NFL Picks: Expert’s Week 8 Best Bets Include Jets vs Patriots
Kathryn Riley/Getty Images. Pictured: Quinnen Williams.
- Chris Raybon has identified his four favorite picks for the Week 8 early slate.
- Raybon has bet two sides, one total and another player prop.
- Check out his best bets and analysis below.
NFL Odds & Picks
Chris Raybon: Atlanta had a nice 6-1 against the spread (ATS) run as an underdog, but I’m not sure this team should be laying a field goal here.
The market is obviously docking the Panthers for starting PJ Walker, but this is not the kind of matchup that tends to give him trouble.
Walker, like most quarterbacks, struggles when under pressure. His rating under pressure this year is just 39.6, which would rank near the bottom of the league if he had enough attempts to qualify. But that’s not a major concern against a Falcons defense that generates pressure on a league-low 12.7% of opposing dropbacks.
From a clean pocket, Walker’s rating is 114.6, which would rank second in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify. And while most of the attention is on Tampa Bay’s offensive struggles in Carolina’s 21-3 upset win last week, we shouldn’t ignore what Walker did against a Bucs defense that ranks fifth in overall DVOA and sixth against the pass: 16-for-22 (72.7%) for 177 yards (8.0 YPA) with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Panthers +4 | Falcons -4
The Falcons not only don’t get pressure, but their ability to cover has now been compromised with starting corners A.J. Terrell (hamstring) and Casey Hayward (IR; shoulder) both set to miss this game. Per PFF, Hayward and Terrell combined to allow a 62.7% completion percentage and 7.97 yards per attempt — the rest of the defense has allowed a 79.5% completion percentage and 8.47 yards per attempt. Even with Terrell and Hayward in coverage on 25% of opposing targets this season, the Falcons still rank 32nd in pass defense DVOA.
We also can’t ignore how a Panthers backfield with no Christian McCaffrey — against a Bucs defense that ranks 11th in rushing DVOA — rattled off 176 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries (6.77 yard per carry average). Fresh off a 15-carry, 118-yard game, D’Onta Foreman should be able to eat against a defense ranked 26th in DVOA against the run.
The Panthers' defense rates better against the run (13th in DVOA) than the pass (22nd), ideal against this Falcons offense, which averages the fourth most rush attempts (33.0) and second fewest pass attempts (21.4). Per Football Outsiders, the Panthers' run defense ranks sixth in stuff rate (21%) and is tied for 12th in power success rate allowed (63%).
The Panthers should be able to contain not just the Falcons' backfield, but also Marcus Mariota, who is averaging 7.0 carries and 33.9 yards per game. Carolina’s 1.76 yards per carry allowed to opposing quarterbacks is the lowest mark in the NFL. The Panthers allowed just 21 yards on 10 carries to Daniel Jones in Week 2 and 26 yards on 12 carries to Kyler Murray in Week 4.
The market tends to underestimate road 'dogs in low-totaled games coming off a bad season, such as the Panthers this week.
Per our Action Labs data, road 'dogs +2.5 to +6.5 with a game total below 50 and coming off a season in which it won six or fewer games are 256-162-12 (63%) in the first 16 weeks of the season since 2006, covering by an average of 2.4 points.
The market tends to underestimate Walker as well.
In four career starts, Walker has been a 'dog each time. He’s 3-1 ATS in those spots with three outright wins, and he’s beating the spread by an average of 20.4 points per game:
- Oct. 23, 2022 vs. Tampa Bay: +13.5; won 21-3
- Oct. 16, 2022 at L.A. (Rams): +10; lost 24-10
- Nov. 14, 2021 at Arizona: +7; won 34-10
- Nov. 22, 2020 vs. Detroit: +3; won 20-0
We should get a great effort from this Panthers team that will be confident after beating the Bucs, and is motivated not only because they enter Week 8 a game out of first place in the NFC South, but also because they have rallied behind interim coach Steve Wilks, whom they want to get the full-time gig.
Chris Raybon: The perfect time to back the Cardinals is when DeAndre Hopkins is healthy and they’re getting points on the road.
Let’s start with the Hopkins effect. Since acquiring Hopkins in 2020, the Cardinals have played 27 games with him and 13 games without him, and the contrast could not be more stark:
- Points per game: 27.9 with, 20.1 without (+7.8)
- Yards per pass attempt: 7.67 with, 6.28 without (+1.39)
- Net yards per pass: 6.84 with, 5.48 without (+1.36)
- Point differential: +6.0 with, -4.4 without (+10.4)
- ATS winning percentage: 55.6% with, 46.2% without (+9.4%)
- ATS differential: +3.4 with, -4.4 without (+7.8)
In his first game of 2022, Hopkins caught 10-of-14 targets for 103 yards. He should feast on a Vikings defense that clocks in at 31st in DVOA versus opposing No. 1 wide receivers. This is also an excellent matchup for Zach Ertz, as the Vikings are also ranked last in DVOA to tight ends.
When Murray is not feeding Hopkins and Ertz, he figures to rack up yardage on the ground. The Vikings are allowing 5.32 yards per carry to opposing quarterbacks (eighth most). Jalen Hurts posted an 11/57/2 rushing line against the Vikings in Week 2, and Justin Fields recorded an 8/47/0 line against them in Week 5.
Cardinals +3.5 | Vikings -3.5
With Hopkins back, the Cards are once again equipped to win a shootout with Minnesota, but their defense matches up fairly well with the Vikings offense.
With standout safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson playing over the top, the Cardinals rate first in DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers and third against No. 2 wide receivers, which is exactly what you want when facing a pass offense featuring Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has dialed up blitzes at the second-highest rate in the league (36.7%), which could give Kirk Cousins trouble, as his passer rating this season drops from 96.1 when not blitzed to 68.2 when blitzed. And when Cousins hands off to Dalvin Cook, Arizona can combat him with a run defense rated sixth by DVOA.
Along with late-season collapses, one of the defining characteristics of Kliff Kingsbury's Cardinals has been a tendency to play better on the road than at home. Under Kingsbury, the Cardinals are just 11-17 (39%) at home, but 19-7-2 (73%) ATS at home, including 15-3-2 (83%) ATS as a road 'dog.
The Cardinals have covered eight straight as road 'dogs dating back to the start of last season.
Chris Raybon: No matter which team has the ball in this matchup, it’s advantage defense. The Patriots defense is ninth in DVOA and faces a Jets offense that's 21st, while the Jets defense is 10th in DVOA and faces a Patriots offense that's 23rd.
Despite a top-10 ranking, New England’s defense can be vulnerable to the run, ranking 28th in DVOA. However, the Jets' ability to exploit that is compromised without Breece Hall, who tore his ACL against the Broncos. Here are Hall’s efficiency metrics compared to his replacements:
- Breece Hall: 5.8 yards per carry; 4.1 yards after contact; 51% success rate
- Michael Carter: 3.4 YPC, 2.4 YACo, 45% success rate
- James Robinson: 4.2 YPC, 2.7 YACo, 37% success rate
Without Hall, the Jets figure to be in more passing situations and third-and-longs, which are extremely problematic for their offense. Since Zach Wilson returned in Week 4, the Jets are averaging 7.6 yards to-go on third down, which is sixth most in the league over that span — and their 29.4% third-down conversion rate ranks 28th. When Wilson is pressured, his passer rating is just 12.7, and he figures to be under quite a bit of pressure against a Patriots defense ranked 12th in pressure rate (23.6%).
Patriots -2.5 | Jets +2.5
Wilson and the Jets offense won’t be able to exploit the Patriots the same way Justin Fields did.
For one, Wilson is averaging only 1.7 YPA under pressure, while Fields is averaging 8.1. And Fields is nearly four times more likely to take off and run, with a scramble rate under pressure of 27.3% compared to Wilson’s 7.1%. What’s more, the Patriots should be in for some regression to the mean with regard to missed tackles. PFF charged New England with 12 missed tackles against Chicago, well above their average of 4.7 per game entering Monday Night Football.
Whether it’s Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe or both, the Patriots will face a well-rounded Jets defense that ranks 10th in DVOA against the pass and 14th against the run.
The Jets are 11th in pressure rate despite blitzing at the second lowest rate, which illustrates how effective they are at getting home with a four-man rush. This will cause issues for a New England passing game that isn’t built to beat pressure or extra defenders in coverage.
Mac Jones’ passer rating drops from 96.3 in a clean pocket to 8.7 under pressure, and Zappe’s drops from 110.9 (clean) to 62.2 (under pressure). New England’s receivers are averaging 9.4 yards per target against man coverage (fifth), but 8.0 versus zone (19th).
The Patriots will have to lean on their run game, which should continue the trend of them ranking 31st in seconds per play (30.28) and 27th in situation-neutral pace (32.28 seconds per play), per Football Outsiders.
The Patriots have long been an under team on the road, dating back to well before Tom Brady even left. According to our Action Labs data, Patriots road unders are 34-18 (65%) since 2016, covering by an average of 3.5 points per game.
That includes a 5-1 mark in East Rutherford against the Jets.
Chris Raybon: Claypool has caught at least four passes in five of seven games this season and is a good bet to make it 6-of-6 against an Eagle defense that is most vulnerable in the slot.
Per Pro Football Focus, Eagles perimeter corners James Bradberry and Darius Slay are allowing a reception once every 15.0 and 14.9 snaps in coverage, respectively. Meanwhile, slot corner Avonte Maddox is allowing a reception every 10.5 snaps in coverage. Maddox is allowing an 83.3% catch rate, which is nearly double that of Bradberry and Slay combined (42.5%).