Author's Note: Two stats that I will be referencing throughout this weekly matchups column are Yards Per Point (YPP). and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). The goal of YPP is for an offense or defense to make the most of their opportunities when it comes to scoring points, but there are some important things that YPP doesn’t account for that DVOA does. In fact, DVOA accounts for everything YPP does plus important factors like turnovers, field position (where your drive starts) and special teams. These stats not only play a big part in scoring/preventing points, but they also play a big part in winning/covering spreads. With these statistics, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. Now, without further adieu, let’s officially get into our new NFL Week 8 matchup breakdowns column!
A quick primer on YPP and its importance in our handicapping: One of, if not THE most powerful measuring statistics in football, to measure how great an offense or defense is (or isn’t), in my opinion, is Yards Per Point (YPP). Yards Per Point is effective because it measures how many yards an offense gains before they score a point. A different stat that is regularly used by handicappers isYards Per Play, which only takes into account how many yards an offense gains and not its scoring. Gaining yards is a good thing to measure, sure, but in this world, we need to score points, and it does us no favors if a team gains yards without producing those points. This is where YPP will come into play for us. For an offense, the lower the YPP is, the better. Between 10-13 is a very good YPP number for an NFL offense, while 14-15 is average and 16 or lower I consider to be below average for an NFL offense. For defenses, the higher the YPP number is, the better. A defense with a high YPP doesn’t give up a lot of points for the yards that are gained against them. Throughout our weekly matchups column I will reference this stat quite often here.
Titans (-6) @ Bengals **Best Bet**
Last week the Titans were up against a top 5 defense in the Steelers and after a slow start to the game they won they second half 17-3 and were a missed field goal away to sending the game into overtime and having a chance to win with all the momentum on their side. This week a slow start should be avoidable going up against the 26th ranked defense in DVOA that’s faced the 18th toughest schedule of offenses in the Bengals (now facing the 3rd ranked offense in DVOA Titans). The Bengals are coming off a heartbreaking lost so for a young team I’m looking for a letdown as they’ll be facing a much tougher opponent. Going up against the Browns twice and the Jaguars the Bengals averaged 32.3 PPG but those teams defensively ranked in the bottom ten of DVOA and going up against a Titans defense that’s ranked around league average at 17 will be tougher for them to put up points. Ryan Tannehill is also playing at a high level with a QBR of 82.4 that ranks 4th in the league and playing 30.8% better than an average quarterback. This line opened at 3.5 so I’m not getting the better number but I think this line should be at least 10 so there’s some great value on the Titans still. Look for the Titans to get a double digit win in Cinci.
Like: Titans -6 over Bengals
Falcons (+2.5) @ Panthers
These are two teams headed in opposite directions while the Panthers are trying to develop a new winning culture and winning a few games in the process while the Falcons are realizing their run with their core is pretty much done and making some key players available for trades and more than likely more trades to come during the offseason. The Falcons own the second worst passing defense allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 333.4 YPG and surprisingly Teddy Bridgewater ranks in the top five for total passing yards with 1,930 and also ranks in the top ten in passing yards per game with 275.7 so I’ll be looking towards his player prop to go over the total as the Falcons have no motivation for the rest of this season and some key veteran players are looking for a trade out of Atlanta before the deadline.
Like: Teddy Bridgewater over 270 passing yards
Raiders (+2.5) @ Browns **Teaser Pick**
The Raiders were up against a big disadvantage playing the Buccaneers with their starting offensive line not being able to practice all week due to COVID-19 safety protocols and it had some effect on them as Derek Carr was sacked three 3 times and the running game struggled to average 3.2 YPC while they average 4 YPC on the season. Some of that also may be due to how good the Buccaneers defense is as they’re ranked first in DVOA so this week the Raiders will have a favorable matchup against the Browns defense that’s currently ranked 24th in DVOA and 19th against the run. The Raiders should also be able to move the ball through the air as they currently have the 6th best passing offense in DVOA while facing the 8th toughest schedule of defenses so Derek Carr should continue his great play and push the ball downfield with his weapons in Henry Ruggs and Nelson Aglhor as he ranks 7th in YPA. This is a short number at 2.5 and if you like a dog getting less than three you should like them to win also (which I do) but I like teasing the Raiders by 6 even better.
Like: Raiders (+8.5) **Tease by 6**
Colts (-2.5) @ Lions
The Colts coming of a bye so they’ll have the rest advantage in their favor but neither of these teams overwhelm their opponents with explosive plays in the passing game on a consistent basis. Both teams are at their best win they can establish the run game first then use the passing game and both teams have some talented rookie running backs to rely on in DeAndre Swift for the Lions and Jonathan Taylor for the Colts. I can see both teams battling it out to establish the run which means expect to see the clock running early and often which makes for a strong under play to the total. Both teams average around 26 PPG but with both teams trying to establish the run in this matchup I see this total going under 50.
Lean: Under 50
Vikings (+7) @ Packers
In my preseason write up I was high on the Vikings with the decision they made to go younger at positions they needed to and save their salary cap plus I liked the players they added in offseason through the draft but their defense has fallen off to what it’s been over the recent years as they are ranked 15th overall in DVOA when they’ve been ranked no lower than 7th over the last 4 years. Going up against the 3rd toughest schedule of offense could play a part in their average ranking this year also but it doesn’t get any easier with division rival Packers on Sunday who’s ranked 4th in DVOA on offense and lit them up 364 yards and four touchdowns in the opening week. Rodgers is also coming off a game last week against the Texans where he got his star wide receiver back in a good rhythm in DeVante Adams going for 196 yards, two touchdowns on 13 catches (16 targets) and I expect that to continue. This line opened at 6 and you can bet it at 6.5/7 so I’d bet it now if you can as I have this line set at 9 and will more than likely approach that number closer to game time here.
Like: Packers -7 over Vikings (buy up to -9)
Patriots (+3.5) @ Bills
After the Bills got off to a hot start offensively, over their last three games they’ve scored 17 PPG while the Patriots have scored a terrible 9.3 PPG over their last three games. Over these teams last three matchups they’ve combined to score an average of 34.3 PPG and with the winds expected to blow 20 MPH or higher I’m looking for another low total in this divisional matchup. This total opened at 45.5 and is currently at 42.5 but considering these teams have combined to average less than 35 PPG total in their last three matchups there’s still value on the under. I do like under 42.5 as an official play.
Like: Under 42.5
Jets (+19.5) @ Chiefs
At this point there isn’t any amount of points I’d be comfortable taking with the Jets. Over their last three games they’ve lost by an average of 17.3 PPG to teams like the Bills, Dolphins and Cardinals and now they’ll be up against one of the best offenses in the league in the Chiefs. I’ve looked high and low and there just isn’t any type of statistical data that supports backing the Jets in any situation this year and with that being said....this is strictly a play on numbers. With the Jets getting nearly three touchdowns in game the Chiefs (as well as everyone else) knows they’re clearly better than, they may just be satisfied with playing well enough for a stretch during this game to secure the win and move on to next week plus Kansas City have only won their last three games by an average of 9.3 PPG and winning at Arrowhead Stadium by only a touchdown.
Lean: Jets (+19.5)
Rams (-3.5) @ Dolphins
In Tua’s first start he’ll get to go up against the Rams defense that is currently ranked 11th in overall defensive DVOA but while going up against the 32nd ranked schedule of offenses so if Tua is able to live up to his draft hype he should be able to take advantage of this defense. Fitzpatrick was playing pretty solid before he was replaced with Tua leading the Dolphins to. 3-3 record and in a position to battle for a wildcard spot and depending on how the Bills play, the Dolphins could challenge to be division winners and that’s why the move to Tua was made. Over the recent years Tua was on a very short list of college quarterbacks with an overall PFF grade of 90 or better and is widely considered to be a generational talent at the quarterback position. The Dolphins do benefit from having an extra week to prepare for this matchup while the Rams are on a short week coming off their Monday Night game against the Bears so any advantage the Dolphins will have will more than likely come in the first half.
Lean: Dolphins 1H (+2.5)
Saints (-4.5) @ Bears
The Bears working on a short week after their offense being embarrassed Monday Night still seem be in a favorable matchup as they host the Saints at home who’s a dome team and struggles on the road playing outside in cold conditions and the weather for this matchup is projected to be 36 degrees with winds up to 21 MPH. Also both teams own a top ten defense according to DVOA while going up against average to well above average offenses. Michael Thomas still hasn’t practiced for the Saints and if he misses another game that’ll be another huge factor in the Bears favor. This total opened at 47 and is down to 43.5 but given the bad weather conditions for a team that’s known to struggle in this environment against a Bears team that’s totals have gone under 70.3% of the time over the last three years against non-division opponents the under is still worth a play - give me under 43.
Like: Under 43
49ers (+3) @ Seahawks
Last week we learned that the Seahawks success is strictly dependent on Russell Wilson. The slogan in Seattle is “Let Russ cook” but it’s more like “Russ or bust”. Wilson has to play a perfect game to have a shot to squeeze out a close victory late and at the rate the Seahawks have been winning close games I don’t think is sustainable especially when they play tougher opponents like this week. The 49ers are dealing with a lot of injuries (again) but they still have the 8th best defense in DVOA and 8th best offense in DVOA (while Jimmy G missed basically two games). The 49ers are once again expected to be without some key guys from last week Jeff Wilson and Deebo Samuel. Wilson is coming off a career performance against the Patriots that earned FedEx Grounds Player of the Week while many consider Deebo Samuel to be the 49ers WR1 but they’ll continue to plug in more talented players to fill the role. JaMycal Hasty is expected to get a bigger role out of the 49ers backfield and he quietly averaged 6 YPC with Jeff Wilson and 1st round receiver Brandon Aiyuk is coming off his +100 yard game and also expected to see a bigger role. Out of Jimmy G’s 25 passing attempts last week 18 targets went to Kittle, Samuel and Aiyuk so Kyle Shanahan having two of those weapons available should be just fine as it’s a possibility Jordan Reed will be able to play while the 49ers defense could get some starters back as well in Week 8.
Lean: 49ers (+3)
Cowboys (+7.5) @ Eagles
This line originally opened at Eagles -3 but when Andy Dalton was knocked out of last weeks game and enter concussion protocol it reopened at 7.5 and up to 8.5 at some spots. In my preseason write up for the season I said the Cowboys could be money makers this season and they are....by betting against them. I was wrong on them and they had major problems even before Dan’s season ending injury and now there problems are even worse now that Dak isn’t there. The Cowboys are on the 3rd string quarterback but the Eagles are also dealing with a cluster of injuries as well and have a 2-4-1 record. That should speak volumes on how bad the Cowboys are when a 2-4-1 team is listed as a 7.5 point favorite and has a good chance of covering the spread.
Lean: Eagles -7.5 over Cowboys
Chargers (-3) @ Broncos
The Chargers went up by as many as 15 points last week then lost momentum and the lead to the struggling the Jaguars and that’s when Anthony Lynn turned to rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and he put on a show throwing for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns cashing my best bet of the week. If the Chargers were able to win some of those close games that they blew, Herbert might be strong consideration for the MVP conversation as he has a 74.4 QBR (12th), playing 21.3% better than an average quarterback (10th), 308.4 YPG (4th) with a 12:3 TD:INT ratio. While he’s playing great football the Broncos might be realizing they’ve swung and missed on another quarterback with Drew Lock as he’s playing 34% worse than an average quarterback that ranks 31st and has a QBR of 28.9 that ranks dead last. His poor play could be due to missing time with an injury but if it continues (which I think it does for another week) the Broncos could start the process of looking for another franchise quarterback soon.
Like: Chargers -3 over Broncos
Steelers (+4) @ Ravens
Last year the Steelers went 8-8 with some of the worst quarterback play seen in a long time and this year so far they’re getting slightly above average quarterback play from Ben Roethlisberger and they’re undefeated but this will be the toughest defense they’ve faced so far in the Ravens. The have the 3rd best defense in DVOA but it’s come against the 25th easiest schedule of offenses and their one tough offensive opponents in the Chiefs didn’t go so well as they Chiefs put up 34 points, 517 yards of offense, had 13 more first downs while Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdowns and had a 133.5 rating so I’m expecting Roethlisberger to have his best game of the year. The Ravens offense hasn’t been as efficient or dominant this year as they’re ranked 19th overall in DVOA on offense while facing the 20th easiest schedule of defenses and last year they had the 1st ranked offense while facing the 9th toughest schedule of defenses. A large part of that has to do with Lamar Jackson inabilities to accurately and consistently throw the ball downfield and I don’t see that getting better this week as the the Steelers own the 8th best pass defense according to DVOA. Even though the Steelers are undefeated I think them getting a win in this game they’ll be taken more serious as contenders so I like Pittsburgh with playing with added motivation to regain the respect as being the top team in the AFC North division. Give me Steelers +4.
Like: Steelers (+4)
Buccaneers (-10.5) @ Giants **Teaser Pick**
Through the first seven games the Buccaneers have proven to be the best team in the league as they are ranked first according to DVOA and the second best team (Ravens) are behind them by 12.2%. The Bucs used the first month of the season to develop the chemistry they needed on offense with Tom Brady and the dynamic weapons he has. Now Brady is playing 25% better than an average quarterback (ranked 5th), averaging 272.9 YPG (ranked 10th) with a 18:4 TD:INT ratio. With how well the Bucs are playing I do like their chances to cover against a struggling Giants team but this is a huge number laying on the road plus the Bucs have the Saints next week and they could be satisfied with just playing well enough to win so the stronger play and probably the most popular team to Tease this week will in fact be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Like: Buccaneers -4.5 over Giants **Tease by 6**