the worst running team in the NFL (and no, "run it more!" isn't the answer when you're totally inept at it). Tom Brady has been solid but not to the level he was at last season or the 20 seasons before that either. The defense, which was very good early in the season, has let down the past couple weeks.
Neither team's season is over. The NFC isn't that good. The Buccaneers play in a bad NFC South. But another loss by either team sinks them a little further in the hole. At some point you need to string wins together to make the playoffs, even in a lukewarm conference.
I'll take the Buccaneers -3 but without much confidence. My assumption is Kupp plays but not at 100 percent, and I'm not sure how the Rams generate any offense without Kupp being his normal self. Either way, it's a bummer this game isn't what it should have been.
Here are the picks for Week 9 against the spread, with the odds from BetMGM:
Texans (+14) over Eagles
It's pretty basic: Any 14-point home underdog on a Thursday night is probably my pick. I went into the matchup a little more in today's Daily Sweat.
Falcons (+3) over Chargers
The Chargers' injuries are really bad. The Falcons have lost two in a row against the spread after starting the season 6-0 ATS, but this seems like a spot in which they can cover.
Dolphins (-5) over Bears
The Dolphins are still undefeated in games Tua Tagovailoa starts and finishes. I thought about going with the Bears and the points, considering their offense is getting better, but Miami is good and I don't like the vibes a team gives off when it trades its best defensive players like Chicago did with Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn (they did add receiver Chase Claypool but I assume it'll be a week or two before Claypool can make a legitimate impact).
Panthers (+7.5) over Bengals
I don't think what we saw from the Bengals on Monday night was really who they are. That was one miserable performance. But they missed Ja'Marr Chase much more than I figured they would. The Panthers are playing hard for interim coach Steve Wilks, and P.J. Walker has given the offense some life. I'll take the points.
Packers (-3.5) over Lions
I get that the Packers aren't great but this line is surprising. The Lions have the worst record in the NFL and they've earned it. Their defense has been awful all season and the offense has fallen off too. I don't think the Packers being blown out by the Bills tells us much; Buffalo is just better than everyone else right now. The Packers know they need to start winning games or they'll be irrelevant soon, whereas the Lions season is basically done already. Maybe this is a trap but I don't get why the Packers aren't closer to a touchdown favorite.
Colts (+5.5) over Patriots
Even though the Patriots won and covered against the Jets last week, there are still questions about their defense. The Colts have plenty of questions too, but I think they'll find a way to keep it close even if they don't win.
Jets (+12.5) over Bills
My guess is if you bet against the Bills the rest of the season, you'll do OK. They're very good but it's hard to cover big spreads in the NFL and it seems Buffalo spreads have been inflated. We saw what happened last week when the Packers were +11.5 at Buffalo. Green Bay wasn't on Buffalo's level but still found a way to cover. I think we'll see that happen again with the Jets.
Commanders (+3.5) over Vikings
Getting more than a field goal leads me to a lukewarm pick of the Commanders. Washington isn't good but at least they've gotten a spark with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. The Vikings are 6-1 but does anybody really believe in them?
Jaguars (+1.5) over Raiders
What can you possibly like about either team right now? I don't know that I trust the Raiders to go back on the road, to the East Coast for an early game, and win. However, do I like taking the Jaguars? Nope.
Seahawks (+2) over Cardinals
Seattle is the far superior team here. I'm not sure how Pete Carroll has done it, but that this point it's undeniable. This feels like one of those NFL games in which I should go against my initial analysis, which is to take the better team getting points, because nothing in the NFL this season is that predictable.
Titans (+12.5) over Chiefs
The Chiefs are great, but the Titans have been competitive every week aside from a Week 2 loss at Buffalo (again, the Bills are going to blow out plenty of teams) and they're not some Texans-level team that should be getting 12.5 points. Mike Vrabel is a good coach. The Titans will find a way to make this a game.
Ravens (-2.5) over Saints
Did the Saints figure it all out last week? Maybe. But before that, they looked like every bit of a 2-5 team. The Ravens have led by double digits in every game, and you can brush that off if you wish, but it shows a level of dominance that hasn't necessarily been reflected in their record. The line has moved down from -3, too. I don't get it. I like the Ravens here.
Last week: 9-6
Season to date: 65-57-1