NFL Betting: Week 9 Tips

This is the week of the home dogs: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee find themselves underdogs in their own houses, which says something about the unpredictability of the NFL, but also something about the unconvincing quality of a number of teams. The tough one here is the Colts getting a point from the Dolphins; Miami is the better team on paper, but not by a huge margin, and the Colts have proven a dangerous team, with wins over Cleveland and at Tennessee since coach John Pagano was hospitalised with leukemia. But that was the Browns and Titans! I'm picking against some of those home dogs, and that makes me nervous.

As a side note, if the Redskins do manage to beat the Panthers, you might want a flutter on Barack Obama. Every year since 1936, except 2004, if the Skins win their last home game before the election, the incumbent president or his party win the election. Of course in 2000, George Bush didn't really win, which is why 2004 went all pear-shaped, but last time round the Steelers scalped the Skins 23-8 and Obama defeated McCain. Long odds, small wager?

Sure thing: Tennessee v Chicago (-3.5) at 2.00.

It's really dangerous to make a travelling team giving points a sure thing, but the Bears' defence ought to frustrate the Titans' offence, which needs Chris Johnson to break long runs in order to really be effective. That should allow Jay Cutler to decide he doesn't want to keep being Rex Grossman for the rest of the season.

Underdog: Oakland (-1) v Tampa at 1.81.

I was tempted to take the Vikes getting four in Seattle, as that one is likely to be close, but the Bucs' impressive road win in Minnesota last week may raise expectations. If you really find the idea of betting on the Raiders dangerous, consider the Cowboys in Atlanta. They are just the kind of teasers who could pull off the upset that spoils the Falcons unbeaten record.

Value bet: Jacksonville v Detroit (-4) at 1.85.

Here's the thing: one of the few things the Jags do well is keeping the game in front of them - allowing teams to pass underneath but not surrendering big plays. That keeps games close, giving their anaemic offence a chance to sneak wins. This week, however, they face a team that theoretically can score points in bunches, with one receiver, Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson, who can defeat even good deep coverage. What would be fitting would be a TD by Mike Thomas, who was traded from Jacksonville to Detroit this week, which helped the Lions beat the spread.

One to avoid: New Orleans v Philadelphia (+4)

You've got two defences who appear allergic to contact with the passer; a turnover-prone QB for the Eagles and a QB who is clearly out of his rhythm for the Saints; and one team that refuses to run and another that doesn't seem able to, even when they want to. This has the potential to be a hugely entertaining game. There is an aura of desperation around the Eagles and their coach Andy Reid, which is offset by the very real sense that a loss here probably eliminates the Saints from post-season consideration. Watch it, but leave it alone.