NFL forecast: Five underdogs for Week 8

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

October 27, 2019 04:44 AM
Off a bye, the Cleveland Browns are 11-point ‘dogs at New England today. Freddie Kitchens against Bill Belichick might be the biggest coaching mismatch in NFL history.
© USA Today Sports Images

In the bizarre world that is the NFL, I typically prefer to take the points. Around 80 percent of my plays are underdogs. That’s a lower percentage than VSiN senior reporter/dog-or-pass player Dave Tuley, who probably plays ‘dogs at about a 95-percent rate.

Tuley also can throw down a 50-ounce prime rib for dinner, while I prefer a couple of simple McRib sandwiches for breakfast.

The ‘dogs are hot this season — 60-44-2 against the spread (57.7 percent). Road teams have been even better at 65-38-2 ATS (63.1).

At some point, we can expect some regression as favorites make a comeback. That actually started to happen in Week 7, when favorites went 11-3 straight up and 9-5 ATS.

I’m playing five underdogs — actually six — this week. My five best bets in the Westgate SuperContest and in this column sometimes differ, depending on the lines and the strength of my opinions.

My entry in the SuperContest (under the alias Clint Westwood) is 21-13-1. This week, I used the Giants getting 6.5, Chargers 4, Panthers 5.5, Chiefs 4 and Dolphins 14. It’s the first time this season I have played Miami. I’m 0-3 when playing the Giants, so this is a stubborn attempt to get one back in the contest. I waffled on the Giants and Raiders as the fifth pick.

I also considered the Browns as 11-point ‘dogs at New England, but the coaching matchup is a mental hurdle I cannot get over. Freddie Kitchens against Bill Belichick might be the biggest coaching mismatch in NFL history — it’s basically Larry the Cable Guy versus this era’s Vince Lombardi, so let’s pass. Five best bets for Week 8:

* Chargers (plus-3.5) over BEARS: Matt Nagy felt the need to say he’s “not an idiot” while being grilled by the media this week. That’s never a good sign from a coach. Chicago’s rushing attack with Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery ranks 28th in the league (70 ypg). Nagy’s offense and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s poor execution of if have served as foreplay for the punter, and the Bears’ defense is spending too much time on the field. Of course, the Chargers have their problems, too. The offensive line is down two starters — center Mike Pouncey and guard Forrest Lamp — and while the limited return of left tackle Russell Okung will help, one lineman cannot fix everything. Running back Melvin Gordon is not fixing anything, either. When two clueless coaches butt heads, take the points with a traveling Philip Rivers, who is 12-5-1 ATS in his past 18 on the regular-season road. The Chargers are 22-4 ATS away versus teams with a better winning percentage, a trend that qualifies against the .500 Bears.

* Raiders (plus-6.5) over TEXANS: At the end of a grueling road trip, with five away games in six weeks, the Raiders could be out of gas. Still, quarterback Derek Carr is playing well and coach Jon Gruden is an outstanding play-caller. Oakland’s injury report is positive as rookie running back Josh Jacobs is expected to play wide receiver Tyrell Williams seems set to return. Houston is 5-9 ATS in its past 14 at home, while for whatever reason, the Texans have been one of the league’s best road teams the past two years. This could turn into a shootout between Carr and Deshaun Watson, and this is shaky endorsement of the Raiders getting points.

* Panthers (plus-5) over 49ERS: Kyle Allen is 4-0 SU/ATS with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions as Carolina’s starter this season. Line up his recent numbers next to Cam Newton’s and there is no comparison. The turnaround is startling considering the Panthers had lost eight straight with Newton as their starter. Newton was sacked 21 times and threw 10 interceptions during the losing streak. It’s time to find out if Allen is as real as he appears. San Francisco ranks No. 1 in pass defense (133.5 ypg) and No. 2 in scoring defense (10.7 ppg). Fortunately for Allen, he can lean on Christian McCaffrey, who’s tied for the league lead in touchdowns (nine) and ranks second in all-purpose yards (923). McCaffrey has 35 receptions to make him an every-down threat in the passing attack, too. Kyle Shanahan is an offensive whiz, but the 49ers coach is not working wonders with Jimmy Garoppolo, who has seven touchdown passes and six interceptions. The Panthers are in a good spot off a bye, and every riverboat gambler would like coach Ron Rivera’s track record as a ‘dog — 17-8 ATS in his past 25.

* CHIEFS (plus-5.5) over Packers: The NFL’s lifeless lineup of prime-time games figured to get a huge boost with an Aaron Rodgers-Patrick Mahomes showdown. Well, replace the league’s reigning MVP with Matt Moore and what do we get? An 8½-point adjustment in the line. Kansas City would have been laying 3 to 3½ against a Packers team finally showing positive signs on offense. Moore has a 15-15 career record as a starter but is better than chopped liver against the spread (20-10). Moore had 10 days to prep and has the same weapons who made plays for Mahomes. Moore might be a bust, but let’s roll the dice on the “Fallen Star theory” that a team rallies with a big effort in the first game after its top player goes down.

* Dolphins (plus-14) over STEELERS: I made this line 10½, and a veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker said his number was 7½. It makes sense the number would be inflated on an all-time terrible team. Miami is unplayable with Josh Rosen at quarterback, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has a better shot to make magic happen. In this case, magic would be covering two TDs against a sub-.500 favorite.

Last week: 1-4 against the spread

Season: 18-17

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