There are a couple big games in the NFC this week with potential playoff teams facing off against one another. But Sunday starts with a Sunday morning contest from Wembley Stadium between the defending Super Bowl champions and last year’s runners-up in the AFC as the Eagles play the Jaguars in London. But the week’s featured games are in the late-afternoon slot and on Sunday night. The first of the two sees the Packers visiting the Rams, the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL this season. Then the Sunday nighter pits the Saints against the Vikings in Minnesota in what is a rematch from last season’s playoffs. I went 8-6 last week, giving me an overall record of 50-67 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Byes: Chargers, Cowboys, Falcons, Titans
Thursday Night Football
Dolphins at Texans (-7.5) – After starting the season 0-3, the Texans have won four in a row to take over first place in the AFC South. This week, they get Week 8 underway by welcoming one of their former quarterbacks, Brock Osweiler, who is going to get another start as he continues to fill in for injured QB Ryan Tannehill. He has performed pretty well in his first two starts, but he faces a formidable defense in the Texans, who have DEs J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. I think the Texans win at home, but I think the 7.5-point spread may be a bit high, so I’ll take the points.
Sunday 9:30AM game (London)
Eagles at Jaguars (+2.5) – The Jaguars were a trendy Super Bowl pick in the preseason after falling a game shy of playing in Super Bowl LII in February. But they’re 3-4 through the first seven weeks of the season and are in danger of not even making it to the postseason. The Eagles are also underachieving and hold the same record. The Jaguars will again be without RB Leonard Fournette, but they will have recent trade acquisition RB Carlos Hyde in the backfield along with Rb T.J. Yeldon. Jacksonville benched QB Blake Bortles in favor of QB Cody Kessler during last week’s game, but Bortles will get the start again this week. For the Eagles, the receiving game is doing well with WRs Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, along with TE Zach Ertz, but the running game hasn’t been great since RB Jay Ajayi went on IR. It’s a battle of two struggling teams, but I like the Eagles better. I think they win, and cover.
Sunday 1PM games
Jets at Bears (-6.5) – The Bears fell a yard short of forcing overtime against the Patriots last week, and now they face a Jets team that isn’t early as good as New England. LB Khalil Mack and the Bears defense should be able to perform well against Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold, and with the way Bears QB Mitch Trubisky has been playing in recent weeks, the Bears should be able to score enough points to cover the 6.5-point spread.
Buccaneers at Bengals (-4.5) – The Bengals were embarrassed at the Chiefs in primetime on Sunday night, losing 45-10. But now they return home to play a worse team in the Buccaneers. Offense is an area of strength for both teams, so there could be a lot of points scored in this one. I believe in the Bengals’ offense more, especially on the ground behind RB Joe Mixon, and the combination of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green should be able help the Bengals come out on the top. I’m giving the points.
Browns at Steelers (-8.5) – There was speculation that Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell might end his holdout and join the team during the team’s bye last week, but that did not happen to RB James Conner will remain the starter heading into Sunday’s game. And, of course, there’s no question that the Steelers have one of the league’s best receivers with WR Antonio Brown catching passes from QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns traded Hyde to the Jags last week, opening the door for rookie RB Nick Chubb to finally take over the bulk of the carries on the ground. He did well with his expanded role last week and will look to repeat that this week. Despite that, I expect the Steelers to win the game, but I don’t know that they’ll cover the spread, so I’ll take the points.
Broncos at Chiefs (-10.5) – The Chiefs just beat the Bengals by 35 points on Sunday night and now play a Broncos team that, despite scoring 45 against the Cardinals last week, isn’t very good. The Broncos offense isn’t close to being at the same level as the Chiefs, who have QB Patrick Mahomes leading the way, with WR Tyreek Hill, RB Kareem Hunt and TE Travis Kelce also at or near the top of the league at their respective positions. This should be an easy win for the Chiefs, and I think they cover the double-digit spread.
Seahawks at Lions (-2.5) – The Seahawks are coming off their bye and, after having their last game in London, they face the Lions on the road. Seattle’s offense has improved as the season has gone on, but I don’t think Seattle’s players can match up with the Lions’ playmakers, notably WR Kenny Golladay and rookie RB Kerryon Johnson. I’ll go with the home team.
Redskins at Giants (+0.5) – This is a surprising spread. The Redskins are 4-2 and are favored by less than a point against a one-win Giants team in what is essentially a pick ’em. The Redskins have a better team at nearly every position but RB, where the Giants’ rookie Saquon Barkley is outperforming the Redskins’ veteran Adrian Peterson, who is playing better than many expected him to this season. I’ve never been a fan of Redskins QB Alex Smith, who isn’t anything special, but he’s definitely better than Giants QB Eli Manning at this point in the latter’s career. Manning’s poor play limits the upside of WRs Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard. Redskins easily win on the road.
Ravens at Panthers (+1.5) – The Ravens suffered a heartbreaking loss last week when K Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT — the first time in his career he has missed an extra point. On the other end of the spectrum, the Panthers came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Eagles, 21-17. If the Panthers want to win back-to-back games, they’ll have to get past a tough Ravens defense. I think they’ll be able to do it with QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey leading the offense. I’ll go with the favorites at home.
Sunday 4PM games
Colts at Raiders (+2.5) – The Raiders are playing their first game since trading WR Amari Cooper to the Cowboys earlier in the week. They also placed RB Marshawn Lynch on IR, weakening an offense that already wasn’t very good. That limits the weapons available to QB Derek Carr. WRs Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson will get a bigger workload, as will RBs Jalen Richard and Doug Martin. It’ll be tough for that group to compete with the Colts’ offense, led by QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton. I’ll give the points on the road.
Packers at Rams (-9.5) – Two of the best teams in the conference meet in this potential playoff preview that also pits one of the best quarterbacks of the last decade-plus against a star of the future, with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers leading his team into battle to oppose QB Jared Goff and the strong Rams offense. Goff has better players around him, including RB Todd Gurley and WR Brandin Cooks, so I give the Rams the edge in this matchup. However, I find it hard to pick any team that’s favored by nearly 10 points against a team led by Aaron Rodgers. Rams win the game, but I’ll take the points.
49ers at Cardinals (-0.5) – The two worst teams in the NFC West are playing each other in the final game of the Sunday afternoon slate. Both teams are coming off of blowout losses at home in Week 7. In a pick ’em between two bad teams, I’m going to go with the team with the best player on offense. That is Cardinals RB David Johnson, so I’ll go with the home team.
Sunday Night Football
Saints at Vikings (-0.5) – The Saints are slight favorites on the road in this playoff rematch from January. The Saints definitely have the more explosive offense of these two teams — with QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas — but the Vikings have the better defense. On offense, Minnesota will again be without starting RB Dalvin Cook, but RB Latavius Murray has done well in Cook’s absence in recent weeks. And the Vikings have WR Adam Thielen, who has been among the top players at the position this season. But he has QB Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball, and Cousins is clearly a level below Brees. I’m going with the better offense to outperform the better defense. Give me the Saints.
Monday Night Football
Patriots at Bills (+14.5) – The Bills lost to the Colts 37-5 last week and now have to face a better team in the Patriots, so it’s not surprising that the line is nearly 15 points. With QB Derek Anderson expected to start again this week for Buffalo, it probably won’t be much better. For the Patriots, TE Rob Gronkowski should return to the lineup after missing Week 7, but rookie RB Sony Michel is likely going to sit out the game after suffering a leg injury last week. I typically don’t like giving double-digit points, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. I’ll go with the Patriots.