Week 8 preview in the NFL

Who will win in Week 8?

By: Andy Davies

Week 8 is upon us, with the halfway stage of the season almost complete. Here is your week 8 review.

Carolina Panthers (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (3-3)

It has been a contrast in recent form for both the Panthers and Falcons. Carolina started the season 3-0 before four straight losses now sees them 3-4. The Falcons started 0-2 but have won 3 of their last 4. The Panthers will look for a win that can reinspire their season, whereas Atlanta will look for their third straight win in the hope of starting a surprise playoff run. 

Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold was efficient in the first three games but the loss of running back Christian McCaffrey has seen both his and the team’s fortunes fall down a downward trajectory. Darnold’s first three games saw him throw for 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and 889 yards (296 per game) as well as being sacked 6 times. In the four games that have followed, he has thrown for 4 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and 797 yards, whilst being sacked 15 times. Not only has gone back to the quarterback we all saw in New York, but he has also thrown for more picks and less yards in the four games without McCaffrey compared to the three that the Panthers’ number 22 played. 

Wide receiver D.J. Moore has also seen his form drop off in McCaffrey’s absence. When they had their star running back, Darnold often used Moore to good effect when teams schemed to take McCaffrey out of the game.  He had 285 yards and one touchdown in those three games and has two touchdowns and 301 yards in those following four games. This was bound to happen without their main offensive threat but having Moore as their number one target in McCaffrey’s absence means the offense is far more imbalanced, despite rookie Chuba Hubbard’s semi-impressive start to life in the NFL. He will have a task against the Falcons defense that ranks 9th in rushing yards allowed (673).

Atlanta’s rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has back-to-back 100-yard games and is proving more each week as to why the Falcons took him fourth overall. The absence of Julio Jones was seen at the start of the season to be the reason for Atlanta’s struggles on offense and it is no coincidence that their fortunes have changed when Pitts’ stats started to turn monstrous. However, their two wins have come against opponents with a 2-10 record. They will look to capitalise on their opponent’s lack of form but come up against a defense that ranks 3rd in total yards allowed per game (307.4), 7th in total yards allowed (2,152), 4th in passing yards allowed (1,380) and has a player on defense in Haason Reddick that is tied for fourth in total sacks.  From recent results, the edge must go to Atlanta. 

Score prediction: Panthers 14-17 Falcons

Start them: Falcons defense

Sit them: Chuba Hubbard

Miami Dolphins (1-6) at Buffalo Bills (4-2)

Who would have thought, when the Dolphins beat the Patriots on the road in week one, that they would lose the next six straight? Equally, when the Bills lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the opening Sunday, some thought their season may go in a different path. Buffalo are now the team we all expected during the offseason whereas the Dolphins, along with the Washington Football Team, are one of this season’s most disappointing teams. 

After two losses in games, they were widely expected to win, the prospect of playing a divisional rival on the road who have had a bye week. The Dolphins are severe underdogs and face a mountain of a challenge, with quarterback questions and a declining defense, this game appears to be too much for Miami. 

Defense won Pittsburgh the game against Buffalo and Miami need to adopt the same game plan. Despite unperforming massively on the defensive side of the ball compared to last season, they still have a good streak of recording turnovers. If they can do this and their QB (for now) Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t make any silly throws, then Miami has an ever so slight chance.  However, the task appears too strong. 

This one is going to be a tough watch for Dolphins fans. 

Score prediction: Dolphins 10- 41 Bills

Start them: Josh Allen

Sit them:  Mike Gesicki

San Francisco 49ers (2-4) at Chicago Bears

It has been a case of Déjà vu for the 49ers, with another season starting with lots of hype and excitement be tarnished by the combination of injuries and a tough division.

They currently sit 2-4 but go into this game expecting a win thanks to this inconsistent and unreliable Chicago team. The Bears have the 6th best rushing offense, despite number one running back David Montgomery being 26th in rushing yards. Against the 12th best run defense in 2021, they will need to rely on Montgomery as well as the scrambling of rookie quarterback Justin Fields. 

San Francisco have lost their 4 games against opponents with a 18-10 record, including the 6-1 Packers and 7-0 Cardinals. They have had a tough schedule, but they can get back to winning ways in this game at Soldier Field.  

Score prediction: 49ers 20-10 Bears

Start them: Elijah Mitchell

Sit them: David Montgomery

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (4-3)

This is one of the league’s fiercest rivalries, in what has been the most competitive division this season. 

The Steelers have struggled for consistency this season, whereas the Browns are struck with injury issues. Both first and second choice running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are out, as is quarterback Baker Mayfield who missed the win over the Denver Broncos. Jarvis Landry is also a doubt after missing practice on Wednesday, with Odell Beckham also limited on Wednesday. 

No offense has run for more yards this campaign so far than the Browns (1,193) and in contrast, the Steelers have the second-fewest rushing yards (487). However, with both Chubb and Hunt not playing, this evens things out despite D’Ernest Johnson’s 146 rushing yards from 22 carries. Both the Steelers (1,468) and Browns (1,506) are in the top eleven for rushing yards allowed and in the top seven for rushing yards allowed, with 563 and 646 yards respectively. This is going to be a defensive shootout, with two quarterbacks that right now fail to inspire faith from their fanbases. This game also features two of the top three defensive players this season when it comes to sacks. Cleveland’s Myles Garrett leads the league in sacks (9.5) with two more than any other player so far this season. Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt ranks third with 7. 

Case Keenum got the job done against Denver, but can he do it again?

Score prediction: Steelers 13-10 Browns

Start them: Steelers defense

Sit them: De’Ernest Johnson

Philadelphia Eagles (2-5) at Detroit Lions (0-7)

The Lions may be 0-7 but have shown fight under new head coach Dan Campbell. Their luck of many years could not have bene further emphasised in their loss to the Rams last weekend, where they had an onside kick and fake put in the same possession but could only muster 3 points.  Philadelphia, meanwhile, go into this game off the back of a 33-22 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. 

This can be another game that could be good for running backs, with both these teams in the bottom 10 for rushing yards allowed this season. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts will be licking his lips. He has the second-most rushing yards in 2021 for quarterbacks and 18th across the league (361). Only Conner and Derrick Henry have more rushing touchdowns than Hurts. Detroit running back Deandre Swift is tied for 18th in rushing touchdowns (3). This is where the difference will be this game, with Jamaal Williams (312) and Swift (262) both having less yards than Hurts.

This is also an opportunity for both Hurts and Lions QB Jared Goff to show off their passing abilities, with the Eagles 15th (1,594) and the Lions 25th in passing yards allowed (1,841) and both teams in the bottom 6 for total yards allowed.

This will be a high scoring game, one that the Eagles will win with some comfort.

Score prediction: Eagles 35- 14 Lions

Start them: Jalen Hurts

Sit them: Deandre Swift

Los Angeles Rams (6-1) at Houston Texans (1-6)

This one is probably the easiest to predict, but the wonderful unpredictability of the NFL means that nothing is ever certain. 

It is tale of two seasons, the Rams have lost just once. The Texans have won just once. 

Houston ranks third from last in total points allowed (2,744), dead last in rushing yards allowed (1,020) and 21st in total yards allowed. On offense, they are 29th in total yards (1,926) and total passing yards (1,361), 28thin total rushing yards (565) and 31st in total points on offense (97). Meanwhile, Rams quarterback Matt Stafford is third in passing yards (2,172) and second in passing touchdowns (19) with just 4 interceptions. No one has caught for more receiving yards (809) or touchdowns (9) than wide receiver Cooper Kupp. It is hard to see David Mills and the Texans’ offense causing any threat to defensive lineman Aaron Donald and defensive back Jalen Ramsey. 

It is very hard to see anything other than a Rams win,

Score prediction: Rams 31-7 Texans

Start them: Rams defense

Sit them: Brandin Cooks

Tennessee Titans (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-4)

This AFC South matchup is a very exciting one. The Titans have been victorious against the Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in their last two games, beating last season’s two AFC Championship participants 34-31 and 27-3. 

Can the Colts handle the threat of Titans running back Derick Henry? They have won 3 of their last 4 game after an 0-3 start and have the 19th best run defense. Even if they handle Henry, they will have to deal with the Titan’s excellent play action threat. Meanwhile, their chance to win this game could fall down to Tennessee having the 27th worst pass defense.  This is where the likes of Michael Pittman and Zach Pascal come in.

This will be a close encounter, but Tennessee will just edge it. 

Score prediction: Titans 34-31 Colts

Start them: Michael Pittman

Sit them: Titans defense

Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) at New York Jets (1-5)

The Bengals have been the surprise team of the season so far. With Joe Burrow back from the horrible injury he suffered last year in his rookie season, he has flourished after his college teammate Ja’Marr Chase was drafted fifth overall by Cincinnati. He has been every bit as good as advertised, He is a rookie and is second across the entire NFL for passing yards (754) and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (6).

Last weekend, the Jets lost 54-13 off a bye to the New England Patriots whereas the Bengals beat the Ravens 41-17 on the road, a side that beat the 4-2 Los Angeles Chargers 34-6. 

Speaking of the Ravens, their former quarterback has been traded for by the Jets. Joe Flacco will stand in for second overall pick Zach Wilson, who is out for 4-6 weeks after suffering an injury in the Patriots loss. Even with Zach Wilson, the Jets stood next to no chance. At least he gave them some hope. Flacco does not inspire teams the same way he once used to It is hard to see anything, but a Bengals win here.

Score prediction: Bengals 37- 13 Jets

Start them: Ja’Marr Chase

Sit them: Any Jets player

New England Patriots (3-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)

After their aforementioned big scoreline win against the Jets, they will feel confident ahead of the Chargers after their Ravens loss. However, that was the Jets and the Chargers are coming off a bye week and they are at home.

New England’s defense, particularly Matthew Judon, will look to get at second-year quarterback Justin Herbert.  Patriots head coach Bill Belichick feasts on young quarterbacks but Herbert feels different. Special. He can go against the grain by beating arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history. 

New England has allowed fewer total points this season. They are fifteenth in rushing yards allowed (739) whereas the Chargers are 31st (975). Meanwhile, the Chargers are second in passing yards allowed (1,211) and the Patriots are 19th (1,715). 

Both sides are pretty much the same when it comes to total offensive passing and rushing yards. 

The Patriots will want to rely on the Chargers’ poor run defense whereas the Chargers will want to try to capitalize on every pass made by Pats quarterback Mac Jones. The difference in this game will be how Justin Herbert handles this New England defense. If he deals well, it will be a Chargers win.

Score prediction: Patriots 17-24 Chargers

Start them: Damien Harris

Sit them: Hunter Henry

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5)

Both teams have had disappointing seasons so far, with the Urban Meyer era being less than inspiring so far and the Seahawks catching a small glimpse of life without quarterback Russell Wilson

However, they go into this game as the favourites. Backup Geno Smith has flattered to deceive so far, as expected, but threw a lovely 84-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver D.K. Metcalf. He will have a better time against the Jags than he did against the Saints and Steelers. Jags rookie QB Trevor Lawrence is improving every game after a difficult start, becoming the first rookie quarterback to win a game in London in week 6. 

The Seahawks have allowed the fourth-most passing yards this season (1,964), the third-most rushing yards (939) and as a result, the second-most total yards (2,903) and yards per game (414.7). This will give hope to a Jacksonville side that is 27th in total offensive passing yards (1,405), 25th in total yards (2,136) and 29th in total points (116). 

Neither side should go into this game with much to shout about. However, the Seahawks should be too strong. 

Score prediction: Jaguars 14-20 Seahawks 

Start them: Trevor Lawrence 

Sit them: D.K. Metcalf  

Washington Football Team (2-5) at Denver Broncos (3-4)

Both teams have been victims of hope. Washington won the NFC East last season and with an excellent defense and offensive weapons available, Washington was seen by many to be a surprise team. However, they are 2-5 and look nowhere near the team we expected, even despite the injury to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Meanwhile, the Broncos started 3-0 before four straight losses.

Can either team get back to winning ways?

Denver ranks fifth in yards allowed per game (323.4) and fourth in points allowed (127), which shows their defensive capabilities. Meanwhile, they rank 21st in total points scored on offense (140). Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been up and down but will hope to see an improved performance against Washington, who rank dead last in points allowed (210). With one defense functioning as opposed to one that isn’t, compared to two offenses that are far from perfect, this could see Denver get back to winning ways.

Score prediction: Washington 23-27 Denver

Start them: Tim Patrick

Sit them: Terry McLaurin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) at New Orleans Saints (4-2)

With the departure of quarterback Drew Brees to retirement in the offseason, not many thought the Saints would start 4-2. His replacement, Jameis Winston has started off as a far different quarterback to the one we saw during his last season with Tampa Bay, his opponents this weekend. During the 2019 season, he had over 5,000 passing yards but threw for over 30 touchdowns and over 30 interceptions. So far this season, he ranks 28th for passing yards (1,114) but tenth for passing touchdowns (13) and has just 3 interceptions. This may change this weekend against a Tampa Bay defense.

Predominately using the 3-4 system that is dominant in most games, the Buccaneers have done well on defense despite the stats. Jameis’ big arm may have some use against a passing defense that ranks 26th(1,853). Alvin Kamara will most likely be Winston’s biggest weapon both in the ground game and in the air.  

Meanwhile, Tom Brady is the current passing yards and touchdowns leader in 2021 and looks every bit as good as he did when he was ten or fifteen years younger. New Orleans rank second in rushing yards allowed something that will further force Brady to use his arm to quite some effect.

I am expecting a high-scoring game, with the overall strength in depth of Tampa Bay to guide them over the hill.  

Score prediction: Tampa Bay 48-28 New Orleans

Start them: Alvin Kamara

Sit them: Leonard Fournette.

Dallas Cowboys (5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (3-3)

Dallas was a mess on defense last season but rank 3rd in rushing yards allowed (517), 12th in total yards allowed (2,287) and 9th in total points allowed (146). This is a huge credit to former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, with defensive back Trevon Diggs the current interception leader (7). 

Meanwhile, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has just 2 interceptions so far this season with 13 touchdowns and 1,769 passing yards in what has been arguably his best season for the organization. 

Both teams appear far more improved than last season considering they had a combined record of 3-10 by the time week 7 finished in 2020. The Vikings rank 7th in total points allowed (175), 17th in rushing yards allowed (768), 5th in passing yards allowed (1,382) and 6th in total yards allowed (2,150). This will be a tough task for the Cowboys, who have been excellent this season,

Score prediction: Cowboys 28-24 Vikings

Start them: Ezekiel Elliot

Sit them: Kirk Cousins

New York Giants (2-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-4)

Nobody would have predicted the Chiefs to start 3-4. Their woes were compounded with a 27-3 loss to the Titans last weekend. On Monday Night Football, they are presented with an easier challenge on paper against the Giants. However, they are 29th in total yards allowed (2,903) and points allowed (203), 28th in passing yards allowed (1,930), and 27th in rushing yards allowed (902).

The Giants have been poor for most of their season but will feel they have a good chance. However, this is a chance for the Chiefs to get back to winning ways and this will be the one where they could relight the fire on this season. 

Start them: Patrick Mahomes

Sit them: Chiefs defense.

Score prediction: Giants 20 – Chiefs 30

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