Here are the five plays I like for Week 8 in the NFL:
Texans at Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET
The situation in Houston is ugly. Left tackle Duane Brown, who just returned to the team after a seven-week contract dispute, admitted that the Texans were eventually persuaded to practice on Friday but noted the situation involving owner Bob McNair’s comments “is not over.” In fact, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, receiver DeAndre Hopkins did not attend practice Friday due to McNair’s comments about NFL players being “inmates” in a “prison.”
So let me get this straight, the Texans players are ticked off at their owner and now have to hop a flight to Seattle to play a team that has been dominant at home? Yeah, I’ll lay the points.
The Seahawks’ offensive line and running game remain an issue but Russell Wilson has re-entered the MVP conversation and Seattle’s defense has a habit of eating opposing quarterbacks alive. I love Deshaun Watson but he’s up against it today.
The Pick: Seattle Seahawks -6.5
49ers at Eagles, 1:00 p.m. ET
Eight weeks into the season and San Francisco is still searching for its first win. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is one of the hottest teams in the league after picking up its sixth victory on Monday night.
That said, I don’t like this spot for the Eagles. They’re coming off a home win against a division rival (Washington) in primetime and now have to get back up for a winless 49ers team while playing on short rest. This is the epitome of a letdown spot for Philadelphia. I don’t expect the Eagles to lose, but I like the 49ers to hang within double-digits.
The Pick: San Francisco 49ers +13
Falcons at Jets, 1:00 p.m. ET
Atlanta has played emotionless, uninspiring football for six straight quarters now. Going back to their 17-0 halftime lead against Miami in Week 7, the Falcons have scored just one touchdown in garbage time against the Patriots last Sunday night. If it weren’t for Julio Jones ripping the ball out of a New England defender’s hands, the Falcons would have been shutout in their last six quarters.
Steve Sarkisian, a first-time NFL play-caller, is in the midst of wrecking a Ferrari. That said, he isn’t the only issue with the Falcons’ offense. He’ll be the scapegoat if things continue to go south but Matt Ryan deserves a lot of the blame, too. He’s reverted back to the 2013-2015 version of himself; the quarterback that turns the ball over consistently and who looks for the check-down instead of throwing deep. Sarkisian would be wise to turn the ball over to Ryan and let him run the no-huddle (where he thrives), or at the very least making Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the focal point of the offense until Ryan snaps out of it.
Either way, I’ll gladly take the 6.5 points with a Jets team that has played with more fire and emotion over the past month than their counterpart today.
The Pick: New York Jets +6.5
Steelers at Lions, 8:30 p.m., Sunday Night
Sometimes the right play is also the most obvious one. Take Saturday’s Penn State-Ohio State game, for example. Regular listeners to “The Turn” know I touted the Buckeyes as a 7-point favorite despite the fact that the Nittany Lions were arguably the better team. I agreed with the public that seven points were too much to lay on an Ohio State team that steamrolled inferior opponents for weeks on end, posting hollow offensive numbers along the way. Seven points and Penn State? That was a gift from oddsmakers and I didn’t want to fall into the trap, so I took OSU.
What happened? Well, Penn State choked, but the Nittany Lions were still the right call as an underdog. They were the obvious play and in the ned, the right play against the spread.
This all leads me to Pittsburgh, which I think is an obvious play Sunday night in Detroit. The Lions are reeling having lost three in a row and Matthew Stafford is hobbled. Detroit is coming off its bye and Ben Roethlisberger has struggled on the road, but I don’t care. Le’Veon Bell should take this game over from the onset and the Steelers are a great play as a favorite.
The Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -3
Panthers at Bucs, 1:00 p.m., Sunday
I don’t trust either of these teams but I trust a banged-up Tampa Bay team even less. Jameis Winston is dealing with multiple injuries, including a shoulder ailment that kept him from throwing on Wednesday and Thursday. Winston is having his best statistical season to date but when you watch him play, you see an erratic quarterback that still has issues with turnovers. Plus, Mike Smith’s defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone this season. The Bucs rank 30th in total yards per game (408.5), 30th in passing yards per game (294.8), 29th in points allowed (25.2), and 18th in rushing yards allowed (113.7).
Cam Newton is a front-runner and the Panthers are coming off a loss last week in Chicago as a three-point favorite. That said, the Bucs have no pass rush and I’ll take Carolina’s defense over a banged-up Winston.
The Pick: Carolina Panthers +1.5