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October 27, 2016

Week 8 NFL picks

Eagles NFL
102716DakPrescott LM Otero/AP

The Eagles will have to stop Ezekiel Elliott on first and second down to have a chance at hitting Dak Prescott on third down.

For the gambling degenerates, here are my Week 8 NFL picks. To note, the helmets indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.

Jaguars at Titans (-3.5): This game should help the NFL's poor prime time ratings.

Redskins "at" Bengals (-3) in London: The Bengals' four losses this season came to teams with a combined record of 20-7, one of which was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played without Ben Roethlisberger for the full game in two of their three losses. In 2015, all four of the Bengals' losses came to teams that made the playoffs. In 2014, they lost to just one non-playoff team.

The Bengals just are what they are -- a good team that beats the teams that are less talented than them, but can't beat the big boys. The Redskins are OK, but they're not among the big boys.

Chiefs (-2.5) at Colts: Yeah, I'm prepared to just ride the Andy hot hand for the foreseeable future. I see this team rolling for a while.

Raiders at Buccaneers (-1.5): The Raiders are 4-0 on the road, with all four of their road wins happening east of the Mississippi. I stupidly picked the Jaguars to beat the Raiders in Jacksonville last Sunday. I'll stubbornly pick another bad below average Florida team to beat them this week.

Seahawks (-3) at Saints: The Seahawks' OL is a mess, which would be more concerning if the Saints didn't have a God-awful defense.

Lions at Texans (-2.5): As we noted in this week's Hierarchy/Obituary, Matthew Stafford is balling. His last three games:

Opponent Comp-Att (comp %) Yards (YPA) TD-INT Rating 
 Eagles19-25 (76%) 180 (7.2) 3-0 135.0 
 Rams 23-31 (74.2%)270 (8.71) 4-0 139.8 
 Redskins18-29 (62.1%) 266 (9.17) 1-0 103.5 
 TOTAL60-85 (70.6%) 716 (8.4) 8-0 127.4 

Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler stinks.

Jets (-5.5) at Browns: This is kind of an intriguing game, from a dumpster fire perspective. NFL INT leader Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched in favor of Geno Smith, who tore his ACL last Sunday. Fitzpatrick entered the game and led the Jets to a win over the Ravens. After the game, he said the team no longer believed in him, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

“The biggest thing in this game in order to last, is to have belief in yourself,” Fitzpatrick said. “Because when the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with before. That’s something I’m dealing with now.”

When asked about those comments, head coach Todd Bowles had a snappy retort, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

“If pissed off is going to stop the turnovers, then I’m happy, I’m more than happy to have him pissed off the whole time,” Bowles said on Monday.

So the head coach and quarterback are sniping at each other through the New York media. That should turn out well.

The Browns, meanwhile, are 0-7 and if they don't win soon, the winless season talk is sure to begin. This game may be their best chance for a win this season.

Patri*ts (-6.5) at Bills: The Deflatey McGee "I'm mad because I got caught cheating" tour continues. In his first game back, Deflatey returned from suspension to beat the Browns on the road, followed by his triumphant return in a home win over the Bengals and another road win over the Steelers. In game four on his return, Deflatey will get to prove to the Bills that they never would have beaten his team earlier this season if he were playing.

After beating the Bills this Sunday, Deflatey will have some time off to watch his boy Trump get massacred on Election Day.

Cardinals at Panthers (-2.5): The Cardinals are coming off an oddly entertaining 6-6 tie at home against Seattle. This week they'll have to travel east to face a still very talented 1-5 Panthers team coming off their bye with their backs against the wall. If the Panthers lose, they'll essentially done. They'll save their season for at least one more week this Sunday.

Chargers at Broncos (-4.5): Only 4.5 points, huh? This seems like a sure-fire Broncos bet, which means I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Packers at Falcons (-2.5): The Packers don't have running backs at the moment, which means they're going to air it out. Fortunately for them, the Falcons have the 31st ranked pass defense in the NFL.

Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5): My Eagles picks this year have been as follows:

 OpponentMy pick Correct? 
 BrownsEagles YES 
 BearsEagles YES 
 SteelersSteelers NO 
 LionsEagles NO 
 RedskinsEagles NO 
 VikingsVikings NO 
 TOTAL 2-4 

In other words, the Eagles have been nearly impossible to predict so far this season. When you think they're going to win, they lose. When you're a little down on them, they win. 

The Eagles and Cowboys are two evenly matched teams. The Cowboys have the better offense; the Eagles have the better defense. Ultimately, this game will come down to what the Eagles' defense can do to the Cowboys' offense.

The Eagles are tied with the Seahawks for the most sacks per game in the NFL, while the Cowboys have allowed just nine sacks so far this season. That's third best in the NFL.

The Cowboys try to keep things simple for Dak Prescott, often moving the pocket or giving him quick, easy throws, while applying a heavy dose of the run game. That approach has worked, as Prescott has not made big mistakes in the passing game while avoiding being hit.

Can the Eagles be the first team to consistently pressure Prescott? To do so, they'll have to get the Cowboys behind the sticks by stopping the run on first and second down. I believe the Cowboys will run the ball effectively enough on the early downs to keep the sticks moving, especially if Bennie Logan cannot play.

Cowboys 24-23.

Vikings (-5.5) at Bears: The Vikings' defense is incredible, but their offense stinks. Their offensive tackles are an abomination and they're going to struggle protecting the quarterback all season long. Furthermore, they can't run the football, their weapons in the passing game are mediocre at best, and their quarterback is Sam Bradford.

But, you know, it's the Bears.

BYE: Rams, Dolphins, Giants, Steelers, 49ers, Ravens.

• Picks against the spread: Chiefs (-2.5), Lions (+2.5), Patriots (-6.5), Packers (+2.5).

• 2016 season, straight up: 61-45-1 (.575)

• 2016 season, ATS: 18-14 (.563)

• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)

• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)

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