Week 8 began with a bang: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense engineering a short-week road upset of the undefeated Cardinals in a game that looked more like a war of attrition. The Pack were already missing Davante Adams, David Bahktari, both starting corners, Z'Darius Smith, their next two wide outs etc, and their defensive coordinator Joe Barry (nice job by Jerry Gray) while the Cards were without JJ Watt, whose absence was felt as Green Bay ran the ball effectively (34/151) and controlled time of possession (37 minutes) which is the best way to keep a high powered offense under control.
The Cards also were without Rodney Hudson (and a bad snap hurt them in the fourth quarter), lost DeAndre Hopkins (in and out) during the game (the Pack lost Robert Tonyan too) but although Green Bay dominated, Arizona kept fighting back and fell short only on a very strange, don't-look-back interception by Rasul Douglas (a Cardinal practice squadder just three weeks ago) as AJ Green simply ignored Kyler Murray's pass. I was tempted by the Pack when the line was +6.5, but without the TD I didn't go for them on Wednesday's NFL Only Bettor podcast, which you can listen to below.
But last week was OK. My podcast best bet, SF and Indy to go over, was right. Vegas and Green Bay both covered for last week's column, but my attempt to get value and get cute on National Tight End Day, by advising Mark Andrews as an anytime scorer at 13/10, didn't. You would have thought that Iron Mike, the Wizard of Waggle in his tight end days, might have caught a break on the holiday.
And note the early starts this week. We turn our clocks back, but the Americans enjoy the sunshine for another week...bet accordingly!
Sunday, 17:00 - Lions could win for first time
Miami (1-6) at Buffalo (4-2)
Miami still hasn't had a break from their London jet lag, and have lost to the Jags and Falcons on last second field goals in consecutive weeks. The Bills are rested and ready. The line has climbed to 14 and the over/under dropped to 48 during the week.
Carolina (3-4) at Atlanta (3-3)
This one has stayed steady, and looks like a good opportunity for the Falcons to execute a late game fold and at least let the Panthers keep it tight.
Philadelphia (2-5) at Detroit (0-7)
I like the Lions for their first win of the season. It's hard to call it a trap game for the Eagles, but they are trending downward. Maybe they ought to swap QBs at halftime. The under 48 was my podcast best bet. The win is my outside bet.
Outside Bet: Back Lions (+3.5) @ 1.910/11
Tennessee (5-2) at Indianapolis (3-4)
A really big game because a Titans' win would effectively clinch the division for them, short of a late collapse. This one has really shifted during the week, with the Titans now 2.5 point dogs and 6/5 to win, which indicates a lot of folks, like me, liked the Colts, who are probably the second-best rushing team in the league behind Tenn.
LA Rams (6-1) at Houston (1-6)
Palindromic Records! Which, at this stage of the season, is deadly for a 1-6 team. The Texans continue to try hard, and will cherish their participation trophy at the end of the season. Can LA cover 14.5? Not impossible.
Cincinnati (5-2) at NY Jets (1-5)
At the start of the season you'd look for this to be a losers league clash, now the Bengals are giving 10.5 and the over/under dropped to 42 points when the Jets acquired Joe Flacco to back up Mike White. Look for Flacco by halftime. If there were an over/under on sacks at 3.5 I might take it. Ah, 10.5 doesn't seem impossible for the Joe and JaMarr show.
Pittsburgh (3-3) at Cleveland (4-3)
The Browns are another injury-riddled team, but Case Keenum isn't that bad a drop off from Baker Mayfield. Mayfield, along with Nick Chubb, tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wilson, WRs Jarvis Landry & the disappearing OBJ, and DB Denzel Ward were among those listed as "limited", which means you probably ought to check the lists after Friday's practice. The line has dropped from 4 to 3.5 and I like Pittsburgh with more than a field goal, even though they must be running out of 3-in-1 oil to use on Ben's shoulder. I like a double in this one, because the over 42.5 appeals even as a separate bet, so if you don't like the Steelers take it.
Value Bet: Steelers (+3.5 and over 42.5) @ 3.55/2
San Francisco (2-4) at Chicago (2-5)
The Bears are getting 3.5 and Kyle Shanahan is 8-21-1 career against the spread as a favourite. The Niners are severely limited by injuries, the Bears are severely limited by Matt Nagy not being able to design an offense for any QB, much less Justin Fields. The Niners and Indy went over 44.5 last week; the under seems a stretch at 39.5 here but I was inclined to go that way until checking the Chicago weather, which is forecast for sunny and mild. That's Jimmy G weather! So try the over here.
Sunday, 20:05 - Pats-Chargers can go under
Jacksonville (1-5) at Seattle (2-5)
I guess you'd say the Geno Seahawks can keep the Jax run game in check, and DK or Lockett can get one or two big plays against the Jags' D. Jamal Adams will play linebacker to keep the run game under control, maybe spy Trevor Lawrence. So I guess they can cover 3.5 but that half point worries me.
New England (3-4) at LA Chargers (4-2)
Hunter Henry Bowl! I read somewhere that Bill is 28-14-2 against the spread as a dog (19-9-1 since 2009) and even better (though only since 2004) 41-17 ATS after a loss. This is not like a dynastical Pats team yet, but they have been in all their losses, held Tampa to 19 and went to OT against Dallas the same week the Ravens blew out the Chargers. On the other hand they have beaten the Jets twice and Houston (see the Denver comment below) and the Chargers have had the bye-week to prepare. I liked the Pats plus 5.5 on Wednesday's pod (though that's really an empty number) but the spread is now down to 4, since a lot of other people liked them. The Chargers aren't great at stopping the run; the Pats want to run the ball. The Pats' secondary, without Gilmore (and now without Jonathan Jones is the slot) is a collection of Smurfs; Allen & Williams eat those kind of guys up. The over/under is steady at 49.5 and that's more appealing, cause I think Bill can scheme big scoring away.
Sunday, 20:25 - Bronco+points looks a bet
Washington (2-5) at Denver (3-4)
Denver is 3-0 against teams which hadn't won a game when they played them (NY's dynamic duo and Jax) and are now a combined 4-15. They're 0-4 against the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns, who all have winning records (or 3-3 in Pitt's case) and a combined 17-10. I'm putting WTF in the former category, even if Denver's O line tries hard to turn their much-vaunted front four into the Fearsome Foursome instead of what they've been. Trust Teddy? I'd take Denver with the points.
Tampa Bay (6-1) at New Orleans (4-2)
Mark Ingram Is Back! And the spread dipped by half a point; the Saints now getting 4.5. They were a tough out for the Bucs last year, winning both regular season contests before the all new Tampa realised Drew Brees couldn't throw downfield. Tampa's run defense is the key, with Vita Vea a sneaky choice as my DPOY (though don't bet it: without sacks it just won't happpen).
Sunday Night, 00:15 (Monday) - Back the Boys
Dallas (5-1) at Minnesota (3-3)
The Cowboys went from being 2.5 favourites to 2.5 dogs since Wednesday. That's usually enough for me. I'd even be tempted to take them straight up at 11/10, except the reason for that was that Dak Prescott is questionable with a calf strain. It's one of those things where he likely could play, but they may want to let him heal fully to keep him healthy for more of the season. With two easier games ahead on the schedule, I personally might try him out, and I suspect he will play. But I will hedge, and wait, though if he is announced to play, the line will likely snap back.
Best Bet: Back Dallas (+2.5) v Minnesota @ 1.910/11 if Dak plays, back Minny if not
Monday Night, 00:25 (Tuesday) - Chiefs can win big
NY Giants (2-5) at Kansas City (3-4)
The Chiefs were 10 point favorites, but a lot of people must've like the Giants with the points, as it dropped to 9.5. Seriously? I like the Chiefs to cover 9.5.