Week 8 NFL Picks: Last Minute Predictions for Every Game
It's not the worst thing for an NFL team to plays its best football right now.
Winning in Week 8 makes November and December more manageable, which can take a significant amount of pressure off when competing for January. That said, a team such as the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning can't afford to drop winnable games.
The AFC West is still a wide-open race, and Denver welcomed Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday evening. The Big Easy was on a roll but the Broncos defense was up for the challenge on Sunday night.
Games outside the division are extremely vital, because victory creates a bit more leeway when facing rivals. Well, pro football had plenty of both for us this week, and here are winners for each along with the final scores.
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns
The good news for the San Diego Chargers is that Philip Rivers and Co. are 2-1 on the road entering Week 8.
Unfortunately, the Bolts are 1-3 in the past four games, including a loss to then-winless New Orleans. Now, the Cleveland Browns are nowhere near the Saints' level of explosion. Still, Brandon Weeden is improving well, as he has racked up 1,783 passing yards for Cleveland.
Defending the pass and applying a heavy pass rush continues to be an issue for San Diego, so the Browns will find success through the air. Include the running game's potential, and the Chargers defense is in trouble.
Therefore, Rivers and the offense have to move the ball. San Diego is rather balanced, but not totally dominant in one area. Cleveland plays opportunistic defense and brings a good rush to assist the coverage.
Prediction: Browns 21, Chargers 13
Final Score: Browns 7, Chargers 6
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
The Carolina Panthers are in trouble this week. Not only are the Cats on the road, but they're playing at Soldier Field against the 5-1 Chicago Bears.
As we know, Chicago's defense is impressive at forcing turnovers, accumulating sacks, stuffing the run and locking down in coverage. In short, Lovie Smith's defense is clicking on all cylinders, and Cam Newton won't be able to move the rock.
On the flip side, Jay Cutler and Chicago's offense just need to run the ball and set up play-action.
The Panthers present a few defensive playmakers, though Carolina is still vulnerable to a balanced attack. As long as Cutler plays within himself, the Bears will steamroll to a sixth win.
Prediction: Bears 28, Panthers 16
Final Score: Bears 23, Panthers 22
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions
This game has a similar feel to that of Carolina and Chicago. The only difference is that the better defensive team, the Seattle Seahawks, are on the road.
Seattle may not be consistently potent via the aerial assault, but Marshawn Lynch can crush between the tackles and really take over early.
The Detroit Lions have certainly improved defensively, as we saw on Monday in Chicago. Nonetheless, Detroit continues to struggle at forcing turnovers and stuffing the run, allowing 4.1 yards per carry.
Offensively, the Lions are simply underachieving, and Seattle is straight-up solid. The Seahawks can wreck havoc in the backfield and isolate in man coverage across the board. If the Lions are to win, someone else must step up to complement Calvin Johnson.
Unfortunately, that has yet to occur on a weekly basis.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Lions 20
Final Score: Lions 28, Seahawks 24
New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams passing game must hit another level if they want to defeat the New England Patriots.
Although Bradford has certainly improved, and he's facing one of the NFL's worst pass defenses, New England is sound at stopping the run. And if the Rams become one-dimensional, this game will get out of hand quickly.
We know Tom Brady and the Pats offense will score, because they present too many weapons for a defense to completely shut everything down. Fortunately for the Rams, St. Louis fields a defense capable of getting pressure, suffocating coverage and stifling the run.
It won't be a blowout, but New England simply possesses too much explosiveness for the Rams to match the pace.
Prediction: Patriots 30, Rams 17
Final Score: Patriots 45, Rams 7
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
The Miami Dolphins may have fallen to the New York Jets at home earlier this season, but Week 8's matchup will be a different story.
For one, the Jets still can't stop the run, and Mark Sanchez has yet to really carve up a defense. Gang Green has gotten some life from Shonn Greene and the rushing attack, though, which certainly will impact here.
Miami continues to find balance courtesy of Reggie Bush, and Ryan Tannehill has developed better than he's given credit for. Defensively, the Dolphins are impenetrable up front against the run and will get quarterback pressure as well.
Everything comes down to pass protection for this contest, and that's where Miami has a distinct edge.
Prediction: Dolphins 33, Jets 20
Final Score: Dolphins 30, Jets 9
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
The game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles will be won in the trenches.
It's where the Falcons need to find some impact this season on both side of the line, and it's also where the Eagles are at their best.
Philadelphia significantly ups its odds of winning by feeding LeSean McCoy 20-plus times. In addition, the Falcons allow an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Provided McCoy is given carries early and often, Philly will control the tempo throughout and keep Matt Ryan off the field.
Flipping to Atlanta's offense, the Dirty Birds get just 3.7 per carry. Obviously the aerial onslaught is the Falcons' strength, so the Eagles will need to lock down the outside and shield the intermediate level.
Neither defense boasts an overzealous pass rush, although Philly possesses more potential with guys like Trent Cole and Jason Babin. Provided that Michael Vick doesn't turn the ball over, the Eagles will ruin Atlanta's chase for perfection.
Prediction: Eagles 28, Falcons 24
Final Score: Falcons 30, Eagles 17
Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers
When the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers square off, it will be one interesting chess match.
Robert Griffin III and Washington's explosive attack have yet to face a defense like Pittsburgh, despite the Steel Curtain being rather uncharacteristic in 2012. The Steelers, on the contrary, have not lined up against an offense comparable to the Redskins.
Well, something has to give, and that will come down to Pittsburgh's pass rush. The Steelers have not been able to apply consistent pressure all season, and RG3's mobility will extend plays as well. Washington also must sustain longer drives, because its defense will not slow down Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh has much better offensive balance than at first glance, and the Redskins defense is not capable of totally blanking the Steelers. Still, as long as RG3 can move the chains, keep Pittsburgh's defense off-balance and not turn the rock over, Washington will win in the Steel City.
Prediction: Redskins 27, Steelers 23
Final Score: Steelers 27, Redskins 12
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers
Alas, we finally come to the game with the most blowout potential of Week 8.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to slow down any opposing offense, as they allow 27.3 points and 411.8 total yards per game. By contrast, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers get 26.3 points and 360 total yards per game.
There is no secret to how the Pack will move the ball: Rodgers dials up from under center and thwarts Jacksonville downfield. Not to mention, the Jags defense has not seen an offense quite like Green Bay so far in 2012.
Offensively, the Jaguars lack any sort of passing game to set up the run. The Packers are well-versed at causing turnovers and getting sacks, so don't anticipate much from Jacksonville. In short, it's reasonable to expect this game to be over by the half.
Prediction: Packers 42, Jaguars 13
Final Score: Packers 24, Jaguars 15
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Don't look now, but the AFC South outside of Jacksonville is gaining some impressive notoriety.
The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans are proving to be much better than anticipated, as both combine for a 4-2 record in each of their previous three games. With Andrew Luck, Indy is better at passing, but Chris Johnson appears to have found a rhythm on the ground for Tennessee.
Interestingly enough, each team's defensive strength coincides with the offense. The Colts are astronomically better against the pass, whereas the Titans are slightly better versus the run. Yes, Tennessee does rank higher in pass offense, although recently the ground game has been surging.
In this key divisional matchup, expect the Colts to stack the box and play man coverage. Indy must isolate Johnson and play physical press coverage. As for Tennessee, mixing up the blitz package and coverages is needed to fluster Luck since he is capable of dicing up the Titans' pass defense.
If there's one distinct competitive advantage, though, it's the Colts lacking against the run. And with Johnson finding a stride a great ball-carrier is tough to stop in the NFL.
Prediction: Titans 24, Colts 17
Final Score: Colts 19, Titans 13 (OT)
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Believe it or not, the Oakland Raiders are a quiet sleeper in the AFC West. With a manageable schedule ahead after the Kansas City Chiefs, the Silver and Black can make some noise in November.
Carson Palmer has definitely gotten some progress out of the passing game, and it's only making Darren McFadden more dangerous between the tackles. K.C. on defense has not been able to slow anyone down, and the absence of a dominant pass rush ties into the lack of forced turnovers as well.
Defensively for Oakland, the Raiders aren't much better than the Chiefs. One major difference comes from stopping the run. Dennis Allen's defense allows only 3.8 yards per carry and K.C. gives up 4.7.
Considering that this contest features to standout backs in McFadden and Jamaal Charles, winning the line of scrimmage will be the deal-breaker. Count the impact of Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler and Oakland also wins the special teams duel.
Prediction: Raiders 21, Chiefs 9
Final Score: Raiders 26, Chiefs 16
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sure, the Dallas Cowboys got a big Week 1 road win over the New York Giants to kick off 2012.
Too bad the Cowboys failed to live up to those enhanced expectations.
Meanwhile, Big Blue has responded emphatically well since then. Eli Manning and Co. have become efficiently balanced, and the big-play potential has only improved.
The other side of the coin is Dallas being the exact opposite. Tony Romo has been inconsistent, and the dropped passes aren't helping. Factor an unreliable running game where only one back—DeMarco Murray against the Giants in Week 1—has gained over 100 rushing yards this season.
Yes, Big D rolled over Baltimore on the ground, but the Ravens have been quite suspect against the run anyway. New York wrecked the 49ers between the tackles in San Francisco, which was exponentially more impressive.
And if there's anything we have learned about the Giants in recent years, it's that this team possesses a unique knack for winning on the road.
Prediction: Giants 27, Cowboys 17
Final Score: Giants 29, Cowboys 24
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos
A matchup of two of the NFL's best quarterbacks—Drew Brees and Peyton Manning—will be decided by Von Miller's forte: quarterback pressure.
The New Orleans Saints are extremely vulnerably defensively, and they allow what seems like a million yards per game. It's actually 465.5, but it still ranks dead last in pro football. Not to mention, the Saints also allow over 30 points per game, so we can certainly expect Manning to rack up yards and points.
The Denver Broncos defense is certainly better than that of New Orleans, although Brees is one of the best around and will surely move the rock. So, just as mentioned above, whichever defense applies more pressure gains a key competitive edge.
Since neither offense is overly dominant on the ground, a one-dimensional attack through the air is more likely. Then again, that's to be expected with elite quarterbacks squaring off. Denver, though, is more consistent at getting pressure and fields a more reliable secondary.
Brees may get his numbers, but the Broncos will slow the onslaught just enough for the victory.
Prediction: Broncos 34, Saints 24
Final Score: Broncos 34, Saints 14
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Monday night gives us an appealing defensive joust between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.
Patrick Willis and the Niners allow only 14 points and fewer than 275 total yards per game. However, we can't discredit the Cardinals, despite their three-game losing streak. Arizona's defense has not given up more the 21 points in a game this season and ranks No. 4 in points allowed per contest (16.9).
Obviously, the offensive edge goes to San Francisco with a much more reliable ground game, quarterback in Alex Smith and pass protection. The 49ers need to keep it balanced, because Arizona can get sound quarterback pressure and force turnovers when needed.
The major distinctions come from San Francisco's pass rush versus Arizona's pass protection and Arizona's rush versus the Niners' protection. We can expect both defenses to lock down well. However, the 49ers offensive balance will win the field position battle and gradually pull away in the second half.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Cardinals 7
Final Score: 49ers 24, Cardinals 3
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