It pays to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The top eight teams in terms of points allowed per drive — New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers — have a combined 37-16-0 (.698) record. (Five of those eight are currently in playoff position.) The next eight best are 26-27-0 (.491), the eight after that are 25-29-0 (.463) and the bottom eight are a woeful 17-39-2 (.327).

The teams with the top eight defenses in that metric are also outscoring their opponents 1,221 to 818 this season, which translates to an advantage of nearly eight points a game. Even if you take away the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots from the top eight, you still come away with a record of 30-16-0 (.652) and an average margin of victory of five points a game.

Strong defense is the focus this week and one reason we are picking the Bills and Broncos against the spread, the former as a home favorite and the latter as a road underdog. Coming off our first 3-0 week of the season on our best bets, here is how we expect the Week 8 games to shake out, starting with two prime picks against the consensus point spreads (as of Thursday morning) from multiple sports books in Las Vegas.

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills (-1½)

Pick: Buffalo Bills -1½

Buffalo’s defense is holding opponents to 1.1 points per drive this season, third behind the only two undefeated teams in the NFL, the Patriots and 49ers. The Bills force opponents to go three-and-out 40 percent of the time, again, behind only the 49ers and Patriots. And opposing quarterbacks only muster a 70.3 passer rating against Buffalo this season, third in the NFL behind, you guessed it, New England and San Francisco.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, has suffered two defeats in the last two weeks to the tune of a 75-30 point differential, and both of its past two opponents (the Packers and Cowboys) ranked in the top 10 in points allowed per drive.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (-5½)

Pick: Denver Broncos +5½

The Broncos have the league’s fourth-best overall defense, per Pro Football Focus, which breaks down to the top-rated run defense, 19th best pass rush and sixth-best secondary of 2019. The first of those will help keep the Colts’ rushing attack at bay (Indianapolis is an above-average rushing team, per Pro Football Focus) and the third will help mitigate the unexpected performance of quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who is ninth in passer rating.


The two games above represent our best plays of the week because our analysis shows the point spreads are the most divergent from what we expect to happen once the teams take the field. Below are picks for the other games on this week’s schedule. However, trying to pick every single NFL game is something of a fool’s errand. The house wins so often partly because bettors try to make too many plays when the odds aren’t in their favor. Keep that in mind when evaluating the remaining games from the Week 8 slate.

Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings (-16)

Pick: Minnesota Vikings -16

Seattle Seahawks (-3½) at Atlanta Falcons

Pick: Seattle Seahawks -3½

Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears (-4)

Pick: Los Angeles Chargers +4

New York Giants at Detroit Lions (-7)

Pick: Detroit Lions -7

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints (-10½)

Pick: New Orleans Saints -10½

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans (-2½)

Pick: Tennessee Titans -2½

New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars (-6)

Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars -6

Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams (-13)

Pick: Los Angeles Rams -13

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans (-6½)

Pick: Houston Texans -6½

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers (-5½)

Pick: San Francisco 49ers -5½

Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots (-13)

Pick: New England Patriots -13

Green Bay Packers (-4) at Kansas City Chiefs

Pick: Kansas City Chiefs +4

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers (-14)

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -14

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