The NFL schedule for Week 8 may offer the most interesting slate of games of the 2013 season to date.
A lot of matchups featuring teams with disparate records are on tap, as in seven clubs with winning records will take on struggling opponents with more losses than victories.
One of those is the Denver Broncos playing host to the Washington Redskins, where Peyton Manning will try to help the home team bounce back from Sunday night's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts forced the Broncos into 6 three-and-outs Sunday. Denver entered the game with 10 total in their 1st 6 games— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 21, 2013
It is a vital time for those teetering on the edge of playoff contention and sending the current campaign into oblivion.
Notching a critical victory in the middle of the year can be a big momentum booster, so with that in mind, here is an early set of predictions for that contest and Week 8's other biggest games.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions
Improbable as it was, the Cowboys offense took a step or two back despite winning in Philadelphia to take sole possession of first in the putrid NFC East division.
Tony Romo had his first two-interception game of 2013, though he also did not have his typical starting running back DeMarco Murray in the backfield.
Speaking of which, Murray may not be the long-term answer to drive the Dallas rushing attack, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
From #NFLGameDay: Cowboys no longer sold on DeMarco Murray as franchise RB. Have had discussions about adding. Watch them at trade deadline— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 20, 2013
The last thing the first-place Cowboys need is any more media-generated drama, but here we are.
Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off a tough loss at home to Cincinnati. The most positive silver lining emerging from that, though, was the health of Calvin Johnson, who went off for nine receptions, 155 yards and two touchdowns.
One of Johnson's amazing grabs came in triple coverage on this 50-yard TD:
Dallas looked in disarray versus the Eagles and is not good enough all around to win back-to-back road games.
Prediction: Lions 31, Cowboys 24
New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Consistency is the key for rookie signal-caller Geno Smith, who helped lead the Jets to a landmark victory over the perennial AFC East favorite New England Patriots in overtime in Week 7.
Geno Smith is the first @nyjets QB EVER to record a 4th-quarter/OT game-winning drive in each of his first four wins as a starting QB.— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLONFOX) October 20, 2013
With a road trip looming to Paul Brown Stadium, it will say a lot about the Jets as a team with how they respond after such a monumental triumph.
Smith's counterpart, Andy Dalton, has thrown for well over 300 yards in back-to-back games and has his squad with a commanding lead two-game lead in the AFC North. It's possible Cincinnati could have a letdown as well after expending a lot of energy for a win in Detroit.
Superstar receiver A.J. Green was effusive in his praise for the Red Rifle:
This from our interview with AJ Green: "He's taking us to the next level now. I think Andy (Dalton) is one of the best in th game."— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) October 21, 2013
The Bengals are in position for the AFC's No. 2 seed at this early juncture and have a big enough divisional cushion to afford a loss in Week 8.
This is a shot for New York not only to keep pace in the East but to leapfrog San Diego for the final playoff position.
It's still early, but getting this win may be the make-or-break point of the 2013 Jets, whose stakes have been raised after beating New England in Sunday's rematch.
Prediction: Jets 20, Bengals 17
Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos
The truly great quarterbacks in the NFL are charismatic, competitive captains who make good decisions on and off the field and are able to keep their composure when things go south.
One could argue Robert Griffin III lost some of his charisma in the process of coming back from major knee surgery and that he was competitive to a fault in returning to the gridiron so soon.
Criticize RGIII as one may, the season was on the line on Sunday, and he looked as much like the rookie that took the league by storm in 2012 as he has all year. Griffin threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a season-best 84 yards.
Robert Griffin III had a Total QBR of 91.8 Sunday, his highest Total QBR this season and the fourth highest in a game in his career— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 20, 2013
Which 2-4 team is likeliest to make the playoffs?
While it was huge for Washington to pull off the victory, a discouraging facet of it was that the defense allowed Josh McCown to complete 70 percent of his 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown.
It's scary to think what the unit might yield to Manning and Co.—especially with Denver now out of the AFC West lead.
If the Redskins somehow pull this one off on the road, they would position themselves for a serious run.
There is a blueprint for Washington to get it done.
As the Colts showed on Sunday night, pounding the ball on the ground and playing keep-away from the explosive Broncos offense can help make the game competitive.
However, even if Washington loses this game, it should still be in the hunt for the NFC East title. The Broncos will win a close one at home in spite of another big game from RGIII, because Manning will dismantle the opposing defense.
Prediction: Broncos 34, Redskins 27
|Away Team||Home Team||Winner|
|Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|Buffalo Bills||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville Jaguars||49ers|
|New York Jets||Cincinnati Bengals||Jets|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Oakland Raiders||Raiders|
|Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|Atlanta Falcons||Arizona Cardinals||Falcons|
|Green Bay Packers||Minnesota Vikings||Packers|
|Seattle Seahawks||St. Louis Rams||Seahawks|
Picks are strictly opinion