*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
Philadelphia (vs. San Francisco) – Eagles QB Carson Wentz put on quite the show Monday night against the Washington Redskins and showed the world why he is currently the front runner for the MVP award. In that game, Wentz was 17 for 25 with 268 yards and four touchdowns and completed passes to eight different receivers. His most important throw on the night was to Mack Hollins for a deep 64 yard touchdown late in the second quarter that tied the game at 10-10. That touchdown set the tone for the rest of the game as Philadelphia went on to cruise to a 34-24 win. The Eagles moved the ball very well and scored points on six of their 11 possessions. They had a chance to score on their final possession, but it ended with Jake Elliott missing a 45-yard field goal. Philly’s starting left tackle, Jason Peters, was carted off the field with a torn ACL and MCL injury. It is a big blow to their offensive line and they will be relying on Halapoulivaati Vaitai to take over and help protect Wentz. I’m not too worried over Peter’s loss this week because the 49ers have struggled to muster any kind of pass rush. Even when they do apply pressure, they are unable to get to the QB and complete the sack, which is why they have only 14 on the year which ranks 20th in the NFL. Last week was a prime example against the Cowboys because the 49ers were unable to record a single sack against Dak Prescott. The 49ers were torn to shreds on the ground as Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary was just as bad, if not worse, particularly Rashard Robinson. I expect Carson Wentz will attack Robinson and the 49ers’ secondary throughout this game. On the defensive side of the ball, Eagles LB Jordan Hicks tore his ACL Monday night which is a huge loss going forward, but they’ll be able get by in lieu of his absence this week against the 0-7 San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were awful on offense last week and C.J. Beathard was constantly under pressure and seemed to be on the ground almost every single play. San Francisco’s line didn’t give Beathard much time, which led to five sacks and eight QB hits on the afternoon. Philadelphia has recorded 18 sacks on the season, so they are looking forward to this matchup. San Francisco really needs to establish the running game with Carlos Hyde, but unfortunately, that won’t happen this week against an Eagles team that allows just 67 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. On top of that, San Francisco is expected to fly out east for the second time in three weeks and also play their third 1:00PM EST game over the last month. This could have the makings of a blowout which makes Philadelphia your strongest play this week.
Next 3 Games:
San Francisco: vs. Arizona, vs. NY Giants, BYE
Philadelphia: vs. Denver, BYE, @ Dallas
Minnesota (@ Cleveland) – Minnesota and Cleveland kick things off on Sunday morning with another game in London that starts at 9:30am EST. The Vikings’ defense led the way to their fifth win of the season against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7 by holding Baltimore to just 208 total yards. It could have been even fewer than that had the defense not let up and allowed Baltimore to score on a 14 play, 68 yard touchdown drive on their very last possession of game. Cleveland’s offense ranks dead last in scoring at 14.7 points per game and they could potentially be shutout on Sunday morning. DeShone Kizer, who is in a bit of hot water after it was reported he was out until 1am early Saturday morning last week, was awful against the Titans, completing 12 of his 20 throws for 116 yards and two interception. I don’t think him being out so late had anything to do with his awful performance, but he was eventually benched in favor of Cody Kessler. Hue Jackson has decided to start Kizer again this week and he will not have the protection of LT Joe Thomas anymore. Thomas was injured last week and diagnosed with a torn bicep, breaking his streak of 10,363 straight snaps. The Vikings will shut down the Browns both through the air and on the ground and will leave it up to their offense to put up a few points against Cleveland. RB Latavius Murray played well last week, having his best game in a Vikings uniform rushing 18 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota will go with a run-heavy attack with Murray and Jerick McKinnon and will be a bit conservative with QB Case Keenum. If Stefon Diggs is unable to go again this week, Adam Thielen will see a good chunk of the targets come his way. Minnesota LT Riley Reiff was injured last week against Baltimore and his status is up in the air right now. Even if he’s unable to go, Minnesota should be able to protect Keenum well enough to get the ball into Thielen, Kyle Rudolph or McKinnon’s hands. If you haven’t taken Minnesota yet this year, this is a very opportune time to do so.
Next 3 Games:
Minnesota: BYE, @ Washington, vs. L.A. Rams
Cleveland: BYE, @ Detroit, vs. Jacksonville
Cincinnati (vs. Indianapolis) – Following the Colts’ embarrassing loss to the Jaguars, there were rumblings that Chuck Pagano could be out as head coach if things don’t turn around soon. Unfortunately, I don’t think things will change for the better this week. The Colts’ offensive line was a complete joke last week and allowed the Jaguars to accumulate 10 sacks on the afternoon while hitting Jacoby Brissett a total of 21 times and deflecting seven of his passes. Brissett is lucky to have come out of the game unscathed. Cincinnati’s defense will not get the same kind of pressure on Brissett this week, but the Bengals’ defense allows opposing quarterbacks to complete 57.8% of their passes and 6.3 yards per attempt, both of which rank fourth in the NFL. Cincinnati’s run defense has also done a nice job by allowing just 3.8 yards per run and have allowed just three rushing touchdowns on the year. Although Le’Veon Bell ran for 134 yards against the Bengals last week, he needed 35 attempts to gain those yards. I’m expecting that the Bengals’ defense will shut down running backs Frank Gore and Marlon Mack this week. As for the Cincinnati offense, they rank 29th in both points and yards. QB Andy Dalton has thrown four interceptions in the last two games and only completed 56.7% of his passes against Pittsburgh in Week 7. I think he will have a major bounce back game against the 31st ranked Colts’ defense that also allows a league-worst 31.7 points per game. I think Cincinnati may dominate the Colts in similar fashion to their performance against Cleveland in Week 4. In that game, Dalton completed 25 of his 30 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns. RB Joe Mixon complained about playing time, but I don’t think that will translate into more carries, however I do believe Mixon will play a key role this week. As long as wide receiver A.J. Green gets going, which I think he will, I don’t think the Colts will be able to keep pace with Cincinnati. I expect the Bengals’ offense to move the chains and put up a lot of points on the board this week.
Next 3 Games:
Indianapolis: @ Houston, vs. Pittsburgh, BYE
Cincinnati: @ Jacksonville, @ Tennessee, @ Denver
Kansas City (vs. Denver) – The Monday night game pits two teams that looked like a couple of the best teams in the AFC just a few weeks ago. Perception has certainly changed and both teams are now riding two-game losing streaks and have shown flaws. The Chiefs’ defense that was viewed as one of the top defenses in the league has allowed 77 points over the last three weeks. They allow too many big plays, as everyone witnessed last Thursday against the Raiders when WR Amari Cooper went off for 210 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos’ offense has been brutal and were shutout against the Chargers last week. Denver has also only scored 26 total points over the last three weeks. In fact, they’ve only scored more than 17 points just once this season, in Week 1 when they put up 21. Additionally, they have only scored 108 points on the season, which ranks 29th in the NFL. The Broncos’ offense desperately needs Emmanuel Sanders to play this week after sitting out last week due to an ankle injury. If he’s able to play, he could be used as a decoy even if he’s not completely healthy, which could open things up for Demaryius Thomas. I’m just afraid that the Broncos’ offense will continue to falter and Kansas City will hold them to 17 points or less. It won’t be easy for Alex Smith to pass against the Broncos, but he will utilize Tyreek Hill and running back Kareem Hunt for short passes and screens that could turn into big plays for either player. If any of the teams that are ranked higher than KC this week are still available to you, pick them this week and try to hold onto Kansas City until Week 11 when they play the Giants.
Next 3 Games:
Denver: @ Philadelphia, vs. New England, vs. Cincinnati
Kansas City: @ Dallas, BYE, @ NY Giants
Atlanta (@ NY Jets) – Head coach Dan Quinn has stated that there won’t be any changes coming despite the Falcons’ putrid offensive performance against the Patriots’ worst-ranked defense on Sunday night. That terrible display comes a week after their debacle against Miami in which they gained only 88 yards of offense in the second half and ultimately blew a 17-0 lead. But as of right now, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is not in jeopardy of losing play-calling duties. But the fact remains that they have to right this ship now. The way that the Falcons can beat the Jets is by running the football and handing it off to running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Jets have only held opposing teams under 118 rushing yards twice this year, and both times came against the Dolphins. In fact, they have allowed teams to rush for 190, 180, 175 and 140 yards on four separate occasions this year and only four other teams have allowed more total rushing yards on the season. The Falcons also need to start playing better on the defensive side of the ball. Like the Jets, Atlanta has been getting killed against the run, but if they hold Bilal Powell, Matt Fort and Elijah McGuire to under 100 yards and force the Jets to go three-and-out, which will keep them from burning the clock, the Falcons will win this game. But due to the fact that this game is on the road and because the Falcons are fortunate to be 3-3 on the year, I think they are a risky play this week.
Next 3 Games:
Atlanta: @ Carolina, vs. Dallas, @ Seattle
NY Jets: vs. Buffalo, Tampa Bay, BYE
Carolina (@ Tampa Bay) – Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston played well last Sunday and didn’t look as though his injured shoulder bothered him as he threw 44 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills. The Bucs couldn’t hold onto the lead with 3:14 left in the game and ended up losing by a field goal. Tampa Bay let up a 44 yard pass and tacked on 15 yards due to an unnecessary roughness penalty, which brought the Bills to the Bucs’ 16 yard line. Two plays later the Bills tied up the game on LeSean McCoy’s seven yard run. Bucs TE Adam Humphries fumbled the ball on the first play of the next possession and the Bills recovered the ball. Buffalo proceeded to kill the clock for two minutes and six seconds as Stephen Hauschka kicked the game-winning field goal. It was a bad loss all around and the Bucs have now lost three consecutive games and have lost four out of their last five. Winston faces a very tough Carolina Panthers’ defense that has sacked opposing quarterbacks 24 times this season. Winston’s offensive line has done a nice job in pass protection and has allowed just 10 sacks on the year. The only exception came when they faced the Vikings’ defense in Week 3 and Winston was picked off three times, which led to 10 points for Minnesota. I think Carolina’s defense will have the same kind of success this week that Minnesota had in Week 3, especially if they are able to shut down Doug Martin, which I expect them to do. Carolina’s offense on the other hand has been brutal over the last two weeks, but that’s because they’ve faced two pretty good defenses. Cam Newton has struggled, throwing for 450 yards and one touchdown, but most eye-opening are his five interceptions. Tampa Bay doesn’t have much of a pass rush, which is one reason they only have four interceptions on the season. If Newton can move the ball and get it into the hands of both Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess on short routes and dump it off to Christian McCaffrey on check downs, they should be able to control the clock and come away with their fourth road win of the year.
Next 3 Games:
Carolina: vs. Atlanta, vs. Miami, BYE
Tampa Bay: @ New Orleans, vs. NY Jets, @ Miami
New England (vs. L.A. Chargers) – The New England Patriots head into their Week 8 matchup against the L.A. Chargers as heavy 7.5 point favorites. This large point spread is mostly due to their dominating performance against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night. Granted, the offense played well and the defense, for the first time all season, looked competent, holding the Falcons to just seven points for the entire game. I’m just not convinced that they’ve completely turned things around on the defensive side of the football. Falcons’ running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 72 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry against the Patriots, and Julio Jones caught nine passes for 99 yards. Mohamed Sanu also had a lot of success against the Pats, averaging 10.8 yards per catch on the six balls that he caught. I think it’s pretty understandable why I’m a little leery of them dominating the Chargers’ offense in this game. Melvin Gordon was held to just 38 yards on 18 carries last week against the Broncos, but that came against arguably the best run defense in the league. I’m expecting that the Chargers will go with a run-heavy attack and a much different game from Gordon this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he approaches 100 yards and runs one in for a touchdown in this game. If Keenan Allen and Philip Rivers can get things going and get in a rhythm, they will keep this game close. Ultimately, I think the Patriots’ offense will be too much for the Chargers to handle and I think the Patriots will snap the Chargers’ three-game winning streak.
Next 3 Games:
L.A. Chargers: BYE, @ Jacksonville, vs. Buffalo
New England: BYE, @ Denver, @ Oakland
New Orleans (vs. Chicago) – After the first two weeks of the season, it seemed as though the Saints were headed nowhere and to a fourth straight losing season. But they’ve turned things around in a big way, winning four consecutive games, and their defense has been major reason for their revival. After giving up 65 points in their first two games, New Orleans has allowed just 68 points over the last four games, and that includes the 38 points they surrendered to the Lions in Week 6. The Saints faced the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers last week and took care of business in the fourth quarter. QB Drew Brees threw for 331 yards, but he was picked off twice and the offense wasn’t very fluid for yet another week. However, Brees and the Saints’ offense stepped up when they needed to in the fourth quarter to secure the win. I am expecting that the Saints are going to struggle against the Bears’ defense this week as they have surprisingly played pretty well this year. The Bears are allowing an average of 285 total yards over the last five games and have held opposing QBs to under 200 passing yards in five of their seven games. One of those two other games they only allowed 212 passing yards. This will not be an easy game for Drew Brees and he will have trouble moving the football. Bears safety Eddie Jackson was the star of the game last week against Carolina, finishing the day with two touchdowns, which included a fumble recovery on very first drive of the game and a pick-six in the second quarter. On offense, the Bears have been very conservative with rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky. He only threw the ball seven times against the Panthers and 16 times the prior week against Baltimore. The Saints will be the worst defense he will face in his young career, so he may be allowed to throw it a little bit more this week. I still expect a heavy run attack because the Saints allow an average of 4.9 yards per carry on the year. If Jordan Howard can have a big game and the Bears can control the clock, and if the Bears’ defense can create turnovers, which won’t be easy against the Saints who have only turned the ball over five times this season, then they’ll be able to pull off the upset. I’m nervous about the Saints’ offense which makes this a very risky play this week.
Next 3 Games:
Chicago: BYE, vs. Green Bay, vs. Detroit
New Orleans: vs. Tampa Bay, @ Buffalo, vs. Washington
Buffalo (vs. Oakland) – The Oakland Raiders had arguably the most shocking win in Week 7 when they took down the Kansas City Chiefs by the score of 31-30. The Raiders played well on offense, particularly WR Amari Cooper who finished the night with 11 catches for 210 yards. QB Derek Carr peppered Cooper all evening, targeting him 19 times throughout the game. Jared Cook came down with the most important catch of the night, falling just short of the end zone. What ensued was chaos with three straight penalties, the last two of which were called against Kansas City and extended the game, allowing Carr to find WR Michael Crabtree for the game-winning touchdown. There was also a scuffle in the game which resulted in Marshawn Lynch being tossed and ultimately suspended for this week’s matchup against Buffalo because he ran out onto the field and put his arms on the referee. With him out of the picture this week, Oakland will rely on DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard to carry the ball 20-25 times this week against a very tough Bills’ run defense that allows just 3.4 yards per rush and 84.5 rushing yards per game. I think Oakland will also have a tough time passing the ball against Buffalo. They’ve allowed just five touchdowns on the year, which ranks second in the NFL, and have nine interceptions on the year (third in the NFL). Buffalo may slow down Oakland’s offensive attack, but if they want to be successful, they’ll need Tyrod Taylor to come through like he did last week against Tampa Bay. Obviously LeSean McCoy will get roughly 25 carries in the game, but they need to open it up through the air if they want to have a chance to win this game. Buffalo’s defense will be tested again this week, but if they can slow things down, Buffalo should remain undefeated at home for at least one more week.
Next 3 Games:
Oakland: @ Miami, BYE, vs. New England
Buffalo: @ NY Jets, vs. New Orleans, @ L.A. Chargers
Seattle (vs. Houston) – Seattle’s defense took a hit in their win over the NY Giants last week with Cliff Avril being placed on the IR and Michael Bennett dealing with plantar fasciitisin his foot, putting his status in doubt for their game against the Texans. Even with their absences, Seattle will have to focus on shutting down Houston’s passing game. Deshaun Watson has played well over the last four games, throwing 14 touchdowns and helping lead the Texans to an average 39 points per game over that time frame, although the Texans have just two wins to show for it. Watson hasn’t faced a truly great defense yet, although some can make the case for Kansas City. But I don’t think KC’s defense appears to be as good as people thought. This week’s game should be a very good test for Watson. Seattle must contain wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, as they are Watson’s two favorite targets. Being successful in the passing game is crucial for Houston, but how well they run the ball is more important,because teams have had success running against Seattle. If running backs Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman can carry the ball 25-30 times in this game and gain roughly 120 yards on the ground, Houston will be able to set them up for success. Unfortunately, I think Seattle will come up with timely turnovers, which will give QB Russell Wilson good field position. I think this will be a low scoring game and I’d rather take Houston next week against the Indianapolis Colts.
Next 3 Games:
Houston: vs. Indianapolis, @ L.A. Rams, vs. Arizona
Seattle: vs. Washington, @ Arizona, vs. Atlanta
Miami (@ Baltimore) – The Thursday night games have always received a bad rap from NFL fans in the past, but this year we have been given a very fun product for the majority of the games on Thursday night. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be treated to an exciting game this week. Then again, no one thought the Rams and 49ers game would be entertaining and that turned out to be one of the best games of the season. Miami will be without Jay Cutler because he cracked his ribs last week and is expected to be sidelined for 2-3 weeks. That means backup QB Matt Moore will step up in his place. Moore did a nice job last week when he entered the game against the Jets and completed 12 of his 16 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns as he led the Dolphins in the final 12 minutes of the game to a 14 point, come-from-behind win. Moore has a history with WR Kenny Stills so I expect Moore to look in his direction Thursday night. DeVante Parker is questionable this week and he’ll be missed if he can’t play. On defense, I expect Miami to shut down Baltimore’s offense both in the air and on the ground. QB Joe Flacco was sacked five times last week against Minnesota and the Ravens’ offensive line will once again be challenged protecting their quarterback. Miami also stuffs the run and has held their opponents to under 100 rushing yards four times in six games and also rank fifth in the league in yards per rush at 3.6. Miami has also created five turnovers in the last three games, which plays into their favor because Baltimore has turned the ball over 12 times on the year. Miami’s weakness is against the pass because they have allowed a league worst 71.1% completion percentage against opposing quarterbacks. Even with that said, I think both offenses will have trouble moving the chains, which will lead to a number of three-and-outs. This will be a game of field position and could result in the kickers having the biggest impact on the game. Because I expect this to be a low scoring game and one that will come down who turns the ball over less, I highly suggest avoiding this game.
Next 3 Games:
Miami: vs. Oakland, @ Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay
Baltimore: @ Tennessee, BYE, @ Green Bay
Dallas (@ Washington) – The NFL had requested an expedited hearing this week against Ezekiel Elliott, but the judge denied their request and upheld the hearing date of Monday, October 30. That means Elliott gets to suit up at least one more time before possibly facing a long suspension. Zeke was fantastic last week against the 49ers, rushing for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He also had one catch that he took to the house down the sideline for 72 yards. Washington, like every other team, is going to have their hands full against Zeke this week. Washington played on Monday night against the Eagles and was defeated 34-24. Carson Wentz passed all over their secondary which was missing Josh Norman. Norman is expected to practice this week, which suggests he will play this week, which will be a huge boost to their secondary. If he is able to play, I expect him to cover Dez Bryant. TE Zach Ertz had a big game against Washington last week, finishing the night with five catches for 89 yards and an impressive touchdown. I believe that Dak Prescott could be looking in the direction of his TE, Jason Witten, often in this game, especially if Norman plays. But Dallas will focus on running the football and keeping the ball out of Kirk Cousins’ hands. Cousins will pass all over the Cowboys’ defense and will utilize RB Chris Thompson for check downs and screens. They’ll be able to move the chains and should be able to score a fair amount of points against Dallas and be able to keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense. This will be an exciting game between these two NFC East opponents, which is a very important game for both teams who are fighting against one another for a playoff spot. Both Dallas and Washington have a very tough stretch of games ahead so I’d try to avoid either of these teams for the foreseeable future.
Next 3 Games:
Dallas: vs. Kansas City, @ Atlanta, vs. Philadelphia
Washington: @ Seattle, vs. Minnesota, @ New Orleans
Pittsburgh (@ Detroit) – After being embarrassed at home three weeks ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers have managed to come away with two strong victories over the last two weeks against the Chiefs in Kansas City and at home against the Bengals last week. Le’Veon Bell has been a beast in their last three wins and has totaled 457 rushing yards on 102 carries and scored three touchdowns over those three wins. The Steelers need to feed Bell the ball if they want to beat the Lions on the road this week. Even though they have pulled off wins in the last two weeks, WR Martavis Bryant remains disgruntled and didn’t show up to the practice facility on Monday. He has also come out and said that he wants out of Pittsburgh if he doesn’t get more involved in the offense and will be inactive this week after being benched. I thought that QB Ben Roethlisberger would have focused on getting him the ball more last week against Cincinnati, but that wasn’t the case. Roethlisberger only targeted him twice the entire game and Bryant has only 36 targets all year. Now that Bryant has been declared inactive, you should expect that Roethlisberger will be going to his favorite target, Antonio Brown. Detroit is coming off a bye, but it doesn’t look as though WR Golden Tate will be healthy enough to play this week. His absence will be felt this week, because Pittsburgh has the top ranked passing defense in the league. They are allowing just 5.6 yards per pass and are one of only three teams in the league that have more interceptions (7) than touchdowns allowed (6). Pittsburgh’s pass rush, which ranks second in the league with 24 sacks, could be the difference maker in this game against the Lions’ offensive line which has given up 23 sacks on the season. That means that this could be a long day for Lions QB Matthew Stafford. This should be a good battle between these two teams, but I think that Pittsburgh seals a road victory this week against the Lions.
Next 3 Games:
Pittsburgh: BYE, @ Indianapolis, vs. Tennessee
Detroit: @ Green Bay, vs. Cleveland, @ Chicago
Week 8 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Carolina Panthers
7. New England Patriots
8. New Orleans Saints
9. Buffalo Bills
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Seattle Seahawks
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Dallas Cowboys