The spooky season is upon us, folks.
Fall is about to hit its peak, with Halloween and a clock change falling on the same weekend. Fittingly, the NFL season appears to be hitting its own stride as of late.
Week 7 provided us some of the best games of the young season, and we’ve got high hopes for this week, as well. NESN.com’s trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian once again are back to make their against-the-spread picks for the entire slate.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 7-6-1 (50-52-1 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 11-2-1 (46-56-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 7-6-1 (51-51-1)
Now, here are their Week 8 picks, with all lines via consensus data.
THURSDAY, OCT. 29
Atlanta Falcons at (-2.5) Carolina Panthers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Matt Rhule has been impressive in his first season in Carolina, and I think he’ll have his team ready to go for his first Thursday night date. That the Falcons can’t tackle certainly helps, too.
Ricky: Falcons. The Panthers’ defense has the NFL’s worst pressure rate (17.4 percent) and sack percentage (2.3 percent), which should give Matt Ryan plenty of time to operate with a clean pocket.
Andre: Panthers. Atlanta doesn’t fare well against pass-catching running backs, as it’s allowed the second-most receptions and sixth-most receiving yards to backs this season. It’ll be a big Mike Davis game. Carolina also boasts the 10th best yards per play differential in the NFL, better than teams like Seattle, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
SUNDAY, NOV. 1
(-2.5) Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. Some injury issues linger for the Colts, while Matthew Stafford and the Lions quietly are playing well. Stafford has a 100.9 passer rating over his last four games, a stretch in which Detroit has gone 3-1 SU.
Ricky: Colts. The Lions are a tricky team to figure out. And it feels like it’s been that way for years. The Colts have regressed the past couple of weeks, but their defense should be OK, especially when linebacker Darius Leonard returns.
Andre: Colts. Indianapolis quietly has the second-best yards per play differential in the NFL, allowing the second-fewest yards per play. The Colts’ defense has allowed the fourth-fewest yards per carry and has the most takeaways.
(-4) Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Seems like the Dolphins probably could have found a better spot for Tua Tagovailoa to make his debut than against Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense.
Ricky: Rams. The Rams’ pass defense ranks No. 1 in expected points contributed, per Pro Football Reference, while Dolphins pass catchers have been creating very little separation. That means a lot of tight windows for Tua in his NFL debut, a harsh reality further complicated by Los Angeles’ vaunted pass rush going up against Miami’s below-average offensive line.
Andre: Rams. Tough spot for Tua in his debut. LA leads the league in yards per play differential. But it’s the other side of the ball that will doom Miami. No team runs the ball more than the Rams and the Dolphins allow the third-most yards per carry.
Las Vegas Raiders at (-2.5) Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. is a tough blow for the Browns, but this week should be a ground-and-pound special, anyway, against a Raiders run defense that ranks 29th in DVOA and 30th in rushing EPA allowed.
Ricky: Raiders. This is a decent buy-low spot for the Raiders, who are coming off a loss to the Bucs that was closer than the final score suggests. Las Vegas’ offense can light up the scoreboard, giving this game shootout potential, in which case the Raiders are one untimely Baker Mayfield turnover away from covering on the road.
Andre: Browns. Forget Baker. Cleveland is a running football team at heart. The Browns have the second-most rush attempts and are fourth in yards per carry. The Raiders have allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL. Meanwhile, Vegas can’t really run the ball and Cleveland allows fewer than four yards per carry.
Minnesota Vikings at (-7) Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. It’s a big weather week across the NFL. Winds approaching 30 mph are on tap in Green Bay, which could slow the Packers’ passing attack while forcing the Vikings to run even more with Dalvin Cook likely to return. The Pack’s defensive issues are well documented, and the Vikes run it to keep it close.
Ricky: Packers. The Vikings just willingly made their team worse for this season by trading Yannick Ngakoue with an eye toward the future. Now, they travel to Green Bay for a date with Aaron Rodgers, who should have no problem picking on Minnesota’s secondary, wind or no wind.
Andre: Packers. The cold never bothered Aaron Rodgers, anyway. According to Yahoo! Sports, Rodgers’ passer rating when the weather is between 21 and 40 degrees is 104.5. He has 85 touchdowns and 14 picks in cold weather. Green Bay’s rush defense also has improved this season. The Packers held Dalvin Cook to just 50 yards in Week 1 and are ranked 11th in rush defense on Pro Football Focus.
New York Jets at (-19.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jets. Don’t love it, but the Chiefs feel like they’re on cruise control, and covering a three-score spread doesn’t feel like it should be high on their list of priorities.
Ricky: Jets. Good week for Kansas City to casually mess around with some things — like getting Le’Veon Bell more involved against his former team? — and therefore probably a bad week to lay a million points.
Andre: Jets. The only thing New York does well to some degree is run the ball. The Chiefs allow the third-most rushing yards per game. I think the Jets utilize the run game to try to control the pace and keep this one within three scores, much like they did against Buffalo last week.
New England Patriots at (-3.5) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. The Bills’ run defense is ranked 26th in the NFL by DVOA, allowing 4.6 yards per carry. That’s really the only thing New England can do well offensively. The weather — low 40s, rain and gusty winds — certainly favors that game plan, too.
Ricky: Patriots. Blind trust that Bill Belichick will have his team ready for a must-win divisional game? Maybe. Buffalo’s defense has been vulnerable, though, particularly against the run. This feels like a good week for New England to lean on Damien Harris and its ground attack.
Andre: Patriots. I agree with Mike and Ricky about the Patriots’ ability to run in this game. It also could be the first time we hear from any of the Pats’ tight ends. The Bills have allowed the second-most receiving yards and second-most receptions to the position this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-3.5) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Pittsburgh’s defense should be the difference-maker here. The Steelers love to blitz, something Lamar Jackson has struggled with this year, evidenced by his 69.1 passer rating when blitzed. The Steelers will find a way to control the clock and keep it close.
Ricky: Ravens. Credit to the Steelers’ offense for masking Ben Roethlisberger’s limitations as a downfield passer while playing off his strengths as a game-manager. But the Ravens’ fast, aggressive, ball-hawking defense is a different beast.
Andre: Steelers. Pittsburgh has the advantage in the trenches. Not only have the Steelers allowed just eight sacks all year. They also lead the league in sacks, QB hits and sack rate. Their rush defense is elite, too. They held Derrick Henry to 3.6 yards per carry. This bodes well against a run-happy Baltimore team. Pittsburgh has allowed the fewest rushing yards to QBs this season, for what it’s worth.
(-6) Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Titans have issues on defense, especially on third down, where they rank last in the NFL. They’ve allowed 30 points in three of their six games. Joe Burrow’s Bengals — scoring at least 27 points in four of seven games — should be able to keep pace and keep it close.
Ricky: Bengals. Weird week for the Bengals, with several players likely checking their phones non-stop to see if they’ve been traded before the deadline. But Burrow is not one of those players, and Cincinnati’s offense should do enough to cover the number, even if that means sneaking in the back door late.
Andre: Bengals. Five of Burrow’s six losses have been by one possession. The good news this week? The Titans don’t generate much pressure up front (third-lowest sack rate), so the Bengals’ trash offensive line might not be exposed. The Titans also allow the fourth-most yards per carry.
(-3) Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Justin Herbert looks awesome, but I’m banking on some rookie ebbs and flows here, especially if we’re getting points at home with a well-coached defensive unit in Denver.
Ricky: Broncos. Catching points with the home team — in Denver, no less — for a divisional matchup against a rookie quarterback? Sign me up.
Andre: Broncos. Denver’s losses have been against the Titans, Steelers, Bucs and Chiefs. That’s a brutal schedule. The Broncos D ranks third overall on Pro Football Focus. They’re getting points at home to an inferior opponent. Seems like a slam dunk to me.
(-4) New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Bears. Another windy forecast, one that certainly doesn’t help the dome-dwelling Saints. New Orleans likely is without Michael Thomas (and possibly without Emmanuel Sanders), making this matchup against the sixth-ranked DVOA defense even tougher.
Ricky: Bears. Chicago bottomed out in Week 7, suggesting there’s some value here with the line going up. The Saints, who have been squeaking by so-so competition, don’t generate much of a pass rush, which has been exposing the back end of their defense. New Orleans also ranks dead last in red-zone defense and penalty yards per game, so a few gifts could be in store for the Bears’ struggling offense.
Andre: Saints. The Bears are frauds and they showed it last week. They rank 25th in yards per play differential and their offense stinks. You can’t tell me the weather is only going to impact the Saints and not the Bears. Especially when the Saints have an elite rush defense, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry, and Nick Foles will be expected to throw the ball a ton in cold weather.
San Francisco 49ers at (-3) Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. More injuries on the San Francisco offense, and it’s a big one with Deebo Samuel down for at least this week. Seattle also has done well to limit tight ends, so I’m expecting a bit of a struggle for the 49ers’ offense, which might not have many answers for Russell Wilson, either.
Ricky: Seahawks. San Francisco’s offense (reliant on its rushing attack and short passes) just isn’t built to expose Seattle’s most glaring defensive weakness (shots downfield). You also can’t bank on Wilson throwing another three interceptions this week.
Andre: 49ers. In Week 7 against New England, Jimmy Garoppolo was pressured just five times because the Patriots stink at bringing a pass rush. Well, the Seahawks also don’t have a pass rush. Garoppolo will be allowed to sit in the pocket and throw quick darts. Quick release time is key for Garoppolo, who leads the NFL in passer rating when letting go of the ball in less than 2.5 seconds, according to PFF. Seattle also plays in a ton of close games, so I’m comfortable taking the points here.
Dallas Cowboys at (-7.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. Probably a square pick, but forgive me if I’m a little skittish about siding with Ben DiNucci.
Ricky: Eagles. Ben who?
Andre: Eagles. Dallas’ offensive line continues to be mangled, and if there’s one thing the Eagles do well, it’s getting to the quarterback. They’re third in the NFL in sacks and sack rate. Carson Wentz will look like the Wentz of old against that terrible Cowboys secondary.
MONDAY, NOV. 2
(-10.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Lots of points to lay on the road, but it appears the Bucs are looking at another fortunate COVID-related scenario, as the Giants’ offensive line is spending at least part of the week in quarantine.
Ricky: Bucs. Tampa Bay’s defense might score more points than New York’s offense.
Andre: Bucs. Tampa allows the fewest yards per carry in football and the Giants’ leading rusher is their quarterback. Expect a lot of pass attempts from Daniel Jones, which isn’t always a great thing from a quarterback who has more interceptions than touchdowns.