NFL Week 8 Picks: Predictions for Every Game
Are you ready for some football? Week 8 of the NFL schedule brings us 12 new and exciting games to enjoy.
Six potential playoff teams are all coming off a bye week, as the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are all back in action this week.
Who will win and who will lose? We'll break down every game on the schedule, giving you a final score and the keys to the game for each team.
Miami Dolphins at New York Giants
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When Miami Has the Ball
The Miami offense has been sad this season. The team cannot consistently run the ball, and the passing game has been hurt by the injury to Chad Henne (not that he was so great before injury). The Dolphins have some exciting pieces in place, but without consistency around them they cannot get points or yards to win ballgames.
There's a reason the Dolphins are winless so far this season, and that reason starts with their offense. Expect another bad week from the boys in aqua.
The New York Giants have won this year with really exceptional play from the defensive line and timely play from cornerbacks as needed. They should have no trouble handling the Dolphin offense this week.
When New York Has the Ball
The Giants offense should move the ball at will this week. The Denver Broncos were able to successfully run the ball against Miami, leaving no doubt that the Giants will be able to move the ball equally as well, if not better.
The Giants will rely heavily on Ahmad Bradshaw this week, but there will be big chances for Eli Manning to go downfield against a secondary that plays the run better than it does the pass. I expect a big day from Victor Cruz working opposite Hakeem Nicks.
Miami will need to equal its seven-sack performance of a week ago if it hopes to have a prayer of a chance this week. Sean Smith and Vontae Davis will have to play up to their self-promotion if the Dolphins will get their first win against the Giants.
Prediction: New York 41, Miami 7
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
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When Indianapolis Has the Ball
The Colts can't possibly play worse than they did Sunday night in a 55-point loss to the New Orleans Saints. Curtis Painter should have more time to work against an underrated Tennessee defense that's not quite as aggressive or as fast as the Saints defense.
The Colts will plan to work the edges, forcing Tennessee to spread the field. Their hope will be that Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon can be the difference-makers against a Titan defense ranked No. 24 against the pass this season.
The Titans need to get pressure off the edges, which is something the Saints were able to do at will. If the Titans can get continual pressure on Painter, they will force him into mistakes and turnovers.
When Tennessee Has the Ball
The Titans are a beatable team; we found that out last week when they met the Houston Texans in a 41-7 loss. This may be the Colts' best chance at a win for some time. To guarantee a win against the Colts, Tennessee must play turnover-free football. If Matt Hasselbeck can keep the ball out of the hands of the Colts, the Titans should be able to win.
Those looking for a breakout game from Chris Johnson this year may get it this week against an Indianapolis front four that's been weak all season.
Indianapolis has to find a way to get to Hasselbeck. He's been the catalyst for the Titans' wins this season.
Prediction: Tennessee 31, Indianapolis 20
New Orleans Saints at St. Louis Rams
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When New Orleans Has the Ball
New Orleans put 62 points on the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night. This week could be a similar outcome against a St. Louis team that is far worse defensively than Indianapolis.
The Saints will be ready with their high-powered offensive attack. The team could easily win this week by dedicating its offense to the run game, but Sean Payton will make sure Drew Brees gets his 300 yards passing. Jimmy Graham is emerging as a legitimate All-Pro candidate at tight end; he'll be one to watch in the red zone for the Saints.
The Rams have to play fundamental football this week and try to force Brees into bad throws and interceptions. That's not something I see happening, but if they surprise the world and win this game, it will be due to a bad game by Brees.
When St. Louis Has the Ball
Without a healthy Sam Bradford, the Rams really have no shot this week against a red-hot New Orleans Saints team.
The Rams are playing A.J. Feeley in Bradford's absence, which should tell you all you need to know about their chances against the Saints. If that's not troubling enough, the Rams are allowing the most sacks of any team in the NFL. Expect the Saints to tee off on Feeley.
Prediction: New Orleans 48, St. Louis 0
Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens
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When Arizona Has the Ball
The Arizona Cardinals have allowed 18 sacks this season. You can bet the game plan in Baltimore this week will be to blitz these tackles as much as possible.
Without Beanie Wells in the backfield, Kevin Kolb and co. will lack the running game to keep Baltimore's defense honest. The Ravens will have their ears pinned back and ready to attack Kolb and the backfield.
This could be a 10-sack day from the Baltimore defense.
When Baltimore Has the Ball
The Baltimore offense will be anxious to avenge a less than impressive outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night. That means a big day against a defense in Arizona that's giving up the seventh-most yards per game of any team in the league. Baltimore may have struggled in Jacksonville, but it will have no trouble moving the ball on an Arizona defense that looks lost at times.
What does scare me about the Arizona defense is it is opportunistic. Adrian Wilson is a proven star, and I like the playmaking of Patrick Peterson when he's not holding the receiver every chance he gets. If Peterson can play smart football, Arizona could shut down the Baltimore offense in much the same way Jacksonville did.
Prediction: Baltimore 35, Arizona 17
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
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When Minnesota Has the Ball
The Minnesota Vikings have to be happy with the play of rookie first-rounder Christian Ponder in his first NFL start. Ponder's great play was overshadowed on Sunday by Tebow-mania, as were most stories.
The Vikings will have a chance to get a much-needed win this weekend against a Carolina defense missing two starters at linebacker and fielding a secondary that's very beatable. Carolina is allowing almost 360 yards per game, with 225 of those coming through the air.
Fact is, the Vikings should be able to score on the Panthers. Adrian Peterson should be licking his lips at the prospect of running against the Carolina defense.
When Carolina Has the Ball
The Cam Newton show will play host to the Vikings this week, and I'm expecting a big day from Newton against a Viking pass rush that is too eager to get upfield when rushing the quarterback. The rush from Minnesota attacks the outside of the pocket, which makes natural rushing lanes for mobile quarterbacks. The Vikings have an excellent linebacker corps that will be pressured to stop the rookie wonder when he escapes the pocket.
There's also the issue of who can cover Steve Smith. No one has been able to slow Smith down this year, and the Vikings will be no different. Minnesota has the NFL's No. 29-ranked pass defense.
Jared Allen versus Jordan Gross will be a matchup to keep an eye on all day at left tackle.
Prediction: Carolina 31, Minnesota 27
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
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When Jacksonville Has the Ball
The Jacksonville offense has to hold on to the ball better than it did against Baltimore in Week 7. The Jaguars are facing a Houston defense that loves to get after the quarterback, and their protection of Blaine Gabbert was less than comforting on Monday night.
The Jaguars have to keep Gabbert upright. If they can, Gabbert will have options against the Houston secondary. Houston has been weak against a zone passing attack this year, and that's where Gabbert excels...when he has time.
Houston will bring the heat all day. Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense is all about pressuring the quarterback. Expect heavy doses of zone blitzes to confuse the rookie quarterback.
When Houston Has the Ball
The Texans are coming off a 41-point outing in Week 7, but don't expect similar results against a Jacksonville defense that continues to improve each week.
Houston won last week by running the ball with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, each of whom went over 100 yards on the day. Foster was the focal point of the offense, also grabbing 119 yards out of the backfield as a receiver. Against fast linebackers on the Jaguars defense, Foster won't have the big day receiving, but he'll be the focus of the offense in the run game.
The Jaguars are much better defensively than many think. The big additions in free agency are starting to gel, and as they do the defense as a whole is improving dramatically. I'm not expecting Jacksonville to shut out the Texans, but it should at least slow them down.
Prediction: Houston 28, Jacksonville 17
Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos
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When Detroit Has the Ball
The Detroit Lions may be without quarterback Matthew Stafford this weekend, depending on how he's recovering from an ankle sprain. Without Stafford, the Lions are in good hands with Shaun Hill.
Let's assume Stafford is playing, as all accounts point to the fact that he will be healthy. With him the Lions will be aggressive in attacking a Denver secondary that is prone to giving up the big play. Expect Denver to try to bracket Calvin Johnson, and expect it to not matter. The Lions will go to Megatron early and often, with big payoffs.
The Denver defense allowed Miami to score 15 points. There's no way it is slowing down a Lions team averaging almost 28 points per game.
When Denver Has the Ball
The Tim Tebow era, if you want to call it that, will see Touchdown Timmy taking on a Detroit defense that's known for its aggression and violence. Tebow will have to throw the ball better than he did through the first 57 minutes of his first start against Miami.
The big question will be if John Fox can trust Tebow enough to put the ball in his hands as a passer. The designed run plays the Broncos used heavily against Miami should be featured again this week, as the Lions are allowing almost 130 yards rushing per game this season.
It's important to remember that the Detroit Lions are the hardest-hitting defense in the NFL, by my estimation. With Tebow running the ball often, he'll be exposed to big hits from Cliff Avril and Ndamukong Suh.
Prediction: Detroit 35, Denver 10
Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills
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When Washington Has the Ball
The Redskins showed improvement this week with John Beck under center in replacing Rex Grossman. If Beck can take another step up this week in his second start since 2007, Washington just might have a shot against the Bills coming off their bye week.
Washington will have to win without Tim Hightower and Santana Moss on the field, as both are out with injuries. That leaves the pressure on Ryan Torain, who is capable, and Roy Helu, who is young. Washington will need a big day from Beck against a Buffalo secondary that is the weak link of the team.
The Bills will need to get pressure on Beck if they hope to protect their cornerbacks in coverage. Buffalo is allowing the third-most passing yards of any team in the league. Facing a Mike Shanahan offense, you can expect the Redskins to come out slinging the ball.
When Buffalo Has the Ball
The Bills know their defense is a bad matchup against this offense, even with Beck at quarterback. The smart move in Buffalo would be to control the clock by grinding it out with Fred Jackson in the run game. Jackson has been super productive this year, and his play this week will be the difference between a win and a loss.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is smart enough to play mistake-free football, and his NFL-leading offensive line will keep him healthy against a fierce Washington pass rush. If Fitzpatrick gets protection against Brian Orakpo and company, Buffalo wins.
The Redskins will attempt to throw Fitzpatrick and the offense out of rhythm by attacking the backfield. Orakpo and fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan will be asked to carry a huge load this week against a Bills team that's allowed seven sacks all season.
Prediction: Buffalo 28, Washington 13
Game of the Week: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
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When New England Has the Ball
Something has to give this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers are allowing 17 points per game this season. The Patriots are averaging 30.
The key to the game for New England will be the play of Wes Welker. Welker is leading the league in receptions, so it's no surprise that Bill Belichick will want him to be the focus of the offense. The Steelers plan to use Ike Taylor in coverage against Welker, but playing in the slot is not something Taylor has done much in his career. This matchup, and Taylor's success against Welker, will dictate the outcome of the game.
If Welker is slowed at all, the Patriots will look to the tight ends. Pittsburgh is known for its great linebacker play, and the ability of James Harrison in zone coverage is something Tom Brady has to be ready for.
The Steelers are allowing over 100 yards per game on the ground, which means we could see a heavy dose of the three-headed running attack from the Patriots.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
Ben Roethlisberger has an impressive group of wide receivers this season, even if Hines Ward isn't healthy for the game. Big Ben has found a new best friend in Mike Wallace, and the two will look to hook up deep as much as possible against a New England secondary that's giving up too many big plays this year.
New England's best defense may be a clock-eating offense. Belichick will ask the offense to control the tempo, limiting what Pittsburgh can do offensively. The Steelers have yet to break out as a running team, but the threat of Roethlisberger to Wallace is enough to scare the Patriots defense.
New England's defense is not good enough to stop this offense, but it is great at coming up big in huge games.
Prediction: New England 28, Pittsburgh 24
Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks
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When Cincinnati Has the Ball
The Cincinnati Bengals are winning with a high-efficiency passing attack and really smart play-calling. That will be the recipe this weekend when they travel to Seattle to face a Seahawks team on the decline.
Seattle has talent on defense, but this is largely a young team that's still trying to find an identity. The Bengals passing game should meet little opposition from the Seahawks, as the team is allowing 250 yards through the air per game. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green should have a big day.
The Seahawks should be able to shut down a Cincinnati running game that will be without Cedric Benson (suspension) this weekend. Bernard Scott will have to carry the load, something he's not been asked to do in the NFL.
When Seattle Has the Ball
Seattle has questions at quarterback and running back this week. Will it be Charlie Whitehurst or Tarvaris Jackson under center? Will Marshawn Lynch be healthy enough to go at running back? Without Lynch the offense becomes less versatile, and without their bell-cow in the backfield the Seahawks will be forced to rely on the passing game.
Cincinnati's defense is damn good this year. The Bengals rank No. 4 against the pass, No. 5 against the run and No. 1 overall in total yards allowed. I'm expecting a shutout this weekend.
Prediction: Cincinnati 17, Seattle 0
Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers
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When Cleveland Has the Ball
The Cleveland offense has struggled this season to find yards without a healthy Peyton Hillis and without a true No. 1 wide receiver for Colt McCoy. The Browns are also letting defenses get to McCoy in the backfield, allowing 14 sacks this season. That number will go up considerably this week.
The Browns need to get Montario Hardesty involved early. The team's best hope is to find a power run game against a 49er defense that's not allowing many yards through the air or ground.
Don't expect many points from Cleveland this week. The 49ers are playing great football defensively and are well coached in special teams. We may see a shutout in San Francisco.
When San Francisco Has the Ball
The San Francisco game plan on offense should be to turn and hand the ball to Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter 30 times this week. The Browns cannot stop the run, so why try anything else? Gore and Hunter should each see 100 yards rushing this week against the young Browns defense.
Alex Smith and the 49er passing game may not be needed this week, but Jim Harbaugh should use this as a chance to get Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree extended reps with Smith at quarterback. The 49ers need these three playing as well as possible together down the stretch
Prediction: 49ers 31, Browns 3
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
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When Dallas Has the Ball
The Cowboys may have found their next great running back with rookie DeMarco Murray. Murray is coming off a 253-yard outing against the St. Louis Rams. Getting even half of that against the Eagles will be a great day for Dallas.
If Dallas can limit Tony Romo's responsibility in the offense by pounding the football against Philadelphia, it will. Romo can be very good with a solid run game behind him, and that's something he hasn't had consistently since taking over as the starter in Dallas.
Jason Garrett will hand the ball to Murray early this week to see if the rookie is ready for a repeat performance. Expect Philadelphia to key on the run to match it.
Dallas will not want to challenge the Philadelphia cornerbacks. If the Cowboys find themselves trailing early, this game could be won as the Eagles feast on Romo's mistakes.
When Philadelphia Has the Ball
It might surprise you to find that the Dallas Cowboys have the NFL's best run defense, but they do. They also haven't seen an offense with Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy.
The Eagles love to set up play-action off big runs from McCoy, and their ability to work in screen packages and misdirection plays will keep the Dallas defense guessing all day. Vick needs a huge day for the Eagles to get a must-win in the division.
The Cowboys will be all over Vick with DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge, but they must be careful to stick to their assignments and not open up running lanes by over-pursuing Vick on the outside.
Dallas may be the favorite this week, but I like what I see in the matchup for Philadelphia.
Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Dallas 28
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
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When San Diego Has the Ball
The San Diego offense will be keyed up to prove its dismal performance against the New York Jets was nothing more than a bad weekend at the office. It'll face a tough test against a Kansas City defense that is playing excellent football as of late.
The Chargers will hope to pound the ball with Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, but if they face the same defense the Oakland Raiders saw from the Chiefs last week, running yards will be tough to come by. Actually, all yards will be tough to come by if the Kansas City defense is amped up again this week.
The Chiefs forced six interceptions in their shutout win last week. I don't expect a six-pick day from Philip Rivers, but the Chiefs will be able to pressure him into making mistakes. Rivers hasn't been playing up to the same level we've all grown accustomed to over the years. The Chiefs will be able to exploit that.
When Kansas City Has the Ball
Without Jamaal Charles in the backfield the Chiefs have become more versatile on offense, asking Matt Cassel to make plays with different weapons each week.
This week the Chiefs will look at Dwayne Bowe as their big-play threat on the outside. Matched up against Quentin Jammer, Bowe will be able to use his body to gain separation and make plays in the passing game. Should the Chargers roll Eric Weddle to help, Cassel will find Steve Breaston open underneath.
The Chargers have to find a way to get a pass rush going against Kansas City. If Cassel is pressured consistently, he will break down. The problem is the Chargers have the third-worst pass-rushing stats in the NFL. If Cassel has time to throw, he'll pick apart this defense.
Prediction: Kansas City 24, San Diego 21