NFL Picks To Lock In Early: Ravens Spread, Falcons-Panthers Total, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Lamar Jackson
Raheem Palmer breaks down six Week 8 picks he made right away. He has a 38-25 (60.3%) record on NFL bets he’s tracked in the Action app so far this season.
The books below are offering the best lines as of writing, but you can compare real-time spreads and totals across multiple sportsbooks with our NFL odds page.
Click on a pick to skip ahead to that analysis.
Falcons at Panthers Over 49
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | More Game Info
These two teams played in a Week 5 matchup that closed with a total of 53.5. Julio Jones was missing in action when they played to a final score of 23-16 with both teams finishing a combined 1-4 in the red zone. Nonetheless, the total for their second matchup has been adjusted down to 49, but I’m not sure it’s warranted.
These are among the worst defenses in the league: The Falcons are 25th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA while the Panthers are 21st.
Both teams struggle to generate the pass rush with the Panthers ranking dead last in sacks and pressure rate and the Falcons ranking 24th. And the Falcons have allowed the second-highest rate of explosive pass plays this season (per Sharp Football Stats), so they should have their work cut out for them against this Panthers receiving core of Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.
On the other hand, The Panthers are coming off a game in which they allowed the Saints to convert 12-of-14 third downs. With the Falcons offense playing at the third-fastest pace in the league and having Jones for this matchup, I see this game going much differently than their first meeting.
I like this game to soar over the total, but wouldn’t bet it past the key total of 49 (shop real-time lines now).
Raiders +2.5 at Browns
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | More Game Info
This is the perfect spot to buy-low on the Raiders after their 45-20 home loss to the Buccaneers: Since 2003, teams that have lost by 25 or more points are 237-209-8 (53.1%) against the spread the following week (per our Bet Labs data). This isn’t a significant edge, however it’s clear that teams that trail by more than three touchdowns tend to bounce back the following week:
The Raiders offensive line was a mess in Week 7 as right tackle Trent Brown didn’t play due to a positive COVID-19 test and his backup, Patrick Omameh, was inactive. With Brown’s proximity to the four other starting offensive linemen, left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Denzelle Good, center Rodney Hudson and guard Gabe Jackson weren’t cleared to play until Sunday morning as they were required to self quarantine. The Raiders then lost right tackle Sam Young to a knee injury in the second quarter and Gabe Jackson was ejected in the third quarter.
Despite the offensive line woes and inability to run the ball against the league’s best rushing defense in Tampa Bay, the Raiders were down just four points in the fourth quarter before the game got out of hand. Now they face a Browns defense that’s a step down in quality compared to the Buccaneers: Tampa Bay is first in defensive DVOA, first in defensive passing efficiency and third in defensive rushing efficiency. By comparison, Cleveland is 20th in defensive DVOA, 16th in passing efficiency and 23rd in rushing efficiency.
The Raiders are sixth in offensive DVOA and eighth in early-down success rate, though, so they should have no problem scoring at will against a Browns defense that gave up 34 points and 468 total yards to the Bengals last week.
The Browns will be without the services of Odell Beckham Jr., and while he may not have a direct impact on the point spread, the Browns were already just 16th in passing success rate and 17th in explosive pass play rate (plays of +20 yards). It’s tough to imagine this improving in his absence.
The Browns certainly have an advantage on the ground, but given the choice of being better on the ground or through the air, I’d rather have the latter. And in a game with a high total, I prefer to back the better passing offense.
And finally, road dogs of 6 or fewer points are 27-12 (69.2%). My model also makes this game a pick’em, so I bought low on the Raiders at +3 (get notifications as I make my picks), but I like them down to +2.5.
I would also recommend adding this play to a 6-point teaser along with the Packers (-0.5).
Titans -6 at Bengals
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | More Game Info
At what point does locker room dysfunction catch up with a team?
After Sunday’s 37-34 loss to the Browns, Carlos Dunlap was seen arguing with coaches at the end of the game and later put his house up for sale on Twitter. Wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback William Jackson have also made it clear they want out.
Although it didn’t catch up with them in last week’s loss, there’s a lot going against the Bengals in this week’s matchup.
The Bengals were already missing running back Joe Mixon, but they took hits to their offensive line this past Sunday. The losses of Jonah Williams (neck), Trey Hopkins (concussion) and Bobby Hart (knee) are problematic for a unit that has given up a league-high 24 sacks and is 31st in adjusted sack rate (per Football Outsiders).
Tennessee’s defense leaves a lot to be desired but it did give up only three second-half points to a better Steelers offense, and the return of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson should be a game changer for this unit.
Regardless, this game will be decided based on how much the Bengals can keep up with a Titans offense that’s fourth in points per game (31.3), third in offensive DVOA, seventh in total success rate, fifth in early-down success rate and second in red-zone percentage, scoring on a whopping 80% of their drives inside opponents’ 20-yard line. By comparison, the Bengals are scoring on just 50% of their trips inside the red zone.
Even if the Bengals can overcome their locker room and offensive line issues, does it even matter if they’re trading touchdowns for field goals?
Road teams have done particularly well this season as they’re 58-46 (55.7%) against the spread. If we’re digging deeper and getting more granular, road teams in which the number has moved in their direction are 33-18 (65%) this season. The Titans opened as 4-point favorites and the line was swiftly bet up to -6. I still think this line is short and will be laying the points.
I would recommend betting this before it goes up further. I like it up to 6.5.
Ravens -3.5 vs. Steelers
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | More Game Info
The Steelers will likely be the biggest public underdog of the week.
Oddsmakers opened the Ravens as 5.5-point favorites and the market immediately bet this down to where it sits currently at -3.5. I backed the Steelers on the road against the Titans last week, but this is the perfect spot to sell high on a team that barely held on after a dominant first half and now faces their second straight road game against a rested Ravens team.
This is a game in which the absence of linebacker Devin Bush could loom large against the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson-led offense and rushing attack.
I’ll be waiting to see if this gets to -3, and if it does, I’ll be buying on the Ravens. However, I’d be willing to settle on -3.5 or will be making a cheap buy onto the -3 at (-125) if it doesn’t get there.
6 point Teaser: Broncos +9/Eagles -1.5
This is the perfect Stanford Wong 6-point teaser.
The Cowboys are historically bad defensively, giving up a whopping 34.7 points per game while ranking 28th in defensive DVOA — 21st against the pass and 29th against the run.
Offensively, the Cowboys have plenty of weapons but it doesn’t matter if they don’t have a quarterback who can overcome the deficiencies of a struggling and banged up offensive line. Dak Prescott isn’t walking through that door, neither is Andy Dalton. Instead, the Cowboys have to turn to seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci.
I’m not willing to lay -7.5 with the Eagles, but teasing them to -1.5 at home feels like +EV with the Cowboys playing their second straight road game against a divisional opponent.
It’s likely we could see Mike Nolan lose his job as defensive coordinator after this game.
Meanwhile, the Broncos and Chargers meet up in the divisional game with a low total of 43.5, making the points more valuable when you’re crossing out key numbers of 6, 7 and 9.
The Broncos are sixth in defensive DVOA, ninth in sacks (18) and pressure rate (23.6) and fourth in red-zone percentage, allowing touchdowns on just 47.6% of possessions inside the 20-yard line. In addition, they’re limiting explosive plays (plays of 20 or more yards), something the Jaguars struggled with last weekend.
Denver’s defense also ranks seventh in explosive run percentage and sixth in explosive pass percentage. I trust Vic Fangio’s unit to keep this game close against a rookie quarterback while Drew Lock should do enough on offense to get us to the window.
Tease the Eagles from -7.5 down to 1.5 and the Broncos from +3 up to +9.