NFL Week 8 Predictions: Redemption Edition

As we near the midpoint of the 2019 season, some teams are in a desperate situation to get a win and get back on track before things fall apart and this becomes a lost season. We tend to forget the teams who start seasons poorly before going on a run later. We only remember them in their final form most of the time. For example, last year the Cowboys and Colts were 10-win teams with a playoff win, but Indy started 1-5 and Dallas was 3-5. There’s a chance some 3-4 team goes on a run starting this week and makes the playoffs. It works the other way too as some of those teams with the nice records now could be on the verge of a slide that leads to disappointment.

I probably didn’t pick the best week to talk about redemption, but I see Sunday as a very important day for several teams and specific players that I’ll highlight below.

It’s an odd week in that the average spread is about 8.1 points right now depending on what the number will be in the ARI-NO game given Drew Brees’ returning status. As I looked at earlier this week, this would be the fourth-largest spread of any week in the NFL regular season since 2001:

We already had a 17-point spread on TNF (WAS-MIN) and are looking at four more games above 11. There’s a bit more rot at the bottom than usual and it hasn’t been a good thing for the NFL. We also see that comebacks are down so once a team gets a lead this year, they usually hold it more often, which drives down the excitement late in games.

Let’s do some quick notes about redemption.

Seahawks at Falcons (+8)

Matt Ryan (ankle) will miss just the third start to injury in his career. That means 38-year-old Matt Schaub will face the team (Seahawks) that broke his confidence back in 2013 when he threw a late pick-6 to Richard Sherman when his team was nursing a 20-13 lead. Since that game, Schaub has gone 1-5 as a starter with his only win coming for Baltimore in a game won by a blocked FG returned for a touchdown.

This one is more about Seattle though, with Russell Wilson needing a rebound after one of the worst home games of his career last week against Baltimore. I think Atlanta is a perfect opponent for the Seahawks to get on track and win an easy game for a change. But it would be a nice little send-off for Schaub to play well in an upset win. At the very least, the Legion of Boom is long gone on that roster.

Chargers at Bears (-4)

While the Chargers are in full Chargering mode, the Bears really need to see something from Mitchell Trubisky. He’s in the danger zone right now with just 5.24 YPA this season.

Special shoutout to Troy Aikman: Trubisky’s yards per completion is also just 8.1, which would be the fourth-worst season (min. 100 passes) since 1970. When he’s not an inaccurate mess, he’s a worthless dink-and-dunker. He’s fortunate he doesn’t throw more interceptions or I think he would be benched already. Trubisky has to show something at home this week and I think the Bears will come through for him, possibly with considerable help from a Chargers team that can’t get out of its own way.

Giants at Lions (-6.5)

The Lions have lost three in a row and the referees haven’t been too kind in the process. I think the Giants present a perfect opportunity to get back in the win column with a turnover-prone rookie QB (Daniel Jones) and a secondary that looks lost at times. Matthew Stafford has been much more aggressive this season and is playing some of his best football. Detroit winning by at least a touchdown is a favorite pick of mine this week.

Jets at Jaguars (-6.5)

The Jets have played some absolutely putrid offensive football this season aside from the Dallas game, but I think the defense can keep them in this one. DJ Chark has been a big success for the Jaguars, but we’re starting to see more mistakes from rookie QB Gardner Minshew. I think after the “seeing ghosts” fiasco from Sam Darnold, he’ll play much better against this defense without Jalen Ramsey. I’m still on the Jags just because I think the Jets are closer to the terrible team rather than the one who beat Dallas, but this feels like a lock for a close 4Q finish.

Buccaneers at Titans (-2.5)

In 2015, the first NFL game for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota was against each other. Four years later, Winston is just hanging onto his starting job after six turnovers the last time out, and Mariota has been benched for Ryan Tannehill. How fun. I think Tannehill struggles more this week, Tampa Bay should contain Derrick Henry on the ground, and Winston does just enough to get a win.

Eagles at Bills (-2)

This could really be one of those games where a win sends one team on a run while a loss starts a slide for the loser. Based on what these teams have been doing this year, I’m obviously referring to the Eagles pulling out the road win despite growing turmoil in the locker room and shaky results on the field.

Look, there’s plenty I could say about how I think Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz are both overrated and owe a lot of their success to Nick Foles and some good fortune. I mean, if it wasn’t Foles starting in the Super Bowl that year, it would have been Case Keenum (MIN) in an NFC that didn’t even have the Seahawks or Packers in the tournament, Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games that year, and the Saints lost in spectacular fashion (again) in the divisional round. They won the title, but it wasn’t exactly the result of years of hard work or a track record that should make us believe there was more to come, especially without Foles at QB.

For as fast as people wanted to move –and the Eagles have paid — Wentz to the top tier of QBs, the fact is he’s more in the Kirk Cousins/Matthew Stafford tier than he is the very top of the league.

The good news this week is that Buffalo is a very poor man’s version of the 2017 Eagles, right down to their draft selection of Josh Allen that they hope would be their Carson Wentz. Buffalo is a below-average scoring team, and the Eagles shouldn’t have to expect Wentz to throw a lot of passes against one of the best defenses to get this win. You could see this being a 21-17 type of game where the run game is leaned on more. While Allen has had more 4Q success than Wentz, I think the Eagles rise above all the negative noise and pull this one out against an unfamiliar opponent.

Browns at Patriots (-12.5)

I seem to remember when this was going to be a “challenge” for the Patriots, yet here we are with another double-digit spread. Obviously, the Browns have been turnover machines this year with a lot of picks by Baker Mayfield. Some were tipped balls and bad luck, but their sloppy play has not been all fluke. We know the Patriots capitalize on mistakes better than anyone and it’s a terrible matchup for the Browns right now.

However, nothing would get the bandwagon fired up again for Cleveland than a good showing here after the bye week. Keep in mind this team did drop 40 points in a win in Baltimore, a team that some may start saying is the 2nd best in this godforsaken conference. So between the talent level and the fact that the New England offense has not been that great, I could see this actually being a close game. The Patriots are the only offense that hasn’t had a 4QC/GWD opportunity this year because they’re always leading since no one can really score on them. The Browns have the weapons to do some damage. There’s no way in hell I’d pick Cleveland to win this one, but at least they could do something respectable here instead of another blowout.

Packers at Chiefs (+5)

Finally, we have SNF where the Chiefs are a home underdog to the Packers. There’s really no redemption angle here. I’m just disappointed we’re not going to see Patrick Mahomes vs. Aaron Rodgers and may never see it unless they’re both still starting for these teams in 2023 or meet in a Super Bowl. This would have been a great game with Mahomes up for it.

My gut this week has been that the Chiefs will win one of the next two (vs. GB, vs. MIN) without Mahomes despite most expecting them to lose to quality opponents. I said this because I trust that Andy Reid can get Matt Moore playing well. Reid’s backups often play well aside from the 2005 Eagles fiasco (Mike McMahon/Koy Detmer). Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman are still fast as hell and Travis Kelce can make big plays too. Throw in some pass pressure for a strip-sack or two of Rodgers or Kirk Cousins and you can see the makings of an upset. Unfortunately, the Chiefs have so many other big injuries besides Mahomes that it just doesn’t seem like they’ll get the defensive help. Like who will rush the passer if Chris Jones and Frank Clark are both out? That’s bad, especially for a defense that gets gashed on the ground all the time too.

On the plus side, Mahomes was getting close to start this week and could be back for next week’s game. So maybe they won’t have to play two contenders without him, but they are this week and I’m going to go with the safe pick of the Packers covering.

NFL Week 8 Predictions

That was a lot more talk than I expected for a week that looks terrible on paper, but that just means the upsets could be spectacular. I had the Redskins covering on TNF and have to wonder how close that would have been if Case Keenum didn’t suffer a concussion.

2019Wk8

If you look at Miami’s upcoming schedule, I would definitely take some chances on the Dolphins getting a win. Fitzpatrick gives them a much better shot than Josh Rosen. I’m surprised the spread is still 14 in Pittsburgh, but I can also understand why no sane person would even want to watch that game on Monday night. We need to start considering flex scheduling for Monday games next year.

Or just don’t pick as many games that look terrible on paper. That works too.

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NFL Week 8 Predictions: Roller Coaster Edition

Warning: the following contains more personal feelings than any sports talk. Read at your own risk, but remember I’ll always write anything I want here.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That’s what I did on Friday, and it turned out to be a great decision. I went to bed late last night with an overwhelming sense of peace. But life also can be a roller coaster you have no control over. The problem with feeling so high is that things can come crashing down quickly. I think my own roller coaster has a lot of up-and-down dips (pretty normal, right?). But in the last few years there have been some unbelievable high points that were met almost immediately with a huge drop. As if the universe didn’t want me to enjoy my position in life for even a day or two before something terrible came up.

On Saturday, I wasn’t expecting to wake up to the news that the latest mass shooting was only a few miles away. Anyone that’s been a student at a Pittsburgh campus has likely been to Squirrel Hill before. It’s one of the most diverse areas around. My favorite restaurant as a youth (Gullifty’s) was located there before it was shut down in the last decade. I wasn’t there to witness it because of school, but Gullifty’s was the place that served my grandma a hamburger without a beef patty after she had cataract surgery, and she didn’t even notice until several bites in. “Mmm, this burger is good,” she allegedly said. Silly little stories like that are the things you remember about local areas. It sickens me to know that Squirrel Hill will now forever be synonymous with mass shootings.

When despicable acts like this happen, just getting out of bed is hard. Talking about football feels pointless. I’m interested in several of the games this weekend, but I currently lack the motivation to write about them.

I’m sure Sunday will be a better day than Saturday as we start the ascending process all over again. I just know the next time things feel really great, I’m going to dread the inevitable descent back to reality.

The great thing about actual roller coasters is we have a choice not to ride them. I’ve never liked them. Unfortunately, we’re strapped in for life’s roller coaster, and people who have some control over where things head do not have our best interests in mind. I screwed up by not voting in 2016. I won’t do that again next week. Other than that, I’m not sure what else I can do right now but try to enjoy the ride whenever possible.

And how the fvck is it already Week 8?

NFL Week 8 Predictions

I had Houston winning on TNF, but Miami (+7.5) covering. That was silly, because Adam Gase’s Dolphins tend to only win close games or lose big. Duh, Scott.

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We have a major Disappointment Bowl to start Sunday in London with the Eagles vs. Jaguars. Both teams are 3-4. Since 1990, the only 3-4 teams to still reach the Super Bowl were the 1995 Steelers and 2001 Patriots, so it’s not looking too hot for these teams. The Jaguars apparently had a few players arrested in London already. I think Blake Bortles will play better to keep the leash longer on his job, but I have the Eagles pulling this one out 24-20 after getting enough mistakes from Bortles.

My favorite bet this week is Cincinnati -4. It’s a 1 p.m. home game, coming off a big loss, against a bad defense with a turnover-prone QB. This is Marvin Lewis in his element: a game called by Chris Myers and Daryl Johnson that no one is watching. I also like a teaser on the side of this week’s big favorites (PIT, KC, NE, LAR). Finally, I think the Giants steal one at home against the Redskins, though it’s not like Washington is an easy team to figure out this year.

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NFL Week 8 Predictions: Sleep In Sunday

As I look at the Week 8 schedule, I don’t see a whole lot of quality in the early slate.

Vikings vs. Browns – should be the lowest-rated London game yet. You like football more than I do if you get up at 9:30 A.M. EST for this kickoff. I might roll out of bed a little before noon for this one’s ending.

Raiders at Bills – somewhat interesting, and a game I would expect to cover in Clutch Encounters this week.

Chargers at Patriots – what’s the latest tragic loss Philip Rivers can suffer at the hands of Brady and Belichick? He’s 0-6 against that duo. Should put up some yardage at least.

49ers at Eagles – I guess San Francisco kicking ass in this game would be payback for the 1994 regular-season meeting won 40-8 by the Eagles. It would almost be that weird of a result with the 49ers still winless this year.

Panthers at Buccaneers – there isn’t a result you could predict that would surprise me with this one. Two very inconsistent teams.

Colts at Bengals – Both have two wins, but Bengals are a better team and should take care of business.

Bears at Saints – can you complete fewer than 10 passes and win in the Superdome? I’ll take Drew Brees at home.

Falcons at Jets – probably our most interesting one just because of the train wreck the Falcons have been, and the surprising competitiveness of the Jets this year.

It’s not until we get to the later games that we have some standouts.

Texans at Seahawks – how will Houston’s players perform after being at odds with comments made by their owner? This is an interesting matchup on paper with Deshaun Watson leading a sudden scoring juggernaut into one of the toughest venues to play in the NFL. Seattle hasn’t looked like the dominant team we have come to expect, so I would give Houston a good chance in this one.

Cowboys at Redskins – both teams are 3-3, but both have played a lot of good football this year. Washington just tends to fade in games, while Dallas has struggled defensively. The NFC is too wide open to count anyone out yet, but it is a very important game with neither wanting to drop to 3-4. I just think Dallas has a slight edge with more consistency on offense (translation: Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott should make plays while you don’t know if Chris Thompson or Vernon Davis will rip off a 40+ yard reception again) and Washington’s defensive injuries hurting the depth.

Steelers at Lions – probably the right pick for SNF, I think Pittsburgh’s offense could have a strong showing with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell leading the way again. They’ve benched Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster has played well, and the offense is getting the ball into the hands of its best players at a high volume again. Detroit has a lot of the same issues with running the ball and defending, and we know the Lions almost never beat a team destined for the playoffs. Pittsburgh isn’t performing anywhere near at peak level yet, but should be good enough to win this one on the road.

Broncos at Chiefs – someone is losing three in a row on Monday night, and there’s no way I’m picking the Chiefs to do that. The offense is way better than Denver’s, they’re at home, and while the defense is struggling right now without Eric Berry, the Denver offense hasn’t hit 17 points since Week 2.

2017 Week 8 Predictions

Of course I had Miami losing on TNF, but 40-0 was very unexpected. Still, is it really that much of a reach after this team should have lost 20-0 in back-to-back weeks to the Jets and Saints? Throw in a few late pick-sixes from the third -string QB and there you go.

Winners in bold.

  • Vikings vs. Browns
  • Raiders at Bills
  • Chargers at Patriots
  • 49ers at Eagles
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Colts at Bengals
  • Bears at Saints
  • Falcons at Jets
  • Texans at Seahawks
  • Cowboys at Redskins
  • Steelers at Lions
  • Broncos at Chiefs

Last week was my best all season, and I feel good about this week being right up there.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Season: 59-47

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Mid-Tier Edition

I see Week 8 with a lot of mid-level matchups and an appropriate main event in Philadelphia-Dallas on Sunday night. Of course, the Bears somehow got another stinker scheduled in prime time to end the week. But here are my thoughts on some of the games that should be helpful in judging where these teams are at the almost halfway point of the season.

Redskins vs. Bengals

Seriously, back-to-back London games at 9:30 a.m.? No thanks again, as I’ll just wait for the fourth quarter to see if Kirk Cousins can avoid the big mistake or not. I thought when the Bengals were down big in Dallas that even with a likely 2-4 start, the playoffs were not in doubt with the schedule lightening up as well as a very soft AFC (more on that later this week). Tyler Eifert is back at tight end, and Jeremy Hill had some big runs last week. Of course, it was the Browns, but the Redskins have been a poor run defense too, and they have some health issues in the secondary right now. That’s a bad recipe for defending A.J. Green, but this Cincinnati offense can be about more than just Green now. I like the AFC team here.

Chiefs at Colts

If this is half as good as the 2013 wild-card game…But the Chiefs have been so inconsistent this year (32nd in DVOA variance). The Colts (5th in variance) have been a pillar of consistency: they score and allow at least 20 points in every game, and Andrew Luck has had the ball in his hands late with a chance to lead his team on a GWD. He’s come through four times, but the defense wasted the Week 1 effort against Detroit. I think Spencer Ware should have a field day against the Indy defense, but wouldn’t expect a huge performance from Alex Smith. Luck should have a few more weapons back this week, but he’ll need to avoid going to the Marcus Peters well too many times. Peters can make him pay on a pick-six, but with Donte Moncrief and Philip Dorsett back, Luck shouldn’t have to force passes to T.Y. Hilton. Generally, I think Luck has played very well this season, but he’ll need to be on point in this one. My gut tells me KC, and I usually have a great gut for Colts games, but I still think I have to trust the Colts at home this week. Arrowhead? I’d say prepare for one of their blowout losses from 2012-2015, but I think they pull this one out.

Lions at Texans

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I expect Brock Osweiler to have a really solid game due to how terrible the Detroit pass defense is. He’s also at home, where things have gone much better this year than the difficult road trips to New England, Minnesota and Denver. That has to be the toughest road schedule in the league so far. That’s not to say Osweiler didn’t play like hot garbage, but as we saw against Chicago and late in the Colts game, he can still come through against a crap defense. That’s what Detroit has right now, and it will be on Matthew Stafford to have an exceptional road performance for Detroit to pull off the win.

Patriots at Bills

One of the dumbest things any team did this year was Buffalo’s waffling on playing Shady McCoy last week in Miami. Just let him rest with the hamstring issue and turn the ball over to Mike Gillislee. Instead they tried to play both, and it was just a mess after Miami’s front seven ate the Bills alive. Now McCoy is unlikely to play in what is essentially the biggest game of the season for the Bills: a chance to sweep the Pats and become a factor in the AFC. So poorly managed. Tyrod Taylor is down receiving weapons in what was already a limited passing game. I expect a far different outcome than the 16-0 shutout win that Buffalo got with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for New England. Tom Brady was supposed to annihilate Pittsburgh through the air last week, but it’s more likely to come here in Buffalo.

Seahawks at Saints

Injury concerns are legit for Seattle again with Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett out. You never want to be down key defensive starters in the Superdome against Drew Brees. Russell Wilson seems to get a new injury every week — I had no idea about the pectoral issue when I wrote Tuesday’s fantasy article about stacking him with Jimmy Graham. I still think the potential for a big day is there since this is the Saints defense, and Graham will want to show up his old team, but the injuries definitely are a concern. Wilson has 22 runs for 33 yards this season. He’s clearly had to change his playing style due to the leg injuries and throw from the pocket more, but it hasn’t been as effective. Again, at least this is a putrid defense and likely not one Wilson will need his legs against often. He can beat the Saints from the pocket, but I wouldn’t trust Seattle here if the game becomes a shootout.

Chargers at Broncos

I think this game can look a lot different from the recent TNF matchup, won by San Diego. The Broncos are now the home team, Gary Kubiak is going to be coaching this one, and Trevor Siemian is healthier. C.J. Anderson is out, but I think Devontae Booker fills in well at RB. Denver’s defense should be strong again as it was for much of the last meeting. Philip Rivers hasn’t had a good go of things against this Wade Phillips-coached D yet, and I expect that to be the difference this week.

Packers at Falcons

The Falcons need to stop the bleeding here. I think a big game for Julio Jones is in store, and the Falcons could have better rushing success against Green Bay than anyone not named Dallas this season. Matt Ryan needs to atone for the late interception at home last week. While the Falcons have allowed six game-winning drives in their last 16 games, we are talking about Green Bay here. If the Packers don’t start well, I wouldn’t expect a comeback win. I still think the offense was struggling against Chicago despite the odd stat line from Aaron Rodgers, but you could clearly see Chicago’s defense was worn out in the second half from having to defend so many passes and not getting any help from the offense. Atlanta’s offense will help the defense at home here. While I think getting creative with Ty Montgomery is good for Green Bay, I don’t think his small average gains are going to be enough here, nor do I expect Davante Adams to star in back-to-back games.

Eagles at Cowboys

This one could have really cranked up the drama if Tony Romo was making his season debut, but alas it’s two rookie quarterbacks. Dak Prescott has clearly been better than Carson Wentz. The Cowboys certainly run the ball better than the Eagles, and they throw it better too. I really like Ezekiel Elliott coming off a bye week behind that offensive line. The Eagles had a horrific run defense performance against Washington a few weeks ago, and even made Minnesota’s impotent attack look competent last week. I’ll take the Cowboys here.

2016 Week 8 Predictions

Starting to get a better hang of things this season. I had the Titans without any hesitation on Thursday night, and they blew the doors off the hopeless Jaguars.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Bengals
  • Chiefs at Colts
  • Lions at Texans
  • Patriots at Bills
  • Jets at Browns
  • Cardinals at Panthers
  • Raiders at Buccaneers
  • Seahawks at Saints
  • Chargers at Broncos
  • Packers at Falcons
  • Eagles at Cowboys
  • Vikings at Bears
  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Season: 62-45

I would normally give myself a tie for the Seattle-Arizona game, because if those teams don’t have to take a loss, why the hell should I after losing hours of my time to not see a winner? But since I said last week that I liked Seattle by 8 points, or more than they scored in five quarters, I’ll take the loss here.

NFL Week 8 Predictions: The Undefeated Teams

I was going to save this space for a rant about the bunk that is “does more with less,” but we have some pretty good games worth talking about this week instead.

Packers at Broncos

I thought about doing a formal preview for this game, but there’s just not enough history between the two given they’re in different conferences. You also don’t want to get too wrapped up in the numbers after just six games, which is what I’m probably about to do next.

Clearly, this is a step up in competition for both teams, who both had a bye week to prepare. Green Bay’s offense hasn’t seen a defense like Denver’s. Denver’s defense hasn’t seen an offense like Green Bay’s. I’m not going to make the mistake I made in previewing Super Bowl 48 where I thought the matchup of the lesser unit of each team (DEN D, SEA O) would be the deciding factor. Let’s stick with the strength vs. strength deciding how this game will play out.

These teams actually rank first (GB) and second (DEN) in points allowed with just one point separating them. However, Green Bay ranks seventh in Pts/Dr and 22nd in Yds/Dr. That’s a bit odd, but it’s possible because the Packers allow the third-fewest points per red zone trip. Denver’s offense has struggled in the red zone this season, ranked 30th. Denver may need to hit some big plays or take advantage of some great field position to crack this defense in the red zone. That’s how Philip Rivers turned a 500-yard passing game into just 20 points in GB. They tighten up down there. Surprisingly, the Packers go three-and-out on offense more than just five teams. Unless Aaron Rodgers takes advantage of Denver’s aggressiveness with a ton of hard counts to draw offsides and free plays, I think it’s going to be very hard for Green Bay to rack up points in this one.

Denver’s defense has pretty much shut down every offense its played so far. Only Minnesota was able to crack 20 points, and that included some good field position off of Manning interceptions and a big run by Adrian Peterson on fourth down. Green Bay probably needs more than 20 to win in Denver, but not a lot more. The Packers have been fairly mortal on offense in the last three games. Eddie Lacy hasn’t had a great season by any means. Rodgers doesn’t have the same vertical prowess without Jordy Nelson, and he hasn’t even tried to replace that part of the offense with his other receivers. This passing game is more reliant on YAC. Rodgers is scrambling more than he ever has this season, so he could be a problem for an aggressive Denver defense when he leaves the pocket. Shane Ray is out, but DeMarcus Ware should return to action. The Broncos will need Ware and Von Miller to provide good pressure in this one, but I really do think Rodgers will use his legs a lot if the Denver secondary is doing its job in coverage against the receivers. If Rodgers is holding onto the ball, then Denver will have a good chance to add on to its high sack total (26 in six games).

Denver’s offense has been a mess for various reasons this season. Some of those things are not fixable, because it’s not like they can find a good tight end or experienced slot WR in Week 8. They have to tough it out with what they have, but there’s enough here to be playing much better than they have. I recall an old NFL Films clip of Mike Holmgren saying “He’s gotta know he’s fucking up out there” in reference to a young Brett Favre. Gary Kubiak might be saying the same thing about an old Peyton Manning this year, who has 10 interceptions. Clearly that part can’t continue, and I don’t think it will since so many of the plays are mental and situational more than they are physical problems. Cutting down the picks is one step forward. Another is giving more carries to Ronnie Hillman, who has clearly outplayed C.J. Anderson this season. Demaryius Thomas has to stop dropping big passes, and his track record suggests that should also happen. This offense is close to putting it together, but keeps shooting itself in the foot with mistakes. I expect a sharper performance at home after some time to regroup against a Green Bay defense that you can definitely move the ball against. We’ve seen some productive games on the ground and through the air against them already.

Green Bay has not excelled in this type of environment. Since 2012, the Packers are 1-9 in road games against playoff teams. In case you were wondering, Rodgers started all 10 games as none of those were when he missed time in 2013 (broken collarbone). At 6-0, Denver looks destined for a playoff spot. However, the lone win in that stretch for GB was in Houston in 2012 against a team coached by Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips. Rodgers threw six touchdowns on Sunday Night Football. He’ll be fortunate to get to half that total in this one, but at least that is doable for him. I don’t think the Broncos have played great offensive competition so far, though the reason I like them is because they’re at home. Green Bay’s offense just isn’t that lethal on the road, where they’ve only played twice so far. Unlike last year when the Broncos were so dominant early in the season thanks to playing five of their first seven games at home, this year’s team has been on the road for four of the first six games, including four of the last five. Mile High is always a tough place to win and I think we get a few more points out of this one than expected, but I see Denver closing in the end on defense again.

Final score: Broncos 28, Packers 20

Bengals at Steelers

Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 5-7 in Pittsburgh and just 2-11 at home against the Steelers. It’s one of those weird splits, but I truly do believe the Bengals get up for these games in Pittsburgh. They have enough motivation for this one to continue their 6-0 start and silence the return of Ben Roethlisberger by dropping the Steelers to 4-4. That wouldn’t lock up the AFC North, but it would damn near come close to doing so on the first day of November.

I think the Steelers have the better offense when everyone’s healthy, which looks to be the case for the first time since the end of last season. However, the Bengals have the better defense, and their offense is humming along very well this year. Andy Dalton has yet to have a bad game and he had his best game against the Steelers yet in Week 14 last season. I think his receivers have very favorable matchups against a defense that will be missing Stephon Tuitt and Will Allen. Pittsburgh’s defense has certainly exceeded expectations, only surrendering more than 23 points to the Patriots. However, I think the Bengals are the best offense the Steelers have seen since the Patriots. Dalton is protected well behind a line that has only allowed six sacks and he gets rid of the ball quickly. Tyler Eifert is giving this offense a new dimension down the seam and in the red zone that it’s lacked in recent seasons. That is somewhere I see the Steelers struggling to defend here, especially with health issues in the secondary. A.J. Green might feast here too.

I never ever like picking the Bengals in a big game, but I just feel like they’re the more complete team, coming off a bye, and they are playing better than the Steelers have this season. They should win. I know I’ve also seen enough games where Roethlisberger has returned form injury and looked rusty. You can’t look rusty when Geno Atkins and company are rushing, and this is the first game Roethlisberger will start with Alejandro Villanueva as his left tackle. He was beat by Tamba Hali for two big sacks in the fourth quarter last week. Sure, Antonio Brown should get back on track, Heath Miller won’t be a ghost again and Martavis Bryant is always a big-play threat, but no one has cracked 24 points on the Bengals yet this season. I think that continues here and they get another quality win.

Final score: Bengals 29, Steelers 22

Colts at Panthers

Maybe I’m just doing a better job of avoiding it, but I’m glad this wasn’t the week where we pretend Cam Newton has always been better than Andrew Luck based on the last two months. We have several seasons to look at and see that Luck is clearly a superior player who doesn’t need as much around him to succeed. This year, he has yet another flawed roster around him despite the offseason additions. The major difference is he’s playing the worst football of his career, and it’s showing in the results for both his team’s record and his statistics. The team’s really in no worse shape than it was from 2012-14, but the difference was Luck played at a level high enough to overcome those flaws. Is it injury? That’s always my first thought when a very good player is playing poorly, and Luck has missed two games with a shoulder injury. Something’s not right, and I don’t expect it to get right against a tough Carolina team.

Simply put, Cam Newton is playing at nowhere near a MVP level, but I’m sure we can focus on that ridiculousness another week. As the 2015 Colts should show, just having “names” around you at the skill positions means nothing for a QB if you’re not playing well yourself. You still have to make the plays. The Colts have been one of the worst offenses in the league, but they have a fighting chance in this one just because the Panthers aren’t good enough to drop one of those 35-45 point games on them. The Panthers are the more physical team and that’s a huge problem, but I like the Colts defense enough in this one to slow them down and keep the game at least manageable for Luck to pull out a GWD. However, I don’t expect it to happen on Monday night. If they want to shut T.Y. Hilton down with Josh Norman, then go ahead, because in theory Donte Moncrief, Andre Johnson and the very quiet tight ends should have matchup advantages. But hell, has this not been the case each week this season for the Colts? The pieces seem to be there, but the results are not.

And it all starts with how the quarterback is playing.

Final score: Colts 16, Panthers 24

2015 Week 8 Predictions

I had the Patriots winning 31-17 on TNF, and they actually spanked Miami 36-7. OK.

Winners in bold

  • Lions at Chiefs
  • Chargers at Ravens
  • Cardinals at Browns
  • 49ers at Rams
  • Titans at Texans
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Buccaneers at Falcons
  • Vikings at Bears
  • Giants at Saints
  • Jets at Raiders
  • Seahawks at Cowboys
  • Packers at Broncos
  • Colts at Panthers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Season: 68-37 (.648)

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Saints in Primetime and Losing My Fandom

The NFL’s Week 8 schedule is pretty solid, so here are some thoughts on a few key games.

Packers at Saints: Prime-time Advantage?

I’ve always been better at predicting the AFC than the NFC, but the 2014 Saints have especially let me down this year. I had this team pegged for a first-round bye with an improved defense and Drew Brees finally winning his first MVP. Instead the Saints are 2-4, Rob Ryan’s defense is terrible and Brees has made some really poor throws in crucial spots. The Saints are also 0-3 at upholding one-score leads in the fourth quarter.

You might think Sunday’s game with Green Bay is a must win, but the whole NFC South has been a huge letdown this season. Look at how bad the Carolina defense has regressed. The Falcons were supposed to be improved, but look arguably worse than last year in recent weeks. Tampa Bay has already had two of the worst performances in recent time by an NFL team. At this rate the division will have a 7-9 winner stealing a playoff game (at home even) from a more deserving club. Hell, it might even come at the expense of the Seahawks.

If the Saints are going to climb back into things, they’ll do it with a statement win at home over a hot Packers team. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Saints, and especially Brees, have been deadly in prime-time games in the Superdome:

BreesSD

That’s special stuff. The Saints are great at home in general, but some of their best games have come under the bright lights.

I expect Brees to have another fine day, but I don’t expect the Saints to stop the Packers enough when Aaron Rodgers has the ball.

Final prediction:  Packers 38, Saints 31

Bears at Patriots: Upset Alert?

I can’t figure out the 2014 Bears either. They’re 0-3 at home and aren’t scoring enough points despite one of the best supporting casts in the league and a coach, Marc Trestman, I want to believe is the right guy for the job. After last week’s loss to Miami, I find it hard to pick Chicago many more times this year. Heading to New England, I really don’t see a win, but let’s play the ebb-and-flow game.

The Bears just had a miserable loss and there’s some tension in the locker room apparently with Brandon Marshall mouthing off last week. Brian Urlacher has criticized Jay Cutler this week by saying he’s only elite in salary, which is a very true statement. The Bears aren’t in a good spot now, but I believe in talented teams turning things around. This isn’t asking for JaMarcus Russell to suddenly play well on a rotten Oakland team. I’m just looking for Cutler, Marshall, Jeffery, Forte and Bennett to score 24+ points on a New England defense missing the likes of Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones. Let’s not forget the Patriots have barely squeaked by the Raiders and Jets at home this year. This team isn’t dominant. Chicago has the weapons to make this a high-scoring game and if the Bears can win the turnover battle, I think they’ll win the game.

But it’s still Jay Cutler and that’s why I expect multiple interceptions in Foxboro and a 3-5 record for the Bears. But it would be so New England to have a shocking home loss to be followed up with a win over the best team in the league next week (Denver).

Final prediction: Bears 20, Patriots 27

Colts at Steelers: Who Do I Really Like?

The Colts and Steelers are meeting for just the fifth time since the 2003 season. It was actually during their 2002 meeting, a 28-10 Pittsburgh win, that I started to appreciate the Colts with Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy. I guess I had enough of the Kordell Stewart  “run, run, incomplete pass, punt” offense and was drawn to Manning’s passing and no-huddle offense approach. So you might think I’m conflicted with which team to root for this weekend. That’s been true in the past, especially in the 2005 playoffs — one of the toughest days of my football-viewing life — and the 2008 meeting.

But on Sunday, I frankly don’t care who wins the game. You can say I’m outgrowing my fandom, and the consistent stream of .500 results from the Steelers has done a good job of accelerating that. I’m not going to drop the line of “I have 32 favorite teams now because I’m a writer”, because that’s a bunch of bullshit. But really, I don’t care who wins this one. I just want to see a good game and I think this can be one with both teams scoring in the 20’s.

These teams have changed quite a bit since the 2011 meeting, which I only bring up because it was the night Curtis Painter almost beat the Steelers and Jonathan Scott tried to block Dwight Freeney with his ass.

It didn’t work out on Monday, but I think this is the first time I’m picking against the Steelers in back-to-back home games. Indianapolis is better on both sides of the ball and has been playing better coming into this game. I expect the Colts will have a good day offensively as long as they control their turnovers. The real matchup is the Pittsburgh offense against Indianapolis’ surprisingly good defense. Two areas I see as a concern are handling the Colts’ blitz on third down and throwing deep. They don’t have Robert Mathis so they’re being really creative with sending guys from anywhere to get pressure, and it’s been working. The Steelers haven’t protected Ben Roethlisberger well (statement pasted from a clipboard) and this could be a game where he takes 5+ sacks (also from a clipboard). Ben’s deep passing has been lacking the last few weeks in regards to his sideline throws. He’s not keeping them in bounds. He did hit a nice one down the seam to Martavis Bryant on Monday, but I think he’s going to have a hard time on those throws against Indy’s cornerbacks, who are playing very well right now.

Final prediction: Colts 27, Steelers 23

NFL Week 8 Predictions

I had Denver on TNF, but again I would have been screwed on the point spread. That’s the first time in 15 meetings Peyton Manning has beat the Chargers by more than 11 points, and the first time he’s beat them by more than 8 points without a defensive touchdown.

Winners in bold:

  • Lions at Falcons
  • Dolphins at Jaguars
  • Ravens at Bengals
  • Vikings at Buccaneers
  • Seahawks at Panthers
  • Bills at Jets
  • Bears at Patriots
  • Rams at Chiefs
  • Texans at Titans
  • Eagles at Cardinals
  • Colts at Steelers
  • Raiders at Browns
  • Packers at Saints
  • Redskins at Cowboys

Really tough call with Vikings-Bucs. Teddy Bridgewater definitely had an easy time with a bad defense (ATL) and struggled with the good ones (DET/BUF). The Bucs are a rotten one, but I’m leaning on home-field, bye week improvements and a big game from Gerald McCoy here. I also think Mike Glennon is solid. It’s the defense that’s the bigger problem, which is the opposite of what you should have expected in Tampa Bay this season.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Total: 66-39-1

NFL Week 8 Predictions

Notice anything odd about the NFL’s Week 8 schedule? If Thursday’s stinker was any indication, it’s going to be a poor week. It’s literally the worst slate of games I have seen since covering the league on a weekly basis in 2011, and that’s not hyperbole. On paper, does it get any better than Dallas at Detroit? I rest my case.

Some have said the NFL does not like to compete with the World Series, which is going on now in case you didn’t notice. Yet is anyone going to deny that even a terrible collection of NFL games will kick the World Series’ ass in ratings?

“Hell, we’ll put six teams on a bye week, send the Jaguars to London to face the 49ers, put the Rams out to slaughter against Seattle, and even start the week with Greg Schiano in prime time and people will still eat it up.”

The most riveting baseball series in years would still struggle to beat out a host of prime-time games featuring the dreadful 2013 Minnesota Vikings, and don’t worry, the latter is coming. After Josh Freeman’s 33-incompletion night, we get the Vikings again facing the Packers on Sunday. After a trip to Dallas in what is hopefully a low-traffic Heath Evans time slot on FOX, the Vikings return to the big stage with a Thursday night home game against the Redskins in Week 10. Three prime-time games in four weeks. Can’t wait.

Yet in the NFL, where inconsistency thrives, we probably will get a few unexpectedly great games this week. But for most of us, even the worst games are still preferable to watching baseball.

2013 NFL Week 8 Predictions

We’ll see what happens next week with a real challenge, but the undefeated run continues on TNF with a pick of Carolina.

Winners in bold:

  • Cowboys at Lions
  • Dolphins at Patriots
  • Browns at Chiefs
  • Bills at Saints
  • Giants at Eagles
  • 49ers at Jaguars
  • Jets at Bengals
  • Steelers at Raiders
  • Redskins at Broncos
  • Falcons at Cardinals
  • Packers at Vikings
  • Seahawks at Rams

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Season: 70-37

NFL Week 8 Predictions, Scam Newton and Writing Recap

It’s nearly November and most NFL teams are still an inconsistent mess, which makes it hard for predictions, but good for weekly coverage.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 7: Old vs. New, Eli Manning Upstages RGIII – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Random fact: all six quarterbacks to lead a game-winning drive this week are over the age of 30, which hasn’t happened since at least 1995. Yep. Another record for Eli Manning, CBS changes Tom Brady’s stats a week after I pointed out their interesting Week 6 graphic, and a list of Matt Hasselbeck’s game-winning/game-tying TD passes, which oddly slant heavily towards his brief time in Tennessee.

Eli Manning Has New York Giants Soaring Under the Radar Again – Bleacher Report

I rarely write a puff piece, but if I do, it’s going to have a lot of interesting data. This is on Eli Manning and the New York Giants, making note of how they have started 5-2 or better for nine straight seasons, tying the NFL record set by Dallas (1975-83).

I also took a step in the direction of quantifying the difficulty associated with fourth quarter comebacks by looking at Eli Manning’s 23 comeback wins and using win probability. Expect more on this in the future.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns – Colts Authority

Luck had a career-low 35 drop backs this week, but the Colts went into a shell again after taking a 17-13 lead in the third quarter. Find out why Luck needs more shotgun in his diet.

Just What Is Going On With the AFC? – NBC Sports

The 2012 season will be the year we remember the NFC regaining control of the NFL as the dominant conference. NFC teams are 19-9 against the AFC so far this year, and have won three straight Super Bowls. Find out how they’ve swung back control, and a breakdown of all 16 AFC teams into their respectful tiers of quality.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 8 Predictions – Bleacher Report

This week’s previews include a look at Dick LeBeau’s 14-1 record vs. rookie quarterbacks since 2004, how impressive Andy Reid’s 13-0 record after a bye week really is, Josh Freeman’s lost comeback magic (which he did not need on Thursday), and expecting a career day statistically from Andrew Luck in Tennessee. Also the shortest Broncos/Saints preview out there.

More Scam than Superman: Cam Newton is NFL’s Worst QB in the Clutch – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Cam Newton can at least argue he is consistent, as his stats are very similar to this point last year, as is the 1-5 record. The other constant trend is his inability to close games at a historic rate, producing a 1-12 (.077) record at fourth quarter comeback opportunities. Here are the worst records I have been able to find so far (min. 10 attempts):

You cannot pretend to be Superman if all you ever do in the face of adversity is wilt under the pressure.

2012 NFL Week 8 Predictions

Why is it so hard to trust our gut? I knew Tampa Bay had the on-field advantages, but basically picked Minnesota since they had the better record and were the home team. 0-1 to start the week, which I have a feeling won’t be pretty after going 12-1 last week.

Winners in bold:

  • Panthers at Bears
  • Chargers at Browns
  • Seahawks at Lions
  • Jaguars at Packers
  • Dolphins at Jets
  • Falcons at Eagles
  • Redskins at Steelers
  • Patriots at Rams
  • Colts at Titans
  • Raiders at Chiefs
  • Giants at Cowboys
  • Saints at Broncos
  • 49ers at Cardinals

Bah, that’s a lot of road teams. Lions, Eagles and Cardinals win at home, is what my gut says, and I’m not listening again.

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Season: 64-40