New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (5-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-5)

The Patriots are favored by 13.5 points on the road in this game in Buffalo, the most a team has been favored by on the road since the Patriots were 14-point favorites in Jacksonville in week 16 of 2012. The rarity of this kind of line of not a reason not to take the Patriots though. In fact, teams are 15-12 ATS as road favorites of 13.5 or more in the past 30 years. That’s not a reason to take the Patriots necessarily, but historically speaking when a team is favored by this many on the road, there’s a good reason for it.

There is certainly a good reason for it in this one, as the Bills are inarguably the worst team in the league with street free agent Derek Anderson under center, while the Patriots have seemingly hit their stride like they always do and should be considered one of the top few teams in the league. I can’t be confident in the Patriots because they are without injured running back Sony Michel and could also be without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the second straight week and because they could sleepwalk through this game a little bit with a tougher game against the Packers on a short week on deck, but even at less than 100% on the road the Patriots could still win this game by two touchdowns.

New England Patriots 27 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: New England -13.5

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Detroit Lions (3-3)

The Seahawks got off to an 0-2 start, but have won 3 of their last 4, with their one loss coming by just 2 points against the undefeated Rams. They’re also healthier coming out of the bye with outside linebacker KJ Wright, defensive end Dion Jordan, and possibly defensive end Rasheem Green set to return from extended absences. That being said, they are still statistically one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 26th in first down rate differential at -3.44%. Their 3-3 record is largely the result of a +7 turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent week-to-week, so the Seahawks won’t be able to rely on that every week, especially with their team leader in takeaways Earl Thomas out for the season.

The reinforcements the Seahawks get back from injury this week will help, but the Lions added stud run stuffing defensive tackle Damon Harrison in a trade this week and could get defensive end Ezekiel Ansah back from injury as well, after getting right guard TJ Lang back last week, so they’re a team on the rise a little as well. I have the Lions as a slightly better than the Seahawks, while this line suggests they’re about even, with the hometown Lions favored by a field goal. I’m going to take the Lions, but there isn’t enough here to bet on them.

Detroit Lions 24 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit -3

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)

The Broncos are just 3-4 and don’t get a lot of attention because they don’t do any one thing really well, but they’ve quietly been better than their record. They rank above average in both first down rate (14th at 37.25%) and first down rate allowed (7th at 32.89%). They’ve won the first down rate battle in 5 of 7 games, including 3 of their losses. One of those losses was at home to the Chiefs in a game they won the first down rate battle by 4.26%, led by double digits in the 4th quarter, and had a chance to win late on a missed open touchdown. They also won the first down rate battle in losses to the Jets (2.82%) and the Rams (5.56%). On the season, they have 16 more first downs than their opponents.

The Chiefs, despite their record, have 15 fewer first downs than their opponents. Their offense has obviously been incredible, but their defense has allowed opponents to pick up first downs at a high rate (43.15%, 30th in the NFL). They’re coming off their best defensive performance of the year and could end up being a capable unit if they get both Justin Houston and Eric Berry back for the stretch run, which would make them a very scary team, but this week the Broncos could easily keep it close with the Chiefs for the second time this season. Even if the Chiefs get up big early, the Broncos have been a good garbage time team this year and could easily get the backdoor cover against an underwhelming defense. I would need at least 10 points to bet any money on Denver, but they should be the right side this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Denver Broncos 24

Pick against the spread: Denver +9.5

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (4-2)

The Ravens are a solid team and could easily win the AFC North, but they’re a little bit overrated. Last week, they were 3-point home favorites against the Saints, suggesting they were equal to a New Orleans team that is one of the best in the league, in a game the Ravens ultimately ended up losing. This week, they are 2.5-point road favorites in Carolina. That’s not that many points, but I have these two teams about even, so the Panthers should be favored by at least a field goal. That’s a good amount of line value.

If the Ravens were at full strength, I might give them a point or two over the Panthers, but they are missing top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and a pair of starting offensive linemen, Alex Lewis and James Hurst. All three of those players were missed against the Saints and will be missed again this week. The Panthers, meanwhile, are at close to full strength and should be able to win this game outright. I’d need a full field goal to bet the spread in this one, but the money line at +130 is a great play.

Carolina Panthers 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Carolina +2.5

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-5)

This game had the most significant line movement of the week, as the Raiders went from 1.5 point favorites on the early line last week to 3 point home underdogs this week. The Raiders didn’t even have a game last week, but the Colts looked impressive in a 37-5 win over the Bills and are arguably as healthy as they’ve been all season. They got left tackle Anthony Castonzo back three weeks ago, running back Marlon Mack back two weeks ago, and wide receiver TY Hilton and defensive tackle Margus Hunt back last week, and now they get defensive tackle Denico Autry and tight end Jack Doyle back. They remain without safety Clayton Geathers and wide receiver Ryan Grant, while defensive tackle Jihad Ward and safety Malik Hooker will join them on the sidelines this week, but they are still in much better shape injury wise than they were a few weeks ago.

That line movement was also partially because of the Amari Cooper trade, with the Raiders sending Cooper to the Cowboys for a first round pick. It’s not so much about what they lose with Cooper on the field, as Cooper has been very inconsistent for the last year and a half, but the locker room situation in Oakland does not sound good, with multiple players coming forward and anonymously criticizing the coaching staff and management for not being upfront with them about the trades of star players, with one player saying that it feels like anyone could be traded in the next week. That doesn’t sound like an environment that is going to get the best results on the football field, especially when their talent level is mediocre to begin with. We’re not getting good line value with the Colts as field goal favorites on the road, but the Raiders might be unbettable this week.

Indianapolis Colts 31 Oakland Raiders 27

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -3

Confidence: None

Washington Redskins at New York Giants: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (4-2) at New York Giants (1-6)

At first glance, this seems like an easy one, as the division leading Redskins just have to beat the last place Giants by more than 1 point to cover. However, the Redskins are a little overrated. Their 4-2 record looks impressive, but they have just a +5 point differential, despite a +6 turnover margin, and rank just 22nd in first down rate differential at +2.21%. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t be able to rely on that every week going forward and if they play turnover neutral football the rest of the way it will be noticeable on the scoreboard.

Their defense has been solid, but their offense has been underwhelming, as veteran Alex Smith has regressed back to being a checkdown machine, now that he no longer has the supporting talent or coaching he had in Kansas City. They’ve especially struggled offensively over the past 3 weeks, moving the chains at a mere 30.27% rate over that time period, coinciding with Chris Thompson, Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, and Josh Doctson all suffering injuries. Crowder remains out, while both Richardson and Thompson are considered 50/50 calls for this one, thinning an already underwhelming receiving corps. They’ll also likely be without starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar.

Earlier in the week, I was thinking of taking the Giants, whose defense has been better since getting Olivier Vernon back from injury and who have just two losses by more than a touchdown, coming against the Saints and Eagles, two of the more talented teams in the league. However, the Giants officially gave up on the season this week, trading productive defensive starters Eli Apple and Damon Harrison for draft picks, and the line didn’t really move to compensate. Given that, I’m taking the Redskins in a game they just need to win to cover, but this isn’t the layup it looks like at first glance because the Redskins’ record doesn’t tell the whole story.

Washington Redskins 19 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Washington -1

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)

The Bengals got off to a great start to the season, but the injuries have piled up for them and they are not nearly the same team anymore. All in all, they are missing tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft, running back Giovani Bernard, wide receiver John Ross, center Billy Price, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard. That being said, we are not getting good line value betting against them this week, as mere 4 point home favorites against the Buccaneers. After the Bengals got blown out on national television in Kansas City last week, it’s not exactly a secret that they aren’t playing as well as they were earlier in the year.

Teams actually tend to play pretty well after blowout losses, going 55-34 ATS since 2002 after a loss of 35 points or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot, and the Bengals could be all three this week. With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Bengals this week, as the Buccaneers have their own injury issues. They are missing defensive end Vinny Curry, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and linebacker Kwon Alexander, three of their best defensive players, from a defense that was not any good to begin with, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 43.83% rate on the season, 31st in the NFL. This is a no confidence pick, but the Bengals have a good chance to bounce back at home against a mediocre opponent.

Cincinnati Bengals 35 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -4

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1)

Going into the season, the Browns were high on my underrated teams list. Despite going winless in 2017, they were just 6th worst in first down rate differential at -3.45% and their -28 turnover margin was highly unlikely to continue with a completely new quarterback situation. The Browns have been a bit disappointing this year though. Their turnover margin has done a 180, as they rank 1st in the NFL with a +10 turnover margin, but despite that they are just 2-4-1 and have a -26 point differential. Their first down rate differential is just -5.48%, 30th in the NFL, actually worse than last season, and their turnover margin could easily regress going forward.

Their defense has been solid, ranking 12th in first down rate allowed at 35.50%, but they are without talented every down linebacker Joe Schobert with injury and their offense has been terrible, ranking 30th in first down rate at 30.02%, only ahead of the Cardinals and Bills. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield won the starting job with one good half against the Jets when they didn’t gameplan for him on a short week, but he’s seemingly gotten worse every week and Hue Jackson’s offensive coaching staff seems incapable of turning him around. At this point, it might be best for the Browns to go back to their original plan of starting Tyrod Taylor and letting Mayfield develop behind the scenes as a rookie, but they’ve given no indication that that’s something they are considering.

The Browns are also in a tough spot with a home game against the AFC leading Chiefs on deck, a game in which they are 7-point home underdogs on the early line. Teams are just 30-55 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6+, as big upcoming home games tend to be a distraction for teams. Underdogs of 6+ are also just 46-66 ATS before being underdogs of 6+ again, as it’s tough for inferior teams to keep up with superior teams when they have another tough game on deck.

Despite all of that, I actually like the Browns this week as 8-point underdogs in Pittsburgh. As bad of a spot as the Browns are in, they won’t overlook the Steelers, while Pittsburgh is also in a terrible spot of their own, with a trip to Baltimore on deck. Teams are just 16-34 ATS since 2008 as divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs the following week. The Steelers are also an overrated team that has just 6 wins by more than a touchdown since the start of last season (23 games) and just 3 wins by more than a touchdown since the midway of last season (15 games). They are also missing key right tackle Marcus Gilbert with injury. The Browns should be able to keep this one close enough to cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cleveland Browns 19

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +8

Confidence: Medium

New York Jets at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-4) at Chicago Bears (3-3)

The Bears are just 3-3, but they are still one of the better teams in the league, with their 3 losses coming by a combined 11 points, including a loss last week to the Patriots by 7 in which they won the first down rate battle by 5.36%. On the season, they have a +36 point differential, 5th best in the NFL, and rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +7.11%, which matches their talent level, as they’ve been a top-5 team on paper since getting Khalil Mack in a trade with the Raiders before the season began.

The Jets, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Despite an easy schedule (Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Denver, Indianapolis, Minnesota), the Jets rank just 28th in first down rate differential at -4.48%. Their defense hasn’t been bad, allowing opponents to move the chains a a 34.66% rate, 10th in the NFL, but their offense ranks 28th in first down rate at 30.18% and is even worse in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on just 34.78% of their red zone trips, worst in the NFL.

The Jets also enter this game pretty banged up, missing top cornerback Trumaine Johnson and three of their top-4 receivers, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and Terrelle Pryor. The Bears, on the other hand, are close to full strength and should be able to win this game at home with relative ease. I wish this line was still -6.5 or -7 where it briefly was earlier this week, but I like the Bears still at -7.5, as this should be a double digit game.

Chicago Bears 24 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Chicago -7.5

Confidence: Medium