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NFL Betting: What We Learned from Week 9 (2021)

by November 8, 2021
Kyler Murray

There’s the whistle. Go to the locker room. Drink some water. Regroup.

It’s halftime.

With the 17-game schedule, Week 9 marks the midpoint of the longest regular season on record. This means that we still have an entire second half to play. Nine more weeks of football for us to continue what has been one of the best for picks.

As we look back to what we just learned from last week’s action, we will keep a slight bias toward considering the first-half implications as a whole. Where applicable, they will be highlighted.

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The Cincinnati Bengals Are Not There Yet

One of my favorite offseason practices is to look at every single team and try to determine how they could become a contender the following year. In full disclosure, I missed the Cincinnati Bengals before their surge but, afterward, it didn’t take long to see how it happened.

The Bengals built quite the solid defense to pair with the young duo of quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The focus tends to be on the latter when really the former is what led to the early-season success.

Cincinnati allowed no more than 25 points in any of its first seven games. It was 5-2 in that span. Over the last two weeks, the Bengals have given up a combined 75 points to the Jets and Browns.

I make it a point to never put too much stock in the outcome of a division game, and I reiterate this to my readers every week. There is simply too much familiarity between the two teams from which we can draw any real conclusions. What we did see in Cincinnati’s dud against Cleveland is that, when faced with a challenge, it folded. Just like it did when the Jets shocked the Bengals by fighting back.

Cincinnati now goes on a bye, but let’s make it a point not to forget how the team played when the stakes were raised. It’s certainly going to matter in the second half of the season.

Don’t Sleep on the Colts

Last week, I wrote about a few teams that, by virtue of the lengthened season and additional playoff spots in 2020, were not to be buried in the playoff race.

This week, I’m adding the Indianapolis Colts to that list.

Indianapolis entered Week 9 with a 3-5 record but a positive point differential. It then won by 15 points in a game that was never even that close.

Up next for the Colts? The now-two-win Jaguars.

The Buffalo Bills are on deck following the Colts’ game against Jacksonville, but we could be looking at an Indianapolis team that has resurrected itself by getting back to .500.

The Green Bay Packers Really Need Aaron Rodgers

This isn’t “breaking news,” nor is it fair to dismiss Jordan Love as a viable replacement for Aaron Rodgers. Still, the Green Bay Packers finally saw firsthand what they had in their quarterback’s heir apparent, and it was not inspiring.

Love went 19-for-34 for 190 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, but the biggest problem is that he did most of his damage against one of the worst defenses in football in “garbage time.”

Of course, we would be wise not to overreact. As quick as I am to point out how important Rodgers is to the offense, I would like to also highlight that football fans know this. Sunday did not teach us anything new, even if we did learn about the potential future.

We saw the drop-off from Rodgers to Love, but we should also expect that when Rodgers returns, the odds may overcompensate.

The Arizona Cardinals Really Don’t Need Kyler Murray

I’m kidding! With the title, anyway. The Arizona Cardinals did win one of the most impressive games of Week 9 and did so without their starting quarterback, but that is not a knock on Kyler Murray. It’s a testament to the team as a whole.

There’s some irony in that comment, too. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has yet to make his mark in the National Football League, but his 2021 campaign is quickly gaining attention. To rebound after a nationally-televised loss to the Packers is one thing, but to do it without Murray is downright commendable.

Another feather in the metaphorical cap of the organization is that it insisted on not playing Murray and risking his future. It took a risk in a division game but was thoroughly prepared and finished the job.

We will have to be careful not to overreact to Week 9’s big win, but we also need to treat the Cardinals with respect for the foreseeable future.

The AFC West is Packed

I resisted the urge to use the cliche word “Wild” as an apology for the prior section’s headline, but it would have fit just as well. All four teams in the AFC West now have five wins on the season. The Raiders’ lead? Gone. The Broncos’ roller coaster record? Back to five wins. The Chiefs’ win total even after being doubted constantly? Five.

This is why it’s important to pause midway through the season and reassess.

Through various points of the first nine weeks, we could have made an argument for basically any of the AFC West teams to be the new frontrunner. That will definitely change some more as we go forward, but it’s a testament to all four teams that they have survived the gauntlet of an obviously tough division and find themselves in a position to make a move up the standings.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros, as well as the creator and content editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola. He has also been one of the industry leaders in NFL against-the-spread picks over the last 7 years.