NFL GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS – WEEK 8

By: Arvind Pendurthi 

Last Week’s Record: 10-5

Overall Record: 54-36


SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-2) AT DENVER BRONCOS (5-1)

Week 7 Results
Chargers: L (20-23) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Broncos: W (42-17) vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Chargers suffered a tough loss at home on Sunday, playing below their potential on both offense and defense.  Philip Rivers had a disappointing performance, completing 17 of 31 passes for 205 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.  In addition, strangely enough, Antonio Gates (3 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD) managed to reel in a touchdown reception off a tipped ball for the 2nd consecutive week.

Peyton Manning picked the 49ers’ secondary apart for 4 touchdowns, breaking the NFL record for career touchdown passes (508), ending the week with 510.  WR Demaryius Thomas has been absolutely phenomenal since Denver’s week 4 bye:

Receptions

Receiving Yards

Touchdowns

Weeks 1-3

13

141

1

Weeks 5-7

26

521

5

The Broncos’ defense has been excellent this year and they were no different last week, sacking one of the league’s most dangerous running QBs 6 times.  In addition, CB Aqib Talib notched his second interception in as many weeks.

This week’s Thursday night matchup is sure to be an exciting one, as it features two of the best QBs in the league thus far in the season.  More interesting, however, will be the impact of the ground game – a battle between backups Brandon Oliver and Ronnie Hillman.  The former has averaged 4.7 YPC since taking over the Chargers’ starting role 3 weeks ago, while the latter rushed for 74 yards and 2 TDs on just 14 carries last week.  Oliver will find tough sledding against a stout run defense and San Diego’s receiving corps is simply unable to match Denver’s.

Players to Watch: Brandon Oliver (RB – SD), Ronnie Hillman (RB – DEN)

Prediction: Chargers 31, Broncos 44


DETROIT LIONS (5-2) AT ATLANTA FALCONS (2-5)

Week 7 Results
Lions: W (24-23) vs. New Orleans Saints
Falcons: L (7-29) at Baltimore Ravens

The Lions squeaked by the Saints for the win on Sunday, thanks to some late game heroics by QB Matt Stafford and his receiving corps.  Stafford had a decent performance, completing 67% of his passes for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns, but throwing 2 interceptions in the process.  WR Golden Tate has flourished in Calvin Johnson’s absence, racking up 10 catches for 154 yards and a TD.

Atlanta’s struggles continued in week 7, as the offense continued to underperform.  Head coach Mike Smith insisted on feeding the ball to RB Steven Jackson, who has been subpar all season compared to the Falcons’ backups.

Carries

Yards

YPC

Touchdowns

Fumbles

Steven Jackson

77

285

3.7

2

0

Jacquizz Rodgers

22

91

4.1

1

1

Antone Smith

16

136

8.5

2

1

Devonta Freeman

23

98

4.3

0

1

Furthermore, star receiver Julio Jones was relatively quiet (5 catches, 56 yards) compared to Roddy White, who exploded for 9 grabs, 100 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons had a tough time defensively, with the exception of CB Robert Alford who intercepted two passes.  Detroit, on the other hand, has played better defense than any other team in the league, securing a win with a late interception and game-sealing pass deflection.  The Lions will have no trouble securing another win.

Players to Watch: DeAndre Levy (LB – DET), Julio Jones (WR – ATL)

Prediction: Lions 28, Falcons 20


MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-5) AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (1-5)

Week 7 Results
Vikings: L (16-17) at Buffalo Bills
Buccaneers: Bye

Minnesota somehow managed to lose a game in which everything went their way.  Despite facing a team that lost its two starting running backs, the Vikings allowed 118 rushing yards in addition to a 4th and 20 with just over a minute left in the game.  Although they played well statistically (6 sacks, 1 interception, 4 fumbles), their defense failed to show up when they needed to most.

Rumors of a Vincent Jackson trade have been circulating lately; given the team’s 1-5 record, sending their lanky pass catcher to another team may be in both parties’ interest.  However, Tampa Bay cannot be written off just yet, as quarterback Mike Glennon has been an improvement over Josh McCown.  The Buccaneers’ dug a deeper hole for themselves by committing a significant amount of their caproom to a near-$100 million offered to DT Gerald McCoy.

Although Tampa Bay has struggled thus far in the season, the Vikings have done their best Buccaneers impression, losing easily winnable games.  Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater had a rough day last week, as Minnesota’s porous offensive line allowed 5 sacks.  Since his impressive debut, Bridgewater has developed slowly, passing for 157 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.

The Buccaneers, both offensively and defensively, have looked lost multiple times on the field this year.  However, they have a talented roster that simply needs to play cohesively, particularly on defense.  Gerald McCoy has the perfect opportunity this week to prove he is deserving of his massive contract.  On offense, Glennon simply needs to take a few shots downfield and allow his 6’5” receivers, Jackson and Mike Evans, to swing the momentum in Tampa Bay’s favor.

Players to Watch: Gerald McCoy (DT – TB), Teddy Bridgewater (QB – MIN)

Prediction: Buccaneers 21, Vikings 17


BUFFALO BILLS (4-3) AT NEW YORK JETS (1-6)

Week 7 Results
Bills: W (17-16) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Jets: L (25-27) vs. New England Patriots

The Bills needed some late-game heroics to put the Vikings away and Kyle Orton obliged.  The 10th-year QB completed 31 of 43 passes for 283 yards and 2 TDs, one of them being the game-winning score with 2 seconds remaining.  The score went to rookie WR Sammy Watkins, who has had an immediate impact on Buffalo’s offense, catching 9 passes for 122 yards and 2 TDs on the day.

Geno Smith very nearly orchestrated a comeback against a tough Patriots team, falling shy by just a missed 2-point conversion.  Smith had a nice outing, throwing for 226 yards and a touchdown.  However, RB Chris Ivory stole the show with 107 yards and a TD on 21 carries thanks to excellent vision and cuts.  Furthermore, the Jets’ acquisition of speed receiver Percy Harvin adds more playmaking ability to a highly capable offensive unit.

Buffalo’s running back corps took a major blow with the loss of both Fred Jackson (groin) and CJ Spiller (broken collarbone, out for season).  This leaves the daunting task of taking on New York’s front four to RBs Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown.  However, given Orton and Watkins’ chemistry and Harvin’s lack of familiarity with the Jets’ offense, the Bills should be able to edge by with another close win.

Players to Watch: Anthony Dixon (RB – BUF), Geno Smith (QB – NYJ)

Prediction: Bills 17, Jets 14


CHICAGO BEARS (3-4) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-2)

Week 7 Results
Bears: L (14-27) vs. Miami Dolphins
Patriots: W (27-25) vs. New York Jets

The Chicago Bears have been extremely inconsistent this season, most noticeably on offense.  Despite having 4 Pro-Bowlers in the starting lineup, the Bears have failed to score more than 27 points in any game this season.  RB Matt Forte consistently produces, both rushing (12 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD) and receiving (6 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD).  Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, on the other hand, have had disappointing 2014 campaigns, with just 349 and 504 yards on the season, respectively.

Though he is not quite Forte, New England’s Shane Vereen put up similar numbers (5 catches, 71 yards, 2 TDs) in fellow RB Stevan Ridley’s absence.  QB Tom Brady tossed the ball 37 times, completing 20 passes for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns.  The Patriots’ defense was disappointing, as they failed to contain the Jets’ rush attack, allowing 218 yards on the ground.

Although Chicago has plenty of potential, its success is largely dependent on the play of QB Jay Cutler.  With the Bears’ offensive line unable to hold off Miami’s pass rush, Cutler grew increasingly flustered with each QB hit.  He surrendered an interception and a fumble on a strip sack.  The Patriots have done a fairly decent job of protecting Brady (14 sacks allowed), which is all the quarterback needs to lead his team to victory.

Players to Watch: Matt Forte (RB – CHI), Chandler Jones (DE – NE)

Prediction: Bears 21, Patriots 31


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-3) AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-3-1)

Week 7 Results
Seahawks: L (26-28) at St. Louis Rams
Panthers: L (17-38) at Green Bay Packers

Though the Seahawks were upset by the St. Louis Rams, quarterback Russell Wilson gave it everything he had, passing for 313 yards and rushing for another 106.  Surprisingly enough, Seattle’s biggest strength was its weakest link on Sunday, as the defense failed to force a turnover or even a single sack.  Furthermore, the special teams unit was fooled twice on costly trick plays, all but guaranteeing a loss.

Carolina’s defense was similarly terrible, allowing Aaron Rodgers to complete an absurd 86% of his passes.  To make matters worse, the Panthers’ front seven was unable to stop the run, resulting in a 25-point halftime deficit.  Cam Newton had a difficult time throwing the ball, completing just 55% of his passes for 205 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.  However, he was effective with his legs once again, rushing for 41 yards on 7 carries (5.86 YPC).

Given the sorry state of the Carolina defense, Seattle has an excellent opportunity to bounce back after a tough loss.  With Percy Harvin gone, Doug Baldwin has handled the increase in targets nicely, catching 7 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown.  More specifically than the team rebounding, expect the Seahawks’ defensive line to tally at least 3 sacks on Newton.

Players to Watch: Doug Baldwin (WR – SEA), Cam Newton (QB – CAR)

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Panthers 17


MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-3) AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-6)

Week 7 Results
Dolphins: W (27-14) vs. Chicago Bears
Jaguars: W (24-6) vs. Cleveland Browns

Miami has a fairly compelling recent history of following big wins with big losses (TB ’13, BUF ’13, NYJ ’13, BUF ‘14), but that streak will be broken this year.  The Dolphins outplayed Chicago offensively and defensively, but most importantly, they did so behind the arm and legs of QB Ryan Tannehill.  Running the read option, Tannehill passed for 277 yards and 2 TDs and ran for another 48.

Despite another multi-interception performance from unpolished rookie Blake Bortles, Jacksonville coasted to a win thanks to former college QB Denard Robinson.  The converted running back amassed 127 rushing yards on just 22 carries (5.78 YPC), punching in a score from 10-yards out.  The Jaguars’ defense was productive as well – particularly LB Telvin Smith who notched 1 sack, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble.

The Dolphins’ rush offense has improved dramatically since last year, now good for the 4th best in the league.  RB Lamar Miller played a big role in that, rushing for 61 yards and a TD.  Furthermore, Tannehill continues to show signs of progress, looking more comfortable in the pocket and demonstrating much better chemistry with receiver Mike Wallace (5 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD), who has had a touchdown in 5 of the Dolphins’ 6 games.

Players to Watch: Charles Clay (TE – MIA), Denard Robinson (RB – JAC)

Prediction: Dolphins 31, Jaguars 17


BALTIMORE RAVENS (5-2) AT CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-2-1)

Week 7 Results
Ravens: W (29-7) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Bengals: L (27-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Ravens have been fantastic this season thanks to the one-two punch of… Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett?  Flacco had a fairly average game last week, tossing for 258 yards and 2 TDs, but 2 picks to go along with them.  Forsett rushed 23 times for 95 yards (4.13 YPC), running with a unique blend of toughness and quickness.  With TE Dennis Pitta out for the season, Owen Daniels has filled in nicely, pulling down 6 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown.

Cincinnati started the season strong, winning their first 3 games.  Since then, they have lost twice and tied once – their latest defeat coming in the form of a 27-0 shutout.  Andy Dalton is sorely missing his star receiver, AJ Green (toe), as he completed just 18 of 38 passes (48%) for 126 yards.  RB Giovani Bernard’s explosive playmaking ability was completely neutralized, as he was held to 17 yards on 7 carries.

The Bengals secondary was absolutely torched last week by speed receiver TY Hilton; they will surely have their hands full when both Steve Smith Sr. and Torrey Smith come to town.  The former had 3 catches for 67 yards last week while the latter had 3 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.  Flacco and his receiving corps should have a nice day taking on a defense playing far below its potential.

Players to Watch: Torrey Smith (WR – BAL), Giovani Bernard (RB – CIN)

Prediction: Ravens 34, Bengals 21


HOUSTON TEXANS (3-4) AT TENNESSEE TITANS (2-5)

Week 7 Results
Texans: L (23-30) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Titans: L (17-19) at Washington Redskins

Houston jumped out to a 13-point lead on Monday night, only to watch it slip away as the Steelers scored 24 points in just 2:54.  Big games by several players were overshadowed by critical miscues: Arian Foster (20 carries, 102 yards) fumbled within their own 5-yard line and DeAndre Hopkins (6 catches, 108 yards) fumbled late in the game during the Texans’ comeback attempt.

Tennessee, meanwhile, managed to lose to a third-string quarterback, allowing Colt McCoy to engineer a last-minute game-winning drive.  Charlie Whitehurst had a decent performance, throwing for 160 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, but he will be on the bench this week while rookie QB Zach Mettenberger is given an opportunity to kickstart the offense.

Although their record suggests otherwise, the Texans – particularly Ryan Fitzpatrick – have played good football.  JJ Watt continues to terrorize quarterbacks, earning his 5th sack of the season against the Steelers.  Star rookie Jadeveon Clowney will return this week, providing another headache for the Titans’ offensive line; Mettenberger will have a rough debut in Nashville.

Players to Watch: Jadeveon Clowney (LB – HOU), Zach Mettenberger (QB – TEN)

Prediction: Texans 24, Titans 10


ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-5) AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (4-3)

Week 7 Results
Rams: W (28-26) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Chiefs: W (23-20) at San Diego Chargers

St. Louis earned a much-deserved win over the reigning Super Bowl champions thanks to risky special teams playcalls and a lethal performance by rookie QB Austin Davis, who completed 85% of his throws for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns.  In addition, rookie RB Tre Mason was tasked with leading the ground attack, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, took down San Diego with the help of Jamaal Charles and strong defensive play.  Charles carried the ball 22 times for 95 yards and a touchdown, setting a franchise rushing record with 6,113 career yards.  Alex Smith moved the ball well, connecting on 19 of 28 attempts for 221 yards and a TD.  WR Dwayne Bowe had a rare impact, catching 5 balls for 84 yards.

The Rams held Marshawn Lynch to just 53 yards on 18 carries, thanks to a strong physical presence in the trenches.  However, Charles’ running style combines speed and finesse, which St. Louis’ defensive line will have trouble containing.  While Austin Davis has played very well lately, Kansas City’s defense has steadily improved each week, currently ranked as the 9th best in the league.

Players to Watch: Tre Mason (RB – STL), Jamaal Charles (RB – KC)

Prediction: Rams 17, Chiefs 24


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-1) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-1)

Week 7 Results
Eagles: Bye
Cardinals: W (24-13) at Oakland Raiders

Philadelphia entered its bye on a strong note, having destroyed the rival Giants 27-0.  RB LeSean McCoy finally broke out for 149 yards on 22 carries, averaging 6.77 YPC.  The Eagles’ offense, however, is not as lethal as it should be, particularly as a result of the play of QB Nick Foles.  Through 6 games, he has regressed massively compared to his first 6 starts of the 2013 season:

Yards

Completion %

Touchdowns

Interceptions

2013

1505

63.9

15

0

2014

1628

59.5

10

7

Similarly, the Cardinals do not play up to their potential without their quarterback doing so as well.  Despite dealing with a nerve injury, Carson Palmer has played well, throwing for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.  Running back Andre Ellington is an excellent dual threat option out of the backfield, as proven by his 88 rushing yards and 72 receiving yards last week.

Arizona’s defense has underperformed this season, having lost several key players to injuries.  Although they may struggle to contain McCoy on the ground, they should be able to pressure Foles into mistakes.  Palmer will simply need to work the ball to receivers Michael Floyd (3 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD) and Larry Fitzgerald (4 catches, 21 yards) to get the win.

Players to Watch: LeSean McCoy (RB – PHI), Larry Fitzgerald (WR – ARI)

Prediction: Eagles 21, Cardinals 28


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-2) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (4-3)

Week 7 Results
Colts: W (27-0) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Steelers: W (30-23) vs. Houston Texans

The #1 offense in the league (Indianapolis) will take on the #3 offense (Pittsburgh) in what is sure to be a high-scoring matchup.  Led by QB Andrew Luck (344 yards, 64%, 2 TDs), the Colts have put up huge numbers, including a shutout victory over the Bengals.  Deep threat TY Hilton has flourished as the offense’s primary receiving option, putting up an absurd statline over the last 3 weeks:

Receptions

Yards

Touchdowns

Week 5

9

90

0

Week 6

9

223

1

Week 7

7

107

0

The Steelers, however, have an equally, if not more, lethal threat at WR by the name of Antonio Brown.  Pittsburgh’s star wideout has had no fewer than 5 catches and 84 yards in any contest this season.  Though RB Le’Veon Bell has cooled off since his hot start to the season, he remains a threat both on the ground and through the air.

Surprisingly enough, Ahmad Bradshaw has consistently produced for the Colts, rushing 10 times for 52 yards and 1 touchdown as well as catching 3 passes for 36 yards and another score.  Each team’s defense is almost evenly matched, ranked as the 15th and 16th best in the league, respectively.  Therefore, the winner will be determined by each QB’s ability to run his offense more efficiently; Luck has simply been playing too well to lose.

Players to Watch: TY Hilton (WR – IND), Antonio Brown (WR – PIT)

Prediction: Colts 35, Steelers 31


CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-3) AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-6)

Week 7 Results
Browns: L (6-24) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Raiders: L (13-24) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland handed the Jacksonville Jaguars their first win of the season by playing terrible football in every way.  Johnny Manziel may find the starting job within reach after QB Brian Hoyer’s horrible performance in which he completed 39% of his passes 215 yards and an interception.  RB Ben Tate was equally terrible, averaging 2.25 YPC en route to 36 rushing yards.

Although they remain winless, the Raiders have shown plenty of fight this season, particularly in the pass game.  Derek Carr completed 16 of 28 passes for 173 yards and showing plenty of confidence in his deep ball, connecting with Brice Butler on a 55-yarder.  However, Oakland’s lack of talent in the run game continues to hold the offense back, as RBs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew totaled just 54 yards on 17 carries.

While rookie Blake Bortles’ potential is undeniable, the first quarterback off the board is not quite ready to handle NFL defenses.  If Bortles was able to lead the Jaguars to a win, Derek Carr should have no trouble doing the same.  However, Oakland’s defense will need to contain Cleveland’s run game and pressure Hoyer to get the win.

Players to Watch: Ben Tate (RB – CLE), Derek Carr (QB – OAK)

Prediction: Browns 17, Raiders 21


GREEN BAY PACKERS (5-2) AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2-4)

Week 7 Results
Packers: W (38-17) vs. Carolina Panthers
Saints: L (23-24) at Detroit Lions

Green Bay’s highly touted offense was firing on all cylinders in Sunday’s rout of the Panthers.  Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic, completing 86% of his 22 pass attempts for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Head coach Mike McCarthy ran a very balanced offense, as each of the Packers’ 5 touchdowns was scored by a different player (Nelson, Cobb, Lacy, Starks, Adams).

Despite 100+ yard receiving performances by both Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, the Saints’ offense could not outscore the Lions.  New Orleans’ backfield had a terrible outing, averaging just 2.89 yards per carry for a total of 55 yards.  Furthermore, the defense sputtered down the stretch, allowing 2 touchdowns in the final 3:52 of the game.

While Drew Brees is not putting up quite the same numbers (28-45, 342 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) he has in years past, he remains one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks.  With CB Sam Shields expected to miss the matchup, Brees should put up some solid numbers.  However, Rodgers and his receivers have been nearly unstoppable and Lacy has a nice matchup in store for him; the Packers will outpace the Saints in a high-scoring battle.

Players to Watch: Drew Brees (QB – NO), Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB)

Prediction: Saints 38, Packers 42


WASHINGTON REDSKINS (2-5) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (6-1)

Week 7 Results
Redskins: W (19-17) vs. Tennessee Titans
Cowboys: W (31-21) vs. New York Giants

After starting the game 10-16 for 139 yards and an interception, Washington had had enough of Kirk Cousins.  3rd-string QB Colt McCoy made a splash in his debut, completing 11 of 12 passes for 128 yards and a TD, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon (5 catches, 87 yards, 1 touchdown) on his first pass attempt.  Although he played very well in his debut, it is too soon to tell if McCoy is the Redskins’ answer at QB *coughKirkCousinsInWeek2cough*.

Since their week 1 loss to the 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys have been playing like the best team in football.  Tony Romo had an excellent game last week, completing 74% of his passes for 279 yards and 3 TDs, with his 1 interception coming off a play in which the targeted receiver slipped.  DeMarco Murray (28 carries, 128 yards, 1 TD), meanwhile, became the first player in NFL history to open a season with 7 consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

With Dallas’ defense shutting down opposing offenses, McCoy will have a rough time repeating his performance against the Titans.  In addition, the Cowboys’ offense will have no trouble picking the Redskins’ defense apart, through the air and on the ground.  DeMarco Murray’s 100-yard streak will remain intact for yet another week.

Players to Watch: Colt McCoy (QB – WAS), Tony Romo (QB – DAL)

Prediction: Redskins 17, Cowboys 38

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