The NFL has reached the halfway point in the season, and we have a clearer picture of who are contenders and who should be turning their attention to 2021 already.
The Chiefs, Ravens, Seahawks, and Packers have justified being favorites to win the Super Bowl going into this season. Drew Brees and Tom Brady have the Saints and Buccaneers positioned to be in a battle for the NFC South title all year. The Bills and Cardinals have gotten MVP caliber performances from Josh Allen and Kyler Murray, which has resulted in both teams exceeding expectations in 2020. The Steelers look damn near unbeatable so far, and head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear that "we do not care" about anything standing between them and a championship.
Let's take a look at the Week 8 power rankings based on what we've seen so far this year.
32. New York Jets (0-7, Last Week 32 +/- 0) - For the second week in a row there isn't a lot to say about the Jets. Until they fire Adam Gase this franchise has no chance to turn things around.
Adam Gase Insists It Way Too Early To Think About Destroying Trevor Lawrence https://t.co/JX8aXuF7XR https://t.co/nzmdunocoQ— The Onion (@The Onion)1603401604.0
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, Last Week 29, -2) - Three bad losses in a row and they just don't seem to have enough players on the current roster to win. Still have Packers, Steelers, Browns, Titans, and Ravens on their schedule.
30. New York Giants (1-6, Last Week 30, +/- 0) - Daniel Jones continues to show flashes of what could be next year when Saquon Barkley returns from injury.
29. Dallas Cowboys (2-5, Last Week 25, -4) - Jerry Jones this past week reinforced that Mike McCarthy is their guy which should tell you where this season is going for the Cowboys. Time to jump ship on all Dallas players in fantasy including Ezekiel Elliott.
WANTED: Three men for robbery, stealing a total of $259,000,000 from the Dallas Cowboys. https://t.co/jChAXy2Al6— Fake SportsCenter (@Fake SportsCenter)1603926956.0
28. Washington Football Team (2-5, Last Week 31, +3) - Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin are really good position players for Washington. They cut up a porous Dallas defense in a Week 7 win, and once the Football Team has a new name and quarterback their fortunes could be changing in D.C.
27. Denver Broncos (2-4, Last Week 21, -6) - Denver has been ravaged by injuries this year most notably with Von Miller and Courtland Sutton sidelined for the season. They don't have the depth on their roster to compensate and should continue to fade even with starting quarterback Drew Lock back with the team.
26. New England Patriots (2-4, Last Week 23, -3) - New England is coming off an embarrassing 33-6 loss to the 49ers one of the worst in Bill Belichick's tenure, and things look bleak for the Patriots for the first time in nearly two decades. Cam Newton was benched in the whooping, but Belichick has confirmed that Newton is still the starter there. Unless Julian Edelman can wind the clock back five years there simply isn't enough left in the cupboard for chef Bill to cook with.
Belichick's "magical system" offense, without Tom Brady, currently has the most INTs thrown in the NFL with 11 and… https://t.co/JEaJ9qVQzO— Dov Kleiman (@Dov Kleiman)1603912338.0
25. Cincinnati Bengals (1-5-1, Last Week 26, +1) - All the Bengals need is a defense because Joe Burrow is already a bona fide stud. He's thrown for 300 or more yards in five of his seven career games and thrown for three touchdowns now twice. Cincinnati is much better than their record indicates and adds yet another team in the AFC North you don't want to face.
Joe Burrow BALLED out today despite the loss: 🔥 440 Total Yards 🔥 4 Total TDs https://t.co/9znwVgeZqK— ESPN (@ESPN)1603658964.0
24. Houston Texans (1-6, Last Week 22, -2) - Should get on track this week against Jacksonville although the playoffs may be out of reach already for Houston.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-6, Last Week 24, +1) - The Falcons should've came out of Week 7 with a win, instead their strange season rolls on as it feels like a matter of time before they start to add some games in the wins column.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1, Last Week 28, +6) - A big jump by Philadelphia this week as any resemblance of a football team playing football should be enough to win the NFC East this year. Travis Fulgham has settled into a good chemistry with Carson Wentz and has them looking better going into Week 8.
21. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4, Last Week 27, +6) - Justin Herbert gave the Chargers over 400 yards of total offense and four touchdowns last week. They have a favorable schedule the rest of the season and could surprise us by grabbing a wild card spot.
Justin Herbert was electric in the Chargers' win vs. the Jaguars ⚡️ ⚡️ 412 total yards ⚡️ Four total TDs ⚡️ First… https://t.co/4rtcJruEK6— ESPN (@ESPN)1603669076.0
20. Minnesota Vikings (1-5, Last Week 20, +/- 0) - Coming off a bye week, unfortunately for them they'll be welcomed back by Green Bay this week.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (3-3, Last Week 17, -2) - The Jekyll and Hyde for me the in the first half. They've beaten the Saints and Chiefs, but got crushed by the Patriots, who we thought were good, and the Bucs, who we know are good. Should know more after this week. TBD for Gruden's Raiders.
18. Chicago Bears (5-2, Last Week 11, -7) - I was looking for a reason to fade the Bears this week and I got it with another flat performance by them against the Rams in Week 7. Expect them to continue to trend down until their offense looks like they have a pulse.
17. Carolina Panthers (3-4, Last Week 18, +1) - Christian McCaffrey a longshot to comeback this week, but is back from IR and should be back on the field in the next few weeks. Teddy Bridgewater has kept them competitive picking up a few wins and adding in CMC could turn them into legit playoff contenders.
Christian McCaffrey has been designated to return from the reserve/injured list.— Carolina Panthers (@Carolina Panthers)1603814799.0
16. Indianapolis Colts (4-2, Last Week 15, -1) - Coming off a bye week, they get a surging Detroit team this week.
15. Miami Dolphins (3-3, Last Week 13, -2) - Tua Tagovailoa will make his first NFL start against the Rams this week. A head scratching move by head coach Brian Flores not only to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick who had the offense clicking, but to put a rookie in front of Rams' defensive superstar Aaron Donald in their first start is asking a lot of the young prospect.
14. Detroit Lions (3-3, Last Week 19, +5) - The Lions look like a different team with Kenny Golladay in the lineup. His long reception setup the eventual winning touchdown in Week 7 against the Falcons.
13. Los Angeles Rams (5-2, Last Week 12, -1) - The Rams have beaten every NFC East team and the Bears to comprise their five wins on the year. YOU'RE STILL ON NOTICE RAMS at least until you get a good win.
12. San Francisco 49ers (4-3, Last Week 16, +4) - The 49ers have dealt with more injuries than anyone this year and coach Kyle Shanahan has done an excellent job keeping his team focused on winning. If they can get healthier down the stretch the division crown isn't out of the question.
11. Cleveland Browns (5-2, Last Week 14, +3) - A career performance from Baker Mayfield who tossed five touchdowns against the Bengals in their Week 7 win made up for the fact that they lost receiver Odell Beckham for the season. Beckham tore his ACL on the team's first drive and will join Nick Chubb on IR.
Baker Mayfield started 0/5 with an INT, then went nearly perfect: 22-23 297 Yards 5 TDs His only incomplete pass… https://t.co/iDSPbl1XEE— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1603657787.0
10. New Orleans Saints (4-2, Last Week 10 +/- 0) - The Saints have been playing great in the absence of Michael Thomas. New Orleans gets the Bears this week before two tough matchups against the Buccaneers and 49ers.
9. Buffalo Bills (5-2, Last Week 8, -1) - Tyler Bass made six field goals against the Jets, but those were the only points the Bills could muster against the league's worst team. Josh Allen has played like an MVP at times this season, but needs to reduce the turnovers for them to make a deep playoff run.
8. Baltimore Ravens (5-1, Last Week 5, -3) - The Ravens drop three spots here, but only because they're coming off their bye. Lamar Jackson is going to have to be great over the next five weeks as they play the Steelers twice, the Colts, Patriots, and Titans. This will be a true test of whether Lamar is the same guy we saw last year or if he has in fact regressed.
NFL Twitter when Lamar Jackson makes a bad play or has a bad game https://t.co/azyfqYuCt9— 🃏 (@🃏)1603419425.0
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-2, Last Week 9, +2) - It feels like Arizona should be moving up more than two spots here, but the competition at the top of this list is fierce. Kyler Murray is one of the most exciting players to watch in this league, and although they will be missing Kenyan Drake for a couple weeks Chase Edmonds has proven to be a reliable fill in.
6. Green Bay Packers (5-1, Last Week 7, +1) - Even without Aaron Jones the Packers continue to put up points. Jamal Williams filled in admirably with 77 yards and a TD. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams stole the show though. Adams finished with 196 yards and 2 TDs against the Texans. They get the 1-5 Vikings in Week 8.
That @AaronRodgers12 to @tae15adams connection was 🔥 #HaveADay | @Packers | #GoPackGo https://t.co/ra9pEca3hP— NFL (@NFL)1603657347.0
5. Seattle Seahawks (5-1, Last Week 4, -1) - The Seahawks' schedule does them no favor coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Cardinals. They will play another tough divisional game against the 49ers this week, but that might be just what Russell Wilson needs to get his team refocused and back on track.
4. Tennessee Titans (5-1, Last Week 2, -2) - In the battle of the undefeated in Week 7, the Steelers appeared to be on track to blow out the Titans jumping out to a big first half lead. Tennessee came roaring back however and nearly completed a comeback, falling just short. Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league and did an adequate job of limiting Derrick Henry throughout the game. The Titans will continue to be the favorite to win the AFC South.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2, Last Week 6, +3) - Coming off a convincing win against the Raiders, they will get the Giants on Monday night. Antonio Brown has agreed to terms with the team and could make his debut Week 9. The Bucs are for real and Tom Brady could be raising a Lombardi trophy again, and not for the Patriots. Sooo 2020.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1, Last Week 3, +1) - The Chiefs are so good that Patrick Mahomes can throw for 200 yards and a touchdown and they still put up 43 points in Week 7. Le'Veon Bell made is Kansas City debut and he will add yet another weapon to that offense to give defensive coordinators nightmares far past Halloween.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0, Last Week 1, +/-0) - They're a team that just looks the part. Along with the Packers, Chiefs, Seahawks, Bucs - they just look like a SB contender in all aspects of the game. Well coached, talent at every position group, next man up mentality. Best defense in the league. The AFC North will be a gauntlet, but everyone else adopted the dark, the Steelers were born in it.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - Bane Blows Up A Football Stadium www.youtube.com
It's another eventful week in the NFL.
Four teams -- the Jets, Falcons, Saints, and 49ers -- are the first teams to get a bye week. After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly escaped Thursday Night Football with a 28-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning Super Bowl champs are the first team with five wins in the league. Who will join them on Sunday? We know that we'll get at least a second five-win team since the 4-1 Ravens are hosting the 4-1 Chargers. That is going to be an epic battle, so let's start with that clash of AFC contenders. Welcome to our Week 6 NFL Best Bets.
Playing on the road is a difficult task for any team, but if any team can escape with a victory, it's Justin Herbert and the Chargers. This isn't the Chargers of the last decade. This team is winning the close battles. Herbert is playing at an MVP level this season and already has led this team to big-time wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns -- two of the top teams in the AFC. This L.A. team is deep at the skill positions, can rush the passer, has an improved offensive line and a great young coach. What's not to like?
All that said, Lamar Jackson seems to be playing as he did during his 2019 MVP campaign. Not to mention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is actually catching passes. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and scored two touchdowns (including the game-winning catch in overtime). Simply put, this is a tough team to bet against. It did take last-second heroics for the Ravens to beat the winless Lions and a pretty pedestrian Colts team. Overall, Baltimore hasn't faced a test like this yet this season. Take the points and the better overall squad. Chargers may win this game, but if they don't, they are not going to lose by more than a field goal.
PICK: Chargers +3.5
It's been a tough start to the season for the Chiefs. They had great odds to return to the Super Bowl and are now last in the AFC West heading into Week 16 with a 2-3 record. They desperately need this game. This is a great opportunity for the Chiefs to prove they are still elite by defeating a team that made the postseason last year on the road. The Chiefs are going to turn it around against a Washington defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season. Patrick Mahomes is going to blow up. Tyreek Hill is going to dominate. Travis Kelce is going to continue to provide a steady source of receptions down the middle of the field. As long as the Chiefs' offensive line holds against Chase Young, it's going to be a long day for Washington's defense. Betting on Mahomes to right the ship isn't a really difficult choice.
PICK: Chiefs -6.5
Yes, the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league. Betting on them on the road against a divisional rival might seem crazy at first. However, the Texans are 7-3 against the spread as underdogs in their last 10 games. Plus, the Colts are emotional after completely giving away the game against the Ravens in which they blew a 22-3 lead late in the game. This is going to cause a bit of a hangover in that locker room. When New England suffered a terrible loss against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Texans managed to cover the spread the following week. Look for history to repeat itself. Texans coach David Culley has Houston playing hard in spite of its lack of talent and quarterback Davis Mills appeared to take a step forward last week against the Pats. Houston has played pretty good pass defense, too. The Texans have allowed only seven passing TDs this season.
PICK: Texans +9
Sunday night will be an interesting matchup to watch as Geno Smith will make his first start in four years as the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. I hate betting on Ben Roethlisberger, but it's hard to envision the Seahawks covering the spread without the services of Russell Wilson. And as much as I think Big Ben should hang up his cleats, you have to give him credit for the way he dominated a solid Broncos defense last week. Roethlisberger looked better than he did earlier in the season and was able to get the ball to his playmakers -- Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and running back Najee Harris. Seattle's defense is one of the worst in the league and their secondary is even worse than their front seven. Look for the Steelers to light up Seattle in the passing game.
PICK: Steelers -5
Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points, though they go about it very differently. The Browns are a run-heavy team, and even though they will be without the services of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt is more than capable of getting the job done. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense runs through electric quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is able to move the chains with his legs but he isn't afraid to toss the ball either. He loves getting his guys involved and his weapons are elite in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk.
The Browns are coming off an 89-point slugest with the Chargers and hit the OVER in their other game against a high-end offense in a 33-29 loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points in four of five games this year. Smash the OVER.
PICK: OVER 49.5
Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.
We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks
*Prices are from DraftKings
Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)
I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.
Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)
Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.
Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)
I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..
Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)
This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?
Monday Night Football Best Bets
Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.
Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points
Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:
D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard
Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.
T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD
I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.
AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts
I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.
Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.
If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.
Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54
The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.
Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers
Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.
- Cowboys ML (+160)
- Titans +6.5 (-105)
- Steelers ML (-225)
- Rams -3.5 (-110)
Five Props To Consider
- Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
- Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
- Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
- Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
- James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)
All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.