We are seven weeks into the NFL season, and an early image of what’s waiting for us in the playoffs is forming. Each winner of the eight four-team divisions receives an automatic place in the playoffs, leaving only four spots for the rest to compete for.
The undefeated New England Patriots (7-0) scored an important win last week against New York Jets, who are the main challengers for the AFC East division title, and are currently three wins ahead of them. Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) are another team who haven’t had to face a loss so far and they’ve shown an impressive performance. With their other division rivals having at least three losses, they are likely to take the AFC North title.
Denver Broncos (6-0) are also somehow still undefeated and they are leading the AFC West division by three wins despite some terrible play from their legendary, but aging quarterback Peyton Manning. The AFC South division is full of mediocre and bad teams this season and the stuttering Indianapolis Colts (3-4) are surprisingly leading this division with a losing record.
The NFC South division has an exciting race for the 1st place between Atlanta Falcons (6-1) and the undefeated Carolina Panthers (6-0). Over in the NFL North division, it looks like Green Bay Packers (6-0) will take the title once again. All four NFC East teams were performing inconsistently so far, but all of them are hanging on around 50 percent win mark and still haven’t lost hope for making it to the Super Bowl.
The NFL West division has been strong in the recent season and it is led by Arizona Cardinals (5-2), but for the rest of the season they will be facing a tough challenge in a form of the emerging St. Louis Rams and the last season’s Super Bowl finalists Seattle Seahawks.
Four teams (Bills, Jaguars, Eagles, and Redskins) will take a one week break, also known as a bye. Let’s take a look at the games of NFL regular season Week 8:
Two undefeated teams and two future hall of fame Super Bowl winning quarterbacks will meet in undoubtedly the most anticipated match of Week 8. Strangely enough, both teams with the big name quarterbacks are winning on defense so far this season, both sitting at 1-2 in the lowest points conceded in the league.
While the Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers (31) is still producing admirably top 5 scoring results in the league with numerous injuries on the offensive side, his 39 years old opponent Peyton Manning, an all-time NFL leader in a bunch of categories, is losing his battle against Father Time.
The majority of his drives are full of inaccurate throws and psychological mistakes nowadays and he is among most turnover prone quarterbacks in the league this season. While Rodgers is expecting some reinforcements (Davante Adams and Eddie Lacy should be back), it will be interesting to see if Manning will have any tricks left up his sleeve for this game.
Prediction and pick: TonyBet have the visiting Packers as a three point favorite in this one, and even with the substantial Mile High home field advantage for Broncos, we are afraid to trust Manning in his current state and pick the Packers side.
The two AFC North teams will be battling to gain the control of their division. Bengals have won all games so far this season, showing a solid display on both sides of the ball, while Steelers had to play several weeks without their star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be back for this game. Pittsburgh team have some very talented offensive players and will have a real chance to deliver the first loss of the season to Bengals.
Prediction and pick: TonyBet has Steelers as a two point favorite in this one and, while we understand why a 4-3 team would be favored over 6-0 one, we are taking the Bengals’ side only because this will be Roethlisberger’s first game after injury and he might not be back at 100 percent yet.
The preseason darlings Colts have shown nothing impressive so far this season, often conceding big leads in the beginnings of games and making numerous mistakes even though the schedule so far has been quite favorable.
Their next three games are coming against teams with a combined 18-1 record (Broncos and Falcons after Panthers), and many experts are predicting serious trouble ahead for this team. Panthers, on the other hand, are a well-disciplined team built on strong defense and running game, and have been taking care of business well so far this season, even beating Seattle Seahawks on an away game.
Prediction and pick: TonyBet has Panthers as a -6.5 favorite in this Monday Night Football game and we agree, because we don’t trust this season’s Colts to be consistent and mistake-free, even with one of young NFL stars Andrew Luck (receiving his own share of criticism as well) in charge of team’s offense.
Other Week 8 matches:
Detroit Lions (1-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (2-5) – even though Detroit Lions have some talented playmakers who can generate some yards in the offense, the holes in both lines and the widely criticized coaching effort have caused a huge deficit in the standings to start the season.
The Lions have a bottom-five defense and turnover margin. The Chiefs are also not having a good season and are struggling offensively without their star running back Jamal Charles out for the season with an injury. The Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith is just not capable of creating spectacular long yardage gaining plays. This is the last London game of this season and the spectators should be in for an equal and unpredictable game.
San Diego Chargers (2-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-6) – San Diego Chargers’ QB Phillip Rivers is doing quite an admirable job dragging his subpar team and he even leads the league in passing yards. Still, the huge holes in defense, the injuries to the offensive line and the subpar running game didn’t let Chargers enjoy a lot of success this season.
For a second week in a row Chargers’ fans were outnumbered by the opposition supporters in the San Diego stadium amidst the rumors of the team moving to Los Angeles in near future, so maybe they will have a better chance to win in Baltimore, who are having a very poor season by their recent standards. The secondary defense line cannot stop the opposition passing attacks and the strong armed quarterback Joe Flacco lacks talented targets for his long passes. This looks like it’s going to be a high-scoring game full of defensive mistakes.
Arizona Cardinals (5-2) @ Cleveland Browns (2-5) – the experienced and well-coached Cardinals should better win this game against their supbar opponents if they want to keep St Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks at bay. Team‘s quarterback Carson Palmer has the highest winning percentage among all NFL quarterbacks in the last two seasons, so as long as he stays healthy, this team can be one of theSuper Bowl contenders.
Cleveland Browns enjoyed some high-scoring offensive performances a few weeks ago, but when facing quality defense like Cardinals‘, they predictably struggled to produce enough drives to win games due to the definitive lack of talent in the main offensive positions. The Browns are now the worst team in the league in red zone conversion rate.
Minnesota Vikings (4-2) @ Chicago Bears (2-4) – Minnesota Vikings have a well-coached defense producing a top-three-lowest opponent scoring average. On the offense, the Vikings’ offensive coordinator can now use not only the 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson for rushing attacks, but also the speedy rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who is having a great stretch catching passes from the promising second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
No wonder the expert consensus calls them a contender for a wild card spot in the NFC conference playoffs. Meanwhile Chicago Bears had a very poor start to the season, but are now improving a bit and have their star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back from an injury. Still, Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler is known for some careless passes against tough defenses, so the stingy Vikings defense makes them likely to win this matchup.
Tennessee Titans (1-5) @ Houston Texans (2-5) – With all four teams of the AFC South division underperforming in standings all of them maintain chances to win this division. They will have to improve their performance drastically if they want to win a decent chunk of games against teams from other divisions though.
The Titans have a combination of young inexperienced squad with major holes in the lineup and their coaching staff is one of the worst rated around the league. The high pedigree rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota is injured and might not play in this game, and the Titans would be wise to be very careful with their franchise future.
The Texans had some serious expectations before the season to make a strong push in the playoffs with their aggressive defense led by the best defensive player in the league JJ Watt. However, their season, marred with poor quarterback play and underperforming defenders around their talented star so far, is looking bleak, especially after last week‘s hopeless loss to Miami Dolphins and losing their star running back Arian Foster for the rest of the season to Achilles injury. This is the ideal opponent for the Texans’ coach Bill O‘Brien to right the ship but if the Titans win this one, he will be under some serious pressure.
New York Giants (4-3) @ New Orleans Saints (3-4) – the Giants are one of the mediocre NFC East division teams who can beat each other in a second-rate, mistake-riddled games, and the Saints are a similar average NFL team with many flaws in their squad. Both teams got important wins last week – the Giants used Cowboys‘ mistakes to their advantage in an equal game and the Saints went to Indianapolis as underdogs and jumped to an early big lead there and held on to it. An equal game which both teams feel they must win.
San Francisco 49ers (2-5) @ St Louis Rams (3-3) – San Francisco 49ers are a predictably poor NFL team this season. Every time they play against an opponent with strong defense, the 49ers’ offense collapses completely resulting in blowout losses. Against average and mediocre defenses San Francisco‘s quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his troops fare better and even win a few games. Sadly for them, St Louis Rams boast one of the best defenses in the league and will aim to stifle 49ers offense to a halt. Rams‘ rookie running back Todd Gurley is showing a truly remarkable levels of power and speed and is posting one 100+ rushing yards game after another.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-1) – Even though the Buccaneers’ offense is improving with the help of the first pick in 2015 NFL draft quarterback Jameis Winston and by scoring touchdowns more than last season, Buccaneers are let down badly by their worst in NFL defense that couldn’t protect a 24-0 lead in last week’s 30-31 loss to Washington Redskins.
Atlanta Falcons are enjoying a very impressive win-loss balance so far, but the performance itself is sliding down somewhat – the quarterback Matt Ryan oversaw high eight turnovers in last three games while Falcons had a lot of trouble beating subpar opponents. They will likely be found out by a stronger opponent some time in next few weeks, but not this time – Tampa Bay defense is the one on which offensive improvements can be found.
New York Jets (4-2) @ Oakland Raiders (3-3) – A hard-fought loss in last week‘s game against the best team in the league for the Patriots can be considered as a psychological victory for Jets and a definite confidence boost for the rest of the season. The new coach Todd Bowles, recruited from strong Cardinals‘ coaching staff, is proving to be a success so far, implementing disciplined defense, solid offensive line and getting good performances out of their star players, especially the running back Chris Ivory. This is a top 10 team who can make some noise in the postseason.
The Raiders are also improving in comparison to previous seasons, and fans of this long-time NFL bottom dweller are happy to see their team to be among the league‘s average teams. They will certainly give their opponents a lot of problems for the rest of the season, especially since their rookie Amari Cooper is having one 100+ receiving yards game after another. In conclusion, it‘s going to be an equal game and any team can win.
Seattle Seahawks (3-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (2-4) – How can an offensively struggling finalist of the last two Super Bowls improve their season‘s fortune? Maybe playing a team with a four game losing streak with 30 points allowed during that stretch will help.
The Cowboys’ season is definitely on the line here and they will be facing a very tough challenge with their main quarterback Tony Romo still out with an injury. A lot of mistakes and a very low amount of forced turnovers for opponents doesn‘t help, either.
If Seahawks, who are somehow the worst in the league in protecting their quarterback, don‘t win this game, thoughts about another trip to the Super Bowl should definitely be delayed until next season. They are at 3-4 now and with the NFC West division rivals Cardinals and Rams showing solid form, they cannot slip up any longer in games like this against opponents with a lot of problems.