Home > Weekly Picks > Three and out: Week 8 picks

Three and out: Week 8 picks

Week 8 means we’re at the midway point of the NFL regular season (or near enough, considering there are actually 17 weeks), and there are plenty of teams who need to start putting a run of victories together in order to reach the post-season…

Last week’s record: 8-5
Season record: 35-20

Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos

The later game on Sky Sports this Sunday sees two sides coming into Week 8 with very different confidence levels, and that’s something we may not have said just a couple of short weeks ago. Detroit started the season 5-0 but are now in danger of seeing their season unravelling, following successive home defeats against the 49ers and the Falcons. Denver meanwhile have been boosted by the instalment of fan-favourite Tim Tebow at quarterback. Tebow led the Broncos to an unlikely victory last weekend at Miami and they now look as though they have a season left to play for.

However, the momentum that Tebow brings to Denver can only take this side so far and they will be up against it this weekend against a Lions side looking to get their season back on track. Despite his ability to change a game, Tebow has shown an inability to consistently maintain drives and his pass incompletion rate might give the Broncos little to play with on offense, especially with running back Willis McGahee injured for this game. What may go against the Lions in this game is the continued absence of star running back Jahvid best, and that will make their offense a little one-dimensional. But having the Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson partnership to fall back on is not a bad second prize, and expect this pair to connect early and often at Mile High to make up for the last couple of weeks when they have been less productive than earlier in the season.

Denver’s offense as a whole has been under-productive all season, with the first 55 minutes against Miami last Sunday being a complete write-off. And that might well be the rule rather than the exception. If the Lions can get a lead in this game then there will be huge pressure on Tebow to produce, which is easier said than done when Ndamukong Suh is hell-bent on smashing your lights out. It is expected that the Lions will play an extremely focused, motivated game here. Their defense will give up nothing cheap, and their talented offense will get enough scores on the board to keep a limited Broncos side well out of reach.

Neutral Zone prediction: Detroit 24 Denver 10

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

What a fantastic game this promises to be, and it might be a good idea to watch Red Zone on Sunday evening – rather than sit through events at Mile High in Denver – so that you don’t miss anything from what should be an action-packed encounter at Heinz Field.

Brady at Steelers

The Steelers have recovered well from their early season blowout defeat at Baltimore and currently hold a 5-2 record. For a team renowned for their defensive prowess, they have been especially productive on offense, where they have averaged over 383 yards per game, led by QB Ben Roethlisberger who is in excellent form. ‘Big Ben’ threw for three touchdowns last weekend against Arizona and threw for five against the Titans two weeks earlier. The man is on fire and will be looking forward to increasing those numbers again against an New England defense that has struggled against the pass at various stages this season. Pittsburgh are ranked third in the NFL in total defense, allowing only 279 yards per game, so there is a chance they can limit Brady et al in this one.

New England come into this game off their bye week, so they have had two full weeks to prepare for what on paper looks like one of the most difficult games on their schedule. So far this year they have won in style (Miami, San Diego) and won tough (NY Jets, Dallas), so we know they can do it all, and this is one of those games where everything will need to be clicking in order to come out with the win. It’s no surprise to see the Patriots rank No.1 in total offense, recording 474 yards per game but this game may well be decided by how well their defense plays against the pass. So far their defense is ranked dead last in the league, allowing over 423 yards per game and conceded 34 points in a week 3 defeat to Buffalo.

Last year’s game between these sides finished 39-26 in favour of New England. It was a game in which Tom Brady took the Steeler’s defense apart and was possibly their most impressive performance of the 2010 regular season. Brady also has a 6-1 record against the Steelers so the Patriots will not be lacking in confidence heading into Pittsburgh on Sunday. On the flip side, those previous results give the Steelers some level of motivation, so expect them to come flying out of the traps as they seek revenge and look to take a stranglehold in a tight AFC North playoff race. It’s a difficult game to call, and you can make cases for both sides. With the offenses on show it should be a high-scoring contest, and if the Steelers can get into an early lead, they might have enough to erase bad memories of Patriots games past.

Neutral Zone prediction: New England 28 Pittsburgh 30

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

A huge NFC East matchup awaits those willing to make use of the extra hour and watch this week’s Sunday night prime-time game. This is one of the bigger rivalries in the NFL with the Cowboys hoping to catch division leaders, the NY Giants, while the Eagles just want to get themselves off the bottom spot.

As their 3-3 record might suggest, the 2011 season has been a real mixed bag for the Dallas Cowboys so far. On the positive side they have been the only team to defeat the 49ers (back in week 2), but they have also suffered some bad defeats when victory was well within their grasp, namely against the Jets in week 1 and Detroit in week 4. But there have been improvements with this cowboys side since their bye week that followed that improbable defeat to the Lions. Their defense put in a massive game against the Patriots – but they came out of New England empty-handed thanks to some conservative play-calling late in the game – and last week against the Rams, they produced a balanced offensive game to cruise to a 27-point victory. Starring in that game was running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for an amazing 253 yards. His emergence adds another string to the offensive bow, especially with QB Tony Romo being inconsistent since the start of the season, but there must be a worry that rookie Murray could be a flash in the pan. Those sort of crazy figures are unsustainable in this league, and the Eagles will be more than ready for him this week, so the atention will once agin fall on Romo.

The Eagles are coming off their bye week, and it could not have come at a better time for Andy Reid’s side. The welcome week 6 win over the Redskins halted a four-game skid, and allowed the Eagles to carry some sort of positivity into the two-week lay off, as they got a chance to catch their breath and reflect on what has been a turbulent start to the season in Philadelphia. However, there is a sense of the wind changing where this team is concerned which has repurcussions for this tight NFC East division, with the win over the Redskins meaning that the Eagles still have strong hopes of making the playoffs. They currently rank third in the NFL in total offense, averaging almost 442 yards per game, so they have the power, balance and requisite tools to make a strong run in the second half of the season, and no better place to start than a game against the Cowboys. But forget about offensive numbers, the most striking statistic going into this game is that Andy Reids record coming off a bye week with Philadelphia is 12-0. He must be doing something right, and it would be foolish to disregard that record. This could be the week where the Eagles finally take off and the Cowboys will struggle to catch them.

Neutral Zone prediction: Dallas 21 Philadelphia 28

And the rest…

Miami at NY Giants
Despite being 4-2 the Giants are unpredicatble, but the Dolphins are predicatbly awful. Giants by 10

Jacksonville at Houston
An excellent win for the Jags last Monday night, but they’re unlikely to repeat the dose against revitalised Houston. Texans by 15

Arizona at Baltimore
Things haven’t been getting much better for QB Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals, while an angry Baltimore side will be focused on victory. Ravens by 12

New Orleans at St. Louis
With Sam Bradford once aain out for the Rams this should be a no-contest, even if the Saints are unlikely to replicate last week’s haul. Saints by 10

Minnesota at Carolina
QB Christian Ponder showed promise last week for the Vikings, but Cam Newton is at a different level and will be buoyed by last week’s win. Panthers by 4

Indianapolis at Tennessee
The Colts reached rock-bottom last week against the Saints so expect a more solid defense, but the Titans have a point to prove themselves. Titans by 6

Washington at Buffalo
The Redskins will play this one very tough and force Buffalo to show something more than a passing game; it’s doubtful that the Bills can adapt. Redskins by 3

Cincinnati at Seattle
The Bengals have been something of a surprise package, whilst Seattle have been horrible in the main, but it’s been a unpredictable season. Seahawks by 7

Cleveland at San Francisco
The 49ers should have too much for a Cleveland team that have only beaten the very worst teams in the league. But it won’t be a blowout. 49ers by 6

San Diego at Kansas City
Somehow the Chiefs have dragged themselves into the AFC West race, but this game will test how legitimate their challenge really is. Chargers by 10

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