It's Dak Prescott vs. Carson Wentz for all the NFC East marbles
The Lions and Texans both get a litmus test at the midway mark, the Eagles and Cowboys duke it out for supremacy in the NFC East, and the Saints take that struggling offense down to the Superdome, where many offensive ills go to get cured. Let’s make our Week 8 picks.
Last week: 6-8
Season record: 60-46
Week 8 Cheat Sheet trivia question
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has the most fourth-quarter game-winning drives since 2011 with 22. Who is second with 19? (Answer below the picks.)
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Thursday night: Jaguars at Titans
Though he has struggled immensely at times this year, Marcus Mariota is a beast in the red zone. The second-year player has 24 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over his entire career inside the 20. I expect him and the Titans to bounce back from a tough loss against the Colts. These prime-time games haven’t been pretty. The way this season’s been, it’ll be Jaguars-Titans that ends up being the beauty.
The pick: Titans 31, Jaguars 27
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Sunday: Redskins vs. Bengals (in London)
It’s tough to pick this game without knowing the full status of Josh Norman, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Jordan Reed on the Washington side. The injury rash has stung the Redskins hard, and I can’t imagine a trans-continental flight is going to help heal any of those bodies. But I like Washington, anyway. Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder are weapons I don’t think the Redskins brass even knew it had, and Vernon Davis and Will Blackmon are playing the best football of their careers. I’ll ride with the Skins, injuries or not.
The pick: Redskins 24, Bengals 20
Sunday: Patriots at Bills
For a fleeting moment, I convinced myself the Bills would steal this one up in Western New York, sweep the Patriots this season and have a pair of pocket aces over the chip leader at the season’s midway point. I just can’t do it. Not bold enough. Not brave enough. The Bills had me — they had me good — as winners of four straight. But the Dolphins gashed them on the ground last weekend in Miami, and Ryan Tannehill had a more than competent day in the passing game. Brady and Co. are on a heater right now. They’re not busting. POKER!
The pick: Patriots 26, Bills 20
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Sunday: Jets at Browns
I asked my NFL Network co-host Kyle Brandt who he’d rather see start for the Jets — Ryan Fitzpatrick or Bryce Petty — and he responded, “Just give me the asteroid.” It’s the feeling a lot of Jets fans have, but if you look at the schedule the next few weeks, they could be primed for a little run. New York faces Cleveland, Miami twice, the Rams, the Colts and the 49ers in six of their next seven weeks. Fitzpatrick is the guy on Sunday, and I think he gets a W — regardless of whether things are lovey-dovey with the coaching staff and front office.
The pick: Jets 21, Browns 16
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Sunday: Lions at Texans
This is my favorite game of the weekend. The Lions are coming off three straight wins at home, and Matthew Stafford is enjoying a nice little “Hey, wait a second, this guy is pretty good” discovery week from the national media. The Texans, meanwhile, are being written off by the same folks, who have seen them lose just one too many games against good teams. Houston is a bear to play at home, and if you want to look at it on paper the Texans' three losses came in Minnesota, New England and Denver. Not exactly sewer-dweller teams. Detroit could be without cornerback Darius Slay, which means Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins could finally have a day. But I can’t pick against my man Stafford. I’ve got the Lions finding a way and Osweiler having another rough week of questions thereafter.
The pick: Lions 27, Texans 23
Sunday: Chiefs at Colts
The Chiefs are a different team at home and on the road, and I actually like the Colts in this one despite the wise guys in Vegas listing Indianapolis as home underdogs. The AFC South is the butt of many a joke, but this one’s going to come down to the very wire. And it’s a game like this — out of division, at home, against a likely playoff contender — that Andrew Luck and Co. need to win. They’ll be getting some key pieces back, and there’s a feeling that ground can be gained with Houston’s rough outing Monday night in Denver. I’ll go Indy.
The pick: Colts 31, Chiefs 24
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Sunday: Seahawks at Saints
Weird things can happen on Halloween in New Orleans. But if there’s ever been a place the Seattle offense can cure its ills, it’s down on the Superdome carpet in the Big Easy against that New Orleans D. Jimmy Graham used to own this building, and I think it might be just what he needs Sunday. I like Seattle. The quarterback breathes a little easier, the kicker kicks a little straighter, and the points come a little more smoothly.
The pick: Seahawks 31, Saints 23
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Sunday: Raiders at Buccaneers
My upset special. Yes, in a battle of two pirate-based mascots, I like the red-hot Bucs to defend their home turf and notch a ‘W.’ Tampa Bay is quietly back to .500 and getting huge offensive numbers out of Jacquizz Rodgers and Mike Evans. I saw something I liked last week. Down 14-0 after a quarter, Tampa Bay didn’t fall apart and crawl in a hole. The Bucs scratched their way back and won with ease. Oakland is a beast on the road under Jack Del Rio, but I think it hits a speed bump Sunday.
The pick: Buccaneers 30, Raiders 20
Sunday: Cardinals at Panthers
Once upon a time, this was the marquee matchup of the NFL season’s first half. Now, it’s been moved from the 4 p.m. ET window in advance of a Cubs-Indians World Series game. Whatever went wrong with the Panthers this season wasn’t likely fixed over the bye. Whatever went wrong with the Cardinals on Sunday night — only six points to show for more than 450 yards of offense — is probably more correctable. It won’t be pretty, but I think Arizona wins on the road in a game of “What happened here?”
The pick: Cardinals 27, Panthers 23
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Sunday: Chargers at Broncos
San Diego is the most entertaining team in the NFL and maybe my favorite 3-4 squad ever. All the Chargers do is play in high-scoring shootouts, own the Red Zone late window and lose players to horrendous ACL injuries. And yet, every week, they deliver. It’s one thing to beat the Broncos in San Diego. It’s another to take them down in Denver, where they’re nasty. It doesn’t matter. I like the Bolts to notch another one. Somehow, some way.
The pick: Chargers 24, Broncos 19
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Sunday: Packers at Falcons
This one will have monster eyeballs leading into FOX’s World Series crush. And that means it’s a game in which Matt Ryan will have the nation’s attention. After glowing reports — for the second consecutive year — a quarter of the way through the season, the Falcons have lost two straight and are suddenly back to the pack. The Packers, meanwhile, are 4-2 but being viewed as if they’re a broken lemon of a car, unable to drive long distances. This one features two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks; no excuse for a dud. I’m taking Atlanta to silence some critics and to get some national love. Keep an eye on Vic Beasley, the second-year pass rusher who’s in line to win some sort of Most Improved award this season.
The pick: Falcons 34, Packers 27
Sunday night: Eagles at Cowboys
This is a beauty. Plenty of attention on both rookie quarterbacks and the question looming of whether Tony Romo will return to the lineup when he’s cleared to go. I can’t pick against the Cowboys until I have reason to believe anyone can stop their ground game. Ezekiel Elliott is gashing everyone, and the offensive line has had its way. I see it rolling right through this game.
The pick: Cowboys 26, Eagles 17
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Monday night: Vikings at Bears
Fly the W? I’m sorry. Hard to get too fired up for the Bears with all the great things happening in Chicago for the baseball team this week. Chicago’s football squad has been stung hard by injuries, and though the effort’s been there week in and week out, the results have not. Minnesota has been winning with sound offensive football, limited mistakes on special teams and a punishing defense. The first two facets failed them in Philadelphia last week. They won’t in this one.
The pick: Vikings 20, Bears 14
Bruce KluckhohnBruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Week 8 Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is second on the list with 19.