The weekend is finally here, which means it is time to place your NFL bets! Last week, we went 1-2 for the fifth straight week. We got burned by a fourth quarter offensive explosion in New England, and a second-half offensive freeze-up from the Cardinals. That brings us to a paltry 8-12-1 on the season for the NFL portion of our Best Bets series. In terms of units, we only dropped 0.76 for the weekend, which puts us down 1.58 units on the year.
We aren’t too far gone yet. Getting back to positive is still within striking distance. This week’s match-ups look pretty ugly, but it all pays out just the same. All lines come via Draft Kings as of Friday evening. Also, be sure to catch my, and my fellow ATB bettors’, locks and underdogs of the week on Around The Book. Let’s get started and dive into the best NFL bets for Week 8!
Texans at Panthers: Panthers ML (+145)
Let’s kick things off with a (mildly) hot take. This is finally going to be the week in which the Panthers get their first win of the season. It won’t be easy. The Texans are better than expected this year. However, there is reason to believe Carolina can get it done.
As well as Houston is playing this year, this is still very much a rebuilding team. They don’t have a ton of high-level talent, and their rookie quarterback is still developing. There are no easy wins for a team in their position.
The Panthers are in a very similar boat. While they haven’t played quite as well as the Texans, it feels like that win is right around the corner. This pick is rooted more in vibes than data, but sometimes that’s what you need.
Vikings at Packers: Over 42 (-108)
We are switching it up this week and betting on the over. While this NFC North match-up may be ugly, it has significant potential for points. The Vikings have an offense that can put up points and a defense that struggles to stop anyone. On the flip side, Green Bay is average to below-average on both sides of the ball.
Minnesota should have no problem scoring against the Packers. Also, Green Bay should be able to score more than usual against a weak Vikings defense. It doesn’t hurt that we get the added chaos of a divisional matchup.
The most advantageous part of this pick is the line. At 42, it is clear the bookies are trying to adjust to all the low-scoring games we’ve seen this year. This is the time to pounce. Expect both of these teams to be somewhere in the mid 20s. The over may not hit by a lot, but it will get there. That is all that matters.
Chargers at Bears: Over 46.5 (-110)
Let’s keep the over bets going with some Sunday night fireworks. Both of these teams can score, and neither play great defense. Also, it seems as though the Bears offense hasn’t missed a beat with Tyson Bagent at quarterback in place of the injured Justin Fields.
Offensively, the Bears and Chargers combine to average a little over 46 points per game. That doesn’t look great for the over, but it gets a lot better when you look at the defenses. On that side of the ball, these two teams give up over 52 points per game combined.
It is hard to say who will win this game, but we know there will be plenty of scoring. This game will likely be a race to 30 points. Hammer the over.
The first major part of free agency is now essentially over. At the time of this writing, it’s been nearly two weeks since free agency started, and most free agents have found their home for the next year. Of course, there are a ton of quality players who remain unsigned, but we’ve definitively passed the first checkpoint of free agency. With that complete, here are three winners and losers from the NFL free agency period up to this point.
Winner: Detroit Lions
Detroit has one of the youngest, most exciting rosters in the NFL. The Lions missed the playoffs last year by the skin of their teeth, despite an impressive 2022 campaign.
With money to spend, the Lions made a handful of moves. Detroit signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley, and Cameron Sutton on the defensive side of the ball. Those three should dramatically improve a secondary that was torched for most of the 2022 season.
They lost Jonathan Williams, but replaced him with a more-than-capable David Montgomery. Losing Williams might hurt the locker room, but this young team is easily one of, if not the, biggest winners from the first wave of NFL free agency.
Loser: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are coming off a wildly successful year, but their roster has taken a bit of a hit during this free agency period.
The Eagles have lost a whopping seven starters to free agency this year. Javon Hargrave, T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, C.J. Gardner Johnson, and Marcus Epps have left the defensive side of the ball. The offense has lost Miles Sanders and Isaac Seumalo. All this adds up to the Eagles being one of the big losers from the NFL free agency period thus far.
This isn’t exactly a surprise. Philadelphia had a laundry list of players hitting the market this offseason, without the funds to keep them all. Still, losing seven starters hurts, and this team will look very different come training camp.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have had a very interesting offseason. Carolina sent an envoy of assets to Chicago for the number one pick. They’ve recouped some of those in free agency as well.
Carolina did have to send away their star receiver, D.J. Moore, in order to get the first pick. However, they recovered some of that lost talent by signing Adam Thielen. Staying on the offense, the Panthers also picked up tight end Hayden Hurst, running back Miles Sanders, and wide receiver D.J. Chark. With these additions, whichever quarterback they take will have a lot of weapons around him.
Loser: Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have undergone more change than most of the NFL as a whole during this offseason. They’ve rid themselves of Derek Carr and Darren Waller, with many fans wondering who the next player to go is.
Jimmy Garoppolo will be their quarterback in 2023, but his deal makes it so he can be cut after a year without too much dead money. It seems like Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler are aiming for a Patriots reunion, picking up Jakobi Meyers to pair with Garoppolo. The Raiders have made every move possible on offense, while mind-numbingly ignoring a defensive unit that, on paper, is easily one of the worst in the league.
The Raiders are in NFL purgatory. They don’t know whether they want to contend or rebuild, and by not making a choice, they’ve made the worst choice possible.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons made a variety of key signings during this period. Atlanta is a team on the rise, and with some of their moves this offseason, they seem to be just a quarterback away from contention.
On defense, the Falcons were able to grab Jesse Bates and David Onyemata. On offense, they added Mack Hollins and Jonnu Smith. These two, with Drake London and Kyle Pitts will make for a dynamic receiving corps.
Atlanta just needs their quarterback now. Whether their franchise quarterback will come through the draft, a trade, or he’s already in house, one thing is for sure: The Falcons have set themselves up very well and are a clear winner of this year’s NFL free agency period so far.
Loser: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have found themselves in quite the pickle. Green Bay has had a bit of a stagnant free agency, but their hands are tied. The main reasons for this are a lack of cap space, and the whole Aaron Rodgers situation.
The Packers do have his predecessor in Jordan Love, but they’ve been put in a precarious situation. Until they agree with the Jets on compensation for a Rodgers trade, their lack of cap space prevents them from signing any new free agents.
After the Rodgers saga is over, the Packers might very well come out of this offseason in a better place. As of now though, their lack of ability to sign notable free agents makes them a loser up to this point in the NFL free agency period.
In a move many have expected over the first five weeks of the season, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has fired head coach Matt Rhule. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season. Wilks was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. Rhule will reportedly still make $834,000 a month for the next 48 months courtesy of the Carolina Panthers.
Rhule has not won more than five games in a season. With a 1-4 start, the hope for anything positive this year has almost completely evaporated. He has fielded five QBs over three seasons with little to no offensive consistency to be found. The injuries to All-Pro RB Christian McCaffery have not helped the situation, but even when he does play, the passing attack is hit or miss. So why was Matt Rhule fired after just five weeks? Let’s take a look at the aftermath.
Why did Carolina fire Matt Rhule?
This decision felt inevitable with how the Panthers have played this season, but the one win Rhule did get this year wasn’t enough to save how anemic Carolina has looked all year. It will be interesting to see if Rhule’s firing also spells an end to quarterback Baker Mayfield’s time as the starter for the Panthers.
After this 1-4 start, Rhule sits with a career record of 11-27, the least successful head coaching stint in Panthers history. One of the main reasons people expect Tepper fired Rhule so early in the season is it gives him a chance to find a job with a college football team.
Where Does Rhule Go Now?
Rhule and Tepper agreed to a seven-year/$62 million contract after the 2020 season. While no one knows how much guaranteed money is left in the deal, if Rhule gets a new opportunity in the upcoming NCAA hiring cycle, the Panthers would get a dollar-for-dollar credit for the $40 million buyout.
Rhule was hired due to his success and quick turnarounds at both Temple and Baylor. There are a lot of openings that have come up across the college football landscape. It seems unlikely he would fill Wisconsin’s vacancy. However, Rhule could be the perfect candidate to rebuild a program like Nebraska, Colorado, or Arizona State.
Rhule is a phenomenal college head coach, but it seems the NFL was a bit more than he could handle. After leading Temple to an AAC conference championship in 2016, Baylor brought Rhule in to take over a Baylor team recovering from the Art Briles sexual assault scandal. The Bears went 1-11 in 2017 but bounced back to 6-6 in 2018 where he won his first bowl game, the Texas Bowl, against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
His college career culminated in an 11-1 2018 season where Baylor lost an extremely close Big 12 championship game to the Oklahoma Sooners. Rhule was hired and with Carolina before he could coach the Sugar Bowl which Baylor also lost. His track record of rebuilding college teams is clear not everyone is made for the NFL.
Editor’s Note: Per a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Carolina Panthers have also fired defensive coordinator Phil Snow
The NFC South saw a lot of changes this off-season with stars leaving and joining like crazy. Tom Brady faked a retirement and now the NFC South will continue to run through Tampa. Will there be a team to knock off the GOAT? Here’s a look at the offseason moves and a preview of predictions for the NFC South.
NFC South Preview
4. Atlanta Falcons
Key losses – RB Mike Davis, DE Steven Means, TE Hayden Hurst, OLB Dante Fowler Jr., CB Fabian Moreau, LB Foyesade Oluokun, LS Josh Harris, SS Duron Harmon, WR Russell Gage, P Thomas Morstead. QB Matt Ryan
Key additions – QB Marcus Mariota, CB Casey Hayward, OLB Lorenzo Carter, LB Rashaan Evans, RB Damien Williams, WR Bryan Edwards, WR Drake London, DE Arnold Ebiketie, LB Troy Anderson, QB Desmond Ridder, RB Tyler Allgeier
Re-signed – RB Cordarrelle Patterson (2-years), CB Isaiah Oliver (1-year), S Erik Harris (1-year)
In head coach Arthur Smith’s first season in Atlanta, the Falcons went 7-10, finishing 3rd in the NFC South. This would be quarterback Matt Ryan’as last season in red, as he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. The rebuild is underway for the Falcons and they need to find their franchise QB.
The offense last season finished 29th in the NFL in total offense. They were horrible running the ball, finishing in the bottom three of the league in both yards per carry and yards, and it doesn’t look like it’ll get better this season.
The offensive line is one of the worst in the league, with only two quality starters: tackle Jake Matthews and guard Chris Lindstrom. This doesn’t seem to bode well for Cordarrelle Patterson, who is looking to prove last year’s breakout wasn’t a fluke.
Tight end Kyle Pitts looked good in his rookie season, but is hoping to breakout in a big way this season. The receiving weapons are weak, so Pitts needs to step up. The next most important wideout is rookie Drake London. Two young players could be the focal point this season, and possibly a third if quarterback Desmond Ridder ends up playing. It’ll be another long season for this Falcons offense, as they look to find their identity without Matt Ryan.
It wasn’t pretty on the defensive side last season for the Falcons, either. They finished 26th in total defense, as they were one of the worst teams against the run. The defensive line is better, but still one of the worst in the league. Lorenzo Carter was their biggest upgrade this offseason, so they won’t have to worry about defensive tackles Grady Jarrett getting all the attention.
The linebacker corps isn’t any better than the defensive line. Deion Jones was once thought to be the next great linebacker, but that is proving to be wrong. Rookie Troy Anderson will be the one to watch this year, as he looks to be the spark in the group.
The secondary is the lone bright spot of this defense. A.J. Terrell is one of the best corners in the NFL, with Casey Hayward and Isaiah Oliver creating a solid trio at that position. Erik Harris and Jaylinn Hawkins still have a lot to prove as the safety tandem, but are above average. This defense looks to struggle again this season, hoping to find their long-term solutions at several positions.
The Falcons continue to try to find a way back to the playoffs, and I don’t see that happening this year. They’ll be one of the worst teams in football, finishing 4-13 and will go 1-5 against the NFC South this season.
Key additions – OG Austin Corbett, S Xavier Woods, P Johnny Hekker, LB Damien Wilson, DE Matthew Ioannidis, C Bradley Bozeman, QB Baker Mayfield, OT Ikem Ekwonu, QB Matt Coral
Re-signed – CB Donte Jackson (3-years), CB Rashaan Melvin (1-year), TE Ian Thomas (3-years)
Extensions – K Zane Gonzalez (2-years, $4.5 million), D.J. Moore (3-years, $61 million)
The Panthers finished dead last in the NFC South last season after going 5-12. However, they traded for quarterback Baker Mayfield to take over. They now have two of the top three picks, both quarterbacks, from the 2018 NFL draft. We’ll have to see if Baker can turn it around in Carolina.
Last year’s offense was ranked 30th in the NFL, and that’s part of the reason they brought in Mayfield. He is hoping to help improve from being the 29th ranked passing attack from last season. Wideouts D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson provide solid weapons for Baker to throw to. Moore specifically was given an extension and is looking to prove the money was worth it.
The offensive line is below average, as a lot depends on how rookie tackle Ikem Ekwonu will translate to the NFL. They have potential to become an average line this season, if Ekwonu can breakout. The line will look better if running back Christian McCaffery can stay healthy. He is the most electric back in the league when healthy, as he is elite in both the run and pass game. This offense’s success will ultimately come down to Baker Mayfield and if he can turn it around from last season.
The defense was a different story last season. They finished second in total defense after being lockdown against the pass. They lost some pieces to that defense, so I expect a dip in production. The line is young, with veteran defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis now leading the way. I have this group as borderline top 20 in the league.
The linebacker corps is the best part of the defense, with Shaq Thompson looking like a star. They have Frankie Luvu next to him to provide a solid duo in the group. Even after losing Stephon Gilmore, the cornerbacks are still solid. Jaycee Horn looks to come back as strong as he was before the injury, and Donte Jackson is a consistent corner next to him. The safety duo of Xavier Woods and Jeremy Chinn is solid, as they both thrive in different areas of the game.
Going from Sam Darnold to Baker Mayfield is an upgrade, but won’t be enough for the Panthers this season. I believe they will finish 6-11, going 2-4 in the NFC South. This will be the year to see if Mayfield can be a starter down the road.
2. New Orleans Saints
Key losses – FS Marcus Williams, QB Trevor Siemian, OT Terron Armstead, WR Ty Montgomery, ILB Kwon Alexander, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Key additions – HC Dennis Allen, FS Tyrann Mathieu, FS Marcus Maye, QB Andy Dalton, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Chris Olave, OL Trevor Penning, CB Alontae Taylor
Re-signed – QB Jameis Winston (2-years), WR Tre’quan Smith (2-years), CB P.J. Williams (1-year)
In Sean Payton’s last season as the Saints head coach, they went 9-8, just missing the playoffs. New head coach Dennis Allen will look to do better this season and challenge the Buccaneers for the division title. A solid offseason will give them a chance in a weak NFC.
The offense in 2021 finished 28th in the NFL, and was easily the weak point in this team. They have Jameis Winston at quarterback, who is fully capable of leading the passing attack. He gets some weapons this year, with wideouts Michael Thomas coming back from injury, and Jarvis Landry coming over from Cleveland. Add rookie Chris Olave to the mix, and they should jump up from their 32nd ranked passing attack last season.
The run game is still elite, with Alvin Kamara leading the way. He is a key part to this team’s success, and could be heavily leaned on. The offensive line will be key, as they have rookie Trevor Penning eyeing to show he is the future at left tackle. Besides Penning, they need to get more from their offensive line, as it’s a top 20 group at-best.
The strong point of this team was the defense. They finished seventh in total defense and will be looking to continue their greatness. They have a top ten defensive line that includes edge rusher Cameron Jordan bringing the pressure. The linebacker corps is one of the best in the league, headlined by Demario Davis, who is back on a one-year deal.
The defense is backed by a strong secondary. Marshon Lattimore is one of the league’s best corners, and Paulson Adebo is looking to improve going into his sophomore season across from him. They have Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu deep as the safety tandem, and that should be a top duo.
The Saints are still looking for their identity on offense since Brees retired, and I believe Jameis Winston can be the guy to help find it. I have the Saints finishing 10-7 and going 4-2 in the NFC South.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key losses – P Bradley Pinion, OG Alex Cappa, RB Ronald Jones II, S Jordan Whitehead, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Ndamukong Suh, TE Rob Gronkowski, OG Ali Marpet
Key additions – WR Russell Gage, DE Akiem Hicks, WR Julio Jones, TE Kyle Rudolph, SS Keanu Neal, CB Logan Ryan, DL Logan Hall, OL Luke Geodeke, RB Rachaad White
Re-signed – RB Leonard Fournette (3-years), DE William Gholston (1-year), LS Zach Triner (2-years), QB Blaine Gabbert (1-year), CB Carlton Davis III (3-years, $44 million), C Ryan Jensen (3-years),
Extensions – WR Chris Godwin (3-years, $60 million), DT Vita Vea (4-years, $73 million)
The 2021 Buccaneers would finish last season losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. It was still a successful season as they went 13-4, running away with the NFC South. With Tom Brady back at quarterback, they should have another successful season.
The offense ranked secnod in the NFL last season, with the top passing game in the league. They should still be ranked in the top five in passing this season. Brady has weapons to throw to with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin still there, and tight end Cameron Brate looking to make a huge impact.
The offensive line is still elite, even with the losses they’ve endured. Shaq Mason and Tristan Wirfs lock down the right side of the line as an elite duo. This should open up lanes for running back Leonard Fournette, who is looking to help Tampa rise from the 26th ranked rushing attack last season. With the GOAT at quarterback, the Bucs should scare any defense.
Defensively, the Buccaneers finished 13th in the NFL last season. They didn’t lose anyone who would change that either. With Vita Vea and Shaquil Barrett, they will be bringing pressure from all over. On top of that, a top ten linebacker trio doesn’t hurt either. Lavonte David has been elite for years now, and Devin White is looking to get back on track next to him this season.
The scariest part of the defense is the secondary. Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting create a top-tier trio that can be lockdown every week. Add in elite safety in Antoine Winfield Jr. next to a high-quality starter in Logan Ryan as the safety tandem, and it becomes a top five secondary in the league, easily. This defense could be the strongest part of this team this year, and will look to lead them to a playoff run.
They ran away with the NFC South last season, and I expect the same this year. I have Tampa Bay going 13-4 after going 5-1 against the rest of the NFC South. Tom Brady is still there — and won’t be missing the playoffs any time soon.
This season, the NFL has allowed teams to have more than one colored helmet to wear. The rule change saw 13 NFL franchises introduce new helmets for their alternate uniforms.
Before I begin, I want to clarify what I ranked these helmets based on. There were three factors that went into my ranking: 1. Does the helmet itself look good? 2. Does the helmet fit with the rest of the uniform? 3. Could the team have done more with the helmet? With that in mind, here is my ranking for these new helmets.
The New NFL Alternate Helmets: 13-6
13. Chicago Bears
I attend a school that wears orange helmets with its orange uniforms. It doesn’t work too well. Same thing goes for the Bears. The traditional navy helmet works so much better with any of Chicago’s jerseys, especially its orange one. This alternate helmet is a miss for one of the NFL’s most iconic teams.
12. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals messed up big time with their new helmets. Arizona plans to wear these with its color rush uniforms. The red pops out with the black real well with those, so why not do the same with the helmets? If these had a red face mask, this could’ve been one of the better helmets. But instead, they go with a bland, black design.
11. Washington Commanders
I’m glad that Washington didn’t leave the “numbers on the helmet” look behind when it rebranded. However, the execution this time around feels poor. The “W” in the front doesn’t sit well. Maybe a stripe, like the Commanders’ primary helmets, would’ve been better. This helmet isn’t bad by any means, but ten other teams did a better job than Washington.
10. Carolina Panthers
This one might have to grow on me a bit. I like the all black concept the Panthers created, but this helmet feels almost too dark. From the photos, it’s difficult to see the Panthers logo. The colors mesh well together, but nothing pops out to the eye.
9. Houston Texans
The helmet itself is one of the best that have been introduced. What’s upsetting is the Texans plan to wear these with their red uniforms, according to gridiron-uniforms.com. These would look significantly better with their blue-with-red-lettering color rush jerseys. The all-red look Houston plans to wear doesn’t sit with me well.
8. New Orleans Saints
The Saints introduced a new look this offseason, and it’s not bad. The fleur-de-lis down the middle helps this helmet represents New Orleans well, and black and gold go together like bread and butter. However, nothing about this helmet stands out; it’s a bit bland. Maybe a gold face mask would help?
7. New York Jets
Now we’re getting to the helmets I really like. The Jets’ nailed this one. New York’s black uniforms look even better with this helmet. The green on the logo and face mask (take note, Cardinals) pop out and give the uniform more vibrance.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles kept their helmet change simple, and I’m all for it. They switched from an already-fresh midnight green and black look to a more fitting all black uniform. A slight change for the better.
NFL Alternate Helmets: The Top 5
5. Dallas Cowboys
The Thanksgiving uniforms worn in the late 2000s and early 2010s are iconic. Dallas finally gets the chance to bring them back this year. The simplicity of the helmet gives the Cowboys an old school look, something that somewhat resembles a cowboy. The white pops out with the rest of the uniform, and I love it.
4. New York Giants
The Giants’ white throwback uniform has been a staple amongst fans for a few years now. It’s about time they brought the blue back. The darker shade of blue on the helmet gives the uniform a more classic look. On top of that, the “GIANTS” along the side is significantly better than the block “NY”. A perfect helmet for a classic uniform.
3. New England Patriots
The Pat Patriot look is back! The red, white, and blue look has long been one of the best looks in football. The white stands out with the red jersey really well, giving New England a patriotic look. As someone who watched many Patriots games growing up, I’m so happy to see these back in action.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Finally. Ever since the Bengals introduced their all-white uniforms, fans have been screaming for the Bengals to wear while helmets. Everyone’s wish came true, and this looks so clean. The new helmets put these uniforms in the conversation for the best in the NFL.
1. Atlanta Falcons
When the Falcons got new uniforms in 2020, I was disappointed they went with black helmets instead of red. Now you see why. The red and black look with a sliver of gold bring back ’80s nostalgia, a more authentic throwback, and one of the cleanest looks in the NFL. It’s about time Atlanta brought these back. These are, without a doubt, the best of the NFL alternate helmets