Nearing the midpoint of the (newly extended) NFL regular season, injuries are mounting and teams are sizing up their postseason chances as the Nov. 2 trade deadline looms.
Coaches of middling franchises have doled out public support for their quarterbacks while speculation persists over whether any team will trade for Deshaun Watson, who faces open investigations into sexual misconduct accusations.
In the meantime, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints are managing their injuries, the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers have made the most of bye weeks to get players healthy, and the Green Bay Packers must contend with players and staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus while preparing to face the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.
Amid all the personnel juggling in the league, the Detroit Lions could sneak to a first victory.
Below is a look at NFL Week 8, with all picks made against the spread.
Last week’s record: 8-5
Byes: Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders.
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
10 a.m., Fox
Line: 49ers -3½ Total: 39½
Coach Kyle Shanahan committed to Jimmy Garoppolo as San Francisco’s starting quarterback for the 49ers (2-4) against the Bears (3-4). His backup Trey Lance did not dress in Week 7 because of a knee injury, watching as Garoppolo threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a humbling loss to the Colts.
That dismal performance was still better than Justin Fields’ five turnovers against the Buccaneers last week. The Bears’ offensive line has allowed the most sacks in the league (26), which has also stunted the rookie quarterback’s adjustment to the pros. The 49ers will face a Bears defense playing without pass rusher Khalil Mack, which should allow San Francisco to cover easily. Pick: 49ers -3½
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
1:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Buccaneers -5 Total: 50
Tom Brady continues to defy age for the Buccaneers (6-1), throwing at least four touchdown passes in four of Tampa Bay’s seven games. Coach Bruce Arians said he was hopeful that tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs), linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) and cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring) would return to the team.
The Saints (4-2) are ascending but desperately need injured playmakers to return and reduce the load on running back Alvin Kamara. Deonte Harris (hamstring), a receiver and punt returner, and quarterback Taysom Hill (concussion) could be available, but receiver Michael Thomas is still recovering from an offseason ankle injury. Without him, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can focus on containing Kamara and baiting quarterback Jameis Winston into miscues against his old team. Pick: Buccaneers -5
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers
1:05 p.m. CBS
Line: Chargers -5½ Total: 48½
Running back Damien Harris has overcome his early-season fumbles to become a respectable carrier, ranking eighth in the NFL in rushing yards (437) for the Patriots (3-4). He should have a big day against the Chargers (4-2), who have one of the league’s worst rushing defenses.
But Los Angeles is coming off a loss to the Ravens and then a bye in Week 7, and should be raring to put up numbers. The Chargers’ secondary, led by safety Derwin James, is more than capable of containing New England’s rookie quarterback, Mac Jones. Pick: Chargers -5½
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
5:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Dallas -2½ Total: 54½
Jerry Jones said he expected quarterback Dak Prescott to play Sunday against the Vikings (3-3), barring any setbacks in practice after he injured his calf before the team’s bye week. Prescott’s availability should allow the Cowboys (5-1) to be competitive against Minnesota’s defense, which has allowed the league’s fifth-fewest passing yards (1,382). Kirk Cousins has struggled under pressure, but Dallas’ defense has only 11 sacks this season, the third-fewest in the league. Five of the Vikings’ six games have been decided by one score, and if its defense can limit Dallas’ passing attack, Minnesota could cover. Pick: Vikings +2½
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
10 a.m., CBS
Line: Browns -3½ Total: 42½
This game is as close to a “must win” as possible for the Steelers (3-3) and the Browns (4-3), who have lost ground in the AFC North to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Ravens.
It is unclear whether Baker Mayfield (shoulder) will play, though signs point to the return of running back Nick Chubb (calf), who practiced Monday after a two-game absence. Chubb and third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson won’t be enough to carry the Browns to a win against the Steelers’ seventh-ranked rush defense. Expect Pittsburgh to put up a fight to stay off the division’s floor, a challenge that gets easier if Cleveland backup Case Keenum is forced to make plays. Pick: Steelers +3½
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
10 a.m., CBS
Line: Titans -1 Total: 49
The Titans (5-2) have beaten teams considered to be Super Bowl contenders in the AFC and are riding a three-game win streak. The Colts (3-4) are also gaining momentum behind Carson Wentz’s safe passing (just one interception this season). But the Colts don’t have the league’s leading rusher, Derrick Henry, who is making a strong case for the Most Valuable Player Award. Henry plays for the Titans, who are the hotter team, and after their thorough dismantling of Kansas City last week, it would be safe to assume they will cover against a less talented offense. Pick: Titans -1
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
10 a.m., Fox
Line: Falcons -2½ Total: 46
Sam Darnold’s rapid descent after Carolina’s 3-0 start led to rumors that the team was interested in trading for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson before Tuesday’s trade deadline, despite Watson’s uncertain future as he faces accusations of sexual misconduct. Coach Matt Rhule has said Darnold will remain the quarterback for the Panthers (3-4), though he was benched in the fourth quarter of a loss to the New York Giants.
While Carolina has plummeted in the NFC South, the Falcons (3-3) have won three of their last four. Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts leads the team in receiving yards (471) and has developed into a dependable option, as has versatile back Cordarrelle Patterson. Atlanta’s offense should score more points while the Panthers continue to sputter, so expect the Falcons to cover. Pick: Falcons -2½
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
10 a.m., CBS
Line: Bills -13½ Total: 48
The Dolphins (1-6) are considered the most likely destination for Deshaun Watson, but so much is wrong with Miami’s roster that it is far-fetched to think it could be improved with one addition. The defense has allowed the most yards (2,904) in the league and is tied for 30th in passing touchdowns allowed (15). Coach Brian Flores has repeatedly said he’s sticking with Tua Tagovailoa, even against the Bills (4-2), a franchise that has a lot to teach Miami about properly developing a quarterback and surrounding him with dependable help and a strong defense. Pick: Bills -13½
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
10 a.m., Fox
Line: Eagles -3 Total: 47
As the Lions (0-7) the best winless team in recent NFL history? They’ve played competitively in nearly every game before unraveling late (usually because of a Jared Goff turnover). Detroit could finally snap the streak against the Eagles (2-5), who are plagued by an unbalanced and inconsistent offense. Jalen Hurts ranks in the top 10 in passing attempts (242), but in three straight games he has completed less than 60% of them. Philadelphia’s underutilized running back, Miles Sanders, injured his ankle and could be out, giving the Lions their best chance yet at a win. Pick: Lions +3
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
10 a.m., CBS
Line: Bengals -10 Total: 43½
Rookie Zach Wilson injured his knee in last week’s loss and is expected to miss at least two games, a devastating blow to the Jets (1-6), who have struggled under first-year coach Robert Saleh. The offense for the Bengals (5-2) ranks seventh in passing yards (1,839), and quarterback Joe Burrow leads the league in yards per completion, thanks largely to rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who is tied for third in touchdown catches (6). Don’t expect the Jets to keep up with Cincinnati in Wilson’s absence. The spread might be too low. Pick: Bengals -10
Los Angeles Rams at Houston Texans
10 a.m., Fox
Line: Rams -14½ Total: 48
Tyrod Taylor could return this week for the Texans (1-6) after rehabbing a hamstring injury that has kept him out since Week 2. That won’t matter. The Rams (6-1) should encounter little resistance attacking a defense that ranks last in rushing yards allowed (1,020) and 21st in passing yards allowed (1,724). The spread, while lopsided, seems about right. Pick: Rams -14½
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
1:05 p.m., CBS
Line: Seahawks -3½ Total: 44
Geno Smith has been sacked five times each in his two starts for the Seahawks (2-5) while Russell Wilson recovers from finger surgery. The team’s limited offensive production, coupled with a defense that ranks 29th in passing yards allowed (1,964) and 30th in rushing yards allowed (939), has dropped Seattle to the bottom of the NFC West. Their past two games have been decided by three points, which gives the Jaguars (1-5), fresh off their first win and rested from a bye, a chance to cover. Pick: Jaguars +3½
Washington Footballers at Denver Broncos
1:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Broncos -3 Total: 43½
The Broncos (3-4) have lost four straight after a 3-0 start against weak competition. Teddy Bridgewater is inconsistent in driving the ball downfield, and the defense, once thought to be the team’s strength, could not stop the Browns’ third-string running back from rushing for more than 100 yards last week. The Footballers (2-5) have also underperformed because of a defense that is surrendering the most passing yards in the league (2,104). Still, Washington feels like a safer bet because it has mostly played well against good competition. Pick: Footballers +3
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
5:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Kansas City -10 Total: 52
It is as if the NFL schedule-makers foresaw that Kansas City (3-4) would struggle this season and offered the team get-right games immediately after its toughest matchups. Patrick Mahomes is now tied for the league lead in interceptions (9), while the Giants’ Daniel Jones has played relatively responsibly compared with previous seasons.
As has been the case for weeks, it is unclear whether Saquon Barkley (ankle), Kenny Golladay (knee) or Kadarius Toney (ankle) will play, and now safety Jabrill Peppers is on injured reserve with knee and ankle injuries. Jones and the Giants (2-5) blew out the Panthers last week despite being short-handed, but they are unlikely to do the same against a motivated, embarrassed Kansas City team. Pick: Kansas City -10
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.