By: Arvind Pendurthi

Last Week’s Record: 9-6

Overall Record: 63-42


Week 8 Results
Saintsvs. Green Bay Packers  W (44-23)
Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks  L (9-13)

Fueled by a big offensive performance, particularly by Drew Brees (84%   completion percentage, 311 yards, 3 TDs), the Saints cruised to a big win over the   Packers.  With RBs Pierre Thomas (rib & shoulder) and Khiry Robinson (arm) out,   Mark Ingram exploded for 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries (7.17 YPC),   carrying New Orleans to victory.   Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense stalled against the Seahawks, totaling   just 266 total yards.  Newton contributed just 171 yards through the air, completing   12 of 22 passes and tossing an interception in the process.  The Panthers’ defense   played well, holding Seattle to just 13 points and forcing the Seahawks’ first   interception in the redzone this year.  New Orleans has been very inconsistent, failing to win consecutive games at   any point this season.  However, week 8 may have marked a turning point for the   organization, as they looked very good on both offense and defense.  The latter put   plenty of pressure on the Packers’ high-powered passing attack, sacking QB Aaron   Rodgers 4 times and forcing 2 interceptions and 1 fumble; they should have no   trouble doing the same with Newton.

Players to Watch: Mark Ingram (RB – NO), Cam Newton (QB – CAR)

 Prediction: Saints 28, Panthers 17


Week 8 Results
Buccaneers: L (17-20 OT) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Browns: W (23-13) vs. Oakland Raiders

Tampa Bay nearly secured their 2nd win of the season, only to let it slip away on the first play of overtime. Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey were ineffective on the ground, totaling 52 yards on 18 carries (2.89 YPC). Since 2012, Martin has been just a shell of his former self:

  Games Played Carries Yards YPC Touchdowns Fumbles
2012 16 319 1454 4.6 11 1
2013 6 127 456 3.6 1 1
2014 5 58 166 2.9 1 0

Given his current trajectory, the Buccaneers will rely on their pass attack; particularly rookies Mike Evans (4 catches, 78 yards) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (3 catches, 26 yards, 1 TD). Both have seen expanding roles, yet have plenty of work to be done, as evidenced by the latter’s fumble on the first play of overtime.

If it is any consolation to the Buccaneers, the Browns’ running backs, Ben Tate and Terrance West were even more appalling, rushing 22 times for 37 yards – an average of 1.68 yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell was limited to just one carry due to the coaching staff’s concerns over fumbling issues; given the other RBs’ recent production, they will need to give Crowell another opportunity to run the ball.

Unfortunately for the Browns, Pro Bowl TE Jordan Cameron suffered a concussion and is expected to be sidelined for at least a week. However, Brian Hoyer still played well in his absence. In fact, comparing each team’s quarterback’s statistics from last week shows interesting results:

  Completions-Attempts Percentage Yards TDs INTs
Mike Glennon 19 – 28 68% 171 1 1
Brian Hoyer 19 – 28 68% 275 1 0

Hoyer’s efficiency should continue when Cleveland takes on the team that ranks dead last in the league in both offense and defense.

Players to Watch: Mike Evans (WR – TB), Isaiah Crowell (RB – CLE)

Prediction: Buccaneers 17, Browns 24


Week 8 Results
Cardinals: W (24-20) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Cowboys: L (17-20 OT) vs. Washington Redskins

The Cardinals escaped with a close win, thanks to a heads-up play by safety Rashad Johnson to push the receiver out-of-bounds before he came down with the catch as time expired. QB Carson Palmer had a fairly mediocre performance, completing just 20 of 42 passes. However, his stats were padded by an 80-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald (7 catches, 160 yards, 1 TD) and a 75-yard touchdown to John Brown (5 catches, 119 yards, 1 TD); Palmer finished with 329 yards and 2 TDs on the day.

Dallas’ offense stalled in a loss to the Redskins, scoring just 17 points. Though Tony Romo missed a chunk of the game with an injury to his surgically-repaired back, the offensive line was to blame for much of the Cowboys’ struggles, as they allowed 5 sacks. DeMarco Murray still managed to extend his 100-yard streak, however, rushing for 141 yards on 19 carries (7.42 YPC), putting himself back on track to break the single-season record of 2,105.

It is important to note that Murray was far from perfect on Monday night, fumbling for the 5th time in just 8 games. Furthermore, Romo is in jeopardy of missing their week 9 contest, in which case Brandon Weeden would lead the Cowboys into battle. Weeden completed 4 of his 6 pass attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown in Romo’s absence and appeared much more capable with a legitimate receiving corps at his disposal. Regardless of Romo’s availability, the Cowboys will pull off a close win.

Players to Watch: Andre Ellington (RB – ARI), Brandon Weeden (QB – DAL)

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Cowboys 28


Week 8 Results
Eagles: L (20-24) at Arizona Cardinals
Texans: W (30-16) at Tennessee Titans

Philadelphia came up just short in Arizona, despite 521 yards of total offense. While Nick Foles’ 411 passing yards may seem impressive, he required an incredible 62 pass attempts to do so. Jeremy Maclin remains Foles’ #1 target, racking up 12 receptions for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns. RB LeSean McCoy had another disappointing performance, rushing 21 times for 83 yards (3.95 YPC).

Anchored by safety DJ Swearinger (2 tackles, 1 INT) and defensive end JJ Watt (2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), the Texans’ defense gave its offense plenty of breathing room. Arian Foster took full advantage of his touches, slicing and dicing for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries, adding 4 receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown.

After struggling against Arizona’s high-powered pass attack, the Eagles’ secondary has a nice opportunity to rebound against Houston’s 26th ranked pass offense. However, they will need to focus on containing Foster, who has scored 6 touchdowns over the last 3 weeks. Expect bigger games from tight end Zach Ertz (5 catches, 48 yards) and rookie receiver Jordan Matthews (6 catches, 47 yards).

Players to Watch: Zach Ertz (TE – PHI), Arian Foster (RB – HOU)

Prediction: Eagles 31, Texans 21


Week 8 Results
Jets: L (23-43) vs. Buffalo Bills
Chiefs: W (34-7) vs. St. Louis Rams

Despite trading for lightning quick playmaker Percy Harvin, the Jets offense was horrendous against the Bills, further exposing their flaws at QB. Geno Smith played the worst quarter of football since Kirk Cousins’ week 4 collapse, completing 2 of 8 passes for 5 yards and an impressively terrible 3 interceptions. He was quickly replaced by Michael Vick, who was an improvement, but mediocre nonetheless, completing 50% of his throws for 153 yards and 1 pick.

After a slow start in the first half, Knile Davis’ 99-yard kick return touchdown to open the second half blew the game open for the Chiefs. Davis would add 49 rushing yards and 1 touchdown while starting RB Jamaal Charles contributed 111 all-purposes yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 touches. Alex Smith ran the offense very efficiently, completing 86% of his passes for 223 yards.

Though their pass rush was effective, taking QB Kyle Orton down in the backfield 4 times, the Jets’ secondary was not, allowing 4 touchdown passes. Meanwhile, led by LB Justin Houston’s 3 sacks, Kansas City’s defense neutralized the Rams, finishing with 7 sacks and an interception. Given the Jets’ quarterback struggles, and Alex Smith’s precision, the Chiefs should cruise to another easy win.

Players to Watch: Michael Vick (QB – NYJ), Alex Smith (QB – KC)

Prediction: Jets 10, Chiefs 35


Week 8 Results
Jaguars: L (13-27) vs. Miami Dolphins
Bengals: W (27-24) vs. Baltimore Ravens

Blake Bortles’ transition to the NFL has not been without growing pains, as the talented rookie leads the league with 12 interceptions to just 6 touchdowns. He struggled again last week, completing 53% of his passes for 221 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. Running back Denard Robinson has been a revelation for the Jaguars’ offense, rushing for 108 yards on 18 carries, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the 2nd consecutive game.

Cincinnati dodged a bullet on Sunday after a questionable pass interference call negated the Ravens’ game-winning touchdown. The Bengals’ offense has been much less threatening without star receiver AJ Green, who is slated to make his return this week. Mohamed Sanu has been phenomenal in his absence, reeling in 5 throws for 125 yards, including an impressive one-handed grab over the middle of the field.

Unfortunately for the Bengals, they will still not be at full strength even with Green’s return, as RB Giovani Bernard is expected to miss 2 weeks with injuries to his hip and shoulder. The weight of the run game will be placed on rookie Jeremy Hill’s shoulders. Although Hill’s power running style is the polar opposite of Bernard’s combination of quickness and agility, he is capable of balancing the offense.

Players to Watch: Denard Robinson (RB – JAC), Jeremy Hill (RB – CIN) 

Prediction: Jaguars 10, Bengals 28


Week 8 Results
Chargers: L (21-35) at Denver Broncos
Dolphins: W (27-13) at Jacksonville Jaguars

After holding them out of the endzone in the 1st quarter, San Diego’s defense was simply unable to keep up with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The Chargers played catch-up for the majority of the game, limiting explosive RB Branden Oliver to just 13 carries for 36 yards. Philip Rivers had a rather disappointing game by his standards, connecting on 30 of 41 pass attempts for 252 yards, 3 scores and 2 picks, including a late interception on an ill-advised deep ball.

Miami’s defense carried the team to a victory on Sunday, outscoring the offense 14-13 and totaling 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 1 fumble. S Louis Delmas and CB Brent Grimes each returned an interception for a touchdown, reading the quarterback’s eyes and stepping in front of the pass. Ryan Tannehill regressed slightly through the air, going 16-29 for 196 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. However, Tannehill’s role in the run game continues to expand, as the athletic quarterback carried the ball 5 times for 48 yards.

San Diego’s offense should have another tough week, facing the 7th best defense in the league. They will need to do a better job of shutting down their opponent’s rush attack, as they allowed 139 yards on the ground last week. However, if the Chargers can shut down Miami’s read option, they will be able to fluster Tannehill into mistakes in the pass game.

Players to Watch: Keenan Allen (WR – SD), Ryan Tannehill (QB – MIA)

Prediction: Chargers 31, Dolphins 24


Week 8 Results
Redskins: W (20-17 OT) at Dallas Cowboys
Vikings: W (19-13 OT) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite another efficient performance from Colt McCoy, the Redskins continue to play musical chairs with their starting quarterbacks, opting to start Robert Griffin III in his return from a dislocated ankle. Given Griffin’s injury history and 6-week absence, Washington’s offense will most likely have a rocky outing on Sunday. Expect Alfred Morris (18 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD) to see a bump in his touches.

Fresh off a strong defensive effort (5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FUM), the Vikings will look to repeat their performance against the Redskins’ shaky offense. In addition, Minnesota’s young offense showed improvement, totaling 332 yards. To emphasize how young they are, with the exception of 9th year veteran Greg Jennings, no player who touched the ball on offense had more than 3 years of NFL experience.

Although many of the Vikings’ playmakers are still fairly raw, they have shown more than enough potential to win this matchup. Rookie RB Jerick McKinnon averaged 5.19 yards per carry for 83 yards, 2nd-year WR Cordarrelle Patterson pulled down 6 balls for 86 yards and rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater completed 24-42 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. Rookie LB Anthony Barr has had a massive impact on the defense, including the game-winning strip and TD return last week, making a strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Players to Watch: Anthony Barr (LB – MIN), Robert Griffin III (QB – WAS)

Prediction: Redskins 17, Vikings 21


Week 8 Results

Rams: L (7-34) at Kansas City Chiefs
49ers: Bye

St. Louis’ battle against the Chiefs ended much differently than it started. After confidently leading the offensive unit into the endzone on the game’s opening drive, Austin Davis and the Rams were shut down for the remaining 56:56 of the game. Davis completed just 60% of his passes for 160 yards, 1 touchdowns and 1 interception. St. Louis’ three-man RB rotation played well, averaging 4.75 YPC, but they had little impact on the flow of the game, as they combined for just 16 carries.

Although San Francisco has a rather pedestrian record, there are several explanations.   The team’s three losses came at the hands of the Bears, Cardinals and Broncos – all quality opponents. Furthermore, they have been playing without numerous defensive key players, including Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Willis is questionable to return this week; if he does, he would have an immediate impact on a defense that allowed 42 points two weeks ago.

The 49ers’ run game has been inconsistent this season, as Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde’s yards per carry averages have fluctuated significantly on a weekly basis:

  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7
Gore 4.1 4.8 1.7 5.0 5.9 2.4 2.2
Hyde 7.1 0.0 4.3 2.6 4.3 1.3 5.0

Facing St. Louis’ tough defensive line without the assistance of starting linemen Daniel Kilgore and Mike Iupati, the duo will most likely have another off week. Colin Kaepernick will need to have a strong game through the air to beat the Rams.

Players to Watch: Austin Davis (QB – STL), Marcus Martin (C – SF)

Prediction: Rams 20, 49ers 31


Week 8 Results
Broncos: W (35-21) vs. San Diego Chargers
Patriots: W (51-23) vs. Chicago Bears

Sunday afternoon’s matchup between the Broncos and Patriots should be another exciting chapter in the Brady-Manning rivalry, as both quarterbacks have been red-hot. Manning and receiver Emmanuel Sanders connected 9 times for 120 yards and 3 touchdowns, establishing Sanders as yet another headache for opposing defenses. Demaryius Thomas had a big game as well, catching 8 passes for 105 yards.

Tom Brady embarrassed the Bears’ secondary in week 8, completing 30 of 35 pass attempts for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns. TE Rob Gronkowski exploded for 149 yards and 3 TDs on 9 receptions, while WR Brandon LaFell pulled down another 11 balls for 124 yards and a score. The Patriots’ defense was strong as well, sacking Jay Cutler 3 times in addition to 1 interception and a fumble returned for a touchdown.

Both teams’ pass offenses are clicking at the moment, meaning the deciding factor in this game will be the defenses and run games. Denver has a significant edge in the former, as they currently rank 4th in the league to New England’s 12th. Furthermore, although Montee Ball is sidelined with an injury, RB Ronnie Hillman has rushed 75 times for 349 yards, averaging 4.65 yards per carry in his absence and giving the Broncos a crucial edge.

Players to Watch: Ronnie Hillman (RB – DEN), Rob Gronkowski (TE – NE)

Prediction: Broncos 45, Patriots 38


Week 8 Results
Raiders: L (13-23) at Cleveland Browns
Seahawks: W (13-9) at Carolina Panthers

Although the Raiders remain winless, they appear to have built a solid foundation for success on both sides of the ball between rookie QB Derek Carr and rookie LB Khalil Mack. The former continues to play better than his stats (63% completion, 328 yards, 1 TD) suggest, and his gunslinger attitude will benefit their offense once Oakland improves its receiving corps.

Seattle’s offense has struggled severely, particularly against the Panthers last week. RB Marshawn Lynch has been disappointing this season, as he has failed to eclipse 100 yards since week 1. Russell Wilson remains the catalyst for the offense, as he threw for 199 yards and rushed for another 35. With Percy Harvin gone, the Seahawks need to use rookie WR Paul Richardson creatively to get the offense going again.

While Seattle has struggled to move the ball, its defense remains strong, coming in at 5th-best in the NFL. They forced 3 sacks, 1 fumble and 1 interception, in addition to holding the Panthers to a 3rd down conversion rate of just 20%. Facing a less talented receiving corps than their previous opponent and a pair of injury-prone running backs, the Seahawks’ D should have no trouble containing the Raiders’ offense.

Players to Watch: Derek Carr (QB – OAK), Marshawn Lynch (RB – SEA)

Prediction: Raiders 10, Seahawks 27


Week 8 Results
Ravens: L (24-27) at Cincinnati Bengals
Steelers: W (51-34) vs. Indianapolis Colts

Baltimore’s offense stalled against the Bengals, particularly in the pass attack. Joe Flacco completed just 50% of his passes for 195 yards with 2 interceptions. Steve Smith was held to just 35 yards on 3 catches while Torrey Smith was targeted just once, failing to contribute. RBs Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro remain reliable, as the former rushed for 68 yards on 17 carries and the latter led the team in receiving with 2 catches for 42 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger put together one of the best passing performances in recent history, completing 40 of 49 passes (82%) for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns. TE Heath Miller broke 100 yards for the first time this season, catching 7 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while rookie Martavis Bryant added a pair of touchdowns and 83 yards off 8 receptions. Running back Le’Veon Bell had a subpar performance, averaging 3.83 yards per carry.

Although the Ravens defeated the Steelers earlier this season (26-6, week 2), Pittsburgh has improved significantly on offense, averaging 28.2 points per game since their previous matchup. Furthermore, Baltimore will have their hands full with WR Antonio Brown, who has been phenomenal this season, coming in the top 10 of nearly every receiving statistic:

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards After Catch
1st (60) 2nd (852) T-4th (7) 6th (300)

Players to Watch: Justin Forsett (RB – BAL), Martavis Bryant (WR – PIT)

Prediction: Ravens 30, Steelers 35


Week 8 Results
Colts: L (34-51) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Giants: Bye

Indianpolis’ defense had a rough outing last week, allowing a remarkable 639 yards to the Steelers. The secondary was particularly terrible, blowing coverages throughout the game and allowing Pittsburgh’s receivers to rack up 522 yards with ease. With the offense playing catch-up all game, RB Ahmad Bradshaw was held to just 6 carries for 35 yards, though he contributed 52 yards through the air.

New York stumbled into its bye week on the heels of a two-game loss streak, but they remain a threat to opposing teams. Rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has already established a significant role in the redzone since his week 5 debut, as he has 3 touchdowns on just 10 receptions. However, for the offense to truly have an impact, the Giants will need rookie RB Andre Williams (89 carries, 280 yards, 3.1 YPC) to step up until Rashad Jennings returns from injury.

Despite the loss, the Colts’ offense still looked good, as Andrew Luck threw for 400 yards and 3 TDs with 2 interceptions. Although he is just in his 3rd year in the league, Luck leads all quarterbacks with 2,731 yards and 22 touchdowns. WR Donte Moncrief may have carved himself a bigger role in the offense as well, thanks to a 7 catch, 113 yard, 1 touchdown performance. Luck’s arm will carry Indianapolis to an easy win on Monday night.

Players to Watch: Donte Moncrief (WR – IND), Andre Williams (RB – NYG)

Prediction: Colts 38, Giants 21

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