NFL Predictions 2019: Week 8

I suppose I finally had some success last week. I was 11-3 picking winners (65-40-1 overall). I was okay missing on the Colts beating the Texans. I had the road upset 28-20 and they lost 30-23. I thought the Giants would win 24-19 at home, but the Cardinals got the road kill 27-21 that wasn’t a bad call either. My only really off pick was the Ravens really took it to the Seahawks 30-16 on their turf and I had the home side winning 23-19. That’s the only game I was surprised by. Still, I was only 6-7-1 against the spread (49-55-2 overall) and 9-5 on the over/under (46-59-1 overall) so while a +3 week helps, I’m still way under water at -19 on the season.

Washington (1-6) @ Minnesota (5-2): This one is kind of fun because when these teams played two years ago the quarterbacks were on the opposite sidelines. It shouldn’t be a Keenum versus Cousins matchup here honestly, but for some reason the Redskins are sticking with their veteran. The rookie Haskins had a bad outing when he was inserted, but this is the NFL and he has to take his lumps. Why protect him in an already lost season? Meanwhile Cousins is on a bit of a roll as the memes relentlessly attack him for being overpaid. His recent run has coincided with lesser opponents, but who cares? The team is going to be 6-2 midway through the season and this is a results based league. Washington is traveling on a short week after sloshing through a 9-0 loss to San Francisco. It was the fifth straight game they have failed to score over 17 points and they have allowed 31-plus to the four decent teams they played in normal weather. Minnesota has put up 28-plus in three straight and they are quite frankly feeling themselves after a 42-30 win at Detroit last week. This building will be rocking in primetime. Adrian Peterson hopes to play in his second visit to his former team, and first as a member of the Redskins. I doubt he makes much of an impact. None of the stats show anything other than a sound rout here: Minnesota 31, Washington 13 (MIN -14/over 40)

Seattle (5-2) @ Atlanta (1-6): The Falcons are a dumpster fire. It was a great move trading Sanu for a second round pick because they are going nowhere with him. When they made the bold move to trade up for Julio I said it was a mistake because one player never puts a team over the top. It had nothing to do with his talent. He’s been terrific and I knew he’d be great. It’s a matter of managing the overall roster and giving up those picks set them back. They made it up the ladder again, only to crash down and where do they go from here? Firing Quinn seems like a done deal. If they lose this game it probably will happen immediately since they have a bye week. Otherwise, does anyone think they win at New Orleans or at Carolina? At 2-8 he would also be done. The insane way the NFL schedules makes it where they play all six of their divisional games in the second half, when the team has already been buried in what I think will be a 1-7 hole. Honestly they could finish 3-13 or worse considering the non-division games are at San Francisco and hosting Jacksonville. As for the Seahawks, they got a taste of humble pie and home and now need to make up for it on the road. An opponent that has allowed 24-plus in five straight is a good way to make that happen. They made the Rams look like a juggernaut again on offense and defense last week. Seattle has allowed 28-plus in three straight and five times they have allowed 26-plus so this could be a high scoring affair. Atlanta can’t run the ball and can’t stop the pass or intercept the ball (2) and against a team that has thrown 1 pick that’s a problem. Seattle does allow a high per rush average (4.9) so I think they can keep it close, but I always take the team with something to lose in a spot like this: Seattle 35, Atlanta 31 (ATL +6/over 52)

Denver (2-5) @ Indianapolis (4-2): It’s the Peyton Manning bowl and pretty crazy to imagine Luck is already retired after replacing him. Would the Colts have been better off just keeping him? The answer is no because their defense was incapable of carrying an aging quarterback who had one last burst of offense in him before slowing down dramatically. Brissett has done a good job with a talented roster around him, better than expected but he’s not going to be a next level player. If they want to be more than a playoff loser they need someone else. Denver is killing time with Flacco and doesn’t know what their rookie can do because he’s hurt. The difference between contender and bottom feeder is closer than it seems in the NFL. If the Broncos had found their offense when Mahomes got hurt on TNF last week they would be 3-4 and a game out of first. Instead they are reeling and about to be 2-6. Sure, the defense could stand up here and get them going for the upset. If that happens I like their chances to beat Cleveland and be 4-5 into the bye week. It could happen so I see them as motivated here, but the offense is a joke at this point. They made the Chiefs look like they had multiple Derrick Thomas clones out there, and trading away Sanders who had 30 of the team’s 151 receptions and 2 of their 6 TD catches won’t help. The Colts came out of their bye and took control in their division with a huge 30-23 win against Houston. Their only fear is a letdown here against a losing team and they are facing four straight teams who are currently below .500 (at Pittsburgh, Miami, Jacksonville) so now is when we see if they are as good or great. The Colts protect the passer better and dome field advantage helps. The Broncos have only 13 sacks so while they are third against the pass they can’t dominate without those drive killers or turnovers. I think Denver can do some running here and stay in this game, but they won’t win: Indianapolis 24, Denver 17 (IND -5/under 43.5)

Tampa Bay (2-4) @ Tennessee (3-4): This is a matchup between teams who can play dramatically differently from week to week. The Bucs are off their bye week and for the most part watched their season end in London. Two 5-2 teams are in the wild card spots in the NFC and their division is led by a 6-1 team. It didn’t have to be this way, but they choked a lead against the Giants, gave up 6 sacks against the Saints and then Winston was a turnover machine against the Panthers. Usually scoring 81 points doesn’t result in going 0-3, but allowing 100 as they did in those games typically does. Something just isn’t clicking for them and maybe the bye week gave them time to figure it out. Just like the Raiders, they have an insane amount of time being away from home. Two road games, London “home game, bye week and two more on the road means going six consecutive Sundays without their fans seeing them. What does the league have against pirate teams? Am I right? Technically the Titans are in last place in the AFC East and have the same number of losses, but are in a very different position in terms of playoff possibilities. They are a game out of the wild card and their division is led by a 4-2 team. After losing consecutive games scoring 7 and 0 points, a 23-20 win over the Chargers thanks to a goal line fumble in the final minute saved their season for sure. They can get to .500 at the break and find a way to compete now that Tannehill has taken over at quarterback. Mariota won’t get to compete against the player who was selected ahead of him, but let’s be honest both of them could be in different uniforms next season. Tampa Bay has thrown 10 interceptions and taken 25 sacks in 6 games. That’s a lot. Tennessee has taken 31 sacks, but the Bucs are dead last in pass defense and have only 13 sacks while allowing 304.5 yards per game. The Titans are tenth in pass defense. Tampa Bay leads the NFL in run defense allowing only 2.9 yards per carry and has yet to allow a run over 20 yards. Tennessee can hold up against the run as well, ranking #13 and giving up 3.9 a carry. It’s going to be a defensive game and very close. This could swing on turnovers and go either direction. I trust the home team more, but it’s going to be ugly: Tennessee 20, Tampa Bay 19 (TB +2.5/under 47)

Arizona (3-3-1) @ New Orleans (6-1): If you aren’t rooting for Bridgewater then you have no soul. Okay, maybe that’s too extreme but sort of. Bree is just about ready to come back and take over, but with a bye week up next it makes no sense to rush him. Beyond that they get a currently 1-6 Atlanta team at home on the other side of their open week so why hurry? They do want to pursue the top seed in the NFC, and with San Francisco undefeated every game matters. Right now they control their own destiny because they host the 49ers on December 8, presumably with Brees back. They don’t want a playoff rematch in Santa Clara against that defense. The Cardinals are suddenly viable in a sense, but are scraping past bad teams. Three straight weeks they have found a way to win and that matters. Murray’s confidence is building and he’s taking steps forward. This is back to reality for him though, more like September when the Panthers and Seahawks blew them away on consecutive weeks at home. This is a hostile environment as well and their defense isn’t a shut down unit. Peterson’s return helps a ton as they try to neutralize Thomas. Kamara’s status is unknown so maybe things do get interesting. Arizona has allowed double the sacks (23-12) and has even fewer interceptions (1-3) defensively so as long as Peterson is avoided the home team should be okay. They are not as strong against the run and even if it’s the L-Train the Saints will get this done. It’s not going to be easy: New Orleans 28, Arizona 22 (AZ +10.5/over 47.5)

Cincinnati (0-7) @ LA Rams (4-3): The only positive on the season for Cincinnati is they have been in games. Twice they were blown out in September that’s true. However, last week’s 27-17 loss to Jacksonville was their only other loss by over 6 points. They simply lack the offensive firepower to get over the hump. They have allowed 21-26 points in six of their games this season, and scored 17-23 six times. Basically you can count on them losing by roughly that margin most of the time. Their defense isn’t getting crushed for 30-plus and their offense isn’t getting stifled or shut out but it’s just not enough to win games. If they had their way, they would finish 0-16 and have their choice of a franchise quarterback but don’t tell the guys who put the helmets on each week trying to win a game. This is a tough spot for them with the travel and an opponent who wants to put it to them. Los Angeles ended their three game slide with a resounding 37-10 win at Atlanta, another struggling team. Now they can put those losses firmly behind them and enter their bye week 5-3 with the second half of the season to put things together for a run back to the Super Bowl. It won’t be easy. They are in third place and will need to play well just to earn a wild card. The schedule’s only soft spots are the Arizona series and a game in Pittsburgh. Those present challenges. I see them focused here. The Bengals have allowed double the sacks (12-24) and the Rams on defense have twice as many (18-9) so if Goff isn’t pressured it’s over. He has better weapons. Cincinnati is dead last in rushing with embarrassing numbers (2.9 yards per carry, 53.1 per game) and dead last defensively (5.2, 189.0). On paper this is a wipeout. It’s a miracle they stay close week after week when they get outrushed so badly. I do believe this is a blowout because the visitors are worn out and the home team is trying to regain swagger: LA Rams 35, Cincinnati 10 (LAR -9/under 48.5)

Philadelphia (3-4) @ Buffalo (5-1): It’s odd to consider how the Bills seem so much more likely to win this game, but perception is a strange thing. They are playing really well on defense and technically if they had somehow been able to put together one more drive would actually be leading the AFC East having lost just 16-10 to the mighty Patriots. On the other hand, the Titans are the only team they have beaten that has more than 2 wins on the season and they won that game 14-7. Last week on this field they trailed an epically bad Dolphins team 14-9 at the half and allowed them to close within 3 inside the two-minute warning before housing the onside kick for a score to close it out 31-21. They won the turnover battle 2-0, but had only 17 first downs and ran just 51 plays on offense. How good are they really? Meanwhile the Eagles were getting undressed in Dallas for a national television audience in a 37-10 loss. It came on the heels of a 38-20 loss in Minnesota so the perception is they are done. The schedule really doesn’t lend itself to them climbing back into the NFC East race and they are already two back in the wild card. There are 3 easy games in December, but next up they host Chicago, New England and Seattle with a bye week mixed in. They have to go at least 2-2 in this stretch for the easy stretch to matter and who knows where Dallas is going to be when the rematch happens. This is back against the wall time for them and they need to respond. Buffalo is a lot better in pass defense, that’s clear. Both teams are good at running the ball, and capable in run defense. This is about effort and will to win. I’m calling on instinct here. There are games along the way where things just even out in the football world. I think the Eagles are better than this and the Bills aren’t as good: Philadelphia 24, Buffalo 21 (PHI +2/over 41.5)

LA Chargers (2-5) @ Chicago (3-3): It’s hard to believe that last year before the playoffs started this was a legit potential Super Bowl matchup. Now it feels as if these teams are light years away from the big game, especially the Chargers. Gordon whined about not getting enough carries, then choked away the game at Tennessee last week. It was their third consecutive loss to teams with a losing record and they are now 1-4 against losing teams this season. They are also 1-5 in one score games, something that shouldn’t happen with a borderline Hall of Fame quarterback at the controls of an offense with weapons, and a defense that has playmakers. Even though the past two seasons they have had really strong finishes I don’t see a run in them this time, not with the schedule they face. Green Bay and Minnesota come to SoCal and they have a season series with Oakland and Kansas City left as well. The Bears are reeling also, but they’ve got home field and even though Trubisky is beleaguered he’s at least back at the controls which is a better option than Daniel. The defense will be fired up after Bridgewater rolled them last week during a 36-25 loss here to New Orleans that wasn’t as close as the final score. It was 36-10 with four minutes to play and Chicago’s touchdown to that point came on a kickoff return. The Chargers are actually better against the pass, but allow a ridiculous completion percentage (74.6) and only have 14 sacks. Both teams are bottom six in rushing offense, with low averages per carry. The Bears are better against the run, so that’s an advantage and they have home field. I wonder if Los Angeles has a lot left in their tank. The Gordon holdout really screwed their season honestly. I do think they can win this game, but I’m picking them to choke again: Chicago 20, LA Chargers 17 (LAC +5.5/under 41)

NY Giants (2-5) @ Detroit (2-3-1): The Lions are feeling like victims at this point, having been hosed by the refs two weeks ago and no doubt their fans feel it trickled over to last week’s effort when they were dumped by Minnesota. In a flash they have gone from “we should have been in first place!” to really in trouble when it comes to the rugged NFC playoff chase. They aren’t winning the NFC North and the wild card would require them to start a run like right now. Three straight losses have them reeling, but this is a spot for them to recover. The Giants have also dropped three in a row although no one has expected anything of them this season. Still, last week’s home loss to Arizona was disappointing in Barkley’s return. They host a Dallas team next week that already routed them and it sure looks like they will continue to spiral down. Detroit only allows opposing passers to complete 58.5% of their throws, but thanks in part to 6 plays allowed of 40-plus yards they are third-worst in yardage allowed per game. Both rushing offenses are about dead even in the middle of the pack, but New York runs for 4.9 per carry while Detroit is at 3.8. Defensively both teams are in the bottom 7 against the run, with the hosts allowing more per rush (4.9 to 4.2). Can the G-Men pull an upset here? I’m not even sure it’s a huge upset. I think perception has this game all messed up. Jones is a rookie passer and will take his lumps. This is a bad spot for him in a dome so if his running game isn’t on point they will be in big trouble. That’s too much of a risk for me to take. Stafford has been through this for a decade and will get it done: Detroit 27, NY Giants 22 (NYG +7.5/under 49.5)

NY Jets (1-5) @ Jacksonville (3-4): I always complain about the NFL schedules and this is case in point. Two teams share a stadium and play on the road the same day? This is why we have to endure the “Big Apple” teams in primetime so much even though both are awful. Their fan bases mean television ratings and that’s all that matters. The Jets were dreadful on MNF and the only good thing that happened is the broadcast aired Darnold saying he was seeing ghosts. It’s probably a bad thing in the long run because his comment means teams are likely to resist having their players wear microphones going forward for fear such embarrassing comments might make the air again. It’s hard to blame him though, the Patriots are really good on defense and losing to them 33-0 is about how it should go for them. They thought they might be onto something after the upset of Dallas, but apparently not. Clearly now this is a lost season, but starting here they play four losing teams in a row plus two more to start December so it’s not like they are gong 2-14 or anything. They have time to regroup and grow for 2020. The Jaguars want to win now. They pulled off the win last week in Cincinnati and while it wasn’t a work of art it kept them in the hunt. This win would put them 4-4 midseason, and then November decides their fate when they face all their division foes, two on the road, and get a bye week to prepare for that road trip. I think they have a chance, but their quarterback situation is still the big factor. Foles could return and maybe Minshew keeps improving. Jacksonville has only 2 interceptions on the year and that has kept them going. Their defense has produced triple the sacks (21-7) compared to the visitors who clearly have the better passing game on offense. The Jaguars are fifth in rushing and have more than double New York’s average per game (140.1 to 66.8) but somehow just a single rushing score. That’s hurt them for sure. The Jets allow just 3.3 yards per carry while the Jaguars are at 4.8 so if the visitors can keep pounding it could make it interesting. This is a tossup game, but home field and momentum matter: Jacksonville 23, NY Jets 19 (NYJ +7/over 40.5)

Carolina (4-2) @ San Francisco (6-0): It’s serious in the NFC. Making the playoffs at 10-6 is no lock. The Panthers aren’t even resting in a playoff spot with their current record. Allen has dug them out of the 0-2 hole Newton put them in and maybe this would be a battle of undefeated teams if he had won the job in preseason, who knows? They are coming off a bye week having taken advantage of Winston’s turnover prone ways in a 37-26 win over Tampa Bay in London. Now they go on another long flight and that’s a tough ask, especially against a nasty defense. This is also the best team they have faced thus far. The 49ers just traveled back from Washington where they mudded their way to a 9-0 win over a bad team. In three October games they have allowed 10 points and ironically the only team to score more than 17 against them is a Pittsburgh team with a backup quarterback. After this they get bookend games with Arizona sandwiched around a huge tilt against Seattle, but I think they are in good shape to win all of those contests. For real if they get this done I think it’s 10-0 when Green Bay comes to town. Both teams protect their quarterback, but the 49ers have allowed just 8 sacks. The Panthers have thrown just 1 interception. San Francisco is the top pass defense and that’s hard to do with the Patriots around. They have 20 sacks, but the visitors have 27. Something has to give and at some point the hosts will miss Staley at left tackle. This could be the day. The 49ers are second in rushing offense with 172.7 yards per game, a huge number, but still the Panthers at ninth (129.5) average more per carry (4.9 to 4.4). On the defensive side Carolina is more vulnerable (4.7 to 4.1) so does that level it out? I think this is a battle. This could be a knock down drag out affair. I like Allen, but he’s going to crack here: San Francisco 20, Carolina 10 (SF -5.5/under 42.5)

Oakland (3-3) @ Houston (4-3): The last time these teams met it was the playoffs following the 2016 season and Carr was hurt. The Raiders couldn’t repeat their regular season win without him and haven’t been a winning team since. They are in the hunt so far this year, but this is a pivotal game as they finish off a span of six weeks not playing at home. Last week the defense was destroyed in Green Bay, but if the offense had been less error prone the outcome might have been different. They beat a good Colts team a few weeks ago that just topped these Texans in a pivotal AFC South battle. I think these teams are pretty even actually, and both might wind up in the playoffs. Oakland has allowed far fewer sacks (8-21) and yes they have played one less game but their passing offense stands up against a team with far better weapons. Defensively these are two of the four worst units in the league and it’s really strange for a team to trade a cornerback to an opponent so let’s see what secrets Conley will reveal to the home side as he faces his former team. Houston has more sacks (17-10) and that J.J. Watt guy to disrupt things. The teams have combined to allow 31 touchdown passes against 6 interceptions in 13 games and both allow exactly 67.5% of passes to be completed against them. Both teams are top 8 in rushing offense and average exactly 4.9 yards per carry. Both are also in the top five against the run although the Raiders allow fewer yards per rush (3.6 to 4.1). It’s a hard game to call. I think fatigue really factors in. Oakland has to be tired. It’s been a long haul for them. Conley is a spy, that can’t help. Watt is the best defensive player on the field and the home team has by far the better targets in the passing game plus a more athletic quarterback. The number says it’s close, but reality is different: Houston 27, Oakland 21 (OAK +7/under 51.5)

Cleveland (2-4) @ New England (7-0): It’s a late start for the east coast and could be in the rain. Beyond that it’s close to Halloween and the Browns have orange helmets, so I feel as though something weird could happen. They have the defense to make life difficult for Brady, no question about it. Belichick coached this franchise a lifetime ago, the old version before expansion. I wonder if he gets nostalgic. Kitchens was an awful hire and is going to get outcoached badly so for the Patriots to lose a lot has to go wrong and I mean a lot. Like a lot of rain, turnovers, weird bounces and possibly more just to make it close. Cleveland had a week off to prepare. They played well enough to win against Seattle, a winning team, when last seen. They also routed Baltimore a few weeks ago. Can this team get it together? We are going to find out what they are made of. New England has perhaps the best defense ever if they can keep it up, at least statistically. No one thinks these guys are better than the 1985 Bears or 2000 Ravens, they just aren’t. The talent isn’t there. Still, they play as a team and get it done. Maybe next week in Baltimore things get interesting for them against a mobile passer. In this one I can’t see an erratic Mayfield being a problem. The Browns have thrown 11 interceptions, almost two per game and they will have to for sure not turn it over at all to have a chance. They complete 56.5% of their passes and are up against a team allowing teams to complete 50.8%. That’s a recipe for disaster. The Pats have 26 sacks and 18 interceptions. Cleveland is sixth in pass defense and has 19 sacks so maybe they can at least keep it interesting. The Browns can run the ball some with Chubb. They do average 5.3 per rush and if there is a weakness for the mighty champs it’s that they slug out only 3.3 yards per carry. The 12 touchdowns on the ground make up for that though and they are up against a team that is third-worst against the run (5.0, 154.0). New England is second (4.2, 74.7). There’s no way they can keep this close right? I get a weird feeling they might, but I’m ignoring that impulse: New England 28, Cleveland 12 (NE -11/under 46.5)

Green Bay (6-1) @ Kansas City (5-2): If Mahomes was healthy this would be an epic game, maybe as good as last year’s Chiefs-Rams tilt that should have been the Super Bowl. It’s unreal to think that the only thing keeping Mahomes from having a ring at this point is probably an idiot jumping offsides. He really shouldn’t play in this one and I’m assuming he doesn’t. The Chiefs have had a couple extra days to figure out what they can do with Moore at the controls and their defense stepped up huge in a rout at Denver after he got hurt. It’s a little different facing Rodgers compared to Flacco though. The Packers are flying high after Rodgers became the first player in franchise history to finish with a perfect quarterback rating. They unloaded on Oakland 42-24 and even with offensive players getting hurt it hasn’t impacted their production. It’s a huge break for them if Mahomes is out as I assume he will be and allows them to stay in the hunt for the NFC’s top seed. In 14 combined games these teams have thrown 3 interceptions and allowed only 21 sacks. Moore stepping in creates an issue for the home team though. The Packers have a softer pass defense, but with 18 sacks and 8 interceptions they have the ability to impact the game. Neither team has been great running the ball, both below 100 yards per game and 4 per carry. Both teams are bad against the run, in the bottom 10 in fact. Kansas City gives up 5.0 per rush and Green Bay is right behind them at 4.9. If it’s a running game that slows things down and maybe gives the home team a chance to keep it close. I doubt it. In primetime the better quarterback shines through and holding Mahomes out was the right decision even if it ensures the team will be on the road in the playoffs: Green Bay 26, Kansas City 20 (GB -3/under 48.5)

Miami (0-6) @ Pittsburgh (2-4): This is the second game this week that is a rematch from the 2016 season wild card weekend, and it’s almost unreal to imagine the Dolphins were a 10-6 team so recently. They have absolutely fallen apart. It took allowing an onside kick to be returned for a touchdown, but they lost for a fifth time by double digits last week in Buffalo. Fitzpatrick definitely gives them a better chance to win and while everyone knows they secretly want to secure the first overall pick they can’t really make it obvious right? Primetime is a factor because no one wants to be embarrassed on national television. These players have pride. The Steelers don’t really care. They spent their bye week gearing up for the long second half of the season in which they can still contend. There are three games left against the Ohio teams for them plus Arizona and the Jets down the stretch. Could they get on a roll even without Big Ben? It’s back to Rudolph and that’s a good thing as he’s done with concussion protocol. While both teams are bottom 5 in passing offense, Miami allows way more sacks (26-5) and completes almost 10% fewer passes. Pittsburgh’s defense also has more (20-7) and has a huge edge in picks (8-1). Both rushing offenses have been bad, but the Dolphins are awful against the run (4.7, 160.8) while the Steelers are average (3.8, 110.2). I think the home team is going to get control, but not blow them out: Pittsburgh 24, Miami 16 (MIA +16/under 43.5)

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