The beauty of the NFL is that it only takes a couple of weeks to go from a hapless club to a possible playoff contender.
You've got a few teams at the top of the league hierarchy, but after that, the postseason picture is very cloudy. So many teams are stuck with 4-3 or 3-4 records.
Fans have gotten over the initial joy of football being back, but they haven't yet gotten into playoff mode. Having so many teams packed so tightly keeps the fans interested and makes for entertaining football.
Here are the picks for every Week 8 game, followed by three teams on the outside of the playoffs looking in that will earn key victories.
|Time (ET)||Home Team||Away Team||Pick|
|Thurs., Oct. 24|
|8:25 p.m.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Carolina Panthers||CAR|
|Sun., Oct. 27|
|1 p.m.||Jacksonville Jaguars||San Francisco 49ers||SF|
|1 p.m.||Kansas City Chiefs||Cleveland Browns||KC|
|1 p.m.||New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||NE|
|1 p.m.||New Orleans Saints||Buffalo Bills||NO|
|1 p.m.||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||NYG|
|1 p.m.||Detroit Lions||Dallas Cowboys||DET|
|4:05 p.m.||Oakland Raiders||Pittsburgh Steelers||PIT|
|4:05 p.m.||Cincinnati Bengals||New York Jets||NYJ|
|4:25 p.m.||Arizona Cardinals||Atlanta Falcons||ATL|
|4:25 p.m.||Denver Broncos||Washington Redskins||DEN|
|8:30 p.m.||Minnesota Vikings||Green Bay Packers||GB|
|Mon., Oct. 28|
|8:40 p.m.||St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||SEA|
Schedule via NFL.com
OK, so this team doesn't technically play on the weekend. You get the idea.
The Carolina Panthers are capable of dropping a major stinker. Case in point, their 22-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, when Cam Newton turned the ball over three times.
That Week 5 defeat seems to have been a tipping point. Since that game, the Panthers have won their next two by a combined 40 points. Sure, those games were against the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams, but sometimes you've got to take baby steps.
Will the Carolina Panthers make the playoffs?
It's doubtful that Carolina will revert to old form against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are the biggest mess in the league. They have one of the NFL's worst offenses, and Mike Glennon hasn't been a significant upgrade over Josh Freeman.
Against Football Outsiders' third-best defense in the league, Tampa will struggle to move the ball and put points on the board.
As if the problems on the field weren't enough, NFL.com's Michael Silver went discussed at length how head coach Greg Schiano has managed to turn every player against him.
The Panthers are a team with plenty of flaws, but they'll get past the Buccaneers. Their defense will suffocate Glennon and Newton will do just enough against the Bucs' secondary.
With a win, Carolina would jump to over .500 and stay within shouting distance of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South in addition to keeping pace in the wild-card race.
New York Jets
Rex Ryan better be getting some votes for Coach of the Year.
Plenty of people were arguing that he should've been fired before Week 1, or as soon as possible, whenever that time may have been. Now, he's got the New York Jets off to a 4-3 start and they sit one game behind the New England Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East.
The good news is that record should be even better after Week 8.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Monday that Leon Hall has been ruled out for the rest of the season:
No surprise but Bengals will place CB Leon Hall of season-ending Injured reserve after he tore his Achilles on Sunday. Significant loss— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 21, 2013
That's a huge loss when the next guys up are Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. With Hall, the Cincinnati Bengals have a very good secondary. Without him, that unit is passable, in that any quarterback is able to pass against it with ease.
The key for Geno Smith will be limiting the turnovers. In the Jets' three losses, he's thrown seven, compared to just four in the team's four wins.
By not giving Cincinnati any free points, he's heaping more pressure on Andy Dalton to play mistake-free football.
After Week 4, you probably wrote off the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for them, though. The Steelers have recovered to win their last two games and possibly challenge for the AFC North crown.
The Cleveland Browns have been awful since Brandon Weeden took over, and Pittsburgh is coming off a 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens last week. Winning the North is doable.
Where will the Steelers finish in the AFC North?
With a Steelers win and Bengals loss, Pittsburgh is right back in the divisional race.
It should at least be able to follow through on the first part of that plan.
Ben Roethlisberger will be successful against an Oakland Raiders secondary that is in the bottom half of the league. Le'Veon Bell is enough of a threat on the ground that opposing defenses must respect both the Steelers' running and passing games.
Having a well-balanced offense is a huge boost for the Steelers after their running game was so awful earlier in the season.
While other teams have yet to figure out Terrelle Pryor, you wouldn't bet on him out-dueling Roethlisberger.