It's impossible to predict something like this, but Week 8 could well be the most exciting of the NFL season so far.
Randy Moss will lead the Minnesota Vikings into his old stomping ground to face his old quarterback, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots. Drew Brees will try to get the defending champion Saints' season back on track at home against Pittsburgh. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will storm into the New Meadowlands Stadium in what they hope will be a statement game against Darrelle Revis and the mighty New York Jets.
On top of all the great football that could be played, there will be the added hype of Halloween, which should turn the Superdome in New Orleans into quite a sight. Then, to top off a weekend of games with panache and story lines to spare, the Texans will visit the Colts on Monday night in the game most laden with playoff implications.
Consider this your resource for all the important information going into the weekend. What is the spread on each game? Who will win? What are the keys to each matchup? For all 13 games this Sunday and Monday, this is your weekly companion. Enjoy.
Spread: Chiefs -7.5
Prediction: 34-20 Chiefs
Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the Bills into Arrowhead Stadium in search of the team's first win of the season. Only the Jaguars have a worse point differential than Buffalo this year—and they are 3-4.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, continue to rule the AFC West. At 4-2, they are the only team in their division on the right side of .500 and have not lost in three games at home this year. All signs point to a Big Red rout in this one, with Matt Cassel torching the league's third-worst passing defense.
Spread: Lions -2.5
Prediction: 20-14 Redskins
The Lions get Matthew Stafford back this week, the first time their former No. 1 pick will play since the first half of Week 1. Stafford should be a shot in the arm to the offense, but without any trace of a Detroit running game present, it could be another big day for Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall.
The Lions rush defense is their great weakness so far this year, so Ryan Torain becomes a must-start for fantasy players. Torain has rushed for 225 yards on 46 carries over the last two weeks.
Spread: 49ers -1.5
Prediction: 23-17 Broncos
With Alex Smith shelved, the 49ers turn to Troy Smith to save head coach Mike Singletary’s job. Even against the shell-shocked Broncos, though, that may be a tall order. Smith just does not seem ready to go up and down the field matching the drives Kyle Orton and the Denver offense is capable of putting together against the porous San Francisco secondary.
Denver might not see the end zone much, but they will put together enough scoring drives to send San Francisco home crying.
Spread: Bengals -1.5
Prediction: 27-21 Dolphins
The Dolphins defense is built to confuse vertical passing attacks, and that could work to their advantage against the three-headed monster that is the Bengals aerial game. Cincinnati relies on the big play to run an effective offense, and Miami minimizes those.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins offense is at its best when it is balanced, so Tony Sparano's squad should take care not to get into a shootout with the Bengals.
This could be an upset in the making, if a mild one.
Spread: Rams -3
Prediction: 20-13 Rams
How much momentum stands to be gained by beating a 1-5 team to earn your first win of the season? That is the question facing John Fox’s Panthers this week. The answer probably will not please Fox, because the Panthers just don’t match up well with Sam Bradford and company: They cannot pass the ball efficiently, and cannot defend the run. The Rams will roll at home, but it should be a low-scoring affair.
Spread: Jets -6
Prediction: 31-27 Jets
At the season’s outset, this loomed as a possible Super Bowl preview. With Green Bay devastated by injury and plagued with inconsistency, though, the Jets now seem to be in a different tier than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay should score a fair bit on the Jets and could well cover the spread, but New York will win this one to move to 6-1.
Spread: Cowboys -6.5
Prediction: 17-7 Cowboys
Even without Tony Romo at the controls, the Cowboys offense should have enough firepower to outlast the dreadful Jaguars. David Garrard has been an empty uniform for at least a year and a half now, and Maurice Jones-Drew’s days as an explosive back seem to have ended as quickly as they began. The Cowboys should win handily, but points might be few and far between with these offenses sharing the field.
Spread: Chargers -3.5
Prediction: 23-21 Titans
The Chargers are a mess, and although Philip Rivers and company keep the numbers tidy on both sides of the football, this team may really be 2-5 bad. Meanwhile, the Titans have the league’s top running back and a solid backup plan if Vince Young can’t go as the signal-caller. Another upset could be brewing here, especially because the defenses will keep the game close.
Spread: Patriots -6
Prediction: 30-24 Patriots
If a hobbled Brett Favre can even take the field Sunday, he may make an early exit as the Patriots gun for his weakened ankle. If not, perhaps Favre and Randy Moss—both of whom are in the habit of showing up those who publicly doubt them—will have a big day and bring the Vikings a much-needed win on the road. The odds of that seem thin, though.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota secondary has been less daunting than advertised, so play Wes Welker and Deion Branch without fear. This could be the last great showdown shootout for the Gunslinger.
Spread: Cardinals -3
Prediction: 24-14 Bucs
This spread is baffling. No, the Bucs are not the class of the NFC, but they have looked really good at times this year, often in the face of stiffer competition than Arizona. Tampa has an excellent chance to pull the upset, though neither team is likely to light up the scoreboard with their inexperienced quarterbacks against wily defensive veterans like Ronde Barber and Adrian Wilson.
Spread: Raiders -2.5
Prediction: 20-17 Raiders
The Raiders will probably feature Jason Campbell under center again this week, as Bruce Gradkowski hardly seems recovered from the shoulder ailment that has shelved him of late. After the performance Campbell had against Denver last week, his presence could spell trouble for a Seattle team that has played above its head all year. Darren McFadden is coming into his own, too. Seattle needs more from the running game to win this one.
Prediction: 28-27 Steelers
The Saints will not get Reggie Bush back quite yet, but the home-field advantage of the Superdome this time of year ought not to be underestimated. Still, after New Orleans laid an egg in Cleveland last week, it is hard not to think the Steelers have the edge here. Drew Brees needs to pull it together fast for the Saints offense to take off.
Spread: Colts -5.5
Prediction: 30-20 Colts
Houston won round one in Week 1, but that was at Reliant Stadium in Texas. The Colts have to enter as favorites in a game like this, but that does not mean they will not be vulnerable: Dallas Clark and Austin Collie are out, although Anthony Gonzalez should return to shore up the Colts passing game.
Indy is one of the league's most dangerous teams coming out of a bye, which gives their veterans time to rest and gives their brilliant coaching staff time to make adjustments that might not be made week-to-week. The AFC South will not be decided after this Monday, but the Colts will get a small edge.