NFL Picks Week 8: Analyzing Trickiest Matchups on Schedule
With every new week in the NFL comes a fresh slate of games to pick. As usual, Week 8 features a few head-scratching matchups to go along with some easy winners.
Nobody expects the Jacksonville Jaguars to be able to keep pace with the San Francisco 49ers in London, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many experts who expect the Washington Redskins to win in Denver. The 49ers and Broncos should easily win these game, playing against inferior opponents.
But there are some other matchups that aren't as easy to figure out.
Here's a look at every game on the schedule, along with my winning predictions for each game, followed by a closer look at the trickiest games on this week's schedule.
|Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB (+7)||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Detroit Lions||DET (-3)||Lions|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||KC (-7.5)||Chiefs|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||NE (-6.5)||Patriots|
|Buffalo Bills||New Orleans Saints||NO (-11)||Saints|
|New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI (-5)||Eagles|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville Jaguars||JAX (+16.5)||49ers|
|New York Jets||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN (-6.5)||Jets|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Oakland Raiders||OAK (+2.5)||Raiders|
|Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||DEN (-13)||Broncos|
|Atlanta Falcons||Arizona Cardinals||AZ (-2.5)||Falcons|
|Green Bay Packers||Minnesota Vikings||MIN (+9)||Packers|
|Seattle Seahawks||St. Louis Rams||STL (+11)||Seahawks|
Dallas at Detroit
Both of these teams have a terrible knack for playing brilliantly one weekend and then tanking the next.
Since impressively knocking off the Chicago Bears in Week 4, Detroit hasn't been able to play well against good teams, losing to the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals while sandwiching in a win against Cleveland.
Which team will win?
Dallas is coming off a big win on the road against NFC East rival Philadelphia last Sunday, and the Cowboys enter this contest having won two games in a row for the first time this season.
The Cowboys have improved on defense since getting overmatched by Denver, holding Washington and Philadelphia to a combined 19 points the past two games. The Lions are a dangerous team at home, but Dallas' defense will do just enough to slow Detroit's high-powered offense down.
DeMarco Murray is expected to make a return to the starting lineup after missing some time with a sprained knee, as noted by ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins:
I expect DeMarco Murray to play Sunday.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) October 24, 2013
The Lions haven't been able to stop the run this year, allowing more yards per carry than any team in the league (5.1 yards per carry). Murray should have a triumphant return to the field this weekend in Detroit, and he'll spur Dallas to its third victory in a row.
Final score: Cowboys win 31-27.
Miami at New England
Since opening the season with three straight wins, Miami limps into Gillette Stadium this Sunday having lost three in a row. The past two losses for Miami have been particularly hard to handle, as the team has been outscored by just five points total in the two contests.
But the Dolphins aren't the only team in this upcoming game struggling of late.
New England's offense has struggled to generate any consistent momentum this season, and the Patriots have lost two of three games heading into Week 8.
Thankfully for the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski is finally back, and he showed up in a huge way for New England last weekend against the Jets, catching eight passes for 114 yards in his season debut.
Combined with the expected return of Danny Amendola to the team's lineup this Sunday, as noted by Brad Evans of Yahoo! Sports, New England's offense appears ready to take off for the first time this season:
Aquib Talib and Danny Amendola practiced again today for the Pats. Both appear to be on track to suit up against Miami.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) October 24, 2013
Miami's defense is among the best in the league at shutting down scoring opportunities through the air, however, allowing just eight passing touchdowns this season (No. 8 in the NFL).
Even better as it pertains to Miami's defense, Cameron Wake hasn't been healthy this year, and he was limited to just 22 snaps last weekend against Buffalo. But he is expected to see much more action this weekend, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported:
Cameron Wake got only 22 snaps vs. Bills. I've been told he more than double that vs. Pats this wk: http://t.co/KysrOCTlcr— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) October 23, 2013
This game will not be easily won.
Final score: Patriots win 31-28.
Atlanta at Arizona
Steven Jackson is expected to make his return to the starting lineup for Atlanta this weekend, as noted by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, along with offensive lineman Sam Baker and tight end Chase Coffman:
#Falcons RB Steven Jackson back at practice. No setback with hammy. Expected to play on Sunday. Baker & Coffman back too.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@AJCFalcons) October 24, 2013
Getting these players back should greatly assist Atlanta this season, but the Falcons are still reeling. Beating Tampa Bay last weekend was a good first step toward getting back on track, but this team didn't really impress in that contest, and Arizona is no slouch at home. The Cardinals are also coming off a long week of rest.
The Cardinals have already beaten two tough NFC teams at University of Phoenix Stadium—the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers—and put up a valiant fight against the Seattle Seahawks last weekend.
How many interceptions will Carson Palmer throw?
Thanks to one of the league's top run defenses, Arizona will shut down Jackson and the rest of Atlanta's running backs, forcing Matt Ryan into a one-dimensional offense. The Cardinals feature the secondary players to keep Atlanta's passing game from going supernova, as well.
If Carson Palmer can stop throwing interceptions (11 in his past five games), then his Cardinals will win at home. Unfortunately, he can't.
Final score: Falcons win 27-23.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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