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Red Zone Returns – Week 8

Week 8 of the NFL season is here and it’s one for the underdogs as they dominate the five best bets on the slate.

Los Angeles Rams @ Dallas Cowboys

The Los Angeles Rams have improved on last season and Matthew Stafford is looking a lot better himself. They are performing well on both sides of the ball and should still improve further as Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua grow more accustomed to playing alongside each other.

However, the Dallas Cowboys appeal at home having won their last ten at Jerry World.

They’re 2-0 at home this season and have won both of those games by 20+ points. After getting thrashed by the 49ers in Week 5 and sneaking past the LA Chargers in a thriller in Week 6, a return home off a bye screams statement game. We need to see something from this group to start taking their Super Bowl credentials seriously.

Micah Parsons and the Cowboys pass rush will make things difficult for Stafford and the Rams offence. LA’s rushing game is struggling and can’t be relied upon to pick up the slack.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ offensive line is coming together. They have a big job to do against Aaron Donald, but with another week to develop their cohesion Dak Prescott should have a better time of it. He’s already the most accurate quarterback in the NFL.

Tony Pollard and Rico Gathers will fair a lot better as the offensive line improves, too.

It’s a big favourite at home which isn’t typically something we’d look at here, but the Cowboys are a top team. They’re better than what we’ve seen in recent weeks and there is a good chance they blow this one out in the end.

Best Bet DALLAS COWBOYS -6.5 @ $1.95*

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Sometimes games just look like a spot.

The Minnesota Vikings played out an impressive game to beat the San Francisco in Week 7. Kirk Cousins had a blinder. They exceeded all expectations against one of the best teams in the NFL and come into this one on a high.

Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers lost to one of the worst teams in the NFL in going down to the Denver Broncos. Jordan Love has struggled for the Packers to average a middling 21.7 points per game.

The spot is buying low on the Packers.

They aren’t as bad as their Week 7 showing suggests. The Vikings aren’t that good. It’s not fair to say they were lucky to beat the 49ers last week, but it all came together for Cousins to dominate while Brock Purdy struggled to deal with an apparent head injury.

When you add the Mike Tomlin underdog magician, Green Bay’s +1.5 is a must. He is 44-40 straight up as an underdog to be the only head coach in the Super Bowl Era to have a winning record as an underdog through 50+ games. His record against the spread as a home underdog is an incredible: 15-5-3.

The Vikings haven’t had long to rest and come back down to earth following their win over the 49ers. You’d have to imagine the Love, George Pickens and the Packers are desperate to get out there and right the wrongs of last week, too.

Best Bet GREEN BAY PACKERS +1.5 @ $1.92*

New York Jets @ New York Giants

The New York Jets came into the NFL season with big expectations. Aaron Rogers’ injury quickly lowered them, but New York has exceeded those new expectations since. However, they feel a little bit overvalued coming into Week 8 off a bye. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles for the first time in franchise history in their last time out, but it wasn’t particularly pretty. Rather, the Eagles were poor.

Zach Wilson threw for 186 yards, completing 19 of his 33 pass attempts. He was sacked five times, though. The defence propped him up just as they have done for most of the season through six games.

Bill Barnwell at ESPN made a strong argument that this Jets defence isn’t quite as strong as its reputation suggests, though. They’re middling by many metrics and rely on turnovers to be good.

The New York Giants are struggling but have looked better with Tyrod Taylor behind centre. He makes the right play. It’s not always flashy and he’s not flush with point-scoring drives, but he doesn’t put the ball in harm’s way.

If nothing else, you’re getting points against Wilson on the road. He has improved on his last season. How could be not? But you still can’t trust him and if this number bumps up to +3, it’s a no-brainer.

Best Bet NEW YORK GIANTS +2.5 @ $1.96*

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins

The New England Patriots completed the relatively rare feat of containing the Miami Dolphins offence when the two teams last met in Week 2. With this the second time Bill Belichick has seen them, the expectation is for the Patriots defence to do another good job in Week 8.

Concerns around Tyreek Hill’s status is a major talking point. Belichick genius or not, there are some things you just can’t consistently and completely scheme against and Hill’s speed is one of them. If he is ruled out, the +9.5 really appeals.

The Dolphins are dealing with a few injuries in the offensive line while the Patriots have started to see players come back. New England has improved on the defensive side of the ball but it feels as though most are waiting for Christian Gonzalez to return before completely acknowledging it. While the Dolphins are 1st in the NFL in passing yards, rushing yards and points scored per game, this is a big number against an improving Belichick defence.

Adding the Under 46.5 is worth exploring as well. If the Patriots defence turns up against this banged-up Dolphins offensive unit alongside the high winds forecast for game day, points might be hard to come by.

Best Bet NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS +9.5 @ $1.89*

Houston Texans @ Carolina Panthers

In a week for underdogs, let’s take the only team in the NFL that is yet to cover the spread.

Thomas Brown has a big job ahead of him as the new offensive coordinator. We can’t rely on the Carolina Panthers to score too many points given Brown has had only one bye week to implement his systems. However, the Panthers pash rush is encouraging. They rank 10th in the NFL and have the tools to give C.J. Stroud trouble.

Stroud and the Houston Texans have exceeded expectations this season. They’ve covered the spread in four of their six games, but for as good as Stroud has been (he’s the $1.60 favourite for offensive rookie of the year), this is a rookie quarterback laying three points on the road. Regardless of the teams, names on the jersey or the recent form, that’s a scenario worth getting on.

The Panthers are comfortably one of the worst teams in the NFL right now, but their defence should keep them within a field goal.

Best Bet CAROLINA PANTHERS+3.5 @ $1.84*

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