NFL Picks Week 8: Which Teams Will Fall into Losing-Record Territory?
In Week 8 of the NFL season, certain teams with a .500 mark find themselves at risk of falling into losing-record territory.
The next few weeks of the season will reveal the true nature of the teams poised to go either way. That process begins this Sunday, with 3-3 teams facing difficult-looking road trips and tricky home fixtures against divisional foes.
Here are four teams who will be carrying losing records after Week 8.
4. Cleveland Browns
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
The Cleveland Browns travel to San Francisco on Sunday, and may find a powerful-looking 49ers team too difficult to overcome in what promises to be a fierce defensive struggle.
Both defenses have performed well so far this season. The Browns have responded well to the newly implemented 4-3 scheme of veteran coordinator Dick Jauron.
In San Francisco, respected 3-4 guru Vic Fangio has made an already stout 49ers defense tougher to handle. It's hard to see either Colt McCoy or Alex Smith being able to put up large numbers of points.
It will be interesting to see if Cleveland's emerging shut-down corner Joe Haden can nullify the big play threat of former Browns wideout Braylon Edwards.
The Browns' top priority will be to contain the 49ers' star rusher, Frank Gore. Young defensive tackle tandem Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor will need to be at their best.
In the end, expect the San Francisco defense, led by massive nose tackle Issac Sopoaga, to make enough big plays to decide the game in favour of the NFC West leaders.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
The suddenly resurgent Kansas City Chiefs entertain the San Diego Chargers in a pivotal AFC West showdown.
With just one game separating the two in the standings, this should be a closely fought contest. The Chargers, still wounded from last Sunday's fourth-quarter collapse against the New York Jets, should have just enough to overcome the Chiefs.
Pressuring Phillip Rivers will be the key for the Chiefs' opportunistic defense. But Kansas City ranks 31st in the league in sacks with a mere six.
If Rivers gets the time, he can eventually expose a young and talented Chiefs secondary for his usual share of big plays.
The Chiefs will probably look to keep the ball on the ground against a San Diego defense that is allowing 4.7 yards per rush.
The Chargers need a big game from talented defensive tackle Antonio Garay to help shut down the Chiefs' rushing attack.
2. Washington Redskins
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
It's not easy to pick against them, but the Washington Redskins may struggle to overcome the Buffalo Bills in Toronto, thanks to too many injuries and issues on offense.
The Redskins' offensive line continues to struggle and could find it difficult to hold up against hulking defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
The season-ending injury to Tim Hightower creates an opportunity for Ryan Torain, and he must deliver a big day on the ground to take the pressure off uncertain quarterback John Beck.
If the Redskins continue to take so many chances defensively, then explosive young Bills wideout Stevie Johnson has the ability to punish them.
There is also a risk that talismanic inside linebacker London Fletcher might miss the game. Without Fletcher, the Redskins' chances of stopping tough Buffalo running back Fred Jackson are severely diminished.
The game may only be decided by a field goal or less, but the Redskins are starting to look like a team headed for troubled times.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Sunday's late game sees the Philadelphia Eagles host a 3-3 Dallas Cowboys team that has yet to prove it has what it takes to return to the postseason following 2010's 6-10 finish.
The Eagles have struggled this season, but pulled off a big victory in Washington in their last game. The Philadelphia offense has the players to expose the Cowboys secondary.
Michael Vick has the elusiveness to avoid the fierce Dallas pass-rush better than any other quarterback—if he gets the room, then DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant can overwhelm Cowboys corners Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins.
If the Eagles can put up points early, their defense can challenge struggling Dallas quarterback Tony Romo to beat them.
The Cowboys may try to coax a second-straight big game from rookie runner DeMarco Murray. The Eagles' quick and active defensive line needs to adopt an aggressive approach and use plenty of stunts and slants to disrupt the Cowboys' blocking schemes.
These four games should provide some of Week 8's hardest fought contests. Each game will be a close call, but these four teams could well have slipped to the wrong end of the standings by the close of play.