Let's keep it real for a second, folks—there aren't a ton of premier NFL matchups this week. Part of that is the result of six teams going on bye, of course, but for the most part, the league's good teams are playing its weaker teams in Week 8.
But don't fret, my fellow football junkies, for there are still a few really intriguing matchups this week between pretty even teams.
There may not be a game like Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis, but there are still a few games worth getting excited about.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Carolina Panthers||Panthers||24-14|
|Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||Eagles||31-23|
|Detroit Lions||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys||28-24|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Cleveland Browns||Chiefs||27-10|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||Patriots||24-21|
|New Orleans Saints||Buffalo Bills||Saints||31-20|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||San Francisco 49ers||49ers||31-7|
|Cincinnati Bengals||New York Jets||Bengals||17-10|
|Oakland Raiders||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers||27-20|
|Denver Broncos||Washington Redskins||Broncos||38-27|
|Arizona Cardinals||Atlanta Falcons||Falcons||23-21|
|Minnesota Vikings||Green Bay Packers||Packers||38-17|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks||24-7|
Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions
The most intriguing matchup in this game will be Calvin Johnson—fresh off of nine receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns in Week 7—against Dallas corner Brandon Carr.
The latter has played like a stud the past three weeks, containing Demaryius Thomas (five receptions for 57 yards), Pierre Garcon (six receptions for 69 yards) and DeSean Jackson (three receptions for 21 yards).
Which WR will have the better career?
Megatron is a whole different animal, of course, but if Carr can at least slow Johnson down, the Cowboys will have a shot.
With Matt Stafford and Tony Romo doing battle, you would expect plenty of points to be scored in this game. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams should give a suspect Detroit pass defense (28th in the NFL) problems, while Reggie Bush should give the Dallas defense headaches.
That defense has been much better in the past two weeks, however, allowing just 19 total points to Washington and Philadelphia. Dallas will probably be without DeMarcus Ware again this week—and possibly DeMarco Murray as well—but Romo and Co. are playing well right now and will squeak out a win against a tough Detroit side.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
The Dolphins were en fuego to start the season, going 3-0. Three games later, they're a much more realistic 3-3. There is talent on this Miami team, but it no longer looks like a unit capable of challenging for an AFC East title.
The problem for the Dolphins in this game is that they probably won't be able to exploit New England's biggest weakness this year, its run defense (31st in the NFL). The Patriots have struggled in that department with Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo out for the year, but the Dolphins aren't dangerous on the ground (25th in rush offense), and neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas has been impressive.
With Rob Gronkowski (eight receptions for 114 yards) back in the fold, the New England offense put 27 points on a tough New York Jets defense, albeit in a loss. It's hard to see a mediocre Miami defense—currently allowing 372.2 yards per game, 21st in the NFL—slowing down Tom Brady, Gronk and a rejuvenated Stevan Ridley in the running game.
New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
DE-FENSE (clap, clap). PRESS-URE (clap, clap).
There will be plenty of that chant when these teams meet. The Jets are currently holding opponents to 302.6 yards per game (fourth in the NFL), while the Bengals only allow 343.3 yards (ninth) and 19.3 points per contest (seventh).
The major difference in this game could be takeaways—the Bengals have forced 10 on the year, while the Jets have only forced four while turning the ball over 15 times. Only the New York Giants have a worse turnover differential at minus-14.
Which team wins?
While star cornerback Leon Hall's injury has to be taken into consideration, expect the Bengals to pressure rookie quarterback Geno Smith whenever they get the chance.
For the Jets, the key to this game will be the matchup between Antonio Cromartie and A.J. Green. If the veteran cornerback can contain Green, the Bengals will struggle to move the ball, especially since the Jets only allow 77.7 rushing yards per game, second-best in the NFL.
Of course, most corners can't contain Green, so expect Andy Dalton to find his favorite target with regularity and for the Bengals to win a tight game at home.
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