NFL Picks Week 8 – TJ Calkins Weekly

TJ Calkins NFL Weekly

We have some quarterback carnage to continue to navigate through in week 8. Ryan Tannehill might have the Titans on the right track after a win in his first start after replacing Marcus Mariota. Mitchell Trubisky remains a candidate for replacement for the Bears, and it would not be shocking to see that happen in game. Matt Ryan is questionable for the Falcons, meaning we could see the return of Matt Schaub to our tv screens this Sunday. Note there is no good version of Matt Schaub. Sam Darnold does not get an easy matchup after his implosion on Sunday, but the Jets truly have nowhere else to turn, even if his confidence is fully rattled. Kyle Allen will continue to start for Carolina and they are closing in on a tough decision, which *should* ultimately lead to Cam Newton losing his job. The Chiefs will be without the class of the league, Patrick Mahomes on Sunday night for at least this week and probably an extra game or two. Finally on Monday night the Dolphins will stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least another week and the Steelers should have Mason Rudolph back, sending Devlin “Duck” Hodges back to the bench. Generally the quarterback position is least susceptible to injury, and the league has taken steps to insulate the signal callers, so having this much injury and unrest at the position is a unique situation. Let’s get to how to navigate these situations and the betting plays.

Play Of The Week

There is a massive development to watch in this game. That is the status of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. If he doesn’t play, it means the arguably worst defense in the league will be facing Russell Wilson while the offense is lead by a pick six waiting to happen named Matt Schaub. What’s more, the Falcons can’t effectively run the ball to try to shorten the game and hide Schaub, a line of 3.5 is not just play of the week territory, it’s play of the year if Ryan is unable to go. The Seahawks will remain a run first team, but this is one of those matchups where run volume will be effective and more importantly, Russell Wilson can make a huge day even if he is only in the 20-25 attempt range. If Matt Ryan plays, the Seahawks are a play. If Matt Schaub starts, the Seahawks are the play of the week. Get this one in early if possible, the line likely raises with any missed practice from Ryan.

Betting Play: Seahawks -3.5

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New York Giants at Detroit Lions

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Lions -7.5 and 48.5
  • Current Line: Lions -7 and 49.5

Since Daniel Jones’ heroics in his debut against the Bucs, he’s been very ordinary and one could go as far as calling him subpar. He’s not been protective of the football and it would appear deep balls are not a realistic part of his skill set, at least not at this juncture. Despite the elite running back and tight end presence of Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram and the above average skill set of wide receiver Golden Tate, Jones is certainly in the midst of growing pains in is rookie campaign. He is also not aided by a defense that is highly susceptible to the pass but can be gouged by the run as well, and have allowed at least 27 points in every game this year, save for the Dwayne Haskins game. The Lions will be the next to capitalize on this matchup and perhaps keep their newfound fondness for the pass on display. Matt Stafford threw four touchdowns last week and he is finding pre 2018 form, while the defense laid an egg against the VIkings last week. This home matchup is a prime bounce back spot and one that should see plenty of points to get the over home. The Lions have allowed 23 points in all but one game this year as well, but have played a tough schedule of offenses. Take the Lions for a double digit win in a high scoring game.

Betting Plays
Lions -7
Over 49.5

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Titans -2.5 and 47
  • Current Line: Titans -2.5 and 46

The Bucs come off a bye with very clear strengths and weaknesses. They are and will be most exploitable in the defensive secondary while being stout against the run, creating a funnel defense. On offense they will remain just mediocre as a running team, but will have a potent and high end passing attack so long as Jameis Winston isn’t turning the ball over. With the strengths and weaknesses I just described, it stands to reason they will be involved in many high scoring games, and that trend will continue throughout the season.The Titans have a balanced and above average defensive unit as a whole that will keep them competitive in most games. What was new last week with Ryan Tannehill inserted into the lineup was life in the passing game. He was remarkably efficient while throwing for over 300 yards and the wide receivers were truly involved for the first time this season. Competent quarterback play for the second half would make this team a playoff contender, and this is quite a winnable game at home. The Titans should win a game that cruises past the total.

Betting Plays
Titans -2.5
Over 46

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Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Bears -5.5 and 40.5
  • Current Line: Bears -4.5 and 40

Whew, the timing of the schedule is sometimes too perfect. These two teams have been two of the worst coached and inept teams in the league, despite the presence of capable talent on both rosters. Bears coach Matt Nagy has the look of a bit of fraudulence as he’s facing true adversity for the first time in his tenure. In his defense the offensive line play and quarterback play has been subpar, but in any event his offense lacks true identity. He has been half hearted in committing to a run game with rookie David Montgomery but is unable to bring effectiveness in a passing game lead by Mitchell Trubisky. The defense still a high end unit, but is more susceptible to the run after the loss of run stuffer Akiem Hicks. This should be the avenue the Chargers attempt to win with as they attempt to bring cohesion back to the offense with Melvin Gordon being reassimilated. The Chargers just haven’t been fluid on offense despite a wealth of talent and the coaching staff is not a competent one that can speed that process. They are also exploitable at every level on the defensive side and this game is likely a battle to see which team is less inept. Sit out and see which team could get their season on track.

No plays

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Seahawks -3.5 and 54
  • Current Line: Seahawks -3.5 and 53.5

There is a massive development to watch in this game. That is the status of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. If he doesn’t play, it means the arguably worst defense in the league will be facing Russell Wilson while the offense is lead by a pick six waiting to happen named Matt Schaub. What’s more, the Falcons can’t effectively run the ball to try to shorten the game and hide Schaub, a line of 3.5 is not just play of the week territory, it’s play of the year if Ryan is unable to go. The Seahawks will remain a run first team, but this is one of those matchups where run volume will be effective and more importantly, Russell Wilson can make a huge day even if he is only in the 20-25 attempt range. If Matt Ryan plays, the Seahawks are a play. If Matt Schaub starts, the Seahawks are the play of the week. Get this one in early if possible, the line likely raises with any missed practice from Ryan.

Betting Play: Seahawks -3.5

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New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Jaguars -4 and 41
  • Current Line: Jaguars -6 and 41.5

I really can’t stress enough how bad of a game Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had on Monday night. It was truly like watching a different player from the week before in the win against Dallas. He’s getting a matchup this week that is no walk in the park, but he should be able to simply play the role of game manager, as the Jaguars are softer against the run than they are the pass. Running back LeVeon Bell should get the large workload that could have stopped the bleeding last week , and he could be in for a large statistical day. On the other side of the ball, the Jets run front is stout and they are not inept at all in pass coverage. This unit is better than it gets credit for because of the problems the team has faced on offense. This is however a spot where quarterback Gardner Minshew and top receiver DJ Chark to get back on track, but don’t expect a ton of offense overall. I lean the Jets a bit after the line movement but not going to make a play as we don’t know where Darnold’s head is at.

No plays

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Bills -1.5 and 41.5
  • Current Line: Bills -1.5 and 43

The Eagles are coming off an ugly divisional showing in which early turnovers dug a hole they never came close to climbing out of. It was apparent they missed left tackle Jason Peters on offense, and it remains apparent they miss wide receiver Desean Jackson. Jackson’s ability to stretch the field so effectively is not just a matter of his own production, he also softens coverage underneath as his ability to take the top off a defense must be accounted for. Even without these players, Wentz and co. played poorly last week, and the already pass funnel defense was hampered by short fields created by turnovers. The matchup this week isn’;t any easier, but the play can’t get much worse and we can feel confident in a much better showing than the 10 points mustered last week. The Bills defense had a bad outing last week as they allowed 21 to the Dolphins, a scoring high for them on the season. Overall the Bills defense is sound front to back without a real hole to exploit. On offense, they are trying to mold quarterback Josh Allen into a complete passer and it is having mixed results. He is certainly still better slinging bombs and taking off running, but is making some strides with the levels of being an NFL quarterback. This is a matchup that he would do well to unleash some of those bombs to John Brown, but we have no evidence the staff is looking to open it up like that. All in all the spread is around correct and this is a coin flip game to stay away from.

No plays

Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams (In London)

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Rams -9 and 47.5
  • Current Line: Rams -13 and 48.5

I almost bit on the Rams listed at home, don’t make the mistake. This is a 1 o’clock London game, so it’s neutral field. The Bengals remain one of the league’s worst teams with a defense that isn’t awful and somewhat balanced, but not one that can overcome the lack of offensive production. The offensive woes start with the offensive line and Aaron Donald and co. will be chasing Andy Dalton all day across the pond. For the Rams, cornerback Jalen Ramsey brought a calming presence to the secondary and the defense did a phenomenal job against Atlanta’s high end passing attack last week. The Rams offense looked good, as anyone should, agaisnt Atlanta and they get another soft enough matchup this week. There simply isn’t an element on either side of the ball where the Bengals have an advantage. The Rams are a play this week but the total is one to avoid as scoring output from the Bengals could very well not come to see the under hit.

Betting Play: Rams -13

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Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

1PM EST

  • Opening Line: Colts -5 and 43.5
  • Current Line: Colts -6 and 44

The Broncos continue to go nowhere fast and have traded slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers this week. Fewer weapons for the impressively inefficient Joe Flacco simply cannot be a good thing, but this should increase the role of underutilized wide receiver Daesean Hamilton. In any event, there’s not really room for this to be an upgrade to an offense that averages just 16 points per game on the season. The defense is good enough that the team as a whole doesn’t appear to be an unmitigated disaster, but they are subpar as a whole, and selling off win now pieces. The Colts continue to be a nearly perfectly coached squad that isn’t the longest on talent, but they are never at a schematic disadvantage and are always set up for the best chance of a win. They are sound all around, run the ball effectively and force teams to beat them through the air, if they can. This is simply a lopsided home spot for the olts and they should be favored by more than a single score. Take the Colts at home but fade the total.

Betting Play: Colts -6

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Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

4:05 PM EST

  • Opening Line: 49ers -6.5 and 41.5
  • Current Line: 49ers -5.5 and 41.5

This should be a fun one to watch, despite likely not being a shootout, and it will give us some perspective on where these two NFC teams stand in relation to the cream of the crop in the conference. The 49ers defense remained as advertised last week in its shutout of lowly Washington. The offense was truly ugly as they only mustered 9 points despite four red zone trips. The Panthers come off their bye and bring one of the league’s best skill position units in which Kyle Allen generally just has to make the easy throws and let the pass catchers do the work. Christian McCaffrey is the unquestioned most dangerous player in the league and he will look to expand on the unreal season he’s authoring as both a runner and receiver. I believe he at minimum will keep this game close, if not lead his team to a win. This is an attractive spot to take the points with the Panthers as they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this one.

Betting Play: Panthers +5.5

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Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans

4:25 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Texans -6.5 and 48
  • Current Line: Texans -6.5 and 51

A week after getting smoked by the pass in Green Bay, the Raiders get no favors from the schedule and get the nightmare of containing Deandre Hopkins and the rest of the Houston passing offense. The Texans aren’t generally an overly effective rushing team and the Raiders are stout up front, but deep balls remain their achilles heel. This is likely a problem for the entirety of the game on Sunday as Deshaun Watson has a big day connecting with Watkins, Kenny Stills and perhaps even Keke Coutee. On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans generally need to be exploited by the wide receiver position, and this is truly a hole for the Raiders, particularly with Tyrell Willliams sidelined. Josh Jacobs is a great young back and they want to run their offense through him, but the viability of feeding him is quite game script sensitive and playing from behind generally will be disastrous for them. The Texans will get multiple splash plays in this one en route to a home cover.

Betting Play: Texans -6.5

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Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots

4:25 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Patriots -11 and 46.5
  • Current Line: Patriots -12.5 and 45.5

The Browns had a bye week to attempt to fix the schematic issues that allow a subpar offensive line to be a killer at times. The play calling often forgets to account for this fact and it leads to Baker Mayfield scrambling to make a play. They would be wise to feed running back Nick Chubb given the lack of chemistry and cohesion in the passing game. The defensive front will continue to be high end and the secondary should be much healthier. The Pats will continue to have a balanced and effective offense, but the story of their season so far is the passing defense. It has truly been dominant. If quarterbacks who played them simply spiked the ball on every pass they threw, they would have accumulated a higher passer rating than the one currently being surrendered by the Pats. The Browns defensive front combined with their ability to run the ball is the type of team that could give the Pats problems, but I am not at all ready to put faith in the coaching staff and make them a play. Sitting out of this one.

No plays

Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs

8:20 PM EST

  • Opening Line: Chiefs -4 and Off
  • Current Line: Packers -4.5 and 48

As previously mentioned, the Packer passing game had exponentially it’s most effective outing of the season last week. They go on the road after playing at home in five of their last six games to face a Chiefs offense with a wide range of outcomes sans Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs defense has been completely inconsistent, and we don’t know what we’re going to get, particularly if the offense sees a steep fall off. Andy Reid has had no shortage of effectiveness with lower end quarterbacks in the past, but Matt Moore under center just has no level of bankable output. There is no side or total in this game to play with any confidence.

No plays

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers

8:15PM EST (Monday)

  • Opening Line: Steelers -16 and 42.5
  • Current Line: Steelers -14.5 and 43

The schedule makers got into the catnip on this one. My word, who thought it was a good idea to put the most obvious case of a rebuilding team in NFL history on Monday night? The Dolphins had their best offensive performance of the year at Buffalo, but were still not sound on defense, and ultimately remained winless. This trip to Pittsburgh will be an ugly one for the offense as the Steeler defense is playing at a very high level and coming off a bye week. Ryan Fitzpatrick could have a heavy turnover game, and even if not, the Dolphins will be unable to consistently move the ball. I do lean the Steeler side here but they are happy to keep the ball on the ground and let the game remain just a little closer than it needs to be and I can’t quite get to them as a play, but if you’re jonesing for some prime time action, the Steelers are the direction to go in.

No plays

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