NFL: Week 8 Predictions

Week 8. Wow. We’ve come to the halfway point of the season (for teams that haven’t taken a bye that is).

Speaking of byes, six teams are off this week: the Ravens, Bears, Titans, Colts, Chargers and Texans.

I went 9-6 last week in my picks, and now here are my picks for week 8.

Thursday Night Football

  • Carolina @ Tampa Bay: It’s not the most glamorous matchup to get Week 8 started.  Cam Newton and his Panthers offense have been playing very well the last few weeks, while Mike Glennon had a good day in a loss to Atlanta.  The Bucs are still looking for their first win and are without their top back after Doug Martin tore a labrum last weekend.  The Panthers defense has been very good at getting to the quarterback, and if they can do the same thing to Glennon, I see this being another easy win for the cats.  CAROLINA WINS

1PM Sunday Games

  • San Francisco @ Jacksonville: Let’s be honest, the Jags are bad, and the 49ers are hot.  Jacksonville had its best game 2 weeks ago against Denver and still lost by almost 20 points. The revolving door of Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne at quarterback continues, with Henne getting the nod this week.  The run game for the Niners, coupled with a great defense, is just too much for a flawed Jacksonville team. SAN FRAN WINS
  • Cleveland @ Kansas City: Brandon Weedon to the bench, Jason Campbell under center for the Browns.  Off two straight bad performances, Cleveland is trying something different.  A tough time to change quarterbacks when they’re on the road taking on the leagues only undefeated team.  At 7-0, the Chiefs are obviously playing good football, particularly on defense, and should have another big day. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Miami @ New England: I was surprised at how bad the Dolphins played out of the gate last week, coming off their bye.  The offense got going and took the lead over Buffalo, but couldn’t hold it.  The same came be said for the Patriots, who managed to force overtime against the Jets.  The Pats hold just a one game edge in the East, and the Dolphins are now 2 back.  This is a big game for both squads, but give me the home team. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Buffalo @ New Orleans: The Bills offense played well a week ago against Miami, and the defense made the plays late to secure a victory.  But they have to do a better job of holding a lead if they get one against the Saints, which is easier said than done. And I don’t really see them having a lead, let alone holding one.  I think the week off the Saints good, and not to mention how hard it is to play in the Superdome. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Dallas @ Detroit: Two high-powered offenses in this one. The Lions lost a tough one against Cincy, the cowboys won an easy one against Philly.  But Detroit actually played better on offense than Dallas did a week ago, and with DeMarco Murray still questionable for this week, I think the Lions just have more weapons right now, both offensively and defensively. DETROIT WINS
  • New York Giants @ Philadelphia: The G-Men finally enter a game coming off a win, the Eagles head in on a loss.  Some good news for Philly, who will be getting back Michael Vick. The ground game was better for the Giants for a second straight week, while the defense has done a great job stopping the run themselves.  I think a with a win under their belt, the Giants start to find a rhythm. Rarely do these two teams sweep the season series, and I think the Giants get a big road win, their first.  NEW YORK WINS

4/4:25PM Sunday Games

  • Pittsburgh @ Oakland: They’re still not playing their best football, but the Steelers have no won two straight against good teams. They’re doing a good job stoping the run, which they’ll need against Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders.  Oakland is coming off their bye week and while they’ve played better this season than most expected, I think the Steelers get a third straight and continue to get good progress out of Le’Veon Bell. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • New York Jets @ Cincinnati: The Jets got a big division win last week, while the Bengals increased their own division lead.  Both teams have gotten big performances out of their defenses this season.  But I think the difference will be Andy Dalton finding his rhythm, while Geno Smith continues to have one up and one down game, as to be expected with rookie QBs.  I just really like how the Cincy is playing, and have been able to win without much production in the run game, something they probably won’t get against New York.  Another case of give me the home team here. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Atlanta @ Arizona: Matt Ryan should get back Roddy White and possibly even Steven Jackson, giving him two more weapons to play with.  The Cardinals got off to a good start this season, but I think the Falcons are primed for a run.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Washington @ Denver: The Redskins offense was on point last week, but the defense was not.  And despite a tweaked ankle for Peyton Manning, this offense is going to be motivated coming off their first loss.  It might not be a blowout, but I can’t see the Broncos losing a 2nd straight, especially with this being a home game. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Green Bay @ Minnesota: The Packers are now down 2 of their best offensive weapons with the loss of wide-out Randall Cobb and tight-end Jermichael Finley.  But the Vikings are back to a change at QB now that after 1 start Josh Freeman has a concussion, meaning Christian Ponder will be under center.  GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Seattle @ St. Louis: The Seahawks are just better than the Rams, and without Sam Bradford under center, it doesn’t help.  The Rams have added Brady Quinn and Austin Davis to the roster, after only being left with Kellen Clemens.  No word on who gets the start yet, but I don’t think it really matters. SEATTLE WINS

So that’s it.  Enjoy week 8 everybody.

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NFL: Week 5 Thoughts

5 down. 12 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 3 undefeated squads.

Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa Bay were all on their bye weeks.

I’m deviating from breaking this down by record.  Now that we’ve come to week 5, division races are starting to take shape.  So let’s take a look around the league that way.

NFC EAST (The Under .500 Club)

  • Cowboys: Tony Romo had the best game of his career, becoming the 1st Dallas QB to throw for over 500 yards. But a late second interception led to a Broncos game-winning field-goal and a loss. But don’t focus on another Romo turnover.  When you put up 48 points, you should win.  The defense just couldn’t stop Peyton Manning.  To be fair no one has yet this year.  (2-3)
  • Eagles:  Michael Vick went down with a hamstring injury in the 1st half, but Nick Foles didn’t miss a beat. Kicker Alex Henery shook off a shaky start to his season by completing all 5 of his field-goal attempts. (2-3)
  • Redskins: Bye week. (1-3)
  • Giants: The good news? The offense looked a little better.  The bad news?  They didn’t look good enough, with 4 more turnovers, 3 of which came courtesy of Eli Manning in the 4th quarter.  The run-game remained anemic, and the defense generated absolutely no pass-rush once again. Changes need to come, and quick. (0-5)

NFC NORTH (Too Close to Call)

  • Lions: After a big win over Chicago last week, the offense sputtered without Calvin Johnson in the lineup against Green Bay. The running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell couldn’t help Matt Stafford and the pass game either.  (3-2)
  • Bears: It wasn’t a horrible performance by the defense a week after allowing 40 to Detroit.  But they couldn’t get much going on offense.  Aside from a huge day from wide-receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught 10 balls for 218 yards and a touchdown, Chicago couldn’t do capitalize.  Jay Cutler’s two fumbles, 1 which was lost didn’t help.  (3-2)
  • Packers: It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win’s a win. Most of the offense came from the leg of Mason Crosby, who kicked 5 field goals.  Aaron Rodgers did connect on a long TD pass to James Jones to pull away in the 3rd quarter. (2-2)
  • Vikings: Coming off their bye week, they’ll have a new QB on the roster after signing Josh Freeman, who was released last week by the Bucs.  (1-3)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Running Away) 

  • Saints: After starting last year 0-4, the turnaround in New Orleans has been a big one.  One of the final 3 unbeatens, Drew Brees is having a great start to his year, as is the defense.  Jimmy Graham tied an NFL record held by Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez with his 4th straight 100-yard game as a tight-end. Graham accomplished this feat back in 2011 as well. (5-0)
  • Carolina: Cam Newton had a very bad day Sunday against the Cardinals.  The mobile QB did manage to throw for over 300 yards, but was also picked off 3 times, took a safety and was sacked 7 times.  The defense had an okay day, but that many turnovers is hard to overcome. (1-3)
  • Atlanta: They came from 13 down to take a 1-point lead with less than 2 to play.  Really they should’ve been up 4, but somehow instead of kicking a field goal to end the 1st half to get within 7, the Falcons instead chose to go for it on 4th and goal and were stuffed. For the first time in his career, Matt Ryan loses back to back games at home, and are now essentially 5 games out of 1st. (1-4)
  • Tampa Bay: Bye Week. (0-4)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: They suffered their first loss of the season, a shootout loss with the comeback kids, the Colts.  Going back even further, it was their first regular season loss since November 25th of last season.  Russell Wilson had 300+ total yards in the loss, including 102 yards rushing. (4-1)
  • 49ers: Another easy win for San Fran, this time coming against a Houston team that is struggling big time.  Tramaine Brock’s pick six of Matt Schaub on the first pass of the game was all the niners needed in the 34-3 win on Sunday Night football. (3-2)
  • Cardinals: Their defense was the real star against Carolina, picking up 7 sacks, a safety and three interceptions.  Carson Palmer’s day was nothing to write home about, neither was the run game, but they did enough to win thanks to short field position.  (3-2)
  • Rams: A good game on all ends versus the now 0-5 Jaguars. Sam Bradford threw for 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Austin Pettis. The run game was pretty good as well.  Big plays were the name of the game, including Matt Giordano’s 82 yard interception return for a touchdown. (2-3)

AFC EAST (You Can’t Just Hand New England the Division Anymore)

  • Patriots: They still lead the division, but they picked up their 1st loss of the year thanks to a shutdown Bengals defense.  It was a low scoring game, something we’re not seeing from New England.  And that’s because  Tom Brady did something he hadn’t done in 52 games, he didn’t throw a touchdown.  (4-1)
  • Dolphins: A 13-6 halftime lead wasn’t enough to save Miami from their second loss of the year.  In a game of field-goals, Caleb Sturgis missed from 57-yards to tie the score with 33 seconds to go.  The run game was non-existent, with starter Lamar Miller picking up just 15 yards on the ground. (3-2)
  • Jets: Geno Smith continues to show growth in his rookie season, leading his team on a game winning drive with under 2 minutes to play. The defense was lock down in the 1st half, but showed some holes in the redzone late.  But it’s a big road win none-the-less. (3-2)
  • Bills: Not only did they lose their game with Cleveland, they lost starting QB EJ Manuel.  On a scramble in the 1st half, Manuel took a hit to the knee, and suffered an LCL sprain, which could sideline him for up 6 weeks.  Fellow rookie QB Jeff Tuel came in for Manuel, but didn’t look very good.  The run game was on point, but it wasn’t enough on the road. (2-3)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Ravens: Justin Tucker had himself a day, going 4-4 on his field-goal attempts, including the game winner with 1:42 to go. Joe Flacco wasn’t a whole lot better than his 5-interception performance last week, but Ray Rice finally showed up on the ground, running in for 2 touchdowns.  (3-2) 
  • Browns: Three straight wins, despite losing QB Brian Hoyer to knee injury.  Brandon Weedon lost the starting job to Hoyer when he went down with an injury, but returned to help lead Cleveland to another win. (3-2)
  • Bengals: The offense wasn’t great, but their defense pitched a Brady shutout.  Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis ran in a 1-yarder for the games only touchdown in the 4th quarter. (3-2)
  • Pittsburgh: Coming off their bye (0-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: Another impressive win for Indy, this time handing Seattle their first loss of the year.  Andrew Luck continues to show why he was the number 1 pick in last year’s draft, leading his team for a 9th career comeback win.  The special teams for both squads showed up, including Delano Howell who scored for Indy on a 61-yard return touchdown of a blocked field goal.  (4-1)
  • Titans: Tennessee lost, but put up a good fight against the undefeated Chiefs.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, in place of the injured Jake Locker, ran in a go-ahead TD in the 4th.  (3-2)
  • Texans: Ever since taking a 20-0 1st half lead in week 4 against Seattle, Houston has been outscored 57-3 in their 2 game losing streak. Matt Schaub threw a pick 6 for the fourth straight game (a 1st in NFL history), and was benched in favor of TJ Yates. (2-3)
  • Jaguars: Things have gone from bad to worse for the win-less Jags.  After getting starting QB Blaine Gabbert back, he left their loss to St Louis with a hamstring injury, and lost 1st round pick OT Luke Joeckel for the year to a broken ankle. Things don’t look better with the 5-0 Broncos coming to town. (0-5)

(AFC WEST) Where You’re Either Undefeated or a Game Under 

  • Broncos: This team has scored the most points through the first 5 games of a season in NFL History.  And yet they almost lost to Dallas.  The defense hasn’t needed to be on much this year, with Manning being so automatic (20 touchdowns, 1 rushing TD and just 1 interception).  But they couldn’t stop the run or the pass against Dallas, something they need to fix, because odds are Manning will struggle one of these days.  Maybe. (5-0)
  • Chiefs: Denver has company.  They got pushed by Tennessee, nearly blowing an early 14-0 lead.  But a Jamaal Charles touchdown in the 4th, apart of a 108-yard rushing performance, put them up for good. (5-0)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor made it known Sunday Night that this is his team.  Two touchdown passes in the 1st quarter put San Diego in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.  The Raiders showed more faith in Pryor Monday, when they released off-season acquisition Matt Flynn. Their defense forced 4 turnovers, including one from veteran Free Safety Charles Woodson, who tied an NFL record with his 13th defensive touchdown. (2-3)
  • Chargers: The dilemma that is Phillip Rivers continues.  400 yards passing, but threw 3 interceptions.  This team was 2-0, and now find themselves at the bottom of the division. (2-3)

So that’s a wrap on week 5.  Week 6 kicks off with two desperate teams on Thursday Night Football.  The win-less New York Giants head to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.