If you missed the Baltimore Ravens-Miami Dolphins Thursday Night Football game to watch Fixer Upper, Shank Tank reruns, professional broom hockey, basically anything short of Real Housewives of Wherever, consider it a good decision. (Unless you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan.) Joe Flacco surprised early with a first-quarter end zone dime to Jeremy Maclin. Unfortunately, after the Ravens QB scrambled toward the end zone later, Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso jarred loose Flacco’s helmet, football and very nearly his consciousness:
Kiko Alonso just hit Joe Flacco like he was playing against him in his fantasy league…pic.twitter.com/aPPiwTC5qB
— ESPN FantasyFauxball (@ESPNFauxball) October 27, 2017
Despite what Fins backup QB Matt Moore showed in relief of Jay Cutler last week, he was terrible on Thursday (two INTs, two pick-sixes), just like the Dolphins’ pass protection and running game and you get the idea. One of the few enjoyable bits from this game was learning that Ravens running back Alex Collins (18 rushes, 113 yards) practices Irish tap dancing, apparently the secret sauce to his success. Here’s the clip and then we’ll get to the rest of the NFL betting slate and find some winners.
NFL Week 8 Picks, Projections, Cowboys-Redskins Clash, Chiefs Bounce Back, Seahawks Ground Texans, and Colts Recede Into the Abyss (at Cincinnati)
Minnesota Vikings (-9.5) “at” Cleveland Browns (London)
As you know, All-Pro Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, a stalwart of over 10,000 consecutive snaps, is down for the season with a torn triceps. And Cleveland’s best defensive player, DE Myles Garrett, won’t be making the trip due to a concussion. Of course this is about more than injuries; the Browns simply have a terrible offense, zero passing game and as always, a miserable game of musical chairs at quarterback. Except that none of the chairs are good ones, more like the kind in the basement with wobbly back that nobody has bothered to throw away. This is another start for rookie QB DeShone Kizer and Mike Zimmer’s Vikings defense will prey. For Minny’s offense, with or without top wideout Stefon Diggs (groin, he’s looking like a go), they should be able to exploit a soft Browns passing defense. Cleveland did cover last week but I just can’t back them here and will lay off. Score projection: Vikings 24, Browns 10
Los Angeles Chargers (+7) at New England Patriots After a dreadful start to the season, the Patriots defense never really reverted back to something resembling a Patriots defense. Last week against Atlanta they benefited from Stephen King’s The Mist at Gillette Stadium and before that allowed 23 first downs, 408 yards of offense and 9-of-17 third down conversions to the Jets. And now they’ve lost the heartbeat of the defense, LB Dont’a Hightower, for the season with a torn pec. Time for David Harris to step up. We know what New England can do on offense, just never which running back is going to score the points. And now look at those Chargers, winners of three straight and they’re capable of bringing pressure and stifling passing games (ranked 8th in passing defense DVOA). I see this as a pretty competitive game that the Chargers can win outright. Take the points. Score projection: Patriots 24, Chargers 23
Indianapolis Colts (+10) at Cincinnati Bengals: The luster has worn off Jacoby Brissett. Last week, Sacksonville devoured him and the Colts offensive line for 10 sacks. Wideout T.Y. Hilton frustratedly threw the offensive line under the bus, so you can imagine the state of that locker room. The bigger problem is actually the defense, which has allowed a league-worst 31.7 points per game (next is Arizona with 27.3) and 311 passing yards per game (31st). And now they don’t have their 2017 top pick, safety Malik Hooker, who’s out for the year with a knee injury. The Bengals and A.J. Green might break out with 40 points (total is 41.5) against this sorry Colts squad. Score projection: Bengals 38, Colts 13
Carolina Panthers (+2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Panthers offense got stifled in Chicago last week but there’s nothing like the Buccaneers defense (except maybe the Colts D) to get Cam Newton to flash his broad smile. The Buccaneers have the league’s worst passing defense plus an inability to get after opposing QBs. That’s a really bad combination, like dumping sulphuric acid into a 50 gallon drum of mystery substance. I did that once as a teenage Sears employee and it got me into the newspaper. As for the Bucs, the situation might get worse — starters Brent Grimes (shoulder) and Robert McClain (concussion) have not practiced this week. The Bucs can certainly do some damage of their own on offense, but I think we’ll see a pretty ticked off Panthers group out there surrounding star LB Luke Kuechly, who’s set to return from a concussion. Score projection: Panthers 27, Bucs 24
Oakland Raiders (+2.5) at Buffalo Bills: Last we saw the Raiders they proved that Thursday Night Football can be exciting in a thrilling 31-30 offensive slugfest that ended with a Derek Carr-to-Michael Crabtree TD on an untimed town. Contrary to the Well-It’s-a-West Coast-team-Headed-Cross-Country narrative, consider (via @bettheboardpod) that under Jack Del Rio, Oakland is 9-2 against the spread in Eastern time zone games. Predictive value? I’m not sure but that’s not a sample of three. In place of Marshawn Lynch (suspended), Oakland will use the tandem of Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who might offer more than Beast Mode. On offense, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor has somehow been turning packaged Oscar Mayer meats into completely respectable dishes of Schnitzel Cordon Bleu. His top receiving options this week? WR Deonte Thompson, who caught four passes for 107 yards after getting picked up last week, and tight end Nick O’Leary, who took over for an injured Charles Clay and who most of us have never heard of. The Bills will ask a lot of LeSean McCoy against a leaky Raiders defense, though the Bills will be susceptible in the back end too without starting DB E.J. Gaines (hamstring) and safety Jordan Poyer (knee). That’s why I’m ignoring the side and looking at the total over 45. Score projection: Raiders 27, Bills 24
San Francisco 49ers (+13) at Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia notched a big win over Washington on Monday Night but they lost a couple a really valuable player on both sides — left tackle Jason Peters (knee) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (Achilles). Every team has to overcome injuries but that’s a rough 1-2 punch. Of course, at least the next men up and step in against the winless Niners who just got bludgeoned by Dallas. But this might be a bit of a letdown spot for Philly, and by that I mean they might only win by 10 and not 14. They’re clearly superior and Carson Wentz has looked awesome in or out of the pocket while… yeah, Brian Hoyer is not back in yet for C.J. Beathard… he’s making his second start. Tall task for a rookie against an Eagles D that ranks second in quarterback hits. Score projection: Eagles 27, 49ers 17
Chicago Bears (+9) at New Orleans Saints: The Bears are 4-0 against the spread at home, coming off a solid defensive performance in a 17-3 win over Carolina. That makes two straight wins outright for Chicago. The only thing is that the year is 2017 and Mitchell Trubisky has attempted 23 passes combined in those wins after attempting SEVEN passes last week (a game in which they had two defensive scores). That said, you may not want your QB passing either with a WR corps like Chicago’s. But they may no have a choice this week in order to keep up with Drew Brees at the Superdome. In a wide-open NFC, the Saints are looking like legitimate contenders with a top-flight offense and yes, a capable defense that’s more susceptible on the ground. Chicago will feed Jordan Howard about 30 carries and hope to slow the game down, which may be asking a bit too much. Score projection: Saints 30, Bears 20
Atlanta Falcons (-5) at New York Jets: Okay, it’s time to panic in Atlanta. What happened to that explosive offense? Time to scapegoat or re-scapegoat new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Because the personnel is the same and they’ve scored fewer than 14 points a game over three straight losses. They’re still averaging 6.2 yards per play, second only to Kansas City. So perhaps Sarkisian should consider not calling end-arounds on the goal line. The Jets continue to defy logic and expectations with three wins so far and a 4-2-1 against the spread record. The Atlanta bounce back was expected last week and didn’t quite materialize, so perhaps it’s coming against a Jets defense not particularly good against the run or pass. But until the Falcons show up I’ll ride with a home dog playing hard. Score projection: Falcons 23, Jets 21
Houston Texans (+5.5) at Seattle Seahawks: Deshaun Watson is pretty good but he’s been feasting on some terrible defenses during this touchdown binge (16 in four weeks, three straight games at home). Shit’s about to get real for him in Seattle as the Legion of Boom has rounded back into form. Sure the Texans had a bye week to prepare and rest and also get back star left tackle Duane Brown (after a lengthy holdout), and Seattle’s offensive line remains a major liability, but Seattle has that great home field advantage and a pass defense that can temper the rookie’s breakout. For Seattle on offense, look for Russell Wilson to do some Russell Wilson things. Score projection: Seahawks 24, Texans 17
Dallas Cowboys (-2) at Washington Redskins: Like Philly, Monday night wasn’t kind to the Redskins’ injury report. Guard Brandon Scherff sprained his MCL (he might play) and LT Trent Williams (knee) has not yet practiced this week. The list is long, very long, but at least star DB Josh Norman is coming back (ribs) and will be forced to deliver on his commercially-enhanced rivalry with star Cowboys WR Dez Bryant.
That should be a fun one. After Dallas just lambasted the Niners and Washington dropped one against the NFC-best Eagles, the Redskins appear to be the right side. The injuries are a bit troublesome but Dallas’s defense is a real mess (25th overall in DVOA) and Kirk Cousins has the firepower to keep Dallas honest and off balance while RB Chris Thompson is looking like a fine receiver out of the backfield. The combination of Jordan Reed (78% snap rate last week) and Vernon Davis (already six 20-plus yard catches) presents trouble for any defense. The Cowboys will certainly get theirs in what’s likely a shootout but I think we see the Redskins step up here and eke it out. Score projection: Redskins 30, Cowboys 27
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Detroit Lions: This is one of those games where the “public” is going to be all over the Steelers and contrarians on the Lions. I think the public may be right. The Steelers are very good on both sides of the ball now that Le’Veon Bell is carrying the rock 53 times per game. Actually it’s about 32 but how many rushers even break 20 anymore? Anyhow, Bell is Ngata gonna have much difficulty making the Lions his next 100-yard rushing victim. (I couldn’t help myself — Lions big DT Haloti Ngata is out.) I’m aware of the Roethlisberger home-road dichotomy but the Steelers defense is superb and the Lions are down to their third left tackle, former Steeler Brian Mihalik. These Lions are fighters but I think they’re simply out of their weight class. Score projection: Steelers 24, Lions 17
Denver Broncos (+7) at Kansas City Chiefs: Speaking of offensive line woes, the Broncos were forced to put backup guard Allen Barbre at right tackle against the Chargers last week after both right tackles Donald Stephenson (calf) and Menelik Watson (same) went down. They’re both a bit shaky to begin with and Trevor Siemian has become downright skittish in the pocket, which is understandable considering that behind this line there’s very large men chasing him every play and only a small yellow flag to save him. Kansas City cannot afford to drop a third straight and they’re coming off mini-bye here, now back at Arrowhead where opponents cannot crack 17 points. That would be an accomplishment for a Denver offense averaging 10.5 over their past four. Denver’s only hope is to grind down the clock with the running game, which has been basically dormant. Alex Smith really has been great this season (15 passing TD and ZERO interceptions, plus 121 rushing yards) and I expect Andy Reid will find a way to create openings for routine-like big plays. There’s still some 7.5’s hanging out there but I’m not interested in the hook, either. Score projection: Chiefs 23, Broncos 10
Happy Week 8to you all. Hit me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, concerns, questions, compliments or dad jokes.