NFL Week 8: Bengals Can Keep Things Interesting At Wembley15 min read
The NFL returns to London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams host the Cincinnati Bengals. Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham looks ahead this clash and others ahead of Week 8.
Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings
All bar one of this week’s slate of 13 games sees the home team as handicap favourites and the Vikings’ clash with the Redskins offers the biggest spread of all.
Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer is 1-4 on Thursday nights with four of those games coming on the road, but the stats are in Minnesota’s favour, as hosts have a 45-31 record in TNF games since the beginning of the 2014 season.
The Vikings did, however, suffer a few injuries against Detroit on Sunday, including receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring), who seems likely to see a streak of 87 consecutive starts ended. Yet it did not hamper progress, as QB Kirk Cousins averaged 9.3 yards per completion and connected with seven different receivers, taking plenty of deep shots off effective play action.
That can only be achieved with a healthy running game, and the Vikings have the third-ranked rushing attack, which earned another 166 yards in a 42-30 road win.
2019 Rushing Yards Leaders through Week 7! ??
— NFL (@NFL) October 23, 2019
Washington were blanked at home by the 49ers on a rain-sodden field. Their offense has been woeful, managing three points against the Giants, seven vs the Patriots, 17 against the hapless Dolphins in securing their only win (by a point, it must be added), and never looked like finding a way past San Francisco’s defense.
The only real question is whether they will be able to take advantage of the hosts, who could rest a few starters with back-to-back road trips at Kansas City and Dallas upcoming.
The BetVictor NFL handicap sees the Redskins as 14.5-point underdogs at odds of 10/11 and poor as they have been, you can bet running back Adrian Peterson will want to put on a show against one of his former teams.
The Skins have a fair record in the Twin Cities as well, winning five of their last eight. While dropping the last two there, they have never lost three on the spin in Minnesota.
This has the makings of a low-scoring encounter and this could be something of a trap game for the Vikings.
TIP: Washington Redskins +14.5 points at
Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams
The first of this season’s Wembley games sees two teams at opposite ends of the talent spectrum.
The Rams, fresh from their win in Atlanta, are 4-3 and chasing the undefeated San Francisco 49ers (6-0) in the NFC West, as they bid to return to the Super Bowl. The Bengals are still seeking a first win of the season after losing at home to Jacksonville on Sunday.
— NFL (@NFL) October 20, 2019
The Rams are 13.0-point handicap favourites at BetVictor American Football odds of 10/11 as they bid to gain a fourth consecutive win over the Rams, which would be a first. Incidentally, have seen their previous multiple-game winning streaks over the Rams ended by separate 10-point defeats.
Whatever the merits of having a ‘dedicated NFL stadium’ at Tottenham, there are several drawbacks for fans, not least that it holds 20,000-plus fewer fans than Wembley, and not even the visit of the winless Bengals is likely to see the attendance dip below 80,000 on Sunday.
This will be the 27th regular-season game in the UK since the first in 2007 and the favourite is 19-6-1 straight up and 16-10 against the spread (ATS) in that span. While both of this season’s London games have seen the points total go above the set total, six of the previous seven in the UK went under the line, which is 48.5 points with BetVictor.
Historically, the Rams have never scored more than 31 points in any home tilt against the Bengals, and they have topped 30 points twice this term, beating the Falcons 37-10 on the road last week and when losing 55-40 in a shocker at home to double-digit underdog Tampa Bay.
The Cincinnati defense is no better than it was last season, leading the league in yards allowed and having surrendered at least 21 points in their first seven games. They have some major flaws at the linebacker position, but at least they have been steady in the red zone. They held the Jaguars to three field goals before eventually conceding a fourth-quarter touchdown last week.
Their offense can’t stay on the field, which is a problem for rookie head coach Zach Taylor, who was working under Rams’ head coach Sean McVay as quarterbacks coach last season, and was brought in for his creativity.
Getting the running game going is going to be key. The Bengals were held to 33 net rushing yards against Jacksonville, but Joe Mixon should get plenty of change from a Rams’ run defence that gave up 464 yards and 48 points to the Buccaneers, and 429 yards and 30 points to the Seahawks in back-to-back weeks.
The Rams are still without linebacker Clay Matthews, who suffered a broken jaw, and some wonder whether Aaron Donald has recovered from tweaking his back in week 2, as he has not routinely been tearing up the interior offensive line as he can (although double and triple-teaming him may also be a factor).
Yet the passing game is still elite and while the cooler weather conditions will suit the Bengals, at least the Rams stayed in Atlanta after their win over Falcons, practicing at Georgia Tech, reducing the chances of jetlag.
We take this to be a close game for three quarters, with the Rams eventually prevailing, but possibly not by enough to keep favourite-backers happy – although taking them on to score less than 31 points might be a solid play.
TIP: Los Angeles Rams to score less than 31 points at
Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears
This is a very definition of a pivotal game for both teams. Chicago are 3-3 and trail Green Bay by three games in the NFC North, while the 2-5 Chargers are three games behind Kansas City in the AFC West.
You must go back to October 1970 for the last time the Chargers won in the Windy City, where they have suffered three double-digit losses on their last three visits.
The Bears were four-point favourites to win at home against New Orleans last week and fluffed their lines, although they did manage to score more than the 21 points set by layers, eventually going down 36-25.
Quite how the Chargers managed to lose at Tennessee last week, with Melvin Gordon twice failing to punch in a game-winning touchdown and coughing up the ball, is unfathomable.
The Chargers have lost three straight games. Defensive inexperience and a scheme that may not suit their personnel means they have faced some of less-heralded QBs in the league – Josh Rosen Joe Flacco, Devlin Hodges and Ryan Tannehill – and have still allowed an average QB passer rating of 100.2.
The defense has little identity, and injuries at the safety position has meant that they have not been able to stop either the pass or the run, and they are not generating turnovers.
The Chargers do have the luxury of facing another sub-par QB in Mitch Trubisky this week, but even he is likely to nickel and dime them.
Bears have dropped two straight games but are asked to give up as many points this week at home as they were against the Saints, a team who had only lost once.
Home teams against the spread this season are 39-65-2 through the first seven weeks of the season and that figure is likely to adjust towards the mean before too long. This could be one of those games, as the visitors look just about done.
TIP: Chicago Bears -4 at
Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills
Both teams look to pull within half a game of first place in their respective divisions and with such a small point-spread, the Eagles look a fair bet here.
Buffalo have won a bunch of close games riding a decent defense, but QB Josh Allen is still far from a polished franchise passer. He has not thrown for more than 253 yards in any of Buffalo’s seven games and has as many passing touchdowns as interceptions.
The Bills, who struggled to put away a wretched Dolphins squad seeking their first win last week, have not beaten any team that boasts a winning record, and while the Eagles’ secondary has been routinely exposed, Allen represents some respite.
The hosts have hardly faced intimidating QBs outside of Tom Brady this term – and while Carson Wentz has had his struggles, the Eagles’ only losses have come against dome teams. They can bounce back after two road losses to hand the Bills a rare defeat.
TIP: Philadelphia +1.5 points at
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans
Any team that can go into Los Angeles and put up 55 points on the Rams gets our vote, regardless of the horrors Carolina inflected upon the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium two weeks ago.
While Ryan Tannehill threw a few darts as the Titans knocked off the Chargers on Sunday, the former Dolphins’ triggerman is prone to throwing a few picks. Given time, which he rarely had behind inept lines in Miami, he can be accurate.
And the lack of pressure up front has been the major cause for concern in Tampa, as the Bucs have not been physical enough in man coverage and have given opposing receivers too much of a cushion. As a result, the young secondary has been torched.
This Tennessee receiving corps scares no-one, though, and the Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea will cause innumerable problems to Tennessee’s interior line, which has struggled all season.
Tennessee are very one-dimensional with a run-heavy attack, spearheaded by Derrick Henry. If Jameis Winston can avoid turnovers, the Bucs have plenty of firepower in receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Smith, and running back Ronald Jones, to come away with their first-ever win on the road at the Oilers/Titans franchise.
TIP: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +2.5 points at
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
There are not too many teams who can think about making a QB change when they are on a five-game winning streak, but Teddy Bridgewater may have to head back to the bench if future Hall of Famer Drew Brees returns to the Saints’ line-up following an operation to repair a thumb ligament.
The Cardinals are on a three-game winning streak themselves, having beaten the Giants, Falcons – who missed a PAT to force overtime – and the winless Bengals.
The Cards, who are 4-0 ATS in their last four road games, might come back to earth with a bump, even though this looks a classic trap game for the Saints, who are coming off a big win in Chicago.
The Saints managed to put up 424 yards on a decent Chicago defense, including 151 yards on the ground – and that was without Alvin Kamara, who is the focal point of their attack.
While Kamara’s value to the Saints cannot be overstated, the same goes for Arizona’s David Johnson, whose ankle injury may keep him out of action, along with third-string running back D.J. Foster (hamstring).
The Saints’ run defense is stifling, limiting opposing offenses to less than 100 yards rushing in four consecutive games. They have also not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 33 outings.
Even if the Saints’ offense has sometimes been slow in stride, their defense is playing at a high enough level to overcome any injuries and inconsistencies.
Yes, this could be a potential banana skin and the Cards are playing some good football, but they have not come up against such a beast of an opponent in a while and this is the acid test to see how good they really are.
TIP: New Orleans Saints -9.5 at