NFL Betting Predictions: Week 8 Opening Line Report and Picks
I don't want to say the Los Angeles Rams are going to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs this Sunday with a win over the Green Bay Packers … but the Los Angeles Rams are (probably) going to (nearly) clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs this Sunday with a win over the Green Bay Packers.
Obviously, everything could go off the tracks for the Rams on any snap if quarterback Jared Goff or running back Todd Gurley were to suffer a season-ending injury. You know who their backups are? Sean Mannion, he of 37 career regular-season passes in the NFL, and some combination of Malcolm Brown/Justin Davis/John Kelly, respectively.
I'm actually surprised that the Rams haven't gone out and gotten a solid veteran backup for Goff with how all in they are for the Super Bowl this season. Having a capable backup saved the Eagles' bacon last year. Perhaps L.A. should call the Jets about Josh McCown? New York surely would take a mid-round pick for him with how well Sam Darnold is playing. Not like the Jets are in a playoff race, and they are in the opposite conference and wouldn't care about helping the Rams. If you are wondering, the NFL trade deadline is Oct. 30.
The reason I believe the Rams will get home field with a win Sunday is because then they would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Packers and Minnesota Vikings. No offense to the Chicago Bears, but they aren't a threat to the Rams for the NFC's top seed. The Eagles are defending Super Bowl champions but already have four losses - the Eagles do visit the Rams in Week 15. That leaves realistically only New Orleans with a shot as the Saints are the only other team with fewer than two losses in the conference. The Saints do host the Rams in the marquee game of Week 9.
You normally don't want your bye in Week 12, but that could end up being a huge benefit to the Rams if they make it fully healthy there. Then they are recharged for the stretch run, and their last two games seem like sure wins at Arizona and vs. San Francisco.
Here are some Week 8 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Dolphins-Texans), my in-depth Sunday matchup (since we addressed Packers-Rams here, most likely Browns-Steelers even though we did them Week 1; now we may have the Le'Veon Bell factor) or the Monday night game (Patriots-Bills) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Eagles vs. Jaguars (+3, 41): It's the last London game of the season and a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff. Can someone explain to me again why the Jaguars gave the awful Blake Bortles a three-year, $54 million extension this offseason? He managed to fumble on the third play of each half Sunday in a 20-7 home loss to the Texans, which led to 10 Houston points. He was benched in favor of Browns castoff Cody Kessler, who was a little better. Coach Doug Marrone says the competition is open. I don't see how he can go with Bortles, who now has an incredible 26 games with multiple turnovers since entering the league in 2014. The Jags need to deal for a QB before next week's trade deadline. Shoot, call the Eagles about Nick Foles. Jacksonville is minus-12 in the turnover department largely due to Bortles. They've lost the past three games by a combined score of 90-28 -- which includes a 57-0 margin in the first half. Leonard Fournette remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, so the Jags traded for Browns running back Carlos Hyde last week. Hyde should debut here. The Eagles gagged away a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead at home and lost to Carolina, 21-17, on Sunday. So much for finding their 2017 form in the previous game, a rout against the Giants. Pick: Eagles.
49ers at Cardinals (Pick'em, 43.5): This one could be unwatchable. The Cardinals certainly were last Thursday night in an embarrassing 45-10 home loss to a not very good Broncos team. Rookie Josh Rosen had two first-quarter interceptions returned for touchdowns (no rookie had ever done that in a first quarter, and Rosen became just the third player in the Super Bowl era to be sacked six times, have five turnovers and throw two pick-sixes) and Arizona had 223 yards of offense - it still hasn't reached 300 this year, which is ridiculous. The Cards are averaging 220.9 yards, the fewest of any team through seven games since the 2009 Raiders of mega-bust JaMarcus Russell. Hate to say someone deserves to be fired, but offensive coordinator Mike McCoy did; he was given the ax on Friday and replaced by quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich. Rosen injured his toe late in the game but should play. The Niners lost their fifth straight, 39-10 at home to the Rams. C.J. Beathard turned it over three times. San Francisco is minus-14 in the turnover department the past four weeks. Pick: Cardinals.
Saints at Vikings (-1.5, 52): If the Rams are the NFC's best team, and they are, I believe these are the next-best two and the winner probably is the conference's No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Of course, they met in Minneapolis in last year's Divisional Round and the Vikings won on the "Minneapolis Miracle," the first walk-off touchdown in league playoff history. Think you will see any highlights of that play this week? The guy who threw that pass, Case Keenum, was cast aside by the Vikings for Kirk Cousins. No player in NFL annals has opened a season with eight straight 100-yard receiving games, which Minnesota's Adam Thielen will attempt to do. He had nine catches for 110 yards and a score in Sunday's rout of the Jets. I thought New Orleans would lose Sunday in Baltimore, but the Saints rallied from a 17-7 fourth-quarter hole to win 24-23 when the Ravens' Justin Tucker missed the first PAT of his career in the final seconds. Drew Brees joined the 500-TD club. Pick: Vikings.
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