NFL

Week 8 NFL Picks: Road Favorites on Upset Alert

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 15:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers reacts to his false start penalty against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 15, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images
Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2012

Very few NFL teams stand out this season as infallible powers, making upset bids a huge part of each week's slate.

Week 8 will continue that trend, with the focus on a few teams. Winning games on the road isn't supposed to be easy, even for favored squads. This is the time of the year where teams make underdog runs, and big wins in front of their home crowds are necessary to making that happen.

Let's take a look at three talented teams that will face everything they can handle on the road this week.

 

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are prone to upset no matter who they face, and this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns is no different.

Cleveland, with only one win, has gotten better as of late. Beating Cincinnati in Week 6 and losing a game they it should have won to Indianapolis in Week 7 has this team looking better and better.

Brandon Weeden is completing 61 percent of his passes in October, up from 52.9 percent in September. Adding to that, he's thrown just three interceptions in three October games. In September, he threw seven.

The Browns are far from a perfect team, and Trent Richardson's nagging aches and pains won't make their job any easier, but San Diego is flawed as well.

Rated No. 25 against the pass, the Chargers have struggled to throw the ball too. Philip Rivers has nine interceptions to go with his 10 touchdowns, due largely to the 18 sacks allowed by his offensive line. Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle haven't combined for a dynamic run game either, also not helping matters.

Defensively, the Browns struggle, but they do have 18 sacks on the season. D'Qwell Jackson, Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker all have more than one, and others are also a threat to disrupt Rivers.

Maybe it's just history. San Diego isn't a team to trust, and never a team to put your money on. With a young Browns team looking for confidence, don't be surprised if Pat Shurmur's squad scores a big win here.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-3 this season, but history tells us that this is going to be a good week for Andy Reid's crew. According to ESPN, the Eagles are 13-0 under Reid following a bye week. 

Picking against an undefeated team is never a good idea, but the Falcons have lost four of their last five against Philadelphia. In a major road test, that's a lot of history working against you.

Philadelphia has struggled mightily at times this season, but it's also a team with a lot of pride. For Reid, this is a do-or-die season. Michael Vick could be in the same situation. Playing this team in a put-up-or-shut-up scenario is dangerous because they definitely still have talent.

The Eagles' secondary will do a solid job on Roddy White and Julio Jones. Completely shutting them down is a tall task, but containing them is possible with the corners that the Eagles have.

Vick will have to be careful against Atlanta's secondary as well, considering that they have 10 team interceptions.

The sticking point will be each team's ground game. Philadelphia doesn't use LeSean McCoy as much as it should, but Atlanta's 28th-ranked run defense may inspire Reid to do otherwise.

On the other hand, Philadelphia's above-average run-stoppers could make Atlanta one-dimensional. That still works against the Carolinas and Oaklands of the NFL, but the Eagles will take advantage of it.

This is Atlanta's first major test in awhile. A win will take the Falcons one step closer to big-time credibility, but a loss will leave some nagging doubts.

 

New England Patriots

Jeff Fisher has the Rams playing disciplined, scrappy defense, despite lacking a dynamic offense to support it.

The entire game comes down to pressure. New England, having limped its way through the last two weeks, would like a decisive victory over a sub-.500 team. The Rams just like to generate pressure, coming into the game with 21 sacks on the season.

Getting Tom Brady's jersey dirty is always a key when you play the Patriots. He's deadly when he's allowed to stand in the pocket under no stress, but he struggles when facing a heavy pass-rush at times. Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Jo-Lonn Dunbar must make Brady's life difficult.

On the other side of that lies the Rams' protection. They've also allowed 21 sacks, which doesn't bode well against Chandler Jones and Co. for New England.

This is more of a feel call. The Rams were able to test the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 by playing tenacious football. That same recipe will be necessary this week.

Defensively, St. Louis has what it takes. If Sam Bradford can make a few big plays down the field, look for the Rams to force New England to sweat this one out.

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