Dallas Cowboys (-2½) at Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Minnesota Vikings +2½
The Cowboys are 5-1 (and 6-0 against the spread) and at the top of the NFC East, but they’ve benefited from a lot of luck going their way. Dallas leads the league in points scored (34.2 per game) but is near the bottom third in points against (24.3, 20th), giving the Cowboys a point differential we’d associate more with a 4-2 team than a 5-1 team at this point of the season.
They have also benefited from favorable calls from officials, like when tight end Dalton Schultz appeared to fumble the ball against the Carolina Panthers only to be ruled down by forward progress. Plus, the Dallas defense leads the league in expected points added per game off turnovers, adding nearly two touchdowns per contest (plus-12 EPA). Such turnover good fortune is difficult to sustain week to week, especially when it is this high, giving Minnesota strong prospects to cover the point spread if not pull off an outright upset on Sunday night.
Note: This pick was posted before Dak Prescott’s injury status made the line move significantly in Minnesota’s direction.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-3½)
Pick: Cleveland Browns -3½
Case Keenum’s starting quarterback stint for the Browns in relief of Baker Mayfield last week went well, especially considering it was on short notice. The journeyman completed 21 of 33 passes for 199 yards plus one touchdown in Cleveland’s win over the Denver Broncos, prompting some to suggest he could be the right guy under center going forward, especially considering Mayfield’s early-season struggles.
I am not ready to go that far but it is clear the Browns are the better team in this game, no matter who is playing quarterback. Cleveland has a plus-1 net yards per play differential (third-best in the league this season), compared to Pittsburgh’s minus-0.4 (25th). The Browns are also the better team according to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every play to a league average based on situation and opponent. The Browns are the seventh-best team overall, per DVOA, while the Steelers are 16th.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5) at New Orleans Saints
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -5
Since Tampa’s last-minute win over the Cowboys during the opening game of the season, the Bucs’ offense has averaged almost nine points per game more than expected. The defense has saved nearly a touchdown per game during that span, too, making Tampa Bay one of the most balanced teams in the NFL.
The Saints, on the other hand, have a negative net yards per play mark (minus-0.1) with an offense that struggles to move the chains and reach the end zone. So even though the Saints knocked off the Bucs twice last season and are now getting more than a field goal at home, Tampa Bay is the play.
The plays above represent our best bets of the week because our analysis shows their value is the most lucrative compared to what we expect to happen once the teams take the field. Below, you will find against-the-spread picks for all of the games on this week’s schedule. However, trying to pick every single 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.
Picks are against the consensus point spreads as of Wednesday morning.
Best bets record this season: 9-3.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-6½)
Pick: Arizona Cardinals -6½
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
Pick: Carolina Panthers +3
Cincinnati Bengals (-10) at New York Jets
Pick: Cincinnati Bengals -10
Los Angeles Rams (-14½) at Houston Texans
Pick: Los Angeles Rams -14½
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-13½)
Pick: Buffalo Bills -13½
Philadelphia Eagles (-3½) at Detroit Lions
Pick: Philadelphia Eagles -3½
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at Chicago Bears
Pick: San Francisco 49ers -3
Tennessee Titans (-1) at Indianapolis Colts
Pick: Indianapolis Colts +1
Note: Some oddsmakers are offering the Colts at +100 or better on the money line. If available, that’s the better value.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks (-3)
Pick: Seattle Seahawks -3
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (-5½)
Pick: New England Patriots +5½
Washington Football Team at Denver Broncos (-3)
Pick: Denver Broncos -3
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
Pick: New York Giants +10