A Closer Look At The 2016 NFL Week 8 Free Picks
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (PK)NFL Week 8 Free Pick: Tennessee (PK)
Despite making a good leap in 2015 with Blake Bortles under the center as a second-year QB, Jacksonville Jaguars road woes continued, as the team won just one road game, a year after the Jags tallied zero road wins in 2014. So, even with more improvements expected from the Jags this year, I have reservations about being high on Jacksonville in its 2016 road games. Tennessee has conversely not been a strong home team either (2 home wins over the past two seasons), but Marcus Mariota showed signs that things could be different in Nashville this season. In his 12 starts, the former Heisman winner threw for 2,818 yards (on 62.2 completion percentage) and 19 touchdowns (against 10 picks) while also rushing for 252 yards.
That was in spite of not getting much support from his running game (Tennessee had the 7th-worst running offense in the NFL) and having an unreliable group of receivers. With better and more experienced receivers in 2016 and a sure-to-improve running game from the addition of former NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray and 2015 college football’s leading rusher Derrick Henry, the Titans offense will only get better this year. Combine that with a hungry-for-success group of defenders to take care of things at the other end of the field, the Titans should be good for the victory over the Jags in this Week 8 fixture.
Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) at Chicago BearsNFL Week 8 Pick: Minnesota (-2.5)
Chicago has had a variety of weaknesses over the past couple of seasons, but the weakest link of all has been the Bears’ poor record at home (won just three of the 16 games played at home over the past two seasons). Making matters worse, the Bears are 1-4 in their last 5 games against Minnesota. So whereas there is hope for a better efficiency by the Bears in 2016 after a solid offseason, it goes without saying that winning this game against the very disciplined Vikings won’t be easy. Plus, Adrian Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs are more than capable of matching up to whatever Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White will throw at them offensively if (and make that A Big IF) Minnesota’s superior defense fails to come up big in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (-1)NFL Week 8 Free Pick: Kansas City (+1)
The Chiefs are among the most underrated teams in 2016. In spite of having a consistent performer at quarterback in Alex Smith, a strong battle-tested defense that allowed less than 12 points in its final 10 games of the regular season (all of which ended in KC wins), and a solid running game that made big plays all season despite losing star running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5; the Oddsmakers and many bettors still have reservations about the team’s ceiling in 2016. If you belong to that school of thought, here’s the newsflash for you—the Chiefs are for real and are here to stay!
With Charles back, Smith and his offense will continue to be productive just in the same way KC’s experienced defense (Justin Houston et al.) will continue wreaking havoc against opposition. I know that Indy is impressively 13-2 in its last 15 games against Kansas City, but records are meant to be broken and the up-ticking Chiefs look primed to do that and much more in 2016. So, in short, Andrew Luck and his improved O-line will keep Indy in this game, but with an average group of offensive weapons at his disposal; Luck will be hard-done to outplay Smith and the extremely balanced Chiefs.
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-3.5)NFL Week 8 Free Pick: Carolina (-3.5)
I don’t expect Carson Palmer and the Cardinals to be manhandled by Cam Newton and the Panthers in this game, as was the case when Carolina delivered a resounding 49-15 win over Arizona in the NFC Championship game. But the reality is that the Newton and his multifaceted offense, along with Carolina’s ball-hawking defense, offer too many mismatches for the Cardinals pass-oriented game. And from the look of things, the Cardinals will still struggle to prevent the Panthers from running away with another win in this game. FYI, the Cardinals have lost their last three straight trips to Carolina, including the last two by 10-plus points.