Week 8 NFL Picks: Predicting Every Game on the Schedule
Predicting games on the Week 8 NFL schedule is another battle against parity.
Don't believe me? Just look to Vegas.
The confident oddsmakers are having a hard time splitting up the games this week, with just five of the 14 matchups in Week 8 having current lines of over 4.5 points. In comparison, six are pinned at three points or fewer, essentially conceding a toss-up.
Despite a daunting task that even Vegas struggled with, we predict each of the remaining games on the Week 8 schedule in the following slides.
Carolina Panthers (1-5) at Chicago Bears (5-1)
There's a reason these two football teams have opposite records in 2012. The necessary talent and coaching has been put in place in Chicago, but Carolina still lacks both. As a result, long-time Panthers GM Marty Hurney lost his job last week.
The firing has meant changes in Carolina, but the Panthers are still searching for an identity on offense (play-calling has been dreadful) and struggling on the other side of the football as well (they are in the bottom third of the NFL in total defense).
The Bears have a clear identity: Play smothering defense, set up short fields for Jay Cutler and the offense, and win the special teams battle every week. They have executed that game plan all season.
Chicago will do it again Sunday against a drowning Panthers team.
Prediction: Bears 27, Panthers 16
San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (1-5)
Despite the debacle on Monday night two weeks ago, the Chargers are the better football team in this matchup. In terms of overall position groupings, only the offensive line and cornerbacks are in the Browns' favor on Sunday.
That said, San Diego has some soul-searching to do after one of the worst losses in recent franchise history. The heat is on Philip Rivers and Norv Turner, and if they lose this week in Cleveland, the wheels may come off in San Diego.
Unless the Browns run circles around the Chargers offensive line and beat up on Rivers, San Diego should escape with a much-needed win.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Browns 13
Seattle Seahawks (4-3) at Detroit Lions (2-4)
The one-on-one matchup of the week might just be Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Sherman, a tall, brash and confident cover man, can handle the physical game of Johnson better than most cornerbacks in the NFL today. This might not be the week in which Johnson snaps out of whatever early-season funk he's in.
While Detroit needs a win in the worst way possible and Seattle has been a little shaky on the road, the rest of the matchups don't exactly favor the Lions, either. The game's best secondary can contain a Lions offense that only throws the football and special teams should help create a couple of big plays against a poor Lions coverage unit.
Pete Carroll will grind this game to Seattle's pace with Marshawn Lynch, winning by a pinch on the road.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Lions 23
New England Patriots (4-3) vs. St. Louis Rams (3-4)
With veteran coaching staffs on both sides, traveling to London and dealing with the hoopla shouldn't be a big factor. Talent level, however, will be.
While the Rams are a tougher club with Jeff Fisher in town, they are still a young, developing football team with a lot of holes on both sides. The Patriots aren't without faults, but in terms of talent on offense and defense, New England is the clear favorite.
Prediction: Patriots 30, Rams 17
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)
Smack talk has dominated the coverage leading up to this AFC East matchup this week. When the game actually starts, expect it to be won with the run.
The Dolphins ran for over 180 yards in the first meeting between these two teams, while the Jets have slowly started getting the ground-and-pound back into action over the last two weeks (averaging 179 rushing yards).
The team that runs for more yards Sunday will likely walk out of Week 8 a winner. Previous success points to that team being Miami, even on the road.
Prediction: Dolphins 23, Jets 20
Atlanta Falcons (6-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
You may not be able to trust Eagles head coach Andy Reid in clock management or keeping a balanced play-call sheet. But in games after the bye, Reid is automatic.
The Eagles are a perfect 13-0 after byes during Reid's reign in Philadelphia, the longest such streak since the bye was implemented in 1990. Philly plays the unbeaten Falcons Sunday following the 2012 bye, which begs the question: Can Reid go 14-for-14?
The two weeks of prep time should help the Eagles clean up some of the offensive mistakes, and new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will ensure that there's no fourth-quarter comeback at home (Eagles have blown seven late leads since 2011).
As a surprising favorite against the NFL's last undefeated team, Philadelphia hands Atlanta its first loss of the 2012 season.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Falcons 23
Washington Redskins (3-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
The Redskins running game, led by rookies Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III, represents a big problem for the Steelers. This isn't the same suffocating run defense fans have grown accustomed to in Pittsburgh, and the Redskins are the No. 1 rushing team in football.
That said, this game will be won by whoever makes more plays in the passing game. Against a poor Redskins secondary, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown could have big days.
RG3 will make a few highlight plays like he does every week, but the Steelers will score too often through the air for the Redskins to hang on.
Prediction: Steelers 34, Redskins 24
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3)
This game wins two awards: one for the Week's most beat-up game and another for the biggest potential blowout.
Thanks to injuries, both teams will be without important contributors Sunday. The Packers won't have Greg Jennings, Sam Shields, Nick Perry and Charles Woodson, while Jordy Nelson's playing status is in serious doubt. Jacksonville travels north without Maurice Jones-Drew, Daryl Smith and Laurent Robinson, while Blaine Gabbert will start with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
Despite the injuries, however, the Packers are big favorites, and for good reason. Winners of two straight road games, Green Bay returns home for what should be a laugher late. Expect Aaron Rodgers (nine touchdown passes in the last two weeks) to continue looking like the quarterback he was in 2011.
Prediction: Packers 38, Jaguars 13
Indianapolis Colts (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)
The spotlight will stay on Titans running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 195 yards and two scores last week against a run defense in Buffalo that looks very similar numbers-wise to the one he'll see in Indianapolis this week.
But what about the comeback kid, Matt Hasselbeck? Jake Locker needs another week, but Hasselbeck is making it tough for the Titans to relegate him to the bench. He has back-to-back come-from-behind wins since taking over for Locker.
Look for the veteran to have one last hurrah before the Titans go back to their youngster. Might Hasselbeck make it 3-for-3 in comebacks?
Prediction: Titans 24, Colts 23
Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
The Chiefs are, at least for now, turning to the Brady Quinn era at quarterback.
But here's a telling stat from ESPN's Adam Schefter: The Chiefs have not received a win from a quarterback they drafted in 25 years. Twenty-five!
Win or loss Sunday, Quinn can't change that commentary. But another demoralizing loss for Kansas City pushes this team one step closer to getting a top quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft.
Raiders, led by quarterback Carson Palmer (651 yards the last two weeks), roll over a dying Chiefs club.
Prediction: Raiders 28, Chiefs 10
New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
Falling to 3-4 would not necessarily be a death sentence for the Cowboys' 2012 season. But dropping three games back of the Giants in the win column would certainly put a major dent in any chance of Dallas making the playoffs over the final nine games.
While the Giants would love to repay the favor for Dallas beating New York at home in the opener, something tells me we're going to get a vintage Tony Romo performance Sunday afternoon. And not an interception-laden, bone-headed game, either.
I hate picking against the Giants, but the Cowboys are at a crossroads in their 2012 season. This is close to a must-win for Dallas at home.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Giants 24
New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Denver Broncos (3-3)
Getting Joe Vitt back will provide the Saints with some stability atop the organization, but there's not much he can do about a poor defense facing the game's hottest quarterback in Peyton Manning.
Over this last three games, Manning has almost 1,000 passing yards, nine touchdowns and a passer rating above 120. The Saints are allowing the most yards and fourth-most points per game this season.
Drew Brees will keep New Orleans in the game, but Manning has an easier task at home Sunday night.
The Broncos win in a shootout.
Prediction: Broncos 35, Saints 31
San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
Arizona's 4-0 start is a distant memory now, and the 49ers will ensure the fall from grace continues on Monday night.
To upset San Francisco, the Cardinals will likely need a couple of turnovers from Alex Smith and a big play or two on special teams. Possible, but the 49ers are one of the best at protecting the football and winning on special teams.
Expect a heavy dose of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter against a suddenly porous run defense, as the 49ers beat up on John Skelton to secure another important division win.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Cardinals 10