There are six pretty good teams sitting out week 8, but the NFL still managed to put together an interesting set of games this weekend. Let’s take a closer look at all of the week 8 matchups.
Dallas at Detroit – This is a curious matchup between two teams that will likely be on the fringe of the playoff race at the end of the season, and will need every win they can get. Dallas has another chance to take a commanding lead in the NFC East, but to do that they’ll have to win on the road, where they’re just 1-2 this season. Neither team is great defensively, despite the Cowboys shutting down the Eagles last week, which could lead to a shootout. Each team can be near impossible to stop offensively when they get their running game going, so whichever team is more effective on the ground will have the advantage.
Cleveland at Kansas City – Jason Campbell will become the third quarterback to start for the Browns this year, and Cleveland isn’t doing him any favors by throwing him into the fire against the Kansas City pass rush. The Chiefs probably won’t be able to blowout the Browns, as Cleveland’s defense should be able to keep them in the game, but Campbell will have to find a way to jumpstart the offense against one of the best defenses in the league if the Browns plan on handing the Chiefs their first loss of the season.
Miami at New England – The Dolphins came into the season wanting to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East, and now is their chance. If Miami is going to be a challenger in the AFC East, they need to win this game, but they also need to stop their three-game losing streak. As for the Patriots, they can’t be happy about last week’s loss, but they should also be concerned about playing such high scoring games each of the past two weeks. New England doesn’t have the playmakers to win shootouts on a regular basis, and the Patriots may not be able to win if it means having to score 30 points, even at home.
Buffalo at New Orleans – It’s a homecoming of sorts for Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone, who worked alongside Drew Brees and Sean Payton from 2006 to 2008 as the Saint’s offensive coordinator. With Thad Lewis still filling in for the injured E.J. Manuel, Marrone will have to pull out all the stunts in order to keep pace against Brees and Payton. The Buffalo defense needs to put a lot of pressure on Brees, or else he will shred their porous secondary, and the Bills don’t have the quarterback or the skill players to get in a track meet with the Saints. Buffalo has played a lot of close games and remained competitive this season, but they may be a little out of their league down in New Orleans.
New York Giants at Philadelphia – The Eagles got the better of the Giants back in week 5; however, they’ve yet to win at home this season. Of course, the Giants haven’t won a road game all season, so something will have to give. The Giants have a little bit of momentum coming off their Monday night win, and if their defense can force turnovers like they did against the Vikings, they could be in position to win their second in a row. Meanwhile, the Eagles looked pitiful last week, and they hope the return of Michael Vick will be the spark their offense needs, but if Vick is off and doesn’t take care of the football, the Giants will be able to take advantage.
San Francisco at Jacksonville – The people of London get another yawner from the NFL. It’ll be a long trip for the 49ers, but even if they’re a little sluggish, they should have no trouble beating the Jaguars, who will have trouble scoring points against the San Francisco defense.
New York Jets at Cincinnati – This could end up being one of the more intriguing games of the weekend. The Bengals aren’t blowing anyone out, but they’ve won five of six and have a chance to take a commanding lead in the AFC North. The Jets have the kind of defense that can slow down Cincinnati’s balanced offense, and if the good Geno Smith shows up, the Jets will stay close and give themselves a chance to win in the 4th quarter.
Pittsburgh at Oakland – The Steelers still aren’t doing anything too impressive on offense, but they’ve won back-to-back games with defense, and if they can win a third they may be able to get back into the playoff picture in the AFC North. Oakland is the worst passing team in the NFL, and they figure to have all sorts of trouble doing anything against the Pittsburgh defense, who will be looking to force plenty of turnovers. The Steelers got Le’Veon Bell going last week, and if that continues, they should be able to score enough points to beat the Raiders, if not, they’ll find themselves in another slugfest.
Washington at Denver – Another head coach homecoming, as Mike Shanahan returns to Denver in a game the Redskins really need to win. Robert Griffin III looks increasingly dangerous, and after the Redskins scored 45 points last week, Griffin could be up for a shootout against Peyton Manning and a Denver offense that looked pretty mediocre for three quarters last week. If Von Miller can return to form and give the Broncos a viable pass rush that can knock Griffin around a little bit, Denver should be able to get back on track. However, if the Broncos can’t contain Griffin, we’ll be enjoying another shootout.
Atlanta at Arizona – If the Falcons want to recover from their 1-4 start, this is a game they have to win. Steven Jackson’s return should them a boost, although the Cardinals have one of the top rush defenses in the league, meaning everything could fall on the shoulders of Matt Ryan, who won’t have Julio Jones and may not have Roddy White either. The story will be the same on the other sideline, as Arizona hasn’t been able to run the ball all season, relying solely on Carson Palmer to lead their offense. It’s a quarterback league, and this will be a quarterback game; whoever plays better between Ryan and Palmer will lead their team to victory.
Green Bay at Minnesota – The Vikings are close to hitting the panic button, and taking on Aaron Rodgers, even with a depleted corps of playmakers, won’t make things any easier for them. The Packers also have one of the top run-stopping defenses in the NFL, and if Green Bay can slow down Adrian Peterson, Minnesota will have to rely on Christian Ponder to make plays and keep them in the game. The Packers haven’t been able to blow out anybody during their three-game winning streak, but that could change Sunday night in Minnesota.
Seattle at St. Louis – Another potential dud for a nationally televised game. The Rams haven’t exactly exploded on offense this season the way we expected them to, and they aren’t likely to do so against Seattle’s defense, especially with Kellen Clemens stepping in for the injured Sam Bradford. Look for the Seahawks to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch early and often, and eventually let Russell Wilson loose in an effort to put the game away early in the 3rd quarter, as this game could get away from the Rams if their defense doesn’t play better than they have.