Week 8 started off with Denver defeating San Diego 35-21, thanks in part to some very questionable officiating. Despite the public comments from Dean Blandino supporting the decisions by the refs, it has become very apparent that part of the job description of the NFL Vice President of Officiating is to creatively generate a justification for the league’s referees on an almost weekly basis, while ignoring the fact that the consumers of their product are watching the very same play in slow motion over and over on a large, high definition television set.

FOX has the single game this week, with the Bears-Pats game getting the most coverage early (in New England and most of the midwest), while the Eagles at Arizona will be broadcast late throughout much of the Atlantic coast as well as in most of the western United States.

With those two games being FOX’s primary games, Carolina at Seattle was cross-flexed to CBS and becomes their main early game; it will be shown almost everywhere other than in Florida and the northeast. Indy at Pittsburgh is the primary late game on CBS; it will be available everywhere except in Ohio, Arizona, and most of the pacific coast.

 

Detroit Lions (5-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-5)
Very Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Charissa Thompson
Broadcast in all markets

Detroit has been inconsistent on offense this year, which is understandable considering the amount of time missed by Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Golden Tate has exceeded expectations – he ranks fourth in the NFL with 48 receptions, and sixth with 649 yards receiving – as the Lions have done just enough on offense to compliment a defense that is finally fulfilling the investment of many early draft picks. Atlanta has lost five offensive linemen to season-ending injuries, resulting in sacks, turnovers by Matt Ryan, and no running game. A bad OL versus this Detroit front seven is an obstacle too difficult to overcome.

Pick • Lions 27, Falcons 13
Lions -3 (two units)
under 47 (one unit)

 

Minnesota Vikings (2-5) at Tampa Bay Bucs (1-5)
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Justin Kutcher, David Diehl, Laura Okmin
Broadcast in central Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota

As bad as Minnesota has been, they look better than the Bucs. The Vikings are 30th in points scored (17.1), but Tampa Bay is allowing a league-worst 34.0 points per game; the Vikes are relatively decent on defense (22.9 ppg, 14th) while Tampa has struggled to score (20.0 ppg, 25th) behind a sub-par offensive line. Minnesota may have issues with their own o-line as well, as C John Sullivan (concussion) and RG Vladimir Ducasse (knee) were both knocked out of last week’s game against Buffalo. Memo to Lovie Smith: the rest of the NFL figured out how to successfully attack the Tampa-2 defense several years ago.

Pick • Vikings 24, Bucs 20
Vikings +3
over 42

 

Chicago Bears (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Sam Rosen, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Broadcast in New England, Pittsburgh, Ohio (except Cincinnati), West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming, Las Vegas, southern California, San Francisco, Hawaii, West Palm Beach

After an uneven start to the season, the Patriots have won three straight. During that time Tom Brady has completed 70 of 109 passes for nine touchdowns with zero picks. Rob Gronkowski down the seam and Julian Edelman underneath have been his favored targets, as both create difficult mismatches for opposing defenses. Chicago’s D (24.4 ppg, 22nd) has struggled, despite (with the exception of Green Bay) playing middle-of-the-road to just plain bad offenses. On top of that the Bears will be without LB Lance Briggs, LB Jon Bostic and S Danny McCray. Miami TE Charles Clay had no trouble getting open last week against the Bears, picking up a season-high 58 yards and a touchdown; look for Gronk to have a big game Sunday.

Of course the Patriots have their own injuries and issues on defense as well. The Pats are allowing 126 yards rushing per game, and have alarmingly allowed 190 rushing yards in three games this season. Matt Forte is fifth in the NFL with 448 yards rushing and is third with 884 yards from scrimmage. It is not out of the realm of possibility for Chicago to shelve their passing game and keep the ball out of Brady’s hand by running the ball all day, while simultaneously wearing out the New England defense.
Pick • Patriots 31, Bears 27
Bears +6
over 50½ (two units)

 

St. Louis Rams (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3)
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Dick Stockton, Donovan McNabb, Kristina Pink
Broadcast in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska

KC has won three of the last four, including a 23-20 victory at San Diego where they limited Philip Rivers to his least productive game of the season. Running backs should do well in this game: Jamaal Charles should feast on a St. Louis defense that is allowing a 28th-ranked 4.8 yards per carry, while the Rams’ Tre Mason should also do well against a Kansas City defense that is giving up 4.7 yards per carry. St. Louis QB Austin Davis has cooled off the last two weeks, but I’m not sure how much of that is due to facing quality defenses and how much of that is from opponents now having a bit of game film on him to better prepare and know what to expect. While this is a lot of points for a road team to cover, the Rams have simply been too inconsistent to back here.

Pick • Chiefs 24, Rams 17
Chiefs -6½
under 44½ (one unit)

 

Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1)
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell
Broadcast in Philadelphia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and everywhere west of the Mississippi River with the exception of Houston, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming

What a difference a year makes. These two teams have met in each of the last two seasons, and not once has either team managed to score 17 points (12-7, 16-12). The two clubs arguably fielded the two best defenses in the NFL in 2012 and 2013, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Carolina’s defense is 29th in points scored, 27th in yardage, 29th on third down, 27th in the red zone, and dead last in rushing with a whopping 5.3 yards per carry allowed; that’s not good news for a Seattle offense that revolves around Marshawn Lynch running the ball. Seattle’s D is not quite as bad, but they are no longer the league’s best. The Hawks rank 28th in red zone defense, 19th in scoring, 16th in passing yards, gave up 28 points to the Rams, and couldn’t get off the field at home against Dallas. While Carolina’s defense looks worse, most of their bad games were on the road – and I’m no fan of siding with a west coast team traveling across three time zones to play an early game.

Pick • Seahawks 24, Panthers 20
Panthers +5½
under 45½

 

Buffalo Bills (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6)
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Otis Livingston
Broadcast in Vermont, Springfield, Connecticut, New York and northern New Jersey

If you like defensive battles here you go; this game features two teams with good defenses (Buffalo is 7th in points, New York is 8th in yards) facing mediocre offenses (the Bills and Jets are two of five teams averaging fewer than twenty points per game). The Jets have lost six straight but played well enough on the road that they could’a, should’a beat the Patriots last week; meanwhile Buffalo struggled at home against the lowly Vikings, winning by just one point in what may have bet a letdown game after facing the Pats. The Bills will be without both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, so let’s see what Kyle Orton can do against a Jet defense that ranks 31st in opposing passer rating and has allowed 18 touchdowns, with only one interception.
Pick • Jets 19, Bills 17
Jets +3
under 41½ (one unit)

 

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Broadcast in Florida (except Tampa) and Savannah GA

Miami has scored 38, 24 and 27 points in their last three games. Jacksonville just got their semi-annual victory. This isn’t that much of a road game for the Fins in terms of either travel or fan support.
Pick • Dolphins 24, Jaguars 17
Dolphins -5½
under 42½

 

Houston Texans (3-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-5)
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Broadcast in Tennessee and southern and central Texas

Battle of old school versus new school for Houston fans. I’ll take Ryan Fitzpatrick over Jake Locker or Charlie Whitehurst.
Pick • Texans 20, Titans 17
Titans -2½
under 42½

 

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1)
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn
Broadcast in Maine, western Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, northern Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee (except Nashville), Houston, Missouri (except Kansas City), Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming

Cincy was crowned the best team in the NFL after week three, but they haven’t won since. Baltimore has reloaded defensively, and lead the league with a defense that is allowing just 14.9 points per game – though that number is inflated with a rather weak schedule thus far.
Pick • Bengals 24, Ravens 23
Bengals +2½
over 45

 

Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) at Arizona Cardinals (5-1)
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Broadcast in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, Jacksonville, Miami, Cincinnati, Arkansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Reno, northern California (except SF), Oregon, Washington, Alaska

Arizona has been hurt by injuries, and is fortunate to have the record they possess. Philly brings Arizona back to earth in what should be an excellent game well worth watching.
Pick • Eagles 27, Cardinals 24
Eagles +2
over 48

 

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Broadcast everywhere except Ohio, Arizona, Reno, northern California and Oregon

The national late afternoon game should tell us a lot about both of these teams. Right now Indy looks better on both sides of the ball, but I’m hesitant to go all in on the Colts on the road against a good team.
Pick • Colts 27, Steelers 24
Steelers +4
over 47½

 

Oakland Raiders (0-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-3)
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Chris Fischer
Broadcast in Ohio, Reno, northern California and Oregon

The Raiders will win a couple of games this year, but not this week on a long road trip.
Pick • Browns 24, Raiders 17
Browns -6½
under 44½

 

Green Bay Packers (5-2) at New Orleans Saints (2-4)
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Broadcast in all markets

This should be an awesome game, regardless of the disparity in the two team’s records. Green Bay’s defense is not all that, and New Orleans is so much better at home than away that I have to go with the Saints. NO has only played two home games thus far, and they get back on track with a win here.
Pick • Saints 31, Packers 27
Saints -1½
over 54½

 

Washington at Dallas
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Broadcast in all markets

Washington is down to their third quarterback. Dallas is playing very well on both sides of the ball, and will roll here against a division opponent that they will not overlook.
Pick • Dallas 34, Washington 13
Cowboys -8½
under 50½

 

 

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