B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 8

NFL StaffContributor IOctober 24, 2019

B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 8

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    As the midway point of the 2019 NFL regular season approaches, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have offered a mixed bag with their weekly picks against the spread. 

    On one hand, those following Gagnon or Sobleski all season long would be up some money. On the other hand, following the consensus or rolling with Davenport because he was far and away the top picker last year would have you in the red. 

    Here's exactly how they've fared (last week's records in parentheses):

    1. Brad Gagnon: 57-49 (9-5) 

    2. Brent Sobleski: 55-51 (8-6)

    3. Gary Davenport: 47-59 (8-6)

    Consensus picks: 53-53 (8-6)

    Moneyline consensus: 69-36-1 (10-4)

    "My record this year is a PSA for the perils of wagering on sporting events—in places where it's legal, of course," Davenport warned. "Thank goodness I don't, or in addition to serving up content here, I'd be serving up burgers and fries at Hardee's to make up for my losses. You can super-size both for just a dollar more, you know."

    But this could present an opportunity. Can Gagnon sustain a seemingly unsustainable pace that has him 28-15 ATS over the last three weeks? If not, you could consider fading him in an attempt to ride Davenport's road back to the mean. 

    Here are 15 kicks at the can for Week 8. 

                 

    Lines from Caesars as of 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Washington Redskins (1-6) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    We all have a lot of fun ribbing Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins for his inconsistent play and his problems in prime-time games, but that isn't enough for any of our analysts to get behind the dreadful Washington Redskins on the road on short rest Thursday night, even if Minnesota is giving Washington two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions. 

    It helps that Cousins has seemingly turned a corner. During Minnesota's current three-game winning streak, he's thrown 10 touchdown passes to one interception and has a passer rating of 142.6. Two of those performances came in what you might call "big games," with Cousins torching the Philadelphia Eagles (back when they had a winning record) and lighting up the division rival Detroit Lions on the road. 

    Maybe he's destined to come crashing back to earth with a hilarious stinker, but let's be real—that's much more likely to come next week in Kansas City or the following week in Dallas. 

    "There's plenty of potential for payback drama in this one, whether it's Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson against the Vikings or Cousins against the Redskins," Davenport said. "The thing is, only one of those players is in position to get revenge against his old team, and it isn't Peterson or Keenum. Cousins has been on fire of late, averaging over 325 yards over his past three games. Washington is also 27th in run defense, allowing over 130 yards per game. Dalvin Cook, Cousins and the Vikings roll."

    Those Washington defensive issues could be problematic considering that Minnesota has been just as unstoppable on the ground. Cook leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, and the Vikes rank third in rushing as a team. The defense hasn't quite put it together yet, but that unit has a lot of expensive talent, and this might be the right place and right time against a Redskins offense that has averaged only 6.8 points per game over the last four weeks. 

    Bad teams were destroyed on Thursday Night Football when the Denver Broncos and New York Giants went up against superior opponents the past two weeks, and that also happened to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and Giants in TNF games last year. Teams that finished 2018 with losing records were 1-6-1 ATS on Thursdays last season against teams that finished with winning records. 

    Stay away from bad teams on short rest on the road, especially against red-hot opponents. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Minnesota (-16)
    Gagnon: Minnesota (-16)
    Sobleski: Minnesota (-16)
    Consensus: Minnesota (-16)

    Score Prediction: Vikings 31, Redskins 10

Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) at New Orleans Saints (6-1)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals have yet to lose to a team that currently has a losing record and have yet to win against a team that currently has a winning record. But all three of their wins against losing teams have come in the last three weeks, so that may be a sign of progress, not merely fortuitous scheduling. 

    Arizona covered in all three of those victories, and it also covered in a six-point loss at Baltimore, which means the Cards are 3-0 ATS on the road. 

    Our experts aren't willing to bet that they'll upset the 6-1 New Orleans Saints on Sunday at the Superdome, but that 10.5-point spread still feels far too high considering the way Arizona has been performing. 

    "The Saints are clearly a better team than the Cardinals," Sobleski said. "Are they 10-plus points better than an upstart squad on a three-game winning streak? Arizona found its identity by spreading out defenses to run the football. They now sit just outside of the league's top 10 ground games with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. At worst, the Cardinals should be able to control the clock to some degree, thus keeping this contest close."

    The Saints are now 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater under center, and the well-accomplished backup might start at least one more game in place of the injured Drew Brees. Is New Orleans due for a loss without Brees? Could Brees do more harm than good in a quicker-than-expected return? Will a lingering Alvin Kamara injury finally catch up with New Orleans? Are the Cardinals due for a statement win over a high-quality team? It's fair to wonder about all of that, which is again why a double-digit spread seems like overkill. 

    Take those points and hope for a backdoor cover if all goes wrong. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Arizona (+10.5)
    Gagnon: Arizona (+10.5)
    Sobleski: Arizona (+10.5)
    Consensus: Arizona (+10.5)

    Score Prediction: Saints 24, Cardinals 21

Cincinnati Bengals (0-7) at Los Angeles Rams (4-3)

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    A bet on the Cincinnati Bengals these days is essentially a bet on a backdoor cover. And while that's always a risk with a double-digit spread, it isn't something any of our panelists are willing to do considering the state of Cincinnati's roster. 

    The Bengals continue to be without top wide receiver A.J. Green, the offensive line is in shambles, and they didn't have key defensive players Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, William Jackson III and Dre Kirkpatrick last week in a double-digit home loss to the mediocre Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    Now they have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to play a talented, experienced and well-coached Los Angeles Rams team that appears to be picking up steam after a blowout win in Atlanta. 

    "Yes, the Rams have been all over the place this season," Davenport admitted. "Yes, they're laying two touchdowns. And yes, it's a London game, which means things could get weird. But even taking all of that into consideration, I have no problem laying the points against a Bengals squad doing their best to give the Miami Dolphins a run for their money as the league's worst team. For the second season in a row, the Bengals sport the worst defense in football, allowing more than 430 yards per game. This will be over by halftime."

    The Rams are traveling from Georgia, not California, so Cincinnati's travel advantage is limited at best. And teams with losing records are 0-4-1 straight up and 0-5 against the spread in London dating back three calendar years.

    The Rams made a habit of lighting up bad teams last season. That didn't happen against against the Cleveland Browns or Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year, but the win in Atlanta was 2018-like, and Cincinnati is about as bad as they come. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Los Angeles (-13.5)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-13.5)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-13.5)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-13.5)

    Score Prediction: Rams 34, Bengals 10

Denver Broncos (2-5) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Bettors need to have memories that extend beyond the previous week. And those considering results prior to Week 7 might be tempted to jump on the Denver Broncos as a six-point underdog against the Indianapolis Colts.

    Indy's at home, but the Colts lost to the Oakland Raiders at that site four weeks ago. And the Broncos are coming off a lopsided home loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, but they were dominant defensively the previous two weeks against the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans. 

    But our gang is unanimously riding with the Colts minus six points, and Gagnon says that has a lot to do with Denver's potential mentality after trading veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. 

    "I'm not going to pretend I feel great about this one," Gagnon confessed. "We're probably underrating the Broncos after a nationally televised home loss, and we're probably overrating the Colts because Jacoby Brissett's Week 7 performance was rather uncharacteristic. I want to fade the public with Denver here, but I can't back a team that just traded away its second-best receiver and is led by a quarterback who looks downright disinterested. Six points isn't enough for me to get behind Joe Flacco on the road, even with extra time to prepare."

    It's certainly fair to wonder what Flacco has left in the tank following that abysmal effort against a soft Chiefs defense. He wasn't bad to start the season, but he has a 74.0 passer rating the last two weeks, and Indy's defense is a lot stronger than Kansas City's.

    Look for Indy's elite offensive line to handle Denver's talented pass rush, enabling the disciplined Colts to avoid turnovers and win by a touchdown or more. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Indianapolis (-6)
    Gagnon: Indianapolis (-6)
    Sobleski: Indianapolis (-6)
    Consensus: Indianapolis (-6)

    Score Prediction: Colts 27, Broncos 16

Los Angeles Chargers (2-5) at Chicago Bears (3-3)

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    This might not be the Los Angeles Chargers' season, but it sure doesn't look like the Chicago Bears' season, either. With that in mind, the majority of our analysts are surprised to see Chicago laying more than a field goal against a Bolts team that always plays hard on the road. 

    "The Chargers haven't lost by more than a field goal in any of their last nine games outside of Los Angeles," Gagnon said. "Why should we expect the struggling Bears to end that streak? Chicago was just completely humiliated by the Saints at home, and the offense scored only 19 total points in its first two home games of the season. Mitchell Trubisky has forgotten how to play quarterback, and the whole world—Chargers coaches included—knows Matt Nagy will try to lean heavily on the running game Sunday.

    "They're still really depleted, but teams sometimes get acclimated to life in a banged-up state, and Los Angeles has outscored its opponents 37-23 in the last five quarters. I'm expecting a bounce back from that messy ending in Tennessee." 

    But this is a rare game this week in which our guys lack unanimity. Davenport is willing to lay those four points with the Bears, who could be due to get back on track. The offense has been bad, but let's not forget that the Chicago defense is by far the most talented unit in this particular game. Tread carefully here. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Chicago (-4)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (+4)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (+4)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (+4)

    Score Prediction: Chargers 21, Bears 20

New York Giants (2-5) at Detroit Lions (2-3-1)

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Are the Detroit Lions already throwing in the towel on the 2019 season? They're only a game under .500 entering Week 8, but they have lost three straight games, and it's fair to wonder about their direction after their stunning decision to trade starting safety Quandre Diggs. 

    With that in mind, two of our three analysts can't justify laying a touchdown with the Lions hosting the New York Giants on Sunday. 

    "The Lions defense is a disaster," Gagnon said. "That shouldn't change with Damon Harrison, Darius Slay, Mike Daniels and Da'Shawn Hand all hurting and Diggs gone following a Week 7 humiliation at the hands of the Vikings.

    "Meanwhile, Saquon Barkley has had a chance to knock off the rust in his return from injury. He's due for an explosion against a run defense that has been rocked by Dalvin Cook and Jamaal Williams in back-to-back weeks. Daniel Jones also quietly had a decent performance in Week 7, and New York's bad defense will at least have an easier go with Kerryon Johnson out of the lineup for Detroit. The Giants could win this thing outright, especially if Lions players respond negatively to the Diggs trade."

    Considering the lack of consistency and stability with the Giants, the Lions still might be the safer pick straight-up. But it's worth noting that Detroit hasn't won by more than a field goal at home in more than a calendar year, and the Lions lost six of their last eight home games outright. 

    It's no surprise that our gang lacks a unanimous consensus in such a volatile matchup, but if you must bet here, the Giants are the preferred option. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: New York (+7)
    Gagnon: New York (+7)
    Sobleski: Detroit (-7)
    Consensus: Detroit (-7)

    Score Prediction: Lions 26, Giants 23

New York Jets (1-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    "The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a double-digit road victory, while the New York Jets are coming off a blowout home loss on national television," Gagnon said of Sunday's matchup between the Jets and the Jags in Florida. "That's about the only way to explain why a Jaguars team with a losing record, a now-struggling rookie sixth-round pick at quarterback and a secondary that lacks Jalen Ramsey is laying nearly a touchdown over Gang Green."

    In other words, Gagnon is suggesting that recency bias has inflated this line. And Sobleski is joining him behind the Jets, who outplayed the Cowboys two weeks ago. They might not be as good as that performance, but they're a lot better talent-wise than what we saw Monday night against the New England Patriots. 

    The majority of our analysts feel that something between that should hang with the Jags. 

    "The Bengals are one of the worst three teams in the NFL," Gagnon added, "but Jacksonville trailed Cincinnati in the fourth quarter last week. The Jets are a scary pick because of what happened Monday night, but Darnold is still the better quarterback, and the backdoor cover is always on the table, too." 

    Gagnon alluded to recent struggles from Jags interim starting signal-caller Gardner Minshew II, who has completed only 47.5 percent of his passes the last two weeks. Opposing defenses may be figuring him out.

    That favors the Jets, as does the progress star back Le'Veon Bell appears to be making. The big-money free-agent acquisition is coming off his best game yet on the ground as a Jet, and Jacksonville's run defense ranks 27th at Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Jacksonville (-6)
    Gagnon: New York (+6)
    Sobleski: New York (+6)
    Consensus: New York (+6)

    Score Prediction: Jaguars 23, Jets 20

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (5-1)

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    This might be another case in which the public is overreacting to an extreme result on national television. The Philadelphia Eagles laid an egg in Dallas on Sunday night, and while that might not be a complete aberration considering their poor Week 6 performance against the Minnesota Vikings, it might be foolish to write off an accomplished veteran team that has to be desperate right about now. 

    The banged-up Eagles haven't been right this year, but this is a well-coached team that hasn't lost three consecutive games since Doug Pederson was a rookie head coach in 2016. They'll look to avoid that fate Sunday on the road against the Buffalo Bills, who none of our analysts are buying as a small home favorite. 

    "I can't shake the feeling that either the Eagles aren't as bad as their record, the Bills aren't as good as their record or both," Davenport said. "The Eagles desperately need to get DeSean Jackson back, and the pass defense has struggled. But I don't know that the Bills can take advantage of that the way the Cowboys did. Pederson circles the wagons, the Bills come back to earth a little, and Philly wins a squeaker outright."

    You might not want to spend all of that money you have stashed away for a Halloween rager on this game. Philadelphia is still plagued by injuries, while the Bills' only loss this year came against the 7-0 Patriots. But that was still a home loss, and Buffalo hasn't played another half-decent team this season. Coming out of their Week 6 bye, the Bills trailed the tanking Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter at home. 

    It wouldn't make a lot of sense to take them in a borderline pick'em against a desperate, mentally tough team that many consider to be far superior. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Philadelphia (+1.5)
    Gagnon: Philadelphia (+1.5)
    Sobleski: Philadelphia (+1.5)
    Consensus: Philadelphia (+1.5)

    Score Prediction: Eagles 23, Bills 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    But the Bills aren't the only non-elite team laying points at home against an opponent that isn't likely to lose a third consecutive game. The Tennessee Titans are giving 2.5 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Nashville, despite the fact Tennessee has been outscored in three 2019 home games and Bruce Arians has never lost three straight regular-season games in his seven seasons as an NFL head coach. 

    Arians has had two weeks to prepare for a Titans team that was lucky to beat the depleted Chargers at home last week and now ranks 26th at Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA. 

    Our analysts agree the Bucs will cover and win. 

    "For all intents and purposes," Sobleski said, "the Titans should have lost to the Chargers last weekend until Los Angeles somehow found a way to botch the end of the game. Tennessee isn't exactly playing well after making the move from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. Neither are the Buccaneers after being embarrassed by the Carolina Panthers in London. However, the Bucs had time to lick their wounds during the bye week, and Jameis Winston isn't going to throw five more interceptions. I think."

    Winston isn't trustworthy, but that English disaster was an outlier for a maligned quarterback who had quietly strung together four consecutive triple-digit-rated games. Use his inconsistency to your advantage here, because there's a decent chance he bounces back under Arians' tutelage against a defense that hasn't had a multi-takeaway game since Week 2. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Tampa Bay (+2.5)
    Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+2.5)
    Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+2.5)
    Consensus: Tampa Bay (+2.5)

    Score Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Titans 21

Seattle Seahawks (5-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-6)

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    With Matt Ryan's status up in the air, most sportsbooks hadn't posted a line here at press time. But the Seattle Seahawks are likely to be favored by between a field goal and a touchdown Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, and our gang is riding with Seattle regardless. 

    Even if Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan were healthy, our analysts have essentially imposed an embargo on Falcons picks. This is a team that has covered the spread just three times in its last 15 games dating back nearly a calendar year. And while its current five-game losing streak (straight up and ATS) will eventually end, our writers aren't siding with Atlanta until they regain confidence in the team. 

    It's hard to have much of that when the Falcons looked lifeless in their last outing, especially with Ryan less than 100 percent and Seattle likely hungry after a tough home loss. 

    "I'm not sure how much bigger the spread would have to be for me to touch the Falcons, but it would have to be…robust," Davenport said. "The best case for the one-win Falcons is Ryan playing on one leg. The worst case is Matt Schaub, who never saw a pick-six he didn't like, under center. Never mind that the Seahawks are seething after getting their tailfeathers kicked at home by the Ravens. Seahawks in a rout in Dan Quinn's last game as Atlanta's head coach."

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Seattle
    Gagnon: Seattle
    Sobleski: Seattle
    Consensus: Seattle

    Score Prediction: Seahawks 34, Falcons 17

Carolina Panthers (4-2) at San Francisco 49ers (6-0)

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Injuries to key offensive players Kyle Juszczyk, Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey weren't enough to slow down the San Francisco 49ers against the Los Angeles Rams or Washington Redskins. But now the shorthanded offense will run into a Carolina Panthers defense that leads the league with 27 sacks and is coming off its bye week. 

    Our experts agree unanimously that even if the Niners stay perfect Sunday against Carolina, they're unlikely to cover a 5.5-point spread under those circumstances. 

    "The 49ers deserve a ton of credit for their 6-0 start after going 4-12 in 2018," Davenport said. "The run game and defense in San Francisco are top-notch, and the Niners are legit Super Bowl contenders. The thing is, with the possible exception of that last part, everything I said applies to the Panthers, too. Carolina's pass-rush is just as good as San Francisco's, and Christian McCaffrey is maybe the single most dangerous player in the NFL with a football in his hands. Plus, are we really sure Jimmy Garoppolo is a better quarterback than Kyle Allen? Don't be surprised if Carolina goes to Santa Clara and wins outright."

    Indeed, both teams are exceptional up front on D, both teams run the ball extremely well on offense, and both teams have question marks at the quarterback position. And while on the surface, you'd think highly paid San Francisco franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a significant advantage over interim Carolina starter Kyle Allen, the latter has enjoyed a much better season. 

    Allen, who has yet to lose as a starter, has thrown as many touchdown passes in four games (seven) as Garoppolo has in six, but Allen has yet to throw a pick while Jimmy G has six interceptions. The lesser-known Carolina quarterback also has substantially higher rate-based numbers, and it's worth mentioning that Garoppolo's numbers have suffered greatly these last two weeks sans Juszczyk, Staley and McGlinchey. 

    Will it all finally catch up to San Francisco? Even if it doesn't, the 49ers are unlikely to cover that number against a team that has yet to lose by more than six points this season. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Carolina (+5.5)
    Gagnon: Carolina (+5.5)
    Sobleski: Carolina (+5.5)
    Consensus: Carolina (+5.5)

    Score Prediction: 49ers 21, Panthers 20

Cleveland Browns (2-4) at New England Patriots (7-0)

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    Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

    For the fifth time in eight games, the New England Patriots are laying more than 12 points. Specifically, they're giving the Cleveland Browns 13. And while Cleveland is better than most, if not all, of the teams New England has played thus far, the majority of our panelists aren't willing to take the underdog. 

    "I was really tempted to take the Browns here," Gagnon said. "That number is awfully high considering the talent on the Browns' roster, as well as the fact Cleveland has had eight extra days to prepare. In New England's lone matchup with a decent team this season, it beat the Bills by only six. But Cleveland's defense isn't as good as Buffalo's, Cleveland's quarterback has been remarkably unreliable, New England feasts on quarterbacks like that, and the Patriots are at home this time. I'm also not sure the bye week will do much to even the scales in what appears to be a comically lopsided matchup between the two head coaches."

    Yeah, let's remember this is Bill Belichick versus Freddie Kitchens. And it's in Foxborough, where the Pats are 19-0 straight-up and 15-4 against the spread in their last 19 regular-season and playoff games dating back more than two calendar years. 

    Fourteen of those 19 wins have come by 13 points or more. 

    But it's not surprising there's no unanimous consensus here. The Browns look a lot healthier than they were before the bye, and they'll be desperate to at least put up a fight against a team that remains somewhat mysterious despite its perfect start. 

    "The Browns are getting the benefit of the doubt despite their up-and-down play for two reasons," Sobleski said in dissent. "First, they're coming off a bye, while the Patriots are on a short week. Granted, New England will probably still be more prepared, but Cleveland will have put a lot into proving it's far better than it's shown this season. As a result, a nearly two-touchdown spread gives bettors plenty of leeway for a reinvigorated Cleveland squad to cover."

    At -13, this might be one to avoid entirely. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: New England (-13)
    Gagnon: Cleveland (+13)
    Sobleski: Cleveland (+13)
    Consensus: Cleveland (+13)

    Score Prediction: Patriots 28, Browns 20

Oakland Raiders (3-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans have three losses each this season, but Houston is laying a full touchdown at home for their matchup on Sunday. And while that might scare those who don't trust such an inconsistent team, two of our three analysts figure this could be a big Texans victory. 

    "In the case of the Raiders," Gagnon said, "we've probably overrated a home-opener win over the bad Broncos, a Week 4 win over the injury-plagued Colts and a London win over the struggling Bears. Despite its .500 record, this team has been outscored by 38 points in six games. Nine teams with losing records—including the 2-5 Chargers and 2-5 Broncos—have better scoring margins. Now the Raiders are playing a ridiculous fifth consecutive game outside of Oakland, and it's against a talented Texans team that should be primed to bounce back from a tough loss in Indy."

    The Texans offensive line has been vulnerable as usual, but the Raiders are one of six teams with 10 or fewer sacks this season. And now that unit has traded away a starting cornerback in Gareon Conley, who will be playing for the opposing team on Sunday.

    Houston should have a field day on offense, just as the Green Bay Packers did against the Raiders last week. And it could be tough for Oakland to ride Josh Jacobs against the league's third-ranked run D. 

    It's just not a good spot for Oakland. But seven points is a lot and neither team has been consistent, so you can't fault Sobleski for dissenting. And for what it's worth, those picking against the majority as lone wolves are 99-92 since the start of last season. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Houston (-7)
    Gagnon: Houston (-7)
    Sobleski: Oakland (+7)
    Consensus: Oakland (+7)

    Score Prediction: Texans 27, Raiders 24

Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    This all could change if reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes shocks the football world by playing Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers. But while Mahomes had yet to be ruled out at press time, the reality is the Kansas City Chiefs are likely to roll with backup Matt Moore while the starter tends to his knee injury in Week 8. 

    And frankly, considering how much Mahomes was struggling while playing at less than 100 percent before hurting his knee in Denver, the Packers might be a safe bet as a small favorite even if the superstar Chiefs quarterback somehow limps onto the field. 

    "What a difference one week on the NFL calendar makes," Sobleski said. "Prior to the start of Week 7, Mahomes was in the MVP race, while Aaron Rodgers couldn't seem to find a groove. Unfortunately, Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap and likely won't play this weekend. Meanwhile, Rodgers played as well as he has in a long time with six total touchdowns against the Raiders. Now, the Packers look to be humming along while the Chiefs limp into Sunday's meeting." 

    Pardon his pun if Mahomes somehow plays. 

    Our guys are on Kansas City either way, with the caveat that if they could, they'd wait to get a better line in the event of a Mahomes return. This line isn't likely to rise much from Green Bay -4, but you could get a lot of value on the Packers if Mahomes suits up but is severely limited. 

    The revamped Green Bay defense has 13 takeaways and the eighth-best adjusted sack rate in the league at Football Outsiders. Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense played way above its head statistically in Denver, and the Packers offense has started to take off. 

    Rodgers is rolling right now, and he's easy to bet on under those circumstances. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Green Bay (-4)
    Gagnon: Green Bay (-4)
    Sobleski: Green Bay (-4)
    Consensus: Green Bay (-4)

    Score Prediction: Packers 28, Chiefs 20

Miami Dolphins (0-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Say what you will about the Pittsburgh Steelers offense without Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but the defense has picked up a lot of slack. That high-flying unit has forced a ridiculous 13 turnovers in the last four games, and now Pittsburgh is at home coming off a bye with Mason Rudolph at least expected to open up the offense a bit in his return from injury.

    With that in mind, our analysts figure the Steelers can spot the winless Miami Dolphins 14.5 points and still cover on Monday Night Football.  

    "Rudolph's return to the lineup should help, but favoring the Steelers over the woeful Dolphins is all about Pittsburgh's defense and its penchant for creating havoc," Sobleski said. "It doesn't matter who starts at quarterback for Miami. Dan Marino could come out of retirement and not be effective because the Dolphins won't be able to protect anyone with the way the Steelers' front seven, sans Stephon Tuitt, is playing."

    A Bills team with a strong defense failed to cover a similarly high line last week against Miami, but Buffalo's defense doesn't generate pressure or takeaways like the Steelers do. Pittsburgh looks determined to send a message right now, and the Dolphins look like they'll be victimized by that dynamic. 

         

    Predictions
    Davenport: Pittsburgh (-14.5)
    Gagnon: Pittsburgh (-14.5)
    Sobleski: Pittsburgh (-14.5)
    Consensus: Pittsburgh (-14.5)

    Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Dolphins 10