Last week’s NFL action featured major news coming from the Beltway teams, as Robert Griffin III continued to impress, albeit in a losing effort against Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens headed to its bye week with a sour taste, after getting blown out by the Texans. Now, it’s time for the NFL Week 8 picks.
This week’s slate features a number of interesting matchups, starting with the “Battle of the Birds”, as Matt Ryan and the Falcons take on Mike Vick and the Eagles. The Giants and Cowboys renew their heated rivalry, while the aforementioned RGIII travels to Pittsburgh to take on Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And let’s not forget Peyton Manning versus Drew Brees on Sunday night!
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, I posted arguably my best week ever, coming one pick away from perfection. My only blemish last week was the Bengals, who I thought would find a way to knock out the banged up Steelers at home. Every other game ended in the win column. Here’s hoping that this week’s picks can land somewhere near that mark.
Last Week: 12-1
This Season: 59-45
Last Two Seasons: 144-112 (2010) and 131-125 (2011)
Pick Your Knows: 2012 NFL Week 8 Picks Against the Spread
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5)
Tampa Bay’s pass defense is ranked 31st overall, yet the group has managed more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (8). The Bucs’ rush defense is ranked third, allowing 76 yards per game and is first in average per carry (3.1). Tampa Bay has also faced off against solid runners like Cam Newton, DeMarco Murray, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Jamaal Charles and more. Minnesota is undefeated at home, but thrives off its success from Adrian Peterson and the run game. With a short week for preparation, the Vikings will be tough at home, as always, but Tampa Bay has held its own against strong runners. Christian Ponder may need to carry the Minnesota offense. With that in mind, I’m taking Tampa Bay and the points. Bucs keep this game within a touchdown, or win it outright.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
NFL Week 8 Update: Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17 – I didn’t expect a Bucs blowout, but either way, I’ll take the win. Clearly, Josh Freeman is on fire as of late and Christian Ponder is really struggling.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
Matt Hasselbeck will get another start for the Titans and Chris Johnson has had some success over the last two weeks, rushing for nearly 300 yards. Indy’s pass defense is ranked 7th in yards allowed (210.7), yet have managed just two interceptions on the year. The Colts’ run defense has given up a bunch of yards, and could yield a chunk to Johnson. But rookie Andrew Luck and the Colts are 2-0 on the road, and not phased by hostile crowds. Tennessee has the home field advantage, but its defense simply gives up way too many points. The Colts have the talent to push this into a shootout, potentially leading to a game-winning field goal. I expect a three-point game, and will take Indy and the points.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-2.5)
These two teams have been jawing at each other all week, which will lead to some extra aggressive play on the field. The Dolphins are coming off a bye and have had plenty of time to rest and prepare for the Jets. New York comes off a tough overtime loss to the Patriots. Normally, I like to give the edge to the team with the bye, but in this case, I think the home field advantage cancels that out, along with the fact that the Jets have been playing well against quality teams in recent weeks (e.g. Houston and New England). Miami has been solid running the ball, but Reggie Bush has been a key name getting under the Jets’ skin, so expect New York to come after him often.
KP’s Pick: New York Jets
New England Patriots at St. Louis Rams (+7.5)
The Pats and Rams are playing in London this weekend, so a major key will be which team handles the time zone difference better. There’s no doubt that both Bill Belichick and Jeff Fisher will have his team prepared. The Patriots have been vulnerable on defense, especially against the pass, but the Rams have been far from stellar in the passing game. The St. Louis defense has been pretty steady, but the Rams will still have a hard time shutting down New England’s high octane offense. The Rams have also allowed the third most sacks (21). This is a tricky line, as the Pats have not been blowing teams out like in past years. Still, my gut expects the Patriots to get pressure on Sam Bradford, force mistakes and leave the rest to Tom Brady. New England covers.
KP’s Pick: New England
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns (+3.5)
The Chargers are coming off a bye week, with plenty of time to rest and prepare for the Browns. Trent Richardson is banged up for Cleveland, but expected to play. San Diego is ranked 2nd in rushing yards allowed (71.2 per game), while allowing just two TD’s. Cleveland feeds off the balance that Richardson provides, and in this matchup, San Diego may be able to focus on forcing rookie Brandon Weeden into numerous mistakes. West coast teams often struggle when traveling east, but San Diego has had plenty of rest, and have too many weapons to throw at the Browns. Chargers cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: San Diego
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears (-7.5)
Cam Newton is in the media for all the wrong reasons, not only with recent public statements, but also for his sophomore slump on the field. Carolina’s last three games were all losses by five points or less, but this game is in Chicago, facing a stout Bears defense and a hostile crowd. The Bears have held opposing quarterbacks to a 62.8 QB rating, by far the best in the league. Last Monday night, Chicago held both Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in check, holding a solid Lions offense to just seven points. Chicago’s top-ranked run defense will hold Newton’s feet in check, while the rest of the group forces him to look to a suggestion box again. Carolina has the talent to hang tight with strong opponents, but I just don’t see it happening on this day – not with all the recent distractions. Chicago covers.
KP’s Pick: Chicago
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
Both teams are coming off bye weeks. Philly is feeling the heat, dismissing its defensive coordinator, while showing support for Michael Vick as the starting QB. The seat is clearly getting hot for Andy Reid, and a win over the undefeated Falcons would surely quiet critics for a little while. Reid’s success after a bye week is well documented, and it’s hard to pick against the Eagles considering that fact, coupled with the Eagles playing at home with a “backs against the wall” mentality. Atlanta’s run defense is ranked 28th in the NFL (143.8 ypg and 7 TD’s), so it’s safe to expect some success from LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick. The two key points going against Philly would be the team’s lack of a pass rush (just 7 sacks on the year), which could mean lots of time for Matt Ryan to throw to his many weapons. There’s also the turnover ratio, as Atlanta is a +10, while the Eagles are currently a -9. Vick is responsible for many of those Philadelphia turnovers, and he has to know that his job could be on the line if he turns in another bad performance. Taking that into consideration, plus Andy Reid’s track record coming off a bye, I’m still taking the Eagles to knock the Falcons from the ranks of the unbeaten. Eagles cover.
KP’s Pick: Philadelphia
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers (-13.5)
Green Bay has 24 sacks on the year, the most in the NFL, while Jacksonville has the fewest in the league, with just five. The Jags have the NFL’s worst passing offense, managing just 144.8 yards per game. Jacksonville will be without its best weapon in Maurice Jones-Drew, and could also be without its starting quarterback. Blaine Gabbert. Aaron Rodgers has been on fire for weeks, and the Green Bay offense is really clicking. Playing at Lambeau Field, this one could become a laugher by halftime. Even with the high spread, I see the Packers covering easily.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions (-2.5)
The Seahawks have had a few extra days rest, playing on Thursday, and losing to the 49ers. Detroit played Monday night and will be playing on short rest, after getting shut down by the Bears. The Seahawks at times have trouble on the road, and as pointed out by USA Today, is 9-20-1 against the spread over its last 30 road games. Still, this Detroit team is struggling, and has had issues against teams with strong defenses. To top it off, Nate Burleson is out for the year, while both Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson appear on the injury report this week. Seattle’s defense is solid against both the run and pass, allowing just two rushing touchdowns and six passing TD’s on the year. If Russell Wilson can lead at least two touchdown scoring drives, it may be enough. I’m taking the ‘Hawks on the road.
KP’s Pick: Seattle
Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)
The Steelers played a strong game in Cincinnati last week, despite suffering through a lack of depth, due to injuries. This week, Pittsburgh takes on the unique talents of RGIII. The Redskins feature the NFL’s top rushing offense, averaging 177.7 yards per game. The tandem of Morris and Griffin III will attempt to control the clock and move the ball on the ground, while mixing in the pass. Controlling the time of possession will be key. The Redskins need to focus on preventing Ben Roethlisberger from getting too many chances against Washington’s weak pass defense. Each one of Washington’s losses has been by a touchdown or less, including road losses to the Rams and Giants. Pittsburgh will again be without Troy Polamalu, which will help the ‘Skins keep this one close. Take Washington and the points.
KP’s Pick: Washington
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)
The Chiefs benefit from playing at home and coming off a bye to rest and prepare for the Raiders. But Brady Quinn is getting another start, and has been far from efficient this year (and throughout his career). The Raiders will likely stack the box to try and shutdown Jamaal Charles and Kansas City’s solid run game. Oakland’s run defense (12th in the NFL) is decent, plus the Raiders have only allowed 12 sacks on the season, which could mean time in the pocket for Carson Palmer. Bye week or not, I don’t trust Brady Quinn at quarterback, and think the Raiders will take this one on the road.
KP’s Pick: Oakland
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (+1.5)
DeMarco Murray is listed as doubtful for Sunday, while Felix Jones is probable with a bruised knee. This could lead to a very one-dimensional Dallas offense. The Giants will simply need to focus on shutting down Tony Romo and the pass game. Sean Lee is out for the year, which will mean a hit on Dallas’ defense as well. New York will be looking to avenge its opening season loss to the Cowboys. The Giants’ pass defense has more interceptions (12) than TD’s allowed (10). Tony Romo already has 9 picks on the season, and could be adding to that total on Sunday. Dallas has the home field advantage, but I think the Giants will grind out a hard fought division win.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos (-6.5)
The Broncos are coming off its bye week. That means Peyton Manning has had an extra week to prepare for a New Orleans defense that is 30th against the pass. In fact, the Saints have allowed 24 points or more in every game this season. Expect a shootout, considering Brees and Manning have combined to throw 32 TD’s on the season. Denver’s pass defense is ranked in the top ten, but has showed signs of weakness. The Broncos are battle tested. But let’s remember that Drew Brees is on the other side of the football. This is a Saints team playing much better in recent weeks. Translation: this game looks like a shootout that will finish as a three or four point victory. Take New Orleans and the points.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (+7.5)
This should be a low-scoring defensive battle. San Francisco has had a few extra days of rest after facing the Seahawks last Thursday night. Arizona has been a fairly one-dimensional offensive team, ranking 27th in the league in rushing. The 49ers have the league’s top pass defense, which likely means that Larry Fitzgerald and John Skelton will struggle. Arizona has also allowed the NFL’s most sacks, and the Niners will likely take advantage of that with its aggressive pass rush. The Cardinals usually are a very solid home team, but the odds are stacked against them. I don’t think Arizona has enough offensive firepower to put enough points on the board. San Francisco covers on the road.
KP’s Pick: San Francisco
NFL Week 8 Byes: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans