Here are my Week 8 picks against the spread:
St. Louis Rams +7 (vs. New England Patriots)
I was more than a little surprised when this line came out. The Rams may not be a great team, but they're 3-1 at home this season, and have the 10th-ranked defense in the league. The Patriots are coming off a rather ho-hum victory in overtime against the rival Jets, a game in which they were double-digit favorites to win. New England's offense, for whatever reason, has been less effective than it has been in previous years, and the Rams defense should be able to keep them from really running up the score.
St. Louis has been one of the pleasant surprises this year, and could pull back to .500 if they can upset the Pats. New England already has two losses against the NFC West, losing to both Seattle and Arizona, and while the Rams may not actually pull off the victory, I'm taking the touchdown for the home team in this one.
Philadelphia Eagles -2 (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
This should be a pretty interesting game between two teams coming off a bye week. The Falcons haven't looked all that impressive in recent weeks, although they are the last undefeated team standing.
The Eagles have looked good neither in victory nor defeat, turning the ball over repeatedly, and putting up a mere 17.2 points per game, good enough for 30th in the league. As ugly as it's been for Philadelphia, they are still 3-3 and in the hunt early on. The bye week should have given them some time to work through some of their issues and the extra rest should help get the offense going a bit. We saw just how explosive they could be down the stretch at the end of last season.
I'm betting they still have that potential to unleash, and a big home win against unbeaten Atlanta could be a momentum builder in the coming weeks. Philadelphia is loaded with talent if they can merely execute, and ultimately, they need this one a lot more than the Falcons do. I like the Eagles to pour on some points and cover at home.
Carolina Panthers +7.5 (at Chicago Bears)
The Panthers have to be one of the most disappointing teams of the year, and Cam Newton's press conferences have gotten more and more depressing. After a 1-5 start, Carolina's playoff hopes are pretty much out the window. Still, Carolina is another one of those teams with an explosive offense that has been unable to put it all together.
On the other hand, the Bears have the best defense in the league, not only by points against, but also in scoring, with an impressive five defensive touchdowns. The Bears should be a sizable favorite here, but I like the Panthers getting more than a touchdown.
I think it's likely that the Bears offense does not score enough points to cover, and I think the Panthers can keep it close. I also think it's likely enough that the Panthers pull a backdoor cover, trailing for the bulk of the game, but scoring a late touchdown in garbage time to get the cover.
Overall, I still think the Panthers are much better than their record indicates. They stepped up and played a good game at Atlanta a few weeks ago, losing by two points late. This is another opportunity for them to go against another good team. Don't be surprised if Cam finally delivers and Carolina pulls the upset.
All of our Week 8 picks will be posted on The Weekly Blitz page as they are made. Also, check out our Week 8 NFL consensus power rankings.