by Ryan Meehan
Week eight proves to be the turning point in the NFL season. There are some killer match-ups this weekend, at least that’s what Oscar Pistorius told me. But seriously folks, this should be the best week to date on the NFL schedule. With teams like Cincinnati and Carolina fading fast, others such as Dallas and Indianapolis leave us foaming at the mouth to fast forward to the playoffs. But for now, we’re stuck here so let’s take a look at what week eight could hold for the NFL teams that will be taking the field.
Thursday Night Football: San Diego Chargers (5-2) +8 at Denver Broncos (5-1) (51.5)
The only reason the NFL is sticking two really good teams up against each other on a night where nobody should be playing football is because these two teams played on Thursday night last year during the Chargers’ late season tear. To further complicate matters, that game was in Colorado and very well may have been the fourth quarter blueprint that the Seattle Seahawks used all game in the Super Bowl to destroy the Broncos just a month and a half later. San Diego looked great up until last week. They had beaten the defending Super Bowl Champions, and their only loss was a late minute slip up to Arizona that featured a lot of questionable officiating. All of that changed on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs where they lost a 23-20 contest against a team that I will give props, but can’t trust for any sort of long-term investment. At least not as long as the Chargers, who for some reason play Denver as if they know just about every audible Manning barks out. Nonetheless I like Denver to win as I think they are too hot for TV at the moment, but I can’t expect them to cover. Their defense won’t play as well tonight as they did against the 49ers. Either way point total is probably a lock here because even if it does end up being a blowout, you have to figure the Broncos will score at least 35 points and then there will be at least two touchdowns of mercy after San Diego struggled to put together an early field goal.
Broncos 30, Chargers 27
Sunday Morning Football: Detroit Lions (5-2) -3.5 at Atlanta Falcons (2-5) (47)
This game actually airs at 8:30 AM because it’s in London. I’m not sure that it matters a whole lot, because getting the Falcons to wake up is turning into an event that requires an almost colossal adrenaline boost. But believe it or not, this is the one game on Atlanta’s schedule from here on out that they could actually pull off. I don’t believe that enough to ensure it, but keep in mind the blowout of Tampa they had did take place on a Thursday Night. The Lions are putting a ton of pressure on Aaron Rodgers, already having beaten him once but not letting him forget that they’re still in his head. If they can pull this one off, they’ll be 6-2 and will have virtually eliminated Chicago and Minnesota from playoff contention. But they need to start working on their ground game, which is next to last in the league and averaging south of 83 yards a contest. To be honest Atlanta has been so poor I don’t think it will matter, but I think they can at least try to keep Stafford under 44 pass attempts in what should be a close game. (Speaking of which…Where’s Reggie Bush been since his stellar debut at the beginning of the year?) I expect Detroit to control a majority of this game, and for the Falcons to blow a two point conversion midway through the fourth quarter. Sounds about right. Point spread is almost exactly correct here, but I wouldn’t touch this game at all. The real question is: Are you really going to be up that early on a Sunday anyway?
Lions 24, Falcons 22
Buffalo Bills (4-3) +2.5 at New York Jets (1-6) (41)
The Bills pulled off a big win last week at the end of the game in Minnesota
Hear me out: Even though the Jets seem to be falling apart from every angle, they did come very close to making the New England game competitive, and will be extremely rested at ten days. I know it’s not good form to make excuses regarding injuries, but with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson banged up this is going to be a hard game for the Bills to win. I can’t put all my eggs in one basket as far as Kyle Orton saving the day two weeks in a row…I mean, I can but I’m not going to drop them on pavement that’s so hot they will instantly turn into a delicious omelet. I’m well aware of how incredibly poor the Jets have been playing lately (and by lately I really mean all year) but believe it or not I am taking them to cover the spread at home.
Jets 22, Bills 17
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) EVEN at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1) (45.5)
These two teams find themselves in the exact opposite positions they were at the end of last season. At that time, the Bengals’ stock was soaring and you were almost certain they were finally going to get that first playoff win. But they didn’t, and in that game against the Chargers they looked a lot like they have over the past two weeks: Flat and operating with no spark. When Pacman Jones is calling out your kicker, you’re going to be in for a long year. On the other hand, Baltimore followed up their Super Bowl 47 victory by missing the playoffs completely in 2013. Then their stud running back got all Evander Holyfield on his wife in a hotel elevator, and it appeared as if their season was headed for a fitting karmic hell. But after a week one loss at home to these same Bengals, they’ve won five out of six games and their only L came to the Colts who might very well end up in the Super Bowl. They’ve looked great so far, and they’ve put it to the Panthers, Steelers, Falcons, and Buccaneers. Not exactly the toughest resume in the league, but they’ve looked really good doing it and the way the rest of this division is playing out they should take it by at least a game. I look for Flacco to really abuse that defense, which has looked very poor as of late. Even though it’s on the road, I wouldn’t feel right taking Cincinnati here so Baltimore it is.
Ravens 26, Bengals 20
Seattle Seahawks (3-3) -5 at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) (45)
When last year’s regular season wrapped up, no one could have ever imagined that these two teams would be fighting for what is left of their playoff lives in week eight of 2014. With the NFC shaping up to be a warzone in December, the Seahawks have already matched their loss total from last year and the Panthers are virtually unrecognizable. Seattle got rid of Harvin, but still looks too sped up for their own good and that’s precisely why they fell for both fakes in the St. Louis game. Carolina has given up 37 and a half points in every single game they haven’t won, a list that is starting to pile up faster than they can figure out what the hell is wrong. Luke Kuechly got ejected in last week’s game for making contact with an official, and it was total bullshit. However he’s not been able to get the rest of that squad to live up to Riveraesque standards, and they are suffering drastically because of it. That’s why they’re five point dogs at home to a team that’s lost two straight, and this might very well be the kind of boost Seattle’s offense need to come alive again.
Seahawks 24, Panthers 17
Chicago Bears (3-4) +7 at New England Patriots (5-2) (50)
Snow probably not included
Food for thought: The only other teams other than the Bears who haven’t won a game this year at home are the Raiders and the Buccaneers. That means the Jaguars, the Vikings, and the Jets can all be counted on to win in places where their owner can decide what color the visiting team’s locker room should be painted more than Jay Cutler can. Not that it will matter, because if the Pats were able to clean the Bengals’ clock in Foxboro then the Bears should be an easy W. After last week’s postgame festivities I’m sure that will be an awkward Saturday night at the hotel in Massachusetts, which is hardly Ditka territory if you catch my drift. New England should cover here, but the point total should depend on where on the field Cutler’s two interceptions will take place and whether or not the Pats will be able to capitalize with TDs.
Patriots 30, Bears 19
Houston Texans (3-3) -1 at Tennessee Titans (2-5) (42.5)
Captain’s Log: The AFC South. For what seems like millenniums, teams not named the Indianapolis Colts have been struggling to hold the attention of die-hard football fans and jackass heavy metal journalists such as First Order Historians writer Ryanus Meehanistan 1037. The Titans’ only two wins have been against the Chiefs week one (who weren’t awake) and the Jaguars, who disappeared a great many galaxies ago. (Can I stop talking like this? I never watched Star Trek anyway…) Even with as much as Houston has been turning the ball over, they still haven’t blown a game to the Redskins yet so I have to take the Texans here. I root for them to win with all of my heart, and I still think that JJ Watt might be the most bang for your buck out of any player in the league. The problem is, you can’t line him up at tight end all year long. So Houston for the win, but it won’t be as easy when they have to play the Eagles the following week. However no team should be buying into the whole “one week at a time:” mantra more than the Texans should right now.
Texans 24, Titans 20
Miami Dolphins (3-3) -5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) (43)
The Jaguars got their first win of the season at home last week against Cleveland last week, and I actually heard Chris Berman say on Sportscenter that the Gus Bradley and the Jaguars were “On their way towards building something down there…”. This week I went to a training seminar where we had to build a tower out of spaghetti, masking tape, string, and it had to have a marshmallow on top. We had eighteen minutes to complete the task and the goddamn thing still collapsed at six inches when exposed to soft light in the back of an inline cell phones store. So yeah, they might be building something down there…But that something could still very easily finish 1-15. Let’s not frost our media boxers to appease the most useless market in pro sports not named the Portland Trail Blazers. For some odd reason, it doesn’t really feel like the Dolphins are at .500. Even after an interconference road win against Chicago last week and having opened their season with a win against the Patriots, you get the feeling that you’ll never quite hear enough about them on the wrap-up shows. I like the Dolphins to barely cover here because their defense gives Tannehill a ton of time to rest, but I’m still not confident they have that 30 point explosiveness in them that they exhibited in the New England game. So I’d stay away from the over on the point total because of that, and because the Jaguars are always one Geno Smith looking drive from a 3 spot.
Dolphins 23, Jaguars 17
St. Louis Rams (2-4) +7.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) (44)
Both of these teams put up super impressive wins last week against two of the league’s better teams, but of the two Missouri squads it was Kansas City that impressed me the most. Sure they didn’t beat the defending Super Bowl champions, but they didn’t have to resort to any trickery to win their game against a Chargers team that was raging and pretty much a lock to win at home. The Rams got up early and almost blew it, whereas Kansas City played a full sixty minutes and earned every bit of that victory. And who would have ever thought that halfway through the season their leading rusher would be…Knile Davis? Are you kidding me? This is precisely why the Chiefs have perfected the whole “flying under the radar” thing and beat Miami at their own game by 29 points in week three. I’ll take Alex Smith and the Sunshine Band to cover, but my lack of faith in their ability to close against teams that play West of the Mississippi leads me to believe I could be as wrong about this game as we all were about disco. Point spread is right on the money, so keep your wallet in your pants.
Chiefs 27, Rams 17
Minnesota Vikings (2-5) +2.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) (41.5)
The Buccaneers will be looking for their first home win here, as the Vikings will just be looking to save face during a down moment in their schedule. Minnesota is dead last in the league in the air, averaging a mere 184 yards per game. They can run the football well, but not like they expected to be able to do as they are obviously missing a huge part of their rushing attack. This leaves them to counting on Teddy Bridgewater to throw for three hundred yards a game, a tall order for a guy who’s racked up a whole one touchdown pass all season. Statistically speaking, you’re just as likely to see Lance Armstrong admit to using performance enhancing drugs after winning eight Tour De Frances with one nut as you are to see Bridgewater walking off of the field with his hand in the air for that very reason. If you go to ESPN.com to the preview link of this game, the second story that comes up is about the wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser and how she is being allowed to return home after completing a work release assignment for her conviction in a hit-and-run accident that killed a chef. I wish I was kidding about that for so many different reasons, but I’m not and that should tell you where the level of importance for this game sits. I like Tampa to cover here, but there’s no way this game hits the 41.5 point total that’s been set. That’s precisely why it’s decreased a whole point in the past forty-eight hours.
Buccaneers 20, Vikings 10
Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) +2.5 at Arizona Cardinals (5-1) (48)
The Eagles were off last week, and the Cardinals played Oakland so you could almost say the same thing for them. However Arizona only won by eleven points, whereas the last time Philadelphia took the field they beat the Giants so bad even Adrian Peterson’s son couldn’t believe it. The Cardinals are first in the league against the run and next to last against the pass, so conventional wisdom would tell you that as long as Chip Kelly trusts Nick Foles to go airborne at every opportunity they could take this easily. But if the Cardinals are that good against the run, that also means that they should be able to get in there and put Foles on his back quite often in this matchup. I want to believe that Arizona will win, and if they do they will indeed be the real deal. They’ve only turned the ball over four times all year, so that has to count for something. But even through all that, I still think the Eagles are in better shape to win here. If the Cardinals aren’t for real, this will be the game where they get exposed. If they are you still probably won’t hear about them for months to come no matter what. This one will be close.
Eagles 27, Cardinals 23
Oakland Raiders (0-6) +7.5 at Cleveland Browns (3-3) (43.5)
This real evil voice inside of me keep getting louder and louder wanting me to pick the Raiders, but I still just can’t do it. Even though the Browns gave Jacksonville the opportunity to taste victory for the first time last week, I can’t expect that they will do the same thing for the Raiders. Either way Brian Hoyer had better get his shit together, otherwise he’s gonna get yanked in lieu of Johnny Manziel faster than Dashboard Confessional’s latest album flying out of the CD player at an NRA meeting. Since his feet are literally that close to the fire, I can’t foresee that happening and while Jacksonville is bad Oakland seems like they have such bad karma that I’m convinced they spent the whole summer chucking bricks at the homeless. I can’t say I “like” anybody to win this game, but the Browns should get back on track at home this week. They are expected to cover and I like the over here as well.
Browns 31, Raiders 21
Indianapolis Colts (5-2) -2.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) (49)
Even though the Colts lost to Denver in week one and the Broncos have the better record, you could make the argument right now that Indianapolis is the best team in the league. Their defense pitched a shutout last week against the Bengals, but in the defense of everyone that questions their strength that was the only playoff team from last year that they’ve beaten so far. But by that same logic, both of the games they lost were to teams that did make the postseason and Indy kept it very close. The Steelers made the Texans look stupid last week which is hardly a challenge, but I still can’t believe they might be one drive away from hitting the halfway point at 5-3. I don’t want to tell myself that’s true, even though they do play well at home. I’m taking Luck to cover because while Dubs is skeptical, I’m buying it even if it is just for the time being. I just don’t have enough faith in Pittsburgh’s offense to believe that they’ll produce here.
Colts 27, Steelers 17
Sunday Night Football: Green Bay Packers (5-2) EVEN at New Orleans Saints (2-4) (56)
The New Orleans Saints are basically the Chicago Bears minus the passing yards and fantasy stats. Their offense should be firing on all cylinders and cranking out points like crazy even though they can’t run the football. The weapons are there, but the execution is shoddy. They have a frustrated coach that usually keeps his cool, and none of us are really sure what’s going on in that locker room. Speaking of Sean Payton, his job may very well be in jeopardy if they lose this game and bite it on the road next week against Carolina. Although that would far from make the pathetic NFC South title out of reach, it would remind Saints ownership that it’s been five whole years since their Super Bowl run. And as Drew Brees could be approaching the twilight of his career (He’ll be 36 in January) big changes could be in the works down in the Big Easy. I think they’ll give the Packers a run for their money, but it’s going to be pretty tough to stop a Packers team who has won every game since their poor showing in Detroit over a month ago. Green Bay looked every bit as good as the Super Bowl contender Sports illustrated picked them to be when the season began, but I still question their ability to make stops late in games. They’ll make it work here, and New Orleans will be left with another close loss. I bet they’re getting awfully exhausted of that, and because the Saints have had four games this season decided by six points or less I don’t have a definitive opinion on the lack of spread or the point total.
Packers 30, Saints 27
Monday Night Football: Washington Redskins (2-5) +10 at Dallas Cowboys (6-1) (49.5)
Before last week’s heroics at the hands of Colt McCoy (Boy, there’s a sentence I thought I’d never have to type again…) the Redskins had lost four straight. The worst of those defeats was a thirty-one point loss to the New York Giants, a team that they could probably now beat handily. Consistency is the biggest issue with Washington – One week they look as if they’ve got it together even though they still lose, and the next week it’s almost hard to imagine those guys showed up at the same practice facility. There couldn’t be a team further away from that end of the spectrum than the Dallas Cowboys, who are an elite team… at least so far. Think about this for a second: The Cowboys have two guys who are scrapping for the league MVP award and neither one of them is a quarterback. While we’re on the subject of quarterbacks, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that Tony Romo hasn’t had a career season. He’s finally coming into his own and making the throws that he was supposed to make for the past few years. If you asked me a month ago, I would have said that Philadelphia was a lock to win this division. Now I’m not so sure, but we’ll find out Thanksgiving afternoon when those two teams meet for the first time. Cowboys cover with no real effort.
Cowboys 31, Redskins 13
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