NFL

NFL Week 8 Cheat Sheet

Peter Schrager previews the best Week 8 storylines.
Peter Schrager previews the best Week 8 storylines.
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Peter Schrager

Peter Schrager is the Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com and the national sports correspondent for FOX News Channel's "FOX Report Weekend." He's the co-author of Victor Cruz's New York Times' best-selling memoir "Out of the Blue" and lives in New York. Feel free to e-mail him at peterschrager@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

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I need to chat with Joe Flacco. Only Joe, a fellow Jersey guy, could know how I’m feeling this week.

POWER RANKINGS

Which teams are looking up in this week's NFL power rankings?

Here I was, coasting along nicely, looking ahead, and enjoying the many fruits (media accolades, handshakes from strangers on the street, the adoration of men and women alike) that went along with an impressive 65-25 record with my Cheat Sheet picks through seven weeks.

Then, in one week, it all changed.

Like Flacco, I got absolutely rocked, shocked and beaten up in Week 7. Think Joe Flacco had a rough trip back to Baltimore after that 12-7 loss in Jacksonville? Think he wished he could have that one back? Think his “people” didn’t cringe with every mistimed pattern and blank look into space? Well, I can’t even look at myself in the mirror after my ghastly sub-.500 record last week.

I called friends to talk it out. No one answered. I took long strolls alone on the beach. I returned from my journeys even more confused. And now I’m left here, with a rather pedestrian 70-33 record, and have no one to blame but myself (Seahawks, you couldn’t score at least one touchdown against the Browns? Not one? Really?!).

But we recover, we rebuild and we move on. That’s life. That’s being a multimillionaire NFL starting quarterback with four road playoff wins on your resume.

That’s having a somewhat popular picks column on FOXSports.com.

I’m with you, Joe. We’re two of a kind, man. We’ve just got to pick up the pieces and keep on truckin’.

Let’s dig into this week’s Cheat Sheet, and hope for some better results in Week 8.

Week 7 Record: 5-8

Overall 2011 Record: 70-33

WEEK 8 CHEAT SHEET TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a franchise-record 253 yards with one touchdown in the Cowboys’ 34-7 win over St. Louis last Sunday. Murray’s rushing yards are the second-most in a game by a rookie in NFL history, as Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson holds the rookie and all-time record with 296 yards on November 4, 2007. Who held the rookie single-game rushing record before Peterson broke it in ’07? (ANSWER BELOW)

COACH SPEAK

Brian Billick dives into the minds of NFL coaches across the league | Watch the show

Week 8 CHEAT SHEET QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Moral victories are like taking your sister to prom. What’s good for being runner up? You’re just the first loser. We can take positive plays, but we are in the business of winning.” — Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, after a hard-fought 33-27 loss to the Packers.

WEEK 8 CHEAT SHEET GROSS UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE WEEK

“We’re probably not going to brag about it in 15 years, but we’ll take the win.”—Browns kicker Phil Dawson after Cleveland’s 6-3 win over Seattle.

WEEK 8 BIZARRE STAT OF THE WEEK

With Sunday’s 18-15 OT loss to Denver, the Dolphins became the first team to lose a game after leading by 15 points or more with less than four minutes remaining in regulation since 1983.

WEEK 8 IMPRESS YOUR COLLEAGUES WATER COOLER FACT OF THE WEEK

The Colts are guaranteed to have fewer than 10 wins in a season for the first time in nine years.

Now, let’s get to the picks.

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT Games

New Orleans at St. Louis: Some rudimentary math skills are all we need to compute the outcome in this meeting of two old NFC West rivals. The Saints rank first in the league in scoring offense. The Rams are last. The Saints just scored 62 points in a game last week, while the Rams gave up 294 yards … on the ground. The Rams’ rush defense is a joke, giving up 33 more rushing yards per game than any other team in the league. The Saints' offense is clicking. Sean Payton — whether on the sidelines, in the booth, or hovering from above — should have no problem dialing up the game plan in this one. Actually, no math is needed, at all. Simple English. Two words. Blow and out.

The Pick: Saints 41, Rams 14

Minnesota at Carolina: Lost in the Vikings’ 1-6 start and the team’s unsavory habit of second-half meltdowns is the fact that Jared Allen is having a monster season up in Minnesota. With Ray Edwards in Atlanta, Pat Williams out of the league, and Kevin Williams fighting a nagging foot injury, Allen leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks and is getting to opposing quarterbacks perhaps better than any other player in the league. Vegas has the Panthers favored in this one, but I like the Christian Ponder-led Vikes over Mr. Newton and Co. in an upset on Sunday. Look for more big plays and some rodeo dances out of Allen.

RUN WITH IT

Tim Tebow must take advantage of this opportunity. Chad Pennington has the formula for Tebow to beat Detroit.

The Pick: Vikings 30, Panthers 23

Indianapolis at Tennessee: Both these teams come into Sunday’s game red hot. Sizzling, really. The Colts lost by 55 on Sunday and are winless through seven weeks, while the Titans have lost their last two games by a combined 55 points. Chris Johnson’s looking more like CJ625 than CJ2K this season, but he should break out of his season-long funk in this one. He’ll go for 125 yards and the Titans will get back to .500.

The Pick: Titans 27, Colts 17

Miami at New York Giants: They’re making Andrew Luck Dolphins jerseys in Miami, Ricky Williams is tweeting about the team’s “morale”, and the road seems to be far comfier confines than their home field. Losers of nine straight dating back to last year, it’s hard to find any positives in Miami this season. I’ve looked long and hard and I can’t find a thing. J.P. Losman getting signed? That’s not a good thing. Hey, I’m well aware that the Giants burned a lot of people in “Survivor Pools” with their home loss to Seattle a few weeks back, but I just can’t see them dropping one to the demoralized ‘Fins this weekend. If they do, we’ll pay your pool entry free. Send the invoice to Alex Marvez, FOXSports.com.

The Pick: Giants 34, Dolphins 17

Jacksonville at Houston: Weird scheduling fact of the week? The Jaguars have played just one game versus a division opponent this season, and it came in Week 1 in the form of a 16-14 victory over the Titans. They return to the AFC South trenches to face a surging Texans team fresh off a surprising 41-7 blowout of the Titans. The Jags' defense is legit — it better be, they spent over $120 million on free-agent acquisitions this offseason — but the offense is a nightmare. They won’t be able to score enough to keep up with the Texans.

The Pick: Texans 24, Jaguars 16

Arizona at Baltimore: The dirtiest secret in the league? It has nothing to do with Mr. Suh’s dirty antics. It’s that Kevin Kolb, the guy Arizona’s paying $21 million guaranteed this season, has been downright awful this season. In any other media market, with any other backups on the roster, Kolb would be feeling the heat. The Cardinals have lost five straight games and Kolb’s been consistent with only one thing: missing receivers. Don’t count Arizona out of the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes just yet. They’re paying their QB a lot of money, and he’s not delivering the goods.

NFL Weekly Review

LET'S DO THIS

Can Alex Smith do the unthinkable and lead the Niners to the Super Bowl? Championship round preview.

The Pick: Ravens 31, Cardinals 21

4 pm EST Games:

Detroit at Denver: The same week as Florida-Georgia, Tim Tebow and Matt Stafford — two guys, the same age, who’ve been sized up and compared to each other at every level — were scheduled to go head-to-head for the first time as pros. Alas, it looks like it might be Shaun Hill under center instead of Stafford. Either way, I’m going Tebow and the Broncos. Sure, his passes may look more like dead ducks than tight spirals. Who cares about that? If tight spirals were what won games, JaMarcus Russell and Kyle Boller would have Super Bowl rings. Gimme Tebow!

The Pick: Broncos 26, Lions 21

Washington at Buffalo: The Redskins' offense won’t even resemble the unit that took the field opening weekend versus the Giants. Rex Grossman’s on the bench, Tim Hightower’s out for the year, and Santana Moss is gone for five to seven weeks. Moss and Hightower join left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (torn ACL, injured reserve), tight end Chris Cooley (surgery on his broken finger last Wednesday) and left tackle Trent Williams (high ankle sprain) as offensive starters who are sidelined long-term. It was nice while it lasted, ‘Skins fans. Look at the bright side, though. There’s another top-15 pick in April to look forward to.

The Pick: Bills 24, Redskins 16

Cincinnati at Seattle: Familiar with the names Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell and Ron Parker? No, those aren’t a group of accountants that take out ad space on park benches in your city; they’re the cornerbacks in Seattle. With both Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond III done for the year with injuries, the no-name crew of Seahawks corners needs to step up and step up fast. A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson could have field days on Sunday at Qwest Field. Andy “The Red Rifle” Dalton wins again.

The Pick: Bengals 24, Seahawks 20

RAPID FIRE

Michael Vick can burn teams with his versatility. John Lynch has the formula for Dallas to nullify his attack.

Cleveland at San Francisco: After catching some heat from the local fans and media for not making any big splashes in free agency this summer, the Niners ownership has thrown some dough around in all the right places this season. The team and coaching staff spent an entire week in Youngstown, Ohio, between wins over the Bengals and Eagles, and the team has been taking the entire practice squad on the road for each away game. These minor investments are paying off, increasing team unity and forging a bond. The fans are happy, the team is wining, and there’s been no talk of Andrew Luck all season. Things are alright in San Fran.

The Pick: 49ers 31, Browns 20

New England at Pittsburgh: Sure, it’s only October, but don’t think there aren’t major playoff implications tied to this one. Tom Brady is 6-1 all-time versus the Steelers, including two AFC Championship Games in 2001 and 2006, and last year’s Sunday-night 39-26 blowout at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 5-2 and winners of three straight, but all five of their wins have come against teams with .500 records or worse. The D’s stats have gotten fat on bad offenses. I don’t see them slowing down Brady and Co. on Sunday.

The Pick: Patriots 33, Steelers 24

Sunday Night:

Dallas at Philadelphia: The Cowboys are just full of surprises. First. DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner and Laurent Robinson starred as the Cowboys’ offensive difference-makers in Sunday’s 34-7 win over St. Louis. Then, on Tuesday, a student at a suburban Dallas high school asked Tony Romo if he had any children. Romo replied that he didn’t, but added, “I’ve actually got one on the way. My wife’s pregnant.” How about a surprise win in Philadelphia, too? Sure, why not? America’s Team!

The Pick: Cowboys 31, Eagles 27

Monday Night:

San Diego at Kansas City: After being picked as the league’s MVP by a myriad of NFL writers in the preseason, Philip Rivers is turning in an awfully mediocre 2011 season. He’s been picked off twice in three different games, has four more turnovers than touchdown passes, and his Chargers haven’t beaten a team with a pulse yet this year. Arrowhead was a house of horrors on the first Monday night of the season last year for Rivers and Co., but I think the ‘Bolts will escape this Halloween meeting with a W. Things are getting tight in the AFC West; this one will give the Chargers a little breathing room.

SEE THE RESEMBLANCE?

Sometimes you never forget a face. Here are some NFL players and their celebrity look-alikes.

The Pick: Chargers 30, Chiefs 17

Reader Email of the Week

Peter,

Thoughts on the big Lindsay Lohan news this week? I’m sure you saw it.

Craig,

Great Neck, New York

Craig,

I have long been a fan of Lindsay’s work and will always support her fine career, every step of the way. This recent decision, included. And yes, I’ll be at the newsstand the first day that issue comes out. For the articles, of course.

WEEK 7 CHEAT SHEET TRIVIA ANSWER: Former Broncos running back and member of the United States Marine Corps, Mike Anderson rushed for a then NFL record 251 yards against the Saints on December 3rd, 2000. Anderson won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2000, rushing for 1,487 yards in his first NFL season.
 

Tagged: Falcons, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Colts, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Seahawks, Redskins, Ravens, Cardinals, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Pat Williams, Phil Dawson, Ricky Williams, Kevin Williams, Chris Cooley, Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Kevin Kolb, Joe Flacco, Chris Johnson, Tim Hightower, Tim Tebow, Trent Williams, DeMarco Murray, Ron Parker

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