The NFL hopes that the playoff race that is now forming halfway through the season will bump the ratings up a bit. Week 8 didn’t start that way, though. If the NFL wants to help themselves with their ratings, they need to start having better primetime games. Jaguars-Titans is not going to many viewings, mostly because casual fans know both teams aren’t very good. Luckily, it looks like the NFL has saved us a lovely treat for Halloween weekend. Rookie quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott will battle it out for first place in the NFC East. Solid defenses, young talent, and two young gunslingers: who wouldn’t want that? That’s not the only tasty matchup this week. But enough talk! Let’s get into the games.
Last Week: 11-3-1
On the Season: 69-37-1
This Week: 1-0
Redskins at Bengals(-3)
This will be the best game London has gotten this season. Both teams are very much in the playoff hunt midway through the season. Washington sits at 4-3, which is only good enough for third place in the surprising NFC East. The Bengals only sit a game back of the Steelers in the AFC North. This is a big game for both teams. The biggest aspect of this game is the return of Jordan Reed. The Bengals’ linebackers have been dominated by opposing offenses, and Reed’s return gives Kirk Cousins a safety net all game long. Washington also gets Josh Norman back for a spectacular matchup outside with AJ Green. If Norman can keep Green at bay, that doesn’t spell panic for Dalton and company. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill continue to be productive as a duo, and they will take pressure off of Dalton. It’ll be close all game, but the Redskins defense proves to be their downfall.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Redskins 21
Jets (-3) at Browns
This could be Cleveland’s best shot to win so far this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets have underwhelmed so far this season, and whether that’s due to a tough schedule or not enough on both sides of the ball, here they are. The good news for the Jets? Cleveland has really bad run defense, so Matt Forte should take advantage. Defensively, it will be hard to contain Terrelle Pryor, wherever he ends up playing. He will get snaps at quarterback and wide receiver. The Jets secondary has been brutal this season, so Pryor could feast. This would have been a write off game earlier in the year, but it is not so at this point. Plus, which Fitzpatrick will show up?
Prediction: Jets 23, Browns 21
Seahawks (-3) at Saints
This has all the possibilities of a shootout Sunday afternoon. Atlanta seemed to find the formula for Seattle’s defense two weeks earlier. You cannot wait for plays to develop, because either a) Seattle’s pass rush will get to you, or b) no one will be open down field against that secondary. You must be quick and attack the flats and over the middle. Luckily, Drew Brees has plenty to work with in this game. Brandin Cooks and Coby Fleener could be matchup nightmares for Seattle, and Willie Snead has also had a productive season. On the other side, Seattle’s offense has not been the same this season. Russell Wilson is still hampered by injuries, and the offensive line has not helped him out. Cameron Jordan and company could find themselves in the backfield quite a bit Sunday. The key will be for Seattle to have enough of a run game to allow Wilson to have play action. New Orleans’ secondary has not been good at all this season.
Prediction: Seahawks 28, Saints 21
Chiefs (-3) at Colts
Everyone remembers the last time these two met in the playoffs, when Luck took advantage of the Chiefs’ multiple injuries to lead a massive comeback to win the game late. This time around, Luck has been the player the Colts need him to be. He has carried this offense, and, to a large degree, this team. Can he keep it up this Sunday? We will see, but that will fall on the offensive line to keep him upright, which, believe it or not, the Colts have done recently. The offensive line has been much better, even with three rookies starting on it. They will need to contain the Chiefs pass rush in order for Luck to have time. On the outside, a TY Hilton-Marcus Peters matchup sounds like a matchup we want to see. The Chiefs, offensively speaking, should be able to run at will on the Colts shaky defense. Spencer Ware could have a monster day, and I think that’s the difference in the game.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Colts 20
Lions at Texans (-2.5)
Brock Osweiler has continued to look bad as an investment. The Texans QB did not fare well against Denver last week, posting a YPA in the threes. That won’t be good enough to win this week. Matt Stafford waltzes in to Houston as perhaps the best quarterback this season. He has been outstanding with no running game. The good news for Detroit: Theo Riddick returns this week. Some semblance of run game should exist for the Lions Sunday, due to the Texans weakness in that area. Stafford should still be able to air it out with the duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Unless Osweiler can pick it up, I have no reason to believe in the Texans Sunday.
Prediction: Lions 22, Texans 19
Patriots (-6.5) at Bills
There would be a lot more to this matchup had Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy been fully healthy. Even if McCoy plays, he won’t be 100 percent. Even without McCoy, Belichick’s defense will take away the run and force Tyrod Taylor to make plays to beat them. As far as the Pats offense goes, Brady and Gronk have been very tough to stop. The Bills defense still presents a challenge, even though they are also banged up. The key will be finding a way to stop both Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. If that formula can be found, along with getting pressure on Brady, then you might have something against this Patriots team. The Bills won’t have it on Sunday.
Prediction: Pats 26, Bills 16
Raiders at Bucs (-1)
Oakland managed to travel cross country last week and defeat the Jags on the road. Oakland’s road record will continue to puzzle me, but this game will not. No matter how good they’ve been on the road this season, their pass defense continues to struggle. This will be a factor, because they will have to contain one of the better young receivers in the game in Mike Evans. They also need to focus in on Adam Humphries, who has been solid in the slot this season. Generating consistent pressure on Jameis Winston is the key. Derek Carr should have no issue moving the ball against Tampa. However, Tampa’s defense is better than advertised. They have enough corner to try to play coverage against Cooper, Crabtree, and Roberts. Oakland will have to get a running game going to keep this game close, and they will.
Prediction: Raiders 30, Buccaneers 28
Cardinals at Panthers (-3)
At the beginning of the season, this was thought to be the game that could determine home field in the NFC Playoff Picture. But, Carolina has started poorly, going 1-6. Arizona has not faired much better, and blew a chance to win in a 6-6 tie with Seattle last week. Both teams need this game to stay alive (IF Carolina can even do so). Arizona’s offense will need to revolve around David Johnson, which plays into Carolina’s hands. But, the Panthers will have a real tough time contending with Arizona’s plethora of receivers. Larry Fitzgerald will have plenty of room to get open. John Brown returns this week, which will help Palmer regain confidence on the deep ball. If Carolina wants to play well offensively against an Arizona front that had 20 pressures last week, they will need to run the ball well. Newton has struggled without a run game, and has taken a beating all year long. Carolina’s last stand will be today, and this time around, Arizona is the better team.
Prediction: Cardinals 20, Panthers 17
Chargers at Broncos (-5.5)
San Diego is the NFL’s best fourth place team, and they travel to Denver, who made Brock Osweiler look like a high school quarterback on Monday Night. Philip Rivers is a smidge better than Osweiler, and even without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, he has been a top five QB. San Diego has no issue throwing every down, but Melvin Gordon will need to find running room in order for the Bolts to move the ball. The matchup to watch in this game will be Devontae Booker against the underrated San Diego defensive line. Joey Bosa has been very effective so far this year, and the entire front has played well. The pressure cannot fall on Trevor Siemian, so Booker needs to have a solid game. These two teams are closer than people think, and it’ll be a close game the whole way.
Prediction: Broncos 23, Chargers 20
Packers at Falcons (-3)
The story of this game lies upon whether Green Bay’s corners can cover Julio Jones and his counterparts. The task will fall on second year pro Ladarius Gunter, but they will have safety help from one of the better duos in the league. The Packers should be able to return to their ways of stopping the run, especially with Tevin Coleman out with a hamstring injury. Offensively, Green Bay’s success rides on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers once again. It seems like Ty Montgomery will handle a lot in the backfield, especially with Cobb questionable. Rodgers will still have to guide the team with the new dink and dunk philosophy. The offensive line should provide a clean pocket for Rodgers, who hopes to build on last week’s success. This has the makings of a shootout, but it might not be if the defenses show up.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Packers 28
Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5)
The battle of the rookies commences at night. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will play host to Carson Wentz and the Eagles, but this game is not about the two quarterbacks. The main event will be Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line against the fearsome front of the Eagles. The Cowboys dominated Green Bay’s run defense two weeks ago, and it seems like there is no stopping the rookie phenom. Dak will need to make throws as well, and the return of Bryant would help immensely. But, he has found a favorite target in Cole Beasley that will help. Carson Wentz, on the other hand, has to deal with the Cowboys’ bend-don’t-break defense. Wentz will need to take what Dallas gives him, and a heavy dose of the run game will take pressure off of him. This will come down to the wire, but Dallas is the real deal.
Prediction: Cowboys 22, Eagles 17
Vikings (-6) at Bears
This matchup is not going to help the NFL’s rating issue. The Bears have their fourth prime time game now, and this one will be uglier than the rest. Jay Cutler returns for Chicago, but Minnesota’s defense is ready to dominate after a let down last week. Cutler may turn it over 3 or 4 times on Monday, and Minnesota will take advantage. I expect Bradford to come out and have a better game than he did last week. As for Chicago, they need to stop the run and pressure Bradford. Minnesota’s offensive line is shaky, and Leonard Floyd had a better game against Green Bay. Maybe he will have another breakout performance. I don’t think it’ll matter, though.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Bears 13
Enjoy Week 8 everyone!