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NFL predictions and picks: Week 9 best bets

Offensively challenged Rams and Bucs will continue to sputter in Tampa

Now-retired Los Angeles Rams safety Eric Weddle (left) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Leonard Fournette (right) during an NFC Divisional Playoff game in Tampa in January. The Rams visit the Bucs on Sunday in what is expected to be a low-scoring contest. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Now-retired Los Angeles Rams safety Eric Weddle (left) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Leonard Fournette (right) during an NFC Divisional Playoff game in Tampa in January. The Rams visit the Bucs on Sunday in what is expected to be a low-scoring contest. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Read moreKevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Since Tom Brady traded the New England chill for the tropics of Tampa Bay, his explosive Buccaneers have faced the high-flying Los Angeles Rams three times.

Brady and the Bucs lost all three matchups, but all lived up to the high-scoring hype: 27-24 in Tampa (2020); 34-24 in Los Angeles (2021); and 30-27 in Tampa (2021 playoffs).

So the fact the two teams are meeting once again in Florida on Sunday and the posted total is merely 42.5 points — nearly two touchdowns lower than the combined average total of the past three meetings — tells you just how far these once-mighty offenses have fallen.

Of course, the question NFL bettors are asking right now is: Have those offenses finally hit rock bottom? We offer up our answer below, as an NFL prediction on the Rams vs. Bucs total kicks off our four pack of Week 9 Best Bets.

Note: Odds updated as of 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 4.

NFL Best Bet: Rams vs. Bucs

  1. Prediction: Under 42.5 points (at FanDuel)

Each week, bettors look at Brady and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford — and the array of weapons surrounding them — and say, “OK, these loaded offenses have to wake up sometime.” But they never do.

Through eight games, Tampa has scored more than 22 points once, while the Rams have tallied more than 20 points twice in their seven contests.

Who’s to blame for these suddenly anemic offenses? Everyone, but let’s start under center: Brady still has just nine touchdown passes in 340 attempts, which actually is two better than Stafford (whose seven TD tosses have been offset by eight interceptions).

Both quarterbacks are playing behind terrible offensive lines, which explains why neither squad can run the ball (L.A. ranks 31st in rushing offense; Tampa Bay ranks 32nd). And why both QBs have been sacked a combined 37 times (with Stafford absorbing 24 of those).

Throw in red-zone inefficiency (for both teams) and third-down struggles (particularly for Tampa), and it’s easy to see why both offenses are averaging a combined 35.1 points per game.

Yes, both teams’ games barely slipped Over the total in Week 8. But that’s because the opposing offenses did most of the heavy lifting. Prior to that, the Bucs and Rams had stayed Under a combined 11 times in 13 contests.

Look for that low-scoring trend to resume Sunday in Tampa. Play it Under at FanDuel.

» READ MORE: Week 9 NFL betting trends: Unbeaten Eagles also among most profitable teams

NFL Best Bet: Packers vs. Lions

  1. Prediction: Over 49.5 points (at Caesars Sportsbook)

Speaking of offenses that desperately need a defibrillator, meet Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Coming into Week 9, Green Bay ranks 26th in scoring offense at 18.1 points per game — right between the Bucs (18.2) and Rams (16.9). And Rodgers and the Packers have been particularly lackluster in four road games (14.8 ppg).

Well, what is the best antidote for an impotent offense? A date with the Lions — especially in the Motor City.

Detroit is surrendering and NFL-high 32.1 points per outing, which is five points more than the next worst team (Chargers). The Lions also rank last in total defense (421.3 yards per contest).

Now check out the results of the four games played at Ford Field this season:

  1. Eagles 38, Lions 35

  2. Lions 36, Commanders 27

  3. Seahawks 48, Lions 45

  4. Dolphins 31, Lions 27

That’s an average of 71.8 points per game.

But wait, there’s more: Going back to December 2018, the Lions’ defense has surrendered at least 27 points in 23 of 30 home games — including 34 or more 14 times.

Bottom line: If Rodgers and the Green Bay offense don’t come out of hibernation Sunday, they never will. Bank on the Over hitting at Ford Field for the sixth straight time going back to last year’s finale — a Lions-Packers shootout that ended 37-30.

NFL Best Bet: Dolphins vs. Bears

  1. Prediction: Dolphins -4 (at BetMGM)

Pretty simple explanation for this one: Miami is a perfect 5-0 in games quarterback Tua Tagovailoa starts and finishes (2-0 on the road) and 0-3 in games he doesn’t (0-2 on the road).

The Heisman winner from Alabama clearly is that much of a difference-maker, and he’s got the numbers to prove it. Tua owns the league’s No. 1 passer rating (112.7, more than three points better than Patrick Mahomes). He’s also completing 69.9 percent of his throws (third-best in the league); averaging a league-best 9.0 yards per pass attempt; and his 280 passing yards per game ranks ninth.

Now Tagovailoa and his band of speedsters get to face a Bears defense that got torched last week for 49 points and 442 yards in Dallas. How did Chicago address that dreadful showing? By coming home and trading away stud linebacker Roquan Smith.

Admittedly, quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense has looked much more competent the last two weeks, putting up 33 and 29 points against two top-tier defenses (New England and Dallas). But that offense isn’t nearly good enough to keep up with the Dolphins — not as long as Tua stays upright.

Lay the points at BetMGM with Miami, which is overdue for a blowout victory.

NFL Best Bet: Seahawks vs. Cardinals

  1. Prediction: Seahawks +2 (at BetMGM)

Not sure the last time a first-place team was an underdog against a last-place division rival midway through an NFL season. This much we do know: The wrong team is favored in this game.

Seattle has (stunningly) ascended to the top of the NFC West on the strength of a current three-game SU and ATS winning streak — a run that started with a 19-9 upset of Arizona as a 2.5-point home underdog on Oct. 16.

In fact, had they not surrendered a late fourth-quarter touchdown in New Orleans that led to a 39-32 loss in Week 5, the Seahawks would be on a 5-0 SU and ATS roll.

Conversely, the Cardinals have dropped three of four, the only highlight being a 42-34 Thursday Night Football victory over the Saints two weeks ago. And had Andy Dalton not thrown a couple of pick-sixes that night, Arizona would be coming into this contest on a four-game slide.

While Arizona’s 3-5 start (1-3 at home) isn’t all that surprising — we don’t think much of coach Kliff Kingsbury or QB Kyler Murray — Seattle’s 5-3 record is beyond baffling. Most NFL prognosticators figured Pete Carroll’s club, with journeyman Geno Smith piloting the offense, was headed for rebuild-ville.

Instead, Smith is completing an NFL-best 72.7% of this passes and he sports the league’s fourth-best passer rating (107.2). And when you look at the most basic of stats, you’ll see that the Seahawks are scoring more points per game than the Cardinals (26.2 vs. 22.8) and giving up fewer (24.9 vs. 26.2).

Bet on those numbers holding up Sunday, as Seattle scores its fifth upset of the season and third straight upset of Arizona. Even though it shouldn’t be an upset, because the Seahawks are clearly the better squad.

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