Through Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
It’s never too early to look ahead to another NFL Sunday.
This week, I will bounce back with an NFC South team and cover back-to-back weekends with an NFC East team.
Here are my first best bets on two games in week 8 (odds via FOX Bet).
Panthers at hawks (1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)
I’ll put a pathetically bad Panthers team in the shade when they face a feisty Falcons team that ran into a buzzsaw team of Bengals on Sunday.
The Panthers — underdogs with nearly two touchdowns — embarrassed Tampa Bay to win 21-3 on Sunday in a game that didn’t even feel close. The Panthers started with their third quarterback of the season and were without Christian McCaffrey, who is now a 49er. It was a feel-good story. Feel-good stories in the NFL only last a week and don’t happen often on the street.
Now let’s look at Atlanta. The Falcons defense was without many starters in the back end of their secondary game against Cincinnati, and the Bengals took advantage. Joe Burrow threw for more than 400 yards with several explosive plays. The Falcons didn’t have a chance to stop their pass attack. Well, the Panthers don’t have that passing attack, and even if the Falcons go without some secondary figures again this week, they shouldn’t worry about conceding that many yards and points. Carolina’s inside offensive line will struggle to block Grady Jarrett.
I expect the Falcons’ running game to get back on track at home in their dome. The Panthers’ rushing defense looked strong against the Bucs because every rushing defense looks like the 1985 Bears against Tampa Bay. The Falcons’ rushing attack is so diverse, and when it rolls, it allows quarterback Marcus Mariota to hit play-action passes with success.
I like the Falcons recovering strongly this weekend.
SELECT: Falcons (-6.5 on FOX Bet) win by more than 6.5 points
commanders at foal (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)
The Colts continue to play bad football while the Commanders look very different in the lineup without Carson Wentz. No shock to this guy.
The Colts were pushed around on either side of the ball by the Titans. Matt Ryan was hit more than 10 times, and the news broke Monday Sam Ehlinger becomes the Colts’ new QB forward (more on that later). The Indianapolis running backs had just 16 rushes for just 63 yards. Tennessee dominated both sides of the line and this weekend isn’t going to get any easier. Washington’s defense is tough to deal with, and I’m not sure the Colts can function well without a running game on offense. On the other hand, the Titans’ Derrick Henry had 128 rushing yards and offense controlled the pace of the game.
I’ll say it again – the Washington Commanders are a different team without Carson Wentz taking the lead. Taylor Heinicke isn’t good, but he’s not bad either. Washington’s attack just has a different vibe when it’s in. He makes enough plays to keep his team in the game every time he’s in the lineup. It’s harder for them to win when playing against better teams with his style of play. The Colts aren’t a much better team, though, and now that Matt Ryan is benched for this game, I like Washington’s chances even more.
I expect the commanders to keep this game tight and give them a chance to find cover. I take them on Sunday.
SELECT: Commanders (+4 on FOX Bet) lose with less than 4 points (or win outright)
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
Download the FOX Super 6 app for your chance to win thousands of dollars at the biggest sporting events every week! Just make your choice and you could win the grand prize. Download and play today!
Get more out of the National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more