NFL Picks Week 8: Predicting the Winners of Pivotal Division Battles

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants runs off of the field after losing to the Dallas Cowboys by the score of 24-17 during the 2012 NFL season opener at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Week 8 of the NFL season features several pivotal division battles that will help shape the playoff race as we move into the second half of the year.

These games are so important because many of the late-season tie-breakers we see are decided by head-to-head record with division rivals and a team's overall division record.

Let's predict the winners of this week's crucial divisional matchups.


New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

This is arguably the most important division battle of Week 8 because the Giants can greatly improve their position in the NFC East with a win over the Cowboys to improve to 6-2, while a defeat would drop Dallas to 3-4.

The Cowboys' chances of making the playoffs would take a huge hit if they were to lose on Sunday, so expect this to be one of the most competitive matchups of the weekend.

The Giants are playing great football at the moment, and have won three straight games including a convincing 26-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. Quarterback Eli Manning is a top candidate for league MVP and is leading a stellar offense that ranks third in passing and 12th in rushing.

For Dallas to win, they have to get a great performance from quarterback Tony Romo. Romo, to his credit, put the team in position to win its last two games, but they lost in Week 6 to the Baltimore Ravens and barely defeated the Carolina Panthers last weekend.

These are the types of games that Romo must prove he can win, but against a Giants team that has a fantastic pass rush and a high-scoring offense, don't expect the Cowboys to earn a much-needed victory this week.

Prediction: Giants win 31-21


San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

After starting the season 4-0, the Arizona Cardinals have lost three straight games, and badly need a win against the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers.

It's quite possible that one of the NFC Wild Card playoff spots could come from the NFC West this year, so both teams need to win this game because the Seattle Seahawks (who like the Cardinals are 4-3) are a legitimate threat in the division.

The 49ers defense will be the difference in this matchup because the Cardinals don't have a good rushing attack (ranked 27th in the NFL), and aren't likely to have success through the air versus the No. 1 pass defense in football.

Look for the 49ers to establish their strong running game (second best in NFL) against a Cardinals defense (ranked 20th vs. run) that has struggled against good running teams this season.

This will be a fun game to watch, but San Francisco won't have too much trouble defeating Arizona.

Prediction: 49ers win 27-10


Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

The New York Jets' loss in overtime to the rival New England Patriots last week is the kind of defeat that can affect a team moving forward, so it's important that Rex Ryan's men put that disappointment behind them and focus on a talented Miami Dolphins team.

Both teams are 3-4, but since the entire AFC is filled with mediocre records, each squad's chances of making the playoffs are still good.

For the Jets to win this game, they need another great performance from their defense. Against the Patriots and Tom Brady, the Jets' pass defense was solid, and this week they will face rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill who has thrown just four touchdown passes and six interceptions this season.

Expect the Jets to force several turnovers this week and defeat the Dolphins for the second time this season.

Prediction: Jets win 27-14