All the usual signs that we’ve reached the midway point of the NFL season are just about here. The leaves are turning, the league has royally botched another domestic violence situation (during “we care about women & breast cancer month”, no less), everyone’s complaining about the awful product that the NFL is marching out on the field each and every week, and quarterbacks all over the country are ruining the hopes & dreams of millions of fans.
It feels like an appropriate time to give you some rapid fire Power Rankings since we have a decent sample size of games to work with. I really don’t feel like trying to make sense out of who’s slightly better between the Jaguars, Rams and Bucs, so I’m going to stick with my top 15 teams here.
- New England
- Kansas City
- Green Bay
- San Diego
Detroit gets an honorable mention as the only team I left out that might be deserving of a playoff spot by season’s end. You notice I said deserving. Yes, one of the putrid AFC South teams has to make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean any of them are even in the top 20 at this point.
Let’s move on to the week 8 picks.
Teams on Bye: Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3) | over/under 44
The Pick: Tennessee
The Score: Tennessee 22, Jacksonville 17
The Bets: None
I said last week that any AFC South head-to-head “battle” should be an automatic gambling stay away. Add in the Thursday night wackiness potential, and I’m sticking to that rule.
Listen, this exact same game was played on a Thursday night a little later into last season, and the Jaguars beat the Titans to move to 4-6 and they were suddenly only a game out of a playoff spot. This division sucks right now, it sucked last year, and it’ll suck for the foreseeable future. Take a look around the AFC South. Not one of these teams seems to have found its long-term head coach, and only one could confidently say they have their QB of the future (and even with the gift of Andrew Luck, the Colts are completely failing at putting together a competitive football team).
Washington vs Cincinnati (-3) | over/under 47.5 (in London)
The Pick: Washington
The Score: Washington 27, Cincinnati 24 (OT)
The Bets: Over (37.5) in a 3-way tease
It would definitely boost my confidence in Washington if Jordan Reed and Josh Norman get the OK to play, but the Skins are a better team than Cincy regardless.
Before I even saw the over/under on this game, I knew I’d love the over. Washington is a scoring machine, and Cincy is sneaky mediocre on defense. They would have gladly given up a ton of points to Cleveland last week had the Browns been playing with an NFL caliber quarterback. Lock in the over teased down to 37.
Kansas City (-3) at Indianapolis | over/under 50
The Pick: Kansas City
The Score: Kansas City 29, Indianapolis 24
The Bets: Over (40) in a 3-way tease / Kansas City (+7) in a 3-way tease
For some reason, I’m expecting this game to play out similarly to the Chiefs’ road win in Oakland a couple weeks back, only with more scoring from both teams. You gotta give the Colts credit. Offensively they’re faring reasonably well and haven’t had a very easy schedule. Over their last five games, they haven’t faced a defense ranked lower than 15th. And they’re putting up 28 points per game during that span.
I’m reasonably confident in the Chiefs covering, but I’m ridiculously confident in the over and teased over hitting in this matchup.
Arizona at Carolina (-3) | over/under 47
The Pick: Arizona
The Score: Arizona 23, Carolina 21
The Bets: Under (57) in a 3-way tease
I instinctively loved Arizona as soon as I saw this line. The spread actually opened as a pick, but obviously lots of Carolina money came pouring in.
I get that Arizona’s offense looked completely inept on a very large national stage on Sunday night. And Carolina is coming off their bye.
But Carolina’s 21st ranked defense is a much different situation than going up against Seattle.
I’m particularly surprised that Carolina’s expected to score 25.5 points. I think that’s severely overrating their offense, and underrating Arizona’s 4th overall defense.
Oakland at Tampa Bay (pick) | over/under 49.5
The Pick: Oakland
The Score: Oakland 28, Tampa Bay 26
The Bets: Over (39.5) in a 3-way tease / Oakland (+11) in a 3-way tease
After this game, Oakland is home for four straight games (and a bye). They don’t go on the road again until December 8th. But that might not be as appealing to them as you’d think because the Raiders are only 1-2 at home, but 4-0 on the road. I think they make it 5-0 on the road with a textbook Oakland style game…close & a little lucky.
I think if Tampa plays its best game and Oakland only plays OK, then the Bucs could keep it close.
Seattle (-3) at New Orleans | over/under 48
The Pick: New Orleans
The Score: New Orleans 28, Seattle 24
The Bets: Over (48) / Over (38) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with New Orleans (+3)
The over bets come from a very logical line of thinking. Here it is:
- Seattle has the 3rd best defense in football, according to the FootballOutsider.com DVOA rankings.
- In the past four years, New Orleans has played nine home games against teams in the top ten of that year’s defensive DVOA rankings. And while the Saints have lost more than they’ve won in those matchups, they are still averaging 31.9 points per game.
- For whatever reason, they’re expected to score just 22.25 points this weekend.
- Meanwhile, Seattle was able to put up 27 points at the Jets earlier this season and they’ve looked fine offensively at home.
- I’m throwing out the awful Seattle/Arizona 6-6 tie because that division just plays ugly games against each other.
- So I think Seattle scores in the mid 20s and obviously New Orleans is putting up high 20s.
- Done and done.
You gotta ask yourself: Are the Seahawks really capable of putting up 28-33 points? Because that’s what it might come down to for them to win. I don’t think the Seahawks are playing good enough football yet to go into New Orleans and outlast the Saints.
Detroit at Houston (-2.5) | over/under 45.5
The Pick: Houston
The Score: Houston 23, Detroit 20
The Bets: None
SuperContest: Yes with Houston (-2.5)
I know it seems outrageous to have any faith in Houston, but they play semi-decent at home. And Detroit plays noticeably worse on the road.
Houston is 4-0 at home, winning by 9, 7, 7, and 3 points. Sure, they probably won’t win by much, but you gotta assume they’ll win.
Be careful with your overconfidence in Detroit. They just played three home games, and like I said, they’re a different team on the road. I’m expecting the “Is Matt Stafford the best QB in football?” hot takes to cool down after this week.
New England (-6.5) at Buffalo | over/under 46.5
The Pick: Buffalo
The Score: New England 26, Buffalo 23
The Bets: None
Bottomline on this game: The LeSean McCoy health uncertainty makes this pick impossible while I’m writing this on Thursday morning. The Bills offense could be completely different depending on his availability.
Speaking of that offense, the Bills have had a really good offensive team this year. Earlier this season, they put up 33 points against Arizona (the 3rd best defense in the league), and 45 points on San Francisco (the 20th best defense). Why do I bring up that San Francisco defense? Because it is currently ranked only a couple spots lower than New England.
There’s also Rex Ryan’s history against New England. Obviously his 5-11 record in 16 games against the Patriots isn’t anything special (though it kinda is since it’s the Pats). But I’m talking specifically about the Post-Buttfumble Era. In eight games since Rex, Mark Sanchez and the whole Jets organization hit rock bottom, the Patriots have only outscored Ryan’s teams by five total points. And in three home games against New England since #buttfumble, Rex has won by three, lost by one and lost by 8.
My point is that he may not win a majority of games against Belichick, but Rex can be counted on to throw off the Patriots offense enough to keep the game close.
NY Jets (-3) at Cleveland | over/under 43.5
The Pick: Cleveland
The Score: Cleveland 19, NY Jets 16
The Bets: None
There’s really nothing statistically that makes the Jets a better team than the Browns. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the Browns—regardless of their QB situation—are going to keep it to a one-score game as long as they’re playing a garbage team, which the Jets are.
I have a feeling this is Cleveland’s one win on the season.
San Diego at Denver (-5) | over/under 43.5
The Pick: San Diego
The Score: Denver 24, San Diego 23
The Bets: None
San Diego’s a perfect team to pull off an upset in Denver. It’s mostly because Rivers and that offense finds a way to put up points no matter who they’re playing or where. Pencil them in for 22-25 points.
I would stay away from gambling this game if I were you. The Chargers just beat the Broncos two weeks ago so it’s a distinct possibility again. The AFC West is by far the best division in football (if you think it’s the NFC East, you’re wrong). It’s still tough to get a read on who’s at the top and who’s not.
Green Bay at Atlanta (-3) | over/under 53
The Pick: Atlanta
The Score: Atlanta 30, Green Bay 26
The Bets: Atlanta (+7) in a 3-way tease / Over (43) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Atlanta (-3)
I can’t believe this line is as low as it is. Is it just because of Green Bay’s reputation with the public? Look at the way the Packers struggled against the Bears in Lambeau just a week ago. Or is it because everyone thinks the Atlanta fade has begun? They started off hot last year and made a bunch of us look like fools so we’re already jumping off them this year?
To realize how much better the Falcons are than the Packers, think about what would happen if Green Bay played the Broncos in Denver right now. The Packers offense would get ragdolled up and down the field. It wouldn’t even be funny.
And yet, the Falcons have a win in Denver. And they’ve faced much harder competition than Green Bay. Don’t sleep on them.
The fact that Atlanta allows everyone to put up at least four touchdowns on them, I can’t predict a blowout, but I can tell you that the teased over is also a great play.
Philadelphia at Dallas (-4.5) | over/under 43.5
The Pick: Dallas
The Score: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 17
The Bets: Dallas (+5.5) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Dallas (-4.5)
Well I’ll be damned. This game features the #1 offense in all of football (Cowboys) against the #1 defense (Eagles). That sentence is stunning when you really think about it.
If there’s any angle here, it’s that the Eagles are only middle-of-the-road in rushing defense and Dallas has the top rushing unit in the league.
Neither team really has the complete package since the Eagles complement their top-ranked defense with the #24 offense. And the Cowboys pair their #1 offense with the #20 defense.
This Philly offense might really struggle. They only scored two offensive touchdowns against the Vikings at home last week, but the week before was worse…at Washington, their offense only put up six points while facing the 22nd ranked defense.
I think Dallas is a true contender while the Eagles will slowly fade into the pack of mediocrity.
Minnesota (-6) at Chicago | over/under 40.5
The Pick: Minnesota
The Score: Minnesota 24, Chicago 16
The Bets: Minnesota (-6) / Minnesota (pick or +4) in a 2-way or 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Minnesota (-6)
I don’t think Chicago’s pass rush / quarterback pressure skills are anything to worry about, which is the only thing that seems to be able to slow the Vikings down right now.
The Bears have scored more than 17 points one time this season, in a game against the awful Colts. Even at home, I can’t see them cracking 20 points. Jay Cutler coming back does nothing to improve this team.
And I’m not too worried about the Vikings. They may have just had a rusty week coming off their bye. I expect them to get back to doing what they do, and this is the perfect matchup for them to reestablish their scariness.
Here are the season-long stats I’m tracking:
- Favorites are 42-62-3 against the spread (including a 7-8 record in week 7)
- The point total has landed on Over 55 times, Under 50 times and Pushed 2 times
- I’m 56-48-3 against the spread
Enjoy week 8.