The absence of six teams from the NFL schedule this week due to byes certainly adds a great deal of intrigue to the weekend's action. A number of elite squads are heavily favored against seemingly lesser opponents, and while there is inherent danger in those games, blowouts could just as easily be on the horizon.
Although there are a lot of games left to be played before playoff time, the midpoint of the season is when the upper-echelon teams need to separate themselves from the rest of the field. There will be plenty of opportunities for those teams to make a statement in Week 8.
Here are three teams that will assert their dominance with convincing wins against over-matched competition.
|Away Team||Home Team||Spread||Pick|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville Jaguars||SF (-14.5)||SF|
|Dallas Cowboys||Detroit Lions||DET (-3)||DAL|
|New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI (-5.5)||NYG|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||KC (-7)||CLE|
|Buffalo Bills||New Orleans Saints||NO (-11)||NO|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||NE (-6)||NE|
|New York Jets||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN (-5.5)||CIN|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Oakland Raiders||PIT (-2.5)||OAK|
|Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||DEN (-11.5)||DEN|
|Atlanta Falcons||Arizona Cardinals||ARI (-2.5)||ATL|
|Green Bay Packers||Minnesota Vikings||GB (-9)||GB|
|Seattle Seahawks||St. Louis Rams||SEA (-11)||SEA|
Spreads via Vegas Insider
Seattle Seahawks (-11 @ STL)
The Seattle Seahawks have lived up to the preseason hype that surrounded them, as they currently boast a 6-1 record, good enough for first place in the NFC West. Seattle hasn't been quite as dominant as it was down the stretch last season, but that may very well change in Week 8. The Seahawks will travel to St. Louis to take on the division rival Rams on Monday night, and while that seemed like it would be a challenging game entering the season, that likely won't be the case.
St. Louis has been extremely inconsistent this season, and turnover at the quarterback position won't help that. Sam Bradford appeared to be coming into his own, but he will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, according to ESPN. That means journeyman Kellen Clemens will step in, which doesn't bode well for the Rams, as Clemens is last in the NFL in QBR among qualified passers since 2006, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Kellen Clemens: Worst Total QBR (20.8) since the start of 2006 (min. 500 plays)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 24, 2013
Elite quarterbacks have a difficult time figuring out Seattle's defense, so Clemens is essentially hopeless.
To make matters worse, the Rams don't have much of a running game. Rookie Zac Stacy has at least looked confident in the St. Louis backfield over the past few weeks, but he isn't explosive enough to give Seattle's defensive front trouble. With the Rams struggling to score, look for Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle offense to pour it on come Monday night.
San Francisco 49ers (-14.5 @ JAC)
The San Francisco 49ers haven't been quite as good as their NFC West counterparts this season, but they've righted the ship since losing consecutive games to the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts a few weeks ago. The Niners once again look like a team capable of challenging for a Super Bowl title, which means that they should bury the teams that they are supposed to beat.
San Francisco has a seemingly easy matchup on its hands this week, as it is favored by more than two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Technically speaking, this is a road game for the 49ers, but it will be played overseas in London, so it is actually a neutral site. The Jags have become the unofficial team of London—they will play a game there in each of the next four seasons—but look for the crowd to support the Niners due to their international appeal.
Aside from having fan support, the 49ers also have a sizable talent edge on both sides of the ball. The Jags are last in the NFL in scoring at less than 11 points per game, and much of that has to do with mediocre play from quarterback Chad Henne and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. If that isn't bad enough, Jacksonville is last in points allowed defensively at nearly 32 per contest.
The Niners have really committed to the run in recent weeks with Frank Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Assuming they stick to that game plan, they should gash a Jacksonville defense that allows over 153 yards per game on the ground.
New Orleans Saints (-11 vs. BUF)
Which big Week 8 favorite is most likely to win and cover the spread?
They may only be 3-4, but the Buffalo Bills are one of the league's most pleasant surprises this season. All three of their victories are of the quality variety, as they have defeated the Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. Also, they have been right in it until the end in each of their losses.
With that in mind, Buffalo may seem like a solid bet this week getting 11 points against the New Orleans Saints. But the Saints are playing at an entirely different level.
Quarterback Thad Lewis has performed admirably for Buffalo in the absence of starter EJ Manuel, and the Bills are one of just two teams in the league (along with the Denver Broncos) to score at least 20 points in each game. That said, though, Lewis isn't a long-term solution, and he is due for a wake-up call.
Also, Buffalo's strong running game will be compromised, as C.J. Spiller is listed as doubtful, according to the Bills' official Twitter account:
Additionally, the Bills have a shaky pass defense, allowing 257 yards per game through the air. They do have a league-best 12 interceptions, along with 23 sacks, but they aren't shy about giving up big plays and a lot of points. Saints quarterback Drew Brees will make them pay in all likelihood, especially at home inside the Superdome.
Buffalo is still a year or two away from truly competing for a playoff spot, and the Saints will make the team come to that realization on Sunday.
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