NFL Week 8 best bets: Can the Bills cover a double-digit spread vs. Aaron Rodgers?
Here’s a sign of how the NFL seems to be changing in 2022: This column is coming out after Tom Brady’s third consecutive loss and looks ahead at Aaron Rodgers as a double-digit underdog. The Jaguars are favorites over a Russell Wilson-led team. Matt Ryan has been benched. Daniel Jones and Geno Smith are featured in a premier game. The Jets have one of the NFL’s best records, while the Steelers have one of the worst.
It’s been a difficult year to predict. The good news is, if you’re going with the picks against the spread in this column, you’re winning nearly two-thirds of your bets. The bad news? If you’re trying to beat the odds with the moneyline picks here, you haven’t won yet. And if you’re riding the player props, you’re narrowly in the green.
Let’s see which records continue in Week 8. We’ll pick three solo-window games (the London game and the two prime-time games) along with a premier game on the afternoon slate. Then we’ll try to break the winless streak against the moneyline and give you a player prop.
Last week’s record: 4-2 overall; 3-1 versus the spread; 0-1 in the upset pick on the moneyline; 1-0 on player props.
Season record: 22-19-1 overall; 18-9-1 versus the spread; 0-7 in the upset pick on the moneyline; 4-3 on player props.
London game: Jaguars -2.5 vs. Broncos
Wilson’s cross-country stretching might prove to be the fix the Broncos need, but that offense has topped 16 points just once this season. The Jaguars have topped 16 points in six of their seven games. Both of their wins have come by double digits. For all of the Jaguars’ losses during the past decade, they’re 4-4 in London. The Broncos haven’t won on the road yet under Nathaniel Hackett. It’s hard to pick a two-win team giving points, although the Broncos have made it easy to pick against them. The Jaguars have been within one possession of every loss this season; they’re good enough to beat a struggling opponent.
You can’t luck into winning six of seven games. Even if I’m still not sold on the Giants, the way they’re playing cannot be ignored. They’re also 6-1 against the spread, with six wins as underdogs. Now they’re underdogs again? The Seahawks are 4-3 and 2-1 at home, ranked No. 7 in overall DVOA and No. 3 in offensive DVOA. So I understand why they’re favorites. But I like the Giants getting points. Pay attention to the Seahawks’ ground game, with Kenneth Walker leading the NFL in explosive runs (16.4 percent of his rushes have gone for 12-plus yards) and the Giants ranking No. 31 in explosive runs allowed rate (12.5 percent). In a game that looks fairly even, take the points — and the Giants’ betting trends.
Upset pick on the moneyline: Commanders +120 at Colts
It’s been challenging (for me) to find a win on the moneyline picks this season. Let’s try picking against Sam Ehlinger in his first start. It’s hard to account for how Ehlinger’s legs will factor into the Colts’ offense, but Washington ranks No. 6 in the NFL in pressure rate and now face a leaky Colts offensive line. I have a hard time thinking Matt Ryan was the problem in Indianapolis. For Washington, Taylor Heinicke is 8-8 in 16 starts with the franchise. He’s been an underdog in four of those games. Perhaps the Colts run all over the Commanders, but if I’m trying to find an underdog who will win outright, I’ll pick against a quarterback making his first career start.
Sunday prime-time game: Bills -10.5 vs. Packers
My initial glance led me to take Aaron Rodgers getting 10.5 points. When looking closer, the trends support going with the Bills. In a year that favors underdogs, double-digit dogs are only 4-4 against the spread. The Bills are 6-1-2 against the spread in nine games as double-digit favorites since 2021. Sean McDermott is undefeated coming off bye weeks in his head-coaching career. One stat you’ve likely heard often this week: It’s the first time in Rodgers’ career he is a double-digit underdog, so there’s no history to analyze how he’d perform in these circumstances. It hasn’t been smart to ride the Packers this season, who are 2-5 against the spread. Rodgers was publicly critical of his teammates this week, and the defense ranks No. 25 in DVOA. There are so many reasons to pick the Bills, who have a good argument for being the best team in football. But I’ll admit it: The most frightening thing I’m doing this Halloween is picking against Rodgers.
Monday prime-time game: Browns +3.5 vs. Bengals
The Browns have won seven of their last eight games in this series, including every game since Kevin Stefanski has been the head coach (and Joe Burrow as Cincinnati’s quarterback). As hot as the Bengals’ offense has been, it’s now playing without Ja’Marr Chase, who has four touchdowns in the past two games. Despite the Browns’ 2-5 record, they’ve lost four games by three points or fewer. Even if they lose, they should be able to keep it close. The Chase injury could be a game-changer, so pay attention to what the number is when you’re ready to bet.
Player prop: Panthers WR DJ Moore’s longest reception under 20.5 yards
Moore has only four receptions of more than 20 yards this season and his air yards per target with Panthers quarterback PJ Walker has been 8.7 yards — down from 9.8 yards with Baker Mayfield and 10.9 yards last season with Sam Darnold. Walker completed only three passes of more than 20 yards this season and is averaging 9.6 yards per completion. Perhaps there’s a concern because the Falcons have allowed the most completions of more than 20 yards in the NFL, although Burrow inflated those numbers last week. I’m skeptical that the Panthers will go deep as often on the Falcons and feel safer picking against Moore and the Panthers’ passing game.
(Photo of Stefon Diggs: Gregory Fisher / USA Today)