Youmans: My five best bets for week 8 of the NFL

When the Green Bay Packers lose, it’s never Aaron Rodgers’ fault.

Disclaimer: The preceding sentence is intended to be sarcastic, although many media fans and cheerleaders seriously believe it. Rodgers probably thinks so too.

Rodgers is the best part of the Packers more than 90% of the time, but that wasn’t true a week ago in a loss to Washington and it must be true Sunday at Buffalo – otherwise, the poor start to the season from Green Bay will go from bad to worse.

Rodgers is a double-digit underdog for the first time in his career, and his inconsistent play is a contributing factor. The Packers (3-4) are also in this predicament as the Bills (5-1) establish themselves as the No. 1 team in the NFL.

League MVP in 2020 and 2021, Rodgers is not going to triple. The quarterback he’s up against this week, Josh Allen, is the MVP favorite for good reason. Allen is averaging 330 passing yards per game with 17 touchdowns and also leads the team with 257 rushing yards.

Buffalo has the best defense in the league (13.5 PPG). The Bills won their two home games against Pittsburgh and Tennessee by an average of 34.5 PPG while allowing a total of 10 points.

There’s no shortage of bad news for the Packers, whose problems are mostly offensive. Rodgers produced just 10 points in a loss to the Jets the week before putting 14 on the board — the Green Bay defense scored on an interception return — in a 23-21 loss at Washington. After the collapse against Commanders, Rodgers made public comments that blamed some teammates when he said players who make mistakes shouldn’t be on the pitch.

It’s fine for a team leader to call the lazy. However, a movie review of the game showed Rodgers making a few bad calls and missing several pitches to open up receivers. It’s Rodgers’ offense, and the play call needs to be better. Packers coach Matt LaFleur is smart enough to let Rodgers run the show, but not sharp enough to know the answers to what’s wrong. Green Bay needs to regain its lost running offense and get the ball more often to Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, who combined for just 12 carries and 38 yards against Washington.

Injuries complicate the picture. Wide receiver Allen Lazard is out with a shoulder injury and left tackle David Bakhtiari is questionable with a sore knee. And that’s just the most important part of the Packers’ lengthy injury report.

Heading into a bye week, the Bills picked up a 24-20 win at Kansas City, setting them up to claim the AFC’s top seed. Most handicappers assume the bye is positive, due to the extra time to regain health, but the layoff sometimes disrupts the moment of a scorching offense. Green Bay has to hope the offense led by Allen is a little off, as the Packers need all the help they can get to stay competitive in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers has a 13-game winning streak in primetime games — the longest of any quarterback since 1970 — with 36 touchdown passes and two interceptions. It’s different because he’s now riding a three-game losing streak. The betting public may be right to expect another outburst from Buffalo, but Rodgers and the points are a catch for contrarian cappers and “dog lovers.”

Jaguars (-2) vs. Broncos: It might be wise to sleep in Sunday morning. Expect this game to be weak and lousy, which has been the trend for Denver with its tough defense (No. 2 in scoring, 16.4 PPG) and terrible offense. Jacksonville is a tough team to bet on due to questionable game management calls from Doug Pederson and inconsistency from quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars have experience playing in London and winning there, posting a 4-4 record. It’s probably best to shut the Broncos down until coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson prove they can put on a good performance.

Steelers (+10.5) over EAGLES: Philadelphia has an impressive balance of rushing passes to an offense that ranks No. 5 in yards per game (394.5) and No. 4 in scoring (26.8). It’s hard to find a weakness on either side of the ball, but if the Eagles have a fault it’s that they tend to run to big leads in the first half before the attack slows down dramatically in the second. half time. When a team is rolling, a week off sometimes interrupts that rhythm, so Philadelphia needs to overcome that possible hurdle. With the exception of a 38-3 loss at Buffalo, the Steelers have been within a point in the final two minutes of their other six games. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is improving, and the Pittsburgh defense has allowed just 34 total points over the past two games.

Patriots (-2.5) over JETS: New England’s defense was exposed Monday by the Bears’ running offense and their moving quarterback, Justin Fields. It’s going to be a very different kind of game, and Jets quarterback Zach Wilson hasn’t been a big threat — running or throwing. A season-ending injury to explosive rookie running back Breece Hall is a big setback for the New York offense. The Patriots were starting to play at a high level before this week’s fiasco in Foxborough, but they should get back on track here with either quarterback — Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe.

BROWNS (+3.5) on the Bengals: Nick Chubb, the league’s leading rusher with 740 yards, probably gives Cleveland half of what it needs to win this game. The other half is a pass rush to pressure Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow. Ja’Marr Chase’s injury-free status takes away Burrow’s favorite target, so it’s a big factor in siding with the Browns — especially with 3.5 still available in a few pounds — in the battle for the Ohio.

Last week: 2-3 ATS

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