NFL Picks Week 8: Analyzing Expert Predictions from Around the Web
As if we need more NFL to break down, how about comparing some expert picks?
Well that's just one way to go about predicting weekly winners because after all, we've seen how unpredictable pro football can be.
Take a featured game this Sunday between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. Big Blue was coming off a second Super Bowl victory with Eli Manning and Co. and hosting Big D in Week 1.
Needless to say the odds were stacked against Tony Romo and the Cowboys. Instead, Dallas pulled the season-opening upset and a chance for a sweep of New York is presented in Week 8.
Ahead, let's preview each game and check out picks from Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey, Andrea Hangst and Matt Miller, ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com's Dan Hanzus.
For amusement, my picks are included (54-50 through Week 7).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are a unanimous selection.
So far on the short week, only one road team has come away with a victory: the New York Giants.
And it's hard-pressed to find another team that has played as consistently well as the Giants on the road in recent years. Fortunately for Minnesota, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not that team.
Now, Tampa certainly presents a sound offense with big-play potential because of the Josh Freeman-to-Vincent Jackson connection. Include Doug Martin on the ground and the Bucs will move the rock. Still, the Vikings are solid defensively against the pass and run.
Jared Allen and Co. know how to apply quarterback pressure and the coverage is more opportunistic than given credit. On the flip side, Christian Ponder definitely needs to minimize the turnovers as he has thrown six picks the past three weeks.
Tampa, though, ranks No. 31 against the pass and with Adrian Peterson in the backfield play-action will get set up nicely. Not a blowout, but controlled by the Vikings throughout and also courtesy of their impressive return game.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a unanimous selection.
This game has the feel of Week 8's most lopsided victory. The Bears enter at 5-1, whereas the Carolina Panthers are Chicago's reciprocal at 1-5.
Interestingly enough, four of Carolina's previous five games were at home and the Cats are riding a two-game losing streak. Chicago, on the other hand, is one of the most confident teams right now and Lovie Smith's defense is rolling.
For the Panthers, it comes down to Cam Newton getting out of his sophomoric funk.
We saw his potential as a rookie in 2011, so the potential to break out remains present. That said, with Carolina lacking in both offensive areas while Chicago shuts down and forces turnovers, don't expect much from Newton and Co.
Defensively, Carolina has some playmakers but isn't consistent enough to slow down the Bears. With one of the NFL's best running back tandems and Brandon Marshall out wide, Jay Cutler has more talent around him than ever before.
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns
The San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns are an intriguing matchup. The Bolts have an offense capable of racking up points, although turnovers really cost Philip Rivers against the Broncos. Cleveland, as we know, has improved at forcing turnovers and can get solid quarterback pressure.
So, the distinction comes down to how balanced each offense can remain throughout. The backfields each utilize more than just one ball-carrier depending on the situation and the quarterbacks present the ability to make every NFL throw.
San Diego is much better at stuffing the run; however, it's just as vulnerable against the pass. Special teams also favor Cleveland, because Phil Dawson can connect from anywhere and Josh Cribbs is one of the league's best return men.
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions' offense has been getting minimal production in 2012 because of an inconsistent ground game. It's not same made-up Madden Curse on Calvin Johnson; it's just proof that a pass-happy offense will fail in pro football, as the ability to move on the ground remains true to consistent success. Just as the New York Giants.
So, don't be surprised when Megatron gets isolated in man coverage against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Seattle's coverage is just as suffocating as anyone in the league, and the pass rush will cause problems for Matthew Stafford.
Now, yes, there is concern regarding Seattle's own aerial assault and that Pete Carroll's team is 0-3 on the road this season. Then again, all three losses have come within the NFC West and Detroit's inability to control the line of scrimmage has proven costly through six games.
New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
The New England Patriots are a unanimous selection.
If there's one concern of the Patriots, it's the pass defense. Allowing 290 passing yards per game and ranked No. 29, anticipate the St. Louis Rams attacking this more than expected in Week 8. The downside for St. Louis, though, is it lacks a consistent passing offense.
Therefore, more press coverage in Cover 1 looks are likely from New England. Isolating Steven Jackson and the ground game is the key, because the Rams can have success off play-action. But, totally minimizing the damage from the line of scrimmage will force St. Louis to pass more than wanted.
Although the Rams boast a respectable pass rush and coverage, New England presents more offensive weapons and a stronger balanced attack. Most definitely are the Pats a pass-first offense; however, New England's rushing attack deserves more credit in the overall success.
It'll be a fairly close contest, but between the Pats balance and St. Louie's lack of offensive explosion by comparison, New England pulls further away as the game progresses.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Currently sporting a two-game winning streak, the Miami Dolphins are entering Week 8 with much-anticipated confidence. This team is well-versed in the trenches and capable of controlling the line against the New York Jets all day.
One weakness in Miami, though, is defending consistently against the pass. On the bright side, the Dolphins will apply solid pressure to Mark Sanchez who will try to force a few throws. Just as he did against the Pats in Week 7.
Because the Dolphins are still finding their rhythm with Ryan Tannehill at the helm, a ground-and-pound approach will gain the early momentum versus New York. The Jets can be suspect against the run and Reggie Bush continues to emerge as an every-down back.
It will be an old-fashioned, low-scoring physical game, which is to Miami's advantage in being more consistent at running and stuffing the run.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Despite current perfection, the Atlanta Falcons' flaws reside at the line of scrimmage. Ranking No. 29 in rushing offense and No. 28 in rushing defense, the Dirty Birds also average only 3.7 yards per carry while allowing 5.2 per carry.
That plays directly into the Philadelphia Eagles' hands, because every time LeSean McCoy is fed 20-plus carries, this team has won in 2012. In short, Andy Reid cannot let Michael Vick be Philly's deciding factor as his case of the fumbles remains a vehement concern.
The Falcons are excellent in coverage and capable of totally blanking Philly's passing attack. So, keeping Matt Ryan sidelined while McCoy does work is the Eagles' best chance to pull the upset.
Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers
A matchup providing much intrigue, the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III face the uncharacteristically struggling Pittsburgh Steelers. For Pittsburgh, an aerial onslaught has to be a constant option since the Redskins rank dead last against the pass.
If we learned anything from Washington in Week 7, defending the pass remains its biggest vulnerability. Ben Roethlisberger has an array of receivers to target, so a rather high-scoring affair can be expected. The question, however, is how can the Steelers isolate Robert Griffin III?
Well for one, it's not easy and two, unlikely to happen. With Alfred Morris in the backfield to RG3, Washington can dynamically run the ball in any situation. Pittsburgh hasn't applied much consistent pressure in 2012 and the Redskins' manipulative balance will move the ball.
Plus, RG3 is quite efficient when passing as he holds a 70.4 completion percentage (leads league) entering Week 8.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are a unanimous selection.
If there is one lock game in Week 8, it's the Packers over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars are struggling to move the ball, even when healthy, offensively and are significantly underachieving defensively. After all, Mel Tucker's defense ranked inside the top 10 for pass and rush defense in 2011.
Now, though, Jacksonville cannot stop anyone and it's largely due to a non-existent pass rush. Through six games played, the Jaguars have recorded just five sacks. Lining up against Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Green Bay will shred Jacksonville's defense throughout.
Now factor in the Packers' improved pass rush, compared to 2011, and run defense and the Jags aren't moving much. The cheese are literally on a roll right now, and it's going to be at least a few more weeks before anyone legitimately slows them down.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
To this point the Indianapolis Colts have altered wins and losses while the Tennessee Titans ride a two-game winning streak. This is a pivotal game for each team in 2012, because both are 0-1 in the AFC South and victory here certainly increases the postseason odds.
Chris Johnson and Tennessee's ground attack appears to have found a rhythm in recent weeks and the Colts do struggle in the trenches on either side. To win, Indy needs to rely on Andrew Luck against the Titans susceptible coverage because Matt Hasselbeck's veteran experience has impacted Tennessee quite well.
Neither team presents an overly dominant pass rush, so controlling the line with the running game is key. That edge goes to Tennessee, simply because it also reduces Luck's number of opportunities.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
The Oakland Raiders versus the Kansas City Chiefs will be determined by Darren McFadden and Jamaal Charles. McFadden may only average 3.1 per carry heading in, but K.C. allows 4.7 per attempt. On the contrary, Charles gets 5.1 per carry and the Raiders give up only 3.8 per rush.
So, something will obviously have to give in the trenches. One major advantage for Oakland, however, is the passing game. Carson Palmer has just four picks on the season and averages nearly 289 yards passing per game.
Kansas City struggles immensely at tossing the rock, despite the luxury of Charles to set up play-action, and Brady Quinn is not the answer, Although he is getting the start according to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star.
After throwing two interceptions against Tampa Bay, who fields one of the NFL's worst passing defenses, the Raiders will blanket Dwayne Bowe and force Quinn to make ill-advised decisions.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
The New York Giants are a unanimous selection.
Anyone expecting the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Giants have reason, because Big D's Week 1 road win was evidence of that potential. Unlike New York, though, Dallas fails to show up consistently.
The Giants have been one of, if not the most consistent winners in key games. Week 8 in Dallas is one of those games, because a Cowboys victory will sweep New York and put Tony Romo and Co. just one game back from an overall record standpoint.
With pressure on both sides, Big Blue has a stronger front seven and more consistent at getting to the quarterback. Despite RG3's success, New York did force two turnovers of the rookie quarterback which propelled to a Giants comeback win.
Additionally, Dallas has yet to find constant reliability at running the ball and stopping the run. New York possesses one of the NFL's best defensive lines and Ahmad Bradshaw is great for setting up Eli Manning in play-action.
Lest we also forget about Romo still being turnover-prone, whereas Manning always finds a way to win.
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos
You can certainly call me bias here, but the Denver Broncos have an X-factor in Tracy Porter against the New Orleans Saints. Add in some Champ Bailey and Denver's cornerback tandem will arguably be the best Drew Brees has faced thus far in 2012.
Include the Broncos pass rush and New Orleans will have trouble moving early on. Also, with Peyton Manning under center against one of the NFL's worst defenses, it's expected that Denver's offense control the tempo.
The Saints allow 465.5 total yards per game and the Broncos are balanced enough to keep Brees off the field. Regardless of the score, how much or little Denver limits Brees' possessions will be the difference.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
The San Francisco 49ers are a unanimous selection.
The 49ers displayed their true character in the Week 7 win at home over Seattle, because it was on a short week against a division rival and after getting wrecked by the Giants.
As for the Arizona Cardinals, don't write them off just yet. Yes, starting 4-0 and now riding a three-game losing streak raises concern. Still, Arizona's defense has yet to allow more than 21 points in a game and we saw the Card's utmost potential in winning over the Patriots and Eagles.
San Francisco, though, is just much better at slamming between the tackles and shutting down against the run. It's a dual of stellar defenses and the offenses will have trouble early on as well as third down.
Because of Frank Gore and Alex Smith's decision-making—aside from the Giants game—the 49ers win the field-position battle. One thing to keep in mind about Smith is his 66.8 completion percentage, as that can get overlooked by the 'Niners defense and rushing attack.
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