Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) GREEN BAY at ARIZONA (-3.5) (Over/Under 53)
The Week 8 schedule gets off to a potentially thrilling start as the Packers, sans defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who tested positive for Covid-19, take on the high-octane and undefeated Cardinals. Green Bay’s balanced approach has paid dividends this season; even when the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders in games, the defense picked up the slack. Aaron Rodgers continues to inject moments of magic into the game, his effortless chemistry with Davante Adams – and indeed the rest of his receiving corps – plain to see. At 6-1, and facing a 7-0 team, the veterans in Green Bay’s locker room will know the high stakes of this game as it pertains to home-field advantage.
As for the Cardinals, it is all gravy at this point. Not many pundits expected them to be streaking away in the NFC playoff picture, looking nigh on unstoppable some weeks. A slow start against the Texans quickly gave way to an avalanche of 31 unanswered points, a run that is indicative of the quick-hitting way they play. Kyler Murray has not been central to the ground attack recently – and that is a good thing – as James Conner and Chase Edmonds continue to run effectively. The 3.5-point line is about right, so the edge should go to the Packers with the extra half-point in your back pocket.
Pick: Green Bay
MIAMI at BUFFALO (-13.5) (Over/Under 48.5)
Brian Flores’ team fell to another defeat last week and the season looks all but lost for the Dolphins despite a strong effort. The back-to-back games against Jacksonville and Atlanta were supposed to give them new life; instead, they have found ways to lose at the last second, their snake-bitten season continuing at pace. Tua Tagovailoa tossed four touchdowns on Sunday but let his team down with two costly picks as well. The bar will be set higher this week in Buffalo, where the red-hot Josh Allen is unlikely to give the Dolphins much rest defensively. That will put the onus on Tagovailoa to play mistake-free football.
Judging from the 13.5-point line, the Vegas sharps don’t have much faith that the former Alabama quarterback can pull that off. The Bills were a quarterback sneak short of securing a wild road win in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. With a bye behind them to reassess, they will be fancied to go on a run for the rest of the season and confirm what most analysts already know: they are among the class of the AFC. The spread here is a deterrent, but the Bills get the nod.
CAROLINA at ATLANTA (-3) (Over/Under 46)
Matt Rhule must be at a complete loss after Sam Darnold’s egg-laying performance on Sunday, stirring further doubts about the young passer’s future with the team. P.J. Walker fared just as poorly if not worse in relief, and Rhule has reiterated that Darnold is the starter, but the Panthers are in a world of hurt and uncertainty right now. Christian McCaffrey’s return can’t come soon enough, and the commitment to the run is something that can only be pulled off if you give defenses something to think about on the back end. So far, Darnold hasn’t done that enough.
As for the Falcons, at 3-3, their season is very much alive again. Rookie sensation Kyle Pitts caught some majestic passes last week and was a terror for the Dolphins defense when he got involved. The defense is still sieve-like and inconsistent, so this could be a sneaky shootout game if Carolina can hold up their end of the bargain. With Darnold’s confidence at a low ebb, the Falcons, who have traditionally beaten their NFC South rivals at home over the years, have the edge.
PHILADELPHIA (-3) at DETROIT (Over/Under 47.5)
The Eagles simply couldn’t match the Raiders on Sunday, with the inaccurate and inefficient play of Jalen Hurts contrasting sharply with that of Derek Carr’s pinpoint accuracy. Hurts may not have much time left as the Eagles starter at this rate. A gift comes this week in the form of a winless Lions team, but this has the potential to be a banana skin game for the Eagles as well.
Detroit’s record might be 0-7, but they have been in plenty of games near the end and could have pulled out a few wins. Dan Campbell’s team is bound to cause an upset at some point this season, in other words; figuring out exactly when is the trick. Jared Goff’s play will need to improve drastically to give them a shot here, but Philadelphia is not a team to be feared. Monitor the line on this game and if it creeps out to +3.5 or more, jump on the home team.
TENNESSEE at INDIANAPOLIS (pick) (Over/Under 49)
The Titans deserve credit for knocking off the Bills and Chiefs in consecutive weeks; now their task is to carry on the momentum against feisty division rival Indianapolis. Tennessee’s roster has more star power than that of Indianapolis, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a winning formula. Of the two quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill is the one to trust more, while the Titans defense matches up well with the Colts offense on paper.
And yet Indianapolis has turned a corner of late, with the victory on Sunday night a statement of sorts from the team. They can win in multiple ways, and Carson Wentz’s improving performances have been highly encouraging. At 3-4, it is still all to play for; a loss here, however, would give them a major hole to climb out of. Vegas has it right by making this a pick. A slight edge goes to the home team, who need this game more.
LA RAMS (-14.5) at HOUSTON (Over/Under 46.5)
Another week, another lay-up for the Rams. Things got a little hairy against the winless Lions, but there was never really any doubt that things wouldn’t work out. Matthew Stafford continues to play at a high level, with Cooper Kupp raising his game to meet the level of his quarterback. The star talent on the Rams roster will make short work of Houston. It is only surprising that they are not favored by even more points, even if it is a road game.
For the Texans, the major drama of this week will revolve around who will be trading for Deshaun Watson, or whether a deal can even go through. The task is tall for the Texans every week, but as hard as they might try, they are simply not equipped to compete consistently. With the Cardinals playing on Thursday night – and potentially dropping their first game of the season – the Rams have a golden opportunity here to get back level at the top of the NFC West.
Pick: Los Angeles
CINCINNATI (-9.5) at NY JETS (Over/Under 43)
Hats off to the Bengals for their demolition of the Ravens on the road. The AFC playoff picture is starting to take shape, and it is increasingly likely that Zac Taylor’s team will be occupying one of the spots. The superlatives around rookie Jamarr Chase are all fully deserved; his command of the field is absolute at times, giving defensive backs no chance. Joe Burrow has found his new favorite toy for many seasons to come. The Bengals defense hasn’t grabbed as many headlines as the young wideout, but they are equally deserving of credit for their consistency.
With Zach Wilson set to miss time with his PCL injury, the Jets will turn to Mike White again this week. Is it possible that the offense could show some life here? Of course. Is it likely to happen? Not for this team and not against this opponent. The 9.5 points is a tricky one to lay, but the Bengals have done enough to earn our trust by this point. Don’t obsess too much over this one, folks.
PITTSBURGH at CLEVELAND (-3) (Over/Under 42.5)
The Steelers are playing an unfamiliar role, acting as something of the forgotten team in a division they have ruled for large periods of the last couple of decades. The trendy teams are the Bengals and Ravens, while the Browns are steadily improving. Where does that leave Mike Tomlin and his band of veterans? Well, three-point underdogs in Cleveland is the answer. The win over the Seahawks prior to the bye was an unconvincing one. At 3-3, though, they can’t afford to slip up.
The Browns are 4-3 and should be feeling good after the Thursday night win that featured a star turn from running back D'Ernest Johnson. What is more notable, of course, is how dominant their offensive line was. If they can have a modicum of that type of success against Pittsburgh, they will be able to grind it out effectively. Baker Mayfield looks like he will try to give it a go, but the Browns have a strong enough infrastructure to manage even without him. This has a last-stand game feeling for the Steelers, so take the points and see how it plays out.
SAN FRANCISCO (-3.5) at CHICAGO (Over/Under 41)
The standings look grim for the 49ers, with 2-4 a mountain to climb to get back to relevance in the NFC playoff picture. Throw in a streaking Cardinals team and the Rams being recognized as one of the best teams league-wide and there’s a problem. Despite their record, Kyle Shanahan’s team gets a nice edge this week in a road game in Chicago. Given Jimmy Garoppolo’s struggles, that may be a bit of a leap from the Vegas sharps.
Of course, we must accept that the Bears have not given opponents much to fear either. After the drubbing they received last week, head coach Matt Nagy tested positive for Covid-19, putting them further behind the eight ball. Justin Fields does not look NFL-ready and his process is too slow to thrive. The chance here for the Bears is that their defense shuts down San Francisco, allowing Fields to game-manage.
JACKSONVILLE at SEATTLE (-3.5) (Over/Under 44)
The Jaguars will be rested after their bye, but what will that mean in practical terms? If momentum is real, they should be able to carry it forward from their thrilling victory in London, a little confidence in their gait as they swagger into Seattle. Jacksonville’s offense will give the Seattle defense plenty to think about, but they have to do more to enter the circle of trust.
The Seahawks will likely be without Russell Wilson until around Week 10 or 11, so it will be the Geno Smith show again on Sunday. Seattle was undone by a rock-solid Saints defense last week, but they could have pulled off a win. An inferior opponent in Jacksonville coming to town makes one wonder how they are favored by just 3.5 points. We often reference a ‘get well’ game for teams in this column; this looks like it could fit the bill for the home team.
NEW ENGLAND at LA CHARGERS (-5.5) (Over/Under 47.5)
You had to smile at Bill Belichick’s running up the score on the poor, unfortunate Jets last week. If there was ever an opponent he would do it against in this subpar season, it would be them. Mac Jones continues to impress, even drawing a grin and a well-deserved ‘attaboy’ from the revered head coach. The supporting cast may not be the greatest, but Jones is growing before our eyes and optimizing each of his players’ talents.
A road test in Los Angeles acts as an inflection point in the season for the Patriots. A win here would take them to 4-4 and give them every reason to dream of sneaking into the postseason. A loss would be a bitter pill to swallow. Brandon Staley’s Chargers team have had a bye week to prepare, and their defense should be licking their chops to get after Jones. Justin Herbert has been electric this season, if you’ll pardon the low-hanging fruit pun, so expect more of the same from him. The defeat in Baltimore will be long forgotten, but why does it feel like Belichick will be able to coach his team up to keep this close?
Pick: New England
WASHINGTON at DENVER (-3.5) (Over/Under 44)
The Taylor Heinicke experience has its shares of ups and downs, but generally, it seems the Washington Football Team has resigned themselves to the fact he is nothing more than a journeyman. With Ryan Fitzpatrick’s return far from imminent, though, it will be Heinicke’s show until further notice. A hostile reception will await the mistake-prone passer in Denver, however.
Injuries have derailed what could have been a promising campaign for the Broncos, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the WFT coming to town to cure what ails you. Teddy Bridgewater did not provide much inspiration in the last outing against Cleveland, and one wonders how long before Drew Lock could see some action. At 3-4, much like the Patriots, they are not out of it yet. Lay the points here.
TAMPA BAY (-4.5) at NEW ORLEANS (Over/Under 51)
The mighty Bucs are among the elite teams in the league. That much is crystal clear. The trip to New Orleans has the potential to be a tricky one, though, with a fired-up Saints defense and the crowd noise certain to at least make Tom Brady sweat a little bit. The last visit to the Superdome saw the Bucs pull off a crucial playoff victory; this time, they will be focused on taking care of business. The quickest route to winning this time around is to force Jameis Winston into mistakes. The Saints quarterback did not have to get too far out of his comfort zone last week, but the game script says that will not be the case this Sunday.
The Saints will not be intimidated by their division rival coming to town, and there is a chance that their defensive discipline could keep this one tight until the death. The trust factor is very much with the Bucs, though, and even laying 4.5 points is not too steep a price to pay for this juggernaut.
Pick: Tampa Bay
(Sunday Night) DALLAS (-2) at MINNESOTA (Over/Under 54.5)
Who can stop the streaking Cowboys machine? Maybe Minnesota, as it turns out. We have seen this script play out countless times before: favored team on a red-hot run falls to less talented but pluckier outfit in prime-time match-up. There is a lot to like about Dallas’ five-game winning streak, but there are still chinks in the armor.
Kirk Cousins has hardly put a foot wrong of late and continues to stack up top-notch performances, with a little bit of derring-do downfield passing injected in. He is perfectly in sync with his talented receiving corps. Defensively, things seem to be coming together a little bit. What this game will come down to, of course, is offense. It is Dak Prescott vs. Cousins and that, ladies and gentlemen, is tilted in the direction of the former. Laying just two points, it has to be Big D.
(Monday Night) NY GIANTS at KANSAS CITY (-9.5) (Over/Under 52)
Concluding the week with the ever mysterious and inconsistent Chiefs seems somewhat fitting, as they will have an opportunity to switch the narrative under the lights. What the Chiefs need is a reset, a game to start again from scratch on both sides of the ball. The greater onus is on the offense to perform, and Patrick Mahomes II was simply unable to last week. Defensively, they will be behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the season. Kansas City needs to get back to quick-hitting, single-digit play drives and not 10+ plays resulting in three points.
The Giants defense is well-equipped to keep the Chiefs at bay in that regard, and indeed they could frustrate Mahomes with their disciplined pass rush and back-end solidity. Offensively, the Giants should be approaching this game with an attitude that they have nothing to lose. Daniel Jones may not even need to make a one-handed catch this week. The 9.5-point line sounds about right at first glance, but are the Giants that far from the Chiefs’ level? The gut says no.
Pick: New York
Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 DENVER (-3.5) vs. WASHINGTON
- 2 LA RAMS (-14.5) at HOUSTON
- 3 DALLAS (-2) at MINNESOTA
- 4 NEW ENGLAND (+5.5) at LA CHARGERS
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 8 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- NEW ENGLAND (+5.5)
- DALLAS (-2)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS FAVORITES DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- LA RAMS (-14.5)
- DENVER (-3.5)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 3-TEAM LONG SHOT MONEY LINE (6.3-1 ODDS)
- ATLANTA - FOR THE WIN
- DETROIT – FOR THE WIN
- INDIANAPOLIS – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK:
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 7-6
- SEASON OVERALL: 45-60-1
- BEST BETS: 11-17
- PICKS OF THE WEEK: 11-22
Good luck this weekend!
Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org