Sunday Morning Under the Helmet: What to Watch for in NFL Week Eight

Alex JohnsonCorrespondent INovember 1, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 05:  Fans of Brett Favre #4  of the Minnesota Vikings talk prior to the start of the game against of the Green Bay Packers on October 5, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Week Eight is the halfway point in the NFL regular season. It has been an eventful first half full of surprises, shockers, and disappointments.

In the first half, we saw Tom Brady struggle, but then rebound. We saw the Denver Broncos go 6-0 and the Tennessee Titans 0-6.

We saw Cedric Benson emerge as a top running back and Jake Delhomme forget how to play. The Detroit Lions won a game and the St. Louis Rams are making their push for 0-16.

Those are just a few of the things we saw in the first half. What's in store for the second half? More importantly what will we see in Week Eight?  Take a look:

Matchup of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2)

Today, Brett Favre makes his return to Lambeau Field where he played for 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

On that field he won games, shattered records and built a great legacy.

As a Packer he was loved, and looked up to. He was the definition of a fan favorite.

Now, just two years after his ugly divorce from the team, Favre will step foot onto the Frozen Tundra once again. But this time he's wearing Viking purple and could maybe, just maybe, hear some boos.

In their Week Four matchup at the Metrodome, the Vikings beat Green Bay 30-23 in what was the most watched cable television program ever.

In that game, Favre threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns. His counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, tallied 384 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The difference in that game was the performances by the offensive lines.

Favre rarely had pressure on him and had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and make smart decisions and good throws. Rodgers didn't quite enjoy the same protection, as he was sacked eight times and hurried even more.

If the Packers have any chance to tie the season series they will have to protect Rodgers much better this time around.

Since that Week Four battle the Vikings are 2-1 and coming off a heart-breaking 27-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in last weekend's game of the week .

The Packers are 2-0 since Week Four including last week's 31-3 stomping of the sad Cleveland Browns.

But all that is in the past now and doesn't matter anymore.

Forget 6-1 vs. 4-2, forget all the Favre mania.

This is a midseason matchup between two division rivals with a playoff atmosphere.

Keys to the game

-Brett Favre's nerves

-Which O-line protects their QB better

-Can Minnesota's defense slow down Aaron Rodgers?

-Ryan Grant vs. Adrian Peterson

Predicition: Vikings win 23-20 in OT

Small Names, Big Games

Here, we will take a look at three non-superstars who will post big numbers in Week Eight.

Spencer Havner (TE, Green Bay)

With Jermichael Finley listed as doubtful with a sprained knee, the Packers could call on Spencer Havner to play a significant role in their offense vs. the Vikings this afternoon.

Last week, Havner caught two passes for 59 yards including a 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter. On the season, he has four catches for 89 yards and that one touchdown.

Havner, a converted linebacker, goes against the Vikings this afternoon and could have his fair share of success.

The Vikings defense has struggled against tight ends this season. On four occasions an opposing tight end has either led his team or was tied for the lead in receptions against Minnesota.

Those performances include Vernon Davis' 96 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches in Week Three and Finley's six receptions for 128 yards and one touchdown back in week four.

If Minnesota continues to struggle against tight ends, Havner could put up career highs this afternoon.

David Garrard (QB, Jacksonville)

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has been inconsistent this season, but his Week Eight matchup makes him a candidate for a big game.

Garrard goes against the 0-6 Tennessee Titans who rank last against the pass.

In Week Four against the Titans, Garrard threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-17 blowout win.

Expect similar numbers from Garrard today.

Zach Miller (TE, Oakland)

In his last three games against San Diego, Raiders tight end Zach Miller has combined for 19 catches for 255 yards and a score.

Miller goes against those Chargers this afternoon and could put up big numbers yet again.

In seven games this season Miller has 23 receptions for 369 yards and one touchdown including a 139 yard performance in week six vs. Philadelphia and 96 yards vs. those Chargers in the season opener.

Miller also leads all NFL tight ends with a 16-yard per catch average.

Oth ers To Watch: LeSean McCoy (RB, Philadelphia), Johnny Knox (WR, Chicago), Vince Young (QB, Tennessee)

Upset Alert!: Oakland (2-5) over San Diego (3-3)???

Last week San Diego trounced the Kansas City Chiefs 37-7 and the Raiders got shut out by the New York Jets 38-0.

So clearly the Raiders aren't favored in this game.

However, they will win.

Despite the fact that San Diego has won 12 straight over the Raiders, Oakland has held a fourth-quarter lead in two of the last three matchups between these two teams including a 20-17 lead until 18 seconds remaining in week one.

It's quite obvious, but the Raiders are going to need to have success on offense and start scoring some points if they plan to beat the Chargers today.

Oakland is averaging a 31st-ranked 8.9 points per game, a simply embarrassing statistic.

They're also last in yards per game and average passing yards. In rushing yards they rank 26th.

To have that much needed success on offense the Raiders need to begin with rushing the ball. They've showed potential on the ground and they have a chance to break out against the Chargers defense which ranks 28th against the run.

JaMarcus Russell will also be a key factor on offense for the Raiders. Russell has struggled this season throwing for 891 yards, two touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has also fumbled five times.

Russell hit the ultimate low last week when he was benched in favor of Bruce Gradkowski after he turned the ball over three times in the first half.

It's up to the Raiders defense to give their team a chance to win. Because of their lack of a passing attack and their clear offensive strength being the run game, Oakland's defense needs to keep the game close so their offense doesn't have to call on Russell too often.

The Raiders' defense ranks 25th in points allowed per game, 12th against the pass and 30th against the run.

San Diego loves to throw the ball and are fourth in the league in passing so Oakland's secondary better be at their best today.

Phillip Rivers will likely look to attack Chris Johnson's side of the field with All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomougha on the other side.

Keys for OAK

-Keep the game close

-Run the ball, run the ball, run...

-Stop Phillip Rivers and Vincent Jackson

-Protect the football, no turnovers!

Predicition: Raiders win 27-25


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