NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Week Eight Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

The Oakland Raiders have done nothing to improve their own team this year but they certainly are strengthening a couple National Football Conference teams. On the eve of the regular season, they sent one of the best defensive forces in the league to the Chicago Bears with the trade of Khalil Mack. The Bears are currently in first place in the highly competitive NFC North Division.

A week ago, they sent another Raiders’ first round draft choice to the rival conference with the trading of wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are currently in third place in the NFC East Division, but certainly in striking range of division leader Washington while two games back in the standings.

Cooper appears a perfect fit for Dallas, which has been missing a big play wideout since releasing Dez Bryant in April. Bryant has so far found the couch in his den more appealing than the offer, which he should have taken, by the Baltimore Ravens.

This week, the Cowboys will introduce Cooper to their attack when they host the the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. Dallas couldn’t have acquired Cooper at a better time. They got him the week leading up to their bye and they don’t play until Monday night, which offers maximum time for Cooper to practice with his new team before flashing his skills to Dallas fans and a national television audience.

The betting world thinks it was an important acquisition for the Cowboys as the point spread for their home favorite role against Tennessee has grown from four points to seven.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a self imposed quarterback controversy on their hands. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick started for the Bucs while one-time first pick in the draft quarterback Jameis Winston served a three game league suspension. Fitzpatrick led the Bucs to an improbable opening day win over the New Orleans Saints in the Big Easy, 48-40, and followed that win with a home victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, 27-21.

After a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter decided to stick with Fitzpatrick even when Winston completed his suspension, and that didn’t go well as Tampa Bay was blown out by the Chicago Bears, 48-10. That loss prompted the coach to replace Fitzpatrick with Winston after the Buccaneers Week Five bye, and while Winston didn’t get a win, a five point loss in Atlanta didn’t cost him his job.

Winston got his first victory as a started two weeks ago at home against the Cleveland Browns, but last Sunday in Cincinnati seemingly was more adept at finding Bengal defenders with his passes than Tampa Bay teammates. After his fourth interception, Koetter replaced Winston with Fitzpatrick, and the Harvard graduate rallied the Bucs from 18 points down to a game tying touchdown in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

The Bucs suspect defense couldn’t prevent the Bengals from advancing into field goal range in the last minute, but Fitzpatrick’s heroics did earn him the starting job again this week when Tampa Bay meets the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their first point spread decision of the season on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium against the Denver Broncos. Favored by nine points, the Broncos won the game by seven, 30-23. That is the purpose of the point spread for the books, pulling the rug out from under public favorites with bloated lines.

The Rams remain the only perfect team in the league at 8-0, but Los Angeles has lost three of their past four games against the spread. It is also noteworthy that of the past 15 teams to open the regular season with eight wins five of them have advanced to the Super Bowl, but only two have won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

This week, the Rams opened as a slight favorite for their game in New Orleans against the Saints, but the current line now has New Orleans favored by two. Public action on this game is split, which means it is wise guy money backing Drew Brees and his Saints at home.