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Week 8 NFL Picks

Kyler Murray needs to run. The Browns need to throw. And don’t give up on Andy Reid.

Last Week:      8 – 5 – 0
Season:          52 – 53 – 0

Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)

Packers 24 at Cardinals 21
At 7-1, it’s somewhat unreasonable to nitpick Arizona’s performance through the first half of the season. I’m going to anyway. The offense needs a boost. They go cold for long stretches too often. Kyler Murray and the offense were again out of sync for most of the first 40 minutes Thursday night, just as they were for large chunks against the Texans and 49ers. DeAndre Hopkins is having a down year (by his standards), but the most glaring absence to me is Murray’s explosive plays with his feet. Through 8 games in 2020, Murray rushed for 543 yards. In 2021, that number has shrunk to 147. I don’t know if defenses have learned to box him in or if the Cardinals have made a concerted effort to limit his scrambling and thus, the hits that come with it. Regardless, the offense misses those explosive plays from Murray and tonight they needed them.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Panthers at Falcons
Sam Darnold hasn’t averaged more than 5 yards an attempt in three weeks. No other quarterback has come close to such a feat. Not Jameis Winston, not Zach Wilson, not Geno Smith, not Teddy two gloves, not even Daniel Jones or Davis Mills. This is the result of losing the offense’s pressure valve. Christian McCaffrey had 16 receptions on 17 targets before going down early in the 2nd quarter of Week 3. When no receiver was open or the pressure got to Darnold, it was a quick dump off to McCaffrey. Darnold was sacked three times over the first two weeks of the season. He was sacked three times in Week 3 after McCaffrey went down. He’s been sacked 15 times in the four games since. I wouldn’t expect the Panthers to turn things around until after McCaffrey returns. FALCONS -3

Dolphins at Bills
Miami is the unanimous choice for most disastrous season. If not for a Damien Harris fumble, they’d be 0-7. The Dolphin offense has looked good the last two weeks, so maybe there’s hope Tua Tagovailoa can be the franchise guy. That would be ideal because the Dolphins don’t own their first round pick in 2022 and unloading a ton of draft capital for Deshaun Watson seems unwise given his uncertain future. DOLPHINS +14

49ers at Bears
Justin Fields may have a nice NFL career and be a great quarterback for years in Chicago. Please call me when this happens because I’ve seen enough of the Bears for one season. BEARS +4

Steelers at Browns
I have no idea if these teams are contenders, just good, or perhaps even bad. Cleveland is a special kind of elite at running the football. They’re virtually unstoppable on the ground with without their two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. What I don’t understand is how they still can’t throw the football. Their receivers are supposed to be talented. It’s supposedly easier to throw the football when you can run the ball at will. Yet, the Browns are 27th in the passing game this season and finished 24th a season ago. I know everyone wants to blame this on Baker Mayfield but are we sure it’s only him? The Austin Hooper signing hasn’t amounted to much. Odell Beckham Jr. equates to a first round bust since being traded from the Giants. Cleveland has a good enough defense for a deep playoff run but they’re going to need a passing threat at some point if they have title hopes. STEELERS +4.5

Eagles at Lions
Detroit has zero wins and has looked competitive in all but one game this season. The Eagles have looked competitive in less than 3 games this season and have two wins. Football isn’t fair sometimes. I’m not into tanking, especially in football, but if the Eagles are going to look awful and win like they did against Carolina then I’d rather just take the L and dream about two top ten picks. LIONS +3.5

Titans at Colts
I’m in the minority here, but I love watching Carson Wentz slowing returning to actual Carson Wentz form. Though he’s still far from 2017 Wentz, he’s approaching the 2019 version that carried the Eagles into the playoffs. Sunday night was probably his worst performance in weeks and he still gutted out a victory. This is a big one for the Colts if they have any dreams of winning the South. I’m interested to see how the Titans respond on the road after the most impressive back-to-back home wins of any team this season. COLTS -2.5

Bengals at Jets
Cincinnati is clearly the up and coming team of 2021. Part of being really good is being really good every week. If the Bengals are for real for real like we all secretly hope they are, they go into MetLife and crush the Jets. With Mike White starting for the hapless Jets it may not even take two quarters for the Bengals to wrap this one up. Of Course, that’s assuming they don’t come out and dog it because they know they’re playing the Jets. BENGALS -11.5

Rams at Texans
I understand Bill O’Brien was the worst GM and that alone earned him a pink slip. However, maybe Houston should’ve thought a little longer about retaining O’Brien as head coach. He had one losing season in six years as head coach and that season came as a result of Deshaun Watson tearing his ACL after Week 8. Yes, the 0-4 start in 2020 was less than ideal, but given the opponents (all four made the playoffs), it seemed management just wanted O’Brien out. Now the Texans are staring at a 1-16 season with perhaps the least desirable roster in the league. RAMS -16

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Patriots at Chargers
The AFC is tough to figure out at this point. I still think the Bills are the best team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the standings flipped between now and New Years. Regardless, this matchup will likely have huge implications when playoff spots are determined in the AFC. I’m not sure why the Chargers forgot about Keenan Allen last week, but his five targets were his lowest in a game (that he didn’t leave injured) since November 2019. I like the Patriots here and I feel awful about it, but it feels like a game where Bill Belichick just outcoaches a young guy like Brandon Staley. PATRIOTS +4.5

Jaguars at Seahawks
Against all odds, Urban Meyer is returning from the bye week. I was trying to decide if I’d rather have Meyer or Nick Sirianni as the coach of my favorite team. I chose Meyer. It’s irrational and maybe bitter, but I know Meyer knows football. Sometimes I think Sirianni just likes to see his face on TV and read his name in the paper, because the product he puts on the field is lifeless. Speaking of coaches, Pete Carroll should jump ship now and go back to USC. JAGUARS +3.5

Football Team at Broncos
Both teams are stuck in quarterback purgatory. It’s a cruel place to be in today’s NFL. You’re just not going to win in the NFL without a top tier QB. The days of Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, and noodle-arm Peyton Manning are no more. To be a great team now you need elite quarterback play. It’s why the Rams paid a steep price to unload Jared Goff. It’s why the 49ers rolled the dice and drafted Trey Lance. Neither Washington nor Denver has a shot until they figure out their quarterback future. Sadly, that’s something the Broncos have been trying to address since 2018 and the Football Team for almost my entire lifetime. FOOTBALL TEAM +3.5

Buccaneers at Saints
Sean Payton is a great coach, but he’s ruined Jameis Winston’s entertainment value. No one wants to see this dump-off offense that neuters Winston’s gunslinger mentality and deprives us of the roller coaster ride Winston took us on in 2019. Clearly, controlled and careful Winston is best for the Saints chances in 2021. It’s the right strategy even if it’s totally boring and ultimately won’t result in anything more than perhaps a playoff appearance. BUCCANEERS -4.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Vikings at Cowboys
Speaking of quarterbacks… If Dak Prescott doesn’t play I’m not sure the Cowboys have a chance. Yes, Dallas’ defense is much improved, but the Vikings offense is as talented as the Cowboys. If Dallas can’t score, they’ll be in real trouble. Minnesota’s 3-3 record also looks better and better every week. They started the season 0-2 against the Bengals (now 5-2) and Cardinals (7-1). In both games they would’ve won if not for kicking malfunctions. As I said earlier, the Vikings are every bit as good as the teams atop the NFC. I think they win regardless of Prescott’s status. VIKINGS -3

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Giants at Chiefs
Forget the Chiefs at your own peril. I’m guessing Andy Reid was more excited to go to work this week than at any point in the last 20 months. Reid is the master at turning around underperforming teams midseason. The 2006 Eagles were 5-6 with a backup under center. Reid rallied that team to a 10-6 finish. Two years later the Eagles were written off after an embarrassing tie to the Bengals and a beat down at the hands of the Ravens. Reid led that team to a 4-1 finish and was 8 minutes from reaching the Super Bowl. Even in the disastrous “Dream Team” season of 2011, Reid finished with four straight wins and an 8-8 record. He’s a master of rallying teams. CHIEFS -10

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