Week 8 NFL Picks: Sides & Totals

Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Image Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Each week, BetPrep NFL Sharp “Tommy The Hitman” discusses every game through the eyes of a professional sports bettor with host and 30-year sports talk radio vet Jody McDonald of CBS Sports Radio.

Here are some recent highlights from the latest episode of Hot Read Hits, the official NFL podcast of BetPrep:

Packers (+6.5) at Cardinals, Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET

My power rank has the Cardinals just 4.5 better than the Packers.

Davante Adams is out with COVID and that historically has meant a bump in the passing game for Aaron Jones. In those non-Adams games, Jones has averaged 124.7 yards on 19.2 touches, including a 17.8% target share (29-337-4 on 36 targets).

In two games without Adams in 2020, Aaron Rodgers threw for 610 yards with seven TDs and zero picks (Saints, Falcons). And in his last six games without Adams, Rodgers is 6-0 straight up with 1,885 yards, 17 TDs and 1 INT (125.2 passer rating).

Kyler Murray has dominated in the first half of games. He’ll face a Green Bay defense that has had a soft schedule of opposing QBs. In fantasy, Murray is the top scoring QB in the first halves but No. 17 in the second. Just 12.4% of his scoring, the league’s lowest, has come in the fourth quarter. Of course, the undefeated Cardinals have not had to throw much late in games.

While the Packers have more injuries, the Cardinals are also without some key players, including defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who is out for the season. Given that Rodgers is still a top-tier QB without Adams, historically, this line is inflated. Green Bay should also run the ball well not only with Jones but also with A.J. Dillon versus an Arizona run defense that is second-worst in the NFL in yards allowed per carry.

49ers (minus-3.5) at Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

My power rank has the Niners as 4.5-points better.

The Bears are a historically bad passing offense: The 871 net passing yards for the Bears are their fewest through seven games in a season since 1979 (749). It is the fewest amount of net passing yards at this point in a season for any team since the 2006 Raiders (861 yards). The team has three TD passes.

The Bears are last in the league in sack-rate allowed (12.6%). But the 49ers pressure is not what it was expected to be. San Francisco’s pressure rate is 23rd (21.6%), the lowest of any defense the Bears have faced.

Chicago relies on the run (51.3% of yards gained). But the 49ers are allowed only 3.8 yards per carry (seventh best). The 49ers should be able to run against a Bears defense that is 29th in yards allowed per carry to running backs. So look for Elijah Mitchell to have a big day.

Chicago’s defense overall has been solid but Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks are possibly out. So Chicago not only has the league’s worst offense but also a defense that projects to struggle. Back San Francisco.

Steelers at Browns (minus-3.5), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

My power rank has the Browns minus-6. But I expect Baker Mayfield to start, and the Browns will be relatively healthy.

The Steelers will likely be in second/third and long given Cleveland is allowing a league-low 4.6 yards per play on first down. And the Steelers 4.0 yards per play on first down is actually last in the league.

Expect Ben Roethlisberger to be harrassed. He’s immobile. Pittsburgh has a bad offensive line. And the Browns are second in the NFL in pressure percentage. And again, most of his passing situations will be obvious. Overall, the Steelers rushing efficiency is again poor (3.8 per carry) despite first-round rookie Najee Harris being the bell-cow back. Cleveland allows just 3.6 yards per tote to opposing backs.

This game is a mismatch in Cleveland’s favor. Back the Browns.