As the NFL season reaches its midway point, the importance of each game for teams with playoff aspirations is on the rise. Whether they are battling to earn a bye, win the division or simply earn a spot in the postseason, the margin for error is starting to shrink.
That's a key part of the league's appeal. Teams don't have 40 games to figure things out. The season is only two months old and crunch time is already on the horizon. It's only a matter of time before the contenders get separated from the pretenders.
Knowing that, let's check out three teams that should score wins in some of this week's marquee matchups. The breakdown is followed by a complete list of picks for Week 8.
The Dallas Cowboys won two straight games over NFC East opponents to take control of the division lead. Life outside the weak division has been far more difficult, however, with Dallas racking up a 1-3 record against other opponents.
Detroit poses a difficult challenge because it possesses the weapons necessary to take advantage of Dallas' lackluster defense. Calvin Johnson leads the charge and looked all the way back to full strength last week, which provides a major boost for the Lions offense.
Add in budding threat Kris Durham as well as the rushing duo of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, who also make a consistent impact in the passing game, and the Lions offense doesn't lack playmakers. Add in home field and they have an edge in what should be a high-scoring game.
Prediction: Lions 35, Cowboys 31
Denver is coming off its first loss of the season and must now face a Washington Redskins squad with Robert Griffin III looking more like the dynamic quarterback from last year. Even at home, the game doesn't provide an easy bounce-back opportunity for the Broncos.
What will be the best game of Week 8?
The biggest question mark is how Peyton Manning and Co. respond after the Indianapolis Colts were able to slow down the passing game by playing tight coverage. Instead of conceding the short throws, Manning's former team forced him to beat them deep, and he wasn't able to do it enough.
Unfortunately for Washington, it ranks 22nd against the pass and probably doesn't have the personnel necessary to match the Colts' defensive effort for four quarters. Griffin should be able to keep it close deep into the second half before the Broncos pull away late.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Redskins 28
For a second straight season, the Bengals are flying below the radar. They head into a Week 8 matchup with the New York Jets in serious contention for a playoff bye, but certainly aren't receiving the same type of attention as the other top teams.
The main reason for that is likely the lack of dominance. Cincinnati doesn't have an explosive passing game, unstoppable rushing attack or elite defense. Instead, the Bengals are an extremely well-rounded squad that can grind out wins while opponents are waiting for the big play.
One other thing working in Cincinnati's advantage against the Jets is its play at home. The Bengals have already scored wins over the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. It all adds up to a Bengals win in a hard-fought contest.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Jets 14
Complete Week 8 Predictions
|Date||Road Team||Home Team||Pick|
|Oct. 27||49ers||Jaguars (in London)||SF|
NFL Week 8