With the NFL trade deadline looming, Week 8 will be a crucial slate for plenty of teams who are in must-win situations to decide whether they'll be buyers or sellers. Even the rebuilding teams have to decide which players they want to ship out for some draft capital.
Injuries have hit hard across the league, leaving numerous favorites down important playmakers. The storylines go well beyond the obvious though, and we're going to break down the key question within each matchup in Week 8.
This storyline will determine the matchup's outcome. I'll also provide a pick for each game, with odds courtesy of BetMGM.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
Storyline: Can the Packers score?
Short weeks are already difficult throughout the season, but the COVID-19 rules can have devastating effects due to time limitations. The Packers are unfortunate victims of the negative test requirements this week as Davante Adams headlines several players who will be missing from the Green Bay lineup.
Arizona received their own bad news as J.J. Watt appears to be out for the year with a shoulder injury, but the Cardinals are equipped to win this matchup nonetheless. I expect Arizona to score with relative ease as the Packers' secondary has several major question marks.
Pick: Cardinals -6.5 (-115)
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Storyline: Will Sam Darnold step up?
After fading the Falcons all season long, this is the second week in a row I'm taking their points. The Falcons are bad but they're a strong passing team with a defense that profiles better than their points allowed. This strategy is one I like to use when there's a large discrepancy and trusting the process over the end result can pay off in the long term.
Carolina, meanwhile, has fallen apart as Sam Darnold has lost his early magic. Defenses have loaded up in the box and pressured Darnold. The Panthers' defense must start forcing turnovers at a higher rate, but Matt Ryan is a master at avoiding those mistakes.
Pick: Falcons -3 (-110)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Storyline: Do the Bills continue dominating Miami?
Miami's record is awful but fundamentally they're not a terrible team. Tua Tagovailoa profiles as one of the better young passers in the league, but the defense has fallen apart and they have zero run game to speak of. This matchup is the worst possible, as Buffalo has destroyed Miami in the Josh Allen era.
I don't see how Miami reverses the trend anytime soon. This coaching staff has no idea how to slow Allen and the masterful scheme Buffalo employs.
Pick: Bills -13.5 (-110)
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
Storyline: Which team shows up prepared?
It's been a tough year for wunderkind Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers' offense has been in shambles for the first time in his tenure, and Trey Lance doesn't seem ready to save them. That's not shocking, but the 49ers are feeling the heat after choosing Lance over Justin Fields or trading for a veteran.
Fields and the Bears offense have been trapped in an abysmal state as well. I don't think much of the blame goes on the rookie, but they must prove it this week against a broken San Francisco defense. I like the Bears to cover, if not win outright.
Pick: Bears +4 (-110)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Storyline: Which team falls to the bottom of the AFC North?
This is one of the most interesting games of the week. Pittsburgh looked dead in the water before winning two games in a row, and yet still feel totally irrelevant and mediocre. Cleveland was destined for greatness, but has lost two of three due to self-inflicted mistakes and a cascade of injuries.
I like Cleveland to win even though their offense has been wrecked by injuries, but not enough to take the 3.5 points. Both offenses will find success against struggling secondaries, though, and push this over.
Pick: Over 42 (-110)
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
Storyline: Which staff impresses?
My big call of the week is the Lions end their winless streak.
The Eagles have been far too bad for their talent level and head coach Nick Sirianni has embarrassed himself several times in news conferences. Their on-field play lacked attention to detail and overall creativity as well. Meanwhile, Detroit is horrible, but their culture is real. They fight hard each week and have a staff trying like hell to push them to the next level. It finally pays off this week.
Pick: Lions ML (+150)
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
Storyline: Which team is really an AFC South power?
You can make a case that this matchup boasts two of the hottest teams in the AFC. The Titans have won three straight, and that includes victories over the Bills and Chiefs. The latest win over Kansas City was a thumping where the defense allowed Patrick Mahomes and company to score only three points.
Meanwhile, the Colts have dropped 30 or more points in each of their last two games as Carson Wentz has seemingly found his groove. Tennessee won this first matchup earlier this season and has jumped out as the favorites after Indy opened as a 2.5-point favorite. Now, the Titans are being looked at as a 1-point favorite, which is largely thanks to that convincing win over the Chiefs. Tennessee is 5-1 ATS in its last six games heading into Week 8, but we are taking them on the Moneyline.
Pick: Titans ML (+100)
Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets
Storyline: What can the Jets do to compete?
They now take on a Jets team that is reeling from a loss to the Patriots where the defense allowed 54 points and 551 yards of total offense. New York is 1-5 ATS on the season and has a league-worst -15.8 margin of victory this season. With Cincinnati's success and the Jets' struggles in mind, you won't be surprised to learn that this spread has shot up dramatically. After opening at Bengals -3.5, the line continues to grow as Mike White is in line to start for the Jets.
Pick: Bengals -10.5 (-110)
Los Angeles Rams at Houston Texans
Storyline: Do the Rams lose focus?
The Los Angeles Rams have the unique ability to dominate for a second week in a row against a terrible team. The Rams are loaded with a great coaching staff and surrounding cast, so Matthew Stafford's inclusion into the offense was a guaranteed success.
Meanwhile, Houston is bringing back quarterback Tyrod Taylor off injured reserve soon and could start the veteran despite their team's bleak outlook. We don't know yet if it'll be Taylor or rookie Davis Mills, but it doesn't matter a ton this week. The Rams will win this one easily.
Pick: Rams -14.5 (-110)
New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Storyline: Can the Patriots repeat their scoring outburst?
While beating the Jets may not be that surprising, New England's 54-point outburst certainly was. That seems to have boosted some confidence bettors as this number has fallen below six points and down to Chargers -5.5.
Los Angeles was on the bye in Week 7 and has been one of the better teams in the NFL against the spread, owning a 4-2 ATS mark this season. Over their last 10 games, the Chargers are 8-2 ATS and are also 4-1 ATS in their last five games as a home favorite. Because of that, we will back the Chargers this week.
Pick: Chargers -5.5 (-110)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
Storyline: Does Seattle sleep on the Jags?
The metrics hate the Seahawks' defense despite ranking as the 15th-best unit in scoring. Jacksonville is an objectively below-average team but they have some quality offensive weapons with a skilled quarterback. This game comes down to whether Geno Smith can lead the Seahawks on scoring drives.
Smith showed little last week against a great New Orleans defense. Surely, the Seahawks have better odds of scoring this week, but this will be a close cover by the Jags.
Pick: Jaguars +3.5 (-115)
Washington Football Team at Denver Broncos
Storyline: Can either offense produce?
The public favors Washington here but that surprises me. The Broncos are the clearly better team even if they've lost four straight. Washington is a lot closer to the bottom tier of teams in this league than they are to being among the contenders.
The Football Team has to create some semblance of a passing attack to compete. Denver's deep secondary will stifle them, and allow the home team to pull out a much-needed win.
Pick: Broncos -3 (-110)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Storyline: Jameis Winston Revenge Game!
This line is shockingly low. New Orleans has only had three games where the offense has done anything at all, and the Buccaneers will be jacked for this battle. Jameis Winston needs to play his best despite a limited receiving corps to even compete.
Tampa hasn't been foolproof this season, but they're dominant when they want to be. This is my lock of the week. Expect the Buccaneers to roll in this one.
Pick: Bucs -5.5 (-110)
Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings
Storyline: How does Mike Zimmer try to slow Dak Prescott?
Both of these teams are coming off a Week 7 bye. Through this point in the season, the Cowboys are the lone team in the NFL to remain undefeated against the spread, boasting an impressive 6-0 mark.
While they've been kind to bettors so far, this number has fallen as low as Cowboys -1.5, so there does seem to be some confidence in the Vikings. However, Minnesota is 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games and with the Cowboys explosive offense, they should cover pretty easily.
Pick: Cowboys -3 (-110)
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Storyline: Will Patrick Mahomes relax?
The biggest issue for the Kansas City Chiefs is somewhat hard to pin. There are two things they can fix right now with the offense though. Mahomes needs to relax, and receivers must stop dropping passes. You know, the basics of football.
Mahomes has looked to force the big play far too often this season. It's understandable because his defense stinks and is unreliable. The Giants have been a disaster this year, so the Chiefs should comfortably win with even moderate execution.
Pick: Chiefs -10 (-110)
Photo: Getty Images