We're about to hit the season's midpoint for teams without a bye through Week 8. Nearly two months into the year, the NFL elite level remains open. There's only one team with a single loss, and the majority of clubs have an uncertain outlook for the 2017 campaign.
Week 8 will start with two teams that haven't looked impressive on offense, but one squad may see a boost with a backup quarterback taking over the helm.
As the Houston Texans come off a bye week, rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson will prepare for a tough matchup against a stingy secondary on the road. Fortunately, he'll travel with some good news.
AFC West rivals have started to trade punches among each other, which leaves the pathway to a division title wide open. Two clubs on a downward trend hope to end two-game skids in a Monday Night Football matchup.
We'll go through early predictions for each game with key narratives for a few contests.
Week 8 Matchups and Score Predictions
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens: Dolphins 30-14
Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns: Vikings 24-3
Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets: Falcons 28-20
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Panthers 31-24
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles: Eagles 38-10
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints: Saints 27-16
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots: Patriots 34-31
Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills: Raiders 27-21
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals 30-10
Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks: Seahawks 21-20
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: Cowboys 28-24
Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions: Steelers 24-20
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: Chiefs 26-17
Matt Moore Will Start vs. Baltimore Ravens
On a short week, the Miami Dolphins will probably turn to backup quarterback Matt Moore to lead the offense. Jay Cutler suffered cracked ribs during Sunday's game against the New York Jets, and Dolphins head coach Adam Gase added, "it doesn't look good" for his chances to play on Thursday, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
For the Dolphins, Moore's presence may elevate the offense. Cutler threw two touchdown passes vs. the Jets, but Miami mounted a 31-28 comeback victory with the backup under center.
Throughout his 10-year career, Moore has performed well in short stints. In 2011, he went 6-6 with 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions as a starter with the team. In 2016, the Dolphins' fill-in signal-caller took over for Ryan Tannehill and led the club to a playoff wild-card berth.
Moore would play a squad that's lost four of its last five games. He's more than capable of extending the Dolphins' win streak to four games. In addition, running back Jay Ajayi should have a breakout performance against the worst run defense in yards allowed.
Deshaun Watson Faces Tough Challenge in Seattle
There's good news and bad news for Watson. Left tackle Duane Brown reported to practice on Monday, which ends his contract holdout after seven weeks, per Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain.
Brown's decision to report couldn't have come at a better time. Chris Clark replaced him on the left side, but he'll miss the Week 8 contest against the Seattle Seahawks with a calf injury, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
The Seahawks pass defense bears the bad news. The unit ranks No. 8 in yards allowed and has surrendered just five touchdowns in six games. Watson's tear through the league as an air-it-out passer may hit a rough patch on the road at CenturyLink Field.
Despite Brown's return to action, temper your expectations for Watson in a possible low-scoring game that barely cracks the 20s.
Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in Slumps
Remember when the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos looked like the top two teams in the AFC West? Well, the previous two weeks have almost turned the division upside down.
The Los Angeles Chargers have won three consecutive contests. The Oakland Raiders knocked off Kansas City in Week 7. The Chiefs and Broncos come into their Monday night matchup with consecutive losses.
Due to the Chiefs' 5-0 start, there's enough cushion to lead the division after another loss. The Broncos don't have the same luxury at 3-3 with an offense that's struggling to move the ball.
Denver hasn't scored more than 16 points since its 42-17 blowout victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. Yet, head coach Vance Joseph will continue to start quarterback Trevor Siemian, per Denver Post reporter Nicki Jhabvala:
The Chiefs-Broncos matchup brings critical strengths and weaknesses together on the field. Kansas City's defense has leaked over the past few weeks. Nonetheless, Denver's inept offense doesn't look equipped to take advantage in Week 8.