Early leans & analysis Wk 8
Early leans & analysis

Posted Friday, October 28 at 12:30 PM EST. Odds are subject to change.

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NFL Week 8

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday. We’re intent on providing our We’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

Sunday, October 30

NFL Week 8

Denver v. Jacksonville -2½

Wembley Stadium - London, England

11:30 AM EST. The Jaguars return “home” to London, where they have played more games than any other team in this league since the NFL started heading across the Atlantic for this particular cash grab. More often than not, we lay off these international games because they present far too many off-field variables that one would not have to consider otherwise.

Denver needs this trip to London like it needs a hole in the head. The Broncos can’t do anything right. Hell, it’s so bad for the Broncs that the ever-reliable Brandon McManus can't get it together. Dude is one of the best kickers in the league and he’s shanking PATs and field goals and having his kicks blocked on the regular.

The Broncos were supposed to contend in 2022, but they are 2-5, which puts them a full three games back of Kansas City. Last week, Denver couldn’t get out of its own way under backup QB Brett Rypien, as the Broncos fell to the visiting Jets, 16-9. That was Denver’s fourth loss in a row. Russell Wilson is expected back this week, but the pitchforks are already out. Head coach Nathaniel Hacke’s play-calling has been called “stale,” as the Broncs sport an NFL-low 14.5 points per game.

The hotstove in Denver is heating up, too, as GM George Paton is rumored to be interested in getting back some of the many draft picks he gave up in the Wilson deal. The talk is that former first-round picks Bradley Chubb and Jerry Jeudy could find a new home before the trade deadline next week. That impact on the locker room can’t be ignored.

As for the Jags, they lost to the Giants, but that defeat was much more forgivable, as they were in that game, taking a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter. In that game against the now 6-1 Giants, Jacksonville was a 3-point favorite. Now, on a neutral field, the Jags are priced in the same range against the lowly Broncos. That’s not right, is it? Nobody would slot the Broncos anywhere near the Giants in the power rankings. In this game, it’s the Jags or nothing. Recommendation: Jacksonville -2½

New England -1½ @ N.Y. Jets

1:00 PM EST. Last week the Jets were high on our fade list because the market and media were salivating all over this team. The Jets early season success was still in question but when New York went into Green Bay and whacked the Pack, that was the proverbial stamp of approval that convinced the market that the Jets are legit. In a letdown spot last week and with this game on deck, the Jets would follow that win over Green Bay with another win, this time in Denver while holding the Broncos to a mere 9 points. The New York Jets have won four in a row and five of six. Thus, in the spirit of sticking with it (fading the Jets), we’re not coming off that position just yet. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this fade is that the Patriots got destroyed by Justin Fields and the Bears on Monday Night Football.

The Patriots started Monday night with two quarterbacks they believed they could win with and a plan to incorporate both. They ended it with more questions than answers about the quarterback position. That works in our favor because the market doesn’t like uncertainty. If the Patriots and Bill Belichick were trying to defuse any quarterback controversy, then like everything else associated with that loss to the Bears, it was a massive fail. They simply poured kerosene on a combustible situation. In this information era, the market wants to know which QB they are betting on. To the market and media, this is not only a QB controversy, it’s a confusing, convoluted mess crying out for some clarity.

One local publication had this to say:

“Belichick is nothing if not consistent. So his compulsion with not providing details to the media is understood. However, when that coaching personality impairs his team’s execution and offensive operation, it’s not worth it, and it should be called out”.

You see how the media’s shit is in ruins over not getting the information they seek? In any case, we couldn’t care less about which QB plays and which does not. We love that the Patriots were humiliated on Monday night while the Jets keep winning because it provides us with this opportunity to get the Patriots at a true discount. Recency bias is in play and so is the “prime time reaction” to one game.

We’re not going to discuss whether the Jets are overachieving or not because it’s somewhat subjective. We can discuss what we do know, which is that the Jets stock is soaring While New England’s stock took a massive hit last week and they are once again under .500. We also know that Zach Wilson has totaled only 258 passing yards in his last 10 quarters. Wilson’s stunning lack of accuracy is holding the Jets’ offense hostage, thus, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that New York’s 5-2 record is misleading because they have faced weak quarterbacks, Jacoby Brissett, Kenny Pickett, Skylar Thompson and Brett Rypien in compiling that mark.

Last week and going into Monday's game, the Patriots stock was soaring after back-to-back blowout wins over Detroit (29-0) and Cleveland (38-15). One game later and after a prime time showing, New England’s stock dropped like a ton of bricks. Vegas reported a massive liability on that game, thus, it creates a market zig zag too. If we’re checking boxes and checking ‘em twice, New England checks ‘em all. Recommendation: New England -1½

Arizona @ Minnesota -3½

1:00 PM EST. The Vikings have been out of sight and out of mind after enjoying a bye in Week 7. In case you forgot, the Vikes beat the Dolphins 24-16 right before their bye, which moved them to 5-1 on the season. While it looks good in the standings, the Vikes are just 2-4 at the pay window this season.

Scoring is down. Touchdowns are down. Daily Fantasy excitement is down. It’s been a constant topic of discussion. Through seven weeks of play, the 43.4 average total points per game marks the lowest output the NFL has seen since 2010. Not since the 2011 lockout season has scoring dipped so low. Only one time since 2011 has the average touchdowns per game been lower than they are this year (4.79).

A big reason scoring is down is because the passing game has not been as effective as in years past. In 2021, passing plays were worth about +325 net points. In 2022, they have netted a -50. That’s a 375-point swing, over seven weeks (108 games), which shows a loss of 3.47 points per game. Passing completion percentage across the league is at a five-year low, 62.6%, as is completion of deep throws of 25 yards or more, which are hitting at only a 27.7% clip. Why do we bring this up? Well, the last time we saw the Cardinals they were lighting up the scoreboard in prime time on Thursday Night Football to kick off Week 7. The Cards would put up 42 points on the Saints, which was the second highest total of the week next to the Chiefs' 44. That’s some pretty good company. However, while it looks good in the box scores, that point total was aided by a pair of Saints turnovers that went for majors, as the second half came to a close. Instead of going into the locker room tied at 14, it was 28-14 Arizona. Turnovers are what decides games and they hide many warts. In the Cards’ case they covered for a defense that surrendered season-highs in passing and total yardage. There was also some drama on the Cardinals sidelines with Arizona QB Kyler Murray and HC Kliff Kingsbury having some heated words. Both say all is well and has been patched up. The question is whether or not that patch is going to be able to stop their leaky ship. Regardless, Arizona’s offensive outburst last week has them receiving too much credit here. Recommendation: Minnesota -3½


Miami @ Detroit +3½

1:00 PM EST. The Lions have had a rough go of late. They were shutout by New England 35-0 in Week 5, before getting a chance to rest and reload on their bye week. Any hope that Detroit would find their scoring touch (don’t forget, this was the #1 scoring offense after four weeks) in Dallas, in Week 7, were dashed, as quarterback Jared Goff was intent on giving up the rock again and again. Dude threw two interceptions and he and his teammates would lose three of their five fumbles. It’s impossible to compete in this league when you turn the ball over.

Those that frequent this space know that we count turnovers and penalties as part of the “in-game variance” that cannot be predicted. While those plays are “luck based,” they ultimately decide the outcomes of these games more often than not. In-game injuries are also a part of that “variance.” To that point, the Lions lost their most dependable receiver when Amon-Ra St. Brown went down with a head injury. Because of the Tua Tagovailoa situation, the league is on high alert when a player gets his bell rung. A.S.B. didn’t return to the game, but he also was not diagnosed with a concussion. There is hope that he’ll play this week.

Rarely do we discuss injuries in this space, but it’s worth noting that the Dolphins come into this game with a severely depleted secondary. Safety Brandon Jones injured his knee against Pittsburgh and corner Byron Jones is still out. Moreover, defensive backs Nik Needham and Trill Williams were already placed on IR. Much like the wide receiver role on the offense, quality defenders in the secondary are not easy to come by. If one cannot cover the opposition, one is going to have a long day at the office.

The aforementioned Tua was back on the field on Sunday night with the Dolphins, but despite the win, it was an ugly night all around. The Dolphins were shut out in the second half. It’s defense made rookie Kenny Pickett look legit, but a depleted secondary will do that. The Dolphins had no answer for tight end Pat Freiermuth, who racked up nine catches for 75 yards. This week, the Dolphins will have to try and contain the Lions’ T.J. Hockenson, who is the best tight end outside of the big three of Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and George Kittle.

Both of these teams looked bad last week, with the Dolphins poor play being seen by the football world. Normally, the overreaction to a prime time game is something we are going to be all over. However, the Lions have been so bad for so long that their stock always takes a bigger hit than most. The Fish are going to get some leeway, as they are still working Tua back into the lineup and because they actually won the game. Meanwhile, Jared Goff’s market credibility is shot. Market perception is that he’s almost impossible to get behind at this point but let’s not forget that Detroit had Dallas on the ropes and should have won that game. Let’s not forget that Detroit’s offense was buzzing for weeks. We love that its offense has been stuck in neutral for two weeks because it provides us with this great opportunity to get the Lions at home, as a dog when they should be a pick-em at worst.

Unless we’ve read the market wrong here, the Lions taking back more than a field goal at home to the Dolphins presents some potential value. Recommendation: Lions +3½

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia -10½

1:00 PM EST. The Steelers have made two straight trips to the pay window and they appear to have their future franchise pivot with Kenny Pickett taking over the reins after Mitch Trubisky failed to click with his new team. In Week 6, the Steelers had the most impactful win in the market when they knocked off Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, 20-18. The Steelers were a 12-point pooch in that game. That success was factored into the price last Sunday night in Miami, where Pittsburgh was a 7-point underdog. After covering that game, the Steelers’ success is being factored into the price of this game in Philadelphia. This is a giant pile of points for a team that has not only a reputation as a blue blood team, but is also paying out for its backers. How many times did Chris Collingsworth say, “The Steelers don’t get blown out”.

As exciting as it might be for a home town boy to take over the Steelers, there are going to be growing pains. In Pickett’s case, it would be the seven interceptions he’s thrown over his 12 quarter career. It’s not all the rookie's fault, as he plays behind a weak offensive line that is not capable of protecting him or blocking well enough to get the run game going. The Steelers have the 27th ranked run attack in the league. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is on the hot seat because of his whacked out play calling. When coach Mike Tomlin starts inevitably blaming his assistants for the Steelers’ woes, Canada will be the first to go.

The Steelers are thought of as a “running team” that plays solid defense, but that reputation is taking a hit here. In addition to their inability to run the rock, this defense is toothless. The Steelers have just five sacks in their last six games, and they have not been the same since T.J. Watt went down in Week 1. There is some hope that Watt will return this week, but the more likely scenario is that he’ll be back after Pittsburgh’s bye next week. That break also presents the possibility of a “lookahead” spot for the Steelers.

The Eagles are coming off a bye. Quick, who did Philly play in Week 5? If you guessed the Cowboys, you win! That 26-17 final was the last time we saw Philadelphia but the fact remains that they’re the only undefeated team left in the league. This now becomes more of a fade on the Steelers taking back what we call a “favorite” number.

When you see the “hook” on a key number like 3, 7, or 10, be mindful that the books may be enticing you to back the underdog in that spot. There is a perception in the market that taking back that “hook” gives it an edge, as it crosses those key numbers, but that is not the case. Recommendation: Philadelphia -10½

Tennessee @ Houston +2½

4:05 PM EST. There is not a more fraudulent team in this league than the Titans. Tennessee is out to a 4-2 start here in 2022, which is good for a one game lead in the South Division but they could very easily be 0-6 because they get outplayed every single week. Each win was more fortunate than the last including last week’s misleading victory over the Colts. Tennessee downed the Colts 19-10, but there was not a more deceiving score on the board in Week 7. The Titans failed to score an offensive touchdown, and had Matt Ryan not fed them the ball a few times on his way out to pasture, that game story would have been much different.

Ryan threw the only touchdown the Titans would score when Andrew Adams took one of those turnovers to the house for that major. Despite winning the turnover battle 3-1, that game was in doubt for the Titans as late as the fourth quarter, where they led, 16-10 with 8:31 to go. Tennessee got the nine-point win over Indy, despite being outgained, having fewer first downs and going 0-for-2 in the red zone.

There is more bad news for the Titans, as starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is nursing a sprained right ankle. Tannehill was seen speaking with reporters wearing only his sneakers and not an air-cast while talking about his ankle. The QB said, “I am headed in the right direction. I have got a little ways to go, but I have been better and I have been worse. Headed in the right direction.” That might look and sound positive, but a sprained ankle is not an injury that just heals up in a week. Even if Tannehill starts, he’s pure garbage to begin with and it’s unlikely that he’s going to be 100%.

Unlike the Titans, the Texans are not frauds. Nor are they dregs. Despite the modest results, Lovie Smith has this team playing some solid ball. Houston was the biggest tough luck loser in Week 7 in Las Vegas, as they were in that game for 45-minutes, taking a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter. The Texans would get outscored 21-0 in that final frame, but the box score was padded by a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown with just 3:26 to play.

Positives for the Texans in Week 7 included rookie runner Dameon Pierce once again going off with another 100+ yard game, his fourth in a row. Smith also has his team playing disciplined ball, as the Texans had just three penalties for 14 yards. That discipline has been consistent this season, as Houston ranks 5th best in the league in that important department. The Texans have had second half leads in four of their six games this season. Once their young players grow into their big paws, the Texans are going to be a force to be reckoned with. Until then, there is room on the bandwagon, and tremendous value to be had. One final nugget here is that the Titans play in Kansas City next week on Sunday Night Football there’s lots on their mind besides the Texans. Recommendation: Houston +2½

N.Y. Giants @ Seattle -3

4:25 PM EST. When you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. After a 6-1 start, the New York Football Giants are starting to get some buzz in The Big Apple. We can appreciate that the media and market were tepid when it comes to investing in the Giants, as Big Blue has been a disaster the last decade.

Before the season, there was talk that this would be the last year for quarterback Daniel Jones, as the Giants will have to either sign him or move on after the season. With low expectations, the latter was a lock. However, now that the Giants are rolling, Jones is getting some love. Just not enough to get a new deal in the middle of the season.

As impressive as the Giants’ win total is, there are many holes in that résumé. New York is not winning in dominant fashion, rather they have a flair for the dramatics. Last week in Jacksonville, the Giants had to rally back in the fourth quarter. They were also forced to make a last-minute redzone defensive stand to deny the Jags the go ahead touchdown in that 23-17 final. Winning is nice, but all six of the Giants’ victories have been decided by 8 or fewer points this season. Had a bounce or two gone against the G-Men, they could just as easily be 1-6, as they are 6-1, or anywhere in between.

The Seahawks won big in Los Angeles against the Chargers, but there is more talk of their porous defense than their high octane offense this week. In a market that loves points, it’s a little surprising that Geno Smith, who has five multi-touchdown games, is getting no love. When you read about Geno, he still gets the “yeah, but” treatment because of his early career struggles. If his name was Matt Ryan or Carson Wentz, do you think dude would be getting this disrespected?

Seattle has a balanced approach on offense that has seen rookie runner Kenneth Walker III step into the starter’s role. He’s relished the opportunity, having rushed for 353 yards and scored four majors in the three weeks since Rashaad Penny went down for the season.

At the end of the day, the 6-1 Giants, who are 6-1 against the spread (ATS) are paying out a bit too much. When a team keeps paying out, the books are forced to compensate. Once again, if you wager on the G-Men here, you may cash your ticket but you are too late to the party. The time to bet the Giants was when their stock was low and not high like it is now. We’ve heard more than once this week that “Vegas just can’t get the G-Men” right. How could they be dogs at sub .500 Jacksonville, win outright, and then be an underdog here to a 4-3 Seattle side that is just 4-3 ATS? We can spin that another way. If the Giants were getting +3 in Jacksonville, shouldn’t they be getting more in Seattle. This is a classic case of the market reacting to a final score and the Seahawks being undersold. Recommendation: Seattle -3

Green Bay +10½ @ Buffalo

8:20 PM EST. We are going to spend little time on the Bills here, as they will get plenty of love from the talking heads in advance of this Sunday nighter. Buffalo sports the league’s #1 offense and its #1 defense. They last took out the mighty Chiefs two weeks ago before resting in Week 7 after a 5-1 start. The Bills are right where everyone expected them to be. They are leading their division and they are the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl after two months. Expectations can be hard to fulfill, but the Bills are doing so with flying colors. The same cannot be said of the Packers.

If you were wondering when the last time Aaron Rodgers was a double-digit dog, we have the answer for you—never. Ever. The plight of the Packers and specifically #12 has been ground into dust this week by the talk shows. To recap, Green Bay lost to Washington last Sunday, 23-21 as a five point road favorite. In that game, the Packers failed to convert either a 3rd or 4th down, which was the first time that has happened in over two decades (1999), making it another dubious career first for Rodgers. If the Packers were winning, Rodgers’ new “spiritual” outlook on life would be celebrated, but since they aren’t and he’s struggling, Dude is getting clowned.

At his post game presser on Sunday, Rodgers said of the loss to the Commanders (their third in a row), “This might be the best thing to happen to us,” as now the Packers can play carefree football in Buffalo, while trying to catch the Bills off guard. While the pundits are yukking it up, there is some truth to that statement. Look at the Panthers last Sunday against the Buccaneers. Carolina was written off as “tankers” after unloading some star power. Instead of rolling over, the Cats played their best game of the year with nothing to lose. That's when a team is at its most dangerous.

We cannot predict if the Packers will win this game, but we do know there is a big difference between winning and covering an inflated line. We also know that despite Green Bay’s struggles, the Packers either led or were tied at the half in their last three games. They would go on to lose all of those games.

The Packers' stock under Rodgers has never been lower. In fact, the Packs’ stock hasn’t been this low since the early 1990s before they traded for some hillbilly named Brett Favre. Whatever happened to that guy? The market feasted in Week 7 and we trust that they’ll be teasing down the Bills onto just about everything in the afternoon slate. Speaking of teasers (the worst bet you can make), the books have the data that reveals how popular they are. Oddsmakers now have to protect against them. In other words, to protect against a teaser in a highly bet Sunday night game, books are forced to inflate the price even more. As much as we can’t stand the sight of Rodgers, giving him this many inflated points is a bad strategy. Recommendation: Green Bay +10½

Our Pick

Leans & analysis (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)

Pittsburgh +127 over Indianapolis