NFL Week 8 Preview
Packers @ Cardinals
This should be a fun one... two of the best teams in the NFL going head-to-head in a primetime matchup. If you can't get excited about this game; I don't know what to tell you. Aaron Rodgers is playing on another level right now and Kyler Murray is the front-runner for MVP. This game is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, Davante Adams will be inactive because he has COVID-19; Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are also not playing. That means someone will need in the Packers offense. Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers should be in for a day of heavy targets. Robert Tonyan's workload started to pick up last week and he'll be the center of the Packers' passing attack on Thursday Night Football. With that being said, the Cardinals have been the best team in the NFL when it comes to defending tight ends this season. That means the Packers will most likely lean on the run game. They should be able to find success running between the tackles with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon because the Cardinals will be without hall of fame defensive tackle, JJ Watt. The Cardinals' defense has been awesome this year, but without Watt's presence, their run defense could be exposed. That means that the ball will be out of Kyler Murray's hands for most of the game. When the ball is in Murray's hands, the Cardinals' offense is dynamic. Deandre Hopkins is still Deandre Hopkins and Christian Kirk has had a break-out year. While Packers cornerback Eric Stokes has had an awesome rookie season thus far, his presence alone won't be able to stop: Hopkins, Kirk, AJ Green, Rondale Moore, and Zach Ertz. While I do expect Amari Rodgers to finally have his breakout game for Green Bay; the Cardinals offense will just be too much for the Packers.
What to Watch For: Does Amari Rodgers step up for the Packers' offense?
Player of the Game: Christian Kirk WR Cardinals
Final Score: Packers 27 Cardinals 31
Panthers @ Falcons
In the past four weeks, there hasn't been a team more disappointing than the Carolina Panthers. Sam Darnold has shown his true colors. When he was playing for the Jets he would constantly get flustered against five man fronts; the same thing is happening this year just in a different uniform. If the Falcons are able to apply pressure on Darnold and get in his face; the Panthers' offense won't be able to score many points. Without Christian McCaffrey, opposing defenses have been able to put all of their attention towards DJ Moore. Carolina is missing that explosive piece on their offense. The Falcons' offense is finally starting to pick up. Arthur Smith needs to keep dialing up plays for Kyle Pitts. Pitts is having a historic rookie season; he is finally looking like the workhorse tight end that everybody expected him to be coming out of Florida. A great matchup will be him against Jeremy Chinn, the Panthers' second year safety. The Panthers are also gaining a major piece on the perimeter of their defense. Stephon Gilmore is making his debut as a Panther. He will most likely be matched up on Calvin Ridley for the majority game. That should be a phenomenal matchup as Ridley is still waiting for his breakout game. If the Falcons can apply pressure to Sam Darnold; I like them to keep the train moving and win in a close divisional game.
What to Watch For: How does Stephon Gilmore play in his season debut?
Player of the Game: Grady Jarrett DT Falcons
Final Score: Panthers 20 Falcons 24
Bengals @ Jets
Whether it is Joe Flacco or Mike White playing quarterback for the Jets; I don't see a world in the multiverse where the Jets pull off this upset. The Bengals are just too hot right now. Ja'Marr Chase is playing a historic level and Joe Burrow is showing why he was the number one pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Cincinnati has swagger, energy, and most importantly, momentum. This is the best Bengals team in a decade; however, they can't take their foot off the gas because they are playing the Jets. Joe Mixon needs to keep on running hard, Ja'Marr Chase needs to keep on getting better, and Joe Burrow needs to stay healthy. The Bengals are good and they have a shot to go far in the playoffs. These games where they should win by more than one score are must wins. It's like adding pennies to a piggy bank, by the end of the season they are competing to see who has the most pennies in the AFC. The Jets are a team that might have the least; which may not be the worst thing. Whether it's a receiver like Chris Olave or a defender like Kayvon Thibodeaux; the Jets have a lot of needs and would benefit from a high draft pick. This game will look great for Joe Burrow's stat sheet and should be a blow out.
What to Watch For: Can Ja'Marr Chase solidify his case for rookie of the year?
Player of the Game: Joe Mixon RB Bengals
Final Score: Bengals 31 Jets 10
Eagles @ Lions
This game has major implications on the NFL draft. The Lions are the best 0-7 team I have ever seen and the Eagles are just a hard team to watch. It is very frustrating to watch Devonta Smith be deprived of the football and Miles Sanders go down after averaging less than 10 carries per game. Jalen Hurts has been extremely disappointing this season and I think it has to do with his mechanics. He is constantly sailing the ball on his receivers and Nick Siranni's play-calling doesn't help. The Lions have to get a win at some point. Dan Campbell is a coach that I would want to play for. His passion, grit, and love for the game are infectious. I am confident that he can motivate his player into a win. This is a winnable game for the Lions and it would do wonders on the city of Detroit. D'Andre Swift has had an elite sophomore season and has been a shining star for this offense. One player I'm keeping an eye on for the Eagles is Kenny Gainwell. Gainwell was my number two running back coming out of this draft class and this is his shot to breakout. Without Sanders in the offense and against a poor run defense; this is Gainwell's opportunity. Will he prove me right or wrong? We will find out on Sunday, but I think this is Detroit's lucky day.
What to Watch For: Is this the "Kenny Gainwell Game"?
Player of the Game: D'Andre Swift RB Lions
Final Score: Eagles 22 Lions 23
Rams @ Texans
The Rams played the team with the winless Lions team last week and are facing the one-win Texans team this week. Talk about a schedule going one team's way; this is a must-win for the Rams. They are very much in contention with the Rams for the top seed in the NFC West. That means beating the teams they are supposed to beat. Unfortunately for Brandin Cooks, I don't see him getting revenge on his former team. The Texans just lost their best running back, Mark Ingram, so I'm curious as to how David Johnson. Will we see any resemblance of 2016 David Johnson or at least 2020 David Johnson? As for the Rams, I'm curious as to if Cooper Kupp will continue his reign of terror on Halloween day. Kupp has been slicing up defensive backs as if he was the Joker and putting a smile on Sean McVay's face. Darrell Henderson has also quietly been putting up really good numbers. While Aaron Donald might be a menace with Nerf Guns, he is even better at football. I expect Davis Mills to feel his wrath and understand why Aaron Donald is one of the best to ever do it. One problem I have with Mills is that he is the reason behind a lot of his sacks. He makes bad situations worse. He won't be able to make those same mistakes against Jalen Ramsey. This game should be a blowout in the Rams' favor.
What to Watch For: David Johnson's quantity of carries and quality of runs
Player of the Game: Aaron Donald DT Rams
Final Score: Rams 37 Texans 13
Dolphins @ Bills
It's going to be really hard to beat Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs coming off of a bye week. Luckily for the Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa has been playing out of his mind the past two weeks. While his play hasn't necessarily resulted in wins, it is a cause for optimism. Hope for what is ahead; the Dolphins are a team that is capable of upsetting this Bills team. If that is going to happen, the gamescript would have to call for lots of Myles Gaskin. The Titans were able to keep Josh Allen on the sideline by feeding Derrick Henry 20 times in that game. Miami won't win in a shootout; while Tagovailoa is playing really good football right now, he isn't going to win a one-on-one against Josh Allen. Brian Flores' gameplan needs to be centered around the ground game; he can't expect to throw the ball 40 times a game and beat this Bills team. Coming off of a bye, the Bills have reloaded their guns. Not only is Josh Allen fresh, but Tre'Davious White, Gregory Rousseau, and the entire Bills defense is as well. While I do expect the Bills to be firing on all cylinders; I still think Miami is going to keep this one close. The Dolphins' offensive coordinators tend get a little too aggressive with Tagovailoa at quarterback. I don't expect them to be patient with Gaskin on the ground. For that reason, I have the Bills winning this game by a touchdown.
What to Watch For: WIll Myles Gaskins be fed properly
Player of the Game: Gregory Rousseau DE Bills
Final Score: Dolphins 24 Bills 31
Titans @ Colts
The Titans are one of the most fun teams to watch in the NFL right now. Derrick Henry is playing at a historic level while AJ Brown is on the rise. Even though Julio Jones is not playing, I still see Brown getting one-on-one matchups. Ryan Tannehill has received lots of hate since this season started, but last week he looked like his 2020-self. When he's playing free, meaning not in his head, he is a top ten quarterback. Taking shots downfield to AJ Brown is how you can tell he is playing free. With Taylor Lewan back at left tackle, Tannehill doesn't have to worry as much about backside pressure. This means Tannehill won't rush through his progressions and he can be patient with Brown. When he is playing free the Titans win games, even if the Colts are favored by three. Last week, Michael Pittman Jr. showed what he was capable of. Between him and Jonathan Taylor, Chris Ballard crushed the 2020 draft. With TY Hilton's career nearing the finish-line, Pittman looks like he can take over as the true number one receiver in the Colts' offense. Carson Wentz looks like he has been reborn and Quenton Nelson is back with a game under his belt. The Colts look really, really good, but at the same time, it is really, really hard to bet against Derrick Henry. I like the Titans to pull off the upset because of their defense. Harold Landry is playing the best ball of his career and Kevin Byard has stepped up as the true leader of the defense. I expect those guys and Jeffrey Simmons to wreak havoc on Wentz. Coming off of upset victories against the Chiefs and Bills, I like the Titans to keep on rolling.
What to Watch For: Ryan Tannehill's mental freedom
Player of the Game: Harold Landry EDGE Titans
Final Score: Titans 30 Colts 24
49ers @ Bears
In this matchup, we will see two teams that have been extremely underwhelming this season. The Bears will be without their head coach, Matt Nagy, which indicates that this is the Bill Lazor show. Hopefully, that means he will open up the playbook for Justin Fields. Fields has been limited by Nagy's playbook all-season long and has had an extremely disappointing rookie season. The other rookie quarterback in this game is healthy once again. Even though this is a homecoming game for Jimmy Garoppolo, the tides are turning in San Francisco's locker room. It seems like each week we are getting closer to a Trey Lance start. I'm keeping an eye out for Kyle Shanahan's Trey Lance package and whether it is a package or an entire game plan. Garoppolo is playing in the city he grew up in so there may be added motivation for this game. He knows that his back is against the wall; he is playing with nothing to lose. That should help him play with the free mindset I alluded to earlier. He needs to leave everything out there in this game. Without Khalil Mack in the Bears' lineup, someone is going to need to step up on Chicago's defensive line. By pressuring Garoppolo and getting in his face, the Bears can get him flustered. Without having anything to lose and Deebo Samuel playing like a top-five receiver in the NFL, I like Garoppolo to win this game for the 49ers.
What to Watch For: Bill Lazors' coaching style and Jimmy Garoppolo's leash
Player of the Game: Deebo Samuel WR 49ers
Final Score: 49ers 23 Bears 20
Steelers @ Browns
With Baker Mayfield and the Steelers coming off of a bye, this is a winnable game for Pittsburgh. Najee Harris is everything the Steelers could have ever hoped for and TJ Watt is still one of the best players in the NFL. With that being said, Ben Roethlisberger is entering Myles Garrett's graveyard. It is Halloween day and with Baker Mayfield coming back, the Browns are dangerous. Garrett has haunted Ben Roethlisberger's career since he entered the league, and I expect him to be dominant on Halloween. D'Ernest Johnson is a player that deserves recognition for the Browns. Against the Broncos last week, he single-handedly carried the Browns' offense. Johnson's vision is special and he has an eye for cutback lanes. The Steelers' defense is extremely aggressive, sometimes over-aggressive, which means those lanes will be open. Devin Bush will have to be patient when defending the run this week. He is still one of the best linebackers in the NFL, so I expect him to make the proper adjustment to his playstyle. It is tough to bet on Ben Roethlisberger right now. He has been having one of the worst seasons of his career and Myles Garrett will have no pity about it.
What to Watch For: Will the Steelers get gashed on cutback lanes?
Player of the Game: Myles Garrett DE Browns
Final Score: Steelers 20 Browns 26
Jaguars @ Seahawks
If the Seahawks have any hopes at playoffs this year, they are going to have to win a game with Geno Smith. This season should show you just how much Russell Wilson carries this entire team. Not only should Wilson gain everybody's respect, but he also deserves a contract extension. He is a future Hall of Famer and the league is in a better place when he is playing. With that being said, the league is in good hands with guys like Trevor Lawrence playing. I've spoken about it before, but a bye-week is extremely pivotal for rookie quarterbacks. The season goes by fast and Lawrence has seen lots of different looks. The bye-week is the first time Lawrence can take a step back and evaluate how everything is going. Self-scouting is critical for success, and there is no better time to self-scout than the bye week. One thing that Urban Meyer could see through his self-evaluation is that he needs to get Laviska Shenault the ball more. I think Shenault is going to torch the Seahawks this week. He has been on the cusp of a breakout game all season. I don't expect Seattle to be able to keep up with Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars' offense.
What to Watch For: Urban Meyer's gameplan post-bye-week
Player of the Game: Laviska Shenault WR Jaguars
Final Score: Jaguars 23 Seahawks 17
Patriots @ Chargers
Mac Jones has proved me wrong so far; there is no hiding from it. He looks like the real deal. There is a certain level of control he has on this offense that makes him so lethal. With that being said, he has never played Joey Bosa. Bosa gets to the quarterback so damn fast. Jones can't hold on to the ball to try and decipher this defense. He needs to let it fly and take shots to Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor. One player who has been amazing for the Patriots' offense is Hunter Henry. He is a perfect fit in Josh McDaniels' scheme and has looked like his old self recently. I'm not sure if Henry is a guy who looks for vengeance, but this is a revenge game for him. The Chargers are the worst defense in the NFL when it comes to defending the tight end position. There is a real chance we see a Hunter Henry breakout game on Halloween. Coming off the bye week, the Chargers have had a chance to regroup. They got their asses handed to them against the Ravens, but they are back now. Justin Herbert is still Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler is trending towards playing. While Bill Belichick was able to shred the Chargers to threads last season, hopefully, it hasn't haunted Herbert too much. While Hunter Henry might get revenge on his old team, I certainly expect Herbert to get revenge on the coach that almost lost him the Rookie of the Year award last season. I can't see Justin Herbert losing two games in a row at this point of the season. While I do think the Patriots have a shot in this game, the Chargers have a shot at the Super Bowl.
What to Watch For: Hunter Henry Revenge Game
Player of the Game: Joey Bosa DE Chargers
Final Score: Patriots 23 Chargers 31
Football Team @ Broncos
Everything that could go wrong for the Broncos has gone wrong for the Broncos in the past four weeks. It is hard to root against Teddy Bridgwater, but he has played very poorly recently. Thankfully, Jerry Jeudy is back. When healthy, Jeudy is a top-five route-runner in the NFL. I expect him to pick up where he left off and join Courtland Sutton as one of the top receiver duos in the AFC. Not only should Pat Shurmur dial up plays for Jeudy, but he should dial up plays for Javonte Williams. Williams is an absolute dude. Whether he's running over defensive backs or past linebackers, he deserves the ball. One player that needs the ball more for the Football Team is Antonio Gibson. I think he is the key to victory for Washington. Not only should he get the ball as a runner, but also as a receiver. He needs at least 15 carries and five targets in this game. Halloween is the holiday for horror and there is no better way to celebrate it than feeding "Scary Terry". Terry McLaurin is a top ten receiver in the NFL, he just can't put up top ten numbers when he gets less than ten targets in every game. There is no reason as to why Taylor Heinicke shouldn't be force-feeding him every week. I can't wait to watch Patrick Surtain go head-to-head against McLaurin, but for this matchup, I'm leaning towards the player whose nickname is centered around Halloween.
What to Watch For: Terry McLaurin vs Patrick Surtain
Player of the Game: Antonio Gibson RB Football Team
Final Score: Football Team 26 Broncos 23
Buccaneers @ Saints
The only thing that tastes better than a W is revenge. Jameis Winston has the chance to taste a W against his former team come Sunday. I'm hoping Winston is mic'd up for this game because I would love to hear him, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram interact on the field. There is so much energy in this backfield; I love it. Unfortunately for them, Tom Brady is coming to town. Brady gave Saints fans nightmares after what happened in the playoffs last year, and I expect his terror to continue in week 8. There aren't a lot of old-school rivalries between players in the NFL anymore. For the most part, everybody seems to be friends in the NFL; however, the Marshon Lattimore vs Mike Evans beef is real. Lattimore got after it with DK Metcalf last week, and I expect his chippiness to continue against Evans on Halloween. This matchup is awesome. Where the Buccaneers will win this game is in the run game. Leonard Fournette has been having a career year. "Playoff Lenny" will look like "LSU Lenny" back in the Bayou on Sunday. Fournette wears Louisana on his sleeve, scratch that; he wears Louisana on his shoulder pads. He's going to put on for his hometown and take a victory back to Tampa Bay.
What to Watch For: Mark Ingram's first game back with the Saints
Player of the Game: Leonard Fournette RB Buccaneers
Final Score: Buccaneers 34 Saints 24