NFL Week 8 Recap: Eagles, Seahawks Soaring

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nfl week 8 recap

Week 8 in the NFL is (nearly) in the books, and while the current standings would make for a fairly clear-cut picture for the NFL playoffs, we all know that things won’t play out that way over the next ten weeks.

If the rest of NFL history wasn’t enough evidence, the first eight weeks of this season have shown how hard it can be to predict outlooks in the NFL. Analysts were high on the Bills, Eagles, and Cowboys, but nobody thought there wouldn’t be a single team in the AFC or NFC East with a losing record this late in the season, and even the biggest Jalen Hurts supporters wouldn’t have predicted this dramatic a jump in his performance.

The same would be true of Geno Smith, provided Seattle’s quarterback had any supporters outside of his friends and family. Smith had to beat out Drew Lock in a training camp competition to secure the starting job, but as the NFL season has progressed, it’s clear that this isn’t the same old Geno. In his days as a Jet, the young Smith had the tools to do the job, but his lack of awareness, particularly against the blitz, was a significant hindrance. This season, Smith has shown dramatic improvement in his ability to process the game, and not only does he understand where free runners are likely to come from, he has shown that he can evade pressure with subtle movement while keeping his eyes downfield.

Seattle will need to fend off Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers, but the short and long-term outlook for Pete Carroll’s squad is markedly better than it seemed before the season, though the ever-optimistic Carroll would dispute that. We’ll take a look at that NFC West race, along with three divisions where the leader appears to be pulling away, before forecasting what will happen in the East divisions. Odds are from DraftKings.

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NFC West

It feels like a very long time since Sean McVay and the Rams were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Fast-forward eight months and the Rams are a shell of themselves, third in the division at 3-4 and tied with the Seahawks for the second-longest NFC West odds at +450. Beyond their 0-2 record against the 49ers and the overall record, the Rams have dealt with injury and performance issues from the offensive line and running back positions, have struggled to integrate highly-paid receiver Allen Robinson into the offense, and now have to deal with an ankle injury to star receiver Cooper Kupp.

That opens things up for the 49ers, who unleashed Christian McCaffrey in the first triple-threat touchdown performance since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005 as they rolled to a 31-14 win over the Rams. San Francisco now sits at 3-0 in the NFC West with a 27-7 Week 2 win over the Seahawks to go along with their sweep of the Rams, which helps explain why the 4-4 49ers are -175 to win the West and the 5-3 Seahawks are +450.

Seattle will be put to the test over the next two weeks, as they travel to face a Cardinals team with DeAndre Hopkins back in the fold, which makes it unlikely we see another 19-9 Seahawks victory. After that, they host a desperate Buccaneers team before taking on the wayward Raiders, Rams, and Panthers.

If the Seahawks get through that stretch 4-1, it sets them up for a pivotal home game against the 49ers in mid-December. With stud rookie running back Rashaad Penny in place, and a defense that is improving around standout cornerback Tariq Woolen and linebacker Jordyn Brooks, +450 is probably worth a roll of the dice, given that Smith has thrown 13 touchdowns to 3 interceptions while completing 72.7% of his passes.

Chiefs, Titans, Vikings Pulling Away?

The Chargers and Chiefs were on a bye this week, so we did not get further developments in the AFC West, but the Titans toppled the Texans behind another 200+ yard performance from Derrick Henry while Kirk Cousins and the Vikings held off the Cardinals, setting up three division races that could be decided in early December.

Justin Herbert’s squad would seem to be the best threat to give chase, but when you consider that the Chargers have allowed 189 points and that the AFC teams that have allowed more, the Steelers (197) and Dolphins (192), have played an extra game, it’s difficult to put much faith in head coach Brandon Staley’s squad. Then again, with the 3-4-1 Colts in second place behind the Titans, and the 3-5 Packers well behind the 6-1 Vikings, it’s hard to make an argument for another division.

The Chiefs are -650, the Titans -280, and the Vikings -900 to win their respective divisions; oddly enough, it’s the Bills, at -1200, who have the longest odds, but we can touch on that later. Of the group, the Chiefs and Titans strike me as the best bets; the Chargers seem likely to fade, and the competition in the AFC South has already wilted, but while the Packers lost to the Bills in decisive fashion on Sunday Night, they finally dedicated themselves to the run game, which could get this offense somewhat on track heading into next week’s game against the Lions. Given that the Vikings have narrowly escaped the Bears and Cardinals in recent weeks, and that their odds are very long at +900, it might make sense to look to bet Minnesota ahead of their Thanksgiving game against New England. The Vikings have road trips to Washington and Buffalo, then host the Cowboys before they play the Patriots, so their odds may drop in the next few weeks before they finish up against an extremely favorable December/January schedule.

AFC, NFC East

It’s something else that Buffalo has the longest division odds in a division where no team has a losing record, but Vegas appears to recognize the flaws in the competition. Without running back Breece Hall’s home-run ability, quarterback Zach Wilson’s deficiencies were badly exposed in a loss to the Patriots, and while New England is feeling better coming off a win, the Patriots also got blown out by Justin Fields and the Bears a week earlier. Meanwhile, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led Miami to a spectacular comeback victory, connecting with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to carve up the Detroit defense, but the fact that they needed a spectacular comeback against the 1-6 Lions is problematic. As a result, Buffalo’s remain long.

It’s a different picture in the NFC East, where Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense got rolling against the Bears this week. Philadelphia is still undefeated and has a head-to-head win over Dallas, but with their odds at -500, it’s clear that many bettors like the 6-2 Cowboys to run them down.

Dallas is headed into their bye before playing the Packers, Vikings, Giants, Colts, Texans, and Jaguars ahead of their Christmas Eve showdown with the Eagles. With all of their pieces in place, the Cowboys have every chance to run the table until that game.

Given the odds, the only bet to play in the NFC East is Dallas at +450. Head coach Brian Daboll is building something positive in New York, but the Giants are in the process of clearing out bad contracts, and that dead cap space prevented them from assembling a roster as talented as the Eagles or Giants. That could change a year from now, but in 2022, it looks like it will come down to the Eagles and Cowboys, who are arguably the two best teams in the NFC. The Eagles have just as favorable a schedule and could be talking about a 17-0 record when they head to Dallas on Christmas Eve, but with the odds as they are, the Cowboys are the play.

What’s Next

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.