Fresh off a victory over the New York Jets, the New England Patriots (-5.5) return home for a Week 9 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Despite losing to the Colts 27-17 last season, the Patriots sit as 5.5-point home favorites and are receiving 81 percent of the public bets. The 40.0-point total marks the lowest of the Week 9 totals on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
As New England looks to improve to 5-4 entering their bye, here are four bets to watch on Sunday.
Mac on the Run
An underrated part of quarterback Mac Jones' game this season has been his ability to extend plays and pick up yards with his legs. Even after suffering the high-ankle sprain, Jones has totaled 43 rushing yards the past two weeks on 10 carries - almost all coming off scrambles to escape pressure.
"I think he's got a pretty good feel for that. A lot of it is just really feel and decision. Some of it's athletic ability too, but a lot of it is just seeing it through the right time," Bill Belichick explained Friday. "The guys that are really good runners, you know about, and the guys that aren't, it's just decisions and recognition of the situation."
With a banged up offensive line on deck again in Week 9, Jones will likely continue to be under heavy pressure. Against New York last week, Jones faced a 38.6 percent pressure rate and now matches up against a Colts defense that pressured Taylor Heinicke on 43.6 percent of his drop-backs last week.
Indianapolis' interior combo of DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart is one of the best in the league. Yannick Ngakoue and Kwity Pay are nothing to scoff at along the edge either. With David Andrews (concussion) and Marcus Cannon (concussion) out Sunday, the Patriots' offensive front will have their hands full. Look for Indianapolis to replicate some of the success New York had at getting after Jones last week with just four-man rushes. If they do, there should be rushing lanes for Jones to again take advantage of.
The pick: Mac Jones Over 12.5 rushing yards (-110)
The Stevenson Show
Rhamondre "James White" Stevenson is what people are calling the second-year back nowadays as he continues to standout in the passing attack. Over the past two weeks, Stevenson has hauled in all 15 of his targets for 131 yards. Opportunities should continue to be available for Stevenson on Sunday with Jones looking to work the short passing attack and while under pressure.
Stevenson has become the clear-cut go-to option at the running back position for the Patriots offense, even with Damien Harris back in the mix the past two weeks. And speaking of Harris, he is questionable for Sunday after not practicing all week due to an illness. It could again be the Stevenson show as he continues to carry the Patriots' offense
The pick: Rhamondre Stevenson Over 23.5 receiving yards (-120)
Starting on defense, it would be no surprise to see Sam Ehlinger struggle on the road in Foxboro. Bill Belichick's success against young quarterbacks speaks for itself and the coach's scheme will likely be able to force Ehlinger - who had a 6.5 turnover worthy play rate in his first career start - into a turnover or two.
Also, with Jonathan Taylor (ankle) out and Nyheim Hines in Buffalo, a ball could be coughed up in their newly established zone-run game as Ehlinger and the Colts' running backs are still getting familiar with each other.
As for special teams, Indianapolis' unit - led by former Patriot Ross "Bubba" Ventrone - dominated New England in last year's meeting. Earlier this week, Matthew Slater said it was the units worst game of the season last year.
The Patriots will surely be guns blazing on special teams on Sunday, and a score could be in the picture. Marcus Jones seems due to break a return, while Jack Jones has been on the verge of blocking several kicks the past few weeks. Or perhaps New England returns the favor and blocks a punt for a score, like the Colts did against them last season.
It just feels right.
The pick: Patriots D/ST Anytime TD Scorer (+600)
Cover over the Colts
The Patriots battered offensive line will certainly have their hands full on Sunday. After surrendering 16 pressures last week, Indianapolis' defensive front has the chance to make life difficult for Mac Jones and Co. With that being said, New England's switch back to the short and intermediate passing attack was beneficial, along with the incorporation of run-pass option plays. They should do enough offensively, with some potential help from the defense and special teams units.
For Indianapolis, they are in the midst of several changes along the offensive side of the ball. Second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger replaced veteran Matt Ryan last week, Nyheim Hines was shipped out to Buffalo at the deadline, and they also moved on from offensive coordinator Marcus Brady on Tuesday. On top of all that, star running back Jonathan Taylor (ankle) is out. They're a tough matchup, but seem to be trending in the wrong direction.
The remodeled Colts continue to struggle on the road, where they've lost their last six games straight up and are 1-3 against the spread this season, and New England improves to 5-4.
The pick: Patriots -5.5 (-110)