It’s rare in the NFL for teams to stay on top year after year. The league is not built for that.
That’s what makes the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens rivalry so unique. They became rivals because they were both really good at the turn of the century in the same division, and for the most part they have battled for division titles ever since. You can build up a lot of hatred in 20 years.
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry keeps rolling on this season. We knew the Ravens would be one of the best teams in the NFL. The Steelers were a little more of a mystery before the season, but they’re the NFL’s last undefeated team. Both teams are well-coached, strong in all three phases and are on a short list of Super Bowl contenders. I have both of them in the top three of my latest power rankings.
Many NFL games are decided on a razor-thin margin, and for a game like this it’s hard to have a strong opinion. Both teams are really good. It will be close. Maybe you prefer the Ravens because they’re off a bye and the Steelers are coming off hyped matchups against the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans, but I’m not sure that applies this week. This is Pittsburgh’s game of the year, at least until the next Ravens game, and they’ll be as ready as they can be.
It’s even harder to have a strong lean since this series usually produces close games. Since the Ravens moved to Baltimore in 1996, their games against the Steelers have been decided by a field goal or less 21 times. At the height of the rivalry between 2009-2013, an amazing nine of 11 games were decided by a field goal or less.
The point spread is Ravens -4, and I’m not sure either team should be favored by more than a field goal. That’s why I’ll pick the Steelers. This should be another classic, a coin-flip game, and I’ll blindly take either team if you’re giving me more than a field goal. This should be a great game.
Here are the picks for Week 8 of the NFL season, with lines from BetMGM:
Panthers (-2.5) over Falcons
You can look at the Falcons as being somewhat underrated because even though they’re 1-6, they have some ridiculous losses in which they’ve outplayed their opponent for 55 or more minutes. Still, I really don’t know why the Panthers aren’t having to give at least a field goal at home against a one-win team.
Lions (+2.5) over Colts
This is an under-the-radar good game. A lot of people were pumping up the Lions as a potential division winner before the season, and there have been some signs of that team here and there this season. The win last week over the Falcons was fluky, but can still give them momentum. If the Lions win here, they’re right in the playoff race in a less-than-stellar NFC.
Packers (-7) over Vikings
I can tell you how I’ll be analyzing Packers games for the foreseeable future: If the Packers are playing a bad defense they’re the play, and if they’re playing a top defense I’ll be looking to fade. That pattern has been a winner for every Packers game this season. And this week (checks notes), the Vikings are a terrible defense. Green Bay it is.
Bills (-3.5) over Patriots
Sometimes you see a point spread that is so inviting, you wonder if you’re missing something. The Patriots can’t move the ball. Cam Newton has played very poorly since coming off the reserve/COVID-19 list (I’m not sure if Newton’s play is related to him being on that reserve list, but it can’t be ruled out). Sure the Bills have lost some luster. But losing to the Titans and Chiefs isn’t bad, and they outgained the Jets 422-190, they just couldn’t get in the end zone. I’m not sure why this spread isn’t double what it is.
Titans (-6) over Bengals
The Bengals are 1-5-1 straight up and 5-2 against the spread. You rarely see a split like that. And here again the Bengals are nearly a touchdown underdog at home. This time I’ll go against them, because I think the Titans are a very good team and will be looking for a rebound after losing to the Steelers. But the lines have been too large against Cincinnati all season.
Browns (-3) over Raiders
This is a really good game between two franchises looking to get back to the playoffs after some rough seasons. If the line is a little low because of Odell Beckham Jr.’s season-ending injury, I don’t think it should be. Beckham is a good player and impacts a game beyond the stat sheet, but he has not been a huge impact player for Cleveland. I’ve been a Browns believer most of this season — not covering last week because of a missed extra point with 11 seconds left was brutal — and I’ll stick with them.
Chiefs (-19.5) over Jets
It’s always jarring to see a line like this in the NFL because it’s so rare. And teams getting this many points usually cover. According to BetMGM, there have been seven teams to be favored by 20 points or more since 2003, and the underdog covered in six of those seven games (but was 0-7 straight up). Still, it’s just hard to wrap your head around the Jets being semi-competitive in this game.
Dolphins (+4.5) over Rams
It’s really hard to analyze this game. With no preseason, all we have on Tua Tagovailoa is two garbage-time throws. We have to assume he’s healthy and the buzz over him from Miami has been good, but what will we get from the rookie first-round pick? It’s impossible to know. It’s not a great spot for the Rams, playing an early East Coast start after a Monday night game, and that leads me to picking Miami. But I have no idea what to make of the Dolphins until we see Tua play.
Broncos (+3) over Chargers
Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert looks good, but I don’t want to overreact. The Broncos had a nice road win over the Patriots two weeks ago, and losing to the Chiefs will happen to plenty of teams. Denver can win if they eliminate dumb mistakes that have been a problem the past couple weeks.
Saints (-4) over Bears
The Bears offense is horrible. I haven’t been too impressed with the Saints yet this season, but I don’t want to be stuck this week hoping the Bears can somehow move the ball, because I don’t think they can.
Seahawks (-3.5) over 49ers
The 49ers are on a nice winning streak but also injured again. They could be down as many as four running backs (Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson and Jerick McKinnon after McKinnon was surprisingly excluded from the game plan last week) and Deebo Samuel will be out too, among other injuries. If the 49ers can cover despite all their injuries, it will be impressive.
Giants (+10.5) over Buccaneers
No, I don’t feel great taking the Giants against anyone. But it’s a pretty automatic play to take a double-digit underdog at home on a Monday night. Not that it will be fun hoping for Joe Judge’s team to keep it relatively close.
Last week: 4-9-1
Season to date: 53-48-3
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