NFL Week 8 Predictions: Storylines for Each Game on the Schedule

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IOctober 27, 2011

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hands the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.


New Orleans @ St. Louis (+13)

The 5-2 Saints, fresh off a 62-7 destruction of the Colts, head to St. Louis to face the winless Rams, 34-7 victims of Dallas last week. New Orleans set franchise records for most points in a game and largest margin of victory.

“I’ve always heard of the helplessness experienced by a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest,” Sean Payton said. “Take it from me, it’s not so bad.

“I don’t want to say we could beat the Rams with our hands tied behind our backs, because we can’t. But we could certainly give them a run for their money. We didn’t let up against the Colts; hopefully, we won’t let down in St. Louis.”

The Rams are 0-6 and dead last in the NFC West. After competing for the division title last year, the Rams have regressed and average only nine points per game.

“We’re just looking for positives,” said Steve Spagnuolo. “And nine is a positive number. But the Saints' ‘nine’ is much more impressive than our nine, or our ’11,’ for that matter.”

Some consider this a “trap” game for the Saints. It’s not. In order for a “trap” to work, something has to be “caught,” and in the Rams injury-plagued passing attack, not much does.

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 23:  Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans bows to the fans in the end zone after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during play at LP Field on October 23, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Get
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Mark Ingram rushes for two touchdowns, and Drew Brees and the Saints shake off a slow start that has them only up 6-0 after the first quarter.

New Orleans wins 35-17.


Jacksonville @ Houston (-9)

The Texans surged to the AFC South lead, whipping the Titans 41-7 in Tennessee to take the outright division lead. Houston looks to go 3-0 in division games with a win over the 2-5 Jaguars.

“There’s good news and bad,” Gary Kubiak said. “The good news: The division is ours to win. The bad news: It’s also ours to lose. We’re turning heads in the South, mainly because Peyton Manning can’t turn his.”

The Jags shocked the Ravens 12-7 on Monday Night Football behind a stifling defense and four Josh Scobee field goals, three of which were over 50 yards.

“I’m fired up,” Jack Del Rio said. “And that’s a step up from being just ‘fired,’ which was a possibility had we lost. We’re now 2-5 and only two games behind the 4-3 Texans. That sounds like a backhanded insult of the Texans. The South is a tightly-packed division; there are three teams in the South within two games of each other. Some call that a ‘bunch’ of crap. I call it competition at its finest.”

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 23:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers looks upfield to pass during their game against the Washington Redskins at Bank of America Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

After Monday night’s exhilarating win over the Ravens, the Jaguars must be emotionally spent, which is as close to a “spending” spree as you’ll ever see in Jacksonville.

Houston wins 27-16.


Minnesota @ Carolina (-4)

The Vikings fell 33-27 to the Packers in Christian Ponder’s debut at quarterback, as Minnesota’s fourth-quarter comeback fell short. Ponder was 13-for-32 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“I think Ponder accounted well for himself, at least on two of his 32 passes,” said Leslie Frazier, who, unbeknownst to most, has an identical twin sister named 'Larry.' “Donovan McNabb was upset at his benching last week. So, while he was ‘losing his religion,’ we were gaining one. Like former Carolina coach John Fox, I’m starting a ‘Christian’ again this week.”

The Panthers upended the Redskins 33-20, led by Cam Newton, who registered 315 total yards, including his seventh rushing touchdown of the year, which tied Vince Young’s rookie record.

“I tied Young’s record after only seven games,” Newton said. “I tied his Wonderlic score after only one question. Anyway, a Minnesota-Carolina matchup begs the question: What do you get when two Panthers cheerleaders hook up in a bathroom stall on a cruise boat on Lake Minnetonka? Seafood.”

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 16:  Running back  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won 29-14.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Adrian Peterson rushes for 154 yards and two scores, and Minnesota wins 28-24.


Arizona @ Baltimore (-13)

Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals will face the ultimate test in Baltimore against the NFL’s No. 1 defense, on the day before Halloween, in the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe, no less. The Ravens lead the AFC North with a 6-1 record, and their stingy defense allows only 13 points per game.

“I’m not a fan of the Ravens,” Kolb said. “Nor am I a fan of ‘The Raven.’ They both scare me. But the Cardinals pay me too much to be scared. If the Cardinals have anything to do with the House of Usher falling, it will be because they defaulted on the second mortgage they took out to acquire me.”

The favored Ravens were shocked 12-7 by the home-standing Jaguars on Monday night, as Baltimore managed only 146 yards of total offense, including 34 on the ground. Quarterback Joe Flacco passed for only one yard in the first half.

“What a turnabout,” Ray Lewis said. “We’re usually the team that dominates defensively. Not only did the Jags impose their will, they simply imposed. They stole our thunder, our lightning and our identity.

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the football after a reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“Speaking of ‘identity theft,’ it appears someone or something took Flacco and replaced him with another quarterback who will never lead a team to a Super Bowl.”

The Ravens bounce back with a vengeance, and Lewis knocks Kolb out of the game with a big sack in the second quarter. While standing over his prey, Lewis recites Poe’s “The Premature Burial.” Later, during postgame interviews, Lewis presents an original poem chronicling the Kolb-Lewis saga, called “Rich Man, Poe Man.”

Ray Rice records 146 total yards, and Flacco quintuples his first half output from Monday on his first pass, a five-yard completion to Ed Dickson.

Baltimore wins 30-14.

 

Indianapolis @ Tennessee (-9)

The Titans were spanked 41-7 last week by the visiting Texans, who shut down the Titans, holding the Tennessee offense to 148 total yards. The winless Colts make a visit to LP Field next, looking for the upset.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 9:   Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Tennessee Titans hands the ball off to  Chris Johnson #28 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on October 9, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Get
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

“Maybe signing Chris Johnson to a contract extension wasn’t such a good idea,” Mike Munchak said. “We call it a ‘deposit slip.’ I’m still waiting on Johnson to flash that 4.24 40 speed somewhere other than on a trip to the bank. If Adrian Peterson is nicknamed ‘All Day,’ then Johnson should be called ‘Some Day.’”

The Colts winless season got even worse as they were smashed 62-7 in New Orleans last Sunday night. The 62 points put Indy’s points against total at 225, easily the worst in the league.

“We recently employed Jim Tressel as a consultant,” Peyton Manning said. “When asked if he had any suggestions for the team, Tressel, not surprisingly, had ‘no valid answers.’

“Anyway, I’ve heard rumors that the Colts may trade me if they are able to draft Andrew Luck. That may work out for me. If Indy keeps sucking, I may want out myself just as much as they want Luck in. So, under either scenario, ‘Luck’ is on my side.”

Trade Manning? Doubtful. But if Indy’s going to pull the trigger, now’s the time. If the going rate for Carson Palmer is two first-round picks, then the market dictates that the Colts can expect 10-12 first rounders for Manning.

Johnson rushes for 256 (inches, not yards) and scores on a 27-inch scamper to close the first half. Matt Hasselbeck throws for 246 yards and two scores.

Tennessee wins 24-19.


Miami @ NY Giants (-10)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 16: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks to pass against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on October 16, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The winless Dolphins remained that way after blowing a 15-0 fourth quarter lead to Denver, eventually losing 18-15 in overtime. Tony Sparano’s decision to go for a two-point conversion with a 12-0 lead may have cost Miami the win, and may ultimately cost Sparano his job.

“In hindsight,” Sparano said, “I probably made the wrong decision. That’s a sentiment to which our owner, Stephen Ross, can surely relate. Now I know that a winless team should probably go for ‘one’ before going for ‘two.’”

The Giants lead the NFC East with a 4-2 record, returning from their Week 7 bye rested and rejuvenated, and the G-Men are relatively healthy for the Dolphins visit to MetLife Stadium.

“Indeed,” Tom Coughlin said. “We are healthy. In fact, we are so healthy, it may be difficult, nay, impossible, to properly fake an injury. We’re waiting anxiously to hear Brandon Marshall’s plans for the game. Is he going to go ‘rogue’ and get himself thrown out by the second quarter? I doubt that will happen. Officials don’t eject players for being irrelevant. Otherwise, we’d be without a quarterback.”

Marshall doesn’t go “rogue,” but he does go “commando,” arriving on the field in uniform sans underwear. However, that doesn’t improve his ability to catch, as Marshall treats several passes thrown his way like live grenades.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 23:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos dives against the Miami Dolphins to end the game to overtime at Sun Life Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Denver defeated Miami 18-15.  (Photo by Marc S
Marc Serota/Getty Images

The Giants intercept Matt Moore twice, and Brandon Jacobs rushes for 65 yards and a touchdown.

New York wins 33-16.


Detroit @ Denver (+3)

In a comeback worthy of scripture, Tim Tebow led the Broncos back from a 15-0 fourth-quarter deficit to an unlikely 18-15 overtime win in Miami. Tebow threw two touchdown passes and ran for the game-tying two-point conversion before Matt Prater’s 52-yard field goal won it.

“I’m no miracle worker,” Tebow said. “I just play one on the field. I can’t part the Red Sea, but I’m not color blind, so I can ‘see the red part.’ I don’t speak to a ‘burning bush,’ although Reggie Bush looked quite angry when we exchanged postgame pleasantries. Chalk another one up for the ‘Christian Left.’”

The Lions lost for the second-straight week, falling to the visiting Falcons 23-16. Detroit is now 5-2 and needs a win desperately to right its ship.

“A two-game losing streak is not that big of a deal,” Jim Schwartz said, “at least not in relative terms in Detroit. But we do need a win, and I do need to shake the hand of a losing coach. John Fox’s previous tenure at Carolina makes him a perfect candidate.

DETROIT - OCTOBER 10: Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions rushes Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears during the third quarter of the game at Ford Field on October 10, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

“We know Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium will be rocking and holy rolling on Sunday. If nothing else, Tebow has brought ‘faith’ to Denver. His fanatical fans, whom are easily excitable, are known as the ‘Overzealots.’

"We’re on a crusade to eliminate Tebow by whatever means necessary, or by whatever means unnecessary, which usually means a dirty, yet legal, Ndamukong Suh hit. Suh’s critics have often said he needs to get closer to Jesus. This is his best chance.”

After a fourth-quarter sack of Tebow that seals Detroit’s win, Suh surprisingly compliments the Denver quarterback, telling him he “was a good college quarterback.” Then, in more fitting fashion, Suh insults Tebow, by saying he “still is.”

Calvin Johnson faces double-teams all day, but breaks free in the third quarter for a three-yard touchdown catch. Brandon Pettigrew grabs another TD catch, and the Lions defense steps up, holding the Broncos to 213 total yards.

Detroit wins 24-17.


Washington @ Buffalo (-4)

The 4-2 Bills find themselves sandwiched in the AFC East standings by the 5-1 Patriots and 4-3 Jets, with the 0-6 Dolphins leading the Colts and Rams atop the “Joy! Luck Club” standings. A rested Buffalo team hosts the 3-3 Redskins, with a home date with the Jets awaiting in Week 9.

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 09:  Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills runs aginst the Philadelphia Eagles at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 31-24.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

“Buffalo’s loss to the Redskins in Super Bowl 26 still weighs heavily on these fans,” Fred Jackson said. “And I can think of no better way to exorcise those demons than to give a whipping in Toronto to a current Washington team that is about as far removed from the Super Bowl as possible. This game will be played in the Rogers Centre, which, contrary to what a Cheesehead may claim, is not named for Scott Wells, Aaron Rodger’s center.”

After a 3-1 start, the Redskins have lost two in a row and have looked bad in doing so. In last week’s 33-20 loss to Carolina, Tim Hightower was lost for the year with a torn ACL, while Santana Moss’ broken hand will keep him out for two months.

“This won’t help our already troubled offense,” Mike Shanahan said. “Some say the Redskins ‘Capitol Offense’ should be punishable by death.”

Buffalo wins 27-20.

 

Cincinnati @ Seattle (+2 1/2)

Are the 4-2 Bengals a team on the rise? If they are not, they will be, after unloading Carson Palmer to the Raiders for two future first-round picks.

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 16:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 27-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Imag
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

“Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna give up two first-round picks for Carson Palmer?” said Cincinnati owner Mike Brown. “The Raiders gave us two picks on Tuesday. In turn, Palmer gave Oakland three picks on Sunday. I call that a ‘fair trade,’ and, apparently, so does Oakland. Luckily for the Raiders, I chose to hold on to this oceanfront property here in Cincinnati.

“Never underestimate the hunting capabilities of the Bengal tiger, especially for a bargain.”

The Seahawks were a picture of offensive ineptitude last week, with only 137 total yards and nine first downs in a 6-3 loss in Cleveland. Yardage may be even tougher to come by against Cincinnati, as the Bengals sport the NFL’s second-rated defense.

“Speaking of ‘second-rate,’” Pete Carroll said, “how about my quarterbacks? They’re flaw-inspiring.

“Like the Raiders, I would give anything for a quarterback with a USC pedigree. Unlike the Raiders, I wouldn’t give everything. Still, ‘everything’ is still less than what I gave to have Reggie Bush come play for me.”

Cincinnati wins 19-13.


New England @ Pittsburgh (+1 1/2)

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots scrambles against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 20-16. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The 5-1 Patriots visit to 5-2 Pittsburgh is easily Week 8’s marquee matchup and pits three-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady against two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger in a contest that could have playoff-seeding implications down the road.

“Obviously,” Tom Brady said, “Big Ben and I are measured by our Super Bowl performances. We’re also judged by our utilization of bathrooms. I use it strictly for ‘business;’ Big Ben uses it for pleasure.”

Mike Tomlin and the Steelers know a win over the favored Patriots will take the perfect game plan.

“Bill Belichick has had two weeks to prepare,” Tomlin said. “Although his wardrobe won’t reflect that, his game plan will. I have nothing but respect for the Patriots, and I refuse to speak badly of them. But that doesn’t mean James Harrison can’t. But since he’s out, we’ve brought in a special guest to slander New England. That guest is none other than Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear.”

"All I have to do is speak," Smear said, "and the Pats get 'Smear-ed.'"

After a defensive-minded first half, in which the Patriots take a 13-10 lead into the locker room, the offense opens up in the second half. Roethlisberger connects with Mike Wallace on a long pass late in the fourth, which sets up Rashard Mendenhall’s short touchdown run.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers in action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Candlestick Park on October 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Pittsburgh wins 27-23.


Cleveland @ San Francisco (-9 1/2)

The 49ers enjoyed a bye week, resting, healing and reveling in their 5-1 record, a record that surely deserves an overzealous pat on the back and a hearty handshake. On Sunday, San Fran and head coach Jim Harbaugh welcome the 3-3 Browns, 6-3 victors over the Seahawks.

“I’d like to forget my dustup with Jim Schwartz from two weeks ago,” Harbaugh said. “That’s going to be hard, since the Browns are coached by Pat Shurmur. But before I shake any hands, we plan to shut down the Browns running attack. To do so, we’ll adopt the same motto that the Browns live by: ‘Peyton Hillis Must Be Stopped.’

"Incidentally, EA Sports has adopted a similar motto: ‘Peyton Hillis Must Be Stopped, From Ever Again Appearing On The Cover Of The Madden Football Game.’ Anyway, we’re not offering Hillis a contract either.”

San Francisco wins 30-13.


Dallas @ Philadelphia (-3 1/2)

The 2-4 Eagles host the 3-3 Cowboys in a critical NFC East contest that Philly needs to win to stay afloat in the division. The Eagles entered their bye week with a crucial 20-13 win over the Redskins in Week 6.

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 09:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs against the Buffalo Bill at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York.  Buffalo won 31-24.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

“Dallas is 3-3,” Michael Vick said. “That’s about as even as it gets. And that’s exactly what you’d expect from a team that can explode and implode in the same game. I expect a dogfight. Both teams need to bring their ‘A’ games. What’s more likely in a game featuring a 2-4 and 3-3 team is that we’ll simply bring a game.”

The Cowboys bounced back from Week 6’s painful loss in New England to beat the winless Rams 34-7. A win would keep Dallas hot on the tail of the Giants for the NFC East lead.

“Dez Bryant says we are unbeatable,” Tony Romo said. “Obviously, the only thing that ‘can’t be beat’ is Dez’s skills at hyperbole.

“You may have heard that my wife and I are expecting a child. I’m thrilled. Not only because I’m going to be a father, but because this is the first completion I’ve made to the ‘other team’ that I’ve been congratulated for.”

Dallas wins 24-21.


San Diego @ Kansas City (+3 1/2)

The Chiefs roared back into the AFC West picture, blanking the Raiders 28-0 in Oakland. Coupled with San Diego’s loss to the Jets, the Chiefs, at 3-3, are only one game out of the division lead.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23: Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers passes against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

“Hated rivals will clash on Sunday,” Todd Haley said. “Hopefully, though, Matt Cassell and I can keep our differences bottled up. I may be the most hated coach in the NFL, and in Kansas City. But I demand a lot from my players. If they can’t give it to me, I ‘give it back’ to them, usually with a camera rolling.”

The Chargers blew a 21-10 first-half lead at MetLife Stadium and went scoreless in the second half in falling 27-21 to the Jets.

“Our two-minute offense left a lot to be desired,” Norv Turner said. “Like two more minutes. It’s called a ‘two-minute drill;’ obviously, ours lacks the ‘drilling’ part.

“Anyway, I hear Rex Ryan is talking again, telling us to ‘stay classy.’ I refuse to get into a war of words with Ryan, because I’ll lose. Rex can talk to the hand, or, if he prefers, the foot. As of now, I’m ceasing all communication with Ryan through the media. From now on, any conversation with Ryan will be with imaginary words, on imaginary phones with, most importantly, ‘imaginary rings.’”

It’s a critical game in the West, and there will likely be a playoff atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium. And that could be a problem for both teams, because AFC West teams can’t win a playoff game.

San Diego wins 22-20.