NFL Week 8 Picks: Teams That Will Cement Playoff Contender Status with Wins
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Playoff spots are still up for grabs as Week 8 of the NFL season looms, but now is the time when contenders begin to make their moves and establish themselves as legitimate factors in the postseason picture.
Several rising teams that are hovering just above or at .500 have a chance to make statements that will have many speculating about just how high they can soar in 2013.
None of these organizations made the playoffs last season, and they have but one appearance between them in the past two campaigns.
Find out which teams will deliver big wins, followed by a complete list of picks for all of Week 8's matchups.
Carolina Panthers over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If head coach Ron Rivera's job isn't to be called into question and if the Panthers are to be taken seriously by the rest of the league, they have to take care of business on Thursday night.
No excuses—a short week, the familiarity of a fellow NFC South foe or the fact that it's a road game—would even provide a temporary reprieve from terse criticism; to its former No. 1 overall pick in particular.
Cam Newton seems to have taken serious strides in the past two games, throwing the ball with remarkable efficiency and posting passer ratings of 143.4 and 136.3 respectively.
Since a four-turnover clunker in W5, Cam Newton has four TDs and 0 INTs, with 446 yards.— The MMQB (@theMMQB) October 20, 2013
Now is not the time for a letdown, but rather to push forward. Carolina is playing elite-level defense, ranking second in points allowed and third in total yards conceded per game.
That unit is under pressure too, because it must not allow a rookie like Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon to light it up.
A resounding victory at Raymond James Stadium would push the Panthers to 4-3 and on the cusp of the Wild Card in the NFC. It will happen, because Tampa Bay is in disarray under Greg Schiano and just lost star running back Doug Martin to a torn labrum:
The #Bucs released their injury report and RB Doug Martin (torn labrum) did not participate in practice. Don’t expect him to play Thurs— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2013
At least it better happen. Otherwise, the narrative will revert to the assertion that no one's job in Carolina is safe.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 10
New York Jets over Cincinnati Bengals
Plenty of questions still loom about Geno Smith due to his penchant for turning the ball over, but the Jets' rookie second-round QB seems to have all the tools to be the long-term answer.
The immediate future is a bit of an enigma, but Smith's steadiness in leading the Jets to victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday's overtime thriller will carry over into a road trip to Paul Brown Stadium.
Which young quarterback is under the most pressure to win in Week 8?
One could mention that the Bengals just beat the Pats in Week 5 and discount the Jets' chances of pulling off yet another upset after pouring so much into a rematch triumph over New England.
However, one would be wrong. The last time Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton faced this exotic and talented of a defensive front seven was the Cleveland Browns in Week 4, and his offense failed to find the end zone.
A similar outcome may be in store here.
Dalton relies on a solid running game to set up easy reads. While he's been able to exploit bad secondaries in Buffalo and Detroit the past two weeks with great success, he's in for a bigger test now.
The Jets are No. 2 in the league against the run and boast a top-10 pass defense as well. They will be more physical than Cincinnati on both sides of the ball and pull out a tight win against the AFC North front-runners.
Prediction: Jets 24, Bengals 20
Detroit Lions over Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East has to be the weakest division in football, and that will be proved on Sunday when the leading Cowboys travel to Ford Field to take on the Lions.
With Calvin Johnson returning to his beastly Megatron form in Week 7's loss to Cincinnati with 155 yards receiving and two touchdowns, a horrible Dallas secondary is in for some serious trouble in Detroit.
Facing the likes of Philadelphia's Nick Foles and Matt Barkley isn't quite the same as going up against Lions QB Matthew Stafford, even though the Lions receiving corps is rather depleted outside of Johnson.
However, Murray has been the subject of trade rumors recently:
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
Perhaps the Cowboys should show more appreciation for Murray, though, because Tony Romo doesn't have a reliable running game without him. Dallas averaged less than three yards per carry versus the Eagles last week.
Look for the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah to pressure Romo and force him into mistakes even without the need to bring pressure.
Meanwhile, the Lions' dynamic duo of Stafford and Johnson will carve up Dallas' dubious defensive backfield, with Reggie Bush being a viable complement in the team's rushing attack.
Prediction: Lions 34, Cowboys 17
|Away Team||Home Team||Winner|
|Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Panthers|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|Buffalo Bills||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|Dallas Cowboys||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville Jaguars||49ers|
|New York Jets||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|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
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