It was barely a month ago that I used this column space to marvel at yet another Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers showdown and wondered if they both may still be out there for another two decades, hitting in stride receivers one-third their age.
That angle aged poorly. Green Bay and Tampa Bay could both miss the playoffs, and Rodgers and Brady could both call it quits after — or during — this season.
The Bucs do have the good fortune of playing in the NFC South, where a 3-4 record is adequate to land them in first place (tied with Atlanta, but the Bucs would currently win that tiebreaker) and make them a -270 favorite at FanDuel to win the division.
The 3-4 Packers, on the other hand, are 2½ games out of first place in the NFC North and have slipped to a +490 longshot at FanDuel to beat out -550 favorite Minnesota for the division crown.
Even if the Bucs do right the ship enough to win their ugly division, the chance of another Brady-Rodgers showdown in the playoffs is remote — especially when you consider the possibility of each team being 3-5 a week from now.
For starters, Rodgers’ Packers are a double-digit dog in Week 8. How many times in his NFL career has Rodgers been a 10-point or more underdog? If you bet under 0.5 times, you win. But that’s what happens when the schedule says you have to play the Bills in Buffalo after you’ve lost back-to-back-to-back to the Giants, Jets, and Commanders.
Brady’s Bucs have an even more pathetic losing streak going. Sure, they’ve only dropped two in a row as compared to three for Green Bay, but those defeats came against the 1-4 Steelers and the 1-5 Panthers! And the latter was a blowout that destroyed the betting public. So now Tampa is an underdog at home Thursday night against the Ravens. The Bucs have been home dogs just three times in the Brady era — twice against the Chiefs and once against, as it so happens, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
The Bucs and Packers were among the preseason favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but now the conference’s powerhouses reside in the NFC East, where the Eagles and Cowboys are both double-digit favorites in Week 8 and — here’s a phrase nobody could have imagined typing prior to the season — the Giants are meeting the Seahawks in Sunday’s marquee matchup.
For bettors who’ve spent the last 15 or 20 years losing the great majority of the times they foolishly wagered against Brady or Rodgers, now’s the time to make some of that money back. Unfortunately, there’s not much value to be found fading these future Hall of Famers in Week 8. The sportsbooks are daring gamblers to bet on them with these lines — which tells the story of the NFL’s unpredictability in 2022 as effectively as any other stat or factoid.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the opening lines and assorted betting odds and ends for Week 8.
The consensus lines
Most lines vary by half a point in either direction, with slightly different vigs from book to book, so it’s always advisable to price-shop at all the available mobile sportsbooks in your state. But here are the consensus (most commonly found) spreads for each of the 15 games in Week 8 (the Chiefs and Chargers have byes):
Ravens (-1) at Buccaneers
Broncos vs. Jaguars (-3.5) in London
Panthers at Falcons (-6.5)
Bears at Cowboys (-10)
Dolphins (-3.5) at Lions
Cardinals at Vikings (-4)
Raiders (-1.5) at Saints
Patriots (-1.5) at Jets
Steelers at Eagles (-10.5)
Titans (-3.5) at Texans
Commanders at Colts (-4)
49ers (-2) at Rams
Giants at Seahawks (-2.5)
Packers at Bills (-10.5)
Bengals (-3) at Browns
Line move to watch
The spread in the Cowboys-Bears game is logical in that it should be a low-scoring affair and bettors should be hesitant to lay a lot of points in a game like that. But you still have to figure the public and the sharps alike are going to prefer the Dallas side of that number at home, with their defense likely giving Justin Fields the most brutal day of his professional career (which is saying something).
If the Bears lose badly to the Patriots Monday night, this line will grow wider. And even if they don’t lose so badly in New England, it ought to tick at least a half-point in the Cowboys’ favor.
Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider
With the +260 Seahawks thumping the Chargers Sunday, our gold-medal picks here have now won five of six weeks, which means you could be buying a second home by now if you’d trusted the picks every week. (By the way, ever notice how no sports betting columnist bothers to highlight how much you could have lost if you rode with ‘em every week during a losing streak?) Here are the best underdog values on the board this week:
Bronze medal: Cardinals +172 (FanDuel) at Vikings. There’s no logic behind this wager. The Vikings are undoubtedly the better team, and they’re at home. It’s not even a night game around which we can build the “Kirk Cousins sucks in prime time” narrative. This is just a gut pick. Weird things are happening in the NFL every week and so many signs point to a Vikes win here that a Cards win feels like the right side.
Silver medal: Panthers +230 (WynnBET) at Falcons. I know the Panthers organization has given up on the season. You know the Panthers organization has given up on the season. But the Panthers players don’t know that. (Actually, they probably do know it. But they’re determined not to play along.) It’s a division rivalry game in a division in which even the 2-5 teams are in the hunt, and anything over 2/1 on Carolina is worth a shot.
Gold medal: Broncos +180 (BetMGM) vs. Jaguars in London. This is not a bet on Denver. It’s a bet against Jacksonville. There’s a ton of young talent on their roster, but they’re this year’s find-a-way-to-lose team. Five losses, none by more than eight points, against two wins, by an average of 26 points. If you don’t think the Jags can find a way to lose, even against this mess of a Broncos team, you haven’t been paying attention.
Textbook teaser candidates
Fans of the three-team (or more) teaser know what to look for: favorites of 6 or more who become very safe bets if you reduce the spread by about a touchdown. Here are this week’s options that fit the bill:
Falcons: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 against the suddenly unpredictable Panthers.
Cowboys: Can tease down to -4 or -3 against the (we think) predictable Bears.
Eagles: Can tease down to -4.5 or -3.5 against the cross-state rival Steelers.
Bills: Can tease down to -4.5 or -3.5 against the fading-fast Packers.
Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. Given the way the first seven weeks of the season have gone for seemingly safe favorites, any teaser combo here feels dicey. But, come on, the Cowboys, Eagles, and Bills have got this, right? Right?? Maybe this one calls for a 10-point teaser, which costs about -140 at most books.
Chalky survivor pool candidate of the week
Unless your survivor pool allows for re-entry or has hundreds of thousands of entrants, it’s probably already wrapped up, or nearly wrapped up. Especially if the Patriots happen to lose to the Bears to close out Week 7, there can’t be many torches left to snuff out. So this is going to be the last week I bother with this section in “Line It Up.”
Who will be the most popular choice? Whichever team among the Bills, Eagles, and Cowboys the fewest people have used already. They’ve all had a gimme or two on their schedules, so this should be fairly evenly distributed. In fact, because I figure most people still alive in survivor pools have already burned all three, I’ll go off the board and say the Falcons are this week’s most popular pick.
The unders were the right side again in Week 7, although narrowly — just 7-6 with Monday’s game still to come. That brings the total for the season to 62-42-1 in favor of the under. Is it any wonder why sportsbooks are enjoying such high holds since this NFL season started?
We pointed this out before, but the Eagles’ first half/second half splits remain almost inconceivable, coming off a Week 6 win over Dallas in which they won the first half by 17 and lost the second half by 8. Through six games, Philly is +78 in first halves (an average of +13) and -22 in second halves (-3.67 on average). Against the Steelers in Week 8, PointsBet has the Eagles -6.5 in the first half but only -4 in the second half. The books just may be catching on to this trend.
Speaking of the Eagles, Jalen Hurts has emerged as the favorite for Offensive Player of the Year at +400 (FanDuel and DraftKings), while MVP favorite Josh Allen is +1200. Go figure. Ja’Marr Chase is starting to get interesting for this award at +1600 at FD and DK and a slightly tastier +1800 at PointsBet.
In other awards odds movement news, Seattle’s Kenny Walker has become the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, priced at +200 at both FanDuel and DraftKings. He opened the season at +1100 at BetMGM. Funny what a couple of injuries in front of you on the depth chart and a 168-yard, two-TD game can do.
Photo: Bob Donnan/USA TODAY