Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 8 NFL Picks
The road has been rockier of late, but with the 2020 NFL season somehow already more than 40 percent complete, Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion all remain above .500 picking games against the spread.
Here are the details:
1. Miller: 56-43-2 (9-5 last week)
2. Sobleski: 58-45-2 (7-7 last week)
3. Davenport: 57-46-2 (6-8 last week)
4. Kahler: 55-46-2 (7-7 last week)
5. Gagnon: 56-47-2 (6-8 last week)
6. Tesfatsion: 52-50-2 (5-9 last week)
Consensus picks: 52-37-1 (6-6 last week)
Following back-to-back 6-6 weeks for the consensus, here are 14 fresh takes and 11 new consensus picks for Week 8.
Atlanta Falcons (1-6) at Carolina Panthers (3-4)
DraftKings Line: Carolina -2.5
Does anyone know what to expect from the Atlanta Falcons on a week-to-week basis? The Carolina Panthers might not be a much better team on paper, but they're a lot more consistently competitive and are coming off a strong road showing against the New Orleans Saints.
They're at home against a mentally weak opponent traveling on short rest, and the majority of our writers are surprised they aren't even laying a full field goal.
Two-thirds of the crew are rolling with Carolina minus 2.5 points.
"At this point, there's no reason whatsoever to trust the Falcons or even expect them to win a game," Sobleski said. "Meanwhile, a budding belief exists in the rebuilding Panthers thanks to head coach Matt Rhule, offensive coordinator Joe Brady and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. They look like a much safer bet."
Still, two experts are taking the points with Atlanta. They'd be ready to point out that the Panthers have actually lost back-to-back games, that a Carolina team dealing with an injury to Christian McCaffrey is unlikely to have left tackle Russell Okung and that Julio Jones is getting healthier every day for Atlanta.
This is no lock.
Consensus: Carolina -2.5
Score Prediction: Panthers 28, Falcons 24
Minnesota Vikings (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -6.5
The Green Bay Packers showed us last week that their Week 6 dud against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was an anomaly by hammering the Houston Texans. With that in mind, and with the Minnesota Vikings seemingly throwing in the towel following their decision to trade Yannick Ngakoue, two-thirds of our gang is backing the Pack minus 6.5 points against Minnesota at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"This feels like an easy pick, which probably means the Vikings will win in an upset," Kahler said, revealing the true bitter spirit of a seasoned bettor midway through her rookie season on this staff. "Dalvin Cook is back practicing, which will greatly help the Vikings offense, but this Minnesota defense has struggled so much this season. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams will do their thing."
And it's not as though the Packers need to blow Minnesota out. All five of Green Bay's victories this season have come by at least seven points, including a nine-point win in Minnesota during Week 1. A victory by that very margin would secure the cover here.
Still, two writers are taking the points. Divisional matchups like these can be tricky, this is by no means a minuscule spread, and key Packers Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith and Robert Tonyan are all dealing with injuries.
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Consensus: Green Bay -6.5
Score Prediction: Packers 31, Vikings 21
Tennessee Titans (5-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-5-1)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -6
Our first split of the week comes in Sunday's matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals, who are getting less than a touchdown from 5-1 Tennessee despite their 1-5-1 record.
On one hand, that discrepancy in the standings would lead you to believe the Titans should be more heavily favored. On the other hand, the Titans have won by more than six points just once this season.
Davenport on the Bengals: "In news that should surprise exactly zero people, the Titans are a better, more complete team than the Cincinnati Burrows, who keep losing close games. That's the thing, though: The Bengals keep losing close games. Of Cincy's five losses this year, four have come by five or fewer points, and three were against teams with a winning record.
"Joe Burrow should be able to throw the ball against Tennessee's 26th-ranked pass defense, and while I don't expect the Bengals to win, I can see him piling up garbage-time stats on the way to a backdoor cover."
But in backing the Titans, Miller kept it simple: "One of the NFL's most complete teams has a big spread this week, but it's ready for it. Even with injuries hurting the offensive line, the Titans run game and defense will clear the way to victory."
For what it's worth, Miller leads the pick standings thus far.
Score Prediction: Titans 30, Bengals 24
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -4
The jury is also hung on Sunday's highly anticipated AFC North matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, in which Baltimore is laying a tricky four points.
"I understand the fear associated with the Ravens here," Gagnon said in defense of his Baltimore pick. "They were embarrassed by the Kansas City Chiefs at home earlier this season and have developed a habit of laying eggs in big games. That said, they haven't lost a divisional game in 13 months, and they have had two weeks to prepare for a Steelers team that is extremely banged up coming off a Week 7 battle with the Tennessee Titans."
Indeed, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Hilton have all been out of practice for the Steelers, while Baltimore has had a chance to rest up. And with extra time to prepare (Week 1, post-bye or coming off a Thursday night game), the Ravens have won eight straight games by an average margin of 36-11.
So don't look for John Harbaugh's squad to lay down in this spot. Still, Baltimore might not have running back Mark Ingram II for a matchup with a run defense that ranks No. 1 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders.
This won't be easy either way.
Score Prediction: Ravens 24, Steelers 20
New York Jets (0-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -19
The New York Jets are objectively terrible, and they managed to cover a spread for the first time all season last week against the familiar, struggling Buffalo Bills. But that might only be pushing our crew further in the Kansas City Chiefs' direction for their matchup Sunday.
Kansas City dominated the Bills a couple of weeks ago, and you'd have to think the Jets are unlikely to cover consecutive spreads in their current state. Plus, believe it or not, this line has come down from the 21.5-point range to 19. There might now be at least some value associated with a Chiefs pick, and the majority of our experts are taking the risk with a massive spread.
"I don't know how big this spread would have to be for me to consider actually picking the Jets," Davenport said. "Gang Green is well and truly gangrenous, dead last in total offense and scoring offense. In an NFL where every rule benefits the offense, they are barely exceeding 12 points per game. New York's 24th-ranked scoring defense isn't much better. Kansas City's punter might not even have to dress for this beatdown. If we spotted the Jets 20 points, would anyone pick them to win straight up?"
That gives you some perspective. Still, that line remains too rich for one-third of the gang. They could be considering that 19-plus-point favorites are just 3-13 against the spread in NFL history.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: New York
Miller: Kansas City
Sobleski: New York
Tesfatsion: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City -19
Score Prediction: Chiefs 37, Jets 13
Las Vegas Raiders (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (5-2)
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -2.5
"It's admittedly extremely hard to make sense of either team here," Gagnon said of Sunday's tricky matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns. "The Browns have five wins over opponents who are a combined 10-22-2 (counting the Cincinnati Bengals twice) and are in rough shape physically. The Raiders have extremely impressive wins against the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs on their record, but they've also been humiliated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots.
"I'm not going to pretend I know which version of either team will show up. But Cleveland is 3-0 at home and laying less than a field goal, so I'm not overthinking this."
Still, this is far from a unanimous consensus, and the Browns could be reeling with Odell Beckham Jr. on injured reserve, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett dealing with an ankle injury and offensive linemen Jack Conklin, JC Tretter and Wyatt Teller all hurting, as well.
So it's appropriate that this was nearly a split.
Davenport: Las Vegas
Kahler: Las Vegas
Consensus: Cleveland -2.5
Score Prediction: Browns 28, Raiders 24
New England Patriots (2-4) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -3.5
It isn't easy for anyone to accept that the Buffalo Bills might finally be good (especially considering some recent poor performances) or that the New England Patriots might finally be bad (Bill Belichick remains their head coach).
And so it's also appropriate that our writers are deadlocked with Buffalo laying a field goal plus a terrifying hook at home Sunday against the Pats.
Miller on Buffalo: "Don't overthink it. The Bills didn't look like a dominant team in their two losses, but this is still a tough, formidable defense with a high-octane offense that can generate big plays and big point totals."
On the other hand, Kahler on New England: "I am never going to count the Patriots out. I just won't do it. I'll be stunned if they lose four in a row. Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick and Cam Newton have got to be reinventing the offense this week, and I'm not taking the Bills and a streaky Josh Allen here."
That's fair considering New England is getting 3.5 points. The Pats are desperate, so it's not hard to imagine them keeping this close. They could lose four straight games for the first time since 2002 and still cover this spread with a field-goal loss.
Then again, it's also possible the guard is finally changing, and this will be a strong indicator of that. You might want to sit it out to be safe.
Gagnon: New England
Kahler: New England
Tesfatsion: New England
Score Prediction: Bills 23, Patriots 20
Indianapolis Colts (4-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -3
We don't have a unanimous consensus for Sunday's almost-certain-to-be-close matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions in Michigan. But the Lions—rather quietly—have lost just once since Week 3. Now they're getting a full field goal at home, which is enough to tip the scales in their favor here.
"This pick isn't an endorsement of the Lions," Davenport cautioned. "I'm not buying the team as a contender despite a two-game winning streak and a .500 record. It's also not an indictment of the Colts, although I don't know that I buy them either given their offensive struggles. What this pick does say is that the Lions are playing better, the Colts aren't the sort of team that pulls away from opponents, and the old betting axiom about home dogs exists for a reason."
Detroit has held a double-digit lead in every game it has played this season except for its Week 7 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. And while the Colts have an advantage coming off their bye, they've already laid a pair of road eggs against the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars this season.
Throw in that the Lions are arguably healthier than they've been all season while Colts linebacker Darius Leonard is still fighting a groin injury and Detroit might be our gang's top pick from the early slate of Sunday games.
Consensus: Detroit +3
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Lions 23
Los Angeles Rams (5-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-3)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -4
Although that distinction could also belong to the Los Angeles Rams, who are backed by five of our six writers as a four-point favorite Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
"Good luck in your first start, Tua Tagovailoa" Sobleski said. "Enjoy looking across the line of scrimmage and seeing two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. While this particular matchup may seem like an oversimplification of the entire contest, keep one stat in mind: The Rams currently rank third with 24 sacks. They're going to apply plenty of pressure on the first-time starter."
But lone-wolf Gagnon would like a word.
"Donald is terrifying, but the Rams actually only rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to pressure rate," he said. "And that defensive front ranks in the bottom 10 in adjusted sack rate. They've had a joke of a schedule so far, and they won't have much to go on in preparing for Tagovailoa. The Dolphins are playing good football and have had two weeks to prepare. They'll keep this damn close."
Still, he's been badly outvoted. And one non-Tua, non-Donald factor working against him and the Dolphins is that the Rams quietly have the No. 1 rush offense in DVOA while the Miami run defense ranks dead last in that metric.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -4
Score Prediction: Rams 27, Dolphins 17
Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) at Denver Broncos (2-4)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -3
In three home games this season, the Denver Broncos have been outscored 87-40 in three losses. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Chargers have put up fights in their last two road games against the superior Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.
With that in mind, five of our six predictors are siding with the Chargers as a mere three-point fave Sunday at Mile High.
"Drew Lock isn't right," Gagnon said of Denver's sophomore quarterback. "He's the league's lowest-rated passer, and now he's going up against a talented pass defense that has surrendered just 6.5 yards per pass attempt this season. Lock will have his hands full with Joey Bosa and the now-healthy Melvin Ingram III in what is likely to be an L.A. blowout victory."
Still, we've learned not to trust the Chargers, who have been hit nearly as hard by injuries as the Broncos. You can't blame Tesfatsion for going against the grain. Denver still has a top-10 defense in terms of DVOA, and this could certainly be the week rookie Bolts quarterback Justin Herbert comes back to earth.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -3
Score Prediction: Chargers 26, Broncos 20
San Francisco 49ers (4-3) at Seattle Seahawks (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -3
Injuries on both sides are likely to factor in significantly Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers in a crucial NFC West tilt. So you might want to wait to get clarification on key players like Jamal Adams, Chris Carson and Shaquill Griffin for the Seahawks and Tevin Coleman and Jordan Reed for the 49ers.
Still, San Francisco has been hit harder by the injury bug than almost anyone, and another wave of injuries could make it tough for the 49ers to keep up on the road against an experienced contender looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season.
The majority of our experts are cool with laying a field goal behind Seattle.
"The issues with the Seahawks were on full display in last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, namely Seattle's complete lack of a pass rush and porous defense," Davenport admitted. "If San Francisco was close to full strength, I might flip this pick. But it isn't. Now running back Jeff Wilson and wideout Deebo Samuel have joined the long list of banged-up Niners.
"San Fran just doesn't have the firepower to take advantage of Seattle's weaknesses, and Russell Wilson isn't likely to throw three picks two weeks in a row. Seattle gets back on track at home and wins by a touchdown."
That said, these teams played two tight matchups last year, and it's easy to understand why Kahler and Sobleski won't count out Kyle Shanahan's resilient squad.
Kahler: San Francisco
Sobleski: San Francisco
Consensus: Seattle -3
Score Prediction: Seahawks 30, 49ers 24
New Orleans Saints (4-2) at Chicago Bears (5-2)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -4
Our first unanimous consensus of the week comes in support of the New Orleans Saints, who are laying just four points against a Chicago Bears team that was arguably overrated to begin with and is now on short rest after an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.
"The Saints rank No. 7 in total defense," Sobleski said. "Whereas the Bears can't muster much on the other side of the ball. In fact, Chicago falls among the bottom four in total offense with a measly 308 yards per game. Nick Foles hasn't exactly provided a steadying hand at quarterback. The Bears may have a slightly better record, but Sunday's contest isn't a good matchup for them."
The Saints actually have a stronger scoring margin than Chicago, whose top receiver, Allen Robinson II, is now in the concussion protocol. And New Orleans has done all that despite the continued absence of All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas, who at least has a shot at returning from ankle and hamstring injuries Sunday.
And while the Bears defense is loaded with talent, they've been vulnerable on the ground this season. Now, they'll have to deal with NFL scrimmage yard leader Alvin Kamara.
It's entirely possible to be burned by that four-point spread if Chicago keeps this close, but it does look and feel like a tough spot for the Bears.
Score Prediction: Saints 27, Bears 17
Dallas Cowboys (2-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)
DraftKings Line: Philadelphia -7.5
How can one possibly back the Dallas Cowboys right now?
Sure, you could argue that the banged-up Philadelphia Eagles aren't worthy of being a 7.5-point favorite over anyone, but that probably means you should just stay away from Sunday night's Dallas-Philly matchup altogether.
Don't mess with the NFC East financially if you don't have to do so.
But if your hands are tied and you've got to pick someone to cover on Sunday Night Football, our crew still unanimously recommends laying the 7.5 points with Philadelphia.
"Buy back half a point if you must bet this," Gagnon said. "But regardless, the Cowboys are increasingly unlikely to have Andy Dalton, who wasn't playing well before suffering a concussion in Week 7. They could be down to their third quarterback, while the Eagles at least have their starter under center.
"Before crushing Dallas last week, the Washington Football Team had lost five in a row, with four of those defeats coming by at least 14 points. That was an atrocious loss, and now the Cowboys are still on the road, still remarkably shorthanded and facing a team that at least gained some momentum with a Week 7 victory. This might be a rare Philly-Dallas blowout."
Even if the Eagles don't get running back Miles Sanders back, Dallas hasn't been able to stop anyone on the ground. And while Cowboys back Ezekiel Elliott is always a potential game-changer on the ground, Philly's run D has been a strength in a weird year.
So yeah, don't touch Dallas.
Consensus: Philadelphia -7.5
Score Prediction: Eagles 28, Cowboys 14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) at New York Giants (1-6)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -10.5
Our gang made this really damn simple: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be coming on, the New York Giants are untrustworthy, and their Monday night matchup is widely expected to be a blowout.
"Easy pick," Kahler said. "The Buccaneers are the best team in the NFC, and they should easily put this one away against the 1-6 Giants."
Even if you don't agree that the Bucs are the top team in the conference, it's not hard to envision a double-digit-point victory for Tampa Bay.
Tom Brady and Co. just hammered both the Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders, who are far superior to the G-Men. And while it's a shame they'll again be without a fully healthy receiving corps because of Chris Godwin's finger injury, a New York pass defense that ranks 27th in DVOA isn't likely to put up much of a fight.
The stacked Tampa Bay defense, which ranks first in DVOA, leads the NFC with 25 sacks to go along with a dozen takeaways, while Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has now committed a ridiculous 34 turnovers in 20 career games.
That's a recipe for trouble on Monday Night Football.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: Tampa Bay
Kahler: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Tesfatsion: No pick
Consensus: Tampa Bay -10.5
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 33, Giants 13
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