If win-loss records reveal anything, then picking games for Week 8 of the NFL schedule should be a fairly easy task.
Of the 14 games on the Week 8 slate, only one features two teams with winning records (San Francisco vs. Arizona on Monday Night Footballl), and only three games pit teams with the same amount of wins (Miami vs. New York, Washington vs. Pittsburgh and Indianapolis vs. Tennessee).
In comparison, there are four games with teams who have at least three wins of separation (Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay, Carolina vs. Chicago, Atlanta vs. Philadelphia and Jacksonville vs. Green Bay).
Could Week 8 be the turning point for the contenders? Or will parity once again spoil the party for the many clear favorites?
Here's our game-by-game predictions for Week 8 of the NFL season:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)
The Vikings will be hoping to extend one winning streak while the Bucs attempt to end a nasty losing streak Thursday night in Minnesota. With another home win, the Vikings will be 5-0 at the Metrodome for the first time since its 12-4 season of 2009. The Bucs, on the other hand, are desperate for a road win after dropping their last nine. Ironically, the last time the Bucs won away from Tampa Bay was in Week 2 last season in Minnesota.
The passing game should be the deciding factor Thursday night. Christian Ponder (58 yards, two interceptions) should bounce back from possibly the worst passing performance of his career, especially against a Bucs defense ranked 31st against the pass. Josh Freeman (420 yards, three touchdowns) needs another big day to spring the upset on the road.
Vikings 23, Buccaneers 21
Carolina Panthers (1-5) at Chicago Bears (5-1)
Cam Newton still isn't back on track, and now the dying Panthers have to travel to Chicago to face one of the NFL's top defenses. Either Newton is going to break out in a big way, or this Carolina team is falling flat on its face. We'll go with the falling-on-the-face trick. There's just nothing to trust about the Panthers in 2012.
Bears 27, Panthers 16
San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (1-5)
This isn't a cakewalk for the Chargers, but maybe getting away from San Diego for its first game since "35-24" isn't the worst thing in the world. The Browns are a team the Chargers should beat, even away from home. Philip Rivers rebounds to help erase some of the memory of that terrible Monday night in Week 6.
Chargers 24, Browns 13
Seattle Seahawks (4-3) at Detroit Lions (2-4)
There may not be a better individual matchup in Week 8 than Calvin Johnson vs. the Seahawks big, physical secondary. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman (6'3") and Brandon Browner (6'4") are the NFL's only duo that can physically match what Johnson brings to the table every week. Plus, safety Earl Thomas is one of the best at bracket coverage, and fellow safety Kam Chancellor can lay the wood. Tough week for Megatron to snap out of his mini-funk.
Seahawks 24, Lions 23
New England Patriots (4-3) at St. Louis Rams (3-4)
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and receiver Brandon Lloyd will face their former team, but this will look like a team they hardly remember. This is a much tougher football team, from both a personnel and mindset standpoint. That said, the Patriots need to start stacking some successes and find a consistency in 2012. I think that finally happens on the road against the Rams, who are still licking their wounds from Aaron Rodgers the week before.
Patriots 30, Rams 17
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)
The Jets have lost three of four games but have looked better in defeat over the last two. On the other sidelines will be Miami, who is coming off two straight victories and the bye week. Advantage Dolphins? The run game will again tell the tale Sunday. Miami ran for 185 yards in an overtime loss to the Jets in Week 3. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is now more capable of making the play action hurt.
Dolphins 23, Jets 20
Atlanta Falcons (6-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
After a bye week and some shakeups within the organization, Andy Reid's job-saving tour begins with a visit from the NFL's only unbeaten team. While the Eagles may look downright awful some weeks, Reid gets his football team up for these kind of matchups. Two weeks of prep, some changes for the better and the Eagles are back in the win column at home—handing Atlanta its first loss of the 2012 season.
Eagles 31, Falcons 23
Washington Redskins (3-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
Playing in New York against the Giants has a case, but Robert Griffin III arguably hasn't faced a tougher test than he will Sunday when the Redskins travel to Pittsburgh. The Steelers aren't a full-strength defense, but 90 percent of Pittsburgh is better than 90 percent of the remaining NFL defenses. While there's no doubting that Griffin III will give us more wows, his teammates simply aren't good enough right now—especially on defense—to go into Pittsburgh and win. Steelers continue their rebound with a double-digit win.
Steelers 34, Redskins 24
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3)
Like no game on the 2012 schedule to date, Jaguars-Packers has the making of a serious blowout. Jacksonville will be without several key players, including running back Maurice Jones-Drew, receiver Laurent Robinson and linebacker Daryl Smith. The Packers are banged up too, but the Green Bay offense is currently playing at a ridiculous level. They are also returning home after a three-game road trip. Oh, and that Aaron Rodgers guy? He has nine touchdowns and a passer rating over 140.0 in the last 120 minutes of football. Packers, big.
Packers 38, Jaguars 13
Indianapolis Colts (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)
Quietly, Colts-Titans has turned into a semi-important Week 8 matchup. While neither team appears to be a serious playoff threat, at least one is heading into Week 9 with four wins. So far in the AFC this season, that's huge. Love Andrew Luck, but who wants to bet against the clutch Matt Hasselbeck right now? Titans squeak out another close win to run their winning streak to three games.
Titans 24, Colts 23
Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Rather loudly, Raiders-Chiefs has turned into a clunker AFC West matchup. Brady Quinn starts at quarterback for Kansas City, and may for a while. If that's not a give-up from head coach Romeo Crennel, I don't know what is. Boo birds may outnumber cheers at Arrowhead Sunday.
Raiders 28, Chiefs 10
New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
A turning-point game for quarterback Tony Romo, head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' 2012 season. A loss at home gives the Giants a three-game cushion in the NFC East and sets Dallas down a dangerous road the rest of the season. I don't trust Romo or the 'Boys, but I don't think they'll go down without swinging. They land a punch on the rival Giants in Week 8.
Cowboys 27, Giants 24
New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Denver Broncos (3-3)
This game could be the shootout of the weekend. Both quarterbacks are playing at a high level, but the same can't be said about the defenses from either club. However, if there's going to be a defense to make a necessary stop or two, I'm taking Denver's. And while getting Joe Vitt back helps New Orleans, it's not enough for the Saints to beat an emerging Broncos team on the road.
Broncos 35, Saints 31
San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
Finally, we get to the one game on the schedule between winning teams. The Arizona collapse was easy to foreshadow, and it's not likely to end Monday night. The 49ers defense has had the better part of 10 days to get ready for a Cardinals offensive line that can't block anyone (35 sacks allowed), which is scary for quarterback John Skelton. Arizona will certainly have to get turnovers from Alex Smith, but it's easy to predict the 49ers running Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter at the Cardinals all night.
49ers 24, Cardinals 10
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