I have to admit that Week 8 is not exactly leaping off the page for me with a weak looking schedule and a number of teams expected to win easily. The three Prime Time games being picked all have their issues, but hopefully there are going to be some angles to find which can produce a winning record after a poor showing in Week 7.
More on that later, but first a few thoughts on the NFL this week with the Power Rankings and then the Week 8 selections.
Missing out on Aaron Rodgers vs Patrick Mahomes: Quarter Backs who play in different Conferences are only scheduled to meet once every four seasons unless they manage to reach the Super Bowl.
With that in mind there are some Quarter Back duels that we simply won't have too many chances of seeing and one of those was the Sunday Night Football selected game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. I don't blame the network executives for picking to broadcast Patrick Mahomes hosting Aaron Rodgers in what could have been the best shoot out of the season, but an injury in Week 7 means Mahomes is all but certain to miss out this week.
And that means we all miss out because at 35 years old it is easy to suggest we will not get the chance to see Rodgers and Mahomes playing in the same game against one another.
Of course Rodgers could follow the Tom Brady path and still be playing at a high level in four years time or the Packers and Chiefs could meet in the Super Bowl, maybe even this season, but the odds are short and it is a real shame that this is a match up we won't be able to enjoy. Without Mahomes the Chiefs are a fairly big home underdog instead in Week 8 and the game has lost a massive amount of the appeal that what have been pushed, but everyone loses out in this case.
Is this the best New England Patriots team of all time?: Since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady started racking up the Super Bowl titles the New England Patriots have always been there or thereabouts when it comes to winning the biggest prize in the NFL.
They've always had good teams, but I honestly think this one has a chance of surpassing even the team that went 16-0 in the regular season and only missed out on an unbeaten season by losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
Offensively they are not as strong as that team, but the Defensive unit might be as good as any I've seen for a long time and the continued feasting on opposition Offenses was plain to see on Monday Night Football.
The Patriots still have something to prove when you think three of their seven wins have been against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, while two more have come against the combined 3-11 New York Giants and Washington Redskins. In the coming weeks they can show what they are made of when they visit the Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and host the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, but continue to play this kind of Defense in those games and I would suggest this is the best Patriots team we have seen in the last twenty years which automatically makes them the best in franchise history.
Right now it is hard to look past the Patriots as a clear favourite in the AFC to reach yet another Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints the main rivals to the Patriots: A friend and I were texting each other during the Patriots blow out of the New York Jets and we both agreed that the main rival to New England winning another Super Bowl may be the New Orleans Saints.
This team has the Defensive unit to really cause problems for the Patriots Offense, but a bigger factor may be the impending return of Drew Brees which should give the Saints Offense a huge boost.
New Orleans haven't been bad under Teddy Bridgewater who has shown he is still capable of starting in the NFL, but Brees has a little bit more about him and could really open things up. I would love to see the Saints make a trade for another Receiver to pair up with Michael Thomas, but all in all they look capable of being the biggest threat to the Patriots on both sides of the ball as long as Brees comes back anywhere near full health.
Sam Darnold was 'seeing ghosts': I was really surprised that comment was aired by ESPN on Monday Night Football even though Sam Darnold was 'mic'd up' for them.
At the time I had to remind the viewing to make sure I had heard what I had, and it was no surprise that the clip went viral on social media with fans looking to load up on the Quarter Back who had a very poor showing.
It felt harsh on him at the time and I am not surprised the Jets organisation and Darnold's team mates have been so upset with the decision by ESPN to actually air this portion of what they had recorded. The idea is that they won't do anything that is detrimental to a player, but this was a bad decision all around and I would not be surprised if others decide they will boycott being selected to have their thoughts aired on Prime Time television during stressful moments of playing a game.
I would expect ESPN to either put out a full apology or blame someone else for this, but either way it was not a good look and I actually felt bad for Darnold.
Veteran Quarter Backs need to be shut down: The likes of the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos are having miserable seasons and any lingering hopes of turning things around are fast disappearing after the latest losses suffered by these teams.
At this stage I think we all know what the likes of Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco bring to the table and I would not be surprised if both the Bengals and Broncos move on from these Quarter Backs at the end of this season.
With that in mind I don't understand the reluctance to see what you have with the young back up Quarter Backs on the rosters. At this time the Bengals really have no excuses to not have a look at Ryan Finley with the chance they are going to finish with a top two Draft Pick very, very high already.
Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa look the leading contenders to be picked in both the Number 1 and Number 2 spot in the 2020 Draft so the Bengals surely have to do their due care by making sure Finley is not going to be the guy they want to get behind.
Denver have a few more reasons to not want to do that with Flacco as their main back up Quarter Back, Drew Lock is just back from an injury, but even they have to begin to think about making that change.
We may already have seen one in Carolina too with suggestions Kyle Allen is going to remain the starter even when Cam Newton is ready to return. The veteran can be cut at the end of this season with a small financial penalty for Carolina to absorb so I would not be surprised if Newton is available to be dealt sooner rather than later too.
Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: There are a few players involved in this game that will feel they want to show their former team that there is still plenty left in the tank with the likes of Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson looking to make that point with the hapless Washington Redskins. However the player who will be looking to make the biggest statement has to be Kirk Cousins who was not paid by the Redskins like he wanted and ended up leaving for the Minnesota Vikings.
The form over the last three weeks suggests Cousins has to be backed to make that statement, although his production in Prime Time games has been poor throughout his professional career. Like Andy Dalton, the brighter the lights on Cousins the more likely he is to throw in a dud and he is perhaps 'due' after lighting up the scoreboard in helping the Vikings beat the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions to stay hot on the heels of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
While that feeling is tough to shake for most fans and Fantasy owners of Cousins like I am, I do think he could not have asked for a much better game to showcase himself on national television. The Washington Redskins are under an interim Head Coach and this season is already looking lost having slipped to 1-6 which is the joint worst record in the NFC along with the Atlanta Falcons.
It shouldn't be too long now before the Redskins begin to look at benching veterans to give the younger players on the roster a chance to show they can be part of any future here. One of those is Case Keenum at Quarter Back, while Adrian Peterson might soon find himself down the depth chart too at Running Back, although the two former Vikings will be looking to show they still have plenty left in the tank in Week 8.
Running the ball against the Minnesota Defensive Line has been a difficult challenge for teams all season so I do wonder how much of an impact Peterson is going to have on the game. He might catch a few balls out of the backfield, but the feeling is he will be running into a brick wall for much of the game and Chris Thompson may have the bigger impact at Running Back. The Vikings have allowed just 4 yards per carry on the season and have remained consistent up front, while the Washington Offensive Line is still very much a work in progress without Trent Williams.
I am not going to be overly impressed by the fact that the Redskins have run the ball a little better in their last three games as they have played the Miami Dolphins in one game and then in horrendous conditions in Week 7 which made throwing the ball next to impossible. In Week 8 I fully expect the Vikings to remain strong up front and look for their former Quarter Back to try and beat them through the air.
Case Keenum should have one or two nice drives as there are a couple of holes in the Minnesota Secondary that were exploited by Matthew Stafford last Sunday. However Keenum does not have nearly the same depth in terms of a Receiving corps, while I also expect him to find himself under pressure with the Vikings pass rush likely to get the better of the Redskins Offensive Line too. Mistakes have been commonplace throughout this season for the Redskins and I would not be surprised to see a turnover or two and those extra possessions can be critical as to the outcome of this game against the spread.
Anything other than a Minnesota win outright would be a big surprise, but they can also cover as long as Cousins performs even at 75% of what he has over the last three weeks. Losing Adam Thielen is a blow, but Cousins has reintroduced Stefon Diggs to the passing game and I do think he can hurt the Redskins when he drops back to throw the ball.
Having Dalvin Cook capable of leaking out of the backfield and produce plenty of yards after the catch is important and that may be the biggest impact the Running Back has on the game. While the Vikings Offensive Line has played well to open holes for the talented Cook, the Redskins strength is on the Defensive Line and we have seen some signs that they are still playing hard up front.
Even then it will be next to impossible to completely shut down Cook and I do think the Vikings will wear down the Redskins in this one. Kirk Cousins should be more focused on showing Washington what they allowed to leave through the exit door at FedExField than he is about worrying about his own levels on Prime Time and I think that is going to be important here.
Minnesota are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven against Washington and these games against teams with losing records is when they really impose themselves. The Vikings are also 4-1 against the spread in their last five Thursday Night Football games and I can see them pulling away for a big win in Week 8 and then having plenty of time to get ready for the game with the Kansas City Chiefs next on deck.
Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Pick: The NFL returns to London for two more games in Week 8 and Week 9 after hosting a couple of games at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Now they are being hosted by Wembley and first up is the regular season meeting between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.
When the four regular season games for 2019 were announced this looked liked the one with the biggest mismatch on paper. Most expected the Cincinnati Bengals to have a difficult season in the first year under a new Head Coach, but it has been even tougher than expected and they are in a very strong position to end up with the Number 1 Overall Pick in the next NFL Draft.
While that might be good news for the team in general as they move on from the Marvin Lewis era, it won't be good news for some of the veterans on the roster. The one in most danger has to be Quarter Back Andy Dalton who is linked with the previous Coaching staff and his play this season has been disappointing, although I don't blame Dalton alone considering what he has around him.
The Offensive Line has been a mess from the opening week of the season and their struggles has made it next to impossible for Joe Mixon to have any impact on games. The Line has opened up little up front which has seen Mixon and the Bengals producing less than 3 yards per carry throughout the 2019 season and they are not going to be expected to have much change out of Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line.
With Mixon and the run game struggling, Andy Dalton has been forced to make plays from third and long and all without his best Receiver in AJ Green who remains absent. Dalton has made some throws in garbage time which has made it look like he is performing better than he is and I don't think he is going to do much while this game is competitive in Week 8 against a Rams Secondary that has picked up Jalen Ramsey to strengthen them.
Andy Dalton has also not been protected as well as he would have liked and I think the Rams will have every chance of providing short fields for the Offensive unit with turnovers and three and outs produced.
The Rams snapped a three game losing run with a win over the hapless Atlanta Falcons in Week 7 and they can't afford to drop their focus in this one. With the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks both performing well within the NFC West, the Rams don't want to fall too far behind and they are also experienced in making this journey with this being the third time they have played in London in four seasons.
Sean McVay will know there is room for improvement from his Rams team and he will want to see the run established having seen the team average less than 4 yards per carry in their last three games. Todd Gurley is available, but he has not always looked like the player he was before the injury suffered in 2018, although I do think the Rams are facing a Bengals Defensive Line which has been very weak when it comes to stopping the run.
It should mean the Rams can keep the Offensive unit in third and manageable spots and I think that will be music to the ears of Jared Goff who had a bounce back effort in the win over the Falcons. The Quarter Back should be feeling very little pressure from the Bengals pass rush and that should give him the time to dissect a Secondary which has allowed 240 passing yards per game even while giving up chunk plays on the ground.
This is a big spread, but Sean McVay's Rams have covered in all five occasions they have been favoured by double digits. There have been some late drives from the Bengals which have made games look more competitive than they have been, but I think the Rams can dominate in London and they should be able to create the extra possessions that helps them get over this mark.
There are times when you worry about backing a team off a blow out win, but the Rams are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games following a win by at least 14 points too.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills Pick: There is one aspect of the NFL that I like getting behind and that is backing a team off a big loss which may make them a 'buy low' proposition. The Philadelphia Eagles are definitely within that category after the blow out at the hands of rivals Dallas Cowboys on Prime Time television on Sunday Night in Week 7, but I think this is a very difficult game for them and this is only a factor.
Dropping to 3-4 means the Eagles are only a game behind in the NFC East, although the Dallas Cowboys have the tie-breaker against them. It was the second heavy loss taken in a row too and the Eagles seem to be having a few internal problems which makes it very difficult to believe they are ready to bounce back before a Week 10 Bye.
The Eagles face a Buffalo Bills team that continues to fly under the radar somewhat despite being 5-1 and looking like being well on the way to a Wild Card spot in the PlayOffs at the very least. That is partly down to the Bills not really beating anyone decent yet and losing to the only team with a winning record that they have faced when going down to the New England Patriots, but this is a team that looks very strong Defensively and good enough Offensively to win games.
Josh Allen is still developing at Quarter Back, but Buffalo will be happy to see him relying on his arm rather than his legs more often than not in the 2019 season. Even without Allen tucking the ball in and running, the Bills have been very effective at running behind this Offensive Line and I do think they can have success against a banged up Philadelphia Defensive Line which has just begun to leak some big runs in recent games.
There is a feeling that Philadelphia can sell out to defend the run a little more than when they faced the Minnesota Vikings and Cowboys, especially with a windy day forecast in Buffalo, but the Eagles can't allow their Secondary to be exposed. Injuries in that part of the field has seen some Quarter Backs make massive plays against them through the air and Buffalo have a couple of very quick Receivers that could make them pay.
Buffalo won't want to leave Allen in third and long spots because the Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection a lot more than in run blocking. The Eagles do use some blitzes to get to the Quarter Back and will feel they can stall some drives with that ability whenever Buffalo get into obvious passing situations, but I think the Bills might be able to do enough on the ground to open things up for Josh Allen and the passing game and they can move the chains against an injury hit Eagles team.
Moving the ball will be a lot more difficult for the Philadelphia Eagles unless Carson Wentz can improve his own personal play at Quarter Back. He has not been helped with Receivers being banged up, but there have been one or two whispers coming out of Philadelphia that some of his team-mates are questioning whether Wentz has what it takes to be an elite starter in the NFL.
You have to remember the last couple of years has seen Nick Foles playing at Quarter Back at the crunch time of the PlayOffs and the Eagles have won a Super Bowl with their former backup Quarter Back. That alone does put some pressure on Wentz who had a poor game against the Dallas Cowboys and who will now be throwing into a Secondary which has given most Quarter Backs real problems this season.
Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders are going to be very important for Philadelphia as they try to establish the run, but the Buffalo Defensive Line has been strong up front and that is going to mean Wentz needing to make plays from third and long on occasion.
The Buffalo pass rush has not been overwhelming, but they play coverage very well and there is enough up front to get to Wentz at Quarter Back. I expect that Defensive unit to set the Bills up for an important win at home, although my one concern has to be the fact that they have not been the best in the home favourite spot under Sean McDermott.
It is good to see the majority of the money is with the Eagles though and the Buffalo Bills have at least been a decent team to get behind against the spread in recent games while the Eagles have been opposable.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans Pick: There is clearly a work in progress which is showing some positive signs with the Oakland Raiders who will be moving to Las Vegas next season with all things going as planned. They fell to 3-3 last week, but the Raiders were very competitive in the defeat to the Green Bay Packers before a Derek Carr fumble which saw the home team pull away.
However 3-3 is not a bad position for teams in the AFC which looks a weak Conference in general and one in which 9-7 would likely be enough to make the PlayOffs. A win over the Houston Texans in Week 8 would be massive for the Raiders in terms of tie-breakers down the stretch and the Raiders will feel like they have a real opportunity here.
The Houston Texans fell to 4-3 and lost the lead in the AFC South when making some late mistakes in the defeat to the Indianapolis Colts. They do have another Divisional game on deck following this one, but the Texans will know they can't afford to drop any games against Conference rivals if they want to be in a position to at least reach a Wild Card spot for the PlayOffs.
Much is going to depend on Deshaun Watson and whether he can bounce back from an underachieving Week 7 performance at the Colts. It will be difficult for Watson to have much support from the running game in this one despite the fact that the Quarter Back is capable of making plays with his legs and both Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson have been effective at running the ball.
The challenge for the Offensive Line will be to break open holes against an Oakland Defensive Line which has held teams to 2.9 yards per carry in their last three games. This has happened despite losing Vontaze Burfict for the season and I do have to respect the fact that the Raiders could at least make some big plays to leave the Texans in third and long spots.
Watson should have some time to throw to a strong Receiving unit though and I think he will be able to expose some of the holes that have been evident in the Oakland Secondary. With the Oakland pass rush being erratic, Watson can step forward and find the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills down the field, although the Quarter Back has to make sure he is looking after the ball a little better than he did when throwing into coverage against the Colts.
Ultimately I do like Watson this week and I can see him having a big impact in the game. That means Derek Carr has to be strong to match that production and the Oakland Quarter Back is going to be important for his team like Deshaun Watson is for the Texans.
Like the home team, Oakland may find it difficult to establish the run with Josh Jacobs banged up at Running Back. The Raiders have been able to establish the run, but Houston have been strong up front and if Jacobs is a bit beaten up then it may make things that much more difficult for Derek Carr.
However Jacobs has become a little more productive in the passing game and I do think he can impact this game with catches out of the backfield. Again, like Watson, Derek Carr has largely been well protected and he has a quick release when he drops back to throw which can see the Raiders move the chains through the air in this one.
Houston's Secondary have struggled massively and Oakland should be able to expose that even if Tyrell Williams is missing again. Darren Waller has been a huge threat at the Tight End position and finally got into the End Zone last week and I do believe the Raiders can enjoy their successes in this one too.
Both teams should be able to make some big plays through the air and I think this has every chance of developing into something of a shoot out. The total points line is a big one, but both teams can get close to the high 20's in terms of points and that means we should be able to get to the 'over' in this game.
My feeling is that Oakland are being given enough points to cover too, but I would not be surprised if Houston won by exactly seven points in a shoot out.
MY PICKS: Minnesota Vikings - 16.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Los Angeles Rams - 11.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills - 2.5 Points @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Houston Texans-Oakland Raiders Over 52.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers + 5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs + 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Week 7: 2-4, - 4.10 Units (12 Units Staked, - 34.17% Yield)
Week 6: 6-3, + 4.84 Units (18 Units Staked, + 26.89% Yield)
Week 5: 4-5, - 2.72 Units (18 Units Staked, - 15.11% Yield)
Week 4: 3-6, - 6.54 Units (18 Units Staked, - 36.33% Yield)
Week 3: 5-2, + 3.28 Units (12 Units Staked, + 27.33% Yield)
Week 2: 3-4, - 2.70 Units (14 Units Staked, - 19.29% Yield)
Week 1: 4-4, + 0.16 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)
Season 2019: 27-28, - 7.78 Units (107 Units Staked, - 7.27% Yield)