Six teams opened as road favorites, including the Cincinnati (at Miami), New Orleans (at the Jets), Kansas City (at Buffalo), Baltimore (at Cleveland), Indy (at Houston) and Tennessee (at St. Louis). The Saints are the largest favorite, laying 4 ½ points at New York in what should be a very interesting game.
Seattle is a double-digit favorite for the fourth time this year with a home game against the winless Tampa Bay Bucs; the Seahawks opened up as 16½-point favorites. In large chalk spots this season they have gone 1-1 against the spread this year, trouncing Jacksonville at home while the Titans covered in a 20-13 week six game in Nashville.
Other double-digit favorites this week are Dallas (versus Minnesota) and Green Bay (versus Chicago). The largest point total is San Diego at Washington (51), and the lowest over/unders are both KC at Buffalo and Tampa Bay at Seattle (40½).
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-4) ★★★
Thursday on NFLN
This is a tough spot for Miami to be in, attempting to rebound from a slide in a short week to face a very good team. Right now these are two trains heading in opposite directions: the Bengals have won four in a row and the one suspect aspect of their team, the offense, just scored 49 points against a very good Jets defense; the Dolphins on the other hand have lost four in a row after a 3-0 start, and the fans and media in south Florida are openly questioning if head coach Joe Philbin is in over his head, destined to join other career assistants that couldn’t cut it as an NFL head coach in Miami. More details on this matchup here.
Pick • Bengals 27, Dolphins 17 ✘
Bengals -2½ (two units) ✘✘ -220
Over 40½ ✔
Final Score: Dolphins 22, Bengals 20 in OT; MIA covers by 4½; over by 1½
Atlanta Falcons (2-5) at Carolina Panthers (4-3) ★★★
Early game on FOX
Here is another game between two teams heading in opposite directions. Before the season began I would have gone with Atlanta in this game even though it is being played in Charlotte, but the Falcons are falling apart while Carolina’s defense (13.7 ppg, 2nd best in the NFL) is setting the team up nicely for a shot at a playoff berth. Atlanta is vulnerable to the run, which plays right into the strength of the Panthers offense; they will be further bolstered by the return of RB Jonathan Stewart. Last week Arizona harassed Matt Ryan, sacking him four times and inducing four interceptions; expect the interior of Carolina’s defensive line (Star Lotulelei, Sione Fua) to collapse the pocket and make life miserable for Ryan once again.
Pick • Panthers 27, Falcons 17 ✔
Falcons +7½ ✘
Over 43½ ✔
Final Score: Panthers 34, Falcons 10; CAR covers by 16½; over by ½
Minnesota Vikings (1-6) at Dallas Cowboys (4-4) ★★
Early game on FOX
Both teams are struggling defensively and coming off losses, with Dallas edged 31-30 by the Lions and Minnesota losing 44-31 to Green Bay. The Viking defense ranks 30th in points (32.1), 30th in yards (401.6), 27th in sacks (14), 29th in passing yards (288), and 32nd on third down conversions (51%); while Dallas is last in total yards (422.5) and passing yards (315), they are also 3rd in takeaways (19). More importantly the Cowboys have a proven commodity at quarterback with Tony Romo (18 TD, 5 INT, 66% completions) while the Viking head coach can’t decide between the mediocre (2 TD, 5 INT) Christian Ponder or the erratic (43% completions, 2 TD, 5 TO) Josh Freeman. Here’s a novel concept: if you really want to win a few games this year, go back to the guy who was your QB for your only win: Matt Cassel (70% completions, 3 TD, 2 INT).
Pick • Cowboys 35, Vikings 17 ✔
Cowboys -10 (one unit) ✘ -110
Over 47½ (one unit) ✔ +100
Final Score: Cowboys 27, Vikings 23; MIN covers by 6; over by 2½
New Orleans Saints (6-1) at New York Jets (4-4) ★★★★★
Early game on FOX
After a year in exile, Sean Payton has the Saints playing very well on both sides of the ball. New Orleans has made tremendous strides defensively, ranking 4th in points allowed (17.1) while the offense continues to roll (28.0 ppg, 5th); the end result is the Saints currently being the NFL’s most well-balanced team. The Jets created no pass rush last week against Cincinnati, and CB Dee Milliner was repeatedly burnt before mercifully being benched. Meanwhile on offense Geno Smith threw two pick-sixes, and the Jets failed to find the end zone once. Gang Green enters the game beat up physically, with DE Mo Wilkerson, RG Willie Colon, WR Stephen Hill, WR Jeremy Kerley and TE Jeff Cumberland either not participating or limited in mid-week practice. The Jets are stout against the run but have allowed 15 passing touchdowns this year, 5th most in the NFL; that’s not good news when facing Drew Brees. The alternating pattern of NYJ losses being followed by a win should end here, with Rob getting bragging rights at the next family reunion over his brother Rex.
Pick • Saints 30, Jets 20 ✘
Saints -5½ ✘
Over 45½ ✔
Final Score: Jets 26, Saints 20; NYJ covers by 11½; over by ½
Tennessee Titans (3-4) at St. Louis Rams (3-5) ★★
Early game on CBS
After getting out of the gate quickly with a 3-1 start the Titans have stumbled to three straight losses, though it should be noted that they were all to pretty good teams: the Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers, and two were with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. With Jake Locker under center things should open up a bit for RB Chris Johnson, who has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry this year. St. Louis put up a great effort against Seattle last week, but I feel that loss may have been emotionally draining. Tennessee should see that the strength of the Rams defense is their pass rush and run the ball, picking their spots with draw plays and quick slants. Kellen Clemons performed better than I figured he would, though not surprisingly he did throw two interceptions. The Titans defense under DC Gregg Williams ranks 10th in points allowed, and should be able to induce Clemons into making some costly mistakes and ruining Jeff Fisher’s return to Nashville.
Pick • Titans 27, Rams 20 ✔
Titans -3 ✔
Over 39½ (one unit) ✔ +100
Final Score: Titans 28, Rams 21; TEN covers by 4; over by 9½
Kansas City Chiefs (8-0) at Buffalo Bills (3-5) ★★★
Early game on CBS
While it is true that the Chiefs have had the luxury of a relatively easy schedule, this is the NFL and not the NCAA; a win is a win, and 8-0 is an accomplishment worth noting. Buffalo has been scrappy and playing hard, but they continue to find ways to lose – while the Chiefs continue to find ways to win. Jamaal Charles should be getting mention for the offensive player of the year, even though there is no way that is going to happen due to a certain quarterback in Denver. Charles leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage, leads the league in rushing, and leads the Chiefs in not only rushing, but receiving as well. Buffalo has allowed the 4th most sacks in the NFL with 28, and Kansas City LB Justin Houston, who already has 11 sacks, could be in line for several more. Originally I thought the Bills were in line for an upset – the Chiefs are overdue for a loss – but with Thad Lewis being doubtful I’ll back off from that idea.
Pick • Chiefs 24, Bills 20 ✔
Chiefs -3 ✔
Over 40 ✘
Final Score: Chiefs 23, Bills 13; KC covers by 7; under by 4
San Diego Chargers (4-3) at Washington Redskins (2-5) ★★★
Early game on CBS
San Diego comes off their bye week winners of three of their last four, while Washington may be coming apart at the seams. Besides being outscored 38-0 over the final 23 minutes last week, Brandon Meriweather is attracting unneeded scrutiny with comments about taking out opposing player’s knees, and head coach Mike Shanahan has been baited into a public war of words with Albert Haynesworth. Robert Griffin looked very mortal in week 8, passing for just 132 yards while tossing two picks, and the soft defense (32.7 ppg) looks as if it will be ripe for the picking against a rejuvenated Philip Rivers who leads the NFL with a 73.9% completion rate, and has thrown 15 TD to just 5 INT. The Redskins are banged up, but I am always very leery of taking a west coast team to travel across three time zones, especially if it is an early game.
Pick • Chargers 24, Redskins 21 ✘
Pick: Chargers ✘
Under 51½ ✘
Final Score: Redskins 30, Chargers 24 in OT; WAS covers by 6; over by 2½
Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) at Oakland Raiders (3-4) ★★
Late game on FOX
The once prolific Eagle offense is in a free-fall, having not scored a single offensive touchdown in the last two games. The injured quarterback carousel continues, with Nick Foles once again getting the start for Chip Kelly this week. Foles is 52-for-90 for 622 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions on the season, and the Eagles are 3-1 on the road this year. The key will be getting LeSean McCoy involved; Oakland’s rushing defense ranks 4th with 3.6 yards per carry, and 6th at 89.9 yards per game; in the last four weeks they are allowing just 76 yards per game. On offense Oakland will probably keep the ball on the ground early to set up occasional play action passes; they rank fifth in rushing (138.9), but last in passing (176.0) yards per game. Philly’s defense (26.4 points per game, 23rd) has been porous through the air (302 yards per game, 31st), but much better against the run (99.5 yards per game, 8th). This one could easily go either way, so I’ll take the home team over the club traveling coast to coast.
Pick • Raiders 21, Eagles 20 ✘
Eagles +2½ ✔
Under 45½ ✘
Final Score: Eagles 49, Raiders 20; PHI covers by 31½; over by 23½
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) at Seattle Seahawks (7-1) ★
Late game on FOX
Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman engaged in a war of words on Twitter during offseason over who was the elite cornerback, so for those that like the off-field gossipy news that will be something to watch for following the Seahawks victory. Revis has one interception and six passes defensed while Sherman has four picks (tied for league lead) and eight passes defensed this year, and their two teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum in the standings. Dead man waiting head coach Greg Schiano has been criticized for not using Revis in man coverage more this year, and Friday Revis confirmed what most that have been watching him play believed: he can’t do that because his knee is not 100% after off season surgery. as for the game, Tampa Bay has not been able to establish the run and that’s not going to happen here with Doug Martin sidelined. That leaves rookie QB Mike Glennon to throw to Vincent Jackson, with no help on the other side since Mike Williams is now on IR. The Seahawks should have no problem in getting their 12th straight win at the CLink.
Pick • Seahawks 27, Bucs 6 ✔
Seahawks -15½ ✘
Under 40½ (one unit) ✘ -110
Final Score: Seahawks 27, Bucs 24 in OT; TB covers by 12½; over by 10½
Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-5) ★★
Late game on CBS
Jason Campbell looked pretty good last week (293 yards, 2 TD, 61% complete) versus a tough Kansas City defense and kept the Browns in the game till the end. The Ravens have no running game (2.8 yards per carry), resulting in too many three and outs. With Ed Reed no longer there patrolling the secondary the Ravens have become vulnerable to the deep pass, which could lead to a big game from WR Josh Gordon.
Pick • Upset: Browns 24, Ravens 21 ✔
Browns +2½ ✔
Over 41 ✔
Final Score: Browns 24, Ravens 18; CLE covers by 8½; over by 1
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) at New England Patriots (6-2) ★★★★★
Late game on CBS
A major reason for the Steelers poor start this year has been its slow start to games. Pittsburgh is averaging an anemic 2.7 points in the first quarter and is getting outscored 54-19 in the first 15 minutes, and is scoring just 7.7 points in the first half this season. Case in point would be last week against Oakland, when Pittsburgh dug itself into a 14-0 hole and couldn’t climb out, eventually losing by three. The New England offense is starting to find its rhythm with the return of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, and has averaged 28 points in their last three games. New England is scoring 13.7 points per first half in that span, but even more important is the Pats’ defense in the opening frames. The Patriots have limited opponents to just 3.8 points per game in the first quarter, and 8.4 points per game in the first half, which is the second lowest in the AFC. The Steelers may find themselves down again early, and when they do they tend to be less aggressive on defense. That in turn leads to fewer turnovers – their five takeaways is the second fewest in the NFL. New England’s rushing defense has been gashed since Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo went on IR, but gets a boost with the addition of Isaac Sopoaga and the return of Tommy Kelly, while the Steelers running game takes a hit with their best offensive lineman, David DeCastro, out on Sunday.
Pick • Patriots 23, Steelers 20 ✔
Steelers +7 ✘
Under 44 ✘
Final Score: Pats 55, Steelers 31; NEP covers by 17; over by 42
Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Houston Texans (2-5) ★★★★
Sunday night on NBC
Just like when Peyton Manning was there, the Colts offense slows down on natural grass on the road. Despite their record the Texans do have an elite defense, giving up a league-best 268 yards per game; for comparison, 2nd best Seattle is allowing 21 more yards per game. The Colts do a great job on both sides of the ball on third down, converting 43% of the time on offense (6th) while holding opponents to 35% (6th) on defense, but their biggest challenge is finding a way to be productive without Andrew Luck’s favorite target, WR Reggie Wayne. Wayne was catching 66% of the passes thrown his way and averaging 72 receiving yards per game; T.Y. Hilton (50%, 59 ypg) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (53%, 27 ypg) are just not as efficient, and without Wayne on the field drawing double teams and the opposing team’s top cornerback their jobs just got that much more difficult. Even so, I don’t see Houston’s offense with Case Keenum at quarterback and both Arian Foster and Ben Tate question marks to play scoring much or being able to mount a comeback if they should fall behind.
Pick • Colts 20, Texans 13 ✔
Colts -2½ (one unit) ✔ +100
Under 44½ (two units) ✘✘ -220
Final Score: Colts 27, Texans 24; IND covers by ½; over by 6½
Chicago Bears (4-3) at Green Bay Packers (5-2) ★★★★
Monday night on ESPN
That awesome Bears defense from last year is a distant memory, and now to the dismay of every team on their schedule, Green Bay has developed a running game. Last week Eddy Lacy ran for 97 yards and a score, James Starks averaged 8.1 yards per carry, Jordy Nelson caught eight passes for 123 yards, and Aaron Rodgers went 10-for-10 for 172 yards and 2 TD – on third downs. The Chicago defense is 29th in scoring (29.4 ppg), 32nd in yards per pass (8.7), and 25th against the run (117.3 yards per game). I know divisional games tend to be close, but I just don’t see any way that the injury-depleted Bears have a chance to win at Lambeau.
Pick • Packers 34, Bears 21 ✘
Packers -10½ (one unit) ✘ -110
Over 49½ ✘
Final Score: Bears 27, Packers 20; CHI covers by 17½; under by 2½
7-1 Denver Broncos
6-2 San Francisco 49ers
5-3 Detroit Lions
4-4 Arizona Cardinals
2-6 New York Giants
0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars
Four-Game Teaser (one unit) ✔ +100
Miami (+31) at Florida State Final Score: FSU wins by 24, 41-17 ✔
Ohio State (-21½) at Purdue Final Score: OSU wins 56-0 ✔
Northern Illinois (-14) at UMass Final Score: NIU wins by 44, 63-19 ✔
Mississippi State at South Carolina (-2½) Final Score: SC wins by 18, 34-16 ✔
Three-Game Teaser (one unit) ✘ -110
Saints (+3½) at Jets Final Score: Jets win by 6, 26-20 ✘
Seahawks (-6½) vs Bucs Final Score: Seahawks win by 3, 27-24 ✘
Packers (-1½) vs Bears Final Score: Bears win by 7, 27-20 ✘
Three-Team Parlay (one unit) ✘ -110
Cowboys (-10) vs Vikings Final Score: Cowboys win by 4, 27-23 ✘
Saints (-5½) at Jets Final Score: Jets win by 6, 26-20 ✘
Colts at Texans under 44½ Final Total: 51 points, 27-24 ✘
Cincinnati (-1½) at Memphis (one unit) ✔ +100
Both clubs have very good defenses, but the Bearcats have the better offense (34 ppg vs 20 ppg). The Tigers have a tendency to make mental mistakes and take bad penalties, which could well be the difference in this game.
Final Score: Cincinnati wins by 7, 34-21; UC covers by 11½
South Florida at Houston (-17) (one unit) ✘ -110
The Cougars are one play away from being undefeated this year, while USF is a couple of years away from recovering from the Skip Holtz
Final Score: Houston wins by 12, 35-21; USF covers by 5
Rice at North Texas (+4½) (one unit) ✔ +100
I think this one will be close, decided by a FG one way or the other, but with Owls NT Stuart Mouchantaf being out for this game that gives the Mean Green a decided advantage.
Final Score: N Texas wins by 12, 28-16; UNT covers by 16½
Northern Illinois (-23) at UMass (one unit) ✔ +100
Northern Illinois still has aspirations for a BCS bowl game, while UMass is just plain bad. QB Jordan Lynch will probably score another half dozen touchdowns like he did last week, and the Minutemen will consider it a moral victory if they are not shut out and keep the score within 50 points.
Final Score: N Illinois wins by 44, 63-19; NIU covers by 21
Miami (+22) at Florida State (two units) ✘✘ -220
I am no way disputing how good the Noles are, but three-touchdown favorites over an undefeated top ten rival? The Canes will use the disrespect card to their advantage and keep this relatively close.
Final Score: Florida St wins by 27, 41-14; FSU covers by 5
Minnesota (+9½) at Indiana (one unit) ✔ +100
The Hoosiers have trouble stopping the run, and that is a strong suit for Minnesota. Navy, Missouri, Michigan State and Michigan have all rushed for more than 230 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground against Indiana; I would not be surprised if the Gophers win this game straight up.
Final Score: Minnesota wins by 3, 42-39; UMN covers by 12½
Navy (+17) at Notre Dame (one unit) ✔ +100
Sure, the Fighting Irish looked spectacular against Air Force – but just because they are another military academy, don’t lump Navy and the Air Force together as equals. Notre Dame should win this game, but the line is too high; the Midshipmen can control the clock and the tempo, confounding defenders with their triple-option ground attack.
Final Score: Notre Dame wins by 4, 38-34; Navy covers by 21
$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $
After a third straight mediocre week prognosticating games I had a nice rebound in week 8, including 12-1 straight up after going just 7-8 the previous week. Against the spread the picks improved from a repugnant 5-10 to a respectable 8-5, and once again the college selections were extremely lucrative. Those Saturday games were 6-3-1, including the weekend’s top pick, a four-unit play with Louisville cruising over South Florida 34-3 to cover by 11 points.
The only downsides were teams that I am going to need to really reevaluate, as I have been on the wrong side of their picks a couple of times recently: the Chiefs at home and the Seahawks on the road. Kansas City continues to remain undefeated, but has failed to cover in back-to-back home games: a 1-point win over Houston and a 6-point victory against the Browns; in the last two weeks I have lost a net of eight units in Chiefs games, and on top of that they were the lone incorrect pick in a four-team parlay last week. The Seahawks game at St. Louis was much closer than anticipated as Seattle won by five in a game they could have easily lost, giving up 200 yards rushing to a Rams team that has struggled with their running game, while inexplicably giving Marshawn Lynch just eight carries.
Another team to keep an eye on is Philadelphia; the Eagles were your typical ‘good offense, bad defense’ team for the first six weeks of the season when games they played in averaged a total of 58 points; now they have been well under the last two games, losing 17-3 and 15-7.
Tale Of The Tape
Week 8 Results
Straight Up: 12-1, 92%
Underdogs to win straight up: 1-0, 100%
Against the Spread: 8-5, 62%
ATS picking favorites: 6-3, 67% (4-2, +250)
ATS picking underdogs: 2-2, 50% (0-0, +000)
ATS Confidence Picks: 4-2, 67% (+250)
One Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, +100
Two Unit Plays ATS: 2-1, +180
Three Unit Plays ATS: 1-1, -30
Four Unit Plays ATS: none
Five Unit Plays ATS: none
1210 risked, net +250; 20.7% ROI
Over Under Total: 8-5, 62%
Picking Over: 4-1, 80% (2-0, +400)
Picking Under: 4-4, 50% (1-2, -230)
O/U Confidence Picks: 3-2, 60% (+170)
One Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, +90
Two Unit Plays O/U: 0-1, -220
Three Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, +300
Four Unit Plays O/U: none
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
880 risked, net +170; 19.3% ROI
Best Play of the Week: correct (Louisville -20 at USF); +400
2-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Teasers: 1-0, +200
2-Game Parlays: none
3-Game Parlays: none
4-Game Parlays: 0-1, -110
College Games: 6-3-1, +650 1760 risked, +650; 36.9% ROI
Week 8 Total: (14-8-1; 4180 risked; net +1160; 27.8% ROI)
Straight Up: 85-35 (71%)
Underdogs to win straight up: 12-11 (52%)
Against the Spread: 55-62-3 (47%)
ATS picking favorites: 30-32-2, 48% (15-15, -590)
ATS picking underdogs: 25-30-1, 45% (8-5, +420)
ATS Confidence Picks: 23-20, 53% (-170)
One Unit Plays ATS: 12-8, 60% (+320)
Two Unit Plays ATS: 8-8, 50% (-150)
Three Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 33% (-360)
Four Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 50% (-480)
Five Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, 100% (+500)
Over Under Total: 65-55 (54%)
Picking Over: 32-22, 57% (11-9, +170)
Picking Under: 33-33, 50% (12-9, +370)
O/U Confidence Picks: 21-18, 54% (+540)
One Unit Plays O/U: 12-9, 57% (+210)
Two Unit Plays O/U: 6-7, 46% (-340)
Three Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, 67% (+270)
Four Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, 100% (+400)
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
Best Play of the Week: 5-2, 71% (+1120)
2-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Teasers: 5-3 (+650)
2-Game Parlays: none
3-Game Parlays: 1-2 (+270)
4-Game Parlays: 0-1 (-110)
College Games: 19-6-1, 75% (+2010)
Grand Total: (69-49-1; 21,130 risked; net +3,190; 15.1% ROI)
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