Underdogs had their day with an 11-3 record against the spread (ATS) two weekends ago, but Week 7 offered a clear correction, with favorites rebounding in a 9-4-2 run.

The NFL season has officially entered its most unpredictable stretch of the schedule, as preseason expectations no longer apply, but pretenders can still be mistaken for contenders. The standings show as much, with no less than 20 teams sporting a .500 record or better nearing the midway point.

Given the see-saw swings between dogs and favorites, and an unusual level of leaguewide parity, bettors face a tough task assessing the Week 8 slate.

That becomes abundantly clear by taking a look at the Bovada online sportsbook board, where six of the 12 games on Sunday and Monday carry spreads of a touchdown or more.

The New England Patriots (5-2) are no strangers to wide spreads, and this week they’ll host the Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) as 7.5-point home favorites.

In last week’s Sunday Night Football rematch of Super Bowl 51, the Pats continued their absolute ownership of the Atlanta Falcons (3-3) by shutting out last year’s runner-up through three quarters in a 24-7 win.

Ordinarily, a high-profile victory with those emotional stakes would spark discussion of a letdown game against a mediocre cross-conference opponent – but the Brady/Belichick tandem is far from ordinary. After league-worst defense spawned a 2-2 start, New England has allowed just 38 points combined over its current three-game winning streak.

The Chargers have also won three straight, rebounding from an 0-4 hole while surrendering an identical 38 points over that span. With a chance to claw his way back to .500 on the year, the fiery Phillip Rivers is sure to leave it all on the field in this one.

On the other side of the spread spectrum, the Dallas Cowboys (3-3) visit the Washington Redskins (3-3) as slim 2.5-point road favorites.

This pivotal NFC East clash will go a long way in deciding which of these rivals hangs with the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles (6-1).

For the Cowboys, lingering questions over the status of star running back Ezekiel Elliott have already been settled, which is great news for Dallas backers. Elliott put up 147 yards with two scores on 26 carries last Sunday, and added a 72-yard touchdown on a catch and run to boot.

In Washington, last Monday’s 34-24 beatdown by the Eagles was a wake-up call – proving that the Redskins’ vaunted defense can be quite vulnerable without standout cornerback Josh Norman securing the secondary. Norman is expected to resume practicing this week though, so Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant should be blanketed by his vocal nemesis.

Sunday Night Football should be a show this week, with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown leading the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) into Motown for a matchup with the Detroit Lions (3-3).

Both teams can put up points in bunches, but for Pittsburgh, the defense has powered the way as per usual. In five wins on the year, the Steelers are surrendering a stingy 12.6 points per game.

The Lions’ offense is scoring 26.8 points per, and might just be up to the task, but the Detroit defense might make that a moot point. In their three losses, the Lions have allowed an astounding 36.3 points per contest – including a 52-point punishment at the hands of the New Orleans Saints (4-2) two weeks ago.

Despite having a bye week to mull things over, and the benefit of a raucous home crowd on their side, Detroit is listed as 3-point dogs here.

To close the week out, Monday Night Football features a classic AFC West rivalry, with the Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) hosting the Denver Broncos (3-3).

The Chiefs are off the “mini-bye,” having played on Thursday Night Football in Week 7, so they’ll be a bit more rested. That doesn’t bode well for the Broncos, who are suffering through an offensive slump that has seen quarterback Trevor Siemian lead them to only 10 points combined over two consecutive losses.

Denver is also 0-2 on the road, and heading to Arrowhead Stadium is a chore even for teams that travel well – making the Broncos 7.5-point dogs in this one.

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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