LA Rams @ Dallas Cowboys (Rams +6.5)
The LA Rams travel to Dallas on the back of a disappointing home defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Cowboys are coming off a bye and the chance to rest a roster that’s been pretty banged up.
Dallas’ defense is opportunistic and one of the best in football. They rank in the top 6 in overall defense, passing defense, points allowed and takeaways. The issue really has been their offense. This season it’s been a run first “Texas Coast) system which has seen Dak Prescott’s average yards per completion fall by about a full yard and frankly the running game hasn’t been all that effective, with Tony Pollard averaging under 4 yards per carry. In short, unless their defense is turning the ball over and taking it to the house, it’s been a bit of a struggle to get points on the board. Dallas have been held to 20 points or less in 3 of their last 4 outings. The only exception? A win over New England – a game when their defense took 2 turnovers to the house!
This is why when you see the Cowboys are a full score favourites, you pause for thought. This isn’t the same Rams side which were winning the Super Bowl a little more than 18 months ago, but they do still have playmakers on both sides of the ball. DT Aaron Donald still anchors that line and gives opposing quarterbacks fits. Matthew Stafford is still a QB who makes plays and alongside rookie sensation Puka Nacua, WR Cooper Kupp is now healthy and adding to the firepower at Stafford’s disposal.
San Francisco put 30 points on the Rams in week 2 but that aside, no-one has scored more 24 against them this season. They scored 86 points over their last 4 games – 2 of those were against the Eagles and the Steelers!
There’s a reason Dallas are favourites. They play well at home. This is a game they should win BUT the Rams are a competitive team. The Eagles are the only team to have beaten them by more than 1 score this season and there’s no reason to think the Cowboys blow them out in this game.
PICK: LA Rams +6.5
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers (Vikings +1.5)
The Minnesota Vikings won’t care they head to Green Bay on a short week. This team is hot right now! Fresh off a win over the San Francisco 49ers, this team has won 3 of their last 4 and they are right back in the mix in the NFC. Their upcoming schedule makes for good reading as well – of their next 6 games, 5 of their opponents (including Green Bay) have losing records. Only the Atlanta Falcons at 4-3 stand out. On paper, they’re all winnable!
Contrast that with a Packers team who have now lost 3 straight and haven’t scored more than 20 points in any of their last 4!
QB Jordan Love has looked shaky after a promising start but you have to say he hasn’t been helped by the roster the Packers have put together for him. No veteran wide receivers – everyone rookie or 2nd year players. Aaron Jones has been missing at running back until last weekend. Their starting LT David Bakthiari is injured and now they face a Vikings defense which is rejuvenated under defensive coach Brian Flores. A unit which was the Achilles heel of this team last year, is making plays and impacting games this year – as we saw against the 49ers on Monday night.
The fact that Green Bay start this game as favourites can only be due to holding home field advantage because there’s nothing, we’ve seen over the past month that justifies it. This game comes down to the eye test and Minnesota are the better team.
PICK: Minnesota Vikings +1.5
Cincinnati Bengals @ San Francisco 49ers (Bengals +5.5)
Through 5 weeks the San Francisco 49ers were being hailed as the best tam in football. Well, 2 straight losses have checked that, and they no longer even hold the best record in football.
Star running back, Christian McCaffrey gutted his way through Monday night’s loss in Minnesota. While neither starting left tackle, Trent Williams or WR Deebo Samuel played – sidelined through injury.
What the 49ers can point to is both their defeats have been on the road and albeit on a shortened week, they are back on home soil this Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals are the visitors, fresh off a bye, and beginning to look like the Bengals we’re used to seeing, with Ja’Marr Chase making explosive plays and winning 2 straight, going into their bye.
If the 49ers were healthy, I’d have no hesitation in backing them but with a couple of key pieces missing, even Brock Purdy has started to look human. Suddenly it’s not just about the scheme, players are having to make plays as well. Against a Bengals team who’ve been to the AFC Championship game in each of the past 2 years, that’s a cause for concern.
No-one is questioning the 49ers yet. If they were to lose this game, you better believe all the talk shows will be discussing them next week. I don’t think they do BUT 5.5 points is a big margin against an opponent of this calibre, with the playmakers Cincinnati have. It maybe the hardest fought matchup in week 8 and if the 49ers do come out on top, it maybe a field goal which decides it.
In their last 2 outings the 49ers are 0-2 against the line while the Bengals are 2-0 against the line.
PICK: CINCINNATI BENGALS +5.5