Another week of exciting NFL action is in the books, and believe it or not, at the halfway point of the season the NFL is just as unpredictable as the first week.
In fact, three matchups in particular jump off the page as absolute toss-ups when perusing the Week 8 slate of action.
Below is a prediction for each game on the schedule in Week 8, with the three close contests dissected through a variety of factors before reaching a sure-fire conclusion.
|Away Team||Home Team||Predicted Winner|
|Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||CAR|
|Dallas Cowboys||Detroit Lions||DAL|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||KC|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||MIA|
|Buffalo Bills||New Orleans Saints||NO|
|New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||NYG|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville Jaguars||SF|
|New York Jets||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Oakland Raiders||PIT|
|Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||DEN|
|Atlanta Falcons||Arizona Cardinals||ATL|
|Green Bay Packers||Minnesota Vikings||GB|
|Seattle Seahawks||St. Louis Rams||SEA|
Bye: Chicago, Tennessee, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Houston
Cincinnati Bengals Down New York Jets
Geno Smith and the New York Jets are legit. After scoring a major victory over New England last week, the Jets have now held Tom Brady to a completion rate of less than 50 percent and less than 250 yards passing in two games.
Smith and an elite rushing attack are backed by the league's No. 4 defense. Through a combination of those factors, the Jets were able to hold onto the ball for over 46 minutes against New England.
Cincinnati is coming off a major win over Detroit, but the defense allowed a 300-yard passer for the first time in 20 games and also lost star cornerback Leon Hall for the season to an Achilles tear, according to CBS Sports' Josh Katzowitz.
So how can Cincinnati pull off the win at home? Simple—by imposing its will on offense. Andy Dalton has thrown for over 300 yards in consecutive contests as the coaching staff has finally figured out how to use him, and the rushing combo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard will help to win the time of possession battle.
As great as Smith has looked, his running game will find no room to operate against an elite Cincinnati defense, which in turn will make the New York attack one-dimensional. The Jets simply cannot keep up when running a predictable offense.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Jets 17
Dallas Cowboys Out-Gun Detroit Lions
This one is a match strictly for the offensive-minded fans out there.
Both the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions rank in the bottom five in terms of total defense and have quarterbacks more than capable of going for over 500 yards in a contest.
Tony Romo (2,010 yards, 15 touchdowns to five interceptions and 68.3 completion percentage) of the Cowboys and Matthew Stafford of the Lions (2,129 yards, 15 touchdowns to four interceptions and 61.4 completion percentage) are playing eerily similar ball, so it's only right to judge the outcome based on the defense.
Ignore the numbers because the two defenses are not as close as they suggest—Dallas' numbers are inflated thanks to a Denver matchup in which the Broncos scored 51 points.
The decisive factor here is the secondaries—Dallas actually has talent in this regard with Brandon Carr and Co., whereas Detroit is a wasteland with Chris Houston making for an easy target.
Prediction: Cowboys 30, Lions 27
Pittsburgh Steelers Sneak Past Oakland Raiders
The polar opposite to the previous matchup, both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders rely on top-12 defenses to win games.
Both teams also rely on their quarterbacks for the majority of their offense. Ben Roethlisberger has been questionable at best so far this season, but that's in large part thanks to an offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked 21 times.
Conversely, Terrelle Pryor has been great given his miserable circumstances on a roster severely lacking in talent.
While both teams are not very good this year in the midst of obvious rebuilding sessions, the key here is health. As ESPN's Paul Gutierrez details, Oakland is battered and bruised along the offensive line despite a bye week.
That's an opening for one of the NFL's best defenses to exploit. Outside of that, rookie back Le'Veon Bell has been running well when healthy (which he finally is), so expect Pittsburgh to ride its defense and ground game in typical Steelers fashion for a close win on the road.
Prediction: Steelers 17, Raiders 13
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling