A look at the best bets for NFL Week 8:
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Denver Broncos
Both of these teams come into this game off their bye week undefeated at 6-0, but someone’s “O” has got to go on Sunday night. The narrative for the Broncos this season has been that Peyton Manning is done and that his defense is doing all the heavy-lifting, and the stats don’t belie that. Denver’s defense has given up the fewest YPG in the league and has forced nine INTs and 11 fumbles, all near the league lead. But Green Bay has been almost as good on defense. The Packers bend but are hardly ever broken; Green Bay is 10th in YPG allowed but has surrendered an NFL-low 16.8 PPG. They’ve also forced 15 total turnovers this season, so Denver’s strength is matched. What’s also important to note is that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers rarely makes mistakes; he’s only thrown two INTs this year and only threw five all of last season. Manning, on the other hand, has tossed a league-leading 10 INTs this season, to go along with 15 last year. The Packers have been more efficient at moving the ball on offense this year, ranking 12th in YPG while the Broncos languish in 29th in that category. Denver rarely loses at home since Manning arrived in 2012, but Green Bay is 7-3 ATS on the road in their last ten tries, so once again, the Broncos’ strength is countered by the Packers. I see the Green Bay pulling out a comfortable win in Denver on Sunday night as their march to the Super Bowl continues.
The pick: Packers -3
Minnesota Vikings (-1) at Chicago Bears
The Bears come into this home game fresh off a bye week and a little healthier. Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, two of Jay Cutler’s most important targets, should be at full strength after playing at Detroit at less than 100 percent two weeks ago. The location of this game (Soldier Field) is important, as the home team has won the last six meetings between these two teams. The Bears compare favorably with the Vikings on both sides of the football; Minnesota ranks seventh in defense while Chicago ranks 10th, and the Bears outrank the Vikings on offense 27th to 30th in YPG despite playing without Cutler and Jeffery for parts of this season. The Bears have held their own in games when operating at full-strength this year, and I expect this revitalized squad in its first year under John Fox to pull out a tough, low-scoring divisional win.
The pick: Bears +1
Arizona Cardinals (-4.5) at Cleveland Browns
The Cardinals have the Browns overmatched on both sides of the ball. If Arizona’s fourth ranked defense doesn’t shut down Cleveland’s moribund offense that managed just six points against the Rams last week, Carson Palmer and his fourth ranked offense will overpower Cleveland’s miserable defense (ranked 28th in YPG allowed). The Cardinals could wind up covering the over (46) by themselves if their defense gets into the act; they’ve been among the best in the league at creating turnovers (12 INTs and 8 forced fumbles in seven games). This could be the most lopsided game of the afternoon.
The pick: Cardinals -4.5
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
Detroit Lions v. Kansas City Chiefs (-5) (London)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-7)
San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-4.5)
New York Giants at New Orleans Saints (-3)
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-1)
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams (-8)
New York Jets (-2.5) at Oakland Raiders
Seattle Seahawks (-6) at Dallas Cowboys
Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers (-6.5)