by Ryan Meehan and Ryan Spickler
Coach: Welcome back everyone after a normal but crazy Week 7 of the NFL season. Some things this past week seemed like a throwback to the NFL of the past – like the Buccaneers’ uniforms and the Chargers using stickum – and yet new teams such as the Texans were back to establishing AFC dominance. One thing is for sure, it looks like we finally have our formatting down for your preview of Week 8. This week brings us more throwback games on Thursday Night Football along with breakdowns of how certain divisions are starting to pan out and who may be out or in to the playoff picture at that halfway part of the season. If none of that gets you excited then maybe the possibility of a Tom Brady and Kate Middleton sighting may get your arse pumped up. It’s London week in the NFL so get your tea and crumpets ready and light a fag it’s time to get pissed for our Week 8 predictions.
Thursday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings (5-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)
Coach: Welcome to a classic NFC Central clash, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Minnesota for a good old fashioned Black and Blue Division Thursday Night Matchup. Nothing really says “traditional rivalry” like the NFL on a Thursday! Even though Thursday Night Football didn’t exist back when these two teams were in the same division, it is an intriguing matchup and definitely one that has a good history dating back to 1977. Although Minnesota has an overall record of 31-20, the teams split the divisional series between 1993 and 2001 which means absolutely nothing going into this Thursday Night. The most lopsided win in the series back in 2000 (A 41-13 win for the Vikings) may jog your memory because I don’t think it is going to be pretty when Tampa heads into Mall of America Field (God, I hate that that’s the name now). Minnesota is 4-0 at home this season, and Tampa hasn’t had any luck winning on the road at all. Right now the Bucs are already in deep trouble in their division looking up at the undefeated Falcons, whereas the Vikings are surprisingly only a game behind the Bears. Generally a game like this could have upset written all over it, but after Tampa couldn’t take out the 2-4 Saints at home in front of their biggest crowd and first locally televised home game of the year there really isn’t much hope. With the spread listed at 6.5, I don’t think the Vikings will have a problem covering and beating the very down Bucs.
Coach’s Pick: Vikings 24, Buccaneers 17
Meehan’s Pick: Vikings 25, Bucs 22
Carolina Panthers (1-5) at Chicago Bears (5-1)
Coach: I can’t look at this matchup and not think of the classic Charles Dickens story “A Tale of Two Cities.” There may not be two teams having complete opposite seasons right now as the Bears and the Panthers. The Bears are 5-1 to the Panthers 1-5. Chicago has won four in a row and the Panthers have lost four in a row. One is primed for a late run in the playoffs, and the other is set to possibly receive the number one pick in the draft. You almost can’t help but feel sorry for Carolina and the way this season has gone down. The most relieved person in the NFL has to be long term Panthers GM Marty Hurney who got fired this past week when unable to figure out what direction the team was headed in. Listen Carolina, nobody can figure out the Panthers. On the flipside, you have the Chicago Bears who are coming off another impressive win against their division rivals the Lions on Monday Night. Outside of the Lions (who unfortunately may have dug their own grave already) this season the NFC North looks to easily be the toughest division in all of football. There are four legit teams in that division, and although I think that it might be too late for the Lions the rest of the division is up in the air. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFC North ends up this season like the AFC North did last year – with three out of the four teams making the playoffs. The Bears have been able to shut down everyone on defense (except the Packers) this year and I don’t even see them having a tough game until mid-November. The spread on this game is 7.5 which is huge, but so is the talent gap between these two teams. I’m picking the Bears to win and cover the spread.
Coach’s Pick: Bears 24, Panthers 13
Meehan’s Pick: Bears 27, Panthers 16
San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (1-6)
Coach: Last week I made a mistake but hey, it happens. I made the claim that the Browns were going to go 11-5, but that was before I was reminded of the genius coaching decisions that Head Coach Pat Shurmur tends to make on a weekly basis. Last Sunday was another game that the Browns SHOULD have won, but due to bad play calls at the hands of the coaching staff, dropped passes, and botched special teams plays the Brownies fell to 1-6. I get it, it’s a young team and young teams need to learn how to play the entire 60 minutes and close games out, but as I was sitting there with a room full of Browns fans there was a sinking feeling that the inevitable was bound to happen. So the Browns dropped another one and heading in to Cleveland may be the perfect opponent for the Browns, the Whale’s Vagina Chargers (thank you Anchorman). San Diego is coming off their bye week after a two game losing streak that involved losing to the then winless Saints followed by a humiliating comeback loss to the rival Broncos. I make no qualms in calling San Diego extremely overrated. They may be .500 but their only victories have come off of opponents who have a combined record of 6-13, and they have lost every game they have played east of Kansas City. To make matters worse, both of these teams are having their own sets of drama that have sprung out over the last few days. San Diego has been accused of cheating by secretly using stickum, which would help to explain how the Chargers lead the league in the fewest dropped passes. The Browns on the other hand had to suffer through another week where Trent Richardson claimed he was healthy enough to play, but Coach Pat Shurmur benched him and they did a little light jabbing back and forth through the media. Out of the two San Diego is the one that has more to worry about, especially after the NFL set a precedent with the Bountygate Scandal. The spread on this one is 3 and I am making a homer pick and going with the Browns to upset the Chargers. Honestly this is a game that makes no sense to pick Cleveland, and this generally is the part of the year the Browns fall apart even more than they already are but I’m a Browns fan so Browns win by a million.
Coach’s Pick: Browns 17, Chargers 14
Meehan’s Pick: Chargers 23, Browns 18
Seattle Seahawks (4-3) at Detroit Lions (2-4)
Coach: Just when Detroit thinks they are turning their football franchise around, this season happens. Coming off their Monday Night loss to the Bears, the Lions’ season may already be over with the loss of Nate Burleson for the season with a broken leg. I understand Burleson is not Megatron, but he makes Calvin Johnson and the rest of that team better. Detroit has only two not so impressive wins on the season against the Rams and Eagles and have been surrounded by underperformance, injuries, and of course drama from Ndamukong Suh. I know it is only week 8, but at 2-4 in the NFC the Lions have little to no chance to turn this ship around. Yes I understand anything can happen in the NFL and I expect the Lions to play better this season and get some good wins, but at 2-4 I figure they would have to go 8-2 the rest of the way to even have a chance. The Hawks have been able to keep their head above the .500 marker by the superb play of their defense. Even their three losses have been tight, and I was extremely impressed with their performance last week in San Francisco by limiting the Niners to 313 total yards in Candlestick Park. Seattle is a team that has grown on me throughout the year. Outside of the Browns, they are becoming one of my favorite teams to follow because you just never know what is going to happen. They are in every game, and even being in the same division as the Niners and Cards I feel like their defensive play along with their running game and the coaching of Pete Carroll could propel them into the playoffs. I even will go so far as to say that the Hawks have good receivers, and if they could just find an answer for the inconsistent play of Russell Wilson the Seahawks would be one of my favorites to win the NFC. The spread on this game is 3 and I know that the game is in Seattle but the defense and never say die attitude of the Seahawks has me picking them for the upset.
Coach’s Pick: Seahawks 24, Lions 17
Meehan’s Pick: Seahawks 20, Lions 18
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3)
Coach: Can somebody please explain to me why the spread on this game is even? Seriously as of right now when I am writing this blog, the spread is 0. That fact to me is more intriguing than any other stat or opinion I can throw at you. The Packers are having kind of an off year by only being 4-3, but tell me they haven’t looked like the Packers of old since the 42-24 whooping of the Texans on Sunday Night Football a few weeks back. That being said there is no way they are going to be the completely dominant force they were even last year due the injuries to Cedric Benson, Charles Woodson, and Greg Jennings. Unfortunately for the Packers, that doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the injuries they have been dealt. (BJ Raji is a prime example) That brings us to the Jaguars, who have recently had their own injury problems with Maurice Jones Drew. He has already been ruled out for this game and there is the chance that he could miss some more time. The bottom line on this game is even if the Jags had MJD, I still wouldn’t expect them to march into Lambeau Field and take care of a healthy Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. With MJD out I expect the Pack to win this game easy, to see a discount double check-type of day out of Rodgers, and look for Jordy Nelson to have a big game as well.
Coach’s Pick: Packers 36, Jaguars 20
Meehan’s Pick: Packers 31, Jaguars 9
Indianapolis Colts (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)
Coach: If Houston wasn’t looking like the dominant force in the AFC South, then this game would be much more interesting than it currently is. Fans in Indianapolis will pay attention to see how Andrew Luck is progressing, and fans in Tennessee will pay attention because the Nashville Predators are still locked out. I got to get a firsthand look last week at Andrew Luck which was the first time I had the opportunity to really sit down and watch him since college, and I must admit I was very impressed. He may have only thrown for 186 yards but the poise and command he has over the offense is very apparent, dare I say almost Manning-like. Tennessee (although not good) has been an interesting team over the past few weeks. They’re carrying a two game win streak into week 8 including the impressive week 6 victory over the Steelers. Last week they were able to come back at home to beat the Buffalo Bills. The question is what is going to happen when Jake Locker is once again ready to play. He’s been out a few weeks and although Matt Hasselbeck hasn’t exactly been setting the league on fire he has won two in a row and is starting to lead like the annoying quarterback who somehow found ways to win in Seattle. The Titans claim that Locker is their guy when he’s healthy, but if Hasselbeck can win again this week you have to wonder just how long of a leash the Titans will have when he returns. The spread is 3 in favor of the Titans and I think the Colts will cover, but I’m picking Hasselbeck and the Titans to win a close one at home.
Coach’s Pick: Titans 20, Colts 17 (in OT)
Meehan’s Pick: Titans 33, Colts 13
New England Patriots (4-3) at St. Louis Rams (3-4) @ London, England
Coach: If Roger Goodell can get people in London to call football “football”, do you think they’ll still call soccer football too? This Sunday the NFL is making its yearly trip overseas to try to convince the rest of the world that because America does it, you should too. To get off the topic of the game for a minute, I still think that when LA gets another team (let’s just call them the Jaguars) that the NFL is going to try to expand to London. Will it work? Who knows, they will have to be in an eastern division but with each team playing each division every so many years it makes games to the west coast a bit much. That being said, the NFL is the most profitable sport in the nation and you know Goodell would love to cash in on some of that overseas soccer money. “With the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft the London Fog select…” – Don’t laugh it could happen. The AFC East (pre London expansion) may be one of the most intriguing stories in the NFL this year. I don’t know anyone that gave anyone outside of the Patriots a realistic shot (sorry Jets fans, but your time was up a few years ago) yet all four teams sit in the division all within a game of each other. Yes if you look at the standings New England is still on top, but only by a slim margin almost halfway through the season. The Rams on the other hand were looking better than advertised until back to back losses including losing to the Dolphins. The problem with that is that nobody really knows how good or bad the Dolphins are until they start playing more of a division schedule and that’s what makes the AFC East intriguing is it really is still too early to say anything except that the Patriots are the team that people are picking to win the division. Let’s be honest the Patriots are going to win the AFC East (more than likely) and the Rams aren’t going to win the NFC West. I really do think that the Rams are a good team but they just aren’t on par with the rest of that division yet. I think this will be an interesting game, especially with the both teams having to travel all the way to England but when you really break down the game New England’s offensive attack is just too potent for the young Rams to keep up with. I’m taking the Pats to cover the 7 point spread, barely. I know Rams fans, bullocks!
Coach’s Pick: Patriots 28, Rams 20
Meehan’s Pick: Patriots 30, Rams 17
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)
Meehan: Although I would love for the Dolphins to come out and just plant one on the Jets at Metlife Stadium on Sunday (dropping them to two games under .500 and effectively looking down the barrel of a gun when it comes to making the playoffs), I just can’t bring myself to pick Miami. The Jets showed a very strong sense of resilience last week to even stay in the game down ten so late against New England, and I believe that Rex and the boys will be able to put all of the pieces together in order to make it happen. The Dolphins are a team that was on a roll with their defense playing well, but had their bye week in the seventh frame which I believe will cause them to lose a little bit of momentum. The Jets signed two tight ends this week (Joey Haynos and Colin Cochart) to fill the spot of injured TE Jeff Cumberland, who is out with a dislocated hand. If nothing else it should be interesting to watch how the Dolphins’ fourth ranked run defense fares against New York, whose offense is most successful when they run the ball.
Meehan’s Pick: Jets 24, Dolphins 20
Coach’s Pick: Dolphins 17, Jets 16
Atlanta Falcons (6-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Meehan: Basic knowledge of the game tells me that this could be a blowout, but remember the game is outside in Philadelphia and the Falcons are a dome team. It could very well be headed in that direction if the Falcons can force a turnover on one of the first two Eagles’ possessions. Philadelphia is outmatched in virtually every department here except for head coaching experience, and even then you have to wonder how long the whole Andy Reid thing is going to continue if they can’t keep their head above water. The one thing they have working in their favor is the fact that they are in the NFC East, where teams tend to beat up on each other in the second half of the season so 9-7 might get you into the playoffs. Even if that’s the case with the way they’re playing right now they’d be lucky to hit 8-8. That makes them a perfect target for the Falcons who are returning from a bye week. Atlanta remains undefeated, even though they rank 28th at stopping the run and 29th in producing it. Even though at the moment it’s all about wins, numbers like this are what teams who may face them in the playoffs are looking at closely. Matt Ryan (although not consistent from week to week) is having a fantastic overall year and if the season stopped right now it would be hard to argue against his candidacy for MVP.
Meehan’s Pick: Falcons 24, Eagles 13
Coach’s Pick: Falcons 27, Eagles 21
Washington Redskins (3-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
Meehan: Pittsburgh looked atrocious last week in the first half, but was eventually able to clean themselves up well enough to beat the Bengals. Roethlisberger looked very good in the fourth quarter and reminded me of a young Ben Roethlisberger. (Go figure) The Redskins hung with the Giants up until the final drive, and RG3’s first game at the new Giants Stadium went about as good as it possibly could for a guy that didn’t win. This is a fairly even matchup for the most part, but in a league where the guard is changing in the favor of the younger players I’m taking the Skins here because they are much quicker off the ball and I’ve been pleased with the way that Mike Shanahan has been able to manage all the youth on that team with such skill.
Meehan’s Pick: Redskins 27, Steelers 22
Coach’s Pick: Steelers 28, Redskins 24
Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Meehan: There’s no reason for me to believe that Brady Quinn is going to be the savior in Kansas City. I don’t care how much the fans there wanted Matt Cassel out of the starting slot, I guarantee they’ll want him back midway through the second quarter. The Chiefs have gone from a team that many had picked to win their division to being an absolute disaster. But since they are playing at home and since I want to make sure that this is as painful as possible – I’m going to go ahead and pick the Raiders to win on a last second field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. It’s only fair to the fans. Perhaps due to their poor record and lack of a real star player, we aren’t giving the Raiders a whole lot of credit. For that team to have any wins at this point with no rushing attack is nothing short of unbelievable, so good for them. All that said, if you find yourself watching this game on television it’s pretty apparent that you’ve made several mistakes in your life that have led you to that moment.
Meehan’s Pick: Raiders 24, Chiefs 21
Coach’s Pick: Raiders 14, Chiefs 12
New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
Meehan: For some reason, the Giants seem to always struggle against the Cowboys. Dallas won opening night, thanks in part to a huge performance by Kevin Ogletree. But since then, Big Blue has only lost a nailbiter to the Eagles in the closing minutes and has won every other game. Although inconsistent, they are playing a team in the Dallas Cowboys who also possess the same inconsistencies so it’s hard to tell who will emerge victorious. I’m picking against my own team here because the Cowboys are at home and the Giants get frustrated easy in front of that crowd. Plus, if for some reason Dallas gets blown out at home that will mean they’ve lost twice at home already. With Jason Garret tending to lean more and conservative every week when it comes to play calling, you have to wonder how much longer Jerryworld is willing to put up with that if it results in no playoff wins. Jones’ mother also passed away Tuesday morning, so he’ll likely use that in speech to the team on Saturday so Dallas will have that extra inspirational incentive. Additionally, he claimed this offseason that “kicking the Giants’ ass” was a major priority so it would be a double whammy if they can’t pull it off.
Meehan’s Pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 26
Coach’s Pick: Giants 21, Cowboys 17
Sunday Night Football: New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Denver Broncos (3-3)
Meehan: First off all I want to apologize for reporting in the week seven wrapup that this game was going to be played in Louisiana. That would have leveled the playing field significantly, and made this game that much more difficult to pick. But since the Broncos hold the most unique home field advantage in all of sports due to the elevation, I can’t see New Orleans outplaying them in Denver. But then again…keep one thing in mind – In that miraculous Monday Night comeback that Peyton Manning engineered against the Chargers just a week and a half back, San Diego opened up that game by scoring 24 points right off the bat. When the Saints were a killing machine, that’s how they made their money. They would get up early and rely on big plays to stave off comebacks from weaker teams against an average defense. Unfortunately for the Saints, they aren’t the same team as when they won the Super Bowl three years ago and Denver isn’t exactly a weaker team. Here’s the only stat you really need to know: Denver is ranked fourth in passing yards (not bad for a .500 team, huh?) and the Saints are ranked 30th in pass defense, giving up over 305 yards per game. And unlike the Monday night game in which they fell behind, I expect the Broncos will come out much more inspired on defense and it could be a long night for Drew Brees.
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 35, Saints 27
Coach’s Pick: Broncos 36, Saints 24
Monday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
Meehan: The 49ers are back in good form, having beaten the Seahawks last Thursday after getting trounced by the Giants at home. Arizona has lost three straight and it doesn’t appear that they are going to turn it around anytime soon. Meanwhile, San Francisco is the best team in the NFL at defending the pass, and with John Skelton under center the Cardinals are going to wish that they could run the ball better. Here’s an interesting stat: Arizona’s two leading rushers (Ryan Williams and LaRod Stephens-Howling) have carried the ball 101 times for a total of only 291 yards. When you consider the 49ers are in the top ten at stopping the run, this could turn into a massacre similar to last week’s Ravens-Texans game where one team is just so far overmatched simply stepping onto the field is humiliating. Although I don’t expect this to be nearly as bad, I can see Alex Smith having a huge day nonetheless.
Meehan’s Pick: 49ers 31, Cardinals 17
Coach’s Pick: 49ers 31, Cardinals 21
Bye Weeks: Of all of the teams that are stagnant in the bye week, the Buffalo Bills are the least likely to change what they’re doing. They lost in a heartbreaking fashion last week to the Titans, which I attribute to poor play calling and let’s be honest that’s not really something that you can focus on if you retain the same coach. Cincinnati needs to show me something other than that they are just good enough to hang around, and they still aren’t averaging 100 yards per game on the ground so that should give them something to work on in their off week. As I’ve previously stated, I think that this is the beginning of the end for the Baltimore Ravens because they have gone from a defensive powerhouse to a bottom 5 team against the run; as well as giving up over 255 yards in the air every week. Let’s be honest, that’s not them and my point here is “they” might not be “them” ever again. Houston doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about other than fine tuning some minor points, but something tells me they’ll be right back to their old self when they host the Bills in the following week. But then again, who wouldn’t?
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Meehan and Coach