NFL Picks Week 8: What Games Will Come Down to the Wire?
Week 8 of the NFL season is already upon us, which represents the halfway point in the NFL season for much of the league. For some teams like Tom Brady's Patriots, Mark Sanchez's Jets and Eli Manning's New York Giants, solid starts have their fans dreaming about Lombardi Trophies, but not everyone has been so lucky.
While there have been many pleasant surprises this season, much of the league has to be disappointed with where they stand. Who would have thought that through seven weeks, Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees would have seven combined wins? Even Mr. Consistent, Peyton Manning, and his Indianapolis Colts face an uphill climb starting with a huge week eight game against the Houston Texans.
Much of the disappointment has been based upon unprecedented levels of parody within the league this season, and with the some of the league's best, including the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens all on bye weeks, expect most of this week's games to go down to the wire.
Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions
Donovan McNabb's Redskins find themselves tied for second place in the NFC East due to four victories by a combined total of 17 points. The one win Lions, on the other hand, have picked up their five losses by an average of around six points per game.
So far the, Lions have faced one of the toughest schedules in the NFL including Chicago, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Minnesota and the New York Giants. Every one of those teams, with the exception of the Vikings, had a very difficult time dispatching the usually lowly Lions.
Throw in that the Lions have only played two home games, one of which was a 38 point victory over the Rams, and the Lions are the pick this Sunday.
Still not convinced? Remember that the Redskins have played in four consecutive close games against difficult opponents. The Lions are a coming off a bye week and are hungry to prove they are better than their record illustrates.
This game will be close, but the Lions take it by a touchdown.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys
Has there been a more disappointing team in the league this season than the Dallas Cowboys? The Cowboys entered the season hoping to be the first team in NFL history to play a home game in the Super Bowl.
However, fast forward seven weeks, and the Cowboys find themselves with one win, no confidence and without their starting quarterback.
While on paper the Romo injury should doom the Cowboys this season, there is still hope. Jon Kitna may be the best backup quarterback in the league aside from whoever is not starting in Philadelphia and did a more than adequate job of keeping the Cowboys in the game against the Giants following the Romo injury.
Jacksonville has quarterback health issues of their own and a win over abysmal Buffalo inflating their record. The Jaguars have been terrible on defense this season and have dropped their last two contests by 27 and 22 points.
Look for the Jaguars to get up for this game like they did a month ago against the Colts, but in the end, the Cowboys will just be too desperate to handle. This game is going to be ugly, but the Cowboys will pull out a much needed victory at home.
Dallas wins this game by 10. It should be more, but with Romo out and the running game off to a slow start, points will be hard to come by in this game.
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
This game will be a close contest because it involves two of the NFL's most mediocre teams. Neither of these teams are bad, but they both are not quite playoff worthy. Whether its a few glaring holes on either side of the ball or inexperience on their rosters, both the Dolphins and the Bengals will finish around .500 this season.
With that said, when they meet each other, it gives fans a surprisingly competitive game to watch. The Dolphins have probably been the better team this season, but the Bengals dynamic duo of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens could play spoiler in any contest.
The Dolphins have lost three games this season, all of which were to Super Bowl contenders. In their three victories, the Dolphins have played to the level of competition, even against lowly Buffalo, and barely pulled off three close ones.
Look for the Dolphins to win another close one this Sunday, defeating the Bengals by a field goal.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
The Buffalo Bills are the only team in the NFL that has yet to win a game this season. While they have had their moments in tight games against Baltimore, New England and Miami, the Bills just cannot seem to put together a full game of quality football.
While at the beginning of the season, the Bills may have circled the Chiefs as a potential victory, the Chiefs have turned into one of the league's most pleasant surprises this season. While they are young and inexperienced there is no denying that the Chiefs are a quality team with a formidable home field advantage.
If this game was played in Buffalo, I might have to pick the Bills, but there is simply no way that the Bills walk into Arrowhead Stadium and escape with a win. The Chiefs win by a couple touchdowns, as their offense has been taking off over the past two weeks.
Carolina Panthers at St. Louis Rams
This game between the Panthers and the Rams is this week's premiere battle of the basement. While it is too early to start tanking games for draft positioning, this game will go a long way in helping to determine just how good, or bad, these two teams are.
The Rams have also been a pleasant surprise this season, accumulating three victories over quality opponents. Sam Bradford has impressed in his rookie season, and with a soft schedule, the Rams could find themselves fighting for a shot at a seven or eight win season down the stretch.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have struggled mightily through their first six games. Matt Moore retook the reigns last Sunday and pulled off a victory over the reeling 49ers, so there may be some hope for a turnaround.
The Rams have been playing teams close all season, and their confidence levels are only rising. Look for the Rams to squeeze by with a three point victory at home.
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
The Denver Broncos are coming off of an absolutely humiliating loss to the Oakland Raiders last weekend in which Oakland scored 59 points. A loss like that can either make a team angry and turn their season around or kill their spirits entirely and cause them to pack it in. Which direction the Broncos go in will be decided Sunday against the 49ers.
However, the Broncos may not be the more desperate team in this game. The 49ers entered the season with the high aspirations that accompany the combination of a highly talented roster, a well regarded coach, and an exceptionally weak division.
Seven weeks and six losses later, the 49ers have all but eliminated themselves from the playoff hunt and are simply fighting for respectability.
While neither of these teams has much of a chance at making the playoffs, their desperation levels entering this game will be among the highest in the league. This game will be a close contest in which every yard is fought for tooth and nail. In the end, the 49ers will beat a Broncos team that was exposed last Sunday by at most three points in what could be the weekend's closest contest.
Green Bay Packers at New York Jets
This game, along with the game between the Steelers and the Saints, represents one of the two preseason super bowl previews occurring this week. While the Packers have been struggling with injuries and have failed to live up to the hype thus far, do not count them out just yet.
The Jets, meanwhile, have lived up to their billing and take a one loss record into this weekend's contest. The Jets have won five consecutive games by dominating the game with their rushing offense and overall defense.
The Packers need this game more than the Jets do, and both teams have already played in many close games this season. Look for Aaron Rodgers to take a momentum boost from finally beating Brett Favre and play like the NFL MVP candidate many expected him to be.
The Packers will need Rodger's stellar performance in order to pull off a victory on the road against a stingy Jets defense. Rodgers will lead his team to victory, but watch for it to be by as little as one point.
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers
While the battle for unexplained ineptitude in the NFC rages on between the 49ers and the Cowboys, the San Diego Chargers are unquestionably the AFC's most disappointing team to this point in the season. A team which is accustomed to a cakewalk to the playoffs out in the AFC West now finds themselves looking up at the lowly Raiders.
The Chargers have been playing like a team that just does not want to win football games. Their passing attack has been prolific, their running game solid, and their defense among the league's best. How, then, have they managed only two victories?
While the answer is complicated, in general, the Chargers have been beating themselves with bad turnovers, awful special teams and abysmal play in clutch situations.
The Titans, on the other hand, have been doing more with what they have than just about any team the league and have five wins to show for it. Kerry Collins stepped in last week and proved that the Titans can be successful with either quarterback when he beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chargers are the better team on paper, and although they have struggled, they are just too talented to lose this game. The game will come down to the wire since the Chargers seem to like suspense, but they will pull it out in the end by a touchdown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals
Tampa Bay and Arizona are both supposed teams in the middle of rebuilding years. They both have young quarterbacks that are trying to make names for themselves in the NFL. Yet surprisingly, both teams have been mildly successful this season.
While the playoffs should not be on either of these team's rosters, this game will be much more entertaining than most would have expected before the season started. This game will likely be one of those back and forth contests where turnovers and mistakes are most important than passer rating and offensive production.
The Buccaneers have specialized this season in beating other mediocre opponents, so look for the trend to continue in a game that will be won by Tampa's staunch pass defense. Like all of Tampa's wins, this game will be close and will likely include a few highlight reel plays made possible by the opponents inexperience or ineptitude.
Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots
This game could possibly feature the most story line potential of the weekend. Brett Favre, and all of the baggage that comes with him, is hurt and may not be able to extend his consecutive starts streak. Brad Childress appears to be tiring of his aging quarterback.
On the New England side of things, all of the hype will be regarding the return of Randy Moss. The Patriots are also experiencing somewhat of a revival of Super Bowl contention and could use another quality victory.
The big story in this game will be Favre's health. If Favre is healthy and Moss is playing with a chip on his shoulder, there is a chance the inexperienced Patriots secondary will get torched, and this game will turn into a shootout. If the Vikings have to start Jackson at quarterback, however, it could be a long day for Minnesota fans.
In the end, Tom Brady will be too much to handle for the struggling Vikings, and the Patriots will take home the victory. If Favre plays, expect it to come down to another signature game winning drive for Brady, if not, it won't even be close.
Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders looked to be on their way to another horrific season. Then in week seven, the Raiders exploded for 59 points in a victory over the Denver Broncos. Now it's very difficult to decide what to think of this Raiders team that obviously has talent but has yet to put it all together for more than four quarters.
The Seahawks are statistically one of the weaker teams in the NFL. However, they have already racked up four victories this season, including big wins over San Diego and Chicago. With neither team having fully figured out or revealed their identities, this is a tough one to pick.
The Seahawks' main statistical positive has been a solid rush defense which will be able to shut down the Raiders' offense Sunday. This game could be surprisingly entertaining, and look for the Seahawks to pull out the victory in a close one.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints
The Saints have had a tough start to their title defense this season. The Steelers have a tough defense that has them looking at a potential title. The Saints have three losses already, and in these losses, their superstar quarterback, Drew Brees, has looked exceptionally mediocre.
Struggles in the running game and turnovers have killed the Saints so far this year, and if they want to get back on track, they will need to hold onto the ball Sunday.
The Steelers have one of the league's best defenses and an offense that has quickly readjusted to having Ben Roethlisberger under center.
Last week was not impressive for either of these teams, as the Saints lost to the basement dwelling Browns, and the Steelers beat the Dolphins due to a lack of indisputable evidence. Both teams have something to prove Sunday, and it's going to make for an extremely good game.
Both teams can score in bunches and play solid defense. Both teams have exciting playmakers on board and a knack for creating turnovers and big plays. This is definitely the game to watch Sunday.
The Saints have not looked like Super Bowl champions this season, and they will not be able to regain their form against the Steelers. Drew Brees is searching for redemption and will keep his boys in the game, but the Steelers defense is just too stingy.
The Steelers take this one in a close game, winning by no more than a touchdown.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Usually halfway through the season, the questions regarding their Colts involve home field advantage and the possibility of an undefeated season.
This is a different Colts team. Injuries, defensive ineptitude, and a lack of weapons around Peyton Manning have the Colts in second place.
Normally, being in second place and only half a game back at this point in the season would not be a cause for alarm. However, the Colts already lost one contest to the Texans and have two to play against the first place Titans.
This game could go a long way towards determining who takes home the AFC South crown. If the Colts lose and fall into third place, then the Texans will own the tiebreaker. Dallas Clark is out, and the Colts rushing attack has been horrible this season.
If the battle for the division wasn't heated enough, it looks like the Patriots, Jets, Ravens and Steelers are poised to grab their respective division crowns as well as the two wild cards. This leaves three quality teams fighting it out for one spot in the AFC South.
The Texans and Colts both had a bye week last week and will be as prepared as possible for this week's Monday night clash. Both teams have unconvincing resumes and a lot of unanswered questions, but these rivals always play close.
This may be the most important game this weekend, and it will be played as such. While beating Peyton Manning twice in a season is nearly impossible, he just does not have the pieces around him this season. The Texans will win this one by a whisker and put a serious dent in the Colts' playoff hopes.