Week 8 NFL Predictions: Picking Winners for Marquee Matchups

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIOctober 22, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 20:  Phillip Tanner #34 of the Dallas Cowboys takes the handoff from quarterack Tony Romo #9 and carries the ball in for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 20, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania.The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 17-3.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The biggest game on the NFL's Week 8 schedule is the Dallas Cowboys' battle against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit.

After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 17-3 in Week 7, the Cowboys are in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Had the team pulled out the win against the Denver Broncos in Week 5, the Cowboys would be 5-2 and in the top 10 of most NFL power rankings.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Tony Romo’s interception in the final minute of the fourth quarter lost the team the game and a bit of respect.

Aside from that miscue, Romo has been stellar all season. He has thrown for 2,010 yards, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Some fans may focus on the error, but Romo’s play this season is a big reason why the team is leading the division.

Heading into Detroit means tangling with Calvin Johnson, and that’s no small task. Johnson has 33 receptions for 492 yards and six touchdowns in just six games of action.

Needless to say, the Cowboys defense will be focused on limiting him as much as possible.

Dez Bryant is the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver. In an interview with 103.3 FM ESPN on Monday (h/t Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com), Bryant claimed he’s capable of doing anything Megatron can.

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While many may disagree with Bryant’s assessment, he’s right to be high on himself. Many times, what separates elite athletes from everyone else is superior confidence. Bryant proved that he isn’t lacking in that department.

It all makes for an intriguing Sunday matchup.

Expect both Bryant and Johnson to play well, but this game is going to come down to quarterback play and defense. Dallas has the edge in both categories.

Despite what the numbers say about the Cowboys’ pass defense this season (30th overall), the unit has played pretty well over the last two weeks. Dallas held the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles to an average of 205.5 yards through the air. It also picked off four passes.

The low ranking is the product of two games. Peyton Manning and the Broncos exploded for 51 points and 414 passing yards in Week 5 while the New York Giants and Eli Manning went for 428 yards in Week 1. 

While Stafford is having a good year in his own right with 15 touchdown passes, his tendency to over- and under-throw receivers is troubling. He got away with throwing into double and triple coverage against the Bengals on Sunday, but he can’t bank on that continuing—even with Megatron as the target.

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On defense, the Lions haven’t allowed fewer than 225 passing yards this season, and that came against the passing-challenged Minnesota Vikings in Week 1.

Based on the way the Cowboys defense has been playing lately, it should outshine that of the Lions. Dallas will win this one on the road and hold on to first place in the division.

Here’s a look at some of the other important games on the Week 8 schedule.


Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

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Both the Chiefs and the Browns bring solid defenses into Week 8. The Chiefs have allowed the fewest points of any team in the NFL whereas Cleveland’s run and pass defense are ranked in the top 10.

The game figures to be a grind-it-out affair that will come down to execution and turnovers.

Brandon Weeden’s play doesn’t make anyone feel confident that the Browns will avoid turnovers or execute on crucial third downs. He has thrown three interceptions in his last two games and the Browns are 12 of 32 on third down in the same span.

The Chiefs have capitalized on opponents' miscues as well as any team in the league. According to Sporting Charts, the Chiefs have scored 63 points off opponents' turnovers. You can almost bet that Weeden will give the Chiefs opportunities to add to that total.

Cleveland’s defense will keep the team in the game, but Weeden will ultimately make the mistakes that allow the Chiefs to remain undefeated.


New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals

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The Jets have been winning ugly all season. If they hope to go into Cincinnati and come out victorious, the team will need to gut out another win.

The Bengals have righted the ship since a slow start and now sit alone in first place in the AFC North.

Andy Dalton has been on fire in his last two games. He’s thrown for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in each of the past two weeks. Can he continue his success against the Jets? No.

While the Jets offense has only generated 19 points per game, the defense ranks in the top 10 against the run and the pass. Against other top-10 defenses, Dalton has averaged just 246 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception. That is a significant drop-off from his recent production.

Geno Smith has had his ups and downs this season, but he’s played well in the clutch. He led the team on a 14-play drive that resulted in a Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal to beat the New England Patriots in Week 7. It was the second time in three weeks that Smith has led his team to a win on the final drive.

Expect Dalton’s play to be held in check while the Jets make enough plays on offense to win another close contest.


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