The early edges of the NFL playoff picture are starting to take shape with nearly half of the regular season in the books, and bettors gain more information with each week. Where should your money be invested for Week 8?
Baltimore Ravens (-2) at Carolina Panthers
Sun. 10/28, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Carolina +2
Carolina has excelled at home against non-divisional opponents since the start of the 2015 season, going 17-3 straight up and 14-5-1 against the spread when hosting teams outside the NFC South. And while Carolina has gone 6-0-1 against the spread over its past seven games against AFC opponents regardless of the game’s location, Baltimore is 2-8-1 against the spread over the past three calendar years when facing an NFC opponent. (The Ravens’ lone ATS road win over an NFC team in that span came last November in a victory over a Green Bay team that had an overmatched Brett Hundley as its quarterback.) Baltimore is also 5-11-1 against the spread in October road games since the start of the 2011 season. There’s also a pair of coaching trends on the Panthers’ side here, as Carolina is 9-4 against the spread under head coach Ron Rivera when coming off an upset win as a road underdog while the Ravens have gone 3-7-1 against the spread under John Harbaugh when coming off a home loss by fewer than 4 points. — Scott Gramling
Philadelphia Eagles (-3) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sun. 10/28, 9:30 a.m. ET in London
Pick: Philadelphia -3
The decline of the Jaguars' defense, arguably the NFL's best last year, has been one of the league's foremost head-scratchers early on this season. By some key measures, the unit is still excellent, allowing the NFL's second-fewest yards per play at 4.8. In others, it has declined significantly, causing the league's second-fewest takeaways per game with 0.7 after ranking third with 2.0 in 2017. That number can be attributed in part to both small sample size and (bad) luck, but it's also a result of the defensive line's inability to pressure passers. The Jags are sacking QBs on 6.49% of dropbacks, a number that was at 8.76% last season. That they brought down the oft-sacked Deshaun Watson only once last week in a 20-7 loss to Houston is concerning.
The Jacksonville defense can and should improve to some extent, but there seems to be little hope for the offense. Quarterback Blake Bortles displayed utter ineptitude in recent weeks before finally being yanked in the midst of that defeat to the Texans. Replacement Cody Kessler averaged 5.2 yards per attempt in relief, and it would take some mental gymnastics to imagine either of those two signal-callers reviving this struggling offense. Jacksonville has scored 28 total points across its last three games and ranks 29th in the NFL with 16.6 points per game.
The Eagles have been average at best this year, as Carson Wentz hasn't returned to the MVP-level play he put forth before tearing his ACL last season. He has made strides in the right direction, though, completing 30 of 37 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina last week. While Philly isn't the same team that won the Super Bowl a year ago, a defense allowing fewer than 20 points per game should make a full English breakfast out of the Jaguars' impotent offense at Wembley on Sunday. Eagles by a touchdown. — Sam Chase
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions (-3)
Sun. 10/28, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Seattle +3
The Seahawks are coming off their bye week, a position that has favored the team in recent years. Over the last five seasons, Seattle is 4-1 straight up and 3-2 against the spread after the bye. Simply put, Pete Carroll has shown the ability to get his team ready. In addition to having success when given extra time to prepare, the Seahawks have also been excellent against the Lions over the years. Since 2003, Seattle is 5-1 straight up against Detroit. That includes a 26-6 playoff win as an eight-point favorite over the Lions in January 2017. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson completed 23 of his 30 throws for 224 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. Wilson is a huge reason that Seattle has a major advantage in this game, as he is the type of player that doesn’t make mistakes and plays an efficient brand of football. And considering the Lions have a bottom-five defense in terms of passer rating allowed, Wilson should have his way with them this weekend. And the Seahawks’ defense has had more than enough time to get ready for a Detroit offense that is far from complex. — Zachary Cohen
New England Patriots (-13.5) at Buffalo Bills
Mon. 10/29, 8:15 p.m. ET
Pick: New England -13.5
It’s difficult to overstate the disparity in quarterback play in this matchup, and that would be the case even if Brian Hoyer were throwing the ball for the Patriots. The Bills’ approach to the most important position in sports is laughable, with career backup Derek Anderson and the abominable Nathan Peterman responsible for an offense that already lacks game-breaking talent. Anderson, the clear-cut starter, mustered just three points on offense last week against the Indianapolis Colts, which won by 32 to improve to 2-5. The Bills' defense, its only saving grace, nearly exceeded that total when it earned a safety thanks to an Andrew Luck botched snap.
On the other side of the coin we have Tom Brady, who is merely 28-3 against Buffalo in his career. In Orchard Park, the Patriots are 9-2-1 against the spread since 2004. Brady missed only one of those games, which Bill Belichick’s team still covered (-5.5) in a 13-0 victory. While the Patriots offense must deal with injuries to Sony Michel and Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s improved play over the last three weeks—in which he’s posted his three best QB ratings and three highest completion percentages of the season—cover up a lot of question marks. It will be entirely unsurprising if the Patriots win by three scores in this cover-your-eyes Monday nighter. — Ed McGrogan