Spread picks for NFL Week 8
Week 8 represents the shortest slate of games to date, with just 12 games remaining on this weekend’s schedule. Despite the relatively short week, there are a decent number of games where value is available, including eight games where my prediction varies from Vegas’ by two or more points. In such games this season, we are 28-17 (62.2 percent). Through seven weeks, our picks stand at 51-42-1 (54.8 percent) overall.
For my pick of the Thursday Night Football game, as well as win probabilities for each game, find me on Twitter at @EricEager82.
Washington at Bengals in London (-3)
Prediction: Bengals win by 1
Washington was on the verge of their fifth-straight victory last week in Detroit before surrendering a last-second touchdown to the Lions. Star cornerback Josh Norman is in concussion protocol this week, meaning it may come down to Bashaud Breeland and other reserve CBs for Washington to slow Bengals’ star receiver A.J. Green Sunday in London. Breeland has struggled this season opposite Norman, giving up the 13th-most yards per coverage snap (1.83) and over a 100.0 passer rating into his coverage thus far. Washington’s skill position players have been up to the task all season, though, and should be able to keep this one close across the pond.
Lions at Texans (-2.5)
Prediction: Texans win by 2
The Texans were nothing short of awful offensively Monday night against the Broncos, with Brock Osweiler posting the worst grade among all quarterbacks on the week—amassing just 3.2 yards per attempt in the process. They return home, where they’re undefeated, to face a Lions team that is on something of a roll. Despite being 4-3, the Lions’ defense may have a case for being as bad as the Texans’ offense, however, making the matchup on that side of the ball a likely wash. Thus, whoever wins between the Lions’ offense, led by the fifth-highest graded quarterback in the league in Matthew Stafford, and the Texans’ defense, led by the highest-graded cornerback in the league in A.J. Bouye, will likely taste victory in this one.
Seahawks (-3) at Saints
Prediction: Seahawks win by 1
After escaping Glendale with a tie on Sunday night, the Seahawks head to New Orleans to face a Saints team that is coming off a close road loss in Kansas City. Seattle’s offensive line is going to be a talker every single week, especially after allowing 17 total pressures in 45 passing plays against the Cardinals (fourth-worst efficiency in the league during Week 7 play). If the much-maligned Saints’ defense, led so far by Nick Fairley (11th-best among DTs in pass rush productivity) and Darryl Tapp (seventh among 4-3 DE in run-stop percentage), can slow the Seahawks, the Saints’ offense, featuring the league’s best rookie receiver in Michael Thomas, should be able to generate enough points to keep this one close at home.
Patriots (-6) at Bills
Prediction: Patriots win by 2
The Patriots have covered all three games since the return of Tom Brady. They head to Buffalo to face a Bills team that shut them out in their first meeting. After a middling first couple of weeks, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has climbed to No. 14 in our quarterback grades for the season, nicely complementing a Bills’ defense that has graded among the league’s best over that time. The Patriots’ defense has been every bit as impressive, allowing the fourth-fewest points per game thus far this season. Taylor’s lack of an explosive threat on the outside in the absence of Sammy Watkins makes a home upset unlikely for Buffalo this week.
Jets (-3) at Browns
Prediction: Jets win by 1
This is probably the Browns’ best chance to win a game all season. While the Jets looked impressive last week against the Ravens at home, they are again relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick to guide their offense each week, a proposition that has been dicey at best so far through seven games. If Josh McCown, who graded pretty well in his only start this season, returns to the starting lineup, look for him to exploit the Jets’ secondary using Terrelle Pryor. While Pryor has been great so far with middling quarterback play, Jets’ cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Marcus Williams, and Buster Skrine have all surrendered at least a 97.9 quarterback rating into their coverage, giving a McCown-led offense a chance to cover this week at home.
Raiders at Buccaneers (pick ‘em)
Prediction: Raiders win by 3
Tampa Bay has quietly climbed back to 0.500 on the season, and comes home to face an Oakland team heading to Florida for the second straight week. The Raiders remains undefeated on the road, featuring an offense grading impressively in many different categories through seven games. Despite their small win streak, the Bucs have the fourth-lowest graded defense in the league so far, leading to one of the more substantial mismatches this week has to offer. While Oakland has the fourth-highest pass-blocking efficiency out of all the league’s offensive lines, Tampa Bay doesn’t have a D-lineman in the top 10 at his position in pass-rushing productivity so far, meaning that Derek Carr will have plenty of time to find Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Carr has over a 100.0 passer rating when throwing into each receiver’s direction so far this season, and should continue to have that kind of success this week on the road.
Chiefs (-2.5) at Colts
Prediction: Chiefs win by 1
The Chiefs have come out of their bye with two impressive wins, leaning on their new star running back Spencer Ware to victory in both games. Ware, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and a whopping 19.0 yards per reception, faces a Colts’ defense that has zero starting front-seven players with overall grades above 50.0 so far this season. The Chiefs’ defense remains a bit of a concern, however, with all of their cornerbacks not named Marcus Peters failing to earn a grade above 50.2 through six games. If Andrew Luck can continue to produce the best season of his career, look for the Colts to cover this one at home.
Cardinals at Panthers (-3)
Prediction: Cardinals win by 1
Despite the Panthers coming off a bye and being at home, this line is one of the more puzzling ones of the week. The Panthers have arguably the worst secondary in the league, and while the Cardinals will probably be without both Jaron Brown and John Brown this week, the Cardinals’ passing game has more than enough firepower to take advantage of the likes of Daryl Worley, James Bradberry, and Robert McClain and outscore the Panthers in Charlotte.
Packers at Falcons (-3)
Prediction: Packers win by 1
The Falcons have lost two hard-fought games in a row to turn a once-promising start into a 4-3 record. The Packers were not necessarily impressive last Thursday night, averaging just 5.82 yards per passing attempt despite playing a Chicago secondary with numerous backup corners seeing significant snaps. While the Packers’ offense may not be what it once was, Green Bay’s defense continues to impress, especially in the front-seven, where first-round pick Kenny Clark is currently fourth in run-stop percentage (11.1) among 3-4 DEs, veteran Mike Daniels is seventh in pass-rushing productivity (8.0) among the same group, and former first-round pick Nick Perry is sixth in pass-rushing productivity (13.4) among 3-4 OLBs. How the Packers’ secondary—full of injury replacements—fares against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will likely go a long way in deciding this one.
Chargers at Broncos (-4.5)
Prediction: Broncos win by 5
Just two weeks after beating the Broncos at home, the Chargers head to Denver with another impressive win (at Atlanta) in their back pocket. As in the first meeting, the success (or lack thereof) of the Broncos’ offense will largely determine the outcome of this matchup. Quarterback Trevor Siemian followed the worst game of his career against the Chargers with his best one against the Texans on Monday night, displaying solid accuracy underneath and allowing Emmanuel Sanders to accumulate 34 yards after the catch. The biggest difference Monday was the run game, however, with both C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker gaining more than 83 yards and averaging more than 4.9 yards per carry on the ground. While it appears that Anderson will be out for some time, the Chargers have just the 20th-highest graded run defense in the league so far, giving the Broncos a clear path to victory should Booker and company be effective on the ground.
Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5)
Prediction: Cowboys win by 3
After years of being one of the league’s weakest divisions, the NFC East finally has a matchup between two teams it can be proud of. In what should be an excellent game in Dallas, the matchup of Fletcher Cox (the fourth-most efficient pass-rusher among DTs), Brandon Graham (the second-most efficient 4-3 DE), and the Eagles front-seven against Dallas’ offensive line, which has the third-highest pass-blocking productivity as a unit in the league, will be something to behold. Both teams have asked just the right amount from their rookie starting quarterbacks so far. Whichever starter can elevate himself even further will likely escort his team to a victory on Sunday night.
Vikings (-4.5) at Bears
Prediction: Vikings win by 9
The Vikings took a step backward last week in Philadelphia, venturing from the quick-passing game that facilitated Sam Bradford’s success through his first four starts. I expect them to return to the quick-rhythm game, and to have success against a Bears’ secondary that’s still reeling from the loss of top corner Kyle Fuller. Last week against Green Bay, Bears’ cornerbacks De’Vante Bausby, Cre’von LeBlanc, and Jacoby Glenn (since released) were no match for the Packers’ secondary receivers, allowing 19-of-26 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns into their coverage, mostly in one half. Unless the full return of Pernell McPhee, last season’s most efficient pass-rusher among 3-4 OLBS, is imminent, the Bears will struggle to cover the spread at home against Minnesota.