Here’s where I differ from Ryan Fitzpatrick (I apologize in advance for the green and white tint to the start of this week’s piece): I, recognize that my picks have been sub-par for the last three weeks.
Because of that, if you decide to find another picker or place to take your advice from, I won’t blame you for doing so.
Would I be upset? Sure. (PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME, I NEED YOU!)
But that’s what happens when you don’t produce… you get benched.
You don’t go all Ryan Fitzpatrick and start blaming everybody else (like the damn Titans for losing to the abysmal Colts) for your problems. You look at your stat sheet, see 11 interceptions compared to just six touchdowns, or scroll to the VERY BOTTOM of ESPN’s QBR (quarterback rating) page and find your name next to “Rank – 28” and you say ‘oh, yeah, I HAVE sucked lately.’
Point being, at least I admit it.
And luckily, this week is yet another opportunity for me to prove I deserve to be your starting game-picker.
Your move, Fitzpatrick.
But first (gulp), let’s look back at last week’s disaster.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 6-9 (Season Record – 53-51-3)
Straight Up – 9-5-1 (Season Record – 58-48-1)
Locks of the Week – 2-5 (Season Record – 22-17-1)
Bright side: I still have winning records all around. Let’s dive into Week 8, beginning with our Thursday Night Football game as usual.
And as always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS Sports.
(2-4) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (3-4) Tennessee Titans (-3.5) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
Level Of Confidence – Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
Can you imagine Roger Goodell bounding into the NFL offices on Tuesday morning, on the heels of another dud of a primetime game, with declining ratings all around, only to be reminded that the upcoming Thursday Night Football game features the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans?
I already feel for the poor, poor soul who will have to deliver the overnight ratings to Mr. Goodell on Friday morning after this snoozefest, so pour one out for that guy.
Anyway, they’re going to play the game I suppose, so we have to pick it. Earlier this year I predicted Rex Ryan’s demise in the event of a Bills loss to the Cardinals. Last week I predicted Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson’s after a loss to these same Titans.
This week, however, I really, truly, deeply believe could be the last for Gus Bradley. Titans win and cover the spread and Bradley potentially gets sent packing.
No way we can lose – locks of the week
(6-1) New England Patriots @ (4-3) Buffalo Bills (+6) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Patriots
The Patriots have done a lot — and I mean A LOT — of winning since Tom Brady took over the starting quarterback position, like, 200 years ago or something like that.
Most of their winning has come against their fellow AFC East residents and that’s especially true when it comes to the Bills.
Brady has a 25-3 career record against the Bills and with a win against Buffalo on Sunday, he’ll tie Brett Favre for the most wins by a starting quarterback against a single opponent in NFL history (Favre beat the Lions 26 times in his career).
Besides just betting on Brady (who didn’t play in Week 4 when these teams met, in case you forgot), I’m betting on Bill Belichick to remember the cacophony of crap that spewed like lava from Rex Ryan’s mouth after the Bills beat down the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Week 4 by a score of 16-0.
Patriots exact their revenge and win big.
(4-1-1) Seattle Seahawks @ (3-4) New Orleans Saints (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Seahawks
If you know me, you know that my personal mantra when it comes to the NFL is that nothing cures what ails an NFL offense like the New Orleans Saints defense. Russell Wilson is having a less than stellar year to say the least and the Seahawks offense has suffered right alongside their star quarterback. Only the Baltimore Ravens have fewer passing TDs than the Seahawks, who only have six on the year. Only five of those have come from Wilson and three of those came against the Jets and their awful secondary.
So what a glorious gift the NFL schedule makers have laid before Wilson and his squad. A chance for a fresh start, a confidence builder against the worst defense in the NFL.
I think Wilson and the Seattle offense abuse the Saints defense while the Seahawks’ defense goes to town on Drew Brees and the Saints offense.
Seahawks win big.
(2-5) New York Jets @ (0-6) Cleveland Browns (+4) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Jets
I can’t believe I’m about to write this… If Cody Kessler were playing (or ends up playing), I’d take the Browns with the points. Not to win, mind you, but to keep this game uncomfortably tight.
The Jets’ secondary has been that bad.
Alas, Kessler is in concussion protocol and the Browns are picking up quarterbacks I’ve never heard of who have names suspiciously similar to guys from the movie “Draft Day” (Bo Callahan, Joe Callahan…c’mon).
So in that case, I think the Jets’ offensive and defensive lines dominate. O-line gets the Jets’ ground game going and controls the clock, while D-line gets after Kevin Hogan and stops the Browns’ sub-par run game dead in its tracks.
Jets by 10.
(4-3) Washington Redskins @ (3-4) Cincinnati Bengals (-3) – Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET – Game will be played in London
ATS/Straight Up – Bengals
This will be the third game played overseas this year and overall and I’ve got to say — especially when you look at the quality of the NFL product on the field, uh, anywhere these days — London has been the recipient of some of our finer contests.
Not only does this game feature two 2015 division winners, but it’ll also be rife with drama since both are in desperate need of a win to stay in their respective division races.
On top of that, Londoners will be treated to what should be a fascinating matchup between arguably the best wide receiver and best cover corner in the game today when Josh Norman and AJ Green go head-to-head (assuming the Redskins actually let Norman cover him).
The winner of that matchup might well decide the winner of the game considering how vital Green’s success is to the Bengals’ offense.
The other area where this matchup will be won? On the ground.
Both defenses are susceptible against the run with the Bengals ranking 24th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and the Redskins coming in at 26th in the category.
Cincinnati had a monster game rushing against the Browns and totaled over 270 yards on the ground. They won’t replicate that number exactly, but I’m betting they’ll be able to have success running yet again.
The Redskins have been rushing at a higher clip per carry (4.8 vs. 4.4) than the Bengals, but Matt Jones’ fumbles might have landed him in the doghouse and could result in fewer carries for the back.
Take the Bengals and lay the points.
Feeling pretty… pretty good
(3-3-1) Arizona Cardinals @ (1-5) Carolina Panthers (-2) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
This might be the most tantalizing matchup of the week but not in the way that anybody thought it would be heading into the year.
This game had grudge match/fight for NFC supremacy written all over it for the Cardinals after getting trounced by the Panthers in the NFC Championship game last season, but now it feels more like a fight for survival.
Both teams have underachieved, but of course, none more so than the Panthers and unfortunately I think their struggles continue.
The Cardinals will be coming in heated after a frustrating tie against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football and will be looking to avenge their awful season-ending loss back in January.
Their defense is on the upswing and will be up to the task of stopping Cam Newton, while the Panthers’ defense hasn’t proven they can stop anybody yet this year.
Cardinals get their revenge and put the Panthers’ quest to return to the Super Bowl on life support.
(4-2) Kansas City Chiefs @ (3-4) Indianapolis Colts (+2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chiefs
I’m trying to talk myself into picking the Colts here — the Chiefs lack the pass rush to get to Luck, their offense is mediocre, ETC… — but I’m having no such Luck (no pun intended).
I think this game will bear a lot of the hallmarks of the last two Chiefs wins over the Raiders and the Saints, two teams I think are more well-rounded and better overall than these Colts.
Chiefs will be efficient on offense, solid enough on defense to stymie a great quarterback and passing offense, and ultimately will ride out a win over a Colts team lacking a defense or an offensive line.
Chiefs win by six.
(3-4) San Diego Chargers @ (5-2) Denver Broncos (-6) – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Chargers
Straight Up – Broncos
I know, I have some crow to eat. I absolutely eviscerated the Chargers and picked the Falcons to completely overwhelm them last week but I was dead wrong. I won’t take back the statement that the Chargers still have some moments of serious incompetence, but dammit are they a spunky bunch that just won’t quit.
Their 17-point comeback definitely put the NFL on notice, especially since it was spurred by their defense, which completely shut down the high-powered Falcons offense in the second half.
The Broncos present an entirely different set of issues for the Chargers to solve, but the Chargers kind of proved they may be up to the task after beating the Broncos at home back in Week 5.
So, can they do it again?
I don’t think so, but I’m not ready to be nearly as dismissive about the Chargers’ chances as I have been much of this year. I think they’ll keep it close, being a division game and a real chance for San Diego to climb back into this thing approaching the midway point of the year. I don’t think they’ll win, but they keep it tight.
(4-3) Detroit Lions @ (4-3) Houston Texans (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
Could you have two more different narratives coming into this game for the quarterback of each respective team? Matt Stafford is the golden boy of the NFL and is even being touted by some as the league’s best QB at present time while Brock Osweiler is struggling mightily to live up to the massive offseason deal he signed with the Houston Texans.
I think those struggles continue against a Lions team that is just feeling it right now. They’ve used their big win over the Eagles in Week 5 as a springboard back to respectability and are riding a three-game winning streak into this one.
Their defense has still been a liability but it’ll be up to Osweiler — whose confidence has to be somewhat shaken after a vicious beating at the hands of the Broncos — to exploit it.
I don’t think he can and I think Stafford continues his MVP-caliber season.
Heads or Tails
(5-2) Oakland Raiders @ (3-3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Buccaneers
Just a few short years ago, a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII would sound pretty repulsive, but in 2016, it’s poised to be one of the most exciting matchups of the year thus far.
Both the Bucs and the Raiders are moving on up in big ways and head into this game with a lot to prove in this Week 8 matchup.
So who gets the job done?
I like the Bucs at home and here’s why: Defense. The Raiders’ defense has been abysmal this season and they’ve managed to mask it with a high-output offense while the Bucs’ defense has surprisingly emerged as a much better unit than anyone expected.
I think this one ends up being a shootout since the potent Raiders’ offense will get theirs, but I like Tampa’s D to make the last stand at home and pull it out.
(4-2) Green Bay Packers @ (4-3) Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
How can this game possibly be anything other than a shootout between two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks? This one is set up too perfectly to be an absolute aerial assault.
While Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have struggled through parts of the year, the Falcons’ pass defense is 31st in the league, which should allow Rodgers to have a field day.
Meanwhile, the Packers’ pass defense is far better, but they’ll be facing arguably the best QB-WR tandem in the league in Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, so they should be in for a long day as well.
I’m going to give the Falcons the nod though. Home field is big, but also big is the fact that the Falcons have already played and dispatched a few different teams with passing games that are just as good, if not better than Green Bay’s.
But hey, it’ll probably be the last QB to touch the ball that wins. Ready? Break.
(4-2) Philadelphia Eagles @ (5-1) Dallas Cowboys (-4.5) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Eagles
If the NFL can’t draw ratings to this primetime game then I’ll be speechless. The Cowboys and the Eagles are two of the more surprising stories in the league this year thanks, of course, to their surprising rookie quarterbacks who will square off as NFC East rivals for the first, but likely very far from the last time.
The Eagles got things back on track in a big way with a dominating win over the Minnesota Vikings and former quarterback Sam Bradford while the Cowboys rode about as high as a team can ride into their bye week thanks to a rousing win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field.
Both impressive victories, but something has to give this week when these two face off.
I think the Cowboys come out on the losing end here. The Eagles’ defense is definitely the better unit and while I’m inclined to think the Cowboys have the edge on offense thanks to Prescott’s remarkable consistency under center thus far, I think that the Eagles at the very least keep this one close enough to cover the 4.5-point spread.
Either way, this one is going to be a blast to watch.
(5-1) Minnesota Vikings @ (1-5) Chicago Bears (+5.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Bears
Straight Up – Vikings
I’ve learned the hard way many, many times to beware of the home dog on national television — especially when it’s against a division rival — and this game is no different.
Statistically, this pick makes no sense. An awful Bears team taking on one of the best defenses in the NFL that, mind you, is coming off of a bad loss and will be out for blood.
Still, it happens every year. I won’t be the least bit shocked when this line jumps up to +7 for Chicago but I won’t waiver in my confidence on this one. Bears keep it scary close and possibly even spring the upset, though I’m not willing to put that last part in writing (except for the fact that I kind of just did).
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.