It’s week 8 of the NFL season and the season has been filled with many great stories. Last week however was an exception. Simply put week 7 was the worst slate of games the NFL has seen in many years. Hopefully this week gets better. Here are my picks for this week.
Arizona at Baltimore.
Should be a mismatch but who knows. The Ravens are coming off a pitiful display on offence as they scored only 7 points in a loss to Jacksonville on Monday night. The same question that has been nagging the Ravens for years continues. Can the offence put up enough points? The defence is as menacing as usual but now is the time for Joe Flacco to step up and take leadership of the offence. It would also help if Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice had more than 8 carries in the game. Arizona on the other hand are awful and I’ve been guilty of picking them too many times to win. Not anymore. Ravens bounce back at home and learn their lesson. Baltimore wins big.
Minnesota at Carolina.
In a few years this could be a really good matchup. Both teams have young quarterbacks with bright futures. The Vikings finally gave Christian Ponder the start last week and looked solid in his debut. Despite throwing 2 interceptions, Ponder threw for 318 yards and 2 touchdowns against Green Bay last week. With Adrian Peterson at running back, the Vikings have a foundation to build on. The Panthers will rely on Cam Newton to lead the way and he’s starting to find his form. Newton led the Panthers to a victory over Washington last week and is hoping more wins are on the table. I feel Carolina is a little further ahead than Minnesota right now so I’m picking the Panthers to win on Sunday.
Jacksonville at Houston.
This has trap game written all over it. The Texans are coming off their biggest win in franchise history, a 41-7 thrashing over hated Tennessee and have sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Reliant Stadium should be rocking as the Texans return home as conquering heroes. But they better beware. No Mario Williams and no Andre Johnson still leaves Houston with some lingering questions. Jacksonville are coming off a huge upset win over Baltimore relying on a stern defence and 4 Josh Scobee field goals. The Jaguars feel that Houston are ripe for the picking and are coming into this game brimming with confidence. If Houston is smart Arian Foster should carry the ball at least 20 times and the Texans should also get the home crowd into this game. Houston wins but I think it will be close.
Miami at New York Giants.
Could be ugly. The Giants are in first place in the NFC East but haven’t looked the part at times. Giants fans still remember a bad home loss to Seattle a few weeks ago and are fearing the same could happen against the winless Dolphins. The question for the G-Men is which Eli Manning will show up? There are times when Eli looks like his older brother Peyton then there are other time Eli looks like Scott Brunner. (Sorry Giants fans) Eli has to reduce the interceptions in order for the Giants to be successful. The Dolphins are a mess. With owner Stephen Ross making overtures to Bill Cowher to coach the team next season and fans begging the Dolphins to go 0-16 so they can draft Andrew Luck, the situation seems hopeless in South Florida. Did I mention Reggie Bush is fighting with teammates as well? Yikes. Giants win.
New Orleans at St Louis.
Back in 2000, the Saints beat the Rams in a terrific NFC Wildcard playoff game and many people (myself included) thought this was a berth of a great rivalry. Fast forward to 2011 and these two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Saints are 5-2 and in first place in the highly competitive NFC South. Add to that New Orleans is coming off a 62-7 destruction of Indianapolis in which the Saints looked virtually unstoppable. The Rams are 0-6 despite having high hopes at the start of the season and could be without quarterback Sam Bradford for a second straight game with an ankle injury. This one could get very ugly. Saints win big.
Indianapolis at Tennessee.
Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses last week and are hoping to rebound. The Titans played their worst game of the season in an awful loss to Houston. Chris Johnson has yet to find last year’s form and it’s looking like his contract holdout as deeply affected him. Johnson was booed loudly by Titan fans last week and if he can’t find his game against the winless Colts, he may have to go into hiding in Music City. The Colts were simply destroyed by New Orleans last week and it looks like there is no hope for Indy without Peyton Manning. Won’t be pretty but Tennessee wins.
Washington vs. Buffalo.
Tough one to call. Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of ineptitude at the same time. With the fact the game is being played at the mausoleum known as the Rogers Centre in Toronto, this game is the most difficult to pick. The Bills have played home games in Toronto the last two years but have lost both times. The players don’t like playing in Toronto because they lose some of that fervent atmosphere that prevails at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Redskins are starting John Beck at quarterback but are struggling overall losing their last two games. Very tough but I will pick Buffalo to eke out a win in The True North, Strong and Free.
Detroit at Denver.
Good vs. Evil. The good guy Tim Tebow. The Broncos quarterback who made his first professional start last week led the Broncos off the mat for a come from behind victory over Miami. Tebow is a favourite with ESPN, CBS, FOX and every other media source. He’s the classic good guy. Drinks milk, loves his mom, always does the right thing. The bad guy. Ndamokung Suh. The vicious defensive tackle for the Lions is being called the dirtiest player in the game for his late hits and mocking injured players. Suh is nasty make no question about that but he can play football. Very similar to Mean Joe Greene early in his career where he had all the talent in the world but failed to harness it. In the movies the good guy wins. In real life the bad guy wins. Lions win in Denver.
New England at Pittsburgh.
Game of the Week. These two teams are both top contenders in the AFC and this could be a playoff even AFC Championship game preview. The Patriots are still rolling up the yards and points on offence. Tom Brady is having another MVP type season as he continues his assault on defences around the league. The defence however has struggled and coach Bill Belichick knows the defence has to be sturdier for the Patriots to make a Super Bowl run. The Steelers are 5-2 but really haven’t impressed me save the big win over Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. I’ve said it before that the Steelers don’t look right to me and I’m not sure what it is. Add to the fact the Patriots have won 5 out of their last 6 visits to Heinz Field. New England wins.
Cincinnati at Seattle.
The Bengals are quietly becoming one of the surprise teams in the NFL. Despite all the drama surrounding quarterback Carson Palmer, the Bengals are 4-2 and are in contention in the AFC North. Rookie Andy Dalton has been a nice replacement for Palmer and gives the Bengals hope for the future. On top of that the Bengals will receive a first and second round draft pick from Oakland for Palmer in a recent trade, the Bengals have something going on all of a sudden. The Seahawks are in a state of flux. Tavaris Jackson is a game time decision at quarterback and if he can’t go, Charlie Whitehurst will start which spells trouble for Seattle. Yes the Seahawks are tough at home and the 12th man can make a difference. Not this time. Cincinnati wins.
Cleveland at San Francisco.
The Browns are coming off a win albeit a very ugly win over Seattle last week but will have to be better if they expect to win at San Francisco. The Browns do have a solid defence which is tough to run against. They could get a test from Frank Gore if Gore is healthy enough to play. If he is the 49ers will have a solid offence to go with a physical defence. The Niners are 5-1 in control of the NFC West, and coming off a bye week. I don’t trust Cleveland. San Francisco wins.
Dallas at Philadelphia.
Critical game in the NFC East. The Cowboys are coming off an easy win over St. Louis in which they may have found a running back. Rookie DeMarco Murray ran for a franchise best 253 yards against the Rams and looked like the second coming of Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. If Murray can continue his strong running, it will ease the pressure from Tony Romo. I have been harsh on Romo in the past and while I think he’s overrated, he’s never enjoyed the benefits of a strong rushing attack. The Eagles are coming off a bye week but still have many questions. Michael Vick has not looked like his MVP self from last season and the defence has been regarded as soft by fans and media. The Eagles are also trying to live up to the “Dream Team” expectations and are still struggling to find an identity. This rivalry is very intense and it should get nastier. Cowboys defensive Rob Ryan added more bulletin board material when he said back in July ” I don’t know if we win the all-hype team. I think that might have gone to somebody else, but we’re going to beat their ass when we play them.” Fighting words indeed. Lincoln Financial Field will be rocking in this primetime showdown. Tough one but I like Dallas to win a close one.
San Diego at Kansas City.
Don’t look now but here come the Chiefs. After a wretched start which saw the Chiefs go 0-3 and looking like they would be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, Kansas City have won their last 3 games and could move into a tie for first place in the AFC West with a victory on Monday night. The Chiefs were most impressive in a shutout win over Oakland in which they recorded 6 interceptions off Oakland’s quarterbacks. Coach Todd Haley, who was on the hot seat earlier in the season, has to be given a lot of credit for the Chiefs turnaround. The Chargers are coming off a tough loss to the New York Jets but it won’t be easy in what should be a wild atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium. I still don’t trust the Chargers and the Chiefs are on a roll. I’m picking Kansas City in a mild upset.
Last week: 6-7. Ugh. It can’t get any worse can it?
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973 Read more great blogs at sportsblogmovement.com