Here are my NFL Week 8 Picks
(9-5 last week, 66-39 for the season)
Bye teams: Bills, Jaguars, Eagles, Redskins
Mia @ NE – After a very disappointing beginning to the season, and after so many of us thought that this team was on their way to the playoffs, the Dolphins might be turning things around. Miami fired HC Philbin and rattled the cages a little concerning practice, team tenacity, and the overall mentality of the organization. Their interim coach has them playing well, with two straight wins. However, those wins came against the Titans and the Texans, two troubled teams in the problematic AFC South. So a victory in Foxboro would be another feat completely, and I can’t see that happening. The Patriots are playing near perfect football, led by their future Hall of Fame captain Tom Brady. New England has scored the most points in the AFC, plugging away at 36 points per game, and shows no sign of stopping. They had a bit of a tough one last week vs the Jets, but still came away with a victory, and should be able to do the same here vs a hot Miami team that will be hunting. It’s not easy beating someone who has nothing to lose, but I won’t pick against the Pats at home until they show me a reason to.
Det @ KC – It’s time for another game in jolly ol’ England, this time between the Lions and the Chiefs. Detroit has stirred their sleepy offense a bit, actually getting the ball into the hands of their best weapon, Calvin Johnson. You wonder why no one thought to do that before, or why it’s suddenly possible when it wasn’t before. Their schedule has lightened a bit, which helps, and they should be able to keep putting up points. But now it’s time for the defense to step up as well, which isn’t easy considering that they let the best defensive player in the league go to the Dolphins. Only one team has allowed more points this season than the Lions, something that had better change right now. That’s easier said than done, though, especially with the Chiefs actually throwing the ball to wide receivers, something that has been documented to be very rare. Maclin comes back this week after staying out for one game with a concussion, and should immediately start scoring against Detroit’s leaky pass coverage. No Jamaal Charles though, and that hurts, but that won’t be enough to stop them from winning this game.
TB @ Atl – A loss in Washington wasn’t exactly what Tampa Bay had planned coming off their bye week. Not only that, but they made Kirk Cousins so excited he yelled “You like that!” twice to the media, creating the Vine of the year. When you can make Cousins look like an elite quarterback, you know you’ve done something wrong. So the Bucs obviously need to work on their defense, allowing 31 points in back-to-back games, while their offense seems to be picking it up a little behind Famous Jameis and Muscle Hamster. So give them a little credit, but don’t pick them to win this game. The Falcons may be lucky, but they’ve ridden that luck to a 6-1 record. Barely beating the Eagles, Giants, Redskins, and Titans, Atlanta should be counting their blessings and solving problems. They can score, their defense is OK, but this isn’t a scary team right now, and would probably lose if matched up against a dominate NFC team like the Packers, Panthers, or Cardinals. No worries this week though, giving them time to figure it all out.
SD @ Bal – As a Bronco fan, I always enjoy watching the Chargers lose. Even more so than the Raiders these days, since the rivalry between Denver and Phillip Rivers has been much more dynamic than the rivalry between Denver and Oakland. It was fun to see Derek Carr carve San Diego up last week, and I hope Flacco can do the same in Week 8. Rivers has a detestable personality, SD thought they were so smart getting Mike McCoy from the Broncos to be their HC, no one should have that perfect of weather for every game; only a few reasons to root against the Chargers, not only in this matchup but every week. And the Ravens are do a win, right? They’re a horrible 1-6, have yet to win at home, and are coming off a close loss in Arizona vs a tough team. Watching that game, it looked like many of the players had given up, and I guess I wouldn’t blame them. But you know, the season isn’t over. When Big Ben comes back, the Steelers might muddle up the top of the AFC North, opening the door for a mediocre team to get hot at the right moment and take something that isn’t theirs. But one game at a time, I guess, starting here.
Min @ Chi – As underrated as any team in the league, Minnesota is a very quiet 4-2. They’ve also only allowed 102 points total on the season, which is equal to Denver’s D, a group that gets a ton more credit. The problem is scoring points to win close games, something that hasn’t been happening consistently enough. The Vikings are playing second fiddle to the Packers in the NFC North, but they could still secure a Wild Card spot if they stay focused and keep winning. The Bears will have something to say about that though, especially at home in Chicago. Minnesota is 1-2 on the road, so advantage goes to the home club here. But the Bears defense has been pathetic, nothing like the fabled Chicago D of old, so perhaps this is the week the Vikings put up enough points to turn some heads. Jay Cutler has yet to win against the NFC this season, and I don’t think that changes this week. Look for a possible low scoring game in the Windy City where the Vikings won’t be able to take full advantage of Chicago’s bad defense, but will be able to do just enough to come away with a win.
Ari @ Cle – The Cardinals have been flirting with losing their spot as one of the best teams in the league. With two losses and many near-losses, they’ve been doing enough to stay on top of the NFC West, but have yet to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. As St. Louis and Seattle improve, they begin to sneak up on Arizona, and the Cardinals lose any room for error. That said, they still score the most points in the league, don’t allow many, and have a winning record both at home & on the road. So I’m still on the bandwagon, unless they somehow lose this week in Cleveland. McCown or Manziel, I wouldn’t trust either with my team. Both show flashes, but neither are consistent enough to warrant your faith. The same could be said about the Browns in general; sometimes they show some promise, and then they pull the rug right out from under their fans’ feet. Cleveland is on a two-game losing streak, and probably won’t turn things around in Week 8. Arizona is just too tough, the Dawg Pound just isn’t that scary this year, and the Browns will have to wait until next season to try it all again.
Ten @ Hou – After one great game from Marcus Mariota, the Titans have lost 5 straight. Their defense has been playing fairly well, but their offense is atrocious, scoring the least amount of points in the AFC. Also, they’re 0-4 at home, which is weird, 1-1 on the road. They have talent in many areas, but have yet to figure out a way to make it work as a unit, something that might not change this week. The Texans have their own problems. They just cut Ryan Mallett for being late and a general tool, they lost Arian Foster for the season with a leg injury, and they’re coming off a blowout loss at the hands of the resurgent Dolphins. But it’s the defense that’s been the real shocker, playing terribly and with no excuses, not with Watt & Clowney screaming off the edges. This is a team that should be much better, keeps getting worse, and is somehow only one game out of first place in the AFC South. The Colts have left the door wide open, but with these new issues, there’s a lot of doubt surrounding Houston’s ability to walk through it. Winning this week would help, and I think they can do it.
NYG @ NO – I say every week that the Giants are going to win the NFC East, that they’re the only team with a legitimate QB now that Romo is hurt, that Eli will improve each game. And they are winning the division, are 4-3, are 3-1 at home, and still seem capable of holding on. But I’m starting to have some doubts. New York is 1-2 on the road, only one game ahead of the Redskins in the East, and is scoring just a hair more than they allow. Not a recipe for late-season success. Meanwhile, the Saints are picking it up. After beginning 1-4, New Orleans has won its last two games, is 2-1 at home, and can actually score a few points, though they’re still having trouble playing defense. Can Drew Brees & Sean Payton make a run and claim the NFC South? Probably not, not with the Panthers and Falcons playing as well as they both are, but a Wild Card spot isn’t out of the picture. They just need to keep winning at home, keep improving, and maybe figure some things out on defense. I still like the G-Men, but this game looks like a loss, and the Saints can take a big step forward in Week 8.
Cin @ Pit – After doubting the Bengals much of the beginning of the season, I’ve stuck by them for weeks now, and they’ve proved themselves to the world. This is a really talented team, undefeated, firing on all cylinders, playing great offense & defense, showing the NFL that they’re playoff ready. The questions about Dalton’s big game ability are still relevant, but all Cinci can do is play one game at a time, and so far they haven’t lost a challenge. Usually I’d pick them to lose this big matchup in Pittsburgh, but not this year, this year I’m sticking by them until they show be a reason why I shouldn’t. It helps that Big Ben will be rusty coming off an injury that has kept him out for multiple weeks. It’s good to see him back, and that definitely raises the Steelers’ chances, but the guy hasn’t played in a long time, might be a little skittish about his leg, and could make a mistake or two that will doom his team. Bell, Brown; excellent weapons, and I don’t think this game will be a blowout. But I like the Bengals this year, they’ve got the confidence to win, and Pittsburgh might have to settle for a Wild Card spot.
SF @ STL – And I actually thought that the Niners would learn something from the Panthers, that they’d be able to beat the Seahawks using a proven blueprint. Kaepernick might not be able to learn anything, as he seems to be digressing every day, never improving mentally in a game that demands it. San Francisco has scored the least points in the league, can’t play defense to save their lives, and won’t be improving any time soon. I know their entire team left them in the offseason, but I expected better than this awful year. The Rams, ironically, have scored the second fewest points in the league, but are playing much better defense than the Niners, offsetting their offensive woes with good D. And, with Gurley running like a madman, things might be looking up. He’s gone crazy, trucks where he wants, and is exciting this entire team. There’s still a lot of room for improvement for this St. Louis team as a whole, and I still don’t think Jeff Fisher is the amazing coach many like to give him credit for being, but at least the Rams are trending in the right directions and could come away with a win here.
NYJ @ Oak – The Jets were so close to beating the Patriots last week, and that would have changed a lot. Instead of two games behind, New York would be tied with New England at 5-1. And with the tie-breaker, they’d be first place in the AFC East. That was a huge game, and perhaps being in Foxboro gave the Pats just enough of an edge to remain undefeated. They’ll face each other again Week 16 in East Rutherford, and maybe the outcome will be different, but meanwhile the Jets need to pick up some more wins elsewhere. With the most solid overall defense in the NFL, that shouldn’t be too hard. The Raiders aren’t pushovers though, coming off a big win in San Diego. Derek Carr played very well, Murray is a strong running back, and Cooper should win Rookie of the Year. But the Raiders have only an OK defense and actually don’t play well at home, going 1-2 on the season. They’re better on the road playing the role of the underdog, that’s when they get themselves hyped up to play their best. The Jets should win this tough game in California behind their great defense and surprisingly good offense.
Sea @ Dal – Seattle has been a very frustrating team all season. At 3-4, they’re still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, and could possibly still win their division, sitting only 2 games out right now. Their defense is fine, but it’s their offense that’s keeping them from winning more games. At times, it seems like Wilson & Graham are developing some chemistry and that this offense might turn the corner. But too often the Seahawks fail to put up the kind of points needed in the modern NFL, falling behind teams that are too good to be completely shut down by the Legion of Boom. Thankfully for Seattle, Dallas is not that kind of team. At least, not right now, not with Matt Cassell leading the troops. He’s pathetic, not much better than Brandon Weeden, and remains a flimsy stopgap until Romo can return from his injury. Good news; Dez Bryant comes back this week, and that should help a little. But when Cassell throws a couple INTs, Dez is gonna yell at someone on the sideline and the Seahawks are gonna take the momentum and put the game away.
GB @ Den – Little-discussed stat; the Packers have allowed the least total points in the league. That’s less than the Broncos, the Vikings, and the Jets, some of the best defenses in the NFL. Pretty impressive, especially complimenting it with great offensive play, something Denver & Minnesota can’t do. Give Aaron Rodgers a good defense so he doesn’t have to do it all himself and watch how far he goes. That’s why I picked the Pack to win the Super Bowl, because with a running game & a solid defense, this is the best team in the league. The Broncos, meanwhile, also have an excellent D, but can’t score points, making each game a nail-biter. Peyton Manning is officially old, can’t do the things he once could, and is no longer fooling anyone. Every week Denver fans call for Brock Osweiler, a focus on the running game, Peyton to reduce his role, something, anything, because they can tell that the way we are winning games right now isn’t sustainable. People say well Denver is undefeated, don’t change a thing. But that’s about to change, and perhaps change is what we need.
Ind @ Car – This might be the easiest game to pick in Week 8, a terrible team vs an amazing one. The Colts are winning their division at 3-4, but have lost two straight and seem to have no answer as to why they’re doing so poorly. Andrew Luck looks awful, and really so does the rest of the team, including a leaky defense. Every win this season for the Colts has come against the AFC South, they’re winless against the rest of the league. Too bad you just can’t keep playing bad teams, and too bad you have to face the Panthers, the Broncos, and the Falcons in your next three games. Carolina is the exact opposite, a team that is doing everything right. Scoring points, not allowing many, winning at home & on the road; the sky’s the limit for the Panthers. Look for another ground-pounding performance from Can Newton & Jonathan Stewart, as they put up points in bunches against a Colts team that’s inferior in every area.