The National Football Post’s Matt Bowen picks every game on the Week 8 NFL schedule.
Denver (6-0) at Baltimore (3-3)
Current Line: Ravens -3 ½
A tough game to pick as both teams are coming off of the bye week with an extra week of preparation—and the game plans should be solid on both sides. But, in a game like this, I look at players and possible mismatches. And, I see Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal having the ability to beat Baltimore corners Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington—especially when the Ravens pressure, leaving the corners in man coverage. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will make some plays against this Denver defense, but it isn’t enough as Kyle Orton and the Broncos control the ball in the fourth quarter yet again to stay unbeaten. I am sticking with McDaniels and the Broncos until someone shows me they can take them down.
Broncos 22, Ravens 16
Houston (4-3) at Buffalo (3-4)
Current Line: Houston -3 ½
You would think the Texans would have it easy heading to Buffalo, but they have to protect the football to get it done. In the Bills’ last two games—which were both victories—the Buffalo defense forced 10 turnovers, and when you do that, you can play with anyone in this league. Look for Houston to lean on Steve Slaton once again to control the clock and find a way to get one or two big plays from Andre Johnson to hold off a Bills team that always plays hard for Dick Jauron. And, don’t forget about this Texans defense that is finding out how to stop the run. I am taking the Texans at the Ralph.
Texans 26, Bills 13
Cleveland (1-6) at Chicago (3-3)
Current Line: Bears -13 ½
I wouldn’t call it panic mode yet in Chicago, but there are plenty of issues to discuss when talking about the Bears right now. Jay Cutler is turning the ball over, Matt Forte can’t seem to get the inside running game going and Lovie Smith’s defense isn’t stopping the run or getting their hands on the football. But, I still can’t see a Derek Anderson-led Cleveland offense scoring enough points on the road to pull the upset at Solider Field. Cleveland hopes that Josh Cribbs can make some plays in the return game, but Cutler has his best performance of the season for the Bears. I am going with Chicago at home.
Bears 24, Browns 10
Seattle (2-4) at Dallas (4-2)
Current Line: Dallas -9 ½
The interesting thing about the Cowboys is that they are getting better on offense with each passing week, and that can be attributed to Tony Romo making plays in the pocket and the emergence of Miles Austin—who has taken over as the deep-ball threat in Dallas. I like the Seahawks with Matt Hasselbeck under center, but Seattle doesn’t have the players to compete with Dallas’ running game and I see Romo staying hot on Sunday. More deep balls and more big plays for Austin. I am taking the Cowboys—and it might stay that way for awhile. I like where this team is going.
Cowboys 31, Seahawks 14
St. Louis (0-7) at Detroit (1-5)
Current Line: Lions - 4
Can the Rams head into Ford Field and beat the Lions—who could be without Matthew Stafford yet again under center? Steve Spagnuolo’s ball club has shown flashes this season and the ability to make some plays, but even without Stafford, I still have to take the Lions at home. Calvin Johnson makes that one big play in the second half to set up the winning field goal and Detroit holds onto a fourth quarter lead to get their second victory of the season—and the Rams stay winless. Lots of seats available.
Lions 12, Rams 10
San Francisco (3-3) at Indianapolis (6-0)
Current Line: Indianapolis -12
With Alex Smith under center for the Niners, this offense becomes completely different. They use explosive personnel sets, throw the ball vertically down the field, and we know this team still has the ability to get into a pro set and run the ball downhill. Look for Smith to target Vernon Davis down the middle of the field versus the Colts’ Tampa 2 defense and score some points. But, even with the hope of an offense that can score points, the Niners’ secondary can’t match up with Peyton Manning and his offensive weapons. I am sticking with the Colts as they explode in the second half at home.
Colts 37, Niners 17
Miami (2-4) at NY Jets (4-3)
Current Line: NY Jets -3
We know that Rex Ryan will have a game plan specifically designed to stop Miami’s wildcat after the Dolphins physically carved up this Jets front seven in their first meeting, but what I want to see is how the Jets move the ball without Leon Washington. Rookie Shonn Greene can put up numbers, but the Jets will miss Washington’s abilities to stretch the defense. Expect Miami to continue to test the Jets and have some new packages out of the wildcat yet again—some which produce big plays. I see a game that comes down to the fourth quarter again, and I am calling for the upset—as Chad Henne outplays Mark Sanchez on the road. Take the Dolphins.
Dolphins 19, Jets 15
NY Giants (5-2) at Philadelphia (4-2)
Current Line: Philadelphia -1
A big NFC East matchup in Philly. Over the last two weeks, the Giants’ secondary has been exposed and QB Eli Manning hasn’t reacted well to pressure defenses. The concern for Philly is the health of RB Brian Westbrook, who is being called a game-time decision. But this shouldn’t reflect who the Eagles are—because this team has become a big-play offense with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. I like Donovan McNabb at The Linc, and I still see Eli struggling with the Eagles’ multiple pressure schemes. Philly is plus-11 in turnover ratio right now, and I see it continuing on Sunday. I am going with McNabb and Philly at home.
Eagles 22, Giants 17
Oakland (2-5) at San Diego (3-3)
Current Line: San Diego -16 ½
Two weeks ago, I would have given the Raiders a chance to go into San Diego and possibly steal a game from the Bolts, but after seeing what they are capable of doing at home after a big win, it is hard for me to pick this team on the road. JaMarcus Russell continues to be the reason this team is losing, and until he is on the bench, I can’t see Oakland hanging in a game long enough to win. The Chargers aren’t running the ball with any production right now, but after the Raiders gave up over 300 yards last week, I expect San Diego to test that front seven early in the game. Philip Rivers throws for three TDs in a game that turns into a rout.
Chargers 38, Raiders 13
Jacksonville (3-3) at Tennessee (0-6)
Current Line: Tennessee -3
Vince Young will get the start for a Titans team that has been nothing but a disappointment this season. I expect Tennessee to get Young involved early with multiple movement passes and play action, hoping to give the QB some easy reads. But, the question for the Titans is if their defense can make plays and stop the run. Maurice Jones-Drew will once again be the centerpoint of this offense for the Jags, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pile up over 30 touches in a game the Jags have to have to stay in the wild-card discussion. But, it isn’t going to happen. The Titans—and Vince Young—get their first win of the season in Nashville, because the Tennessee defense shows up.
Titans 21, Jags 17
Carolina (2-4) at Arizona (4-2)
Current Line: Arizona -10
The problem with the Panthers is turnovers. They were able to move the ball against Buffalo last week, but QB Jake Delhomme continues to sabotage this offense with his inability to protect the football. WR Steve Smith is quickly becoming an afterthought in an offense that is mistake-filled and unproductive on the scoreboard. Look for Kurt Warner to have a good day against the Panthers’ Cover 2 scheme, but don’t forget about that ‘Zona defense. They intercepted Eli Manning three times last Sunday, and I like their chances against Delhomme. I am taking the Cards at home in the desert in an easy win.
Cardinals 33, Panthers 13
Minnesota (6-1) at Green Bay (4-2)
Current Line: Packers -3
Despite the drama surrounding Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau, there is still a game to be played in Green Bay and it will come down to which defense can force turnovers. Both Favre and Aaron Rodgers are playing at a high level, and that should continue on Sunday. But which defense can come up with the turnover in the fourth quarter to set up a big scoring opportunity? In a game like this, I always look at playmakers, and despite the pressure that Jared Allen will once again put on Rodgers, I see Al Harris and Charles Woodson making big plays down the field in the passing game, with Woodson returning an interception for a score in the fourth. I am taking the Pack at home, and the NFC North is up for grabs once again.
Packers 24, Vikings 20
Monday Night Match Up
Atlanta (4-2) at New Orleans (6-0)
Current Line: New Orleans -10
The issue right now with the Falcons is twofold: their secondary is vulnerable and the running game of Michael Turner isn’t producing enough results. From my perspective, Turner looks like he has lost a step when it comes to accelerating through the hole, and if this continues, the game plan will fall into the lap of QB Matt Ryan—which isn’t good against a New Orleans secondary that has the ability to make plays and score on defense. The Falcons have the talent to compete for a wild card, but they don’t have the talent to beat Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome. And, right now, I don’t see a team that does. Take the Saints to march on to 7-0.
Saints 34, Falcons 22
Last Week vs. the spread: 9-3-1
Overall vs. the spread: 15-11-1
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