Is the NFL finally returning to some semblance of normalcy near the midway point? Favorites dominated against the spread in Week 7, the Patriots are back on top of the AFC, the Browns can’t stop shooting themselves in the foot, and my picks went a mediocre 6-7-2 last week. All appears to be right with the world again. Except for the Jaguars and Rams still being great. But with both teams on a bye this week, we don’t have to worry about that. Instead, let’s worry about making back some money this week by capitalizing on some odd Week 8 spreads.
Week 8 ATS Picks
Thursday, October 26
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
The Dolphins first prime-time appearance of the season comes without their most interesting character, as Smokin Jay will be scowling from the sideline following a rib injury. That likely plays to Miami’s advantage; the offense is equally (or more) effective under Matt Moore and far more likable. The Ravens offense continues to be less watchable than The Walking Dead, which is also a good nickname for their battered receiving corps which lost Mike Wallace on Sunday. However, Oakland showed us last Thursday that you can’t count out a struggling home team in need of a win on a short week, no matter how inept their offense has looked. Also, Baltimore has never lost three-straight home games in 9.5 years under John Harbaugh.
Pick: Ravens (-3)
Sunday, October 29
Minnesota Vikings (-9) vs Cleveland Browns [London Game]
In 1773, America rebelled against British tariffs by dumping an entire shipment of tea in the Boston Harbor, citing “no taxation without representation.” Over 240 years later, it’s time British football fans flip the switch and protest America exporting their garbage NFL games to London. “No taxation without legitimate competition.” This year’s London games have been unmitigated blowouts, with the victors winning the three games by a combined 90 points (97-7). It certainly looks like this game won’t buck the trend. The Brits should just dump the Browns in the harbor to save time.
Pick: Vikings (-9)
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals (-10)
The Colts are a truly dismal team which nearly caused Jacoby Brissett to be just the second player ever killed on an NFL field. They allowed 10 sacks and 20 QB hits, yet kept throwing the ball against the Jaguars top-ranked pass defense (per DVOA) in a lost cause. Despite their utter incompetence, this spread still feels too high. Sure, the Bengals have been playing better in recent weeks, but Marvin Lewis remains the biggest reason to pause when someone says, “Chuck Pagano is the worst coach in the NFL.” Cincy took the game out of Joe Mixon’s hands on Sunday, a game they were very much in at halftime. The result was 19 total yards in the second half and a 29-14 loss to division rival Pittsburgh. Stupid decisions like that, plus a pretty bad offensive line, make it hard to back the Bengals when they’re laying so many points.
Pick: Colts (+10)
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (-9)
At first, when I saw the number nine, I figured it was the over/under for Mitch Trubisky pass attempts. Despite treating their rookie QB with kid gloves, the Bears have managed back-to-back wins thanks to a defense that is finally generating takeaways — and taking them straight to the house. New Orleans’ offense made it through the first four games without a turnover, but have gotten a little careless lately, notching five giveaways in their last two. The Saints have won four straight nonetheless on the strength of their improving defense, which has 10 takeaways itself in the last four games. It’s clear Chicago isn’t going to let Trubisky lose them games, but against the league’s fourth-highest scoring team, the rookie will have to make some plays to keep this close. However, considering the last 12 times the Saints have been favored by 6.5 or more, they’ve gone just 3-9 ATS, I’ll roll with the rookie to cover again.
Pick: Bears (+9)
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (-7)
After a weird foggy game against Atlanta, it’s unclear if the Patriots defense is back, or if the Falcons offense is just abysmal under Steve Sarkisian. We do know that the 3-4 Chargers are back in the conversation, thanks to a fierce pass rush that has 10 sacks over the last two games. Tom Brady has taken far more hits then we’re used to seeing, but this offense continues to convert third-and-long situations thanks to big-time playmakers and convenient penalties. The Chargers offense has been nothing special under Anthony Lynn, because he still hasn’t gotten Melvin Gordon and the ground game to produce. I don’t love L.A.’s chances to keep pace with the Pats, and I really don’t like that Philip Rivers is 1-5 ATS against Tom Brady in his career.
Pick: Patriots (-7)
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)
This is going to be the game for the hot-take artists (cough racists) who like to blame an entire team’s struggles on its “athletic quarterback.” Either preseason darlings Tampa will fall to 2-5 and kiss the playoffs goodbye, or the Panthers will drop a third straight game to fall back to .500. Cam Newton has had some turnover trouble in his last two outings, but that’s partly because Carolina can’t get any run game going behind either Christian McCaffrey or Jonathan Stewart. The Buccaneers defense has been a total sieve this season so if the Panthers can’t get a ground game going here, it’ll never happen. As for Jameis Winston and the Tampa offense, they had a good week against Buffalo, which means their on-again/off-again nature forecasts a rough outing against a good Carolina D.
Pick: Panthers (+2.5)
Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills (-3)
The 4-2 Bills have been impressive this season. They pulled out another gutty win against Tampa at home in Week 7, with Tyrod Taylor leading two scoring drives in the final three minutes. However, it’s still hard to trust this team, because Buffalo is not a place you associate with sustained success. The Bills haven’t been three games above .500 since 2011, and their league best 4-1-1 ATS mark feels destined to regress. Oakland looked the part of a contender on Thursday and, on an extended rest, should be game for this one. The Raiders walloped the Bills 38-24 at the peak of their power last season.
Pick: Raiders (+3)
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-13)
Carson Wentz is unstoppable. Literally. It seems like every game this year, he’s been wrapped up by defenders, only to escape and make a massive play that shifts the entire momentum of the game. Hopefully C.J. Beathard can replicate some of those plays on the other side of the field, because the Niners pass protection was abysmal against Dallas last week. And the Cowboys don’t have anywhere near the four-man rush the Eagles do. It’ll be another long day for Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Pick: Eagles (-13)
Atlanta Falcons (-4.5) at New York Jets
Have the Falcons fired Sark yet? No. Have they at least tattooed the words “Feed Devonta Freeman” to the back of his hand so he won’t forget? No? Then screw it, I’ll take the Jets here. (Things I never thought I’d say before the season for $1000, Alex.)
Pick: Jets (+4.5)
Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks (-6)
October has been pretty easy on the Seahawks, to the point where you may have forgotten how flawed this team still is. Under Deshaun Watson, Houston will provide an excellent bar by which to measure Seattle’s trustworthiness. In the rookie’s five career starts, the Texans are averaging 34 points a game. And while the defense suffered major injuries in the front seven during that stretch, it’s no secret that any team can generate a quality pass rush against the Seahawks brutal blocking. This could be the game of the afternoon, with two frequently electrifying quarterbacks exchanging scores for three hours. Or it could be a very ugly, low-scoring slog. Either way, I like the Texans to keep it close.
Pick: Texans (+6)
Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) at Washington
Washington continues to fight valiantly this season, but it’s pretty clear the football gods won’t allow Dan Snyder to have nice things. His already banged up team took some big injuries on the offensive line in Week 7, putting the status of their three best blockers in doubt for Week 8. Meanwhile, the Cowboys continue to avoid the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, because this league is just the worst. Ah well, it’ll make it all the more hilarious when the he has to miss the final six games for a 6-4 Dallas team that goes on to just miss the playoffs.
Pick: Cowboys (-2.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Detroit Lions
So many Sunday nighters this year have been weird interconference matchups that could’ve been cool, but ended up being one-sided. So far, the NFC has a 3-1 advantage (Washington over Oakland; Seattle over Indy; NY Giants over Denver). This is where the AFC gains ground. Matthew Stafford was hobbled entering his last outing, and from the looks of that beating he took from the Saints, one week off wasn’t long enough to recover. The criminally underrated Steeler defense will continue to harass Stafford and that bad ankle; more impressively, the Pittsburgh offense will probably stick to the winning strategy of feeding Le’Veon Bell 30 times a game.
Pick: Steelers (-3)
Monday, October 30
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-7)
Both teams enter this game losers of two straight, but as you can probably guess from the line, only one of those teams has a reason to feel optimistic. The Chiefs have dropped a pair of agonizingly close games, including a 31-30 setback to Oakland which they lost three different times. The Broncos have been walloped by seemingly inferior opponents, because Trevor Siemian can no longer lead an effective offense. While Von Miller and the “No Fly Zone” can normally keep a game close on their own, Denver fans can’t expect the defense to win them this one. Kansas City broke 30 points in both games against the Broncos last season. This secondary can’t handle the speed of Tyreek Hill, so if Denver doesn’t find success by way of the passing game, this one will be over quickly.
Pick: Chiefs (-7)