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




Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3)

The Lions went 9-7 and made the post-season last season and are 3-3 so far this season, but 9 of their 12 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by a touchdown or less and they’ve had trouble beating top level teams. They didn’t defeat a single playoff team in 2016, in a season that culminated with a 26-6 loss in Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, and the 3 teams they’ve defeated so far this season are not that impressive, as they’ve defeated the Cardinals, Giants, and the Case Keenum led Vikings. A year after ranking just 28th in first down rate differential, they rank just 27th this season and they are arguably worse overall this season, as they are without talented left tackle Taylor Decker.

The Steelers are the type of top level team the Lions typically struggle with, but the good news for the Lions is that the Steelers come in banged up, missing right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who are among the best players on the team, as well as Vance McDonald, their starting tight end. As a result, I think we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Lions, as I have these two teams about 5 points apart in my roster rankings this week. That suggests that the Steelers should be -2. That’s not a ton of line value and I’m not that confident in the Lions, but grabbing the field goal with the home team is the smarter move for pick ‘em purposes this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers 26 Detroit Lions 24

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)

The Browns and 49ers are both winless at 0-7, but you could make an argument that the Colts are worse than both of them. The Colts have 2 wins, but they both came by just a field goal at home, against the 49ers and Browns, and they’ve lost their other 5 games by a combined 109 points. As a result, they have a point differential of -103, by far the worst in the NFL, behind the Cardinals (-72), the Browns (-66), and the 49ers (-63). They also rank dead last in first down rate differential at -8.08%.

On top of that, they enter this game very banged up, besides the obvious Andrew Luck injury. Already missing their top interior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort for the season, the Colts lost their top defensive back, talented rookie safety Malik Hooker, for the season last week and will also be without cornerback Rashaan Melvin and outside linebacker John Simon for at least this week. Melvin had been their top cornerback, while Simon was an above average starter as well. Missing all of the players they are missing, I have the Colts dead last in my roster rankings.

The Colts are also in a tough spot with a trip to Houston on deck. They will likely be double digit underdogs again in that game and double digit underdogs are 49-79 ATS since 1989 before being double digit underdogs again. The Bengals aren’t in a great spot either though, as they figure to be underdogs in Jacksonville next week. Double digit favorites are just 57-77 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs.

The Bengals are not a great team at 2-4, but they rank 17th in first down rate differential and have been playing better offensively since firing their offensive coordinator after week 2, so they’re a lot better than the Colts. They have major problems on the offensive line, but they have one of the better defenses in the league and should be able to move the ball at least somewhat on this weak Indianapolis defense. 

This line is high at -10.5, but the Bengals should be able to cover it. I have this line calculated at about 12.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Bengals. There’s not enough here to bet on Cincinnati confidently, but the Bengals should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes and they’re a smart survivor pick this week against the worst team in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals 26 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -10.5

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-2)

I’ve taken the Bears in 5 of 7 games this season, as I’ve thought all season they were an underrated team. In those 5 games, they went 4-1 ATS, including straight up victories as underdogs against the Steelers, Ravens, and Panthers. They have an above average defense, an above average running game, and an above average offensive line and can give good teams problems. However, I think the public is starting to catch on following Chicago’s wins over the Ravens and Panthers in the past 2 weeks, two games in which they didn’t allow a single offensive touchdown, so I don’t know if you can call them underrated anymore.

This week they go to New Orleans to face the Saints, another team that has been underrated for a while. As a result of that and Chicago’s two recent wins, we’re not getting much value with the Bears this week, as they are 9.5 point underdogs on the road against one of the better teams in the league. The Saints offense is still about as good as it’s ever been, but their defense has taken a major step forward this season, led by defensive end Cameron Jordan and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who are both playing at an All-Pro level.

The Bears managed just 5 first downs last week in their 17-3 win over the Panthers, as the defense provided 14 points on two returns and a big play by running back Tarik Cohen set-up a field goal for another 3. That 5 first down performance dropped them to 28th in first down rate at 30.55%. They’ll need to do much better than that this week, as they’re unlikely to be able to rely on huge plays and return touchdowns for points. In order to do that, they’ll need rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky to make some plays, after running a very conservative offense in his first 3 starts. I’m not sure if he’s capable of that, not necessarily because I don’t believe in his talent, but because he’s inexperienced and working with arguably the worst receiving corps in the NFL. For that reason, I’m taking the Saints here at 9.5, but I would take the Bears at 10. That’s how close this is for me.

New Orleans Saints 27 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -9.5

Confidence: None