2016 Season: Week 8 Preview

We are just about half way through the season already and the action is really picking up.  The eighth week of the season sees just thirteen games, but many of them promise to be shootouts.  There are heavily anticipated battles going down and I can’t wait to cover them.  To further hype up this week, allow me to rank all these contests in order from worst to best.  I will, of course, follow that list with my previews and score predictions of each.  Enjoy the action!

#13: Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

Nothing about this game makes for inciting Monday night television.  It will almost surely end in a blowout and that’s never fun to watch unless you’re a fan of the team doing the butt-kicking.

#12: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

The annual Jaguars/Titans Thursday night game is upon us and if they bring us some sloppy play, which is likely since both are playing on a short week, the game could be tough to watch.

#11: New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

Here is another game that isn’t going to draw too much excitement based on the fact that there will be one dominant team here.  These games don’t move my meter too much, even if they are division rivalries.

#10: New York Jets @ Cleveland Browns

Many people would have this one lower on the list, but I think the Browns are at least fun to watch even if they are bad.  The Jets are a joy to see play when they are rolling as well, so at least this game should be entertaining.

#9: Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

This game is here based solely on the record of each team.  This contest should be interesting, but it will likely lack the big-game feel which is especially important because of the fact that this was the NFC Championship matchup from last year.

#8: Detroit Lions @ Houston Texans

Even though the Texans offense is hard to watch at times, I am curious to see how the Detroit attack fares against Houston’s defense in Houston.  This should be a close game which is why it is ranked here as opposed to lower.

#7: Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

What can I say, I’m a sucker for Andrew Luck.  The Chiefs play fundamentally sound football, but since they are on the road this game should be much closer than it would be if it were at Arrowhead.  Should be a good one.

#6: Oakland Raiders @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There should be plenty of offense in this game and I thoroughly enjoy watching the Raiders’ O do work.  Jameis Winston is a fun QB to watch as well and the Bucs actually have some sort of a ground game going with Jacquizz Rodgers in the fold.

#5: Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati Bengals (London)

Both of these teams are fun to watch when they are playing at the top of their game.  I think that this will be the best game in front of a London crowd this year in terms of entertainment-value as there should be some points scored.

#4: Seattle Seahawks @ New Orleans Saints

Speaking of points being scored, we have our weekly Saints’ shootout coming in fourth.  It is also the return of Jimmy Graham to New Orleans.  Offenses should be on point here and that is always fun to watch.

#3: San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos

The San Diego Chargers are always playing entertaining, edge-of your seat games and that is why I look forward to watching them each week.  The crowd will really be into this one too and it should create an awesome atmosphere.

#2: Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

Two good teams in a tough game to call?  Yes please.  Late afternoon game on Fox, sign me up.  In another game that promises to bring a lot of scoring, we get to see a great offense take on a potentially great one.  What’s not to like?

#1: Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

A big time NFC East game with a bunch of standout rookies, a great defense versus a great offensive line, and a boisterous crowd on a Sunday night… This should be a great game and I am really looking forward to watching one of the NFL’s best rivalries be renewed on the national stage.

Last Week: 9-6

Season: 57-50

Thursday, October 27th, 8:25 e.t.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) @ Tennessee Titans (3-4)

Jags @ Titans

We’ve got a Thursday night barnburner on our hands as the Jags travel to Nashville to take on them Titans.  Jacksonville is coming off of an ugly defeat at home to the Raiders where the team compiled 13 penalties for 112 yards and their star rookie CB Jalen Ramsey was ejected for fighting late in the game.  They say that every 100 yards of penalties equals about seven points, and the Jags lost by more than that to Oakland so it is easy to say they were not very good last week.  The Titans on the other hand fumbled a chance to beat the Colts away at home in Week 7 (quite literally) and have to be hungry to redeem themselves.  The running game in Tennessee has been firing on all cylinders lately.  Against Cleveland, DeMarco Murray was contained quite well but quarterback Marcus Mariota went off.  Last week Murray ripped off 107 yards and a TD against the Colts.  Who will tote the rock this week for them?  How about Derrick Henry?  They really need to start getting their first round draft pick involved more if for no other reason than to cut down on the wear and tear with DeMarco.  Ask the Eagles how Murray is when worn out.  I like the Titans to get the ball in Henry’s hands more than ONE? time this week.  Anyways, I’m taking Tennessee at home because I think they can capitalize on a reeling Jaguars team that looks like its going nowhere this year.  Not to mention, but I’ll mention anyways, that the home teams on Thursday night games always have a decided advantage, not that the Titans play well at home all the time.  Hopefully we see a shootout from this game like we did from the one last year (42-39 final).

Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 14

Sunday, October 30th, 9:30 am e.t.

Washington Redskins (4-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) (London)

For the second straight Sunday, our day will start out across the pond with two teams right in the thick of things in their own division races.  Hopefully we see a more exciting game out of these two than we did when the Rams and Giants combined for hardly any splash plays and excitement for the London fans.  I’m predicting that this game turns into a shootout early and engages the crowd.  I like what I’ve seen out of the Washington offense lately.  Yes they lost the game last week on the road in Detroit and only put up 17 points, but seven of those came in the final minutes only to have the ‘Skins defense cough up that lead.  As it was they put up over 400 yards of offense.  The only problem was finishing drives.  That is something that the Bengals have struggled with all season long.  They are having trouble settling for field goals deep in the opponent’s territory and their points per game is hurting because of it.  Last week against Cleveland the team put up 559 yards offense and scored 31 points, their first time breaking the 30 point threshold this season.  Most encouraging of all is the fact that they got their running game going, which was key and will be going forward.  If I were the Cincinnati offensive coordinator I would unleash both Geo Bernard and Jeremy Hill on the Washington defense that has struggled to stop the run.

Jeremy Hill

This will set up play action opportunities for Andy Dalton down the field against the injury-riddled Redskin secondary.  Josh Norman is a big question mark on whether or not he will even play in this game due to a concussion.  The match-up certainly won’t favor them and that is why I am choosing the Bengals to leave London with a .500 record.

Cincinnati 38, Washington 31

Sunday, October 30th, 1:00 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) @ Indianapolis Colts (3-4)

The Colts bounced back from a horrific loss to the Texans by upsetting the Titans on the road.  That’s not necessarily a huge surprise though as Tennessee has not defeated the Colts in five years.  Indy will certainly receive a big test at home with the visiting Chiefs who have looked good in back to back weeks following their BYE which came after getting destroyed by the Steelers.  This is a good Kansas City team yet again and they have a very opportunistic defense.  The good news for the Colts is that despite a severe lack of talent around him, Andrew Luck is not turning the ball over.  He is making guys like Jack Doyle look like stars and is proving that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  Taking the Chiefs on the road here would make a lot of sense, but I am riding the Luck train hard here.  In a horrible AFC South division, all the teams look like they will be bunched together at 8-8 towards the end of the year.  This contest will go a long way to making that happen.  Indianapolis has beaten Kansas City in each of their last three meetings and we all remember what happened the last time these two met in the playoffs, putting up a combined 89 points.  We won’t see anything close to that in this contest, but I will be taking the Colts again.  Simply put, I think Andrew Luck can do some nice things moving the ball on this defense and if the game does turn into a shootout, I don’t think Alex Smith can trade points with Luck.  This pick is an indictment of what I think about #12 and nothing more.Andrew Luck

Indianapolis 27, Kansas City 23

New York Jets (2-5) @ Cleveland Browns (0-7)

When will the misery end for the Browns?  Cleveland is on their fifth different quarterback (sixth if you want to include Terrelle Pryor) this season with Kevin Hogan getting the go for this game.  The Stanford product actually ran for over 100 yards last week with his read-option shenanigans.  That will not happen this week because the element of surprise will be gone.  I know a lot of people will be picking the Browns to win this game because they have to win at some point this year, maybe.  However, I don’t think that the Jets are as bad as the media makes them out to be.  Geno Smith had a chance to lead this team a week ago but he tore his ACL before being able to do much damage so back to Ryan Fitzpatrick this offense goes.  Ryan Fitzpatrick

He said he thought that the coach and GM had given up on him, so from this point forward I expect the Harvard product to play with a large chip on his shoulder.  By the way, we have a Harvard alumni facing a Stanford alumni in this game.  That’s a lot of brainpower right there, wow.  Anyways, the Jets’ struggles this year have come with them turning the ball over, specifically Fitzpatrick.  That said, the Cleveland run defense has been awful this season so I would expect New York to run it down their throats like all the other teams have done this year.  That will cut down on the opportunities for the Jets to make mistakes and I think they will leave town with a healthy win.  The Browns simply have way too much turnover going on throughout this season to build any kind of continuity on offense or defense.  It could be a while before they win any game.

New York 37, Cleveland 16

Oakland Raiders (5-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

We are coming up on the half way point of the season and the Raiders have yet to lose a road game.  When was the last time we were able to say that?  Also, the Buccaneers aren’t exactly world beaters at home so could Oakland possibly move to 5-0 on the road?  Not so fast.  I was dead wrong about the Bucs last week and they outscored the Niners on the road 34-3 in the final three quarters en route to a dominant 17 point win.  Jacquizz Rodgers shredded that San Fran defense and did the same the game prior against the Panthers. Jacquizz Rodgers

Oakland’s defense still needs a ton of work and it is going to take a lot more than a win over a dysfunctional and sloppy Jaguars team to prove that they are at all competent on that side of the ball.  This is a classic trap game because the Buccaneer offense is underrated and can move the ball.  The question is can their defense make enough plays to slow down Derek Carr and the exciting Raider offense?  I don’t know about that, but I do think that the Bucs are going to steal one at home.  Maybe I am sipping the Kool-Aid that Tampa is making at the moment, but I don’t think they are an awful bunch and with a potential Falcon hiccup on the way that NFC South could very well be up for grabs.  Look for the Buccaneers to get very healthy on offense in a shootout win.

Tampa Bay 45, Oakland 32

Detroit Lions (4-3) @ Houston Texans (4-3)

Here is a difficult game to pick.  On one hand we have the comeback kid Matthew Stafford who seems to always be rallying his team from deficits to come up with big fourth quarter wins.  On the other we have a Houston team that is, quite frankly, terrible on offense with a shaky quarterback in Brock Osweiler.  If this game were being played in Detroit I would have no problem picking the Lions because the Texans have been awful on the road offensively.  But, they’re actually 4-0 at home and the defense plays much better football.  Can they possibly knock off one of three teams in the NFL riding a 3+ game winning streak?  I think so.  The weakness for the Lions is their rush defense and you can bet that Bill O’Brien’s game plan will be to take the air out of the ball to protect his young quarterback.  This is a Lamar Miller/Alfred Blue game.  I like Houston to run the rock 30+ times to shorten the game.  Also, Detroit’s Week 4 loss on the road to Chicago really lurks large in my mind when picking this game.  That was the last time the Lions were on the road and they were woeful offensively.  Coming to Houston against a solid defense could be an issue.  Also, I’m not sold that they are that great of a team at this point.  In their three-game winning streak they have outscored opponents by a total of just eight points.  That doesn’t exactly scream dominant to me.  If the Lions do win on the road here, it would be huge and something that this team can really build on, but I just don’t see it happening.  And since the Dolphins aren’t playing this week, I would like to take this space to mention that former Texan Arian Foster is retiring.  It is scary to see injuries cause players to retire early and it just goes to show how physical this game is.Arian Foster

Power Pick of the Week: Houston 21, Detroit 13

Seattle Seahawks (4-1-1) @ New Orleans Saints (2-4)

Jimmy Graham

Ahh yes, the Jimmy Graham revenge game!  This is an intriguing contest because we have the Seahawks taking their dominant defense on the road to play the Saints who constantly light it up at home against any team, no matter how good they are.  The dreaded tie rule came into effect last week when the Cardinals and Seahawks played a full 75 minutes to a 6-6 deadlock.  It took a long time for the Seattle offense to get things going and the team had only four first downs with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  They were able to move the ball in overtime before Steven Hauschka shanked a 28 yard field goal late forcing the tie score.  I highly doubt it will take that long for Seattle to move the ball in this game since it is the Saints’ defense.  This was going to be my upset pick of the week, but I would feel guilty picking against the Seahawks since I do think they are one of the best teams in football.  It seems a little obvious to say that Jimmy Graham can go off against his former defense, but I really think he will.  New Orleans has trouble stopping anybody and they really have problems with big tight ends in the middle of the field.  Graham should go off.  As should Russell Wilson.  I’m seeing three touchdowns and 350 yards from #3.  And yes, their defense is good, but I think the Saints will move the ball on them as well.  Will Kam Chancellor be healthy enough to play in this game?  The ‘Hawks better hope he comes back sooner rather than later because I’ve noticed that the Legion of Boom is missing a physical element without him.  Also, Brandin Cooks versus Richard Sherman bears watching.  Sherman really has issues with smaller, quick receivers like Cooks.  He could be in for a big game.  Anyways, I just don’t trust the Saints defense enough to make a key stop so I will not be picking them for an upset after serious contemplation.  Give me the Seahawks in another Week 8 shootout.

Seattle 41, New Orleans 35

New England Patriots (5-1) @ Buffalo Bills (4-3)

For the second straight week, the Patriots luck out going on the road taking on a team that will be without a star offensive player (probably, LeSean McCoy’s status is not too promising for this game and if he does get the go he will surely see limited action).  I’m saying this like it would actually matter though.  The Pats look like the best team in football and Tom Brady has thrown for 1004 yards, eight touchdowns and no picks since returning from suspension.Tom Brady  This Buffalo defense is getting scarier each week, and not in the good way, with all of their losses.  To me, there is no way they stack up to stop the Patriots.  Rob Gronkowski is all the way back and ripping defenses apart like he always has.  Looking back to the game that these two played earlier in the season, Martellus Bennett was one of the only offensive players that had a good game against the Bills.  I don’t like their chances covering both him and Gronk this week.  Yes, Buffalo has the Brown boys, Zach and Preston, and they have a resurgent Lorenzo Alexander but do you really think Tom Brady cares about any of that?  Lost in the dominant return of a future hall of famer is how well the Pats’ defense has been playing.  This unit is one of the most underrated in the league and I think they get after Tyrod Taylor and bait him into a couple of mistakes.  Also, the one thing that Buffalo has done well since Anthony Lynn was promoted to offensive coordinator is run the ball.  New England has had a lot of success stopping the run over the past couple of weeks.  This is just a bad matchup all around and I have to take the Patriots on the road.

New England 38, Buffalo 22

Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) @ Carolina Panthers (1-5)

This is the lest emphatic rematch of an NFC Championship game this early in the season in a very long time.  The Panthers are a frustrating team to figure and watch, but they have had a BYE week to think about their early embarrassing start to the season.  This team is one that plays much better later in the year than early on.  So do I like them to get back on track against the Cardinals at home?  I don’t have the stones to pick them.  The secondary is in shambles and the run defense is quite porous as well.  In marches Arizona fresh off of a game that they had no business losing hoping to prove they are on the upswing.  They have the game’s best running back in David Johnson and he should be licking his chops going up against this Carolina defense that has really had a rough go of things lately.  For the Cardinals, they actually weren’t that bad moving the ball last week, their trouble was scoring points.  This week they are facing the league’s 29th ranked scoring defense.  The Panthers are letting teams score almost 30 points per game, so the Cardinals have a chance to get back to scoring in bunches like they did last year.  Although, this is a different offense in 2016 than it was in ’15.  It is more physical and in your face than anything else.  These offenses have not typically fared well this year against the Panthers believe it or not.  It is those who want to air it out and take shots down the field that have found success.  I don’t think Bruce Arians will be able to resist himself from taking many shots down the field and testing this young, shaky secondary.  Mix the running game in as well as a defense that played very well in regulation last week and you got yourself another Panther loss.  I do want to mention that I think that Carolina will turn things around, but not just yet.  Give it one more week.

Arizona 31, Carolina 23

Sunday, October 30th, 4:05 e.t.

San Diego Chargers (3-4) @ Denver Broncos (5-2)

The Chargers continue to be the most fun team to watch week after week, with almost every single one of their games coming down to the wire.  What will this team have in store for us when they hit the road to take on a Denver team that just snapped its two game losing streak in a dominant home win over Houston last Monday night?  It was just two weeks ago when these teams faced of in San Diego in a game that the Bolts obviously won 21-13.  Philip Rivers played solid football in that game and he really has been in all of his contests lately.  But now he has to do it in Denver where quarterbacks have really struggled over the past couple of years.  The best hope for San Diego on the road here is to do what Atlanta did: utilize running backs as pass catchers out of the backfield.  Of course, the Chargers are hurting with injuries on the offensive side of things, but as long as Philip Rivers is careful with the ball they will have a fighting chance.  Tyrell Williams has been a nice find for San Diego and is quickly transforming into one of Rivers’ favorites on the field.  How will he do when shadowed by Chris Harris?  He might not get open quite as easily as this Denver defense is clearly quite different at home.  Trevor Siemian looked solid against a Houston D after starting a bit slow on Monday.  If he can protect the ball and find his men on quick crossing patterns then he should be fine again.  If the Chargers are smart, they will man up and come after the young quarterback here.  Turn up the heat and test out that Denver offensive line.  If guys like Joey Bosa can get hits or sacks on the quarterback then the Chargers can steal another one.  Unfortunately for them I don’t see it happening this time around.  I think the Broncos will try to run the ball to cut down on said pressure and play well on defense to a sixth win.Joey Bosa

Denver 19, San Diego 16

Sunday, October 30th, 4:25 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (4-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-3)

This is one of the best games of the week and it will have some big playoff implications early as the Packers head on the road to take on the Falcons who have now lost two games in a row.  After starting off 5-0 last year and finishing the year 3-8, it is understandable why everyone thinks something similar is taking place with Atlanta now but I am here to assure you that it is not.  The Falcons just lost two games that were very winnable and the team could easily be 5-1 right now (a lot of their fans will argue that they should be as well).  After getting stuffed on a fourth and one in their own territory in overtime last week against the Chargers, the Bolts were able to move the ball just a bit and kick the game winning field goal.  The Falcons did lead that game big in the first half and went dormant as things wore on.  That sure will bring cause for concern but I still believe that this team is better than last year.  In come the Packers who just got off of a mini-BYE playing last Thursday night and winning big over Chicago.  The Green Bay offense looked good for the first time all year and Aaron Rodgers hit 39 out of his 56 throws.  Without Eddie Lacy, the Pack really used the quick passing game for almost the entire contest.  Ty Montgomery was a big contributing factor to that offense catching ten balls for 66 yards and carrying it eight more times on top of that.  Ty MontgomeryLook for him to play a lot more in the back field yet again this week.  The Packers and Falcons seem to avoid playing each other most years but we get them together this time and it should be a good one.  I do like the Falcons to get back on track this season but I don’t want to go with them here.  If Green Bay is going to get on a roll offensively then I like them to do so against defenses like Atlanta’s; one that plays soft coverage and can’t rush the passer.  Yes, Aaron Rodgers has actually played worse this year when allowed time to throw the ball, but I think that he bucks that trend here.  With guys like Devonta Adams, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and a budding Ty Montgomery, the Packers present matchup problems all over the field.  This was a hard one to pick but I am going with the Pack on the road.

Green Bay 37, Atlanta 27

Sunday, October 30th, 8:30 e.t.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-1)

Carson Wentz vs Dak Prescott

Oh what a game we have here.  In what should be Sunday Night Football’s highest rated game of the year we have one of the best head-to-head matchups from the NFC East in recent memory.  Two rookie quarterbacks who have excelled at their game will be squaring off for the first of what promises to be many times in their careers and we can throw a stud rookie running back in there for good measure.  The media has been comparing Eagles rook Carson Wentz to Dallas’s Dak Prescott since week one and the two have had a nice race between them so far.  It is no secret that Prescott has way better weapons and one of the best offensive weapons in football so his success is possibly a factor of that alone, but he is making far fewer mistakes than Tony Romo did and is being very careful with the ball.  The Cowboys have been running the ball against everybody lately and will look to do so again against the Eagles.  Philly has a terrific defense, but one that is not as good on the road as it is at home.  They are letting up just over 21 points on the road while surrendering only just over 7 per game at home.  Washington ran the ball at will against the Eagles two weeks ago and I look for the Cowboys to duplicate that strategy at home.  Carson Wentz, for the first time all year, actually looked like a rookie against the Vikings but that Minnesota defense is no joke, so Philly fans should not sweat it too much.  The Cowboy defense has been playing very well lately and has enough talent on that side to keep most offenses at bay.  On paper the Cowboys have the edge in many areas but these are the kinds of games that they tend to lose.  I hate to make a pick based on that logic, so here’s something else: can the Dallas offensive line slow down edge pass rushers Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin who absolutely dominated last week against the Vikings?  While that was a home game against a shoddy O-line, I think that they can do some damage against the Dallas line here.  Call it a hunch but I think that Carson Wentz outplays Dak Prescott en route to a Philadelphia win.  This prediction will really look bad if Ezekiel Elliot runs loose like he has been over the past month, but the Eagles do tend to play the Cowboys’ ground game well so I don’t see him going for 130+ yards for the fifth straight week.

Philadelphia 30, Dallas 27

Monday, October 31st, 8:30 e.t.

Minnesota Vikings (5-1) @ Chicago Bears (1-6)

It is Halloween and we certainly have a scary matchup between the Vikings, who will be playing pissed off, and the Bears who have no other choice than to feed Matt Barkley to the Minnesota defense.  Nothing in this game bodes well for Chicago as I don’t see that offense making much noise at all against the dominant Viking D.  Jon Gruden loves to call them Purple Reign, and for good reason.  The defense has reigned supreme every week this season and certainly was not to blame for the Vikings first loss of the year on the road in Philly.  The putrid offense was, specifically the offensive line play.  The Eagles blitzed Sam Bradford time after time and hit home with six sacks and reeled in many other hits.  For the Bears to have any chance in this game, they will have to follow that blueprint.  The Vikings will need to get some form of a rushing attack going if this team is going to go anywhere in the playoffs, and if they can’t do so against Chicago then we could make a case that they are fatally flawed.  I see the Vikes coming out and playing with a large chip on their shoulder, putting together a dominant win.  Matt Barkley isn’t going to win anybody any games, certainly not against a defense like this.  Bears fans should go trick-or-treating instead of watching this game because it will likely be ugly.Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr

Minnesota 30, Chicago 7

Week 7 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (5-1): Minnesota over Chicago

Upset of the Week: Philadelphia over Dallas

Offensive Player of the Week: Jimmy Graham, TE Seahawks

Defensive Player of the Week: Chris Harris, CB Broncos

Rookie of the Week: Carson Wentz, QB Eagles

Best Quarterback: Russell Wilson, QB Seahawks

Best Running Back: David Johnson, RB Cardinals

 

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