With a number of potential mismatches and some questions about starting quarterbacks, I present you a less-than-sexy Week 8 rendition of the NFL Six Pack.
The Patriots have played an extremely weak schedule, but they are putting up historically strong numbers on defense. New England is allowing just 6.9 points per game—and that includes a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown in Week 3 by the Jets, along with a Markus Golden scoop and score for the Giants in Week 6. The Pats have only allowed 12 third-down conversions through seven weeks (14.3%). They have been unfathomably dominant, albeit against poor competition.
I understand their competition has been subpar, and they don’t have true superduperstars other than Gilmore, but this Patriots defense is all time good.
Perfectly coached. Everyone knows exactly what to do & where to be. One of the best units in last 20 years.
— nick wright (@getnickwright) October 22, 2019
Bill Belichick’s squad heads home on short rest to take on the underachieving Browns. Cleveland added Odell Beckham Jr. to an already talented roster in the offseason, but inconsistent play from second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, combined with poor work from its offensive line, has led to a disappointing output. The Browns may have had an extra week to prepare for the Patriots, but that is unlikely to matter, because OBJ will be shadowed by the league’s best cover cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, and the Browns offensive line will struggle to block the New England front seven. Getting in the end zone will be a massive challenge.
The Patriots are 7-0, and their offense has done enough, but they lack big-play threats and have issues on the offensive line, as well. They should score enough to win by more than a touchdown, but this has the feel of a 23-10 or 24-6 game, barring defensive and special-teams scores.
Pick: Under 46
These teams both earned a double-digit win total last season but have struggled over the first part of the 2019 season.
The Chargers have found new and exciting ways to lose games, including last week in Nashville, where they fell to the Titans, 23-20. Los Angeles still has skilled position players who can make plays, but its offensive line is down several men, which makes life difficult for the running game and veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers will take on a Chicago defense that was embarrassed a bit last week by the Saints, so visiting the end zone frequently is unlikely.
Chicago’s offense has been a mess all year, in large part because of quarterback play. Mitchell Trubisky may have posted solid numbers in garbage time last week, but he has been a major disappointment since he was drafted ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017. That is not likely to change in a Week 8 matchup, where Joey Bosa should have his way with a subpar Bears offensive line.
This total is low, but not low enough in a must-win game for both teams.
Pick: Under 41
The Raiders went into their bye week feeling good, after a pair of upset victories against playoff teams from a season ago. However, they made a few key mistakes in their 42-24 loss in Lambeau Field and were unable to stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. who went ballistic with 429 yards and five touchdowns through the air. They have showed some grit through their first six games, but their porous pass defense has another tough assignment on the road Sunday.
Deshaun Watson has been a bit up and down in this season, but when he is not pressured regularly, he dissects defenses. Oakland has struggled to sack the opposing quarterback since it registered three on Monday night in their Week 1 victory against the Broncos, which bodes well for Watson and his receiving corps. Even without deep threat Will Fuller in the lineup, the Texans should score willingly.
I do not love laying a lot of points at home with Houston, but the Texans should bounce back off the loss in Indy and outscore the Raiders by at least a touchdown.
Pick: Houston -7
Two NFC teams badly in need of a win will meet at Ford Field in a game that should be played at a fast pace. Both the Lions and the Giants rank in the top 12 in fastest offenses by situation-neutral snaps per second via Football Outsiders. And the New York and Detroit defenses rank in the bottom five in total yards allowed per game.
Look for Saquon Barkley to make a few big plays in his second game back from an ankle injury and for Matthew Stafford to throw for multiple touchdowns against a Giants defense that has struggled to stop the opposition.
We are getting to see Matt Stafford at his best this year. Ultimate talent on display each and every drive.
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) October 20, 2019
Pick: Over 49
It is beyond difficult to get excited about playing the Jets, after the debacle on Monday night against the Patriots, but this number is inflated. Remember, Sam Darnold looked like the real deal against Dallas in Week 6. I expect the former USC Trojan to show some heart and bounce back from one of the worst games ever played by a quarterback on prime time.
The Jaguars are 3-4 and need a victory to stay firmly in the AFC South mix, but laying nearly a touchdown is less than ideal. This number went up too much for me, based on one poor performance from Adam Gase’s squad.
J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!
Pick: New York +6
The Dolphins are still winless, but they have not been nearly as awful the last couple weeks. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no world-beater, but he also is far from the worst quarterback we see on Sundays.
Miami almost defeated Washington two weeks ago and was in the game until the end against the Bills last week. Two touchdowns against a Mason Rudolph-led offense just feels like too many points.