After we saw a handful of upsets in Week 8, teams enter the back half of their schedules some are vying for playoff positions while others are struggling to keep their season alive.
Week 8 saw the Titans, Packers, Browns, and Rams get upset by their opponents. The Seahawks and Steelers picked up impressive victories to keep their foothold among the top teams. Tom Brady and his Buccaneers barely escaped with a Monday Night Football win over the Giants. Dallas' woes continued on Sunday night as they lost to the Eagles and failed to score a touchdown for the second consecutive week.
Let's take a look at the Week 9 power rankings based on what we've seen so far this season.
32. New York Jets (0-8, Last Week 32 +/- 0) - Gross.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, Last Week 31, +/- 0) - Should have traded Gardner Minshew at the deadline.
30. New York Giants (1-7, Last Week 30, +/- 0) - Looked competitive against Tampa Bay in Week 8, but the outlook for the season still looks bleak.
29. Dallas Cowboys (2-6, Last Week 29, +/- 0) - Should have traded for Gardner Minshew at the deadline.
28. Washington Football Team (2-5, Last Week 28, +/- 0) - Football Team gets the Giants coming off their bye week and will hope to get continued production from Antonio Gibson to put a win streak together.
Highest-graded rookie RBs: 1. Antonio Gibson - 80.5 2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire - 75.8 3. James Robinson - 75.1 4. Jon… https://t.co/5SSkm62TGu— PFF (@PFF)1603895462.0
27. New England Patriots (2-5, Last Week 26, - 1) - The Pats fell just short against Buffalo in a game that could've gotten their season back on track, at least from a record standpoint. Instead they're at the bottom of the division looking up and in unfamiliar territory at this point in the season.
26. Houston Texans (1-6, Last Week 24, - 2) - The Texans come out of their bye week with the Jaguars, Browns, Patriots, and Lions on their schedule. This stretch could put them back in the playoff picture if Deshaun Watson can will them to some wins.
25. Chicago Bears (5-3, Last Week 18, - 7) - The Bears lost in OT to the Saints in Week 8, and they slide down seven spots this week. Although they looked better offensively in this game, we need to see it on a more consistent basis.
24. Carolina Panthers (3-5, Last Week 17, -7) - The potential of Christian McCaffrey this week may reverse the drop the Panthers took in the rankings this week. They managed to go 3-3 while McCaffrey was injured behind good play from Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Davis. Their division is competitive, but they're within arm's length of a wildcard spot once they get CMC back.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5, Last Week 21, - 2) - The Chargers lost a close one in Week 8 to the Broncos 31-30. Justin Herbert continues to impress however, and Mike Williams appears to be getting in sync with the rookie QB.
22. Detroit Lions (3-4, Last Week 14, - 8) - After looking better with Kenny Golladay in the lineup, the Lions got blown out 41-21 by the Colts in Week 8 knocking them down a few spots this week.
21. Denver Broncos (3-4, Last Week 27, + 6) - A good comeback victory against a surging Chargers team behind the play of Justin Herbert caught our attention. Resulting in Denver being a big mover on the list this week in the right direction.
20. Las Vegas Raiders (4-3, Last Week 19, - 1) - The Raiders dominated the Browns offense and really should have won by a lot more. The Raiders lose a spot this week due to their average performance against a flat Cleveland team in Week 8.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1, Last Week 25, + 6) - The Bengals had an impressive win over the Titans last week and resulted in them jumping up six spots this week. They're on a bye this week and have the Steelers in Weeks 10 and 15. But in between those games Cincinnati plays Washington, the Giants, Miami, and Dallas. While the playoffs are probably out of the question in a competitive AFC, what Joe Burrow and the Bengals have done this year at least makes you wonder Who Dey?
Love my team #WhoDey https://t.co/iTwpZ0UOHq— Billy Price (@Billy Price)1604276906.0
18. Atlanta Falcons (2-6, Last Week 23, + 5) - The Falcons seem higher on this list than they should be, but their potential has been close to the surface all season and they seem poised to breakout. Their five spot jump is preemptive to what we expect to see from them the rest of the way out.
17. Minnesota Vikings (2-5, Last Week 20, +3) - It looks like Dalvin Cook is healthy and he has been the most explosive runner in the NFL when healthy. He is leading the league in rushing touchdowns and has been the focal point of that offense that includes a developing Justin Jefferson opening up the passing game. Like Atlanta, the Vikings benefit from the direction we see them going in.
Anyone playing against Dalvin Cook in fantasy @brgridiron https://t.co/OjpIqLnp4F— Bleacher Report (@Bleacher Report)1604259911.0
16. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1, Last Week 22, + 6) - Speaking of teams making big jumps we see the Eagles(!) making a six spot jump up our rankings this week. They have won two in a row and appear to be the clear favorites to win the NFC East. Even if they finish under .500 they still project to be a division winner.
15. Cleveland Browns (5-3, Last Week 11, - 4) - After throwing for five touchdowns in Week 7, Baker Mayfield fell flat on his face in an awful loss to the Raiders in Week 8. The Browns are now without Odell Beckham and need Nick Chubb to return from IR to help boost the running game to the level we saw earlier in the season. This is a good spot for them as they're season is teetering and could go either way depending on the next few weeks.
14. Miami Dolphins (4-3, Last Week 15, + 1) - Tua Tagovailoa got his first NFL win in the first start of his professional career but the Dolphins' defense and special teams helped out adding a fumble returned for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown to beat the Rams in Week 8.
13. Los Angeles Rams (5-3, Last Week 13, +/- 0) - The Rams five wins are against the Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants, and Bears. Their three losses have come against the Dolphins, 49ers, and Bills. Something is askew and we should know who the real Rams are after the next couple weeks.
12. San Francisco 49ers (4-4, Last Week 12, +/- 0) - Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle went down with injuries in Week 8 and it looks like Kittle will be gone for at least eight weeks. Why do they remain at 12 this week in the rankings? Kyle Shanahan has done an extraordinary job with this team through injuries so far, and until he proves unable to keep up, I'm keeping the faith in him.
Put Kyle Shanahan on the QB depth chart 😂 @49ers https://t.co/Rj7mE1ZQLi— The Checkdown (@The Checkdown)1603992274.0
11. Indianapolis Colts (5-2, Last Week 16, + 5) - The Colts trounced the Lions last week and hope to keep that offensive momentum going as they'll have Baltimore this week.
10. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, Last Week 8, - 2) - This seems like a really low spot for Baltimore and it is. But keep in mind they dropped a few spots the prior week just because they were on a bye and they took a loss in which Lamar Jackson looked pretty bad. They don't drop further though because that bad loss was to the undefeated Steelers and that nasty defense.
Lamar Jackson vs Steelers: 2 starts, 3 Pass TD, 5 INT Lamar Jackson vs everyone else: 27 starts, 50 Pass TD, 8 INT https://t.co/8dBEc74MoH— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS)1604266685.0
9. Arizona Cardinals (5-2, Last Week 7, - 2) - Arizona coming off the bye drops a couple spots, but are riding a three game winning streak into their Week 9 matchup with the Dolphins.
8. New Orleans Saints (5-2, Last Week 10, + 2) - Winners of four straight, the Saints will hope to keep the momentum going against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers this week.
7. Tennessee Titans (5-2, Last Week 4, - 3) - Losers of two straight, the Titans want to avoid a mid season slide after starting out 5-0. The loss to the Steelers wasn't alarming, but dropping a Week 8 game to the Bengals certainly raises a flag.
6. Buffalo Bills (6-2, Last Week 9, +3) - Even though they haven't looked their best the past two weeks in division matchups against the Jets and the Patriots, the Bills have managed to win. They will have the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Chargers over their next three games with a bye scheduled for Week 11.
5. Green Bay Packers (5-2, Last Week 6, + 1) - The Packers dropped their second game in three weeks as they lost to the Vikings in Week 8. They don't lose much ground in the rankings though because of what we've seen out of Aaron Rodgers this season. Once they get healthy we expect the Packers to finish the season as NFC North champions.
Aaron Rodgers is really, really good... Since 2018, Rodgers has thrown for 68 TD and 8 INT for a TD/INT ratio of 8… https://t.co/qhfud65RfE— CBS Sports HQ (@CBS Sports HQ)1603906683.0
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2, Last Week 3, - 1) - The Bucs drop a spot here because of the struggle they had closing out the Giants on Monday night. They shouldn't have been in a position where they were needing to come back and it feels like they were overlooking this game and their opponents.
3. Seattle Seahawks (6-1, Last Week 5, + 2) - The Seahawks had an impressive win over division rival, San Francisco last week. Russell Wilson had four touchdown passes while Seattle was without their top two running backs in Week 8.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1, Last Week 2 +/- 0) - KC took care of business against the Jets handling them easily. They have Carolina this week before their bye and they're in the driver's seat to win the AFC West.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0, Last Week 1, +/-0) - The Steelers had an important division win against the Ravens in Week 8 allowing them to remain undefeated. Turnovers made the difference in that game and the Pittsburgh defense continues to be one of the most feared in the league. The Steelers have the Cowboys, Bengals, and Jaguars over their next three games before taking on the Ravens for the second time. The path for them heading into that game 10-0 is pretty clear.
JuJu and Chase had the Steelers locker room lit after staying undefeated 🔥😂 @TeamJuJu @ChaseClaypool @steelers (… https://t.co/QsGK0ZktdV— The Checkdown (@The Checkdown)1604269160.0
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.