Week 7 in the NFL followed, predictably, the conversation we’ve been having since August. The handful of good teams won as they were expected: the Patriots, Falcons, & Panthers. The bad teams lost as they were expected: the Buccaneers, Lions, Texans, & Browns. Everyone else rolled around in the dirt until someone came out clean(er) than the other guy. Were there true upsets? Not really. Maybe the Chiefs over the Steelers? But was Landry Jones seriously expected to win a road game against a decent Kansas City defense? Oakland winning in San Diego, I guess? But Philip Rivers was due for a shoulder-transplant after that week 5 game in Green Bay. Saints over Colts? They’re both 3-4. That’s hardly an unbelievable upset.
Here’s the point. The NFL has 5-6 teams that can contend this year. The remaining 25-ish teams are also-rans. This isn’t going to be the year where a hot 6-seed wins the Super Bowl. There is a giant leap between the middle-of-the-pack and the good teams. Fortunately, this doesn’t dissuade Vegas from trying to level the playing field by setting the spreads. Here are the Week 8 matchups and some lines that may be leveled in your favor:
Miami at New England (-8): Miami—since firing Joe Philbin prior to their week 5 bye—is playing better, more aggressive, football. They’re 2-0 since that bye week. But before re-labeling them a dark horse AFC contender, look at who they were playing. They beat two teams, in Tennessee & Houston, who are a combined 3-10 on the season. The Patriots are undefeated, at home, and will continue their 2015 F-You Tour on Thursday night.
Detroit (+5.5) at Kansas City: Talk about a couple of letdowns. These two teams (like Miami, above) were largely thought to be playoff bound this season…not so much. If not for beating the 2-4 Bears, Detroit would be winless. If not for beating the 2-5 Texans and the Landry-Jones-led Steelers (in Kansas City, by the way), the Chiefs would be winless. Stafford is ailing and the Chiefs should win the home game, but the points don’t look bad.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-7.5): Falcons are winning this game. It is just week seven, but at 6-1, they have already matched their win total from 2014. So they are winning games for new head coach Dan Quinn. Aside from the Houston victory, they just aren’t doing it convincingly. They may not get points for winning with flare, but the Falcons are the more talented team. They’ll win with ease.
Arizona (-4.5) at Cleveland: The Browns can’t run the ball. The Browns can’t stop other teams from running the ball. This is an awful combo going against the Cardinals defense & rushing attack, respectively. The Cardinals are going to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and win this game easily.
San Francisco (+9.5) at St. Louis: Time for the Rams to be caught napping. They’re a .500 club because the defense is outstanding & Todd Gurley is something to behold as a rookie. They’re not better than .500 because Nick Foles is average, at best, and the wide receivers are subpar. After being embarrassed at home against the Seahawks last week, the 49ers will be playing for pride. They’ll keep it close, but likely lose on the road.
New York Giants at New Orleans (-3): Saints looking good the last couple weeks, huh? After their South Philly butt-whipping in week 5, they beat an undefeated Falcons team & Andrew Luck’s Colts on the road last week. Those are two solid wins. The Giants, though 4-3 overall, are just 1-2 on the road. New Orleans is a tough place to play. Saints win.
Minnesota at Chicago (Pick ‘em): Three weeks ago the Vikings would have been a 5-point favorite in this game. The game opened at Minnesota (-2.5). Now, despite the public betting >60% on the Vikings, it’s a toss-up. There’s a lot of faith being put in a healthy Cutler & Jeffery. I like the Bears to win at home mostly because I think Minnesota is one of the “also-rans” referenced above and are due for a let-down loss.
San Diego at Baltimore (-3): The Ravens just keep losing close games. They’ve been the victim of a brutal opening schedule. Five of the first seven games on the road…four of those on the west coast…the other in Pittsburgh. Their only two home games were hosting division rivals. Those games are always tough. This week, they get the Chargers, coming east, in a 1:00 kickoff. Advantage, mercifully, Ravens.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Pick ‘em): The Bengals are the better team. But there is something to be said for the home team that is getting their leader back. Ben Roethlisberger will, presumably, return to the play this Sunday on Heinz Field. That’s an emotional boost that can carry a team. This is one of the two best games of the week and should be a pleasure to watch. Just not sure I can call it one way or the other. I’ll lean towards the home team…but just slightly.
Tennessee at Houston (-4.5): These two teams are a combined 3-10. Houston should win the game if Mariota is out. If he is in, I like the Titans.
New York Jets (-1) at Oakland: I like the Jets here. They’re coming off a hard-fought loss to an undefeated Patriots team in Foxborough. The Raiders beat a 2-5 Chargers team going away. While I believe that Derek Carr & Amari Cooper will be stud pair for Oakland going forward, I know they got shut down by the Broncos defense two weeks ago. This Jets defense is comparable. Jets get to 5-2.
Seattle (-7) at Dallas: So the Cowboys are a mess, huh? At least they have the leadership provided by Greg Hardy & Dez Bryant to pull them through. Seattle, though 3-4, is clearly the better team. The offensive line may get moved around. Russell Wilson will see a lot of the carpet at Cowboys Stadium as a result. Still, I like the Seahawks to win.
Green Bay (-3) at Denver: We’ll be waiting all day for this Sunday Night. They’re both coming off a bye week and will be as rested & healthy as they’ll be moving forward. This is the NFL’s fifth best offense (Green Bay) going against the NFL’s second best defense (Denver). What you may not know is that Denver’s defense is second to Green Bay, in terms of scoring. The Packers may give up yards, but they shut teams out of the end zone: allowing just 16.8 points per game. The Packers are, overall, the better team & are poised to start the season 7-0 after a win at Mile High on Sunday night.
Indianapolis at Carolina (-7.5): After seeing the Panthers first hand last week, it is apparent they are no joke. The defense swarms. The offensive line moved a stellar run defense last week. Jonathan Stewart runs like a tank with a jet motor. The Colts are near the bottom of the league in turnovers & turnover differential. This should be another Panthers win but, again, not sure it’ll be by more than a touchdown.
Official Week 8 Picks Against the Spread:
Arizona (-4.5) at Cleveland
San Diego at Baltimore (-3)
Green Bay (-3) at Denver
ATS Season record: 10-6-1