This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 8 games, including a divisional grudge match between Tampa Bay and New Orleans and Cowboys heading to Minneapolis for Sunday Night Football.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
San Francisco 49ers (-4, O/U 39.5) at Chicago Bears
A compelling matchup because … playing against one of the teams that was reportedly sniffing around acquiring him this offseason, Jimmy Garoppolo will look to bounce back after a terrible outing in Week 7. The Bears have one of the worst offenses in the league and head coach Matt Nagy may have the hottest seat in the entire NFL. With another loss, Kyle Shanahan may also start feeling a bit warm. Whichever team loses this one can probably give up on making the playoffs.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The 49ers (2-4 SU, 1-5 against the spread) have lost four straight, including a 30-18 loss to the Colt as 3.5-point home favorites. Similarly, the Bears (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS) have dropped two straight, and failed to cover as 12-point road dogs against the Bucs in Week 7. This line opened with San Francisco listed as a 3.5-point road favorite. The public sees two struggling teams, but views the 49ers as the lesser of two evils. This lopsided support (along with the news that Khalil Mack will likely miss this game) has pushed the line to -4 . Even without Mack, there’s no way I can lay points with a banged-up 49ers team on the road. The Bears also have buy-low value as a dog off a 20-point loss or more, which is 7-4 ATS this season and roughly 58% ATS over the past decade. I’ll grab Chicago at home plus the points.
Gable’s Guess: The 49ers seem to be a mess right now. It didn’t help that they were playing in a rainstorm, but Garoppolo didn’t look good in his return on Sunday and the Niners’ defense hasn’t played up to their ability yet this season at all. In the five games he’s played this year, Jimmy G has completed 64.8% of his passes with six touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 90.2. The one lone bright spot for the 49ers has been Deebo Samuel. He’s played very well at wide receiver, but they certainly need to give him some help. They just haven’t been able to do anything offensively. The Bears aren’t in a good position either. Justin Fields has continued to struggle and he had a three-interception, two-fumble performance against Tampa. His offensive line can’t protect him. He’s been sacked 22 times. This is a game where you have to wonder who’s going to get it together first. I think San Francisco figures things out before Chicago does, so I’m going to lay the points with the Niners.
Rogers’ Recommendation: San Francisco is riding an 0-4 SU/ATS slide and the Bears are coming off a pair of losses to two of the top teams in the NFC by falling to Tampa Bay and Green Bay. The 49ers have actually played better on the road (2-1) than at home (0-3) this season and won in both opportunities as road favorites. Both teams aren’t looking good right now, but San Francisco is the better option here. Best Bet: San Francisco -4.
Our Pick: Neither team is very good, but the Bears are worse. Lay the points with San Fran.
Tennessee Titans (+2.5, O/U 50.5) at Indianapolis Colts
A compelling matchup because … within the span of a week, the Titans knocked off two of the top AFC teams in the Bills and the Chiefs. Now, with league-leading running back Derrick Henry carrying the load, Tennessee will head to Indy to take on a Colts team that is showing signs of life following a lackluster start to the season. Divisional games are always tough and Indianapolis could take a big step forward with a win to get back to .500.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Titans (5-2 SU, 5-2 ATS) have won three straight and won outright as a 4-point and 6-point home dog over the Chiefs and Bills, respectively. The Colts (3-4 SU, 5-2 ATS) have won three of their last four games and just won outright as a 3.5-point road dog in San Francisco. The look-ahead line on this game was Colts -2.5 at home. The public was all over the Titans after their pair of impressive wins and couldn’t believe Tennessee was getting points. The overload of money flipped the Titans to -1.5. But, the line moved back to Colts -1.5 despite the public pounding Tennessee. This line seems fishy. Tennessee is the kind of trendy dog I like to bet against. I’ll follow the late-dog-to-favorite line move and back the Colts on the moneyline (-130) to win the game.
Gable’s Guess: The Titans are coming off the two huge wins. They’ve shown an improved pass rush on defense and look just miles better than last year’s defense. Here, they go up against a decent Indy offense that has been playing well. Henry has continued his dominant play and he’s catching more passes after only catching 19 all of last year. He has 17 this year through seven games, Ryan Tannehill isn’t playing as he did in 2020, but he’s playing well enough. He seems to be able to like pick up five to eight yards on a check-down pass anytime he wants. The Indy defense does seem prone to allowing short passes underneath. But the Colts have looked good recently and Carson Wentz has been effective. It’s a game with a lot of implications for the division. I’m just going to look to ride the hot team right now, which is Tennessee.
Rogers’ Recommendation: The Titans head to Indianapolis looking for the season sweep of the Colts, who have played well since an 0-3 start. The Colts’ lone loss in their past four games came in overtime in a meltdown at Baltimore. Indianapolis hung with Tennessee the first time around this season in a 25-16 loss, but the Colts can catch the Titans in a letdown spot here after the two big home wins. Best Bet: Indianapolis -2.5.
Our Pick: Can’t turn down one of the AFC’s best teams against a division rival getting points. Titan up!
New England Patriots (+5 O/U 49) at LA Chargers
A compelling matchup because … the Patriots have played well in three out of their last four games but only have two wins to show for it. Trying to stay in the mix in the AFC playoff race, they will need to have their best performance of the season to beat the Chargers. This is a different LA team than the one that got embarrassed 45-0 by New England last season, but many of the players are the same and will likely be eager to avenge that blowout loss. If LA loses, it will likely be because Justin Herbert has his second consecutive poor performance.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Patriots (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS) are 2-1 over their last three games and just crushed the Jets 54-13, easily covering as 7-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Chargers (4-2 SU, 4-2 ATS) are coming off a bye after getting demolished by the Ravens 34-6 in Week 6, failing to cover as 3-point road dogs. This line opened with Los Angeles listed as a 6-point home favorite. The public is happy to lay the points with Herbert and company off a bye. Despite this lopsided betting, we’ve seen the line fall from 6 to 5. This indicates some respected money on Bill Belichick and the Pats plus the points, specifically at the key number of +6. Road teams that see the line stay the same or move in their favor are 41-32 ATS (56%) this season and short road dogs of +6 or less are 26-11 ATS (70%). Ron Torbert, the lead ref, has historically favored road teams (58% ATS). Give me the Pats plus the points.
Gable’s Guess: Of all the rookie quarterbacks, Mac Jones has probably been the most steady this year. He’s completed 70% of his passes with nine touchdowns, six interceptions and a 92.8 passer rating for New England. The Patriots’ offensive line had their best game of the year last week and were really able to get a nice push and open up some big holes to run through. It was a nice performance, but we have to remember it was the Jets they played. The Chargers’ run defense has been an area of concern as they’ve given up 150 yards on the ground in five of six games this season. In their last two games, they gave up more than 400 yards combined and six touchdowns. They certainly have to make some corrections and I’d expect New England to see if they can continue to successfully run the ball against LA. It should be a good barometer test then for LA’s defense. Herbert has been impressive this year for the Chargers, passing for 1,771 yards with 14 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 98.8 rating. I’d lean the Chargers here, but I like the under more.
Rogers’ Recommendation: New England’s offense finally busted out last week in a blowout of the Jets. Los Angeles got blown out at Baltimore two weeks ago which snapped a three-game winning streak. Last season, Belichick found a way to shut down Herbert in a blowout of the Chargers at SoFi Stadium. New England has suffered one bad loss this season, but has hung around in three losses to Miami, Tampa Bay and Dallas. Best Bet: New England +5.
Our Pick: Could see the Patriots winning this straight up — or getting blown out. But we’ll go Pats with the points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5, O/U 50) at New Orleans Saints
A compelling matchup because … these teams played three times last season, with New Orleans winning the first two matchups before losing the third one in the playoffs in the last game of Drew Brees’s NFL career. This will be the first game for former Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston as a starter against his old team and it’ll be interesting to see if he plays like his old, turnover-prone self. No team has scored more points in the NFL this season than Tampa Bay (233) and no team in the NFC has allowed fewer than New Orleans (101).
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bucs (6-1 SU, 3-4 ATS) have won four straight games and just waxed the Bears, easily covering as 12-point home favorites. The Saints (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS) have won two straight and three of their last four, most recently beating the Seahawks 13-10 but failing to cover as 5.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Tampa Bay listed as a short 4-point road favorite. The public rushed to the window to lay the points with Tom Brady and the lopsided support pushed Tampa up from -4 to -5.5. The Saints are in a classic contrarian home divisional dog spot. Conference dogs are 44-30 ATS (59%) this season. This feels like a tight game. Give me the Saints plus the points.
Gable’s Guess: Tampa decimated Chicago on Sunday. Brady continues to impress and the defense simply overmatched the Bears on Sunday. I feel like the Bucs are the best team in the NFC right now and they’re playing like it. New Orleans has a great defense, particularly against the run. On offense, they’ve had to lean on Alvin Kamara pretty heavily both running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield, which he’s great at doing. The Saints’ offense just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Tampa, especially with Brady firing on all cylinders like he is now. Playing in New Orleans is always tough, but I am going to lay the points with Tampa. They’re head and shoulders above where New Orleans is.
Rogers’ Recommendation: It’s the Winston revenge game as the Saints’ quarterback faces the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in 2015. Winston isn’t throwing as many interceptions as he did in Tampa Bay, but he’s also not putting up the gaudy passing numbers either. Tampa Bay is a runaway train right now, but the Saints are playing only their second game at the Superdome this season and are amazingly looking for their first home win. Best Bet: New Orleans +4.5.
Our Pick: Brady and the Bucs are rolling and the Saints can’t score. Lay the points with Tampa Bay.
Dallas Cowboys (-2, O/U 55) at Minnesota Vikings
A compelling matchup because … the Cowboys are unbeaten since losing the first game of the NFL season to the Bucs and have no real competition in the NFC Least with the Eagles, Giants and Washington Football Team all languishing at 2-5. In the NFC North, the Vikings are certainly better than the Bears and winless Lions but will need to win games like this one to have a shot at catching up with the Packers. The Cowboys can afford to lose this one; the same probably can’t be said for Minnesota.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Cowboys (5-1 SU, 6-0 ATS) are the only team to cover every game this season. In their last game, Dallas outlasted New England 35-29 in overtime, covering as 3.5-point road favorites. The Vikings (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) started 0-2 but have since gone 3-1, most recently beating the Panthers 34-28 in overtime, covering as 2.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Dallas listed as a short 1.5-point road favorite. When news broke of Dak Prescott’s calf injury, the line dropped. Even if he plays, I think Minnesota is in a sneaky sharp spot to cover or win outright. Minnesota is one of your top contrarian plays of the week. Primetime dogs are 14-7 ATS (67%) this season. I’ll take the Vikings at home in primetime.
Gable’s Guess: The Vikings have had a tough schedule and they’ve been fortunate to win some of the games they’ve managed to hang onto. They get rather conservative late in games with their play calling and that has allowed opposing teams to get back into games. Head coach Mike Zimmer has also been pretty questionable in his clock management. The Vikings tend to play in the style of their opponent a lot. They can get into an offensive shootout with the likes of Arizona and then have a grind-it-out game against Cleveland or play down to the level of Detroit. We know what we’re going to get from the Cowboys, so the Vikings are going to have to keep up in the passing game. They’ll need to get some pressure on Prescott as their secondary has been pretty sketchy this year. Dallas has benefited from getting a lot of turnovers this season. I don’t know if we’ll finally see some regression in that metric with Dallas, but I expect both of these teams will be able to move the ball. I’m going to take the over.
Rogers’ Recommendation: Both these teams are coming off the bye week. Dallas is coming off five straight wins overall, while Minnesota has split its first six games of the season, including two close losses against Cincinnati and Arizona to start the season. The Vikings are 2-1 at home this season. This is a big spot for Minnesota to forge above .500 and stay close to Green Bay for first in the NFC North. Best Bet: Minnesota +2.
Our Pick: If Prescott plays, lay the points. If not, we’ll side with the under on Sunday night.
Last Week: 4-1; Season: 17-17-1
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.