Week 8 of the NFL season is a good time to pick teams that will begin their slow tumble out of contender status back to Earth.
An example from early in the season would be the Miami Dolphins. The Fins started out 2-0 but have lost three of their last four games—with all three losses coming at home—to drop back exactly where they belong: the middle of the pack.
It's better to fall back to Earth early, as the fall will undoubtedly hurt less. Unfortunately for these next five teams, the fall will come at midseason, just as their fans start to believe their team's success might be the real deal.
Washington is six Chicago turnovers away from being below .500. Fortunately for the Redskins, Jay Cutler is who he is.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, not every team in the NFL is going to hand you wins.
Things start to get ugly this week on the road against the Detroit Lions. Following their bye week, the Redskins will face a tough divisional opponent and then take on a Titans team that has already defeated two NFC East teams by a combined 37 points.
At the beginning of the season most pegged Washington for a last-place finish in the NFC East. Now they'll start to trend toward that position.
Things will start to go South this week at Ford Field, when the Lions and their seventh-ranked pass offense shred the Washington Redskins 31st-ranked pass defense.
Matthew Stafford will aid the Lions in doing just that.
The Redskins have won all of their games by less than a touchdown and simply do not have the offense (18th in total yards) to make up for a defense that ranks 31st in yards allowed. Up to this point, the defense has bent but not broken, surrendering just 19 points a game.
They can't keep that up if they keep hemorrhaging yards, especially against teams like the Lions that play tough.
vs. San Diego
at New York Jets
Despite their 4-2 record, Houston has a negative point differential.
They have a stellar offense, but their defense is atrocious. Things won't get any better now that linebacker DeMeco Ryans has been lost for the season. In order to mask that loss, Texans' Head Coach Gary Kubiak has moved Brian Cushing to Ryans' middle linebacker spot. That won't mask the thinness at linebacker or the weakness on defense overall.
Three of the Texans next four games are against three of the top 10 scoring offenses.
The defense better be ready, but chances are it won't be.
In what will certainly be poetic justice, Houston's push off the edge will come courtesy of Peyton Manning.
This season began with a lot of hype for the Texans. That hype was exponentially increased when they defeated the Colts in Week 1.
So it will be sweet revenge when Peyton Manning delivers the blow that sends Houston into a tailspin. Even without Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, the Colts and their second-ranked pass offense will gash the Texans' league worst pass defense.
vs. New York Giants
at New Orleans
The Seahawks are in control of the NFC West because the division is extremely weak. They also have a 4-2 record because their schedule has been the easiest in the NFL to date. They have only played one game against a team above .500: the overrated Chicago Bears.
However, the Seahawks' inclusion on this list does not mean they can't still win the NFC West; it just means their record will start to resemble the fact that they are division leaders in the NFC West.
After a tough game at Oakland, the Seahawks face the New York Quarterback Killers, then head into Arizona against a Cardinals team looking for revenge before finally finishing the upcoming slate in the Superdome against the defending champs.
Seattle actually matches up pretty well with the Raiders.
They have the second-rated run defense, which will serve them well against a Raiders team that ran for 328 yards last week and averages 158.4 yards per game on the ground.
The Raiders also have the 28th-ranked run defense, which bodes well for the Seahawks, who seem to be finding their way on the ground the past two weeks with the newly formed combination of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett.
But the Raiders are going to be at home and extremely confident after their 59-14 trouncing of Denver. You can never discount momentum, especially when a team is at home. There will be no hangover and the Raiders will start a slide for the Seahawks that will send the NFC West race down to the wire.
The Randy Moss-less Patriots might have the top scoring offense in all of football right now, but that is guaranteed to change over the next few weeks.
San Diego generally outplayed the Patriots last week, throwing on them at will and knocking around Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. If not for all the bone-headed turnovers, the Chargers dominate that game.
The week before that they defeated an obviously not-right Baltimore team, as evidenced by the 34 points they surrendered to the Buffalo Bills.
In Week 4 against Miami, the Patriots scored 28 of their 41 points off special teams play.
This pattern will not hold up. Starting this week, the Patriots play three stingy defenses in a row that will give them their money's worth and show that the Randy Moss-less Patriots are not a top scoring offense.
Who better to start the Patriots' slide than the player Bill Belichick cast off?
Randy Moss will not be a slouch come Sunday. It doesn't matter who is throwing him the ball; he will burn the Patriots at least once. Their pass defense is ranked 30th in the league and allows an average of 282 yards a game.
On defense, the Vikings will show why the Patriots are weak without Randy Moss. Jared Allen will have his coming out party for the 2010 season against an offensive line that let Tom Brady get sacked four times last week.
at San Francisco
Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris seems to think his team is the NFC's best.
That's all well and good, but it is not true.
They're not the best team in their own division and they certainly aren't the best team in the NFC. This will start to show on Sunday against Arizona.
While last week's come from behind victory was great, and showcased the talents of an emerging young quarterback in Josh Freeman, the Buccaneers are not the New York Jets.
The Jets have enough talent to win with a sophomore quarterback, but the Buccaneers do not.
The Arizona Cardinals have been a stupid team. Despite not having a quarterback, they've thrown the ball 190 times and ran it just 118 times.
That will change this week when they welcome Tampa Bay to Phoenix.
A steady dose of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower will be the Buccaneers' undoing, as they've allowed 157.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them 31st in the league.
Got any questions, thoughts, comments?
Don't be shy. Tell me what you think about my picks and make your own. The only qualification is that the team be above .500. Maybe you think the Jets or Titans are primed for a fall from grace? I had to pick teams that would play and lose this week, but you don't have to be boxed in by those restrictions (hello, Chicago Bears!).
Thanks again for reading.