by Page Gerrick Denny // @PDenny29
Week 7 was full of surprises, and I still ended up picking 10 games correctly. Week 8 is likely to be a bit more predictable, but if the trend of 2017 being weird continues, we could all be shocked by some of the outcomes. I’m a bit late getting my column written, so for now, I’m posting my picks for the first six games of the week. I’ll update this a bit later with the remaining games. Here’s to Week 8!
Miami Dolphins (4-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-4)
Thursday Night Football pits the 31st ranked offense and 18th ranked defense of the Ravens against the 32nd ranked offense and 10th ranked defense of the Dolphins. With rankings like those, it’s pretty clear this game will be decided by the defense that plays the most complete game.
The Ravens’ defense has been solid this season, but the offense is a wreck. Their passing game is almost non-existent, and the line is battling a spate of injuries, making it difficult to gain yards on the ground.
The Dolphins have built their above .500 record on the groundwork of great defense and come-from-behind grit. Backup quarterback Matt Moore has solid offensive weapons in wide receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Jay Ajayi, which should be enough to outgain and outscore the Ravens, even on the road.
Minnesota Vikings (5-2) @ Cleveland Browns (0-7)
The last London showdown of the season features two teams having wildly different seasons. While the Vikings sit atop the NFC North, the Browns are at the bottom of the AFC North. What’s stunning about this matchup is the fact that both of these teams have top 10 defensive units.
Minnesota is fielding a squad that relies heavily on the legs of running back Latavius Murray, in addition to their excellent defense. Quarterback Case Keenum hasn’t been terribly consistent but has been doing enough to build a winning season thus far.
The Browns may use a quarterback by committee approach with both DeSone Kizer and Cody Kessler making an appearance. And for the first time since 2007, the offensive line will be without All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas. This spells another loss for the Browns.
Indianapolis Colts (2-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
It’s almost impossible to make a case for the Colts getting their third win this week; the team has been ravaged by injury. There’s been very little to be optimistic about for the Colts; the offensive line has allowed 29 sacks on Jacoby Brissett, and the defense has given up the most points per game in the league.
While Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been inconsistent, I expect the offense will get off the ground fairly early with wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Joe Mixon in the mix. Pair that with their excellent defense, and another win for the Bengals is almost guaranteed.
Oakland Raiders (3-4) @ Buffalo Bills (4-2)
The Raiders beat the Chiefs last week in a stunning series of plays, but beyond that, they’ve been mostly disappointing. The suspension of running back Marshawn Lynch will inevitably put even more pressure on already-fragile quarterback Derek Carr, setting up a tough game for Oakland.
The Bills have been making plays week after week, with running back LeSean McCoy being his normal, fantastic self, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor making his own contribution. While Buffalo’s defense is somewhere in the middle of the pack, their offense is electric enough to triumph over the Raiders at New Era Field.
Carolina Panthers (4-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)
These two teams are just trying to survive the season. The Panthers are struggling to match plays to personnel under the predictable offense of coordinator Mike Shula. They’re running the same plays on first and second down, and head coach Ron Rivera isn’t placing trust in quarterback Cam Newton’s ability to go for it on fourth down.
The Bucs have struggles of their own. The combination of quarterback Jameis Winston and running back Doug Martin can be strong, even with a sprain to Winston’s throwing shoulder. The defense is struggling, likely due in part to their 3-3-5 alignment, which doesn’t allow the front to get the guards in space.
The Panthers owe their record to their defense, but their offensive penchant for creating turnovers will get them in trouble this week, and give the Bucs a much-needed win.
Chicago Bears (3-4) @ New Orleans Saints (4-2)
The Bears are an October Surprise. Despite some big victories, largely due to their excellent defense, the offense is still a bit sluggish. Even with the improved passing game under quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears still lean on their run game.
The Saints have the No. 4 offense in the NFL, and their defense is improving every week, which sets them up for success against Trubisky, who is likely to throw an interception or two. Quarterback Drew Brees is always a threat through the air but has thrown multiple interceptions in more than a few games, creating an opportunity for Chicago.
I don’t think the Bears can keep up with the points the Saints will inevitably put up, and they’ll head into their bye with a loss.