The key to making good picks against the spread as the season nears its halfway mark, by which point most teams have established reputations, is identifying favorable matchups. Those are what tend to swing any given game in one direction.
By now, the oddsmakers have a pretty good read on almost every team. The only exception would be streaky squads like the Dallas Cowboys. Otherwise, it's difficult to find any lines that appear quite a bit off, which only tends to happen in the early weeks.
Instead, it comes down to finding which teams are going to exploit weaknesses to cover the spread. With that in mind, let's check out the top picks on the board for Week 8, followed by a full set of picks. All spread information is courtesy of Vegas Insider.
New Orleans Saints (-11 vs. Buffalo Bills)
Talk about a terrible matchup for the Bills. Buffalo is 1-2 on the road and has to go into the Superdome, one of the league's toughest venues for road teams, to face a Saints squad that is unbeaten at home and is coming off a bye week.
Those factors alone are enough to spot the Bills a couple touchdowns. Beyond that, Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints offense get to face off with a Buffalo defense that ranks 21st against opposing aerial attacks and 24th overall in yards allowed.
As if that wasn't enough, the Bills are also dealing with lingering leg injuries to both of their running backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The more dynamic Spiller has been noticeably less explosive in recent weeks, which takes away most of the offense's big-play ability.
All told, there are simply too many things working against the Bills to think they will be able to keep this one close on the road. The Saints should be able to move the ball at will throughout the afternoon en route to at least a two-score win, likely more.
Prediction: Saints by 20
Oakland Raiders (+2.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
For years, the Steelers had one of the best defenses in football. While they are still among the league's best at defending the pass, they rank 19th against the run. That's where the Raiders should be able to get their edge on Sunday.
Like the Saints, the Raiders and their ninth-ranked rushing attack are coming off a bye. That means star back Darren McFadden and quarterback Terrelle Pryor should have received a chance to get back to full strength for the second half of the season.
Oakland is better than its 2-4 record would indicate. Three of those losses came against the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts. The schedule coming out of the bye isn't as tough, giving them an opportunity to make some progress.
Expect that to start against the Steelers. Although the line correctly pits it as a close game, the Raiders should hold the edge coming off the bye, playing at home and having the capability to move the ball consistently with the ground game.
Prediction: Raiders by three
Complete Spread Picks for Week 8
|Week 8 NFL Spread Picks|
|Date||Road Team||Home Team||Spread||Pick|
|Oct. 24||Panthers||Buccaneers||CAR -6.5||TB|
|Oct. 27||49ers||Jaguars (London)||SF -16.5||SF|
|Oct. 27||Browns||Chiefs||KC -7.5||KC|
|Oct. 27||Dolphins||Patriots||NE -6.5||NE|
|Oct. 27||Bills||Saints||NO -11||NO|
|Oct. 27||Cowboys||Lions||DET -3||DET|
|Oct. 27||Giants||Eagles||PHI -5.5||NYG|
|Oct. 27||Steelers||Raiders||PIT -2.5||OAK|
|Oct. 27||Jets||Bengals||CIN -6.5||NYJ|
|Oct. 27||Falcons||Cardinals||ARZ -2.5||ATL|
|Oct. 27||Redskins||Broncos||DEN -12.5||WSH|
|Oct. 27||Packers||Vikings||GB -9||GB|
|Oct. 28||Seahawks||Rams||SEA -11||SEA|
|Odds: Vegas Insider|