Week 8 NFL picks: Best bets, odds for every game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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Welcome to another exciting weekend in the NFL.

Our VSiN experts -- Adam Burke, Dave Tuley, Will Hill and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown from Pro Football Focus -- combine to give their opinions on every game.

Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday night.

Here are our Week 8 best bets:

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-14, 48.5)

Tuley: The Bills were -11 on the advance line last week, and it was reopened at -13.5 after the Dolphins lost a close game to the Falcons on Sunday and the Bills were on a bye. It has since been bet up to -14, which looks like an overadjustment to me. Granted, the Falcons don’t compare to the Bills, especially on defense, but I saw some signs of life from QB  Tua Tagovailoa, RB Myles Gaskin and Co. that showed me the Dolphins could stay within two TDs. Yes, I know the Bills  blanked the Dolphins 35-0 in Week 2, but that’s the nature of the NFL. Sometimes games turn into routs that don’t indicate how close these teams are.

Pick: Dolphins + 14

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3, 46)

Brown: Christian McCaffrey’s hamstring injury has torpedoed Carolina’s offense. Running backs aren’t supposed to matter, but the Panthers went from a top-10 offense in estimated points added (EPA) per offensive play in three games with McCaffrey to 31st in four games played without him.

Hubbard simply hasn’t been able to fill the void created by McCaffrey’s injury. Hubbard has gone over his rushing and receiving yardage prop just once in four games as Carolina’s featured back. Hubbard isn’t coming close to McCaffrey’s usage, never hitting more than 63 percent of the offensive snaps played in the past four games. He has a 9.8 percent target share percentage in the past four weeks, but the one bright spot is his team rushing share percentage at 75.6 percent.

Expecting Hubbard to clear this sky-high number on rushing volume alone doesn’t seem like a worthwhile proposition since the Falcons' run defense is their one strength. Atlanta’s 29th-ranked defense jumps up to a league-average unit in defending the run. They are exploitable in all situations, but as 3-point road underdogs, the Panthers could be forced to come back through the air. If this game script plays out, Hubbard won’t come close to going over this rushing and receiving prop for the third straight week.

Pick: Chuba Hubbard Under 92.5 Rushing/Receiving Yards (-113)

Brown: Ridley’s return to the field in Week 7 didn’t exactly go as planned. Despite nine total targets, Ridley was 44 yards short of his receiving yardage prop. He has gone over his closing prop number in only one game this season. Many expected a breakout season for Ridley after Julio Jones was traded this offseason, but Ridley’s start has been one of the most frustrating among skill position players.

There is reason to still be optimistic, however, as Ridley’s usage sits near elite levels. He has a 25.9 percent team target share in games he has played, while seeing over 40 percent of the Falcons’ air yards. Carolina’s defense has been exposed in recent weeks and now sits as the 25th-best defense based on PFF’s opponent-adjusted grades. The Panthers' secondary has a similar ranking and should struggle to match up with both Ridley and Kyle Pitts. In a matchup where two teams are heading in opposite directions, expect the Falcons to roll to a victory on the back of a passing attack that is focused on Ridley and Pitts downfield.

Pick: Calvin Ridley Over 75.5 Receiving Yards (-115)

Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5, 48) at Detroit Lions

Tuley: If the Lions go 0-17, they’ll be the best winless teams in history. They should have beaten the Ravens, could have beaten the Vikings and threw a major scare into the Rams last week as 16.5-point underdogs. So, I definitely see them hanging with the Eagles and maybe getting an elusive win. I’m very surprised by the love from bookmakers and bettors that has been shown to this inconsistent Philadelphia team, which only boasts wins over the Falcons and the reeling Panthers. Yet, they were bet down from + 3 to pick-’em vs. the Raiders last week and have now gone from -3 to -3.5 in this game. I’ll gladly take as many points as they give us.

Pick: Lions + 3.5

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (PK, 50.5)

Youmans: In terms of public perception and power ratings, Tennessee is peaking. Back-to-back victories over the Bills and Chiefs have boosted the Titans to elite status in the AFC. But watch out for the Colts, who are getting healthy on the offensive line and showing several positive signs. Even when quarterback Carson Wentz got careless with the ball in the rain at San Francisco, the Colts overcame a 9-0 deficit to win 30-18. Indianapolis’ physical line is a big reason Jonathan Taylor is the league’s No. 2 rusher with 579 yards, including 252 on 32 carries in the past two games.

In the teams’ first meeting, Derrick Henry topped 100 yards on the ground but averaged a modest 4.0 per carry. Taylor averaged 6.4 yards per carry against Tennessee, which won 25-16. The Colts have improved a lot since Week 3 and need this win to stay in the AFC South race. It might be a good time to catch the Titans, who could have a fat-and-happy attitude after two big home wins. The favorite has flip-flopped after the Colts opened -2.5 and moved to Colts + 1.5.

Pick: Colts + 1/PK

Los Angeles Rams (-14.5, 47.5) at Houston Texans

Burke: Sean McVay has not been happy with the first-quarter performance of his team the last two weeks ... and that has led to a big second quarter in each game. The Rams trailed 10-3 last week after the first 15 minutes to the Lions and trailed 3-0 after the first quarter against the Giants.

In the second quarter at The Meadowlands, the Rams scored 28 points. Last week, they outscored the Lions 14-6 in the second stanza. Los Angeles has now scored eight touchdowns in the second quarter and has allowed five. For whatever reason, this team is not getting off to a good start, but seems to be finding its rhythm in the second quarter. The Rams pass defense is also at its worst in the first quarter, allowing 8.4 yards per attempt.

Quarter lines weren’t out yet at the time of posting, but that may be an angle you want to look for with the Rams this week. If nothing else, Rams -7 in the first half really makes a lot of sense here. We’ll either see a rusty Tyrod Taylor for the Texans or Davis Mills, who has still thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes this season.

A fast start has to once again be the mantra for McVay. It has fallen on deaf ears the last two weeks, but with yet another early kickoff and a disturbing trend from the players, one would hope that the Rams have learned their lesson. If nothing else, they’ve been a great second quarter team the last two weeks and should be again here.

Pick: Rams -7 1H

Cincinnati Bengals (-10.5, 42) at New York Jets

Burke: How do the Bengals respond to their biggest regular season win in six seasons? That will be the question as Cincinnati faces an enormous favorite role on the road against the Jets. This line has skyrocketed based on last week’s results and also the injury to Zach Wilson, which forces Mike White into action at QB for New York. Newly-acquired Joe Flacco will be the backup, as White was named the starter on Wednesday.

It is hard to say which part of the Bengals team is more impressive. The offense now ranks fourth in yards per play after Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow lit up the Ravens defense last week. The Bengals defense is fourth in yards per play allowed and has done an excellent job preventing the opposition from scoring, even with a lack of takeaways.

In this spot, though, you do worry a bit about the focus level for the Bengals, with the Browns on deck. This is an opponent to easily overlook. I don’t think the offense overlooks the Jets, as Burrow, Chase, Joe Mixon and the rest of the skill guys want to put up numbers, but I could see the defense having a bit of a letdown this week.

The Jets offense stinks, but the drop-off from how Wilson was playing to White is relatively small at this point. The presence of White actually creates more of an unknown for the Bengals defense, given that his lone appearance came in that Patriots blowout loss last week and the Jets weren’t able to run their actual offense with the big deficit.

With White behind center, New York will have to be more creative. They’ll have to give the Bengals some different looks. If nothing else, we could be staring at a blowout here where the Jets can put some garbage-time points on the board against a Cincinnati team that will start thinking about next week’s game. The Bengals should get their points here, as their offensive scheming has been great and Burrow looks terrific.

This is a low total that I think can creep over with the Bengals doing their thing on offense and not being quite as engaged on defense.

Pick: Over 42

Hill: I didn’t wake up this week with the intention of betting the Jets, but, I also didn’t expect to be getting what I think is a crazy number on a massive overreaction. The Bengals visited the Lions two weeks ago and were laying just a field goal. The lookahead line for this game was a similar 3/3.5 just a week ago. Wilson is out and White surely gives off some “Luke Falk vibes,” but how exactly is anybody a 7-point downgrade (through two key numbers) compared to Wilson, who has been simply atrocious this season?

The spot also favors the Jets, a team you think would be ultra-focused this week after a pathetic showing and 41-point loss last week in Foxboro. The Bengals, on the other hand, are off of a signature win against the division-rival Ravens, and are a week away from another pivotal divisional game against the Browns. A third straight road game for the Bengals off of a huge win, laying 10.5 against a highly motivated opponent? I can’t get there with this line, I think it’s completely overinflated. Plug your nose, say a prayer and take J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.

Pick: Jets + 10.5

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-3.5, 42.5)

Burke: The Browns were 7-36-1 over the last 44 games against the Steelers before winning twice in January, including a 48-37 victory in the Divisional Round. With that playoff win, the Browns won consecutive games against the Steelers for the first time since 1999-2000. A third straight win here would be the first true winning streak since Cleveland won seven in a row from 1986-89.

History aside, my attention is on the total for this game. The Browns are still the walking wounded, even with some extra recovery time after playing on Thursday night in Week 7. Baker Mayfield practiced on Wednesday, but who knows if he’ll be able to go. Even if he is, Cleveland is still likely to be limited at the skill positions.

My biggest concern is that Jarvis Landry is not practicing. Landry made a huge impact for the Browns last week in the win over the Broncos (five catches for 37 yards, three first downs). His reliable hands and excellent route-running skills have been sorely missed in the games he has not played. It looks as though he won’t play this one either.

The Browns will rely heavily on the run, whether the QB is Mayfield or Case Keenum. The Steelers will flood the box and the middle of the field. They’ll also be able to have TJ Watt up against banged-up tackles. Jack Conklin didn’t play last week and Jedrick Wills is well under 100 percent.

The Steelers offense is in a pretty sad state of affairs as well. Pittsburgh has managed just 5.1 yards per play and there aren’t a whole lot of big-play threats. The Steelers have used Najee Harris extensively, as he has 102 carries and 34 receptions. He’s tied for the team lead in catches and has run the run on 102 of the team’s 131 carries for just 3.8 yards. He only has 4.6 yards per touch.

The Cleveland pass rush should be able to get to Easter Island statue Ben Roethlisberger and put the Steelers behind the chains. For all of the heat that Joe Woods has gotten (and deserves to a degree), the Browns are still second in yards per play allowed. Their lack of takeaways has been the primary problem but they’ve stopped the run effectively and the pressure they’ve generated has limited big plays. 

As if a hobbled offense and an inept offense weren’t enough, Mother Nature looks to be kicking up her fury along the shores of Lake Erie again. Wind had a major impact in last week’s game at FirstEnergy Stadium and 15 mph winds are expected again this week.

This should be a stone-cold under.

Pick: Under 42.5

Tuley: I have nothing against Keenum if he has to start again for Mayfield, and D’Ernest Johnson showed that any healthy running back can fill in for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and keep the Browns’ rushing attack potent. But I still think this line should be closer, considering Cleveland’s other walking wounded. The Steelers have been inconsistent, but they beat the Bills in Week 1 and are still strong enough on both sides of the ball to stand up to the Browns in a game both teams need to have a shot at catching the Bengals and Ravens in the AFC North. I also like the fact the Steelers are 7-3 SU in their last 10 post-bye games under Mike Tomlin. Granted, they’re only 3-7 ATS, but they were favorites in most games during those years. That trend still tells me that Tomlin will have his team ready off their bye. 

Pick: Steelers + 3.5

San Francisco 49ers (-4, 39.5) at Chicago Bears

Youmans: Kyle Shanahan is paying the price for his mistakes. The San Francisco coach traded up for the No. 3 pick in the draft to grab Trey Lance, who’s not ready to be a winning quarterback in the NFL. Shanahan made that risky move despite showing no confidence in his current starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s looking over his shoulder and waiting to be benched. Shanahan apparently thought he was smart enough to make a flawed situation work smoothly, but he thought wrong. He also should have stuck with his original plan to draft Mac Jones. 

The 49ers are a mess and their defense is just as bad as their offense. But San Francisco is less of a mess than the Bears, who are sabotaging the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields. In a 38-3 loss at Tampa Bay, Fields was sacked four times and intercepted three times. In the past five games, Fields has two touchdown passes while getting sacked 20 times.

The 49ers have not won a home game in more than a year, so it’s probably a positive factor that this one is at Soldier Field. There’s a lot of pressure on “Little Shanny” to get his offense on track. There’s urgency for Garoppolo to bounce back from his worst game of the season, and he’ll do that by leaning heavily on wideout Deebo Samuel and running back Elijah Mitchell. The Bears have little to lean on anymore -- defensive leader Khalil Mack is expected to sit out with a foot injury and coach Matt Nagy is a lost cause. The 49ers have bounced between -3 and -4 this week. I played this early at -3, mostly to fade the Bears and lay a good number, but it should be a smaller play when laying more than a field goal.

Pick: 49ers -3.5

Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks (-3, 43.5)

Tuley: Every week there’s a point spread that tempts me to ignore my dog-or-pass philosophy -- and this is it. Despite getting their first win of the season for Urban Meyer, the Jaguars are fade candidates. The Seahawks are 0-3 at home, but that should change here. Even with Geno Smith starting in place of Russell Wilson, I don’t see why this line isn’t closer to a touchdown. 

Best bet: Pass 

New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (-6, 49)

Youmans: In an obvious coaching mismatch last year, Bill Belichick went to Los Angeles and crushed the Anthony Lynn-led Chargers 45-0. The Patriots were 1-point underdogs in that matchup, which turned into the worst outing of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert’s brief career. Each team looks much different now, and the Chargers are definitely better with Brandon Staley in charge. Belichick still has a significant coaching edge, however, and his quarterback situation is much improved. 

Mac Jones has completed 70.4 percent of his passes and just led the offense to a 54-point performance against the Jets. The Chargers are not the hapless Jets, of course, but Los Angeles does have the league’s worst run defense by allowing 162.5 yards per game. New England’s rushing attack is gaining steam behind Damien Harris, so the Patriots are capable of controlling the game by exploiting their advantage on the ground.

Pick: Patriots + 6

Tuley: The Chargers are becoming a public team at 4-2, though they trail the Raiders by half a game in the AFC West. Believe me, I’m not putting too much stock in the Patriots’ 54-13 rout of the Jets, though obviously it’s a good sign of the offense improving under Mac Jones. But I still love the fact that New England only lost 19-17 to the mighty Buccaneers and just 35-29 to the Cowboys in OT. Those games showed me they can at least cover against the Chargers. Besides, while I know Herbert isn’t a rookie like the ones Belichick usually baffles, he’s still a young second-year player and I wouldn’t be surprised if the old wizard has something up his sleeve (see Patriots’ 45-0 rout of Herbert and the Chargers last December).

Pick: Patriots + 4.5 or better

Burke: Staley off of a bye is a really attractive angle for betting on the Chargers. His comments about analytics are very exciting for a nerd like me and he seems like the type of coach that would maximize every minute of a bye week. He did speak about doing a lot of studying on the team’s lack of early-down success during the week off, and that doesn’t bode well for the Patriots in this game.

New England has faced a pathetic slate of offenses to this point, with the notable exceptions of the Buccaneers and Cowboys. Otherwise, the Patriots have faced the Jets twice, Texans, Saints and Dolphins. While the Chargers aren’t the most impressive offense statistically, they still have a dynamic QB in Herbert and a lot of skill-position talent.

The Los Angeles defense has been absolutely gutted by the run, but the Patriots can’t run the football. They may rank 14th in Rush DVOA, but have only averaged 4.0 yards per carry, a number that was much worse before running all over the Jets last week. Los Angeles has a top-five pass defense by DVOA and the Pats are more of a pass-first offense.

New England’s conservative, vanilla approach to play calling could really hurt this week against a hyper-aggressive coach in Staley, who is making it sound as if the Chargers are going to throw more on first and second down.

The Patriots are + 7 in turnover margin against the Jets and -7 in the other five games. This line should be at least -7 between the travel, a rested opponent and all of the advantages that the Chargers appear to have, so anything under that looks like a good bet.

Pick: Chargers -6

Washington Football Team at Denver Broncos (-3.5, 43.5)

Tuley: Washington really should have beaten the Packers or at least covered Sunday after outgaining them but shooting themselves in the foot in the red zone, so it’s tempting to take the Football Team plus the points against the Broncos. However, this number is just a little too short for my liking. If we were at least getting the hook at + 3.5, I would probably bite. But we’ve seen some indication that it’s more likely to dip to 2.5, which would make it a teaser candidate.

Best bet: Pass

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5, 50) at New Orleans Saints

Brown: A difficult matchup for the Buccaneers passing offense has caused bookmakers to once again offer Brady’s passing touchdown prop at a plus number. He has exceeded this total in four games this season and has gone 3-1 when offered at a plus price. 

The Saints; defense sits right outside the top-five units based on PFF's grading system, but has the No. 1 ranked unit in stopping the run. This should benefit Tampa Bay’s passing game despite New Orleans also ranking as a top-five unit in coverage. However, the Saints have struggled to get after opposing passers, as they have generated just the 20th-best pressure percentage. Brady buries defenses when he operates in a clean pocket, as he has posted a 97.3 PFF passing grade from a clean pocket the past five seasons, ranking first among quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks over this timeframe. Beating Brady requires opposing defenses to generate pressure, but that shouldn't be a problem against New Orleans' average pass rush. One way to play that is on the Buccaneers' 5.5-point spread, but an even better option is Brady over 2.5 passing touchdowns at plus money.

Pick: Tom Brady Over 2.5 Passing TDs (+ 102)

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (-3, 52) 

Youmans: The public has fallen in love with the Cowboys, and why not? Dallas is 6-0 ATS with the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense at 34.2 PPG. Dak Prescott is an MVP candidate with an inspiring comeback story. The defense is getting stops and forcing turnovers, unlike last year. On the downside, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy continues to make baffling game-management mistakes. The Vikings are a .500 team getting no media hype, but they deserve more respect -- and can earn it here.

Minnesota should have defeated Arizona on the road and its other losses to Cincinnati and Cleveland are not black eyes. Kirk Cousins is putting up numbers similar to Prescott, and the Vikings have a rushing offense that ranks in the league’s top 10. Minnesota also has slightly better defensive numbers than Dallas in most categories.

While most handicappers assume a bye is a positive thing, a team that’s rolling into a bye week can get its rhythm disrupted (see: Packers at Buccaneers last year for evidence). The week off could be a negative factor for the Cowboys.

Pick: Vikings + 2

Brown: Sunday Night Football has, by far, the highest total on the Week 8 slate. Most are projecting a back-and-forth shootout between two offenses in the top half of the NFL in PFF’s opponent-adjusted grades. 

Cousins has exceeded expectations in 2021, posting the fifth-best PFF passing grade among starting quarterbacks. The problem is he simply hasn’t been asked to do too much, as he has the second-lowest average depth of target (aDot) this season. Minnesota seems content to keep games close, turning to the conservative run plays too quickly with a lead. If the Vikings aren’t willing to utilize more aggressive play-calling Sunday night, they could get blown out.  However, everyone knows this, so don't be surprised if Minnesota is a little more aggressive than usual.

Cousins has exceeded his passing touchdown prop in four of six games but failed to go over a plus price 2.5-touchdown line when he saw that number in Week 5. At a + 160 price, Cousins needs to throw for three or more touchdowns 38.5  percent of the time to break even. Given the overall game script expectation for this matchup, PFF’s betting model believes this should happen closer to 50 percent of the time. This discrepancy makes it one of the best betting opportunities in Week 8.

Pick: Kirk Cousins Over 2.5 Passing TDs (+ 160)

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