Week 8 is here but four teams will have the opportunity to rest while the others grind out another week. Let’s examine the clubs on bye and determine which are locked & loaded to cash our NFL picks.
Buffalo Bills (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS)
The Buffalo Bills’ fan base was invigorated, energized and full of hope that a new regime would finally bring the franchise back to the days when Machine Gun Jim Kelly was shredding secondaries in the early 90’s. The team had an enthusiastic new owner and a garrulous coach who assured the long-suffering fans that the storm clouds had lifted and football in Buffalo was back.
It started out just the way everyone had anticipated. The Bills kicked off the season with a victory over divisional rivals the Miami Dolphins and then worked themselves into a frenzy as they awaited redemption when the perennial AFC East kings came to town in the form of the New England Patriots, Rex Ryan’s great White Whale. But the ending was familiar as the Pats triumphed 40-32 and a bit of the wind was sucked right out of the Bills’ sails. Fast forward to the present and Buffalo sits in last place in the AFC East with a 3-4 record fresh off a 34-31 defeat at the hands of one of the worst teams in football, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
To be fair the Bills have had their share of injuries from highly touted rookie Sammie Watkins to veteran wideout Percy Harvin and of course to their starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The coup of the offseason was trading for LeSean McCoy who has failed to average even four yards per carry on five occasions this season. McCoy too has been hamstrung by injuries (pun definitely intended) and gained only 68 yards on 18 carries for a 3.77 YPC average against the Jags. And the highly anticipated and retooled Buffalo defense has allowed an average of 24.7 PPG good for 19th place in the league.
The only thing that will turn this ship around is time and the ability to heal. The Bills get a chance to do exactly that before they return to face three consecutive divisional opponents that will most likely determine the fate of their season. The Bills begin that critical three-game stretch when they host Miami on November 8th.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS)
In the offseason the biggest dilemma in determining which team to include in your NFL picks to win the NFC East was whether you fancied the Eagles or the Cowboys. My oh my, what a difference seven weeks make as the Cowboys have been decimate by injuries to star players while Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense has sputtered spectacularly in Philadelphia. As of this writing the NFC East has turned into the NFC South of last season where every team in the division had a losing record. Well it’s not quite the bad thanks to the first-place New York Giants who are a tad over .500 with a 4-3 record but every other team is mired in the muck including the Philadelphia Eagles.
The truth be told Philadelphia’s season is far from over and a push after the bye could propel them to the top of the division and into the playoffs. It’s not that they have been so bad this season but the punch in the gut is that they were supposed to be so good. Sam Bradford was acquired to run this high performance machine like Jeff Gordon behind the wheel of a Bugatti Veyron. That has not come to pass as Bradford is ranked among the worst quarterbacks this season. He has looked indecisive and overwhelmed which is the last thing Kelly believed would happen if he was able to stay healthy.
The Eagles also landed last season’s AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year and former Cowboys’ All-Pro DeMarco Murray to be the thunder to Bradford’s lightning. Murray has struggled in a scheme that features sweeps rather than bull-rushes through the interior line allowing the power back to break tackles and run over people. As those two players go, so too go the fortunes of the Eagles this season. Philadelphia will travel to Dallas upon their return.
Washington Redskins (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS)
Had the Redskins gotten rolled by the Bucs last week this report would have had a decidedly different tenor. Washington was getting spanked by the lowly Bucs in their own playground in front of tens of thousands of disgruntled and disgusted Redskins fans. Midway through the second-quarter some of the DC crowd had seen enough and began leaving the stadium with their team behind 24-0. But when the second half came around Kirk Cousins found the nearest phone booth, tossed the horned rim glasses and changed into his Superman costume. Cousins roared out of the gate along with the Redskins offense and rallied for the largest comeback in franchise history with a 31-30 stunner over the Bucs.
The NFL odds makers had pegged the ‘Skins as three-point favorites in their Week 7 clash with the Bucs but even though they disappointed those who included them in their NFL picks, winning by only a point, it could be a real turning point in their season. RG3 is clearly in the rearview mirror at least for the remainder of this year and it is Kirk Cousins’ team whether anyone likes it or not. Cousins’ three second half touchdowns rallied his team to victory but Washington’s lack of a running game and short passes will not bode well in the long term. DeSean Jackson could make a big difference in stretching the field but without the run game their play action won’t be fooling anyone. Tight end Jordan Reed is the clutch receiver on this team but he can’t do it alone. DeSean where are you? The Redskins travel to New England when they return from their bye week.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5 SU, 3-4 ATS)
London came calling and the Jags answered the bell with a 34-31 victory over the favored Buffalo Bills at Wembley Stadium. It should have been all over when the Jaguars were uncharacteristically opportunistic recovering three second quarter turnovers and turning them into 21 points and drew out to a 27-3 lead. But Jacksonville doesn’t make things easy and instead of putting their foot on the throat of the snake they sat back and watched the Bills rally. Buffalo reeled off 28 unanswered points culminating in Corey Graham’s pick-six that moved the Bills in front 31-27. But if there was anything to be gained from this one it was Jacksonville’s ability to man-up and comeback. Blake Bortles looked every bit the venerated field marshal as he drove the Jags 84 yards and launched a 31-yard strike to seal the deal 34-31.
The Jags are pretty much what everyone believed them to be in the preseason – not very good. They rank 15th in passing yards which is a hopeful sign that they drafted the right guy a few years ago when they selected Blake Bortles with the third overall pick. But after that this team needs help. They are 24th in rushing, 23rd in points scored, 30th in points allowed, 22nd on passing defense but a surprising 11th defending the run. It remains a hot mess in J-Town but this victory might just give this team hope that they may in fact be better than everyone else is giving them credit. The Jags travel to New York to face the Jets upon their return.