2017 NFL SEASON
Week 8: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 8 results: 11-2 wins (season: 64-42; .604); 6-7 v. spread (season: 53-53; .500)
Miami Dolphins 4-2 (+3) @ Baltimore Ravens 3-4 (37.5): Dolphins 20-17 Ravens 40-0
Thursday, 8:25 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Clear; low 50s)
Reasons: The Dolphins come into Thursday night’s game winners of three straight, despite losing Jay Cutler (7 TDs; 5 INTs), because Matt Moore might be a better fit anyway. The Ravens have lost two straight, and four of their last five, although one of those loses came in OT (27-24 to CHI) and three of those four losses have come against three of the best defenses in the NFL (JAX, PIT, MIN). Now Baltimore faces their fourth top-10 defense in five weeks as Miami comes into the game ranked 10th in yards allowed and 6th in points allowed; the Dolphins also happen to have one of the worst offenses in the league (31st points scored; 32nd yards gained), which makes the Ravens task not as daunting. Baltimore isn’t the same team anymore, though, and their polarizing leader Terrell Suggs is questionable, meaning the Ravens defense that yields over 145 rushing yards a game could let the Dolphins and running back Jay Ajayi (442 rushing yards; 3.5 ypc) run wild.
I don’t mind being wrong, but being so wrong on the first game of the week was tough; not quite as tough as Joe Flacco had it on a penalized, but not dirty, hit by Kiko Alonzo, but tough. Flacco was concussed in the first half attempting to gain a first down when Alonzo hit him in what ended up being the head area. After the dust settled and John Harbaugh gave out his weekly Bush League Award the Ravens went about destroying the Dolphins on national television and making your boy look foolish.
Minnesota Vikings 5-2 (-9.5) @ Cleveland Browns 0-7 (38): Vikings 24-17 Vikings 33-16
Reasons: Normally I’d crack a joke about hoe we’ve given London the worst slate of games imaginable, but the truth is, the London games have been pretty exciting, at least from the standpoint of scoring. There not be much of that Sunday morning (in the United States, anyway) as the Vikings come into the game with one of the most feared defenses in the NFL to accompany to pretty good offense, with or without Sam Bradford. The Browns, on the other hand, are hopeless.
The Browns held a 16-15 lead towards the end of the 3rd quarter, but 17 unanswered points by the Vikings, mostly on the arm of Case Keenum, gave anyone who wasn’t watching the game the impression it was probably a Minnesota blowout from beginning to end. In a way it was a blowout. The Vikings held the Browns to only 276 yards on just over 22 minutes of possession, forcing two turnovers and sacking struggling rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer three times.
Oakland Raiders 3-4 (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills 4-2 (45.5): Bills 21-20 Bills 34-14
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Chance rain; high 40s)
Reasons: The Raiders are slowly climbing back into existence, just when their division became clogged, but unfortunately for them they run into the buzz saw known as the Bills (4th points allowed) Sunday. Buffalo is no offensive juggernaut, but they only average two fewer points and 12 fewer yards than the Raiders, who supposedly are one.
The Raiders returned to struggling on both sides of the ball again Sunday, perhaps because they were missing Marshawn Lynch after Lynch’s suspension appeal failed. That obviously wouldn’t explain Oakland’s defensive struggles, but LeSean McCoy could (27 carries for 151 rushing yards; 6 receptions; 1 TD). The Bills defense shut the Raiders offense down, forcing four Oakland turnovers, including two interceptions by Derek Carr. Remarkably there were no sacks from Oakland’s Kahlil Mack or one of the league’s best defenses in Buffalo. The Bills are actually for real. Maybe.
Indianapolis Colts 2-5 (+10.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 2-4 (41.5): Bengals 27-17 Bengals 24-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 70s)
Reasons: It’s hard to believe the Bengals have nearly the same terrible record as the woeful, Luckless, pun intended, Colts. Then again, nothing is hard to believe with the most unpredictable team in the NFL the past decade. This one shouldn’t be too hard to predict, though, as Cincinnati is home and Indianapolis is one of the three worst teams in the league, statistically and eye-test speaking.
Originally I had this game 24-20, but at the last minute I decided the Bengals were at home and their offense was good enough to score an additional three points against the woeful Colts, but the Bengals offense was barely good enough to even beat Indianapolis, which led 23-17 11:21 into the 4th quarter until Carlos Dunlap returned a Jacoby Ellsbury pass at the 16-yard line and took it to the house for the game-winning touchdown.
Los Angeles Chargers 3-4 (+7) @ New England Patriots 5-2 (48.5): Patriots 27-24 Patriots 21-13
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Heavy rain; low 60s)
Reasons: New England is 2-2 at home through their first four games for the first time in a long time, and Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winners of three straight. That doesn’t mean my money is on the Chargers to win, per se, but the Patriots getting seven points considering the aforementioned information seems a bit excessive. Perhaps the people in charge of such things are looking at the radar and seeing a game won on the ground, of which the Patriots gain 31 more yards per game, the same amount the Chargers defense yields to opponents, relative to the Patriots.
The weather was terrible and the Patriots did what they do best, adapting to the conditions and taking the opponent’s best player(s) out of the game. It doesn’t hurt – the Patriots anyway – when your opponent’s best skill player, Travis Benjamin, inexplicable muffs a punt in the end zone for a safety, which set a subsequent New England field goal, one of four on the day for embattled kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Chicago Bears 3-4 (+9) @ New Orleans Saints 4-2 (47.5): Saints 28-21 Saints 20-12
Sunday, 1:00 PM, SuperDome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)
Reasons: The Saints actually are the hottest team in the NFL, and although the Bears have certainly shocked many people, especially with a rookie quarterback throwing less than 50% of the tiny amount of pass attempts the Bears allow him, mainly because he’s played top defenses (BAL; CAR), but the Saints are home and Drew Brees is locked in.
The Saints have now won five straight games, their latest win against the Bears coming without a touchdown from Drew Brees. I guess the Saints, in genera, are locked in, except Mark Ingram, apparently (2 lost fumbles). The New Orleans defense took advantage of the one-dimensional Bears, managing nine tackles for loss, while giving rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky fits, defending eight of his passes, knocking him down seven times and sacking him twice.
Atlanta Falcons 3-3 (-6) @ New York Jets 3-4 (45.5): Falcons 24-21 Falcons 25-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Heavy rain; low 70s)
Reasons: The Falcons have lost three straight, after winning their first four, and all three of those loses have come against the AFC East - all of them. What’s worse is the high-flying Falcons have managed fewer than 14 points against all the AFC East opponents (BUF, MIA, NE). There are answers: The Dolphins and Bills possess two of the best defenses in the NFL and the Falcons had the unpleasant task of facing the team that humiliated them in SBLI in the thickest fog people could remember in 25 years. The Falcons have a great chance to redeem themselves with a solid running game against a scrappy, but inconsistent Jets team, but the weather could have the most impact.
The Jets took a 17-16 lead several minutes into the 4th quarter, putting the NFC Champion Falcons in danger of being swept by the AFC East in 2017, which just happens to be the division owned by a certain New England Patriots team. Then the 2016 MVP Matt Ryan found Mohammed Sanu in the soaking wet end zone for the game-winning touchdown, avoiding that fate.
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Heavy rain; low 70s)
Reasons: This is your classic trap game, with the winless 49ers coming across the country to play an early afternoon game against the best team in the NFC, but if we’re being realistic, the only trapping part of this game is the spread, which, even given the remarkable circumstances, is a little ridiculous at 12.5 points. The Eagles are missing their left tackle in Jason Peters, gone for the season, so although the Eagles managed to win big last week, it’ll be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles the absence going forward.
49ers quarterback CJ Beathard led the team in passing and rushing and only managed 207 total yards, so that about summed up San Francisco’s chances against the NFC-leading Eagles. Philadelphia’s defense impressed again, holding the 49ers to 238 total yards in over 27 minutes, intercepting Beathard twice and sacking him four times. The Eagles proved the can still dominate even when their offense isn’t clicking and the 49ers were beat hard. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Carolina Panthers 4-3 (+1.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-4 (46): Buccaneers 21-20 Panthers 17-3
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)
Reasons: I don’t trust the Carolina Panthers or their mentally fragile quarterback at all, even with an arguably equally mentally fragile quarterback across the field. Of course both observations could be characterized as passionate and misunderstood, but there’s a reason the NFL wants the head of their proverbial snake to be both cerebral and simultaneously calm under any type of pressure, whether that be on or off the field. Both quarterbacks seem to struggle with both at times, which is why both teams struggle at times. Cam Newton might thrive on pressure, but he’s been under pressure for two years now and the results have been mixed at best. Meanwhile, the chip on Jameis Winston’s shoulder from a recent benching is so big it could feed the greater Tampa region. Don’t we all want just a little bit more from two number one overall draft picks who both won Heisman trophies and both won National Championships? What, did you forget about all that?
The return of linebacker Luke Kuechly (8 tackles; 1.5 for loss) set the stage for another dominating performance by the Carolina defense, the team’s saving grace for much of the time Cam Newton has been quarterback, masking his myriad mistakes and the reason behind much of Newton’s success. Newton was mediocre at best, although he led the team in passing and rushing, accounting for only 198 total yards and a touchdown to go along with the Panther’s lone turnover (INT); the other former Heisman-winning quarterback opposite the field, Jameis Winston, was even worse, throwing two interceptions and only 210 passing yards on 38 attempts.
Houston Texans 3-3 (+6) @ Seattle Seahawks 4-2 (45.5): Seahawks 24-21 Seahawks 41-38
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Century Link Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Clear; mid-50s)
Reasons: Rookie quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson is about to get his first dose of true NFL reality Sunday afternoon as the Texans face the league’s top scoring defense (15.7 ppg), also top-10 in the league in yards allowed (8th). The Texans are a relatively average team statistically, with the exception of scoring offense, where they rank 3rd but a few tenths of a point, but that surge has come mostly on the arm of the aforementioned Watson, who will be under duress most of the day.
Rookie quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards passing and four TDs to go along with 67 yards rushing on eight attempts as he continued his meteoric rise to NFL stardom, giving him 19 passing TDs on the year, seven short of the rookie record held by Peyton Manning and one Russell Wilson, Watson’s opponent Sunday. Wilson just happened to throw four touchdown passes himself, to go along with 452 passing yards; Wilson also led his team in rushing, albeit with only 30 yards. Teacher beat pupil/idol on an 18-yard seed to tight end Jimmy Graham with only 21 seconds remaining, just over four minutes after Watson himself thought he had thrown the game-winning touchdown. Watson’s three INTs played into the Seahawks hands, and will certainly be a learning experience going forward, but the likely 2017 Rookie of the Year had the NFL’s best defense on the ropes until the last minute, literally. This is a mid-season candidate for 2017 Game of the Year.
Dallas Cowboys 3-3 (-2) @ Washington Football Team 3-3 (49): Cowboys 24-23 Cowboys 33-19
Sunday, 4:25 PM, FedEx Field, East Landover, MD (Weather: Heavy rain; high 50s)
Reasons: The most evenly matched game of Week 8 will decide who is still at least two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, but more importantly, will be decided by Mother Nature, who will be raining heavily upon the field throughout the game. That means the team with the best ground game most likely wins, which is clearly Dallas, and that running game compounded with Dak Prescott’s dink-and-dunk skills, we have a recipe for a Cowboys win.
I was feeling pretty good about my prediction when Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins finally got the ball to Josh Doctson in the end zone with just over four minutes left, because I believed Washington would get the ball back, drive down the field, score a touchdown, and then miss the extra point to lose the game 26-25, making me look smarter than I really am. The funny thing is, that exact scenario played out, except Cousins threw the ball to Byron Jones and Jones plays for the Cowboys. Jones returned the interception for a touchdown and we have what looks like a blow out. If you were going by Ezekiel Elliot’s stats, it was. Elliot exploded again, this time for 150 yards rushing and two TDs on 33 carries, but the good news quickly dissipated with the bad news that the appeals court once again upheld Elliot’s suspension. And around and around we go…
(Note: Cowboys kicker Mike Nugent lost a try out to be Washington’s kicker the week before this game. Nugent ended up signing with the Cowboys and then kicked five field goals in a 33-19 game that theoretically would have otherwise been 19-18 without him.)
Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 3-3 (45.5): Steelers 28-27 Steelers 20-15
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)
Reasons: The Steelers are hot and might have the best overall defense in the NFL (2nd points allowed; 3rd yards allowed), but the Lions have Matthew Stafford and are completely inconsistent, so you never know what to expect. Detroit started the season 3-1 with a defense yielding 16.5 ppg; since then they’re 0-2, both against the questionable NFC South (NO; CAR), and now their defense is yielding more than double that per game (39.5 ppg). Regardless, it’s hard to bet against Matt Stafford, especially getting three points at home.
JuJu Smith-Schuster found his bike all right, in the form of 193 receiving yards and a touchdown the same week he reached social media and Internet infamy because of the aforementioned stolen bicycle. One would’ve thought Matt Stafford (453 passing yards) was throwing him the ball, but Stafford was just throwing another gaudy statistical passing game in a loss, something Stafford has grown accustomed to with Detroit. His high school teammate Clayton Kershaw was doing the same thing that night in Houston in their hometown state of Texas: playing at the highest level in his perspective sport while taking a loss.
Denver Broncos 3-3 (+7) @ Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 (43): Chiefs 27-21 Chiefs 29-19
Monday, 8:30 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Partly cloudy; high 30s)
Reasons: The Chiefs went from the best team in the NFL to unpredictable in four days last week, and the Kansas City defense, considered perhaps the best in the league at one point in the season, is now ranked 29th in yards allowed and 19th in points allowed, not exactly fear-inspiring. The Broncos, however, are a mess. The Denver defense remains top notch (1st yards allowed; 9th points allowed), but the offense is becoming atrocious. Since their Week 2 win against Dallas Cowboys, in which they scored 42 points, the Broncos are 1-3 averaging 10.5 points per game, with each game producing fewer points then the last. It’s on the shoulders of Trevor Siemian to make things right, which means Denver is in trouble.
The Chiefs got back on track Monday night after losing two games in four days last week to go from the league’s unquestionably best team to JAT (Just Another Team), beating the flailing division rival Broncos. Nobody lit up the score boards, despite Kansas City’s 29 points, because this was a contest between two of the best defenses in the NFL, even if the Chiefs don’t stack up statistically. We saw that defensive battle Monday night when Kansas City forced five Denver turnovers (3 INTs; 2 fumbles), and Denver held Kansas City to field goals on five possessions. The only standout in the game, offensively, was Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who reeled in 133 of Alex Smith’s 202 passing yards and his only touchdown. The defense had plenty of highlights, most notably Marcus Peters, whose fumble return for a touchdown not only helped the Chiefs win Monday, but helped them gain ground in the division by helping get his cousin/friend/whatever Marshawn Lynch suspended this week.
Week 8 #NFL byes: Arizona Cardinals; Green Bay Packers; Jacksonville Jaguars; Los Angeles Rams; New York Giants; Tennessee Titans
Stay tuned for Week 9: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday morning!