Here are my NFL Week 8 Picks
(8-6-1 last week, 60-46-1 for the season)
Bye teams: Ravens, Rams, Dolphins, Giants, Steelers, 49ers
Jax @ Ten – Thursday Night matchups have become laughably bad, made worse perhaps by the attempt to make them exciting with colored jerseys. I understand the idea behind the Color Rush, I’m all for making the games more visually interesting, but make sure the colors aren’t headache inducing, and, oh yeah, make sure the games are good enough to watch. This one will not be. The Jaguars are a colossal disappointment, failing to live up to the expectations they set for themselves last year, when their offense began to break out and their young defense began to resemble a dynamic, hard-hitting, scary group. None of that actually came about, and this teams stinks as badly as they have for years. The Titans though, they might actually be trending in the right direction. They won’t make the playoffs this season, but there’s reason to be positive. Mariota & Murray seem to be a solid duo and the defense was playing well at the beginning of the year, if not so much lately. I think Tennessee is the far better team and will win this home game, though I wouldn’t count on either collecting many more wins in 2016.
Was @ Cin – Another game on neutral, English soil, and you have to wonder when exactly Britain will get an NFL team, because I think it will happen eventually. The Jaguars seem the most likely, but it could be anyone who isn’t happy in their home town, so we’ll see what happens in the next few years. Games overseas don’t always turn out to be the most exciting or best played, and I doubt either of these clubs is especially overjoyed to be taking that long flight across the pond. For the Redskins, this has been a season of streaks; starting 0-2, picking up 4 wins, and then losing last week. If that trend continues, they’ll lose this one, and I think that’s fairly likely. They aren’t a special bunch, and while they’ve played well on the road this season, a neutral game should simply elevate the better team, and I think that’s the Bengals. Not that I think Cinci is elite, far from it; they’ve proven that already this season. I think Marvin Lewis is a moron, I think they will never get over the hump until he’s fired, but it is funny that the division is within reach, with the Ravens slumping & the Steelers reeling from injuries.
NE @ Buf – It’s ridiculous how good the Patriots are. Any week, they can beat you in any way, changing their game plan based on what their opponent has to offer, which seems frustratingly simple. They cheat a little bit as well, don’t forget that, but even I can say that most of their winning ways are based on Belichick’s uncanny ability to plan ahead. New England also has a great QB, draft’s well, and plays as a team better than anyone else. Every matchup, they seem to highlight a different player in order to get the win: Blount, White, Gronk, Bennett, next man up. This is a near-perfect team, and it will take a lot to knock them off their perch, something that I don’t think Buffalo is capable of. They just don’t have a lot to work with; a marginal QB, an OK defense, some running backs, a mediocre coach. The Bills just aren’t special, and even though they surprised me by losing last week, when you really think about it, any loss from Buffalo shouldn’t be a shocker. What would blow my mind is a victory at home vs perhaps the best team in the NFL. No, look for the Pats to dominate per usual.
Ari @ Car – The league and all its fans hate ties, and we temporarily hate any teams that end a game that way. Last week’s matchup between the Cardinals and the Seahawks was the best worst game I’ve ever seen, a comedy of errors in a way, but not like watching a Browns/Bears game, but rather the worst luck in the world plus two of the best defenses in the NFL. It was fun to watch, but still frustrating in how it ended, and now both teams will look to turn it around in Week 8. The Cardinals just aren’t scoring as much as they did last year, which isn’t a giant problem as long as their defense holds up, but is something that they’d like to improve upon. Enter the Panthers, who couldn’t stop me from scoring a touchdown right now. This has been a complete disaster of a year for Carolina, and with a 1-5 record they’re probably out of contention. Still, I don’t think they’ve given up, so this could actually be a competitive game if Cam Newton steps up his game and the defense, which was so good last year, remembers how to play. Arizona isn’t great on the road, so I wouldn’t put money on this one, but I think the Cards win.
NYJ @ Cle – With Geno Smith injured & out, the Jets recall Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was not happy to have been benched. He says the staff lost faith in his, and well they should have, he’s played horribly at every turn. They sat him down, he returned during the next game, and actually helped lead his team to a victory, only their second of the season. So maybe this whole tempest is good for the team, maybe they refocus, and maybe (just maybe) they string together a couple wins. After all, they are playing the Brownies this week, the absolute worst team in the league, and a club who should probably just give up now so that they can have & waste the first pick in next year’s draft. With everything going right in Cleveland with the Cavs & the Indians, it couldn’t be worse for their football team, the Believeland Browns. It’s epic how completely inept this team is, and how they literally have no hope of turning things around. Every year it just gets worse, as they make every wrong decision, every bone-headed move, and seem destined for utter failure. Any given Sunday, sure, and the Jets aren’t great, but Cleveland is just sad.
Det @ Hou – The Lions are on a bit of a roll, having won 3 in a row after starting the season 1-4. They are only 1 & 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the division lead, and could very well make a playoff push, as long as they don’t pick up too many more losses, which is the curse of a poor start. Stafford is playing very well, Detroit is great at home, and this team could be one that makes a late-season surge toward a Wild Card, if nothing else. Unfortunately, the Texans will have something to say about that, at least this week. As much as I hate Osweiler for the lurch he left Denver in, I’m happy he’s gone, because he’s obviously not that great. Still, I’ve been defending him, he still has talent, and I’ll go so far as to say his coaches embarrassed him in last week’s loss to the Broncos. The game plan was not to let him play but to stop him from getting sacked, a strategy that backfired by not allowing the offense to move at all. Yes he avoided the sacks I thought were coming, but he also couldn’t ever find a rhythm, and the result was complete domination by Denver. Houston will play mad, at home, where they are undefeated.
KC @ Ind – Kansas City has put together a tiny winning streak, both games at home, and are pressing Denver & Oakland from behind for the AFC West title. They got a bit more than I expected from New Orleans last week, but held on for the win, and continue their MO; OK offense, OK defense, low mistakes, win a few games. That strategy can only get you so far, but it’s hard to argue with results, and this team is 4-2, so credit to them for a fine job. I just think there’s a low ceiling to their potential, and better teams will use momentum & passion to pass them by eventually. Speaking of momentum, I think the Colts are on the right side of it right now and could use it to their advantage this week. One game out of first place and finally winning a tough road/divisional game, Indy has to be feeling pretty good. They have been far from perfect this season, but they are still right in the thick of things, playing well enough right now to be considered a tough team to beat. I like them at home, feeling confident, behind Andrew Luck, and facing a Chiefs team that just isn’t that scary.
Sea @ NO – That tie really was something wild to watch, the way that neither team could grab the win away from their opponent. For the Seahawks, a lot of that has to do with the injuries to Russell Wilson. The guy just isn’t playing like himself, with his inability to make certain moves effecting his entire team. Good think Michael has been running well, although he was a non-factor in the last game, because Seattle needs that consistent play while their QB heals. And we can’t forget about that defense, which only allows 14 points per game. I think this club has a lot of wins in them, especially at home where they’re 3-0, but even a road game like this becomes winnable because of their great talent. I also think that Drew Brees still scores his points, even against a solid D, so perhaps this game is closer than it ought to be. The Saints are 2-4, are terrible on defense, and rely on Brees too often, something I’m fine with as a fantasy owner. He’ll score points, he always does, but perhaps only 2 TDs instead of 3, and not quite enough to get past Seattle, who will be running the ball like madmen and trying to keep Brees off the field.
Oak @ TB – The Patriots, the Cowboys, and the Raiders are doing something that no one else in the league can match; winning all the road games on the season. That’s not easy, and can usually be attributed to good traveling defenses. For example, New England only allows 15 points per game, Dallas only allows 18, but the Raiders allow 26, putting that theory on the back burner. So how do they win these road games? For one, good offense, which always helps, but for another, an up-tempo x-factor personality that stops them from ever giving up. This team is scrappy, and that can’t be statistically categorized. I feel the exact opposite way about Tampa, who also has a good road record at 3-1, but don’t strike me as a special club the way that Oakland does. The Bucs don’t play good offense or defense, they just skate by while playing bad competition like Carolina & San Francisco. I don’t trust this team as far as I can throw Jameis Winston, although their recent winning streak gives me pause when considering them to lose. But, they are actually winless at home, while the Raiders are undefeated on the road, so there you go.
SD @ Den – The Chargers are, wait for it, CHARGING forward with a 2 game win streak. One was vs these very same Broncos, the other was last week in overtime vs Atlanta. This team had been finding every way to lose, now they seem to be finding some way to win, so I guess it’s time to take San Diego seriously, at least until they show their true colors, which I have to believe are that of a sloppy team, not a finishing one. The Chargers beat the Broncos in San Diego, with Siemian coming back from an injury, with Coach Kubiak sidelined, and without Denver firing on all cylinders. I think this game will have a very different result. After a rough couple of weeks, Denver is back & better than ever. They took care of the Texans at home and looked like the Super Bowl team fans thought they could be again. Run the ball, work the play action, dominate on defense; that’s how my team will win games, and now I think they are finally focused on the best way to make that happen. C.J. Anderson goes down, but rookie RB Booker will step up, and I think that Orange Crush 2.0 will take care of both Rivers and business.
GB @ Atl – It’s never quite time to count out the Packers, even when they seem to be misfiring left & right, especially on offense. Last week they got back on track, Rodgers is finding some rhythm, and even the loss of Eddie Lacy doesn’t seem to have affected this team negatively. As long as Rodgers is healthy and is surrounded by talent, it’s hard to bet against Green Bay, even away from the safety of Lambeau Field. The Pack have actually only had 2 road games this season, splitting them at 1-1, so we’ll see which way they lean after this one, but we know that GB fans travel well. And you know what else travels well? Defense, and the Packer D is very underrated, only allowing 20 points per game. Not stellar, but low enough for Rodgers & Co. to outscore. They’ll have to sling it, because we know that the Falcons can put up their fair share of points. Atlanta has scored the most in the league, 229, which is 33 per game. That’s wild, but their defense is allowing way too many easy scores, making it a must to light it up. The Falcons have lost two in a row and are only 1-2 at home, so look for a good game, but one GB wins.
Phi @ Dal – I’m really looking forward to this Sunday Night matchup, a game that should be very close and could eventually decide the division. The Sunday Night games in general have been the night games to watch, outdoing Thursday Night of course, but even surpassing Monday Night as well. This one should be no exception, as we get to see the matchup of two rookie QBs and the teams they have put on their backs. For Carson Wentz, the season started off better than it has been going lately, but much of that was due to an easy schedule to start, a tougher one now. He did, however, just beat the best defense in the league, that being Minnesota, so the case for this rookie is building and I’m excited to see what else he can do. On the other side of the field will be Dak Prescott, Dallas’ savior, and the quarterback of the future, even if Tony Romo comes back at some point this season. Look for these two young men to put on a show on the big stage, but someone will come away the victor, and I think that’s the Cowboys. 2-1 at home while Philly is 1-2 on the road, this game will come down to the wire.
Min @ Chi – I’ve picked a lot of road teams to win games this week, but that’s because I had to; these teams are better than their competition, it’s that simple. Home field advantage counts, but when the away team is much stronger, I have to believe that they can do their jobs in front of a supportive crowd or a vicious one. New England, Arizona, Seattle, Green Bay, and now Minnesota; there’s a reason why I think these teams can win on the road, and that’s a combination of solid offense with strong defense, something that travels but also wins championships. I may not believe in Sam Bradford, and the Vikings may have lost last week, but I wouldn’t bet against them here, especially playing angry & vs the Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler will be back this week, although I doubt anyone is throwing a party. He’s a vortex of sadness and drags the entire team down with him. Add that to terrible GM choices and bad coaching and you’ve got yourself one giant mess. That’s Chicago in a nutshell, and they’ve proven that they are one of the worst teams in the league. This game might not even be close, but we’ll wait and see.