Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 8 NFL Picks
Just when you think we couldn't possibly be any dumber, we go and redeem ourselves!
Picking games against the spread in Week 7, Bleacher Report analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski nailed 59 percent of their predictions, while the group's consensus choices were wrong about only three of 14 games.
It's progress for a trio that struggled mightily during a wild six-week stretch to start the season.
Here's where our predictors now stand through seven weeks (last week's records in parentheses).
1. Brent Sobleski: 50-52-5 (8-5-1)
2. Gary Davenport: 49-53-5 (6-7-1)
3. Brad Gagnon: 47-55-5 (9-4-1)
Consensus picks: 48-54-5 (10-3-1)
Can the crew keep rolling? Let's jump in.
Lines based on consensuses at OddsShark as of Wednesday.
Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)
Following strong starts, both the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans find themselves in the AFC playoff picture. But the Texans are the hotter of the two, and they'll have an important home-field advantage Thursday night.
Miami has lost its last two road games by double-digit margins, while the Texans have surrendered only 29 combined points in back-to-back home victories. Favorites are also 7-0 on Thursday Night Football this season, and they've covered the point spread on at least six of those occasions (depending on the line you got in Week 4).
That explains why our experts agree the Texans can cover a 7.5-point spread to kick off Week 8.
"That number is certainly higher than I'd prefer considering that the Texans haven't won a home game by more than seven points since last November," Gagnon said. "But that indicates a streaking team is due, and the Dolphins have been slapped by reality with three losses in four games following a 3-0 start. They aren't contenders, they don't have close to as much talent as Houston and they're in a tough spot on the road on short rest against a hot opponent."
Throw in that Miami continues to operate without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and Houston appears to be the safer bet.
Davenport: Houston (-7.5)
Gagnon: Houston (-7.5)
Sobleski: Houston (-7.5)
Consensus: Houston (-7.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 27, Dolphins 17
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)
London is essentially a second home for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it shows. They've looked comfortable there of late, with three consecutive 30-plus-point performances during their current three-game London winning streak.
That might be enough to convince Gagnon that Jacksonville can at least keep it within a field goal when it "hosts" the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday morning at Wembley Stadium, but the majority of our panelists aren't as confident in a slumping, tumult-plagued Jaguars squad that has lost three straight games by a combined 62 points.
The Eagles are also struggling, having lost three of their past four, but at least there's no evidence of in-fighting there. Philadelphia also proved in 2017 to be a resilient team.
"Sometimes reality is far different than perception," Sobleski said. "The Jaguars are viewed as one of the NFL's most talented teams. So what? Head coach Doug Marrone benched his starting quarterback last week only to reinsert Blake Bortles into the lineup for Sunday's contest. Plus, Jacksonville has lost its last three games by an average of 20.7 points per game. Some will argue that number is skewed by a recent blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but all three defeats were by at least two scores."
The odds are against that happening again, but the Eagles are in less pain than the Jags. Seeing as they're only giving up a field goal, you aren't going out on an ocean-sized limb with Philly.
Davenport: Philadelphia (-3)
Gagnon: Jacksonville (+3)
Sobleski: Philadelphia (-3)
Consensus: Philadelphia (-3)
Score Prediction: Philadelphia 24, Jacksonville 20
Denver Broncos (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)
The Kansas City Chiefs are eventually going to fail to cover a point spread. Andy Reid's team is a perfect 7-0 against the spread this season, and the books have adjusted by making Kansas City a double-digit favorite for the first time this season Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Even against a division rival that put up a strong fight when the two met earlier this month, our experts don't believe that 10-point line is enough.
"The Broncos are well-rested coming off a blowout Thursday road victory, and they outplayed Kansas City for at least three quarters in their previous meeting," Gagnon said. "But that Week 7 result for Denver had a lot more to do with Arizona's inadequacy than anything else, and the Broncos are more likely to look the way they did when they stunk it up on the road against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets earlier this season."
The Chiefs have won all three of their home games this season by double-digit margins. They've scored 85 points in their last two games, and their defense has allowed only 24 points in their last two home outings. The Broncos might be gaining confidence, but it looks as though they're in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Davenport: Kansas City (-10)
Gagnon: Kansas City (-10)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-10)
Consensus: Kansas City (-10)
Score Prediction: Kansas City 37, Denver 17
New York Jets (3-4) at Chicago Bears (3-3)
The young New York Jets and young Chicago Bears have both recently been reminded that growing up isn't easy. Following back-to-back explosive victories, the Jets were spanked by the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7, while the Bears have suffered consecutive mistake-riddled losses following a 3-1 start.
Which team is more likely to bounce back when the two meet Sunday at Soldier Field? Our analysts are unanimously siding with the Bears, and they're confident enough to lay seven points.
"New York's last two losses have come by a combined 39 points," Gagnon said, "and they've averaged just 14.5 points per game on the road ever since that blowout Week 1 victory in Detroit. They're likely to lose to a more talented Bears team in Chicago, and I wouldn't be surprised if Matt Nagy's team really drove the point home the way they did when they crushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4."
The backdoor cover is always a possibility in a situation like this, but the Bears have scored at least 28 points in three straight games, while the Jets have allowed 71 in their last two. Chicago might light up the scoreboard Sunday.
Davenport: Chicago (-7)
Gagnon: Chicago (-7)
Sobleski: Chicago (-7)
Consensus: Chicago (-7)
Score Prediction: Chicago 27, New York Jets 17
Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1)
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't lost to the Cleveland Browns since 2014, but the Steelers and Browns tied earlier this year and Pittsburgh's last three victories over Cleveland came by only10 total points.
With that in mind, two of our three analysts think the Steelers are laying too many points as an eight-point favorite Sunday against Cleveland.
"Cleveland has the talent to beat the Steelers," Gagnon said. "We saw that in Week 1, and we've seen it on nearly a weekly basis since. On paper, the Browns are a good team. Do I trust that they won't once again shoot themselves in the foot here? Of course not, but that doesn't mean they'll lose by multiple scores."
But the Browns are a bit of a mess right now after another mistake-filled performance in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's possible they're primed to get blown out, especially against a Steelers team that is coming off a bye week that was preceded by two big wins.
Davenport is siding with the boys in black and gold.
"The Browns have made a habit of screwing me on picks this season, and this week may not be any different given a robust eight-point spread," Davenport said. "But the Steelers have a week's rest and a pass rush that's tied for second in the NFL in sacks despite that bye week. Meanwhile, the Browns have Hue Jackson threatening to become more involved in play-calling (shudder) and an 'offensive line' that has surrendered a staggering 31 sacks in seven games. The Steelers will avenge a Week 1 tie that felt like a loss for them with a double-digit victory."
Davenport: Pittsburgh (-8)
Gagnon: Cleveland (+8)
Sobleski: Cleveland (+8)
Consensus: Cleveland (+8)
Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 23
Washington Redskins (4-2) at New York Giants (1-6)
The spread for Sunday's NFC East matchup between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants is the biggest mystery of the week.
The 1-6 Giants have had their behinds handed to them in three home losses this year, while the Redskins are off to a 4-2 start thanks in part to a top-10 defense. And yet in most spots, Washington is favored by only one point.
Anything can happen in these divisional matchups, and the yo-yo nature of the NFL could lead to a surprise Giants victory. The house always wins for a reason, and Vegas isn't missing something we're seeing with this line. Still, it's odd that said line has barely moved considering that the Giants have traded away two defensive starters during a short week.
"The fire sale appears to have started in New York with the Giants trading away their best defender, Damon Harrison," Sobleski said. "Harrison and Eli Apple might not be the only ones to depart before the trade deadline passes. Furthermore, the team's offense is a disaster with Eli Manning floundering behind a sieve-like offensive line. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. can only do so much. Meanwhile, Washington is quietly the NFC East's best team."
Our analysts are unanimously siding with the Redskins, which probably means the Giants will win in a cakewalk.
Davenport: Washington (-1)
Gagnon: Washington (-1)
Sobleski: Washington (-1)
Consensus: Washington (-1)
Score Prediction: Washington 27, New York 16
Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Detroit Lions (3-3)
Ever since failing to show up for an embarrassing season-opening loss to the Jets, the Detroit Lions have covered the point spread in five consecutive games—a stretch which includes two impressive home victories over the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.
Detroit is getting healthy and hot, and it is laying a mere three points at home against a less healthy and less hot Seattle Seahawks team. Two of our three experts are on board.
"After a rough start, the Lions finally found their footing under first-year head coach Matt Patricia," Sobleski said. "The team is clearly all-in after winning three of its last four games, and it showed when the organization acquired one of the league's best interior defenders, Damon Harrison, from the Giants. The Lions are now able to do three things well: protect their quarterback, slow opposing ground games and create effective pressure packages. Seattle has won three of its last four as well, but Detroit appears further along with its development."
The Seahawks are well-rested following back-to-back bye weeks (the first was technically a matchup with the Oakland Raiders, but let's be real). They've lost only one game by more than three points and have yet to lose by more than one score, so quarterback Russell Wilson should keep them in this road game, too.
With that in mind, Davenport isn't willing to lay the three points alongside his colleagues.
"This wasn't an easy call," he admitted. "It's a matchup of two teams that might be kind of good unless they aren't. And the Lions are playing at home with a nice head of steam after handling the Dolphins last week. But while there are things the Lions are doing well this year, defending the run isn't one of them—they're allowing almost 140 yards per game on the ground. Harrison will help in that regard, but he isn't likely to fix a bad run defense in less than a week. The Seahawks have refocused their offense on the ground game as of late, which should allow them to control the tempo of this game. In what I expect to be one of Week 8's closer contests, I'll take the points."
The push potential is strong in this one.
Davenport: Seattle (+3)
Gagnon: Detroit (-3)
Sobleski: Detroit (-3)
Consensus: Detroit (-3)
Score Prediction: Detroit 26, Seattle 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)
In southwest Ohio on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals will try to prove they're more like the team that beat the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins by double-digit margins at home, rather than the team that was crushed by the Chiefs on the road in Week 7.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to prove they're more like the team that lit up the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles to start the year, rather than the team that has struggled ever since.
The majority of our analysts are siding with Cincy, even though they have to give up 4.5 points.
"The Bengals are a decent team trying to stop the bleeding after two tough losses to strong opponents. The Buccaneers are a mediocre team trying to build off a lucky win," Gagnon said. "The former has a much higher likelihood of happening than the latter. That's just how the NFL works, and it's hard to get behind the Bucs. They didn't beat the Browns; the Browns beat themselves. Tampa Bay turned the ball over four times but still lucked out with an overtime victory at home. The Bengals are hungry at home, so this'll be a different story."
Still, it's worth noting that the leader of our analyst pack is riding with the underdogs. And our lone-wolf pickers are 29-28 this season.
Davenport: Cincinnati (-4.5)
Gagnon: Cincinnati (-4.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+4.5)
Consensus: Cincinnati (-4.5)
Score Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Tampa Bay 24
Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (4-2)
The 4-2 Carolina Panthers are riding a high following a breathtaking comeback victory over the defending Super Bowl champions on the road, whereas the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens are coming off two tough losses in a three-game span.
So why is the hotter team with the better record an underdog?
The volatile nature of the NFL says the Ravens are due to bounce back and the Panthers are due to slip up, but two of our three analysts don't see it here.
"I'll confess the Panthers are a hard team to figure out—Carolina was waffling between good and bad from game to game but decided that was boring and did both over 60 minutes last week against the Eagles," Davenport said. "But Cam and the Newtons found a way to win in Philly, and the Panthers have won their last eight games at Bank of America Stadium."
That last part is key. Carolina clearly outplayed the Cowboys, Bengals and Giants at home earlier this season, and the Panthers are 23-6 in their last 29 games in the Tar Heel state.
"It'd be even harder to pick against them if they were getting a full field goal here," Gagnon said, "but I'm not about to give Joe Flacco and Co. points in this spot."
Sobleski is, though—robbing the gang of a unanimous consensus.
Davenport: Carolina (+2)
Gagnon: Carolina (+2)
Sobleski: Baltimore (-2)
Consensus: Baltimore (-2)
Score Prediction: Baltimore 23, Carolina 20
Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-5)
Does anybody feel comfortable picking the Oakland Raiders as a mere three-point underdog right now?
Our experts don't. All three jumped on the Indianapolis Colts as three-point road favorites during a week in which Oakland traded away its top wide receiver—a move which triggered reports of strife within the Oakland locker room.
"I'm not even sure this Raiders team is interested in competing right now," Gagnon said. "That loss to the Seahawks in London was sad, and at that point there was still some hope they'd be competitive this year. That's probably no longer the case, and the visiting Colts are picking it up. They've averaged 32.3 points per game the last four weeks, and before that they played admirably against both the Redskins and Eagles on the road."
The Indianapolis defense might also have some fresh confidence after a dominant performance last week against the limping Buffalo Bills. It'll likely face a bigger challenge from the opposing quarterback in Oakland, but you still get the feeling this Colts team is putting things together just as the Raiders are packing it in.
Davenport: Indianapolis (-3)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (-3)
Sobleski: Indianapolis (-3)
Consensus: Indianapolis (-3)
Score Prediction: Indianapolis 31, Oakland 17
San Francisco 49ers (1-6) at Arizona Cardinals (1-6)
Don't you dare bet on this game.
Just don't. The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a 29-point loss while the Arizona Cardinals are coming off a 35-point loss. Sure, they're the home team—but that Week 7 beatdown came in Glendale against a sub-.500 opponent traveling on short rest.
The 49ers periodically show signs of life in the post-Jimmy Garoppolo era, but they've yet to actually, you know, win a game with interim starter C.J. Beathard under center.
Our crew is sheepishly predicting that Beathard and Co. will get off the schneid on the road, but Davenport confessed that from his standpoint this was literally a toss-up.
"As is always the case with my picks, I did careful and thorough research of this matchup of NFC West rivals," he said. "First, I reviewed all the things these teams do well—which took about 11 seconds. Then I examined all the areas in which the Cardinals and Niners struggle—I stopped after six hours because my eyes got tired and my head hurt. Then I flipped a coin (not kidding even a little), curled into a fetal position and sobbed for about 20 minutes because I had to think about this dog-turkey (durkey?) of a game at all."
Arizona beat this San Francisco team in the Bay Area by a double-digit margin just three weeks ago, and it is on longer rest at home now. That's why Gagnon is siding with the Cardinals, but you have no reason to trust either of these teams.
After all, in terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders, these are the two worst squads in the NFC.
Davenport: San Francisco (PK)
Gagnon: Arizona (PK)
Sobleski: San Francisco (PK)
Consensus: San Francisco (PK)
Score Prediction: San Francisco 23, Arizona 21
Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) at Los Angeles Rams (7-0)
For the first time ever, the Green Bay Packers are nine-plus-point underdogs with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. That's a strong indication of how strongly oddsmakers and the public feel about the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams.
Our gang agrees that in this case, it's gone a little too far.
"I cannot believe how many points the Packers are getting," Gagnon said. "Green Bay has stumbled in both of its road games, but Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, he and his injured knee are coming off a bye week, and the Rams could be exhausted following a three-game road trip."
Los Angeles cut it close in two of those games (it beat Seattle and Denver by a combined five points) and beat the Vikings at home by just a single score one week prior. With the backdoor cover also on the table, the rested Packers appear to be an obvious pick here.
Davenport: Green Bay (+9.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (+9.5)
Sobleski: Green Bay (+9.5)
Consensus: Green Bay (+9.5)
Score Prediction: Los Angeles 30, Green Bay 27
New Orleans Saints (5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1)
The 2017 New Orleans Saints season began with a tough road loss to the Minnesota Vikings and ended with an even tougher road loss to the Minnesota Vikings. But the majority of our experts believe the streaking Saints are finally due to overcome Mt. Viking.
"I was back and forth on this one," Davenport wrote. "And then back and forth again. The Saints just escaped Baltimore by the skin of their teeth, and Minnesota is coming off arguably their best effort of the season. There's also the matter of Minnesota's two wins over the Saints last year—and the fact this Vikings team (on paper, at least) is even better.
"But the 2018 Vikings have been all over the place—the same team that hammered the Jets a week ago got thumped at home by freaking Buffalo. On the other hand, the Saints, since a shocker in Week 1 against Tampa Bay, have been consistently good. Really good. It won't surprise me even a little if the Vikings win this game, but I'll take that consistency and Drew Brees indoors."
You're also welcome to note that New Orleans was in a position to win that playoff game before it was victimized by the Minnesota Miracle, but it shouldn't be forgotten that the Vikings once led that game 17-0. With that in mind, Gagnon isn't sure the Saints have it in them here.
"The Vikings have generally had the Saints' number," he said, "and they're at home again for this one following a pair of double-digit victories. They've won three in a row and are finding a groove after a slow start. Sure, the Saints have won five in a row, but they might be wiped following a dramatic road game in Baltimore. I think they're in for a bit of a dud."
Still, he's in the minority.
Davenport: New Orleans (PK)
Gagnon: Minnesota (PK)
Sobleski: New Orleans (PK)
Consensus: New Orleans (PK)
Score Prediction: New Orleans 27, Minnesota 24
New England Patriots (5-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-5)
With Tom Brady serving as their primary quarterback, the New England Patriots have defeated the Buffalo Bills in 11 consecutive meetings. In those outings they've averaged 35.7 points per game and a 14.6-point margin of victory
That alone should cause you to strongly consider taking New England as a 14-point favorite Monday night in Orchard Park, but consider also that...
- The Bills are coming off a 32-point loss to an opponent that was 1-5.
- The Bills are starting a quarterback who hasn't won a game since 2014.
- The Bills have been terrible all season aside from an aberrational victory in Minnesota in Week 3.
- The Patriots are just the fifth team in modern NFL history to score 38-plus points in four consecutive games in one season.
Anyone confident the Bills can keep this reasonably close?
"A 14-point spread is usually far too tempting not to take," Sobleski said. "But this is the Bills playing the Patriots. More importantly, this will be the Derek Anderson-led Bills against the now suddenly potent Patriots. The Bills feature the NFL's fourth-ranked pass defense, but it'll be facing a surging New England offense after the acquisition of Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman's return. At this point, it's hard to imagine any defense slowing Tom Brady and Co."
Davenport: New England (-14)
Gagnon: New England (-14)
Sobleski: New England (-14)
Consensus: New England (-14)
Score Prediction: New England 31, Buffalo 13