NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 8

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Tony Romo baby  (13)

By Luke Dunlap
ld1@hotmail.com   

The Week 8 picks are in … and we just missed out on getting a chance to see the top two teams in our NFL Power Rankings face off on Thursday. That’s right: Until Week 7, the Chargers were right behind the No. 1 Broncos. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.
Actually, it was the Chiefs’ fault.
Regardless, we got some positive feedback on our weekly Tuesday accounting of the NFL pecking order, as per usual.
Yep, Detroit and Smurfs were a big topic around NFL Network this week.    Speaking of the Lions, I fully anticipate them controlling the game in London. Their matchup with the Falcons might be precisely what gets coach Jim Caldwell’s ground attack going. The team needs that as much as it does a healthy Calvin Johnson.
The Patriots must get their rushing offense going, too. Ditto the Buccaneers and Redskins. Heck, Buffalo could just use some healthy running backs. As for the rest of the teams, take a gander below.
Now, let’s get to it …

San Diego (5-2) at Denver (5-1)
Thursday, 7:25PM    CBS / NFLN
Line:  Patriots  -9.5 / 51.5
This was the exact matchup — Chargers at Broncos — that the Bolts won last season. In fact, other than the Seahawks in that Super blowout, only one team held Denver to less than 400 yards of offense in a single game during the 2013 season and postseason: San Diego, which did it three times, including in a divisional-round showdown. Truth be told, I actually trust the Denver defense in this one, based on recent play. This game also features two legit MVP candidates facing off (Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning).
Pick: Denver by 3 / 30-27

Detroit (5-2) at Atlanta (2-5)
Sunday, 8:30am    FOX
Line:  Lions  -3.5 / 47
This Wembley Stadium matchup is technically a “home” game for Atlanta. Thank goodness, because the Falcons have lost 12 of their last 13 on the road. The culprits have been many, including a defense that can’t stop anybody, receivers who drop balls and inadequate pass protection. Luckily for Atlanta, Detroit is having trouble offensively, too. Yes, this one will come down to whether — or, in fact, how mercilessly — the Lions’ defense manhandles Matt Ryan’s offensive line. That front four gets pressure with little need for blitzing, which is ultra-bad news for a banged-up unit that has allowed Ryan to take 15 sacks this season. Thinking the Falcons quarterback will need to hit up a local pub after being sacked another five times. Do they have a Boar’s Nest in London?
Pick:  Lions by 15 / 28-1

Minnesota (2-5) at Tampa Bay (1-5)
Sunday, 12 Noon  FOX
Line: Tampa Bay -3 / 42
Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you’re an NFL writer and you really need a storyline. Is there any larger lightning rod in the sports world today than Leslie Frazier? OK, so there are probably at least 14,434. Still, this is the Leslie Frazier Revenge Game — the Brad Childress Revenge Game has nothing on this. Tampa Bay’s current defensive coordinator has done a bang-up job this season, if you leave out the 56 points allowed to Atlanta and the 48 allowed to Baltimore. But hey, some of that can be blamed on special teams. The bottom line is, the Bucs’ defense ranks last in points allowed and yards allowed — and first in appearances on opposing offensive players’ football cards. As for the team Frazier used to coach, the Vikings’ rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, has been sacked 13 times the past two weeks, and their pass offense has generated 449 net yards in the month of October, 30 less than Peyton Manning threw for by himself on Oct. 5.
Pick: Bucs by 1 / 21-20

Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2)
Sunday, 12 Noon   FOX
Line:  Patriots  -6 / 50.5
Tom Brady has been playing so lights out that it’s tough to see da Bears pulling off an upset on the road. You’re talking about a guy in Brady who has thrown nine touchdowns against zero interceptions while averaging 304.7 yards over his past three contests. And although this might not be completely relevant, the fact that the Patriots have not lost an October home game since 2005 is remarkable.
As far as Chicago’s quarterback, we mentioned in our latest NFL Power Rankings how inconsistent his play has been. “Too bad he has no good receivers to throw to,” quips NFL researcher @ChristensenDrew. Take a look at some of the numbers my boy Drew pulled up: On passes that travel less than 15 yards in the air, Cutler has a completion percentage of 75.3, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13:2 and a passer rating of 108.3. On passes that travel 15 yards in the air or more, his completion percentage is 31.3, his TD:INT ratio is 1:5 and his passer rating is 35.8. Yeah, so, uh, going with New England here.
Pick:  Patriots by 8 / 36-28

St Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3)
Sunday, Noon    FOX
Line:  Chiefs  -7 / 44
For the first time since Bill Kenney and Todd Blackledge were embroiled in a blazing hot quarterback controversy, fans in Kansas City are more excited about the Royals than the Chiefs. Kansas City hasn’t been involved in the Fall Classic since 1985, when the opponent was, ironically, the St. Louis Cardinals. Dom Denkinger blew a call of Hochulian proportions in Game 6, allowing the Royals to ultimately prevail in seven. But I think the real question here is, can the Rams’ offense score seven? Or can Buddy Biancalana play wideout for either of these teams?
Yes, St. Louis toppled Seattle on Sunday, but its offense mustered just 272 yards — special teams can’t bring home the barbecue every week. Meanwhile, these two clubs might boast the two most ineffective wideout groups in the league. Thank goodness for No. 25 in cherry red.
Pick:  Chiefs by 6 / 23-17

Seattle (3-3) at Carolina (3-3)
Sunday 12 Noon   CBS
Line:  Seahawks  -5 / 45
Seattle had no business losing in St. Louis last week, while Carolina’s defense has no business playing as poorly as it has been. Last year, the Panthers ranked second in points allowed (behind only the Seahawks). This year, they’re 29th. Seattle, meanwhile, has already matched last season’s loss total. More symmetry involves the quarterbacks. Both Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have posted 100-yard rushing games in 2014 (in fact, Wilson has recorded two). When was the last time two quarterbacks with at least one previous 100-yard outing under their belts faced off in a regular-season matchup? The answer: never, at least not since 1950, which is as far back as we can go with accurate box scores.
 Pick: Seahawks by 12 / 26-14

Buffalo (4-3) at NY Jets (1-6)
Sunday 12 Noon   CBS
Line:  Jets  -3 / 41
Can Kyle Orton win another game without his NASCAR crew chief-style mustache? Will Geno pizza roll it on a two-point conversion again? Oh, and who will be running the rock for the Bills? As you might know by now, the Jets acquired Percy Harvin. Word is, after he got on the plane to New York, he began undermining the pilots when he discovered there weren’t enough olives in his chicken salad. Gang Green’s most important offensive player, meanwhile — Chris Ivory — leads the league with 6.2 yards per rush in the second half. Of course, New York will have to get ahead before it can let Ivory take over. Buffalo enters Week 8 with an NFL-high 24 sacks. But consider that the last Jets quarterback the Bills sacked in New York was … Mark Brunell on Jan. 2, 2011.
Pick:  Jets by 1 / 20-19

Miami (3-3) at Jacksonville (1-6)  
Sunday 12 Noon    CBS
Line:  Dolphins -6 / 43
Truth be told, I have zero faith that Ryan Tannehill will follow up Sunday’s win with a second consecutive solid contest. He has been as inconsistent as his team. Given his 123.6 passer rating last week, he’s due for a dud. Don’t get mad; Tannehill has never posted back-to-back games with a passer rating of 100 or better. Not since his rookie season has he thrown multiple touchdown passes with no interceptions in consecutive games.
On the flip side, Blake Bortles has struggled. My rookie quarterback Power Rankings thus far:
1) Derek Carr
2) Blake Bortles
3) Teddy Bridgewater
4) Logan Thomas
5) Johnny Manziel
Can Bortles help the Jaguars string together a two-game winning streak? Yes, if he avoids turnovers. Simply put, Bortles has been a giveaway machine, throwing 10 picks in five games. Jacksonville’s defense has done its part over the past two weeks, allowing opponents to register a mere 278 yards per game and a 22.6 percent success rate on third and fourth downs. That’s strong.
Pick: Miami by 3 / 20-17

Houston (3-4) at Tennessee (2-5)  
Sunday, 12 Noon    FOX
Line:  Texans -3 / 44
Calling it now … just like Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series … just like Larry Bird in the 1986 three-point shooting contest … just like Poindexter saying college was gonna be great as he and Gilbert headed off to Adams in “Revenge of the Nerds”: Jadeveon Clowney will force a safety in this game, by forcing Taylor Lewan to hold in the end zone. Didn’t something like that happen in the Outback Tostitos Jamba Juice Bowl? I don’t know, as I don’t watch college football. I do, however, watch Arian Foster — and marvel that more people aren’t taking notice of the season he’s having. Call it The DeMarco Effect. Apparently, everyone’s favorite vegan-for-a-year has been envisioning bacon in the second level of opposing defenses; Foster has rushed for 100 yards in five of six games. Since their Week 1 shocker in Arrowhead, meanwhile, the Titans have scored more than 17 points just once.
Pick:  Texans by 8 / 25-17

Baltimore (5-2) at Cincinnatti (3-2)
Sunday, 12 Noon    CBS
Line:  Bengals  -1 / 46
The Ravens have been red hot, winning five of their last six, while the Bengals haven’t won a game in October — but we’re taking the home team. During the Marvin Lewis era, Cincy is 8-3 when hosting John Harbaugh’s group. This is not to disparage Harbaugh, as history has shown him to be a far more successful head coach. This pick is more about the Bengals needing to save their season.
A loss puts Cincinnati two games behind Baltimore in the AFC North with no more head-to-head matchups left. It would also mire the Bengals in a four-game non-winning streak. (Ties complicate writing, huh? Who says “non-winning” streak, anyway?) Cincinnati’s defense has allowed a whopping 480.7 yards per game over its past three. The tide has to turn — right? And Ravens running back Justin Forsett can’t keep running like Tony Dorsett — right?
Pick: Bengals by 1 / 24-23

Philadelphia (2-3) at Arizona (5-1)
Sunday, 3:05    FOX
Line:  Cardinals  -2.5 / 48
Perhaps to my own detriment, I am choosing to put my faith in the Redbirds. This is not easily done. You might recall, if you are a sports enthusiast, that the Cardinals franchise has not won a title since capturing the NFL Championship in 1947. To put that dry spell in perspective, consider that Andre Ellington was negative-41 years old when that happened. How appropriate that the team the Cardinals beat that year was, in fact, the Philadelphia Eagles — to whom they lost in the ’48 title game during a blizzard. I am not a meteorologist, nor do I tinker with Doppler radar, but I’m confident it won’t snow in Arizona this weekend.Ellington is on pace for 1,048 yards, which would make him the third Cardinal since Y2K to cross the 1,000-yard threshold. The Eagles’ run game has, for the most part, fallen victim to injuries up front, making it ineffective for most of the season, though 203 yards against the Giants in Week 6 was a hopeful sign. Nick Foles, meanwhile, has been victimized by general suckage. From Week 4 to Week 6, he completed just 57.9 percent of his passes and threw more picks than touchdowns.
Pick:  Cardinals by 5 / 27-22
Indianapolis (5-2) at Pittsburgh (4-3)
Sunday, 3:25    CBS
Line:  Colts  -3 / 49
Indianapolis wins this week in Pittsburgh. OK, on to the next blurb.
Kidding. Andrew Luck has been simply outstanding for his team, as well as for all of your fantasy teams. (Why couldn’t he do this for my team, Plantar Smashiitis, last year? Oh well.) Consider that in his past five games, Luck is 5-0 with a 67 percent completion rate, 357.8 passing yards per game, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14:4 and a passer rating of 106.5. Those numbers = sexytime. Speaking of, the Steelers will be facing their second premier NFL beard after topping Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Texans on Monday. I’ve emailed Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau — and hit him up on LinkedIn — imploring him to add “Witness” to his film study of Amish grooming habits. Can LeBeau’s unit force three turnovers again? For the record, the Steelers forced three-plus turnovers in consecutive games once last year and once the year before. They’ll need to repeat that feat Sunday to have a chance.
Pick: Colts by 4 / 34-30

Oakland (0-6) at Cleveland (3-3)
Sunday, 3:25   CBS
Line:  Denver  -7 / 49
Maybe Tony Sparano should go back to slapping butts before games; it nearly worked against the Chargers in Week 6. We don’t know if Sparano did it before Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the Cardinals, but we didn’t see it in any of the highlights, and if you don’t see something in the highlights, it must not have happened. Hopefully for the Raiders, Walk-DMC will add “Run” back to his name — Darren McFadden has topped 4 yards per carry just once in his past 12 outings.
Me thinks Brian Hoyer a) won’t throw 40 passes again like he did in Cleveland’s loss to the Jags last week and b) will actually average more than 5 yards per attempt. A win here for Hoyer will give him seven in his first 10 starts with the host Browns, tying him with Tommy O’Connell for the fourth-best record through that many starts in franchise history. O’Connell, as of course you all know, was Cleveland’s quarterback when the team lost the 1957 NFL Championship. Otto Graham started 8-2, by the way.
Pick: Browna by 11 / 24-13

Green Bay (5-2) at New Orleans (2-4)
Sunday, 7:25    NBC
Line:  Saints  -1.5 / 56
After changing my mind 350 times, I decided Green Bay wins — stress comes in many forms. New Orleans could use a victory in the worst way, and I originally thought that the Saints’ defense would do just enough to capture this one, but I quickly realized I had no data to base that assumption on.
Green Bay has been on fire — particularly on offense — but the Packers are certainly susceptible to the run. Sean Payton should call a heavy dose of run plays; not only would that exploit a Packers weakness, it could catch defensive coordinator Dom Capers off guard, given that the Saints have had fewer total carries than all but two teams in the league (the Buccaneers and Raiders).
What once seemed like a possible postseason preview will feel like a playoff in the here and now for the Saints, given their situation — but despite their home-field advantage, they’ll ultimately fall prey to the power of Aaron Rodgers. Do people realize he has 18 touchdowns against one interception? His passer rating is 117.3. …
Pick: Packers by 6 / 29-23

Washington (2-5) at Dallas (6-1)
Monday, 7:25  ESPN
Line:  Dallas  -10 / 49.5
Dallas is 6-1 and rolling. The Redskins, meanwhile, don’t know who their quarterback is just yet. Will we see Colt McCoy again? Or will Robert Griffin III return this week? Last year in this matchup, Griffin looked like a guy who had not fully recovered from knee surgery. When he has played, his footwork has been all over the place; he isn’t often driving the ball. During the preseason, Griffin was not stepping into passes, instead flinging the ball across his body. I’m thinking of Browns cornerback Joe Haden sitting on an out route and watching the pass flutter right into his belly.
Washington’s run game hasn’t been reliable, either, as Alfred Morris simply hasn’t been breaking tackles like normal. He’s hovering around 60 yards per game and 3.8 per carry. DeMarco Murray is more than doubling that yardage. And as for Tony Romo? No. 9 is straight dealin’ for the host Cowboys.
Pick:  Cowboys by 16 / 30-14

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