Aaron Rodgers celebrates with his teammates after a thorough shellacking of the San Francisco 49ers.

Tony Avelar/AP

Last week's slate proved absolutely brutal, featuring upsets galore, bad beats aplenty, and odd play every which way.

Week 8 Vibe Check (2-3) - I was NOT prepared to live in a world where not only did the Chargers and Rams NOT cover, they lost outright. I circle back to my original theory that the Bolts must've been cursed to a never ending stream of competitive football seasons with no meaningful wins. Herbert's already starting to look a lot like Philip Rivers, a competent, even top tier QB, destined to mediocrity.

The Rams probably regret making Jared Goff the third highest paid player in the NFL after that loss. Can't even blame the time zone shenanigans, since McVay and co. have had no issues going east during his tenure.

As for our wins, Philip Rivers moved from Southern California (to a non-cursed team) and, suddenly, things are looking up. The Colts' line was so good that Jordan Wilkins went off against the Lions, frustrating Jonathan Taylor's fantasy owners, but delighting his teammates.

As for Mahomes going over 2.5 TDs, he basically had that wrapped in the first quarter. A win there was almost as easy as taking the Packers -7 on Thursday night against the 49ers, who had one eligible receiver on the roster due to COVID protocols and not a single skill player on the field from when these two teams last met in the NFC Championship game, a mere 292 days ago.

Let's see if we can find any matchups as ripe for the picking as those…



Ravens -1 over Colts

The Colts have started to surge on both sides of the ball based around their strength in the running game. They excel at both pounding the rock and stopping it in equal measure, but to be clear, they haven't faced a team as adept and inventive in their rushing attack.

Lamar looked very un-Lamar-like last week, but the Steelers D can do that to anyone and even with his four turnovers, the Ravens held the lead for a good chunk of the game and had two chances to win at the end. They are clearly undervalued coming into this week and the Colts appear to be overvalued, so this is the exact moment to take advantage and go big on the more talented and better coached team with a transcendent player at QB.


Expect the return of this Lamar Jackson this week against the Colts. Nick Wass/AP Photo


Steelers -14 over Cowboys

I would normally never recommend taking a team favored by this much, even the Chiefs last week against the Jets at 19.5 just felt a little too ridiculous, but I'll give a two touchdown head start to this Cowboy team any day. In a post-Dak world, it's become clear just how hapless Mike McCarthy looks coaching offenses in today's NFL and Mike Nolan's D matches it blow for blow. As a fan, it must be a little like Tabasco to the eye. The Steelers pass rush might account for more sacks than first downs in this one.



DeVante Parker over 4.5 Receptions

The Dolphins' offense went from surprisingly fun to dull in record time under the new reign of Tua. The team went run heavy against the Rams to support their rookie signal caller. Not to mention, they didn't need to do much more after Goff imploded into himself like a dying sun.

Excluding last week, Parker has quietly shown flashes of dominance this year, and against a just barely above average Cardinals D, he might be able to show out even more. Sure, he'll be matched up with Patrick Peterson, but the former superstar has looked less impressive with age.

He's allowed catches on over 55% of targets his way, two statistical categories that he no longer ranks in the top 30 of for cornerbacks. Miami will need to establish their offense in what could either be a shootout or blowout, either way they'll need to put the ball in the air.


Los Angeles Chargers Pick'Em over Las Vegas Raiders

Let me throw out going against Jon Gruden's Raiders, who've alternated between proficiency and problematic in equal measure. Coming off the NFL punishing them with fines and lost draft picks for repeatedly ignoring COVID protocols, they'll be without Josh Jacobs, Jonathan Abrams, Trent Brown, and five other players to face the deeply unlucky Chargers. This feels like a great chance for Justin Herbert to take advantage and lead his team to a much deserved win.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

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Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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