Week eight of the NFL season sees a couple of cracking NFC games, which Neil Monnery looks at along with his acca of the week and full ATS picks...
'This game will be played inside and has all the makings of a highly entertaining game. New Orleans should have won that playoff game and I think they'll get their revenge on Sunday night. You are currently getting a point if you back them on the spread.'
The big game of the week
The biggest game this week is probably the Sunday night name, which is a repeat of the thrilling NFC divisional playoff game between New Orleans and Minnesota this past January. The last play of that game was dubbed the Minneapolis Miracle. If you missed it then please enjoy it below.
Both teams have Super Bowl ambitions and have shown them so far this season. New Orleans haven't tasted defeat since the opening day loss at home to Tampa Bay. This has included three wins on the road.
Minnesota have a three-game winning streak and only have one clunker on their resume, a baffling home loss to the abject Buffalo Bills. Like the Saints, they own a one-game lead at the top of their division.
In their past two, they've found their mojo albeit against less than stellar opposition. Kirk Cousins has a terrific 14:3 TD/Interception ratio and outside of the opening game of the season, hasn't fallen below a 62% completion mark. I've written several times this season in my fantasy column about how wide-out Adam Thielen is first-class. He has yet to record a sub-100 yard receiving day.
Latavius Murray is fully healthy and that is a boost to the offense. The problem is Dalvin Cook is out once more. We know the Saints have a stiff rushing defense, giving up just 72.3 yards a game on average. This makes me think Kirk Cousins will have to air it out.
Since that opening day loss, New Orleans have really impressed and are probably the second best team in the NFC through seven weeks. Drew Brees has two outstanding rushers to hand the ball to in the back field and that creates opportunities down the field in play action.
The number one target in these situations is Michael Thomas, who has averaged 98 yards a game receiving. The third year man out of Ohio State will look to be the recipient of these chunk plays but don't sleep on rookie Tre'Quan Smith.
This game will be played inside and has all the makings of a highly entertaining game. New Orleans should have won that playoff game and I think they'll get their revenge on Sunday night. You are currently getting a point if you back them on the spread.
Another massive game in the conference is in Los Angeles where the undefeated Rams host the Packers. I don't recall seeing an Aaron Rodgers led team ever getting 9.5 points. That is just insane to me. Yet Green Bay haven't hit their stride and it is clear they are taking on the cream of the crop on Sunday.
Down below I've gone with the visitors with the 9.5 head start but think the home side win straight up. Anytime you are spotting the future Hall of Famer close to a converted touchdown and field goal then you'd be really pushed to bet against him. The reports are his knee is much better and that will be key to keeping this one close.
One more quick hit before the acca of the week as once more Wembley gets another game with London's adopted Jaguars taking on the reigning Super Bowl champions. All logic points to a win for Philly but I'm counting on Jacksonville's level of comfort with the trip over the pond to help inspire them.
The Quarterback situation for the 'home' team is just a joke. Blake Bortles looks lost and if Cody Kessler is the answer, I fear what the question is. Leonard Fournette is expected to miss yet another game yet despite all this, give me Jacksonville. Pure gut feel this one.
Acca of the week
A treble this week all from the spread. Kansas City -10 (11/10), Carolina +2.5 (Evens) and Chicago -7.5 (9/10). This is available at the time of writing at 7.98 on the Sportsbook
I'm all in on the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is a superstar and the wheels are coming off in Denver after back-up QB Chad Kelly was arrested and booted off the team this week. Giving ten is a lot but it doesn't scare me in the slightest. I'm surprised this is odds against to be honest.
Cam Newton finds a way to win football games. No matter what you think of him, that team by hook or by crook gets over the line. My colleague Mirk Kirwan has previewed this game in detail but I'm not with him and more with Mike Carlson who has Carolina. Baltimore are coming off a tough home loss and the Panthers are 3-0 at home. Remember they are getting 2.5 points. Tasty.
Lastly I don't think the New York Jets are any good, certainly on the road. Mitchell Trubisky has made me a believer so give me some Chicago Bears even giving up a hook over a converted touchdown.
A very short section this week as there is only one team who are getting three or more points who I think will win straight up and that is the aforementioned Jacksonville Jaguars. As I noted earlier, this is based mainly on the fact they come to London every year. They have been incredibly disappointing since that week two beat down of the Patriots and the quarterback situation is a mess, yet give me them straight up.
There are seven other games where the underdog is getting a field goal or more head start. None of them look good to me at this point although I do have Cleveland and Green Bay covering.
The long-shot of the week
These plays are always 100/1 or more and twice this season they've been just a touchdown away from landing. Last week three of the five scored a TD.
A five-way this week at 132.31 on the SBK at the time of writing. All of them for a player to score at anytime in their games this week. My selections are Greg Olsen, Emmanuel Sanders, Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Saquon Barkley.
If you are a fan of the 3TDs for both teams in each half bet then the best choice this week is Indianapolis @ Oakland at 150/1
From this week a syndicate has been set up for those who want to win more. You can join here and play for £100,000 but in it, seven games are picked with a variety of score margins.
My picks this week are as follows:
Chiefs by 13-18, 19-24 or 25-30
Bengals by 1-6 or 7-12
Panthers by 1-6
49ers by 1-6 or Cardinals by 1-6 or 7-12
Rams by 7-12 or 13-18
Saints by 1-6 or Vikings by 1-6
Patriots by 13-18
I do like Kansas City to win big and Cincinnati should have more than enough to overcome a solid Tampa Bay outfit. The toughest pick was San Francisco and Arizona because both teams aren't any good, hence why I've spread the love there.
Since making the picks the reports on Aaron Rodgers' knee have been even more encouraging but I still think Los Angeles win outright but now am more in the 7-12 bracket than 13-18.
The full picks
Each week I'll pick every game bar the Thursday game according to their handicap on the SBK at the time of writing (home team in caps):
JAGUARS (+3) over Eagles (in London)
CHIEFS (-10) over Broncos
Browns (+8) over STEELERS
GIANTS (-1) over Washington
BEARS (-7.5) over Jets
BENGALS (-3.5) over Buccaneers
LIONS (-3) over Seahawks
PANTHERS (+2.5) over Ravens
Colts (-3) over RAIDERS
CARDINALS (+1) over 49ers
Packers (+9.5) over RAMS
Saints (+1) over VIKINGS
Patriots (-14) over BILLS
Last week: 9-4
Season Record: 53-45-1
Back New Orleans to win by 1-13 at 13/8 on SBK (Sportsbook)
Back Kansas City -10, Carolina +2.5 and Chicago -7.5 at 7.98 on the SBK (Sportsbook)
Back Jacksonville to win straight up at 6/4 on SBK (Sportsbook)
Back each team to score over 3TDs in each half in Indianapolis @ Oakland at 150/1 on SBK (Sportsbook)