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Freedman’s NFL Week 8 Trends & Early Bets: Cowboys Will Cover Eventually, Right?

Freedman’s NFL Week 8 Trends & Early Bets: Cowboys Will Cover Eventually, Right? article feature image

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike McCarthy.

Aside from Monday Night Football, Week 7 is in the books. (The sportsbooks; #NailedIt.) Let’s take a look at some applicable trends for the early Week 8 spreads.

Although I am not a trends bettor, I find that trends help me identify spots I should consider further when analyzing games. Using our Bet Labs database, I have uncovered some intriguing NFL trends for three games this week.

All lines are from our NFL Odds page.

Early Week 8 NFL Picks

Click on a pick to skip to that analysis.

Pick Bet Now
Patriots +4.5 at Bills FanDuel
Browns -3 vs. Raiders FanDuel
Cowboys +7.5 at Eagles DraftKings

Patriots (+4.5) at Bills

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

The Bills are unquestionably the better team right now, but they aren’t healthy. In Week 7, Buffalo was without some starters and key contributors on both sides of the ball.

  • Offense: G Cody Ford (knee),  G Jon Feliciano (pectoral, IR), WR John Brown (calf), TE Dawson Knox (COVID-19/calf)
  • Defense: CB Levi Wallace (ankle, IR), CB Josh Norman (hamstring), LB Tyrel Dodson (hamstring)

Some of these players will probably return in Week 8, but there’s no guarantee of that and they likely won’t be at full capacity if they play.

And even though the Pats have looked bad over the past two weeks, I like the idea of backing them in this spot.

I know the 2020 Pats without former quarterback Tom Brady are not like previous versions of the team, but they still have head coach Bill Belichick and since 2004 (as far back as our database goes), he is 163-106-9 against the spread (ATS) in the regular season, good for an 18.9% return on investment (ROI).

As an underdog, he is 23-11-2 ATS (31.8% ROI). Off a loss, he is 41-17 ATS (40.2% ROI).

And as an underdog off a loss, Belichick’s Pats are 8-0 ATS (99.6% ROI).

Fool that I am, I think there’s a good chance they win this game outright. As an underdog off a loss, Belichick is 7-1 straight up.

  • Action: Patriots +4.5 (-110) at FanDuel
  • Limit: +3 (-110)

Browns (-3) vs. Raiders

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

As home favorites, the Browns could rely heavily on the running game, and although it’s generally better to attack through the air instead of the ground, the Browns have an advantage in this matchup.

As of writing (Sunday night), the Browns have the clear edge over the Raiders in run blocking vs. run defense, based on data from Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders.

  • Browns Run Blocking: 79.4 PFF Grade (2nd) | 4.91 Adj. Line Yards (3rd)
  • Raiders Run Defense: 46.2 PFF Grade (29th) |  5.02 Adj. Line Yards (29th)

On defense, I think the Browns could have a potential hidden edge going against the Raiders’ offensive line, which last week was put on the COVID-19 list in its entirety after tackle Trent Brown tested positive.

To date, everyone else on the offensive line has tested negative, and they have all been activated from the COVID-19 list. They even played in Week 7.

(Surprise disclosure: I’m not an epidemiologist. I barely know how to spell the word.)

But we’ve seen with some teams in the NFL and also other sports leagues how the virus can cause a multi-week cycle of positive tests. It wouldn’t be shocking if this week we saw more cases pop up on the Raiders, especially on the offensive line.

And even if that doesn’t happen, we might see an offensive line without its starting left tackle going against a good Browns defensive line led by edge defender Myles Garrett, who has seven sacks this year and a league-best 90.6 PFF pass-rush grade.

The Browns rank No. 7 with an 11.9% hurry rate.

If Garrett — along with defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackles Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi — is able to apply consistent pressure on quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders could struggle to sustain drives.

It’s just an added bonus that non-divisional opponents are 16-9 ATS (25.5% ROI) against the Raiders under head coach Jon Gruden, covering the spread by a margin of 6.46 points.

And teams that failed to make the playoffs in the previous season are 14-8 ATS (25.5% ROI) against Gruden’s Raiders.

  • Action: Browns -3 (-110) at FanDuel
  • Limit: -4.5 (-110)

Cowboys (+6.5) at Eagles

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: NBC

Based on my fancy spreadsheets and formulas, it looks like the Cowboys are, let’s see here — ah, yes — 0-7 ATS. That is not good.

If you flipped a coin and got heads seven times in a row, wouldn’t even a small part of you start to think that it was maybe a trick coin? That maybe the odds weren’t really 50-50?

The Cowboys are like a bad penny. I don’t know what that means, but it feels accurate.

They are without starting quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle, IR), and backup quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) is uncertain for Week 8, which means they might be rolling with third-stringer Ben DiNucci.

As suboptimal as that is, some perspective is required.

The quarterback situation for the Cowboys is so bad, but here's a way to look at it …

If you could pick just one guy out of everyone in the world to coach up small-school seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci on the fly, wouldn't it have to be someone other than Mike McCarthy?

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 25, 2020

OK, so there’s no way I can spin this into something positive.

But I still think there’s value on them this weekend, and I say that as a long-suffering self-loathing Cowboys fan who has taken pleasure for years in betting against this team.

First of all, divisional road dogs do well before the final month or so of the season.

  • Divisional Road Dogs (Sep. – Nov.): 360-285-23 ATS | 8.7% ROI
  • Divisional Road Dogs (Dec. – Jan.): 186-194-10 ATS | -4.6% ROI

My theory: When divisional opponents play early in the year, they are usually facing each other for the first time. In this situation, road dogs have an edge in the market, which is still rather inefficient as the season takes shape.

Later in the year, when divisional rivals rematch, they are more familiar with each other and their markets are more efficient, which puts road dogs at a disadvantage.

Right at the beginning of November, the Cowboys are still in the sweet spot of this trend.

Additionally, we see that teams with an ATS win rate of no higher than 20% (starting after four games, so we have a decent sample) are an A-graded 167-124-6 ATS (11.5% ROI), and sadly that applies to my Cowboys.

Historically, the market has underrated teams that have massively struggled ATS early in the year.

On top of that, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been a profitable player to bet against in the wake of his injury-shortened reputation-inflating 2017 season. Over the past two-plus years, Eagles faders are 23-12 ATS (28.5% ROI) in Wentz’s starts.

  • Action: Cowboys +7.5 (-112) at DraftKings
  • Limit: +4.5 (-110)

Matthew Freedman is 700-562-27 (55.5%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.

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