With week 8 of the NFL just around the corner lets preview the games and pick out the likely winners starting with tomorrow's Thursday night game.
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos - BRONCOS WIN
I fear that this is the game in which Branden Oliver is found out. Although, Oliver has been exceptional since he was thrown into the starting lineup I am yet to be totally convinced by him. Against Denver a key component of the Chargers gameplan will be to eat up the clock by running. A strong Denver defense should stop this happening.
Consequently, San Diego won't be able to keep all-time TD throwing record-holder, Peyton Manning off the pitch and the Broncos offense will take care of business.
Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons - LIONS WIN
When not playing in the dome in Georgia Matt Ryan and the Falcons just aren't very good. Most worryingly for Falcons fans their physically weak offensive line is going up against a Detroit Lions defense that is the best in the NFL. Whether Calvin Johnson plays or not the Lions will win and it won't be close.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets - JETS WIN
The Jets are not going to lose seven games on the bounce they are too good a team with too good a coach for that to happen. New York have had extra preparation time and the Bills are led by QB Kyle Orton.
I'm expecting that new recruit Percy Harvin will know the offense enough to play enough downs to make a difference and with Eric Decker fit also the Jets offense will finally have enough weapons to give Geno Smith a fighting chance.
Chicago Bears @ New England Patriots - PATRIOTS WIN
You aren't going to win many games of football with a divided locker room and right now it seems as if there is a split between the Bears with angry shouting matches occurring in the locker room post the Dolphins defeat.
Just as the Bears are coming apart the Patriots are closing ranks and uniting. Gronkowski is getting back to full fitness and Tom Brady is once again looking like a quarterback that has won multiple Championship rings. At home the Patriots will win.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals - RAVENS WIN
A.J. Green's absence has reminded everyone that the star wide receiver is the key player in the Bengals offense. Apparently, he will be back playing this week after losing patience with watching Bengal's football over the past few games.
Green's return won't be enough however. The Ravens are by far the best side in the AFC North and Gary Kubiak's offense will make short shrift of a Bengals defense that has struggled recently.
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans - TEXANS WIN
For the first time since week one the Texans first round pick Jadeveon Clowney is going to take the field for Houston. Combine Clowney with the human wrecking ball J.J. Watt and it's easy to see how this could get embarrassing for the Titans.
St Louis Rams @ Kansas City Chiefs - RAMS WIN
The Rams win against the Seahawks last week could just have kick started their season. The Rams have put together good halves of football earlier in the season. They have surged ahead to leads a number of times and they came close to a comeback against the Eagles. Four good quarters of football had eluded them however.
They broke this streak against Seattle last week and the confidence this gives them should propel them to a win against the Chiefs. The key should be the Rams defensive line. No unit that talented is going to be awful for an entire season and against Kansas City's o-line they couldn't have a better opponent to find some form against.
Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars - DOLPHINS WIN
The Jaguars may have got their first win of the season last week but it's hard to see them repeat the feat again in week 8.
Bill Lazor's offense looks to be settling down into something special and against Jacksonville ,Tannehill, Miller and Wallace should have enough about them to lead Miami to the win and join the Bills on four wins.
Minnesota Vikings @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - BUCCANEERS WIN
For my money this is the least exciting match up of the week. Tampa Bay are one of the worst teams in the NFL and the same can be said for the Vikings. At some point this season though the Buccaneers have got to pick up a win at home.
Thanks to the bye week Tampa Bay have had two whole weeks to ruminate on the 44-17 defeat to the Ravens. Hopefully Lovie Smith has used him time to scheme up a win against a Vikings franchise that looks lost without Adrian Peterson.
Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers - SEAHAWKS WIN
Can we really see the Seahawks losing three games on the bounce? I can't. Perhaps the biggest loss for the Seahawks last week was to middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Without Wagner stuffing the run up the middle the entire defense was in trouble.
Fortunately, for Seattle against the Panthers there isn't much of a run that needs stuffing. The Seahawks will win but the Panthers won't go down without a fight.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals - EAGLES WIN
Given the amount of injuries they have on the defensive side of the ball it is hard to argue against the notion that Cardinals defensive coordinator Tedd Bowles is one of the top defensive coaches in the NFL.
He has been getting things done with smoke and mirrors however. You can only keep disguising blitzes and dropping extra men into coverage for so long before offenses catch on and take advantage.
With the Eagles coming off a bye week I'm expecting Chip Kelly's game plan to expose weaknesses in the Cardinals defense. The Eagles will win to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East.
Oakland Raiders @ Cleveland Browns - BROWNS WIN
Maybe the bumper contract center Alex Mack signed wasn't so insane after all. Without the star center run blocking for the Browns the run game collapsed against the Jaguars and it turned out that maybe Brian Hoyer isn't capable of carrying at NFL offense. Since Mack isn't going to be back any time soon it is will be interesting to see if they can overcome his absence.
The Raiders meanwhile have not won a game so far this season. They have been showing real signs of improvement the last few weeks though running both the Cardinals and Chargers close. Rookie QB Carr has looked especially good. At home though the Cleveland should have too much for the Raiders.
Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers - COLTS WIN
Aside from those three crazy minutes the Steelers performance in their win over the Texans was one of the most unimpressive a winning side has put together all season. Right now they just aren't a very good football team.
By contrast the Colts are one of the best teams going. Andrew Luck is playing like a perennial all-pro, Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson are holding their own in the running game and even the defense is looking strong.
With the AFC South title already almost within their grasp the Colts' winning streak isn't going to dry up yet.
Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints - PACKERS WIN
The Saints are without a doubt the most disappointing team in the NFL so far this season. They have a 2 and 4 record and any realistic playoff hopes now rest on the weakness of the NFC South rather than their roster strength.
The Packers meanwhile are a juggernaut. They have won four in a row and Aaron Rodgers is has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in that period (he is 18-1 for the season).
The Saints home advantage makes this one interesting but the Packers will have enough offensive firepower to win on the road.
Washington @ Dallas Cowboys - COWBOYS WIN
When trying to pick winners in games you try to come up with a scenario that sees each side winning. With the Cowboys it is easy. The Cowboys ranked 26th for time of possession last season having the ball on offense just 48.4% of the time. This season they rank second in the league with 57.62% of possession.
The key to this is the expanded running game. The Cowboys using Murray to rush for 100 plus yards per game whilst also crucially protecting the defense by running down the clock. When the defense sets up to protect the rush Romo uses the play action pass to find Byrant and Williams in man to man coverage against a weak Washington secondary.
With Washington any winning scenario is hard. They need to hope that RGIII is fit and firing. Then they need to make the most of their time on the field by hitting DeSean Jackson with the deep ball. It could happen but it seems unlikely.
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