Early leans & analysis Wk 8
Early leans & analysis

Posted Friday at 2:00 pm EST - odds are subject to change.

Pinnacle  BET365    888Sport 

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 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’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, Oct 22

Carolina +3 -105 over Houston

1:00 PM EST. The Panthers don’t warrant much confidence these days. Of course we can’t expect too much with a new coach and rookie QB, and much of the talent on their roster is in flux. At first they competed admirably, like their  3-point loss against New Orleans in Week 2, but the tide is turning and turning quickly on what’s likely the worst team in pro-football, as their 0-6 record suggests. 

Carolina has been beaten by an average margin of 14.25 ppg in their last four contests, although it’s worth noting their level of opponent. Bryce Young and his team have been through a gauntlet, on the road for three out of their last four games and against nearly all above-average teams– Miami, Detroit, Minnesota, and Seattle. And after Week 7, maybe we should reconsider the common notion that Minnesota is a “bad” team, but we digress. A road trip from the Pacific Northwest, back home to Carolina, and then back on the road to Detroit was particularly brutal in Weeks 4-6. One thing’s for sure, Carolina’s undersized #1 overall draft pick is getting an unfiltered, brutal introduction to pro-football. That might help him in the future, but for now it’s a rough watch. We have reasons to believe he can perform better this week, though. Stay tuned.

Houston is 3-3 in large part because of how easily CJ Stroud has adjusted to NFL life. The Texans’ starter is playing like he’s been in the league for a decade, already throwing for 1660 yards and 9 touchdowns in just six games. He boasts a 96.4 QB rating and he’s only thrown one interception so far. Even better, Stroud’s received good protection (his O-line ranks 10th in permitted sack percentage) and he’s unafraid to pass the ball down field. The Texans’ 7.2 yards per pass is 6th overall. Winners of three of their last four, Stroud is probably salivating at the chance to prove why he should have been the highest drafted QB in 2023. Though we doubt he has the same level of desperation as the QB he’ll battle against in Week 8. 

No NFL team wants to lose every game. That motivation only increases with each losing week, and the Panthers are set up well, at home, off a bye, to correct their errors and put forth their best performance of the season. But even a situational advantage as strong as that combination of factors isn’t enough to make us want to bet on the Panthers. We need more, as should you. One angle is never enough.

Fortunately, it helps that Houston could be a bad matchup for the Panthers. The Texans are among the worst pass defenses in the NFL, allowing over a 70% completion percentage (28th) and 245.5 pass-yards per game (26th). That should be even more alarming to Houston-backers because their level of competition hasn’t exactly been exceptional. Other than Week 1 at Baltimore, every one of the Texans’ opponents currently have a losing record or they’re at .500. One concerning area for Carolina is their inability to stop the run, but  Houston’s 3.2 yards per rush is one of the lowest marks in the league. Even better, the Texans are one of the worst defenses at sacking the QB, ranked 31st overall with a teeny-tiny sack rate of just 4.04%. Sounds like an ideal matchup for Bryce Young to have his best game of the season. 

Houston is a decent team, but there’s no way they deserve to be 3-point road chalk, especially considering the Panthers’ situational advantages and the way they match up with their foe. This is Carolina’s best shot to earn a W, and we expect them to bring it off a rest week. Recommendation: Panthers +3

Jacksonville/Pittsburgh under 42

1:00 PM EST. This is a particularly tough road spot for the Jaguars, who are not only on their second straight road trip but they have a big-time lookahead game against the 49ers in Week 9. That’s not enough reason to immediately like the Steelers, but the home-team might need all the help they can get. Perceptions still aren’t very high on Pittsburgh, despite their 4-2 record and some impressive defensive feats the last two weeks. We all know they tend to win in unconventional ways, but at what points do pundits and dorko-analysts admit that maybe the Steelers are a true outlier? Traditional box-score analysis tells us that the Steelers might be a phony team. They’ve been outgained in every single one of their victories, and in spite of their record they have some of the worst offensive marks in the NFL. Here’s just a few:

17.2 points per game (26th)

273.5 yards per game (31st)

3.3 yards per rush (29th)

6.1 yards per pass (23rd)

Okay so they’re not the greatest show on turf, but they’re still winning. They’re also 4-2 ATS, and the only home game they lost was against the mighty 49ers to open the season. They’re dependent on big plays, and they’re heavily reliant on stars like WR George Pickens and EDGE TJ Watt. They also need to avoid making mistakes. For what it’s worth, Kenny Pickett had two of the cleanest games of the season in Weeks 6 and 7, a sign that the offense may be settling down and realizing who they are– not very good or explosive, but able to capitalize when an opportunity rises. It won’t show in the stats, but Pickett has shown masterclass-ability in high-pressure moments more than once. Example A: last week, on a drive midway through the fourth quarter with the score tied 17-17,, Pickett led a 10 play, 80-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown. After their defense took care of business, he then orchestrated a 10 play, 43-yard drive to wind out the clock. Checkmate, Pittsburgh leaves SoFi Stadium a winner once again, this time knocking off the resurgent Rams

We’re not saying you shouldn’t be expecting regression from the Steelers at some point; Pittsburgh can’t stand up against elite teams outside their division, but are we sure the Jaguars are elite just yet? They’re making a case that they’re on their way.

Winners of four straight, the Jaguars and an allegedly “banged up” Trevor Lawrence took the Saints to the woodshed last Thursday night, going up 24-9 entering the fourth quarter. The Saints closed the distance late, but the game really wasn’t close. Lawrence expertly sliced and diced a talented New Orleans’ secondary and used his legs to really cripple the home-team’s defense, running for 59 yards and earning many first downs in the process. The Jaguars’ defense continues to stymie opposing offenses in the first half. New Orleans didn’t get close to 150 yards in the first two quarters, and the Jacksonville defense made Derek Carr and his crew look inept on third downs (3-18). 

This one’s all about the number. We have little doubt that Jacksonville is the better team, but winning yet another game on the road in a really tough environment against an unfamiliar foe feels like a big lift. Trevor Lawrence is becoming an elite QB, but the Steelers pass-defense is getting better every week. It’ll be rainy and sloppy at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, aka ideal conditions for another chaotic Steeler-contest. If you get a +3, the value is on Pittsburgh. A -2½ is probably a Jacksonville line. Instead, we’ll embrace a total that seems way too high given all the above circumstances. Recommendation: Under 42

Washington +7 over Phildadelphia

1:00 PM EST. The Eagles are coming off a high-profile prime-time win over the Dolphins in what was billed as a potential Super Bowl preview last Sunday night. That 31-17 rout of Miami was a statement game for Philadelphia, and any doubts after its loss to the Jets in Week 6 were washed away. The Eagles are once again neck and neck with the 49ers as the favorites to represent the NFC in "The Big Game" in February.

The talking heads have had much fodder to chew on after that Sunday Night Football blowout, as AJ Brown caught 10 passes for 137 yards with a major. Brown is having a career year in Philadelphia, which is saying a lot after he set the team record for receiving yards last season. Through seven games, Brown has 52 catches for 809 yards with three touchdowns. Brown has put up over 125 yards receiving in five straight games, matching a run set by Calvin Johnson back in 2012, which is the best mark set in that department since the 1970 merger with the AFL. We only bring up those impressive stats because those highlight-reel catches make for low-hanging fruit on the pregame shows, which have an influence on the market.

These two NFC foes played each other a month ago in Week 4, with the former Football Team giving the Eagles a scare as a +10-point underdog on the road in Philly. The Commanders were in that game with Philadelphia from the jump, taking leads of 7-0 and then 17-7 before going into the half up 17-10. A wild second half would see the Eagles take a 7-point lead with 1:43 to play, but Washington would march down the field to tie the game at 31 with 0:00 on the clock. Unfortunately for the Commanders, they would not score again, as the Eagles kicked the game-winning field goal with four minutes to play in OT. Since then, the Commanders have lost two of three, including a stinker last Sunday to the lowly Giants, 14-7, in Jersey, and a 20-point loss to the Bears. Losing to two teams that are a combined 4-10 on the season is not a good look.

This game is a prime example of why it is so important to not overvalue just one result. The Eagles were getting roasted after losing to the Jets, and this week, they are back in the Super Bowl. The market is fickle and it has a very short memory, so we doubt that many remember the 'Manders giving the Iggles a go nearly a month ago. A month in the NFL's 24-hour news cycle might as well be a year. We'll also note the Eagles host the Cowboys next week in the feature game of that late window, which is about as close to a prime-time game as it gets. Recommendation: Washington +7

NY Giants +3 over N.Y. Jets

1:00 PM EST. At the time of writing this the New York Giants are getting 3 points as the “home-team” in the battle of the Big Apple. Time to pump the breaks, Jetsons, although our favorite look is not the spread.

It’s hardly surprising that the Giants are 2-5 entering Week 8. NYG had one of the most difficult schedules to start the season of any team, battling a who’s who of elites right from Week 1. They faced five teams who currently have a winning record– Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, and Buffalo. They lost every game, although the Bills were extremely fortunate to come out the victor in Week 6. In the two games against teams with a losing record, they won. At 3-3, the Jets don’t fit either of those categories, but we damn sure don’t consider the Jets one of the elites. And we probably won’t until Aaron Rodgers returns.

The Jets’ defense can be really good. Normally they fall asleep for the first two quarters, but when they wake up and realize that, once again, the fate of the game rests on their collectively broad shoulders, step up they do. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, the two QBs in the Super Bowl last season, both threw three interceptions against the Jets’ secondary. One escaped with a win (Mahomes, what else is new), the other did not. On Sunday they’ll have to work against Tyrod Taylor, a wily veteran who’s made the Giants’ offense look more formidable in Daniel Jones’ absence. We have little doubt they can limit Taylor, it’s one of the reasons why the total is an insanely low 36½ points, and we’re certain the Giants can limit Zach Wilson, too. 

Wilson has shown improvement in recent games and he deserves the credit. Although he’s been sacked 11 times in his last three games, he’s airing it out more and he’s only thrown one interception in the same span. He won’t get it any easier this week, though. The Giants’ defensive line came alive last Sunday against a soft Washington front, sacking Sam Howell on 6 different occasions and hitting him 4 times for good measure. Even with injuries in their secondary, their young talent has stepped up in recent outings, limiting Josh Allen and Sam Howell to a subpar 418 combined yards in two games. Big Blue is still permitting 5.0 yards per carry, a concerning data-point considering Breece Hall’s explosive running ability, but Zach Wilson isn’t about to pile up yards and touchdowns on this version of the Giants’ defense.

Going with the under might not be a bad idea here, and a total this low also complements the pooch. This is bound to be a close battle between two teams who want to say they “own” their city, and from where we’re sitting they don’t seem that disparate in ability. There’s only one way to look, under such circumstances. Recommendation: N.Y Giants +3

Arizona +8½ -105 over Baltimore

4:25 PM EST. Since the NFL is incredibly popular and because sports betting is exploding across North America, the vast majority of bettors are not experts. Most bettors are just lining up with their buddies at a local bar, filling a bucket of brewskies and praying for the results they want to happen – not exactly a pro’s perspective. That’s why it’s really important that you pay attention to public perception. Right now is a great time to observe inflating perceptions across the league. This week, along with Philadelphia, it is the Baltimore Ravens that are the other flavor of the week after San Francisco, Miami and Buffalo all lost and after the Ravens whacked the upstart Lions. 

We keep trying to emphasize that predicting games is not possible. There are probably close to 50 variances that alter the outcome in each game (missed tackles, dropped passes, subjective calls like pass interference or holding for example, turnovers, missed or made FG’s), which makes it impossible to predict the outcome.  The against-the-spread results of individual games are extremely luck-driven, which is why we must continue to emphasize playing value. Since Baltimore’s stock is so high after they destroyed Detroit, it is now time to try to take advantage of public perception along with this inflated line and sell high on Baltimore. Yeah, if you bet Baltimore this week, of course you can win but you would be buying them a week too late or even better, four weeks too late. Baltimore has covered in two straight weeks and has also covered in three of its last four games. If you bet on Detroit last week to beat Baltimore, and there was a boatload of folks that did, it would be very difficult to bet against Baltimore this week. Not for us. 

Not only is Baltimore’s stock through the roof but it is a difficult scheduling spot for the visitor. You see, Baltimore is coming off four highly focused games in a row when they played in order, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Detroit. Detroit would normally not be included in high profile games but the Lions stock was very high coming in. Now the Ravens get to take a breather and play in Arizona in a game in which they are close to a double digit favorite and supposed to win going away. It is situations like this that inspire a team’s “C” game instead of its “A” game. After four “A” games in a row, expect Baltimore’s “C” game. Trust us when we suggest that you don’t want to get caught spotting inflated points with a team bringing its “C” game.   After this matchup, the Ravens return home for a three-game stretch of home games against the Seahawks, Browns and Bengals. 

Shall we discuss the Cardinals? Sure, why not but nobody gives a rats ass, not even the people in Arizona, as their beloved D-Backs will be playing for the World Series. The Cardinals season is already over, so rushing back Kyler Murray doesn't really matter. He’s missing the first year of HC Jonathan Gannon and OC Drew Petzing, so he would benefit from getting comfortable with the offense for next season. James Conner is on injured reserve until Week 10 at the earliest, and the backfield duties appear to be distributed using rock-paper-scissors with the current batch of backs. The season has been as disappointing as expected and worse is the main offensive players not being able to learn the system together and form any chemistry. Need we go on? The Cardinals stock is low, just like it was in Weeks 1, 2 and 3 when they covered against Washington, the Giants and the Cowboys respectively (nobody remembers that). Subsequently, Arizona’s stock was high after those three covers and now it’s very low again. Meanwhile Lamar Jackson’ stock is through the roof after his best game ever and Baltimore’s stock is soaring along right with it. The Cardinals check just about every box we look for when mining for value. Recommendation: Arizona +8½  

Green Bay +1 -105 over Minnesota

1:00 PM EST. Did you see how the Vikings made the 49ers look very ordinary on Monday Night? We did too. You know who else saw it? Everyone. Did you see how the Packers couldn’t beat the god-awful Broncos on Sunday? We did too. The Packers have not only lost three straight, but they were destroyed by Detroit and lost to both the garbage Raiders and garbage Broncos. Now they’re supposed to compete against the Vikings?

If you bet against Minnesota last week against San Francisco, chances are you are not going to fade the Vikings this week after they performed so well. If you backed Green Bay last week in Denver, you likely want no part of the Packers this week. Frankly, we couldn’t blame you one bit we’re not in the prediction biz and we keep stressing that you shouldn’t be either. We’re in the overreaction business and this is a prime example of precisely that. We’re not about to say “R-E-L-A-X” either, as we’ll be grateful when we never have to hear that fuc***g phrase again. 

You think we want to bet on Green Bay here? We don’t. With regards to the Packers, all you’ll get from us is blunt, ugly vitriol but they check all the boxes this week and that makes them a play. Here are some of the said boxes we refer to. First, Minnesota had a great showing on Monday Night Football. Second, Minnesota’s stock is way up because of it. Third, the market is heavily influenced by what it saw last and by recency bias. Fourth, Green Bay’s stock hasn’t been this low since before Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, which was what, 25 years ago? Fifth, Green Bay has looked pitiful for three weeks in a row. 

To recap: the 3-4 Vikings just beat the 49ers on Monday night and may have saved their season. The 2-4 Packers have lost their last three and are still trying to find a way to generate points. Furthermore, It is never a good sign when the media keeps asking a head coach if he is still comfortable with the starting quarterback. And HC Matt LaFleur says he unequivocally is. The media is crapping on the Packers this week while singing the praises of the Vikings, which solidifies are p[osition to buy low. This price says the oddsmakers expect the Vikings to be punch-drunk from their big emotional win last week, which is absolutely our prompt to move in. Recommendation: Green Bay +1 

Dallas -6 over L.A. Ram

1:00 PM EST. The Cowboys are a full touchdown-chalk off a bye and there's nothing phony or incorrect about it. The 'Boys are the same team they are every year - a regular season darling who can trip over themselves (Week 3 against Arizona) or eat a big slice of humble pie (Week 5 against San Francisco), but we usually know what we're going to get from Mike McCarthy's team. In situational advantages and especially off a loss, Dallas tends to suddenly remember how talented they are and that it only takes a modicum of extra effort to dominate most teams. Last season, 9 of their 12 wins were by a touchdown or more. Pinpointing the spots where Dallas will play to their fullest potential becomes an exercise of its own, and this checks out as a spot where it's likely we'll see it.

Many bettors will want to play on the Rams this Sunday. They're off a loss in a chaotic game against Pittsburgh, where they outgained their opponent and looked like they could put the game in cruise control, but TJ Watt and an opportunistic Steelers' defense made big plays when it mattered. The Rams' defense also folded in big moments, letting Kenny Pickett go right down the field on his final two drives to seal the win for his team.

This is an inflection point for Sean McVay and the team he coaches, since they're now under .500 on the season (3-4) and staring down the barrel of a schedule that won't get easier, especially considering their division. It's times like this where we're also reminded that, sensing their time on top of the NFC might be over, three of LAR's most crucial members (McVay, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald) all mentioned retirement this past offseason. How much more do they have in the tank? How inspired are they to maximize what they can get out of this young team before they call it a rebuilding or refresh. We don't think they're done fighting yet, but a team like Dallas could send them searching for white towels.

Dallas has a lookahead game against the Eagles in Week 9, that's a concern, but off a bye, at home, and healthier than they've been all season, this is a great spot for Dallas to gain momentum before their big NFC East battle. Micah Parsons and company have a good chance to dominate the Rams' offensive line, a group that's been surviving thanks to Matthew Stafford's pre-snap preparation and movement in the pocket but the dam is about to break. LAR isn't getting any pressure on their side, ranked 28th in sack percentage, which lays the foundation for a big Dak Prescott game since he probably won't experience much pressure in this contest. This is a statement game waiting to happen. Recommendation: Cowboys -6

Tennessee +2½ over Atlanta

1:00 PM EST. There’s lots to get to here. First, Will Levis is expected to be the starting quarterback for Tennessee since Ryan Tannehill's ankle injury will keep him out. Secondly, Tennessee just traded Kevin Byard, which in turn has the media pimping the “throwing in the towel” mantra to begin the initiation of a rebuild. Despite the rebuild narrative, despite Tannehill not playing, oddsmakers still wouldn’t offer up a field goal on the Titans. That alone should make you reluctant to spot road points with the Dirty Birds.

As for Will Levis, he’s a wild card to be sure. Some scouts sing his praises and others say he has no shot. One thing everyone agrees on, however, is that he’s a big-ass QB who can run, and he’s got one of the strongest arms you’ll ever see out of college. He can throw but his accuracy has come into question, which is precisely what the knock on Josh Allen was too. His decision making has also been questioned but time will tell. At the NFL Draft, there was lots of speculation around Levis, as some analysts said he could be the second QB taken off the board while others insisted that he would be the fourth or fifth QB taken. As it turns out, Bryce Young (No. 1, Panthers), C.J. Stroud (No. 2, Texans) and Anthony Richardson (No. 4, Colts) were gone in the first four picks of the NFL Draft but no team came calling for Levis. In the end, Levis went in the second round (33rd overall) so make no mistake that he comes in with a massive chip on his shoulders. 

The 4-3 Falcons beat the Buccaneers last week for outright ownership of the NFC South however, Atlanta should have won by three TD’s instead of three points. They dominated but costly turnovers deep in TB territory prevented the Falcons from blowing it wide open. The Falcons set the X-previously-known-as-twitter on fire last Sunday when one person from every fantasy league started shouting, "WHERE IS BIJAN?" followed by, "OH, THEN WHY ISN'T HE IN THE GAME?" During the second half, news came out that Bijan Robinson "wasn't feeling well." Despite zero warning and nothing on the injury report, he was active and dressed. The NFL is looking into it now because teams are not supposed to hide the fact that a star running back says, "Not today, I have a headache." The Falcons beat the Buccaneers and the Commanders before that. 

Meanwhile, the 2-4 Titans are on a two-game losing streak with a rushing offense that doesn't match up to recent years, while the passing offense may have never been worse. The season is slipping away, and there's nothing here to suggest that a turnaround is imminent or even likely. There are rumors that Derrick Henry could be traded away, which would be the ultimate towel-throwing action. The offensive line's decline has thwarted all attempts to move the ball and even brought down the great King Henry. Frankly, nothing points to the Titans competing here, which is why we’re recommending them. We’re also not convinced that the Falcons are worthy of being road chalk. Recommendation: Tennessee +2½ 

New Orleans -1 over Indianapolis

1:00 PM EST. This line has flipped in favor of the road team and although it's difficult and gross and potentially stroke-provoking to pick a team like the Saints right now, pick them we must. The line movement, especially when it comes early in the week, indicates big money and betting syndicates are moving in on the Saints. While that's not always something to chase and information on real betting splits is completely proprietary, in this case we agree with the adjustment. 

The Xs and Os play very little into this handicap. Why? Because who in their right mind would trust the Saints? We get it. Derek Carr still looks lost at times, probably a result of a team that was too reliant on Drew Brees' elite preparation and a coaching staff that has little talent to reform a QB, but the fact remains that he doesn't look comfortable. While the Saints have moved the ball up and down the field and gained plenty of yards the last few weeks, they just can't find the endzone. They also can't find first downs. Carr and the offense went a shocking 3-18 last week against the Jaguars, and Trevor Lawrence exposed holes in their defense by running for first downs over and over again. Clearly there's a lot for this team to correct. Thankfully for the Saints, their opponent can set the table for that regression and they’ve had 10 full says to fix their issues.

The Colts are good at preventing third down conversions for the most part (35.58%, 8th), but they allow way too many points on a weekly basis (27.3 ppg) and allow a touchdown in the red-zone on nearly 62% of opponent possessions (23rd). Their defense is the definition of a middle-tear, bend-don't-break-but-we-actually-break-often kind of unit. Gardner Minshew hasn’t helped.

Minshew leads an offense that wasn't built around him but the veteran backup is a playmaker who can keep his team in games. For the most part. Just last week, in a contest they probably should have won, Minshew and his supporting cast put up 31 points against the vaunted Browns' defense. The Indianapolis defense added another touchdown on a fumble recovery return, but a late fumble by Minshew was all-she-wrote for the try-hard Colts, falling 39-38 at home. 

And that's been Minshew's story so far this season. Gutsy play-making ability, but highly prone to mistakes and turnovers. He has 4 interceptions and 4 lost fumbles in the last two weeks alone, crushing his team by abruptly ending good drives and putting more on the shoulders of a mediocre defense. While we expect some regression - he can't continue to turn it over at a rate that high can he? - The Saints defense is an opportunistic group, ranked 7th overall with 1.7 takeaways per game, and they're equally pissed off after letting Trevor Lawrence manipulate them for four quarters in Week 7. We expect them to play aggressively against a less able thrower.

The Saints are also getting very desperate. Even with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, they find themselves 3-4 and at risk of slipping down the NFC South ladder below the Falcons and Bucs. They've lost four of their last five games and even in their one win, a 34-0 drubbing at Foxboro, more good fortune and bad mistakes from the Patriots was the reason the final score was so disparate.. Needless to say, the Saints needed ten days to correct their flaws after that terrible showing on TNF and they cannot afford to keep losing if they hope to be a real contender in the NFC. The same could be said for the Colts in the AFC, but we question how much fight they have left with a volatile backup QB in a division that very likely belongs to Jacksonville. Recommendation: New Orleans -1

Miami -9½ over New England

1:00 PM EST. Normally this is a situation where we'd gravitate towards a divisional underdog, especially considering how competitive they were in their first contest. That's not a comfortable in this matchup, however, since the Dolphins also blew an opportunity to make another big statement on the road. Instead, Mike McDaniels' team continues to struggle against elite teams when they're away from Hard Rock Stadium. Fortunately for them, they remain at Hard Rock for the next four weeks (2 home games, a bye, and another home game). How cushy.

The Patriots finally got their big win last weekend, quieting Bill Belichik and Mac Jones' critics for at least one week. Their defense made big plays and prevented a struggling Bills' offense from soaring for most of the contest, while Mac Jones made big-time throws down the stretch in his best game of the season - 25-30 (83%), 272 yards on 9.1 yards per pass, 2 touchdowns, no INTs. Belichik also enjoyed his 300th win, immediately beckoning critics to retreat from their "Bill is done" narrative the week prior. Now he's back to being celebrated, as he probably should be, after a redemptive win against a Buffalo squad that's had the Patriots' number since Brady departed.

The Bills are struggling right now, though, and we can't say the same about Miami. Yet again, the Fins have been historic at home this season - 3-0 straight up and ATS, outscoring opponents 143-57; does it get more dominant than that?

Tua Tagovailoa and his offense should be primed to put on a show, too. Tua was fine last week, adequate against a damn-good Philly pass rush, but the Miami run-game never took off. New England is #1 in opponent yards per rush (3.4), but on the welcome grass of South Florida the Fins look even faster. They've gained a stunning 734 yards in three games at Hard Rock. For what it's worth, they also ran for 145 yards against the Pats on the road in Week 2. 

The Dolphins were fortunate to escape Foxboro the first go-round, but some bad calls by the refs (what else is new) and unfortunate mistakes held the Pats back (what else is new x 2). We don't see them having the same opportunities this week. Fact is, the Fins have been damn-near untouchable at home under Mike McDaniels and now's not the time to fade them, not against a New England team that showed it has an adequate offense in just one week all season. Recommendation: Miami -9½ 

Seattle -4 over Cleveland

4:05 PM EST. The Cleveland Browns are getting a ton of love in the marketplace the last few weeks, mainly because of how stingy their defense has been. And isn't that sort of silly? Teams like the Patriots, Jets, Titans, Saints, and Steelers have all had the benefit of some truly exceptional defensive performance, yet they don't receive anywhere near the same affection from sportsbooks. Last week Cleveland was road chalk of over a field goal against a very feisty Colts team, for God's sake. We all know how that went. Of course most of the teams above haven't been able to scrounge as many wins together as the 4-2 Brownies, which is probably a big reason why sharps and oddsmakers have liked their side. 

The market isn't as kind to them this week, however, and for good reason. Kevin Stefanski has already announced that PJ Walker will start. This isn't his first rodeo and he's played okay in two games, aka he's done enough, but no games over 200 yards passing and 3 INTs with no interceptions doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Plus, the Seahawks are one of the best run-defenses in football (3.5 yards per carry allowed, 3rd overall), and hyper-explosive RB Jerome Ford is unlikely to suit up for Cleveland this Sunday. Kareem Hunt is also banged up with a thigh injury. Either way, that sounds like a lot of PJ Walker's shoulders; not exactly ideal for the Browns on their second straight road spot. 

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are playing beneath their ability and still getting it done. After a loss at Cincinnati, which was more about Cincinnati than the visiting Hawks, Seattle won and covered in a game where they let Arizona stick around for the majority of the contest. It was an average outing for Geno Smith and the offense, which is typical in a division game, but after two weeks of mediocre production we expect the Seahawks to explode in their second week at home. DK Metcalf, who's planning on returning, won't hurt their chances. 

These are the dog-days of the Browns' NFL schedule and at a certain point, they're bound to get caught with a QB like PJ Walker leading their team. Geno Smith and the Seahawks have a great opportunity to keep pace with the 49ers in their second straight home game and we like them to take advantage. Recommendation: Seattle -4

Cincinnati +4 over San Francisco

4:25 PM EST. Three weeks ago, after dominating Dallas at home, San Francisco looked like they were clearly one of the best teams if not the best team in the league. Since then it's been a dramatic shift. Getting upset by Cleveland in a sloppy defensive-game was shocking enough, but the Niners suffered another defeat last Monday night in Minnesota, too. Along the way they've incurred multiple injuries to key starters, and this Sunday their dynamic QB, who was 11-0 as a Niner before their recent road trip, is officially out as he remains in concussion protocol. 

After an impressive training camp, Sam Darnold will go under center this Sunday. Kyle Shanahan has expressed the utmost confidence in Darnold, who beat out Trey Lance before the season for the #2 role, but we have our doubts. Darnold will also be without Deebo Samuel, who remains sidelined until at least Week 9, and All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams hasn't practiced this week and remains questionable to suit up Sunday. 

After a rough 1-3 start to the season, Joe Burrow the Bengals have won their last two games and are looking to create the same magic they have in previous seasons after their bye-week. Joe Burrow's ankle injury is no longer an issue and a healthy Bengals' roster has proven it can defeat the NFL's best. In the 2021 and 2022 seasons they went on long winning streaks to ascend to the AFC playoffs. It's the mark of a great team - the ability to find a second gear, no matter the circumstances, and find ways to overcome the toughest situations. Following their bye-week, Cincinnati has one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league, starting with Sunday's visit to Levi's Stadium. 

This line has moved 2+ points in favor of the visiting Bengals since oddsmakers' got the news of Purdy's injury. Normally that's a situation where we might want to look at the downgraded team - in this case it’s San Francisco. Still, a spread of over a field goal feels momentous against a team as scrappy and capable as Cincinnati. 

The Bengals are healthy and rounding into form at the right time. Burrow's ankle is clearly no issue anymore, throwing 60-81 for 5 touchdowns in his last two contests. His ability to shimmy in the pocket and extend plays like the Joey-B we know is noticeable. Even better, Burrow and his star receiver Ja'Marr Chase are on the same page again. When in-sync, the duo is damn-near unstoppable. Chase has caught 21 balls for 272 yards and 3 TDs in their previous two games. The Bengals' defense appears to be regressing back to its true self, too. A unit predicated on big plays and a bend-don't-break mentality (47.83% red-zone rate, 9th overall), they've forced 7 sacks and 5 turnovers in their last two wins. 

This line could be Bengals +2 and we'd still take it. Brock Purdy or Sam Darnold or Joe Montana, we could care less who's throwing for the home-town Niners. We're not back-peddling or saying San Francisco isn't one of the elites, they are, but two large season-long sample sizes of Cincinnati rising to the occasion in these spots is enough evidence for this bettor. The Niners will be crafty and more desperate to win, no one’s saying it’ll be easy, but we’re talking about two top-tier teams in an important battle and only one of them is getting 4 extra points. That means there’s only one way to look. Recommendation: Cincinnati +4

Denver +7 over Kansas City

4:25 PM EST. The Broncos are coming off their best game of the year. Russell Wilson and their offense committed no mistakes, they ran for 145 yards on 5.8 yards per carry, using multiple RBs to take some onus off Javonte Williams, and their defense confused and threw off Jordan Love all game in a win. It wasn't a particularly explosive or impressive showing, but it's a marked improvement for a team that looked like the worst in pro-football in earlier weeks. 

Just two weeks ago, the Chiefs statistically dominated the Broncos at Arrowhead, but the score was still relatively close considering the difference in yards (387-189 in the home team's favor). Denver only permitted 6 points in the second half and the Broncos' offense had multiple chances to make it a one-score contest, but two Russell Wilson interceptions and a late fumble by Semaje Perine sealed the deal for the Chiefs. 

The rematch presents a situational nightmare for Kansas City. Beating a divisional rival twice in two weeks is hard no matter what; it's even harder when the second game is on the road. Denver has a known home-field advantage that many bettors consider more significant than most spots. The elevation, well over 5,000 feet, can slow down even the most potent offenses, and this year facing the Broncos doesn't exactly muster extra motivation or excitement. At 6-1, KC has a stranglehold on the AFC West already.

It gets even worse for the Chiefs. Next Sunday they'll be in Frankfurt Germany to battle another top AFC contender, the 5-2 Miami Dolphins. A nonstop flight from Kansas City to Frankfurt is 11+ hours, and there's a tremendous amount of logistical preparation and family planning that has to occur in these circumstances. There are too many ancillary distractions for the visiting team, while the Broncos are comfortably at home for a second-straight week and next week they have a bye. It might not feel comfortable, but it's a bet we have to take. Recommendation: Denver +7

Chicago +8½  over L.A. Chargers

8:20 PM EST. The L.A. Chargers are in full-desperado mode already, and at 2-4 their chances of winning the AFC West are extremely low. Quite frankly, we're not sure how Brandon Staley, who's had next to no-effect on their hyper-talented defense, is still their head coach. Regardless, the same cyclic failures have remained with the Chargers, despite how much they've upgraded their roster and despite their highly-paid, rifle-armed QB. It's all just a mess. As you can imagine, after the Chargers were one of our favorite ATS angles last week, we're not exactly running to the window to wager on them again.

How could we when they're expected to cover this many points? Again, the talent of the Chargers is what the marketplace loves. Even with how consistent their game management failures and in-game mistakes are, their highly touted and their potential to blow out teams like the Bears is always there. To their credit, LAC was a ATS darling last season (11-6-1), and they mostly beat bad teams by margin. Not this campaign. So far, the Bolts only two wins were by 7 and 4 points, both contests that ended by a one-score margin.

The Bears have an inherent advantage, too. Tyson Bagent, the undrafted rookie QB who led the Bears to an impressive 30-12 win last week against the Raiders,  will start again in place of Justin Fields this Sunday. While a backup typically isn't preferable, it is for Chicago. Fields has been okay as their thrower, but the performances have been inconsistent and mistake-ridden. In big game situations, Fields has struggled to find his targets. Not Bagent. It's a small sample size, but in his first start the 23-year old showed confidence and moxie as the Bears' thrower, leading their offense to three touchdowns and throwing 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown for himself. Even better, he committed no turnovers.

Bagent will have a tough challenge on the road against a Chargers' defense that's capable of pummeling and confusing enemy QBs, but a new leader, especially one with the swagger and capability of Bagent, can spark a team that's been downtrodden. The Bears don't have much to fight for except pride and progress, and their chances at winning the division is extremely thin. But that also means that they don't have much to lose. And who the hell can trust the Chargers with that many points? Recommendation: Chicago +8½ 

Our Pick

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