Last week was a great example of the thin line between winning and losing in the NFL can be, especially when you’re making bets against the spread. Late scores, accidental touchdowns and missed PATs all played a role in late-game situations in Week 7.
Looking ahead to Week 8, we are once again inundated with games between division rivals that could go either way regardless of the spread. Obviously, that makes the challenge even greater than most weeks. But we are up for the challenge, and after putting some deep thought into it, we’ve come up with the five best bets in Week 8 of the NFL season.
New England Patriots +3.5 at Buffalo Bills
It’s hard to deny that the Patriots are an absolute mess at the moment. Last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers is just about the worst we’ve ever seen the Pats play under Bill Belichick. However, when everyone is starting to lose faith in Belichick, it seems like the best time to give him the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that the New England defense has been solid for most of the season. Also, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Cam Newton has struggled after missing time and valuable practice reps when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. The Pats have finally had a normal week, so they should start getting back on track.
At the same time, it’s fair to start questioning whether the Bills are anything more than an average team that’s leading a bad division. The Bills have struggled to run the ball all season and haven’t lived up to their preseason hype defensively outside of games against the winless Jets. If the New England defense has a bounce-back game, it’s hard to envision the Buffalo offense finding a rhythm and scoring enough points to win comfortably. In his last three games, Josh Allen has just four touchdown passes and three interceptions, so he’s not exactly at the top of his game. Lastly, the Patriots are still the reigning AFC East champs and they’ll head to Buffalo expecting to win, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at least one more time.
Las Vegas Raiders-Cleveland Browns, Over 53
Offensively, both of these teams have some limitations, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. out for the season. However, both teams have been atrocious defensively, which should drive up the score and lead to far more than 53 points. If just one of these teams is able to top 30 points, there’s a great chance the total goes above 53. Frankly, both teams could surpass 30 points simply because both defenses are terrible.
The Browns have conceded at least 30 points in five of their seven games this season. If Joe Burrow can throw for over 400 yards against the Cleveland defense, Derek Carr should be able to have similar success. Nelson Agholor has stepped up recently and rookie Henry Ruggs might be able to do some damage as well. Likewise, a non-existent Raiders pass rush should allow Baker Mayfield plenty of time in the pocket to find receivers and make accurate throws. Even without Beckham, Mayfield still has Jarvis Landry while Rashard Higgins is coming off a big game last week. The Browns also have Kareem Hunt and one of the best rushing attacks in the league.
In the end, both the Browns and the Raiders are among the five worst defenses in the NFL, making the over on 53 points the obvious option.
Detroit Lions +3 vs Indianapolis Colts
With back-to-back wins, the Lions might finally be moving in the right direction. That makes this the perfect time to back Detroit as a home underdog. While the Lions' rushing attack still leaves something to be desired, Matthew Stafford has looked more like himself over the past two weeks and last week’s game-winning drive in the final seconds should help to get him going. If you add tight end T.J. Hockenson to the mix, the Lions have four capable receivers, allowing Stafford to spread the ball around and make the Detroit offense difficult to defend. Meanwhile, the Detroit defense is starting to come around.
As for the Colts, while they have a top-five defense, we’ve seen them take advantage of poor offensive teams and struggle against teams with some genuine firepower. Both Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow have had big games against the Indy defense in recent weeks, so it’s not a stretch to think that Stafford and the surging Lions can do the same. In fairness, Philip Rivers had a big game against the Cincinnati defense a couple of weeks ago. But the Colts don’t have the same caliber of playmakers on the outside as Detroit, which gives the Lions an edge if they can force a high-scoring game. Look for the Lions to stay hot at home and beat an Indy team that’s just 1-2 on the road this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5 at Baltimore Ravens
No matter how good the Ravens might be, it still feels a little foolish not to take a team that’s 6-0 plus 3.5 points. Moreover, the Steelers have won five of their last 12 trips to Baltimore with three of their seven losses coming by three points or less. With the Ravens only allowed to fill their stadium to 10% capacity, most of Baltimore’s home-field advantage won’t be there anyway, which should help level the playing field for Pittsburgh to at least make this a field-goal game.
The Ravens not-so-mighty offense has a tall task in front of them, too. This will be the best defense the Ravens have faced so far this season. In fact, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have faced some truly terrible defenses this season, including Cleveland, Houston and Cincinnati. With Mark Ingram questionable, there is even more pressure on Lamar Jackson to carry the running game. Plus, Jackson has thrown for less than 200 yards in four straight games, so it seems unlikely that the Ravens will run away with this game against a tough Steelers defense. With the Steelers averaging over 30 points per game, they aren’t going to go away easily, either, which is why taking the Steelers and the points makes the most sense.
Dallas Cowboys +7.5 at Philadelphia Eagles
It’d be easy to write off the Cowboys completely after the last two weeks. In fact, it’s awfully tempting to do just that. But this pick is more about the Eagles, who have no business being favored by 7.5 points. Keep in mind they required a collapse by the Giants just to eke out a 22-21 win last week. Despite Dallas being a complete disaster over the last two weeks, it’s still hard to imagine such a flawed Philadelphia team winning by a comfortable margin.
For starters, the Eagles have struggled to stop the run with their front-seven, so it’s not a stretch to think that Ezekiel Elliott can take the lead and carry the Cowboys' offense. That should make it easier on the Dallas quarterback, even if they have to go with Ben DiNucci. At the same time, the Eagles aren’t sure if they’ll have Miles Sanders. Even if they do, the Philadelphia offensive line has been a disaster and the Eagles are still hurting at wide receiver. They probably won’t be able to take full advantage of a shoddy Dallas defense the way other teams have been able to do. Ultimately, this game has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring affair, which makes it hard to believe the Eagles will be able to cover 7.5 points.
Photo: Getty Images