Let’s not pull any punches: This has been one of the most frustrating and flat-out weirdest NFL seasons for professional prognosticators in recent history thus far. This past Sunday and Monday proved to be a microcosm of such weirdness all in a little 36-hour window.
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs look like the worst team in the league against, well, the worst team in the league who had just traded away their best player and whose offense couldn’t find the end zone with a compass the previous month. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers needed a get-right game in the worst way after losing to the Jets and Giants, and instead laid an egg against the dysfunctional Washington Commanders.
Oh, and to top it off, the Chicago Bears didn’t just cover or beat Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, but in shades of Super Bowl XX in 1986, Justin Fields played the role of Jim McMahon on the way to a 33-14 keister kicking.
To quote the late, great Vince Lombardi: “What in the hell is going on here?”
But even in the weirdest of weird seasons, things balance out, which is why we’re terming this Week 8, “Last Chance Week.” The recurring theme throughout this column will be, if you’re supposed to be good, you’re either gonna show me something now or I will jump off your bandwagon (or band scooter) as fast as I can.
Although we remained solid with our best bets and had a seventh consecutive winning week to start the season, our overall .500 record against the spread simply won’t cut it. We will not stand for mediocrity!
So Buccaneers, Packers and the rest of you heartless bums, like Cerrano told Jobu, if you can’t figure out how to hit a curveball, we will give you no more rum and we will no longer stick up for you.
We’ll just (fill in the blank) do it ourselves.
Any comments, questions, gratitude or hate mail is welcome at [email protected].
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of Wednesday) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll with $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
THE WEEK 8 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
Byes: Kansas City and LA Chargers.
1 / New England ML (-130) over NY JETS
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $39 to win $30.
First, my personal message to the New England Patriots: Thanks for knocking me out of my No. 1 Survivor Pool and a chance at $20,000. How in the world did Belichick lose to the freaking Chicago Bears? OK, I feel better now. Now to one of the easiest picks of the year. (Did I just jinx myself?)
With this weird year, not only am I picking against one of the hotter teams in the league, but I am breaking my Golden Rule that says never to take a road favorite in a division game. But I don’t care how hot the Jets are – they’re still the Jets, and Belichick is still Belichick.
And one thing the GOAT of coaches unquestionably knows how to do is to beat the dog-gone Jets. In fact, the Patriots have won 12 in a row in the series, 15 of the past 16 and 21 of 23 – no matter where the game has been played. Hell, move it to the moon, and Pats fans will be eating cream cheese by halftime.
Beyond that, since Tom Brady has left Foxborough, New England has won the past four games by an average score of 34-15. Last season, the final scores were 54-13 and 25-6. As my grandpa used to say, “Nuff said.”
SCORE PREDICTION: Patriots (-1.5) 23, Jets 15. (Under 40.5.)
2 / San Francisco -1.5 over LA RAMS
WHEN: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win $20.
We’ve already shattered the Golden Rule for the week, so why not do it two picks in a row? While the 49ers’ recent past against the Rams isn’t as impressive as the Patriots’ over the Jets, it’s not far off – especially the past 3½ regular seasons.
San Francisco has not lost in the regular season to the Rams since 2018 and has won 11 of 14 straight-up overall since the final game of the 2016 season. What is it Kyle Shanahan has on Sean McVay? Whatever it is, it’s evident not only can one go against the power, but rather it’s worth a best bet.
No question Jimmy G has 49ers fans wanting to jump ship, and the performance of the defense last week is a serious cause for concern. But even off a bye week (well two straight bye weeks if you count the game against Carolina in Week 6), there’s nothing that suggests the Rams are about to make a run for another division title.
Lower scoring and tight until the end, but I think it’s Matthew Stafford rather than Jimmy G who makes the big mistake in the final moments.
SCORE PREDICTION: 49ers 22, Rams 19. (Under 43.)
3 / Teaser, TAMPA BAY +7 over Baltimore and NEW ORLEANS +8 over Las Vegas
WHEN: Ravens at Bucs on Thursday at 8:15 p.m.; Raiders at Saints on Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $24 to win $20.
Teaser explanation: At most books, a bettor can parlay two teams in a “teaser” and get 6 points of cushion for each bet. However, it costs -120 to play, and – like a parlay – both legs must hit to cash the ticket.
Something is wrong with the Bucs. Really wrong. Tom Brady looks like Tiger Woods post-marriage, and Mike Evans couldn’t catch a ball that hit him between the 1 and the 3 approximately 6 miles past the nearest Panthers defender last week.
However, in sticking with our theme, we stubbornly stick with Tampa Bay and think they rebound now or never. (And a chance to grab a touchdown in a teaser is too good to pass up.)
The Ravens have back-to-back games on the road in prime time before their bye week, but they have not figured out how to put any team away. One has to think if the Bucs have any pride at all, their defense will step up here and find a way to limit Lamar Jackson, while Brady will be completely focused. (If not, Microsoft will get its shipment of Surface tablets ready to send to southwest Florida.)
For the Saints, we’re finally hearing key players speaking out (someone other than Cameron Jordan, that is) saying they have had enough, including Demario Davis and Alvin Kamara. Is that enough to convince me this team will get the season back on track and finish with a possible playoff run in the worst division in the NFL?
Hell no, but it does have me thinking at the minimum they will play one of their better games of the season back at home with extra rest. And who will be healthy for the Saints in this one? We already know Andy Dalton will be starting at QB, and he simply can’t be as bad as he was last week against the Cardinals. (Gulp.)
Interestingly, it’s a matchup of two guys in their first season of second chances, as Josh McDaniels and Dennis Allen both have been disappointments thus far. Which one will come out of this thing with three wins and a new outlook on the 2022 campaign? I think it’s Allen going against his former team.
I know I have said this before, but I really, truly, honestly mean it this time: If the Saints burn me here, my new projection is 4-13 and a run toward the possible first pick of the draft. It’s now or never. If there is any heart beating at all in those black and gold jerseys, they will show up here.
Meanwhile, looking at the only two wins for the Raiders, they have come against two even worse teams than the Saints – the Broncos and Texans – and with both at home.
In other words, from a betting standpoint, I am trying to understand why the Raiders are favored.
SCORE PREDICTION: Buccaneers (+1) 24, Ravens 20. (Under 45.5.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Saints (+2) 31, Raiders 24. (Over 49.5.)
4 / Green Bay +11.5 over BUFFALO
WHEN: Sunday at 8:20 p.m. THE BET: $11 to win $10.
It has been regurgitated over and over again throughout the week Aaron Rodgers has never been a double-digit dog in his professional career. We don’t have the time to go looking through all the history books, but we’re thinking he hasn’t been a double-digit dog since going against the Little Giants in Pop Warner League in 1990. And that’s only because little Joey McLaughlin was a beast at 8 years old. We don’t know what happened to that kid.
Yeah, yeah, we know the Packers aren’t the Packers and the sports media is so quick to pour gasoline on the fire of their demise. I actually heard this morning how terrible a coach Matt LaFleur is and how he should be on the hot seat.
My response is: Do these TV talking heads just make (blank) up to get ratings or clicks or do they actually believe the spoiled baloney they spew? Give me a break.
No question it is in part the absolute love affair they all have with Josh Allen and Buffalo, and the Bills have to be riding high following an extra week off to celebrate beating the Chiefs. (Didn’t they do that last year, too?) Remember what happened to almighty Buffalo following their regular-season win last year against Kansas City? They lost to the Titans the next week and then five of eight overall. (Prove to me this year is different.)
Very similar to Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, it’s now or never for the Packers, who continue to fall even further behind the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North. We don’t have the gumption to pick an outright victory, but a blowout in prime time, when the Pack has won nine in a row with the nation watching? Not gonna happen.
SCORE PREDICTION: Bills 30, Packers 26. (Over 47.5.)
5 / Miami at DETROIT under 51.5
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $11 to win $10.
We have been known to jump on numbers that make no sense, taking the senseless side and more often than not winning. Can’t do that here.
Except for a crazy Week 2 win at Baltimore, the Dolphins have been their best when their defense steps up and takes over – or at least comes up with key takeaways at the most crucial of times. And who knows how to turn the ball over better than the Detroit Lions, who have given it away 10 times in their past four games?
Beyond that, why are the Lions involved in a 50-plus total after scoring a combined six points in their past two games? In fact, Miami and Detroit have combined to score a total of 40 points in their past two.
Seems way too easy, but we’ll bite.
SCORE PREDICTION: Dolphins 24, Lions (+3.5) 21.
(No bets for the following)
Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in London
Denver (+2.5) 22, Jacksonville 17: What is it with the public’s (and many sharps’) fascination with the Jaguars? We learned our lesson last week in spotting a line that made no sense and bet the Jags, and we then realized why it made no sense after it was too late: Bettors keep betting on them, and it was like Christmas in October for Vegas.
Anyway, if you need any more reason than this to bet Denver (which would have been my sixth best bet had I been so inclined), then I don’t know what to tell you: Jacksonville not only failed to cover in their past six games as a favorite – dating back to November 2019 – but they have lost all six straight up. Stop betting on the Jaguars. (And that means me too.) (Under 39.5.)
Sunday at 1 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA 20, Pittsburgh (+11) 13: Sooner or later, the Eagles not only are going to come crashing down to reality, but it’s going to happen quickly and go on for multiple weeks. Is this the week? Not going that far, but it wouldn’t surprise us if Jalen Hurts struggles against this defense, which is carrying the Steelers. Anyway, in a not-so-often meeting between in-state rivals, it should be a tight one.
Side note that doesn’t help bolster my pick, but for the sake of transparency: Pittsburgh hasn’t won in Philadelphia since … wait for it … 1965! That is correct – before Mike Tomlin (and I) was even born! Nine straight! That being said, only two of those games had a margin of more than 10 points. (Under 43.)
ATLANTA (-4.5) 27, Carolina 19: Well, the Panthers shocked the world with the season’s biggest upset to date in smashing the Tampa Bay Bucs. Now they get to turn back into pumpkins. Do we really think they’re better because they dished off Christian McCaffrey and are on their fourth-string quarterback? (Over 41.)
DALLAS 19, Chicago (+9.5) 13: One game doesn’t have me believing in the Bears, who are wearing those God-awful Halloween uniforms this weekend. (That alone makes me want to pick them to lose by 20.) However, we have seen their defense is decent, and more specifically their pass defense is ranked third in the NFL. That should be enough to frustrate Dak Prescott in a low-scoring game the Cowboys find a way to win. (Under 42.5.)
MINNESOTA (-3.5) 34, Arizona 27: In what could be the most entertaining game of the day, we see that the Cardinals had a mini-resurgence of offense with DeAndre Hopkins back in the fold. But they still gave up 34 points to a Saints team that donated two defensive touchdowns and another pick in the end zone last week.
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings usually play well in early games at home. This should be no different. (Over 49.)
Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
Tennessee (-2) 21, HOUSTON 17: If I could leave this one off the card, I would. I hate betting with Aunt Mabel, especially this time of year when she is filling the freezer with turkeys and betting cards chock full of losers.
However, there is no logic I can find that would allow me to take the Texans here, other than this is a really bad spot for Tennessee between their victory last week at Indianapolis and a road game next week at Kansas City. Oh, and the Texans have covered in this series five of the past seven meetings. Yeah, leave this one alone. (Under 40.5.)
Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
Washington (+3) 26, INDIANAPOLIS 22: We asked this last week, but it bears repeating: “Are the Commanders better off with Taylor Heinicke?” They certainly played that way last week. Meanwhile, we warned bettors the Colts wouldn’t be improved with Matt Ryan. (Although we didn’t think they’d be worse!)
The desperation factor says Indy will win this, but I simply have no faith in this team right now, and no one knows what we’re going to get with Sam Ehlinger back there. If this prediction proves correct, the “Fire Frank Reich Watch” will be in full effect. (Over 39.5.)
NY Giants (+3) 27, SEATTLE 24: Back-to-back NFC East underdogs on the road? Hey, unlike the other New York team from the AFC East, we predicted this one in the preseason to be much better than expectations, and we were right. That makes last week’s (really dumb) Jacksonville pick that much tougher to swallow.
Not doing it again here, as while I realize Seattle is better than I have given them credit for to date, they’re not better than the Giants, as Saquon Barkley should have a field day against this 29th-ranked rushing defense. (Over 44.5.)
Monday at 8:15 p.m.
CLEVELAND (+3) 23, Cincinnati 17: “OK, Derry, now I know you have fallen off the rails.” You said that last week when I took the Bears +7.5 over the Patriots (and bet their money line a day after I wrote my column). Here’s the deal: As much as it appears the Bengals are back on the win train, this is not a good matchup for them.
Not only has Cleveland won four in a row in the series, but they have also won seven of eight dating back to 2018. Why? Because the Bengals don’t fare all that well against running teams, and the Browns have the third-ranked rushing offense in the NFL. Don’t be scared to take Cleveland on what seems to be a deflated money line of +150ish, although I expect this to go up a tick before Monday. (Under 46.5.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 7 best bets: 3-2 (-$5). Season-best bets: 24-11 (.686; +$133.10 on season). Week 7 all picks against the spread:5-9. Season all picks ATS: 53-53 (.500)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 7: 6-8. Season: 55-52 (.514).
Week 7: 9-5. Season: 65-42 (.607).
(click on week to view)
Week 7: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-9 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 9-5 over/unders.
Week 6: 4-1 best bets (+$62.60); 9-5 ATS; 8-6 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 5: 3-2 best bets (+$2); 10-5 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 4: 4-1 best bets (+$37); 9-6 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 3: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-11 ATS; 8-8 straight up; 8-7 over/unders
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
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Categories: Upstate Action