NFL Week 8: 14 games, 14 bold predictions

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By SAM SPIEGELMAN
XN Sports

On Thursday night, the Denver Broncos reminded us all who the bully in the AFC was, handing the Chargers a second loss in as many weeks to knock them into second place in the West.

That was the start of Week 8, but there are 14 more NFL games on the slate this Sunday and on Monday night.

XN Sports will take a look at each one of the other 14 matchups, providing you with some insight and one bold prediction. Last week, we predicted a last-second game-winning drive in the Bills-Vikings showdown (of course, we had Teddy Bridgewater pulling off the heroics, not Kyle Orton!). We also had Miami upsetting Chicago, and Peyton Manning re-writing the record books before halftime against the 49ers.

Onto Week 8...


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NFL Week 8: 14 games, 14 bold predictions

Bills vs. Jets

Percy Harvin is set to make his debut in Jets green, and we’re anxious to see what the dynamic wide receiver can do to spark this lethargic offense. Harvin has the ability to get carries out of the backfield, haul in passes, and run trick plays, not to mention his contributions as a kick and punt returner. Now the pressure is on Geno Smith, who now has a true No. 1 receiver in Eric Decker, Harvin, and a workhorse in Chris Ivory. This week the Jets face a Bills team coming off a last-second triumph over Minnesota in which Kyle Orton found Sammy Watkins for a game-winning score. The Bills have been playing exceptional since moving Orton under center, and they get a Jets team that’s dropped six games in a row.

Bold prediction: Jets coaches are saying Harvin will have “a minor” role in Sunday’s game, and that makes sense given that Harvin has been with the team for just over a week. But his contributions on special teams cannot be overlooked. The Jets return units have suffered this season and have yet to score a touchdown in that area. Expect that to change as Harvin looks to get his Jets tenure rolling.

(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Lions vs. Falcons

The Lions and Falcons travel overseas to Wembley Stadium in London for this game, which will be aired in the early hours of Sunday morning in the states. The Falcons have lost four in a row as their offensive line and defensive deficiencies have become glaring weaknesses. And that red-hot offense has cooled off, too, as they’ve produced a lower score each of the past four games. No mismatch will be as great as the Falcons’ O-line against Detroit’s dominant D-line. Matt Ryan will likely be on his backside more often than not. Calvin Johnson‘s absence will likely not matter in this one.

Bold prediction: Aside from Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate is turning out to be the best free-agent signing of the offseason, helping to overcome Megatron’s absence in the lineup with some clutch catches. I’m not sure any Falcons defensive back can slow down Tate, who may have to shoulder to workload with Johnson and possibly Reggie Bush sidelined. Tate continues his Pro Bowl-worthy campaign with 100-plus yards receiving and not one, not two, but three total scores.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Rams vs. Chiefs

Both St. Louis and Kansas City are coming off major wins in Week 7. The Rams upset the defending champs to give Seattle two losses in a row, thanks to a handful of game-changing specials teams plays. The Chiefs knocked off the Chargers, reminding us all that Andy Reid is too good of a coach to ever lose after his team’s bye.

Bold prediction: This game should be sloppy, low-scoring, and would anybody object to it coming down to what —  a special teams play? Maybe it won’t be as unconventional as Stedman Bailey‘s touchdown a week ago, but in a game where all but 13 points are scored, Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos knocks another game-winner through the uprights.

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Texans vs. Titans

Here comes Jadeveon Clowney! The No. 1 overall pick will return for the Texans, who are in need of a win to put a stop to their three-game losing skid. Now Clowney joins MVP candidate J.J. Watt on a defense that collapsed midway through the second quarter on Monday night in a crushing loss to Pittsburgh. Clowney’s first start will come against a sixth-rounder in Zach Mettenberger, who’ll be the third Titans quarterback to start this year. The former LSU quarterback gets the nod over the ineffective Charlie Whitehurst and oft-injured Jake Locker.

Bold prediction: Which rookie will thrive in this one? Mettenberger’s lone action this season has been in garbage time, when he threw a pick against the Colts. Clowney is going to want to make his presence felt right away. And because he has a bona fide All-Pro end rushing the quarterback opposite him with mediocre tackles, the No. 1 overall pick should have a chance to do just that. Clowney comes up with two sacks and a fumble in his debut.

(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

Vikings vs. Buccaneers

The victims of a late touchdown in Week 7, Minnesota can’t look back at the loss to Buffalo as a complete disaster. Teddy Bridgewater connected with Cordarrelle Patterson for the receiver’s first touchdown since Week 1 and the first passing one in Bridgewater’s career. The Buccaneers had a week off after beginning the season 1-5, and now get a home game at Raymond James Stadium, where the team is 0-3 on the year.

Bold prediction: It’ll be interesting to see how Lovie Smith’s team looks coming off the bye week. Mike Glennon has been wildly inconsistent in the first half of the year, but has to realize he’s auditioning for a job in 2015. Bridgewater is starting to progress as he prepares for his fourth career start. Expect Tampa to be much more competitive, but this time the Vikings find themselves on the right side of a game-winning pass. We predicted Bridgewater would throw his first game-winner last week, but it’s Week 8 when he gets it done.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Dolphins vs. Jaguars

Remember a month ago when the Dolphins were contemplating benching Ryan Tannehill? Well since then, the third-year quarterback has played lights out, nearly getting Miami past Green Bay then wiping the slate clean with the Bears a week ago at Soldier Field. Lamar Miller has come on as a true playmaker in the backfield, while this defense is as good at getting to the quarterback as there is in the league. Jacksonville is coming off its first win of the 2014 season in an upset over the previously surging Browns. Denard Robinson rushed for 127 yards in his first NFL start at running back, and Blake Bortles finally got win No. 1 under his belt.

Bold prediction: In this all-Florida matchup, it’s really difficult to expect the 1-6 Jags to win two in a row, especially with the likes of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon rolling into town. The Jags’ offensive line fared better a week ago against the Browns, but on the season still have looked to be one of the worst units in the league. The Dolphins entered this game with 17.0 sacks on the year. Wasn’t it Washington that notched 10 against them earlier this year? Expect Miami to match it with a 10.0-sack game.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bears vs. Patriots

The Bears find themselves in a must-win situation. After losing to the aforementioned Dolphins last week and falling to 0-3 at home, the Bears get back to the road where they’re 3-1 this year. Unfortunately, Foxborough is not a friendly place to play, as the Patriots look to extend their home winning streak to 13 in a row, which would continue the longest such streak in the NFL. The Patriots have reeled off three consecutive wins since we pronounced them dead in the water.

Bold prediction: The Bears pulling off the upset? No, but Tom Brady is too good at home. But isn’t this is a must-win for Chicago? They’re at 3-4 and sit two games back of first-place Green Bay in the NFC North. The Patriots are without Chandler Jones, and nobody is betting on Akeem Ayers to suddenly be a Pro Bowl pass-rusher. Jay Cutler follows up a bad Jay Cutler game with a good Jay Cutler game, and with plenty of time in the pocket hands the Patriots a rare home loss.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Seahawks vs. Panthers

The Super Bowl champs have dropped two games in a row, and suddenly the entire football world is wondering what’s wrong with them. The issue is that perhaps the Seahawks were overrated to begin with. Like the Spurs in the NBA, the Seahawks weren’t dominant for all of the 2013 regular season. The playoffs were a different story. Early on in 2014 the team has had its share of struggles, which have come into play the last two weeks against the Cowboys and Rams. Carolina meanwhile leads a mediocre NFC South division that shares one common bond: inconsistency. Cam Newton’s play has been wildly sporadic, rivaled only by that of his defense.

Bold prediction: Last week, Russell Wilson threw for over 300 yards and rushed for more than 100 in the Seahawks’ loss. Afterwards, teammates blamed the loss on the Harvin trade, calling it a distraction. I call it malarkey. But who in their right mind can predict three straight losses by the reigning champs? This guy. Newton has had his shares of ups and downs, but mostly ups when he’s at home. The Seahawks aren’t a strong road team, so let’s just chalk this third consecutive loss up to more “distractions.”

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Eagles vs. Cardinals

Quietly this is one of the best games Week 8 has to offer. The Eagles at 5-1 are coming off a bye week, where no doubt Chip Kelly must have drilled ball security into the head of Nick Foles, who has mustered up 10 turnovers through six games. LeSean McCoy had his best game of the season against the Giants before the bye, but faces a tough test in the stingy Cardinals defense, which has not allowed more than 86 rushing yards to date. Arizona has won two straight with Carson Palmer back in the fold and could truly alter the NFC playoff picture if it continues to streak in the right direction.

Bold prediction: The dilemma here is whether Arizona can continue winning and put both the Seahawks and 49ers in a position where they’re vying for Wild Card spots. But this one comes down to the fundamentals. The Eagles run the ball well and are opportunistic on defense. Arizona has a stout run defense while Palmer has been nothing short of spectacular managing the offense. Basic logic suggests a Cardinals win.

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Raiders vs. Browns

We were ready to anoint the Browns a playoff team and Brian Hoyer the quarterback of the future a week ago, but an inexplicable flop against Jacksonville has reminded us of one thing: we’re still talking about the Browns. One thing that helps heal a terrible loss is the Raiders coming to town. The lone winless team in the league has put up fights the last two weeks against the Bolts and Cards, but still have nothing to show for it.

Bold prediction: Oh guys, it’s the Raiders coming to town. Easy win, right? Not so fast. If this was Pittsburgh or Baltimore coming to town, then I’d expect Cleveland to be amped up. But this is a formula for failure. Oakland notches its first win of 2014 as it downs the Browns in Cleveland, and we begin to usher in the Johnny Manziel era.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Ravens vs. Bengals

Talk about a game flying under the radar. The surging Ravens travel to Ohio to take on the reeling Bengals, who haven’t won a game since their 3-0 start. Joe Flacco has been playing lights out and is getting invaluable contributions from his up-and-coming and very underrated defense. That doesn’t bode well for a lacking Cincinnati offense, which without A.J. Green has been abysmal. Last week the Bengals were shut out, mustering up just eight first-downs and 32 yards rushing. The Bengals defense has been non-existent since their loss to New England, surrendering 481 yards of total offense per game during that three-game span.

Bold prediction: This game has major AFC North ramifications for both teams. At 5-2 the Ravens have a comfortable lead over the 3-2-1 Bengals. With a 2-0-1 mark at home, the Bengals are still underdogs, which says a lot about how the team is being perceived at this juncture in the year. The Ravens lost 23-16 in their Week 1 matchup with Cincy, that one played in the Charm City. But nobody would’ve expected the Bengals to win both meetings anyway. Ravens continue to roll, but Cincy impresses. Leave it to Justin Tucker.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Colts vs. Steelers

Is there a team in the NFL hotter than the Colts right now? Andrew Luck‘s team has won five in a row, are tops in the AFC, and last week put the exclamation mark on it with a shutout of the Bengals. Luck has pieced together five consecutive 300-plus-yard games and is very much in the MVP discussion. But it’s a defense minus top pass-rusher Robert Mathis that’s been the best surprise, limiting teams to 272 total yards of offense during the streak. The Steelers earned a season-salvaging win on Monday night against the Texans, as Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown reminded us that they’re two of the most dynamic offensive players in the game.

Bold prediction: The Steelers were able to overcome an early deficit to Houston and mask their defensive losses, but it won’t be as easy against these Colts. Ryan Shazier could return for the first time since Week 3, but they are still without Jarvis Jones and Ike Taylor. Shazier is a difference-maker, but he alone cannot stop Luck and Co. Luck easily passes for 300 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw finds holes in this patchwork defensive front seven as the Colts rip off a sixth straight win.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Packers vs. Saints

This is not the marquee Sunday night affair we had hoped for when this game was put on the schedule before the season began. Green Bay is as good as we built them up to be, now in first place in the NFC North and winners of four in a row. Aaron Rodgers is among the MVP frontrunners, and he alone has been too hot for opposing defenses to handle. The Saints collapsed late against Detroit, allowing the Lions to score 14 unanswered and falling to 2-4 in the process. Even with the loss, the Saints remain alive in a very weak NFC South.

Bold prediction: The Saints are a primetime team, winning 13 of their last primetime home games. They’ve had a week to let that late loss to the Lions marinate, and are prepared to re-establish themselves as a team capable of winning a wide-open division. This one is a shootout, as neither team is very strong defensively. But when it comes to Rodgers and Drew Brees in the fourth quarter, we side with the home team. Let’s say it together: Drew Breeeeees!

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Washington vs. Cowboys

Week 8 comes to a conclusion with an NFC East showdown between the NFL’s hottest team in Dallas and Colt McCoy making his first NFL start in two years. The Cowboys have surged to the top five of XN Sports Week 8 Power Rankings, as Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant have been playing absolutely flawlessly, not to mention the superb play from the defense. Washington is coming off a win over the Titans in which McCoy took over for an ineffective Kirk Cousins at the half. McCoy sparked the Washington offense en route to its second win of the year, but now faces a much tougher task in the Dallas D allowing just 21.0 points per game.

Bold prediction: McCoy was able to work his magic against Tennessee, but it won’t continue against these Cowboys, who are surging toward an NFC East crown. Don’t let Washington’s defense fool you: it’s pretty solid against the pass (7th in the NFL) and run (12th in the NFL), but has given up 28 points per game in three road losses. McCoy reminds everyone why he entered the year as the third-stringer; lock in the Cowboys defense for two defensive touchdowns and four turnovers.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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