NFL 2017 – Week 8 Preview & Picks

You might have noticed the lack of a preview article last week. Sorry about that – blame man flu! This week things are back on track…

Miami Dolphins (4-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-4)
1:25am Friday 27th Oct (UK time)
The Dolphin’s 4-2 record is a bit of an enigma. Despite a mostly catastrophic performance from Jay Cuter… they’re 4-2. After dropping out of last week’s game with a rib injury though, now Matt Moore has taken over as QB – and he put in a decent performance in last week’s win over the Jets. Is this the rare case of the long time back-up quarterback being better than the Jay Cutler quarterback? Quite possibly. Thursday Night’s game against the Ravens is both a good test for Moore, and quite a winnable game given the Raven’s poor season. Given Baltimore’s lack of receivers and Miami’s QB situation, this could be a game that’s decided by defense. If the Dolphins can run Ajayi through the Ravens D and hold things up on their own end, they could keep their win streak alive.

Minnesota Vikings (5-2) @ Cleveland Browns (0-7)
1:30pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Magical things can happen in London. Like the Cleveland Browns winning their first game of the season? Nah, probably not.

Oakland Raiders (3-4) @ Buffalo Bills (4-2)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Last week not only saw the impressive return of Derek Carr – throwing for 417 yds and 3 TDs – but a Raiders win over a previously dominant Chiefs team. Buffalo though, have been quietly racking up the wins, with another against the Buccs last Sunday. It seemed like the Raiders were out of it for the season, but now perhaps not, making this an interesting match-up. A Raiders win in Buffalo is certainly feasible, but the Bills won’t be a pushover.

Indianapolis Colts (2-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
The Bengals’ 2-4 record is a bit deceiving next to the Colts’ 2-5 one. Cincinnati couldn’t pull it off against the Steelers last week, but they have generally improved hugely since their terrible start to the season. The Colts – without Andrew Luck – are still one of the worst teams in the league, and after last week’s 27-0 loss to the Jaguars that view still seems correct.

Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) @ New England Patriots (5-2)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Just a few weeks ago the Chargers were 0-4, an almost undeserved record with a couple of last minute losses. After a three game win streak, their record is starting to look a little less hopeless and making the AFC West a close race (probably for runner-up). This week though, New England are likely to give Los Angeles a 3-5 record, because that’s the type of thing the Patriots do.

Chicago Bears (3-4) @ New Orleans Saints (4-2)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Are the Bears this year’s Texans? A team with a poor quarterback but a defense that can win games – literally, last week, when safety Eddie Jackson scored two touchdowns, from a fumble and an interception. All whilst holding Carolina to just 3 points. However, Trubisky could only complete four passes, so that’s an issue. This week the Saints shouldn’t have any problem scoring a few touchdowns, and that will just be too much for Chicago to overcome.

Atlanta Falcons (3-3) @ New York Jets (3-4)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Ah, the Falcons. From Super Bowl silver medallists, to 23-7 losers against the Patriots last Sunday night. Still, if there’s a good team to face after the Patriots, it’s the Jets, who are slightly flattered by their 3-4 record. Atlanta aren’t bad enough to go 3-4 this week.

San Francisco 49ers (0-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-1)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Two questions here. Are the 49ers worse than the Browns? And are the Eagles, quietly, the best team in the league? The first looks completely possible, whilst the latter… feels just a bit wrong, but that 6-1 record doesn’t lie. The Chiefs have just lost two on the trot, and the Patriots have had a bumpy start to the season – plus Wentz is putting in an MVP-level display right now. If the Eagles aren’t the best team in the league, they certainly are in the NFC East, and they’re guaranteed to be 7-1 next week thanks to San Francisco.

Carolina Panthers (4-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)
5:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
Interesting but fundamentally not too important game alert! The Panthers are good, they beat the Patriots. The Panthers are bad – they only managed 3 points against the Bears. Tampa’s Jameis Winston threw for 384 yds and 3 TDs last week despite losing to the Bills. The records and recent performances suggest this could be close, but Carolina are lacking offensive power right now, something the Buccaneers seem to have found. Could Tampa Bay end their losing streak this week?

Houston Texans (3-3) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-2)
8:00pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
There are some (some?) who might call this the game of the week. An improving Seahawks team against a redesigned Texans team with an All Star quarterback. Sure, Houston couldn’t beat the Patriots or Chiefs, but does that stop them from being the best team in the league? Well, yes… and the terminal loss of J.J. Watt doesn’t help. But hey, the Seahawks aren’t quite the Legion of Boom they used to be, so if Houston can snatch a victory here – and they have the offensive power to do it – it puts them in serious consideration for the play-offs (although the Jaguars being their only real competition for first place in the AFC South helps as well).

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) @ Washington Redskins (3-3)
8:25pm Sunday 29th Oct (UK time)
The 3-3 records are a lie. Or, deceptive at least. These really aren’t two 3-3 teams, but the Eagles mean both will be fighting for second place in the NFC East. Coming off a bye week with a chance to refresh and think over their sins, the Cowboys could get their act together to earn the win and remind people that they’re actually one of the better teams in the league. The Redskins really aren’t a bad team either though, with similar offensive power and who knows how these divisional games can go. Redskins have the home advantage, but for now at least, Dallas have the Zeke advantage.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) @ Detroit Lions (3-3)
12:30am Monday 30th Oct (UK time)
Detroit are coming out of their bye week having had time to think about the previous week’s loss – but a 52-38 loss to New Orleans isn’t something to cry too much about (unless you’re a defensive co-ordinator). It does appear that the Steelers have bounced back from their humiliating 30-9 loss to Jacksonville though, with back to back wins over the Saints and Bengals. Their records go far suggest this game should be really close, but a Steelers team with Le’Veon Bell back in form isn’t easy to dismiss. The Lions really do need this win though.

Denver Broncos (3-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)
12:30am Tuesday 31st Oct (UK time)
Unable to put up any points against the Chargers last week, Denver have problems. As good as the Denver D is, their pass game is bordering on non-existent and now the run game is vanishing too, with opponents realising just how one dimensional their offense is. So in many ways, they’re another team a lot like the old Houston Texans. The Chiefs might have just lost two on the trot, but this being a divisional game should ensure they get the victory and solidify their road to the play-offs. The fact that Denver will have trouble getting anything past their defense helps quite a lot too.

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