The Washington Football Team has a bye during NFL Week 8. However, the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens continue their successful 2020 campaigns.
For Virginia football fans, those two successful teams might be a nice distraction.
Last week, though, Washington snapped its five-game skid with a 25-3 win over its longtime rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. In a season of lowlights, the impressive all-around performance was a nice change of pace. As ESPN.com’s John Keim wrote:
“Washington beat Dallas the way it should have: handily. But after five straight losses and a painful defeat a week ago, Washington does not need to do anything other than embrace its best game of the season. … (I)t allows Washington to enter an off week feeling a lot better about itself.”
Last week’s win moved the WFT to 2-5 on the season (and 4-3 against the spread). However, head coach Ron Rivera now finds his team just percentage points behind the first-place Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1) in the NFC East.
So, for another week and a half, let’s focus on the positives. And they are: The Washington Football Team is coming off a win and still very much in contention.
With Washington resting up during its week off, here are other games of note that VA sports fans can enjoy:
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
The good news? The Baltimore Ravens are 5-1. Also, they’re one victory out of first place in the AFC North. Plus, their only loss came to the defending Super Bowl champs.
The bad news? Baltimore now faces its stiffest test of the year: a clash with the AFC North leaders. The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0) are the lone remaining undefeated NFL team. They earned that distinction after hanging on late to beat the Tennessee Titans, 27-24, last week in a battle of unbeatens.
Now, Sunday’s Ravens-Steelers game (1 p.m., CBS) is one of the week’s best matchups. It’s also one of bettors‘ most popular Week 8 games.
The Steelers, who are 5-1 ATS this season, opened as 5.5-point underdogs. However, the Steelers are far outpacing the Ravens, who are 3-3 ATS, in the total number of bets and total money wagered. Those Steelers bets had pushed the line down to +3.5 within 24 hours at many sportsbooks.
Meanwhile, the moneyline favors the Ravens (-195) over the Steelers (+170). Additionally, the total opened at 49 and was down to 46.5 by Wednesday afternoon.
Baltimore comes into this matchup well-rested after a bye week. The Ravens defense is allowing just 17.3 points per game, which is best in the NFL. However, Pittsburgh, behind resurgent quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is scoring 30.5 points per game, good for sixth-best in the NFL.
That matchup of the PIT offense vs. the BAL defense is one reason this is arguably Week 8’s best game.
Tennessee Titans (-5.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
We are about to learn how the 2020 Tennessee Titans rebound from adversity.
Last week’s heartbreaking loss to the Steelers was a real kick to the mouthpiece. The Titans rallied from a 27-7 deficit to make it 27-24 with 14 seconds left. However, kicker Stephen Gostkowski then missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, and the Titans’ perfect record was no more.
QB Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry were solid, though not their usual spectacular selves, in the defeat. They both need to reclaim some of their early-season magic to beat the wholly unpredictable Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS).
The Bengals are 1-5-1 this season. They’re also in the AFC North cellar. However, in a pivotal rookie season for QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati has seen some streaks of brilliance. And it’s not just from Burrow. Receiver and fellow first-year Bengal Tee Higgins has become a versatile weapon for an offense that seems ready to break out.
The Bengals need a statement win. Such a victory could turn around their season and ensure their investment in Burrow was a wise one. And against a Tennessee defense that gives up 401.8 yards per game (eighth-worst in the NFL), the Bengals have a golden opportunity.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-2.5)
The two teams are in third and fourth place in the NFC South. However, the Carolina Panthers (3-4) and Atlanta Falcons (1-6) should provide a spirited edition of Thursday Night Football (8:20 p.m., Fox).
The Falcons opened as 2.5-point ‘dogs, and the visitors have remained there as they head to Charlotte. Although Carolina is getting more bets, the overall wagered money has been pretty even.
The total, meanwhile, opened at 49. However, by Wednesday, it had crept up to 51.5. The two teams played three weeks ago and totaled just 39 points (the Panthers won, 23-16), so it may seem like a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. However, the line movement is probably a reflection of the two teams’ defensive struggles in 2020.
The Falcons are coming off a 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions. Assuming you’ve been on the internet the past week, you no doubt remember the details of the defeat and Todd Gurley‘s unintended touchdown:
Unlike their meeting earlier this month, Falcons QB Matt Ryan will have Julio Jones in action this week. Jones and Calvin Ridley have helped Atlanta to 311.6 receiving yards per game. That’s third-best in the NFL.
The Panthers, meanwhile, were on a three-game winning streak before recent losses to Chicago and New Orleans. The loss to the Saints highlighted the Carolina defense‘s struggles in stopping third-down conversions. It also marked the running backs‘ struggles to move the ball forward. Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater needs his entire offense to click before the season gets away.