NFL Week 8 PicksPosted: October 24, 2014
We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.
Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.
(Home team in caps. Team rankings/standings as of 10/24/14. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus. Bye: Giants, 49ers)
Detroit (-3.5) vs. Atlanta (in London)
Detroit: 5-2, 1st NFC North, #17 total offense, T-#25 scoring offense, #4 total defense, #2 scoring defense
Atlanta: 2-5, 3rd NFC South, #6 total offense, #12 scoring offense, #32 total defense, #30 scoring defense
Derek: Injuries are piling up for the Falcons’ offensive line. Detroit’s defensive line has a huge advantage. Not that the Lions need another advantage, because Atlanta’s defense is an abomination. This spread seems way off. The Lions should cruise.
Will: Atlanta’s defense is apparently truly awful, and the Lions’ defense has been fantastic. Whether or not Calvin Johnson plays, the Lions should have their way with the Dirty Birds on both sides of the ball. The London games have been a little more competitive than I thought, with five of the nine games decided by one score or less, but the other four have been blowouts. I expect the Lions to win big, allowing plenty of time for fourth quarter tea sipping.
Baltimore (-1) at CINCINNATI
Cincinnati: 3-2-1, 2nd AFC North, #27 total offense, #19 scoring offense, #23 total defense, #18 scoring defense
Baltimore: 5-2, 1st AFC North, #7 total offense, #6 scoring offense, #21 total defense, #1 scoring defense
Derek: The Bengals’ defense has been terrible lately. The Ravens have been crushing teams, and look like the clear choice on paper. BUT THEY DON’T SETTLE GAMES ON PAPER IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. The Bengals lost to a pissed off Patriots team in Foxboro and struggled against the Colts in Indy, as teams often do. If Mike Nugent makes a 36-yard field goal in overtime against the Panthers, the Bengals are 4-2 with 12 straight regular season wins at home dating back to 2012. A.J. Green could be back. I like the Bengals.
Will: I’m a Browns fan, so I’m really just hoping for both teams to play terribly en route to a 0-0 tie. A man can dream, right?
As good as the Ravens have looked, I wonder if some of their wins have been empty calories. They’ve beaten the Steelers (not good), Browns and Panthers (maybe sorta good?), and the Falcons and Bucs (very not good). Their games against legit opponents — Cincy and Indy — were close losses.
You could make a similar argument for the Bengals. They beat Atlanta, Baltimore and Tennessee, tied Carolina, and got blown out by New England and Indianapolis. What I’m really saying is that I have no idea how good either of these teams are. I’ll take the points and begrudgingly back Cincinnati.
Houston (-3) at TENNESSEE
Houston: 3-4, 2nd AFC South, #13 total offense, #20 scoring offense, #29 total defense, #11 scoring defense
Tennessee: 2-5, 3rd AFC South, #21 total offense, #28 scoring offense, #26 total defense, #23 scoring defense
Derek: Not a great week to give Zach Mettenberger his first NFL start. J.J. Watt is not human. Well, good luck, Zach. I hope you’re not shell-shocked for the rest of your career. I’ll take Houston.
Will: This game is in the running for ugliest of the week with Bills-Jets, Bucs-Vikings, Dolphins-Jags, and Browns-Raiders. Man; rough slate this week. As bad as Mettenberger is likely to be, Ryan Fitzpatrick is just as bad. In a battle of two atrocious quarterbacks, I shall once again take the Titans and the points.
KANSAS CITY (-7) vs. St. Louis
Kansas City: 3-3, 3rd AFC West, #29 total offense, #13 scoring offense, #3 total defense, #6 scoring defense
St. Louis: 2-4, 4th NFC West, #25 total offense, #24 scoring offense, #12 total defense, #31 scoring defense
Derek: Austin Davis hasn’t exactly looked amazing, and he’s on the road. Teams have been running all over the Rams, as they allow 4.8 yards per carry. Jamaal Charles has a field day in a Chiefs win.
Will: Ugh, this game doesn’t do anything for me, either. I don’t think the Rams are anything despite their kitchen sink win over the Seahawks. Alex Smith has minded the store capably enough for the Chiefs, and I think their rushing attack and homefield advantage will be enough to take this one comfortably. Chiefs for me too, please.
NEW ENGLAND (-6) vs. Chicago
New England: 5-2, 1st AFC East, #12 total offense, #7 scoring offense, #16 total defense, T-#12 scoring defense
Chicago: 3-4, 3rd NFC North, #11 total offense, #18 scoring offense, #22 total defense, #22 scoring defense
Derek: I have no read on this game. New England looks better each week, so people are high on them again, but they seem to play better with low expectations. The Pats are at home, but Chicago has looked better on the road, where they’re 3-1. Chicago is coming off an embarrassing loss, so they’ll come out fired up against New England. The Patriots played the Thursday game last week, which means Bill Belichick has had a few extra days to prepare. Since I have no idea, I guess I’ll take the points.
Will: This one seems to be a battle of narratives. The Patriots are banged up and have had question marks all year long, yet they’re on their way to another 10-win season. Paradise has been lost in Chicago as anti-Cutler sentiment has grown. The question for me is: Will the Bears bounce back and look like a playoff contender, or will they wilt and descend into madness? I’m banking on the latter and taking the Pats. Your thoughts, Smokin’ Jay Cutler?
NEW YORK JETS (-3) vs Buffalo
New York: 1-6, 4th AFC East, #20 total offense, T-#28 scoring offense, #14 total defense, #26 scoring defense
Buffalo: 4-3, 2nd AFC East, #15 total offense, #27 scoring offense, #15 total defense, T-#7 scoring defense
Derek: The Jets recently acquired a versatile player from the University of Florida. He’s a freakish athlete who could be considered a distraction. However, he’s such a rare talent that the Jets’ coaches aren’t worried about that. They’re excited to find new and innovative ways to incorporate him into the offense. What could possibly go wrong?
I’ll take the Bills.
Will: I feel like I always know 100% more than I want to about the Jets. They’re like The Big Bang Theory; I’m just waiting for them to get cancelled or rebooted. I’m envisioning a lot of boos from the home crowd, and possibly a car battery chucked at Geno Smith. Bills win and the Browns’ extra draft picks tumble further down the board.
TAMPA BAY (-3) vs. Minnesota
Tampa Bay: 1-5, 4th NFC South, #31 total offense, T-#25 scoring offense, #24 total defense, #32 scoring defense
Minnesota: 2-5, 4th NFC North, #23 total offense, #30 scoring offense, #17 total defense, #14 scoring defense
Derek: The Bucs rank 30th in DVOA on offense, defense, and special teams. The Vikings rank 32nd, 22nd, and 9th, respectively. Advantage: Minnesota special teams! Though the Bucs looked the best they’ve looked all year last week against Bye, I’ll take the Vikings.
Will: God this game sucks. I won’t watch a minute of it. I’ll change the channel if a highlight pops up. Whatever. I’ll go with Tampa and stand against child abuse.
Seattle (-5) at CAROLINA
Seattle: 3-3, 3rd NFC West, #26 total offense, #8 scoring offense, #2 total defense, #19 scoring defense
Carolina: 3-3-1, 1st NFC South, #14 total offense, T-#16 scoring offense, #30 total defense, #29 scoring defense
Derek: Admittedly, Seattle’s second consecutive 10 a.m. PT start time worries me. Having said that, Seattle needs this one more. Carolina isn’t feeling as much pressure in the extremely winnable NFC South. It also doesn’t hurt that Carolina’s defense seems like it couldn’t stop a tire rolling uphill. The Russell Wilson Experience continues and the Seahawks get back on track.
Will: The Panthers have surrendered points like Frenchmen this year, and I expect Seattle to score big even without Percy Harvin. The only hope for Carolina is Cam Newton going off and making this whole affair a referendum on him vs. Russell. I don’t expect that to go well. Seahawks to cover the big road spread.
Miami (-6) at JACKSONVILLE
Miami: 3-3, 3rd AFC East, #24 total offense, #11 scoring offense, #1 total defense, #15 scoring defense
Jacksonville: 1-6, 4th AFC South, #28 total offense, #32 scoring offense, #31 total defense, #27 scoring defense
Derek: Jacksonville won’t give up. I tend to root for them to do well. Sadly, I don’t trust them enough to pick them. Miami pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Will: Seriously, will anyone outside of Florida watch this? The Jags were frisky enough to beat the Browns last week, and I think they’ll get a tiny lift from their home crowd. I’d be surprised if they won, but I think Blake Bortles can cobble together some garbage time drives and cover. Go Jags go.
ARIZONA (-1.5) vs. Philadelphia
Arizona: 5-1, 1st NFC West, #30 total offense, T-#14 scoring offense, #6 total defense, #5 scoring defense
Philadelphia: 5-1, 2nd NFC East, #19 total offense, #3 scoring offense, #13 total defense, T-#12 scoring defense
Derek: Kirk Cousins threw for a total of 781 yards against these two defenses, and he just got benched in favor of Colt McCoy. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a track meet. I like the Cards at home.
Will: Hey, this is a real game! It has teams with winning records and everything! Also, Arizona’s 5-1?
The Cardinals have a strong run defense — tops in the league by yardage — but I think the Eagles will counteract that with a lot of screens and pitches and other weird little plays that make crusty old football men grumble. I’ll go with the Eagles in the desert.
CLEVELAND (-7) vs. Oakland
Cleveland: 3-3, 4th AFC North, #22 total offense, T-#14 scoring offense, #18 total defense, #17 scoring defense
Oakland: 0-6, 4th AFC West, #32 total offense, #31 scoring offense, #10 total defense, #25 scoring defense
Derek: Chin up, Browns faithful. I know you’re down about last week, but I think I’ve got the cure for what ails you: a visit from the Raiders! If the Browns lose this, then it might be time to panic. But I think they’ll bounce back.
Will: I’m not even going to try to look at this game objectively. Seven is a big number, but I’m banking on this Browns team having a backbone. They got embarrassed by one winless team last week. Mike Pettine and Brian Hoyer are not about to let that happen again, right?
…Right? Right? Browns win 100-0.
Indianapolis (-3) at. PITTSBURGH
Indianapolis: 5-2, 1st AFC South, #1 total offense, #2 scoring offense, #7 total defense, #4 scoring defense
Pittsburgh: 4-3, 3rd AFC North, #8 total offense, T-#21 scoring offense, #20 total defense, #16 scoring defense
Derek: I haven’t really been impressed by the Steelers this year. They’ve got some dreadful performances on their resume. I know the Colts aren’t as good away from home, but they’re still much better than the Steelers. The spread is lower than I thought it would be, too. I’m going with the Colts.
Will: I’ve seen the Steelers play the Browns twice, and the Browns outscored them 55-13 in the final six of those quarters. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton are better than Brian Hoyer and Andrew Hawkins. I am not at all impressed by this Steelers outfit. Colts win by two touchdowns.
NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. Green Bay
New Orleans: 2-4, 2nd NFC South, #9 total offense, #9 scoring offense, #9 total defense, #28 scoring defense
Green Bay: 5-2, 2nd NFC North, #18 total offense, #4 scoring offense, #25 total defense, T-#9 scoring defense
Derek: New Orleans is going to throw everything they have at Green Bay in this one. While falling to 2-5 wouldn’t be season-ending because they play in the NFC South, the Saints can’t afford to drop home games after starting the season 0-4 on the road. The Saints are much better at home, and I’m sure the good people of New Orleans will bring their A-game for Sunday Night Football. I’ll take the Saints.
Will: This one should be fun. I just plain like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. They seem like nice fellows. The Saints have been sorta hapless this year, but I expect the prime-time crowd to be exceptionally loud/liquored up. The Packers will put up their points, but I like the New Orleans to match them. Geaux Saints!
DALLAS (-9.5) vs. Washington
Dallas: 6-1, 1st NFC East, #3 total offense, #5 scoring offense, #19 total defense, T-#9 scoring defense
Washington: 2-5, 4th NFC East, #5 total offense, #23 scoring offense, #11 total defense, #24 scoring defense
Derek: Count me among those who think the Cowboys will collapse at some point. The Redskins actually move the ball pretty well, and might be doing a little better if they didn’t have 15 giveaways (tied with Jacksonville for the worst in the league). The Cowboys don’t have a great home-field advantage, and it’s a rivalry game. Could the turnovers stop now that possibly colorblind former starter Kirk Cousins is on the bench? I don’t know, but I know I don’t trust the Cowboys enough to lay 9.5 points. Give me the Redskins.
Will: I totally agree. The Cowboys collapse will come at some point. It may not be until December, but it’s fun to start rooting against it now. They’ve been terrific, but are you ready to wager that they’ll win by two scores? I’m not. Washington Professional Football Team to at least cover.