Saturday, October 28, 2017

NFL Week 8 Primer (With Picks): New Favorites Emerging?

So wait, are the Eagles the best team in the league now?

By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Through the first five or six weeks of the season, we all would have been pretty confident in saying that Kansas City and Green Bay were the best team in each conference. Over the last two weeks, however, all of that has changed.

It seems that Kansas City is just as flawed as we always assumed they had to be, and we're starting to see exactly what those flaws are (they aren't good at playing from behind, and their defense might not even be good). And with Aaron Rodgers out, we can all but write off Green Bay. So you'd think that the current state of the league would be even more confusing than it was then, but it doesn't totally feel that way.

Sure, the teams that we thought were the cream of the crop have fallen, but new teams have emerged. New England might be starting to solve their defensive woes - they're still giving up a lot of yards, but they've allowed just 38 points over their last three games. Pittsburgh followed up their win over the Chiefs with a convincing thumping of Cincinnati. The Rams have won two straight and appear to have the inside path in the NFC West. New Orleans is moving the ball at will and starting to force turnovers on defense. Minnesota's defense has emerged as one of the league's best units and could sort out their offense soon when Sam Bradford and/or Teddy Bridgewater become available again. And Philadelphia has emerged as probably the new Best Team - their only loss was to Kansas City on the road at the peak of Kansas City's hot start.

Is there still confusion? Of course. There are still a dozen teams that nobody can make heads or tails of and can't string two positive games together (cough Carolina cough Baltimore cough cough). But there seems to be more separation between The Good Teams, The Bad Teams, and The Teams That Nobody Can Figure Out, whereas those lines were much blurry two weeks ago.

Week 8 kicked off Thursday night with Miami traveling north to Baltimore. Both Jeremy and Joe signed up for the "Jay Cutler Sucked And Anyone Is An Upgrade And Miami Is Poised To Make Moves In The AFC" bandwagon, but that bus careened through the guardrail and rolled into a ravine. There were no survivors. Here are the rest of the Week 8 picks:

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams in CAPS)

Minnesota (-9.5) over CLEVELAND (London)

JC: If you're a normal person, you probably haven't watched much of the Vikings over the last three weeks, considering their three best offensive players have been out of the lineup (four if you include Teddy Bridgewater, which I guess is technically correct) and they've looked horrible on that end. But this Minnesota defense is the real deal. They've held their last four opponents under 300 yards of total offense and I wouldn't expect that streak to end against this Cleveland team.

JP: Cleveland is bad enough to give 10 points against, even if I'm not in love with Minnesota's offense.

Atlanta (-5) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: Here's a theory - what if the Jets vague success over the first half of the season is a mirage, and they're going to revert to the terrible team we all thought they would be for the second half? After all, they're still one of the least talented rosters in the league, and despite winning a few games, they're still well below the league average in just about every relevant category. Could Atlanta get back on track with an easy win? Sure, why not?

JP: Atlanta needs this one, and the Falcons are FAAAAAAR more talented. This looks like a bounce back game for the Dirty Birds to me.

PHILADELPHIA (-13) over San Francisco

JC: Sure, this seems like what the line should be for (maybe) the best team in the league against (maybe) the worst team in the league.

JP: At this point, I think you'd have to make it a full two touchdowns to get me to bet on the 49ers against anyone with a pulse.

Oakland (+2.5) over BUFFALO

JC: Oakland's offense finally woke up last week, and it was just in time to save their season. Buffalo's defense has been impressive at times, but it's had more to do with their ability to force turnovers rather than force three-and-outs. If Oakland can protect the ball, they should be able to move up and down the field and score points.

JP: I'm torn on this one, and I actually really like both teams. I'll take the points, but I don't feel good about it, especially since Derek Carr sat on my fantasy bench last week when he ripped the Chiefs apart.

Indianapolis (+10.5) over CINCINNATI

JC: Sure, the Colts are bad, but are we really going to lay more than 10 points with a team that's 2-4, with one of those wins coming over the Browns, and still can't get anything going offensively? I'm honestly not sure that the Bengals are substantially better than the Colts in the first place. There's no way this line should be this high.

JP: Indy is bad, this is true. Cincinnati is bad, this is also true.

Los Angeles Chargers (+7.5) over NEW ENGLAND

JC: The Patriots looked good on defense for once, but then lost their best defensive player to a potentially season-ending pectoral injury. New England has been able to put away a team exactly once this season (it was last week), and the Chargers have a well-document propensity to hang around and keep games close (and then losing, at least until recently). With this line being just a hair north of a full touchdown, I'll hedge and take the points.

JP: Ed. Note- Joe initially picked the LA Rams, not Chargers, to cover against New England, because he wrote his section at 2 am after working a double, then covering the Boston College-FSU football game. He regrets this error, and as punishment, will force himself to bet on the Chargers.

Dallas (-2) over WASHINGTON

JC: Don't look now, but Dallas' offense is pretty explosive again. They've scored 30+ points in three straight weeks, and went for more than 500 yards of total offense last week. Was it against the 49ers? Sure. But it still counts. Washington's defense has been largely unimpressive, so I'd expect the Cowboys to continue to be able to move the ball.

JP: That was against the 49ers, but I think Zeke is back.

DETROIT (+3) over Pittsburgh

JC: Pittsburgh has looked good over the last few weeks, there's no doubt about that. But they're still a little bit shaky on the road (losing to Chicago, beating Cleveland by just a field goal), and Detroit is a strictly not-terrible team, at home, coming off of a bye week. I like Pittsburgh, but I'm not quite ready to lay points on the road with them.

JP: I'm gonna continue to bet against Pittsburgh, and reap the fan rewards when I'm wrong.

Denver (+7.5) over KANSAS CITY

JC: The Chiefs have fallen squarely back to Earth. Are they still a good team? Yes, unquestionably. They're still the best team in the AFC West and probably still a safe bet to make the playoffs. But their last two games don't exactly inspire confidence, and Denver's defense is still leading the league in yards allowed, and have yet to allow a team to gain 300 yards or score a rushing touchdown. It just seems like a bad matchup for the Chiefs, so I'm not about to give up more than a touchdown until I see Kansas City return to form.

JP: I'm suddenly down on both these teams, when I thought this might be the AFC Championship Game a month ago. I'd expect a low-scoring affair here, so anything more than a touchdown is too rich for my blood. 

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still in CAPS)

JC: NEW ORLEANS (-9) over Chicago

The Saints' offense is humming, which is great. The weak link of the team is still, obviously, the defense, but I wouldn't expect Mitch Trubisky to be the one to expose them on that end. The Bears have won two straight, which is nice, but they've done it on the ground and with defense and special teams. The way to beat New Orleans is to win a track meet, and Chicago just isn't equipped to do that.

JP: Chicago (+9) over NEW ORLEANS

I don't know man, nine points is a lot, and Chicago has actually been able to run the ball a little bit. Plus, I don't think there's anywhere to go but up for ole Trubs, and the kid has potential. I think the Bears make a game out of this one.

JC: Carolina (+2) over TAMPA BAY

I'm kind of at a point where I think I might just (a) pick Carolina every week, or (b) pick against Carolina every week, and be satisfied with finishing around .500 on those picks. The defense has been fine, but their offense has been way too turnover-prone to predict with any accuracy. I'll say that they won't have three turnovers for the third straight week.

JP: TAMPA BAY (-2) over Carolina

I have zero idea of what to make of either of these teams, so I'll just go with who I'm rooting for. One of these years the Bucs will be back!
Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 5-8-2
Season: 47-56-3
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-4
Season's Disagreements: 12-18

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 8-5-2
Season: 54-49-3
Last Week's Disagreements: 4-1
Season's Disagreements: 18-12

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