Tuesday, December 5, 2023

NFL Week 8 odds, picks, spreads, best bets: Rams upset Cowboys among three shocking outright underdog winners

What’s my one condition when it comes to picking games? You have to treat every pick like a pass attempt and be completely willing to forget you threw an interception. Now, oftentimes in this business you’ll have a bad game and throw a lot of picks. Having said that…

There’s no chance in in his wildest dreams could my longtime friend and colleague Ryan Wilson have imagined going 0 (zero) for 13 against the spread last week. That’s like the famous Jake Delhomme playoff game against the Cardinals where he completed 50 percent of his passes (17 of 34) for one touchdown and five interceptions.

Except if Delhomme had never completed a pass, didn’t throw a touchdown and had eight more interceptions. Fortunately for Wilson he’s a wildly successful NFL Draft analyst and has a pretty decent NFL Draft podcast on the CBS Sports PodcastNetwork with former Vikings general manager and semi-professional weightlifter Rick Spielman (With the First Pick, you should check it out), so no one is worried about him missing every single game against the spread on a single week.

And yes, all of this is just a long-winded way of distracting you from the fact I went 1-4 on my best bets last week so let’s just dive into this week’s picks. 

You can check out all of my picks at SportsLine, where you’ll also get picks from other experts like R.J. White.

Bills (-8.5) vs. Buccaneers

What could possibly go wrong here? The Bills have been horrendous since they went to London on short notice and got beat by the Jaguars. That loss was easily the best thing that’s happened to them in the last three weeks — Tre’Davious White got injured, Matt Milano is done for the season, they snuck by the Giants and they lost outright to Mac Jones. Oddly enough, the last time the Bills lost to the Patriots (2021) they played the Buccaneers the following week … and lost. But, also oddly, that Bucs team had Tom Brady on its roster. This Bucs team does not. It has Baker Mayfield, who, while an upgrade over Deshaun Watson, is not an ideal candidate to storm back against Buffalo on the road on a short week when Todd Bowles decides to blitz a bunch and get burned deep by Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. Which is what’s going to happen here. If you want a fun thought exercise about the Bills, go check out the latest edition of The Bill Barnwell Show where my good pal Bill and I discuss what Buffalo would look like if it traded for Derrick Henry and Jerry Jeudy. 

Panthers (+3) vs. Texans

Sorry, but if you can’t get up for a game at home when you’re winless, having just changed playcallers to satisfy an angry fanbase and a rabid owner while coming off a bye and facing off against the quarterback taken immediately after your signal caller that you traded up to No. 1 to draft in an outrageously aggressive move likely initiated by said rabid owners … well, when can you get up for a game? Point blank: the Panthers have to win this game at home against the Texans just to get David Tepper off Frank Reich’s ass. It’s abundantly clear Tepper is the guy who wanted to move up and take Bryce Young. Young’s been much worse than C.J. Stroud so far and he’s — one would think — keenly aware of that fact. Thomas Brown’s never called plays at an NFL level, which is extremely concerning against DeMeco Ryans and this sneaky Houston defense (also off a bye). Carolina just has to win this game. 

Rams (+6.5) at Cowboys

Sean McVay is a new father now! And his tiny little offensive genius progeny is named after his grandfather, which is especially cool. Less cool is the Rams somehow being 3-4, which McVay might not even realize. Not because he’s been busy as a future father, but because like the Ravens, there’s no possible way he actually believes he lost to Matt Canada and the Steelers. The Rams got smothered by the Bengals defense during a “MNF” loss in Week 3 and still only lost by three points. This team could easily be 5-2 and the talk of the town. Instead they’re flying under the radar (with the trade deadline approaching, keep your eye on Brian Burns) in a very topsy-turvy NFC. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Aaron Donald went ham here and Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp managed a monster game en route to an upset road win and the Rams evening things out at 4-4 on the season. 

Patriots (+9.5) at Dolphins

There hasn’t been much to write home about when it comes to the post-Tom Brady era Patriots and this fact isn’t going to blow you away or make you want to invest in Bill Belichick. But the Pats haven’t lost to the Dolphins by more than 10 points since Brady left town. Again, not blown away, I get it. Also not mind blowing: Bill is now 2-5 on the season, which is equal to his 2-5 record against the spread, which is slightly better than my 1-6 record picking the Patriots against the spread. Which, well, also might not want to make you invest in Bill Belichick here. But knowing the Dolphins are likely missing Tyreek Hill just might change your mind! The Dolphins offense doesn’t revolve entirely around Cheetah but he is playing some incredible football right now and he is pretty irreplaceable in terms of actually putting another human being on the field and having them do the things he does. Jaylen Waddle is awesome, everyone loves his touchdown dance, but he is not Tyreek. Belichick will take Waddle away, jam the box against the run game away and force the Dolphins to win with Braxton Berrios and Cedrick Wilson and Chosen Anderson and Chase Claypool.

Titans (+2.5) vs. Falcons

People say they like to zig when everyone expects them to zag but when is the last time you saw someone zag? Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone zag. Like, John Breech thinks he’s zagging when he takes the Falcons to win this game, despite being winless picking the Titans this season (straight up, not even against the spread) but in reality it’s a pure zig move. He’s doing exactly what you expect, picking the home team with the better roster to win and cover. He’s ignoring, of course, the Mike Vrabel/Arthur Smith connection. Smith worked for Vrabel over a long stretch in Tennessee and both coaches know the opposing rosters quite well, not to mention the tendencies. Vrabel’s squad is selling off parts, having just dealt Kevin Byard to the Eagles, and looks to be settling in for a nice, long tank session. Smith’s Atlanta team is 4-3 and in first place in the NFC South. Why is this spread less than three points again? Because Vrabel is going to win this game outright, that’s why. 

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