As we near the midpoint of the 2019 season, some teams are in a desperate situation to get a win and get back on track before things fall apart and this becomes a lost season. We tend to forget the teams who start seasons poorly before going on a run later. We only remember them in their final form most of the time. For example, last year the Cowboys and Colts were 10-win teams with a playoff win, but Indy started 1-5 and Dallas was 3-5. There’s a chance some 3-4 team goes on a run starting this week and makes the playoffs. It works the other way too as some of those teams with the nice records now could be on the verge of a slide that leads to disappointment.
I probably didn’t pick the best week to talk about redemption, but I see Sunday as a very important day for several teams and specific players that I’ll highlight below.
It’s an odd week in that the average spread is about 8.1 points right now depending on what the number will be in the ARI-NO game given Drew Brees’ returning status. As I looked at earlier this week, this would be the fourth-largest spread of any week in the NFL regular season since 2001:
We already had a 17-point spread on TNF (WAS-MIN) and are looking at four more games above 11. There’s a bit more rot at the bottom than usual and it hasn’t been a good thing for the NFL. We also see that comebacks are down so once a team gets a lead this year, they usually hold it more often, which drives down the excitement late in games.
Let’s do some quick notes about redemption.
Seahawks at Falcons (+8)
Matt Ryan (ankle) will miss just the third start to injury in his career. That means 38-year-old Matt Schaub will face the team (Seahawks) that broke his confidence back in 2013 when he threw a late pick-6 to Richard Sherman when his team was nursing a 20-13 lead. Since that game, Schaub has gone 1-5 as a starter with his only win coming for Baltimore in a game won by a blocked FG returned for a touchdown.
This one is more about Seattle though, with Russell Wilson needing a rebound after one of the worst home games of his career last week against Baltimore. I think Atlanta is a perfect opponent for the Seahawks to get on track and win an easy game for a change. But it would be a nice little send-off for Schaub to play well in an upset win. At the very least, the Legion of Boom is long gone on that roster.
Chargers at Bears (-4)
While the Chargers are in full Chargering mode, the Bears really need to see something from Mitchell Trubisky. He’s in the danger zone right now with just 5.24 YPA this season.
Special shoutout to Troy Aikman: Trubisky’s yards per completion is also just 8.1, which would be the fourth-worst season (min. 100 passes) since 1970. When he’s not an inaccurate mess, he’s a worthless dink-and-dunker. He’s fortunate he doesn’t throw more interceptions or I think he would be benched already. Trubisky has to show something at home this week and I think the Bears will come through for him, possibly with considerable help from a Chargers team that can’t get out of its own way.
Giants at Lions (-6.5)
The Lions have lost three in a row and the referees haven’t been too kind in the process. I think the Giants present a perfect opportunity to get back in the win column with a turnover-prone rookie QB (Daniel Jones) and a secondary that looks lost at times. Matthew Stafford has been much more aggressive this season and is playing some of his best football. Detroit winning by at least a touchdown is a favorite pick of mine this week.
Jets at Jaguars (-6.5)
The Jets have played some absolutely putrid offensive football this season aside from the Dallas game, but I think the defense can keep them in this one. DJ Chark has been a big success for the Jaguars, but we’re starting to see more mistakes from rookie QB Gardner Minshew. I think after the “seeing ghosts” fiasco from Sam Darnold, he’ll play much better against this defense without Jalen Ramsey. I’m still on the Jags just because I think the Jets are closer to the terrible team rather than the one who beat Dallas, but this feels like a lock for a close 4Q finish.
Buccaneers at Titans (-2.5)
In 2015, the first NFL game for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota was against each other. Four years later, Winston is just hanging onto his starting job after six turnovers the last time out, and Mariota has been benched for Ryan Tannehill. How fun. I think Tannehill struggles more this week, Tampa Bay should contain Derrick Henry on the ground, and Winston does just enough to get a win.
Eagles at Bills (-2)
This could really be one of those games where a win sends one team on a run while a loss starts a slide for the loser. Based on what these teams have been doing this year, I’m obviously referring to the Eagles pulling out the road win despite growing turmoil in the locker room and shaky results on the field.
Look, there’s plenty I could say about how I think Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz are both overrated and owe a lot of their success to Nick Foles and some good fortune. I mean, if it wasn’t Foles starting in the Super Bowl that year, it would have been Case Keenum (MIN) in an NFC that didn’t even have the Seahawks or Packers in the tournament, Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games that year, and the Saints lost in spectacular fashion (again) in the divisional round. They won the title, but it wasn’t exactly the result of years of hard work or a track record that should make us believe there was more to come, especially without Foles at QB.
For as fast as people wanted to move –and the Eagles have paid — Wentz to the top tier of QBs, the fact is he’s more in the Kirk Cousins/Matthew Stafford tier than he is the very top of the league.
The good news this week is that Buffalo is a very poor man’s version of the 2017 Eagles, right down to their draft selection of Josh Allen that they hope would be their Carson Wentz. Buffalo is a below-average scoring team, and the Eagles shouldn’t have to expect Wentz to throw a lot of passes against one of the best defenses to get this win. You could see this being a 21-17 type of game where the run game is leaned on more. While Allen has had more 4Q success than Wentz, I think the Eagles rise above all the negative noise and pull this one out against an unfamiliar opponent.
Browns at Patriots (-12.5)
I seem to remember when this was going to be a “challenge” for the Patriots, yet here we are with another double-digit spread. Obviously, the Browns have been turnover machines this year with a lot of picks by Baker Mayfield. Some were tipped balls and bad luck, but their sloppy play has not been all fluke. We know the Patriots capitalize on mistakes better than anyone and it’s a terrible matchup for the Browns right now.
However, nothing would get the bandwagon fired up again for Cleveland than a good showing here after the bye week. Keep in mind this team did drop 40 points in a win in Baltimore, a team that some may start saying is the 2nd best in this godforsaken conference. So between the talent level and the fact that the New England offense has not been that great, I could see this actually being a close game. The Patriots are the only offense that hasn’t had a 4QC/GWD opportunity this year because they’re always leading since no one can really score on them. The Browns have the weapons to do some damage. There’s no way in hell I’d pick Cleveland to win this one, but at least they could do something respectable here instead of another blowout.
Packers at Chiefs (+5)
Finally, we have SNF where the Chiefs are a home underdog to the Packers. There’s really no redemption angle here. I’m just disappointed we’re not going to see Patrick Mahomes vs. Aaron Rodgers and may never see it unless they’re both still starting for these teams in 2023 or meet in a Super Bowl. This would have been a great game with Mahomes up for it.
My gut this week has been that the Chiefs will win one of the next two (vs. GB, vs. MIN) without Mahomes despite most expecting them to lose to quality opponents. I said this because I trust that Andy Reid can get Matt Moore playing well. Reid’s backups often play well aside from the 2005 Eagles fiasco (Mike McMahon/Koy Detmer). Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman are still fast as hell and Travis Kelce can make big plays too. Throw in some pass pressure for a strip-sack or two of Rodgers or Kirk Cousins and you can see the makings of an upset. Unfortunately, the Chiefs have so many other big injuries besides Mahomes that it just doesn’t seem like they’ll get the defensive help. Like who will rush the passer if Chris Jones and Frank Clark are both out? That’s bad, especially for a defense that gets gashed on the ground all the time too.
On the plus side, Mahomes was getting close to start this week and could be back for next week’s game. So maybe they won’t have to play two contenders without him, but they are this week and I’m going to go with the safe pick of the Packers covering.
NFL Week 8 Predictions
That was a lot more talk than I expected for a week that looks terrible on paper, but that just means the upsets could be spectacular. I had the Redskins covering on TNF and have to wonder how close that would have been if Case Keenum didn’t suffer a concussion.
If you look at Miami’s upcoming schedule, I would definitely take some chances on the Dolphins getting a win. Fitzpatrick gives them a much better shot than Josh Rosen. I’m surprised the spread is still 14 in Pittsburgh, but I can also understand why no sane person would even want to watch that game on Monday night. We need to start considering flex scheduling for Monday games next year.
Or just don’t pick as many games that look terrible on paper. That works too.