Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Washington Redskins (3-3)

When both are at full strength, these two teams are pretty evenly matched, but the Redskins are dealing with a number of injuries going into this game, while the Cowboys are as healthy as they’ve been all season. The Redskins get Josh Norman back from a 2-game absence this week, but will be without center Spencer Long, while left tackle Trent Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff, and right tackle Morgan Moses are all considered truly questionable. Williams hasn’t practiced in weeks and has not been playing at 100% because he needs knee surgery. Scherff didn’t practice all week after injuring his knee on Monday against the Eagles and is likely on the doubtful side of questionable. Moses is the only one who practiced this week, but he is far from a lock to play after injuring both of his ankles on Monday night.

When healthy, the Redskins’ offensive line is the strength of this team and on par with the Cowboys’ strong offensive line, so those are huge injuries to be dealing with. On top of that, the Cowboys are a great road team because they have fans across the country. They are 32-27 on the road since 2010 (30-21 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 0.03 points per game, as opposed to 30-31 at home (21-29 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 1.59 points per game. Going on the road only hurts them about a point or so and they’re about 2 points better than the Redskins in my roster rankings right now. Unfortunately, this line isn’t great at Dallas -2. The Cowboys have a good chance to win this game by a field goal or so, but there isn’t enough here to be confident in them at all.

Dallas Cowboys 27 Washington Redskins 24

Pick against the spread: Dallas -2

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-2)

When this line opened at 5.5 early in the week, I was strongly considering betting on the Seahawks. The Texans have exceeded expectations offensively thanks to breakout seasons from their last two first round picks, wide receiver Will Fuller and quarterback Deshaun Watson, and they get valuable left tackle Duane Brown back from his holdout this week, but I want to see how their defense fares without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus against an offense other than the Browns.

On top of that, the Seahawks are a step up in class defensively from any defense the Texans have faced since Jacksonville and Cincinnati in weeks 1 and 2, when they managed just 2 total offensive touchdowns. Since then, they’ve scored 16 offensive touchdowns in 4 games, but against New England, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Cleveland, who are among the worst defenses in the league. They could easily have a lot of trouble in Seattle, where the Seahawks have been so good over the years (31-16 ATS at home in the Russell Wilson era).

Unfortunately, this line has moved from 5.5 to 7, as the sharps likely jumped on the Seahawks after the news broke about Houston owner Bob McNair’s “inmates” comment and the subsequent reaction of the Texan players. I ultimately don’t see that affecting the Texans on the field on Sunday, as they are in the middle of a race for a division title, so I’m not as excited to bet the Seahawks at -7 as I was at -5.5. If this line drops back down under a touchdown tomorrow morning, I may reconsider.

Update: This line has dropped down to 6.5, so I’ll make this a medium confidence pick.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)

The Buccaneers are a talented team, but they have not been able to stay healthy thus far this season. Defensive tackle Chris Baker, outside linebacker Lavonte David, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Brent Grimes, and safety TJ Ward have all missed time, while quarterback Jameis Winston was knocked out of their week 6 loss in Arizona with a shoulder injury. They had all of those players back healthy for last week, but Grimes is now injured again, Alexander did not look nearly 100% in his first game back last week, and Winston re-injured his shoulder.

Winston is still expected to play, but he might not be at 100% and might not be able to finish the game if he takes another big hit. They have one of the worst defenses in the league right now thanks to injury, so they need Winston to have a good game if they want to avoid falling to 2-5. Not only are the Panthers a quality opponent (9th in first down rate differential), but Tampa Bay is also in a terrible spot with a trip to the division leading New Orleans Saints on deck, as divisional home favorites are just 24-61 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road favorites. That game could present a major distraction for a banged up team.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are in a great spot because they’re in their second of two road games. Teams are 249-266 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.91 points per game, as opposed to 367-504 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. It especially helps that the Panthers are underdogs off a loss, as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games are 115-77 ATS off of a road loss.

That loss came in Chicago last week, but the Bears are an underrated team and the Panthers outperformed the Bears for most of the night, with the Bears only scoring on two return touchdowns and a 70-yard play by running back Tarik Cohen. The Panthers gained 20 first downs, while the Bears gained just 5, but the Bears still won 17-3. The Panthers have a 4-3 record despite a -9 turnover margin and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Panthers are better than their record suggests. I was hoping we’d get some line value with the Panthers in this spot after what happened last week, but the sharps have bet this line down to 1. I’d need a full field goal to put money on the Panthers against the spread, but the money line is worth a small bet as the Panthers should be favored in this game.

Carolina Panthers 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Carolina +1

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-2) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-7) in London

At 0-7, the Browns are winless to start the season for the second straight year, after starting last season 0-14. However, they rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -1.65%, so they’ve actually done a pretty decent job of putting together drives compared to their opponents. The problem is they can’t finish those drives, thanks to a league worst -11 turnover margin. Typically, I like to bet on teams with bad turnover margins because turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but the Browns’ quarterback situation is so bad that it’s hard to get excited about betting on them in any situation. On the season, they’ve thrown 17 interceptions (11 by DeShone Kizer, 5 by Kevin Hogan, and 1 by Cody Kessler), while no other team has thrown more than 10, and that is the single biggest factor in their turnover margin.

The Browns also enter this game banged up. They will be without defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Jason McCourty, arguably their two best defensive players this season, as well as left tackle Joe Thomas, their dominant left tackle who will miss the rest of the season after 10,363 consecutive snaps to begin his career. The Vikings are not a great team with Case Keenum under center, but they get Stefon Diggs back from a 2-game absence this week and I have these two teams about 10 points apart in my roster rankings given the injury situation of these two teams.

The Vikings are 9.5 point favorites in this neutral site game in London, so we aren’t really getting line value with them, but the better team does tend to cover in these neutral site games. Favorites are 19-9 ATS in neutral site games since 1989, including 11-1 ATS as favorites of 4 or more. It makes sense that the better team would be better prepared for playing in a weird neutral site overseas game like this. There isn’t enough line value for me to take the Vikings confidently, but they have a good chance to cover this spread.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -9.5

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)

Few would have guessed before the season that these two teams would have similar records when they met in week 8, as the Jets were seen as one of the worst teams in the league, while the Falcons were reigning NFC Champions. Even fewer would have guessed these records after the start of the season, when the Falcons started 3-0 and the Jets lost their first 2 games, but the Falcons have dropped 3 straight games since the bye, while the Jets won 3 straight games before losing in Miami last week.

I still have these two teams pretty far apart though, as the Jets are still one of the least talented teams in the league and the Falcons are still one of the most. In terms of first down rate differential, the Falcons rank 6th at 3.53%, while the Jets rank 30th at -5.32%, despite the fact that the Falcons have had a tougher schedule. The Jets’ 3 wins came against the Dolphins, who had their London game on deck, the Jaguars in overtime, after the Jaguars had just gotten back from London, and the Browns, who could have easily won if not for multiple red zone turnovers.

The Falcons, meanwhile, have lost to the Bills, in a game in which the Falcons lost the turnover battle by 3 yet only lost by 6, the Dolphins, who they led 17-0 in the first half before taking their foot off their brake with New England on deck, and the Patriots last week in New England. That 23-7 loss to the Patriots moved this line from -7.5 on the early line to -6.5 this week, crossing the key line of 7, but the Falcons still moved the chains at a 39.29% rate. They just couldn’t cash in their drives, missing a pair of makeable field goals and getting stuff on 4th and goal from the 1.

This line likely would have been at least 10 a few weeks ago, so I like getting the Falcons at -6.5 in New York. They should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown and prove that there’s still a major difference in talent between these two teams. This line opened at -4.5, but heavy sharp action on the Falcons caused the line to increase quickly. As long as the line is still under a touchdown, the Falcons are worth a bet, but I’m holding out hope that this line drops back down so we get more line value. If that happens, I may increase this to a high confidence pick.

Atlanta Falcons 27 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -6.5

Confidence: Medium

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (0-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-1)

The Eagles defeated the Redskins 34-24 last week on Monday Night Football, but it may end up being a case of winning the battle and losing the war, as they lost middle linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters for the season with injuries. Both players were big parts of this team and will be missed as this team tries to still make a run at the Super Bowl without them. The good news is they’re still one of the better teams in the league without Hicks and Peters and they get an easy opponent this week with the 0-7 49ers coming to town.

The 49ers have lost just 2 games by more than a field goal, but they’re still one of the worst teams in the league, especially since they’re expected to be missing right tackle Trent Brown, who has been their best offensive lineman thus far this season. Their other two losses came by a combined 50 points, so they still have a point differential of -63, 4th worst in the NFL, and they rank 31st in first down rate differential. This line is high, but the Eagles shouldn’t have much problem winning by two touchdowns or more. There isn’t enough for me to bet them confidently at this number, as they have a tougher game next week than the 49ers do (the Eagles host the Broncos, while the 49ers host the Cardinals), but Philadelphia should win this game with ease. The Eagles are an obvious survivor choice if they have not been picked.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -12.5

Confidence: Low