NFL Week 8 Primer

Eli ManningSunday’s Best: Giants (5-1) at Steelers (5-1), 4:15 PM ET
Does a matchup get more physical than this? The biggest news surrounding this game on the injury front is that Willie Parker is expected to return to the Steelers’ backfield this week after missing last Sunday’s win over the Bengals after aggravating his knee injury. He faces a tough front seven of the Giants, who bounced back last Sunday against San Francisco after being embarrassed on Monday night football two weeks ago in Cleveland. New York’s defense complied six sacks, forced four fumbles, intercepted two passes and held the 49ers to 2 of 10 on third downs. One thing to note is that the Steelers were manhandled by an Eagles team early in the season that runs a similar defensive scheme as the Giants do. Expect the G-Men to game plan against the run while blitzing Ben Roethlisberger early and often. Pittsburgh’s banged up offensive line is ranked 28th in sacks allowed, which doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Big Ben this weekend. Still, expect a Steeler defense pumped for the opportunity to stifle Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs and the rest of New York’s explosive offense.

Upset Watch: Falcons (4-2) at Eagles (3-3), 1:00 PM ET
Bragging alert: I’ve called the last four upset-watches and five of the first seven this season. And if Martin Gramatica wasn’t awful, I would have nailed the Saints over the Broncos in Week 3 as well. I’m going out on a major limb this week in calling a Falcons upset over the Eagles. Not only is Philly a 9-point favorite, but the Eagles are also 9-0 under Andy Reid coming off the bye. But I’ve bought hard into the Matt Ryan hype and happen to believe Atlanta is better than what people are making them out to be. They trust Ryan to make throws in the passing game, can run the ball with Michael Turner and have beaten two quality teams in the Packers and Bears in their last two games. For them to walk away with a win on Sunday, however, the defense will need to step up. Donovan McNabb is shredding opposing defenses and will likely have Brian Westbrook, Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis back from injuries. But the Falcons have moved the ball well this year, are protecting Ryan (which will be huge this week against Jim Johnson’s blitz-happy defense) and are coming off a bye themselves. They have a lot of momentum after the win over the Bears and have been a more physical team under first-year head coach Mike Smith. A win might be out of reach, but at the very least, I’m calling for a Falcons cover.

LaDainian TomlinsonIntriguing Matchup: Chargers at Saints, 1:00 PM ET
Both of these teams were highly regarded as playoff contenders in preseason – if not Super Bowl contenders. But both of struggled with inconsistency so far and the Saints will be without Reggie Bush for the next 3 to 4 weeks. LaDainian Tomlinson has not looked like the same MVP back he’s been in recent years, but QB Philip Rivers has more than picked up the slack. Which one of these teams can get back on track this week playing overseas in London? Chances are, the winner might be able to save its season while the loser could start to fall off the playoff radar. (Especially New Orleans, who now plays in a surprisingly tough NFC South.)

Other Notable Games:
Cardinals (4-2) at Panthers (5-2)
Had it not been for the Giants-Steelers game, this matchup might have been the best the NFL had to offer this week. Each team is starting to make some noise, but both have also looked incredibly bad at times this year (see the Cardinals effort against the Jets and the Panthers against the Buccaneers).

Buccaneers (5-2) at Cowboys (4-3), 1:00 PM ET
No Tony Romo again for Dallas – will Monte Kiffin’s defense eat Brad Johnson alive?

Colts (3-3) at Titans (6-0), 8:30 PM ET Monday
The Monday night matchup is a great one. Can Peyton Manning turn around the Colts’ misfortunes this year against the surprising undefeated Titans?

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