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*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
Arizona (@ Cleveland) – Arizona bounced back from their awful loss to the Steelers in Week 7 and improved to 5-2 on the season after nearly blowing a 26-10 lead with 4:26 left in the game against the Ravens. But even amidst all the controversy (Joe Flacco’s headset went out on the final drive), the Cardinals were able to seal the game when Tony Jefferson intercepted Joe Flacco in the end zone with 13 seconds left in the game. The Cardinals were led by Chris Johnson in this game as he continued with his impressive season, locking in another 100+ rushing yard game for the third time this season. The Cardinals face another soft run defense in Week 8 as the Browns are the only team in the NFL that has allowed over 1,000 rushing yards on the season. In fact, they are allowing 5.1 yards per carry and 151 rushing yards per game on the season. You should expect to see Chris Johnson to carry the ball roughly 20 times this week. As for the Browns, Josh McCown hurt his right shoulder on Sunday and he is considered day-to-day. If he can’t go, the Browns will turn to Johnny Manziel. Don’t expect much offense from the Browns, no matter who is at QB. The best way for Cleveland to move the chains is by dumping it off to Duke Johnson. Still, I do not believe the Browns will be able to generate nearly enough offense against the Cardinals’ defense this weekend meaning the Cards should come away with a pretty decisive victory.
Next 3 Games:
Arizona: BYE, @ Seattle, vs. Cincinnati
Cleveland: @ Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh, BYE
Seattle (@ Dallas) – The Cowboys lost in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday afternoon against the NY Giants. I’m sure you’ve seen the replay over and over of Cole Beasley dropping the punt, leading to the Giants jumping on the ball and sealing the win. Dallas had multiple opportunities to take control of the game, but mistakes by Matt Cassel ultimately did them in such as his awful passes that led to interceptions and halted drives. The special teams unit is also at fault for this loss. They allowed former Cowboy Dwayne Harris to return a kick 100 yards to take a 27-20 lead after Dallas had tied the game. That also led to the Greg Hardy incident that everyone has become very familiar with. On a positive note, Dez Bryant may return this week against the Seahawks, but even if he does return, it doesn’t sound like he will be 100% healthy. Darren McFadden is coming off a 29 carry, 152 yard game against the Giants which means the key for the Cowboys is their great offensive line because they’ll need to beat the Seahawks on the ground, which isn’t an easy task. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is coming off his best game of the season, tearing apart the Niners’ defense for 122 yards and a touchdown. But it was Seattle’s defense that dominated the game against San Francisco. The Niners’ offensive line didn’t stand a chance against Seattle’s defense and allowed the Seahawks to sack Colin Kaepernick 6 times. Obviously the Cowboys will protect Cassel a lot better than San Francisco, but Seattle will bring pressure to Dallas’ quarterback and will force him out of the pocket with the hopes that he’ll make an errant throw and pick him off for a pick-six. Until Tony Romo is back, you can’t trust the Cowboys, even if Dez Bryant returns. After all, do you trust anyone other than Romo getting the ball to Dez? I certainly do not. Seattle is a strong play in Survivor Pools this week.
Next 3 Games:
Seattle: BYE, vs. Arizona, vs. San Francisco
Dallas: vs. Philadelphia, @ Tampa Bay, @ Miami
Carolina (vs. Indianapolis) – Carolina kept their undefeated season intact by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-16 on national television. Cam Newton didn’t have the best statistical day throwing 3 interceptions, but two of those interceptions weren’t his fault because they bounced off his receiver’s hands. Jonathan Stewart ran the ball well for a second straight game against Philadelphia and hit the century mark for the first time this season. If he is given the ball 20 times against the Colts this weekend, he should have a really good chance at making it two weeks in a row eclipsing 100 rushing yards. The Carolina defense played well enough against the Eagles, especially against the run, minus the one 63 yard run by Ryan Matthews. Their pass rush also did a very good job getting to Sam Bradford and sacking him 5 times in the game. I expect Andrew Luck to be under the same amount of pressure all game this week. As for the Colts, they are coming off an atrocious loss against the Saints at home. While trailing 27-0, the Colts scored 21 unanswered points thanks to T.Y Hilton’s 86 and 46 yard TD catches. But the fact is the Colts’ offense struggled all game. Their defense isn’t good and their offensive line is a major liability and allowed Andrew Luck to get sacked 4 more times. I expect Carolina’s defense to feast on Luck all game. If you haven’t taken Carolina in a Survivor Pool yet this season, this is a good week to do so because next week they play the Packers.
Next 3 Games:
Carolina: vs. Green Bay, @ Tennessee, vs. Washington
Indianapolis: vs. Denver, BYE, @ Atlanta
St. Louis (vs. San Francisco) – Is Todd Gurley the best running back in football? I think it’s a legitimate question after he had another monster game against the Browns in which he ran for 128 yards and scored his first 2 touchdowns of his young career. In the 3 games Gurley has started, he has rushed for 433 yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He shouldn’t have any trouble running on a 49ers’ defense that let Marshawn Lynch trample all over them for 122 yards on 27 carries (4.5 ypc). Prior to that game, Lynch wasn’t having his best season running the ball and had a total of 182 yards and was only averaging a miniscule 3.3 yards per carry on the season. So I think it’s pretty safe to say Gurley will have his way with the 49ers’ defense. Speaking of defense, the Rams completely shut down the Browns’ offense last week. They sacked Josh McCown 4 times, recovered 4 fumbles and returned one of those fumbles for a touchdown. I don’t think that the 49ers’ offense is quite as bad as the Browns, but I believe the 49ers are going to be punting a lot in this game. It is reported that Colin Kaepernick has lost the respect of his players in the locker room, so his poor play doesn’t help trying to win back their trust. If you’ve used the teams ranked ahead of St. Louis already, I’d jump on them this week at home against the 49ers.
Next 3 Games:
San Francisco: vs. Atlanta, BYE, @ Seattle
St. Louis: @ Minnesota, vs. Chicago, @ Baltimore
Minnesota (@ Chicago) – It seems as though no one is really talking about the Vikings and how well they’ve been playing ever since their loss on opening weekend in San Francisco. Since then, they’ve gone 4-1 with their only loss at the hands of the Broncos, 23-20. It seems as though Adrian Peterson is always good for a long 25+ yard run every game, which he did once again last week as he ripped off a 75 yard run that set up an important field goal against the Lions in the 3rd quarter. But take away that run and AP only ran for 23 yards on 18 attempts. But this is what he does, he starts off slow at the beginning of the game, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry in the 1st half and then he eventually wears down the defense, averaging 6.6 yards per carry in the 2nd half. You should expect to see the same results against the Bears this weekend. The emergence of Stefon Diggs has also played a major role in the Vikings’ success of late as well. Diggs already has 8 plays of 20+ yards in just 3 games and is averaging 108 yards per game. Diggs has also been targeted 28 times in the last 3 games so I expect him to be targeted often and end up with 6 or 7 catches this week. I also think he will burn the Bears’ defense at least once because the Bears have allowed 24 plays of 20 yards or more. The Vikings’ defense has also played well, ranking 5th in total defense and has allowed just 17 points per game. The Bears will utilize Matt Forte because the Vikings are averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the season. If they can run the ball effectively, it may open things up for Jay Cutler to get the ball into Alshon Jeffery’s hands. But don’t forget, Jay Cutler is prone to mistakes. Minnesota has lost 7 straight games in Chicago, but I think they will snap that streak this weekend. Although Chicago has a 2-4 record on the season, they have played tough in some of those losses, but usually the better team prevailed, which is what I believe happens this weekend.
Next 3 Games:
Minnesota: vs. St. Louis, @ Oakland, vs. Green Bay
Chicago: @ San Diego, @ St. Louis, vs. Denver
New England (vs. Miami) – Trailing 20-16 in the 4th quarter, Tom Brady showed exactly why he is in the conversation for MVP. In the 4th quarter, Brady completed 14 of his 17 passes for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns, the last of which was to a wide open Rob Gronkowski which pulled the Pats ahead by 10 points with 1:13 left in the game. New England will get tested again this week by another AFC East opponent, the rejuvenated Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have now won 2 straight games and in blow out fashion which indicates Dan Campbell is having a positive effect on this team. Granted, these wins came against the Titans and Texans, but Miami looks like a completely different team. Lamar Miller is running the ball extremely well and Ryan Tannehill is more confident as Campbell is showing he trusts his young quarterback. The defense has also stepped it up and turned things around. They seem to have a different swagger now. Although the Dolphins haven’t won a game at Gillette Stadium since 2008, I don’t think they will go into this game intimidated. The Patriots will attack the Dolphins the same way they attacked the Jets; lots of short routes with a couple deeper balls mixed in. The Patriots only handed the ball off to their running backs 5 times against the Jets and I think we may only see LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis carry it a handful of times in this game because they know that the Dolphins’ run defense has improved the last two games. They have stopped the run and have only allowed 130 yards on 42 carries (3.1 ypc). I think the Dolphins keep it close throughout the game and within striking distance because the Patriots will have trouble blowing the game open. And because of that, I believe the Patriots are a risky play in Week 8.
Next 3 Games:
Miami: @ Buffalo, @ Philadelphia, vs. Dallas
New England: vs. Washington, @ NY Giants, vs. Buffalo
Green Bay (@ Denver) – Both the Packers and Broncos were on their Byes in Week 7, so both teams have had a little extra time to prepare for one another this week. The Packers have faced good defenses earlier this year (Seahawks and Rams), but both of those games were on their home turf. This time they have to travel on the road to Denver. DeMarcus Ware is expected to return to the Broncos’ starting lineup after sitting out Week 6 and having the bye last weekend. I expect him, Von Miller, Shaq Barrett and Malik Jackson to get the best of a good Green Bay offensive line and get some pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The only issue is that Rodgers should be able to extend plays with his legs and if given enough time, he should be able to hit Randall Cobb, James Jones or even his tight end, Richard Rodgers. I expect the Packers to have some problems running the ball and Eddie Lacy will probably continue to split carries with James Starks. As for the Broncos, the key to this game for them will be Ronnie Hillman. Stopping the run is Green Bay’s weakness as they allow 118 rushing yards per game. The Packers have done a good job against the pass, allowing opposing QBs to complete just 56.8% of their passes, so Hillman needs to set the tone. One of these teams has to lose their first game, and unfortunately for the Broncos, I think Green Bay is the better all-around team and they are the one that prevails.
Next 3 Games:
Green Bay: @ Carolina, vs. Detroit, @ Minnesota
Denver: @ Indianapolis, vs. Kansas City, @ Chicago
Atlanta (vs. Tampa Bay) – The Falcons bounced back from their first loss of the season and defeated the Tennessee Titans for their 6th win of the season in Week 7. But even though they won, they didn’t play well and were once again involved in another nail biter. Atlanta’s offense needs to start playing better and be more consistent if they want to be considered a serious contender, which at this moment, I don’t think they are. Tampa Bay has run the ball extremely well behind Doug Martin but he could be in for a tough matchup against the Falcons because they only allow 78.6 rushing yards per game. Jameis Winston and Mike Evans finally got onto the same page last week and Evans ended with 8 catches and 164 yards. But the Bucs’ defense couldn’t hold onto a 24-0 lead and ended up losing 31-30 after allowing Washington to drive 80 yards with 2:00 minutes remaining in the game. With Atlanta at home and not being able to trust the Bucs’ defense which has allowed 42, 37, 38 and 31 points in all four of their losses, I think Atlanta ends up winning this game. But it’s a risky play this week because Tampa Bay should keep this one close.
Next 3 Games:
Tampa Bay: vs. NY Giants, vs. Dallas, @ Philadelphia
Atlanta: @ San Francisco, BYE, vs. Indianapolis
NY Jets (@ Oakland) – The Jets are looking to bounce back after losing a winnable game against the Patriots last week and a few things including bad play calling in the 4th quarter cost them the game. Chris Ivory didn’t look explosive in that game and as it turned out he had tightness in his quad. But Ivory and opposing running back Latavius Murray are going to have scratch and crawl for every inch as these are two of the best run defenses in the league. Unlike the Jets, Oakland can be beaten in the air. Ryan Fitzpatrick will make safe passes to Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall because his job is to protect the football, refrain from turning it over. The Raiders will have to try to hit a homerun with Amari Cooper, but he’s in for the toughest matchup of his young career. Michael Crabtree could possibly benefit, but I think the Jets’ defense will force Derek Carr to make throws into tough coverage which could result in turnovers. This isn’t the safest play this week, so if you would prefer taking the Jets in the next 2 weeks while they’re at home against Jacksonville or Buffalo, we wouldn’t blame you.
Next 3 Games:
NY Jets: vs. Jacksonville, vs. Buffalo, @ Houston
Oakland: @ Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota, @ Detroit
NY Giants (@ New Orleans) – Watch out, the Saints have won 2 in a row and 3 out of their last 4 games. Ok, I know, it came at the expense of a Cowboys team that was without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, a Falcons team that isn’t as good as their record and a Colts team that just isn’t very good. This week they host a Giants team that also isn’t that great, but give them credit, they have beaten bad teams and have won 4 out of their last 5. Their last two wins were against the 49ers and Cowboys and were games they easily could have lost. The game plan for the Giants on offense will be getting the ball in Odell Beckham’s hands because he’s the only receiver that Eli Manning has complete faith in right now. The Saints will rely heavily on Mark Ingram who is coming off his first 100 yard game of the season against the Colts. Heading into the game against the 49ers three weeks ago, the Giants’ run defense had only allowed opposing running backs to average 3.1 yards per game. Since then, they have allowed a total of 515 yards, which comes out to 171 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. This is another game the Giants should win, but the Giants haven’t been able to put inferior teams away and have given those teams opportunities to beat them. The Saints have also won games that we thought they would lose and although I don’t think the Saints pull out another win, I do think they are able to keep it close enough to have an opportunity to beat the Giants this week.
Next 3 Games:
NY Giants: @ Tampa Bay, vs. New England, BYE
New Orleans: vs. Tennessee, @ Washington, BYE
Baltimore (vs. San Diego) – The Chargers proved just how bad their defense is after they allowed Derek Carr to torch them for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns, with the majority of the damage coming in the first half of the game. The Chargers, as usual, couldn’t stop the run either as they let Latavius Murray average 5.7 yards per carry. I think Justin Forsett is drooling as we speak. The Chargers can’t run the ball, so they will rely on Philip Rivers’ arm to try to carry them to a win this week, but traveling across the country for a 1pm EST game doesn’t always bode well for West Coast teams. Both teams are riding 3 game losing streaks and both team’s defenses can’t be trusted which means you can’t trust either team in Survivor Pools this week.
Next 3 Games:
San Diego: vs. Chicago, BYE, vs. Kansas City
Baltimore: BYE, vs. Jacksonville, vs. St. Louis
Kansas City (@ Detroit) – The Lions got off to a quick lead against the Vikings last week after Matthew Stafford completed two touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron. But in their next 9 possessions they kicked one field goal, punted the football 6 times and their final 2 possessions resulted in turnovers on downs. The offensive line couldn’t protect Stafford as he was sacked 7 times in the game and as we all know, you can’t win football games if you can’t protect your quarterback. The Lions’ defense did a nice job against Adrian Peterson with the exception of his 75 yard run. I believe the Lions should hold Charcandrick West at bay in this game and will force Alex Smith to beat them with his arm. Jeremy Maclin sat out last week due to a concussion but he is expected to travel to London and play in this game. Both he and Kelce could be a problem for the Lions. If Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Allen Bailey can get to Stafford throughout the game, Lions are going to be in for a long ride home from London.
Next 3 Games:
Kansas City: BYE, @ Denver, @ San Diego
Detroit: BYE, @ Green Bay, vs. Oakland
Tennessee (@ Houston) – Tennessee battled it out with the Falcons but ultimately lost a close one by the score of 10-7. The Titans started Zach Mettenberger in place of Marcus Mariota and the Titans couldn’t generate any offense. Thankfully for the Titans, Mariota is expected to return this week against Houston. As for the Texans, they are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Dolphins. The defense was torched for 41 points in the first half and adding insult to injury (pun intended), the Texans lost Arian Foster for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. The Titans are banged up, Houston’s defense is a mess and right now the only player on offense the Texans can trust is DeAndre Hopkins. I highly recommend avoiding this game.
Next 3 Games:
Tennessee: @ New Orleans, vs. Carolina, @ Jacksonville
Houston: BYE, @ Cincinnati, vs. NY Jets
Pittsburgh (vs. Cincinnati) – Early last week, the news was pretty encouraging that Ben Roethlisberger would return to the lineup in Week 7 and I was hopeful he would play. Turns out he sat one more week but head coach Mike Tomlin believes he will suit up this week. This is an important game for Roethlisberger to return to because right now the Bengals are 3 games up on the Steelers in the division. If the undefeated Bengals win this game, they should run away with the division. But Roethlisberger wants to make sure that doesn’t happen. In his career, Roethlisberger has had a lot of success against the Bengals with a 16-6 record against Cincinnati. But this Bengals team is a little bit better than the Bengals teams he’s faced in the past. Granted, I think Pittsburgh will put points on the board with their talented receivers and Le’Veon Bell anchoring the running game, but the Bengals should also score a number of points against this Steelers’ defense that’s not as good or talented as Steelers’ defenses in the past. It should be an entertaining game and could be a high scoring game which is one of the reasons I list it as one of the games to avoid.
Next 3 Games:
Cincinnati: vs. Cleveland, vs. Houston, @ Arizona
Pittsburgh: vs. Oakland, vs. Cleveland, BYE
Week 8 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Carolina Panthers
4. St. Louis Rams
5. Minnesota Vikings
6. New England Patriots
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Atlanta Falcons
9. New York Jets
10. New York Giants
11. Baltimore Ravens
12. Kansas City Chiefs
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Pittsburgh Steelers