NFL Betting: How to Pick Week 8 Games

I went 4-3 last week to move to 24-24-1 in my season-long contest. Once again, I lost my top play on the Patriots, but it was a good Sunday otherwise. I also went down with the Bears on Monday night, which was a pick I regretted as the betting market went from Rams -6 to -6.5 the day of the game. The smart money was on the Rams while the public was on the underdog, and the favorite covered comfortably.

As always, I’ll use lines from the Las Vegas SuperContest, a popular football challenge hosted by the Westgate SuperBook. The point spreads for the contest come out Wednesday evening and are locked at those numbers for the rest of the week.

I’m in a contest where I pick seven sides a week using the SuperContest’s lines, so in this weekly breakdown I will unveil my first impressions of the games and point spreads. I hope this can be a guide for people who are in similar NFL pick’ems or looking to bet games.

Note: My picks could change based on information and any news that is not factored into the contest line. I will discuss and finalize these picks on a Periscope show I host called Weekend Warriors. The show will be live for an hour on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on Stadium’s Periscope channel or Stadium’s Twitter. After the show, I will tweet my seven picks for the contest from my Twitter.

Here are my thoughts for Week 8.

Sides I’ll likely use

Browns (-2.5) over Raiders: There are several reasons I like the Browns giving under a field goal in this game. I believe there’s line value on the Browns in a game where I think they should be a four-point favorite. The look-ahead line for this game was Browns -3.5 and the one-point adjustment isn’t warranted, even if it occurred due to the loss of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He raises the ceiling of the Browns’ offense, but they should still have success without him because of their style of play that leans on running the ball and two-TE sets. I also like the matchup for Cleveland against a very bad Raiders defense.

Ravens (-4) over Steelers: Maybe I’m overrating the Ravens — or underrating the Steelers — but I think this game should be Ravens -6. That’s what the line was at when it re-opened on Sunday evening before the Steelers took a cascade of money all the way down to +3.5 by Monday afternoon. The movement likely had to do with the Steelers playing well against the Titans, but while the Steelers are an impressive 6-0, their offense is going to have to step up in class against an elite Ravens defense. I expect the Baltimore offense to be very sharp off a bye week, which is why I will back them in this game.

Picks I’m considering

Patriots (+3.5) over Bills: I really thought last week was the perfect “buy low” spot for the Patriots, so I bet them on the moneyline at -125 when the spread was -1.5 (New England closed as a three-point favorite). They instead lost 33-6, and it now might be time to reassess my opinion on New England. That being said, I think they could have a last-ditch effort in Buffalo to salvage their season. The Bills’ rush defense is below average and that’s what the Patriots like to do on offense. I don’t think much separates these two teams, so I will consider the underdog of over a field goal.

Bengals (+5.5) over Titans: Last week, the Bengals closed as a 3.5-point underdog against the Browns. They lost a heartbreaking game, but covered the spread because of a missed extra point after Cleveland’s game-winning touchdown. So I was a little surprised to see the Titans jump out to a six-point favorite early this week because I have the Browns and Titans similarly rated. I believe there’s line value with the Bengals, but I’m nervous to back them after the tough divisional loss they suffered last week.

Jets (+19.5) over Chiefs: The great thing about the point spread is it tells us the difference between the best and worst team in the league. We’ll find out if it’s accurate on Sunday as the Chiefs would be favored over every team on a neutral field while the Jets are clearly the NFL’s bottom-feeders. But remember that the point spread is also the equalizer, and I could only consider the Jets at such a big number. Jets QB Sam Darnold is healthy and there’s no incentive for the Chiefs to win this game by a huge margin.

Rams (-3.5) over Dolphins: The Rams are traveling across the country for the fourth time this season and playing on a short week against a team coming off a bye. However, the team they are playing made a quarterback change during the bye week as 2020 fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa will start in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick. I understand the move for the long-term plans of the franchise, but this is a short-term downgrade for the team — especially since Fitzpatrick was playing well. That’s enough of a reason to fade the Dolphins and look toward the Rams.

49ers (+3) over Seahawks: I preach not overreacting to one week of results and usually like to take advantage of big line moves from the look-ahead number… However, the line move from Seahawks -6.5 to -3 after Week 7 is justified. That’s because the 49ers played well last week in a game I thought they would lose, and I’ve also been lower on the Seahawks because of their defensive struggles. I think this line is correct and would lean toward Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers in the underdog role against the Seahawks.

Broncos (+3) over Chargers: Here’s a game where I’m going to look to take advantage of an overreaction to the line move. This game opened as a pick’em and is now out to Chargers -3. The Chargers did what they were supposed to do and beat the Jaguars by 10 last week, while the Broncos lost 43-16 but outgained the Chiefs by 125 yards. The reason the final score was so lopsided was due to a pick-six and a kick return for a touchdown by Kansas City. I think there’s enough recency bias in this number to take a shot on the Broncos as home underdogs.

Giants (+10.5) over Buccaneers: I’ve been on the Buccaneers the last two weeks and believe that they are the best team in the NFC. However, they enter a tough spot on Monday night against a Giants team that will be well rested. While the Giants aren’t a good team, they play hard and can keep this game within the number. I also like the idea of fading the Buccaneers ahead of a big NFC South tilt against the Saints in Week 9. At +10.5, the Giants make for a great contest play because a lot of people will pick the large road favorite.

Games I’ll likely avoid

Falcons at Panthers (-2.5): These two teams played three weeks ago and the Falcons fired Dan Quinn after the loss dropped them to 0-5 on the season. Atlanta bounced back the next week, but they lost another game last week in improbable fashion. I’m not sure how they’ll be able to get up for a Thursday night game on the road, but I want to avoid taking Carolina in the favorite role.

Colts (-2.5) at Lions: I can make a case for both sides in this game, so I likely will stay away. The Lions are 3-3 and need this game to stay in the NFC playoff race, while the Colts are a well-coached team coming off a bye week.

Vikings at Packers (-6.5): I was thinking this could be a good spot to back the Vikings off a bye week, especially since Green Bay has an NFC title game rematch against the 49ers next Thursday night. But I can’t back the 1-5 Vikings against a team that pummeled them in Week 1.

Saints (-4.5) at Bears: The Bears are not as good as their 5-2 record indicates. However, you can make a case for the home club in a game where cold and windy weather is predicted — something a “dome” team with a 41-year-old at QB doesn’t want to deal with. I’m just going to watch this one without a bet because this line is probably right.

Cowboys at Eagles (-7.5): The line for the Sunday night game assumes Andy Dalton won’t start at QB and that Ben DiNucci, a rookie from James Madison, will start instead. Unless Dalton is ruled active and this line drops significantly, I will stay away.