2011 NFL Week 8 Primer

Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray cuts upfield as St. Louis Rams Quintin Mikell defends during the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on October 23, 2011. UPI/Ian Halpeirn

Patriots @ Steelers, 4:15PM ET
This is an intriguing matchup not only because of the two teams but also due to the individual matches within the game. The Patriots arguably have the most efficient passing attack in the league, but they’ve struggled defending the pass for much of the season. Thanks to Ben Roethlisberger and the big-play ability of Pittsburgh’s receivers, the Steelers could strike for a long score at any point. I think this one will live up to the hype and with a whole slew of garbage matchups on the Week 8 schedule, I hope it does.

Cowboys @ Eagles, 8:20PM ET
It’s time to see how many of the Eagles’ problems Andy Reid was able to iron out over the bye week. Philadelphia looked great against Washington the week before its bye, but Dallas will provide a more difficult challenge than the Redskins did. DeMarco Murray is coming off a breakout game and the Eagles haven’t been able to stop the run all season. If Murray can get going again, the Cowboys have a chance to potentially put the nail in the coffin of their bitter rivals.

Lions @ Broncos, 4:05PM ET
The Lions have more pressing issues to worry about than whether or not Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player. Matthew Stafford (ankle) is hobbled, Jahvid Best (concussion) is out for another week and the defense can’t stop the run. The Broncos might not be the better overall team in this matchup but Tim Tebow has breathed new life into Denver and will be fired up to play at home. This will not be an easy road trip this weekend for the Lions.

Vikings @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
Rookie quarterbacks will be on display this Sunday in Carolina when the Panthers host the Vikings. Outside of the two interceptions he threw to Charles Woodson in the third quarter last week, the Vikings had to be pleased with Christian Ponder’s first professional start. If Minnesota wants to give Ponder an opportunity to notch his first win, then the Vikes better get Adrian Peterson revved up. Carolina’s run defense has been bad all year and it would be wise to keep Cam Newton on the bench considering how bad Minnesota’s pass defense is.

Chargers @ Chiefs, 8:30PM ET Monday
This matchup certainly got more interesting over the past few weeks. After starting the year 0-3 the Chiefs have rattled off three-straight and who can forget the beating they gave the Chargers on Monday night last season? Of course, they won’t have Jamaal Charles this time around but Jackie Battle is starting to come on as KC’s leading rusher. The Chargers’ offense was blanked in the second half last Sunday against the Jets, leading to speculation about whether or not Philip Rivers may be hurt. If he’s not, then it’s time for him to step up on Monday night in what has turned out to be a pretty big divisional game.

Jaguars @ Texans, 1:00PM ET
Blaine Gabbert has received most of the attention this year in Jacksonville, but it’s been the Jaguar defense that has stolen the show. They absolutely dominated the Ravens on Monday night and thanks to strong play out of linebackers Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville ranks sixth in yards allowed this season. The Jags’ defense will certainly be tested this weekend, especially if Andre Johnson returns from the hamstring injury that has held him out for nearly a month.

Cardinals @ Ravens, 1:00PM ET
There was simply no excuse for the Ravens not to score at least two touchdowns and beat the Jaguars last Monday night. Joe Flacco has got to be better than what he’s shown so far this season. His accuracy is way down and last week he completed 21 passes for only 137 yards at 3.6 yards a clip. That’s brutal. It’s great that the Ravens want to get Ray Rice more involved, because they should. But if this team is a legit Super Bowl contender like most say, then Flacco has to raise his level of play. He can start this weekend against an Arizona defense that’s allowing nearly 275 yards per game through the air this season.

Browns @ 49ers, 4:15PM ET
Statistically speaking, the Niners aren’t playing the best defense in the league. They’re 11th in yards allowed per game, second in points, second in rushing yards allowed and 22nd in passing yards allowed. But there’s no doubt that the Niners are playing well in all three areas of the game (run defense, pass defense and pass rush). That said, how far can they go if Frank Gore and the running game can’t carry the offense? Fortunately for Jim Harbaugh and Co., they shouldn’t have to worry about that question this week. Cleveland’s three wins have come against NFL powerhouses Indianapolis, Miami and Seattle. The Browns have wilted against good competition all season.

Redskins @ Bills, 4:05PM ET
The Bills have a huge opportunity to jump back into first place with a win and a New England loss. The Patriots are in Pittsburgh this Sunday, which is certainly not an easy place to play so if they lose and the Bills beat the Redskins, Buffalo and New England will be tied at 5-2 atop the AFC East standings. But first things first:: the Bills need to beat a banged up Washington team in Toronto this Sunday.

Saints @ Rams, 1:00PM ET
No team has allowed more points this season than the Indianapolis Colts. Which team has given up the second most points this year? You guessed it: the St. Louis Rams. If the Cardinals don’t find a way to come back and beat the Rangers in the World Series, it might be a bad sports weekend for the city of St. Louis.

Dolphins @ Giants, 1:00PM ET
Apparently Tony Sparano put his 5,182 square home up for sale this weekend. According to Sparano, he’s selling the house because it’s too big now that his daughter has gone off to college, which is certainly plausible. What’s more plausible, however, is that Sparano isn’t long for Miami following the team’s 0-6 start. With the players seemingly checking out, how long can the front office keep Sparano employed? I don’t want to see anyone lose their jobs, but the writing has been on the wall for weeks.

Colts @ Titans, 1:00PM ET
It’s amazing to think that the Titans have one of the worst rushing games in the league considering they have Chris Johnson as their running back. But it’s been a collection of things that have ruined Johnson’s season up to this point. First and foremost, he wasn’t in football shape when he came into the season because of his holdout, and Tennessee’s run blocking has been brutal this season. The good news is that the Colts have one of the league’s worst run defenses so if the Titans can’t get it going on the ground this Sunday, then they may never get their rushing woes corrected.

Bengals @ Seahawks, 4:15PM ET
The Bengals have a golden opportunity to get to 5-2 on the year, which would be incredible when you consider how many pundits didn’t think they would win five games all season. That said, a trip to Seattle is nothing to sneeze at. No matter how poorly the Seahawks might be playing, they always raise the level of their play when they’re at home. Andy Dalton has been decent this season but the rookie has never played in an environment like Seattle’s before. Of course, Cincy’s defense has been solid all year and given the Hawks’ QB troubles, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bengals roll.

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