Week 8 Preview: Atlanta Burning?
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: October 25, 2012
Read below for some basic previews of all fourteen Week 8 matchups.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings, 8:30pm Thursday
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has appeared to regress in recent games, turning over the ball five times in two weeks. Conversely, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has shaken off a slow start, throwing six touchdown passes and over 700 yards in the last two games. The Vikings defense is certain to be tougher than either the Saints or Chiefs (Freeman’s past two opponents), but the pressure will be on Ponder to perform well against a Tampa Bay defense that’s been anything but consistent in 2012.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears, 1:00pm
If quarterback Cam Newton, sweetheart that he is, is going to get his season back on track, it won’t start in Week 8. Newton’s frustrations have visibly mounted throughout the first disappointing half of Carolina’s season, and it’s entirely possible that Chicago’s ball-hawking defense will usher him to his tipping point. Whatever that might entail. The Panthers are in freefall at the moment, unable to develop any offensive rhythm as its defensive has absorbed one injury after another. Chicago will smell blood in the water and strike accordingly.
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns, 1:00pm
If the San Diego faithful were appalled by Denver’s 35 unanswered points in Week 6, imagine how unhinge they’ll become after a loss in Cleveland. The Browns are far from a sure thing, but haven’t suffered any total collapses this season. Cleveland has been competitive for most of its games this season, and hasn’t committed the late game meltdowns San Diego endured in its recent games. There’s plenty of pressure to go around, with seats getting warmer by the day for head coaches Pat Shurmur and Norv Turner. It will be interesting to see which team rises to the occasion.
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions, 1:00pm
The Lions desperately need more Calvin Johnson. The wide receiver has been successfully covered for most of the season and has yet to catch a touchdown from quarterback Matthew Stafford (he’s posted ten by this time last year). The loss of fellow receiver Nate Burleson to a broken leg will undoubtedly impact the passing game, making it even more difficult for Johnson to get open. Double that with a Seahawks secondary that’s huge in size and unafraid to toe the line between good coverage and flat-out pass interference, and Johnson may have to wait a little longer for his breakout game.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers, 1:00pm
I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that this game will be like a very lopsided game of Madden. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has shaken off early season cobwebs, returning to 2011 form. ReceiverRandall Cobb is making good on all the flashes of brilliance he exhibited in last year’s rookie season, andJordy Nelson has once again established himself as a favorite Rodgers target. On the flip side, Jacksonville has lost its two most important offensive weapons, as running back Maurice Jones-Drew and quarterbackBlaine Gabbert nurse a sore foot and torn labrum, respectively. Like I said: Madden.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets, 1:00pm
Linebacker Aaron Maybin and safety LaRon Landry have left us no choice but to watch them throughout this game. Both have publicly (boneheadedly?) discussed tactful defensive strategies like “head hunting” and knocking out players “legally” in the days leading up to this match. When will players learn? Never? Certainly not under Rex Ryan. In his tenure as head coach, Jets players have made a habit of expressing themselves in the media. Oddly enough, it’s never contributed to team cohesion. This game was a hard fought overtime battle in Miami; expect much of the same at MetLife Stadium.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00pm
One team has yet to lose a game this season. The other has yet to lose a game coming off a bye under its current head coach. Something’s got to give this week in Philadelphia, and it could be that the Falcons’ magic has run out. Close wins over inferior opponents like Carolina and Oakland have left many questioning the Falcons’ hot start, but all the pressure is on Philadelphia this Sunday. Head coach Andy Reid, 13-0 after the by in his career, responded to increasing scrutiny by firing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, but his offense (quarterback Michael Vick in particular) needs to prove it can last a game without any turnovers to turn around Philly’s season.
Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00pm
Pittsburgh’s defense looked anything but old, slow and over last week, forcing four three-and-out’s out of the Bengals’ final five possessions in Cincinnati. How it will fare against rookie sensation Robert Griffin III is another matter entirely. Opposing defenses have yet to determine how to contain the outstanding young quarterback, who is equally good on his feet as he is in the air. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has never lost to a rookie quarterback, but he’s never faced one quite like RGIII. Expect this game to turn into a shootout.
New England Patriots at St. Louis Rams, 1:00pm
Both teams have journeyed across the pond to play in London’s Wembley Stadium this week. Two of New England’s losses this season have been to NFC West opponents; the Rams’ sack total (21) and passing yards per game (225.6) compare favorably to division mates Arizona and Seattle, both of whom managed to stop the potent Patriots offense. St. Louis has struggled on offense, with premier running back Steven Jackson failing to gain significant traction while quarterback Sam Bradford has missed his number one target as Danny Amendola has recovered from a separated clavicle. This game could be surprisingly low-scoring.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans, 1:00pm
The Colts have been awfully fierce at home (losing once, in the waning moments to division rival Jacksonville) but their failure to win on the road has been a well-publicized sticking point. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will look to lead his team against a streaking Titans squad, winners of two in a row. Tennessee has been solid at home as well, falling only to New England in Nashville. The Colts defense has been allowing a 26th-ranked 141.7 yards on the ground so far, which is good news for Titans running back Chris Johnson, who will be bursting with confidence after a 195 yard performance against Buffalo in Week 7.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:05pm
What is happening with the 4:00 games? This trend of Oakland vs. the dregs of the NFL as 50% of the late afternoon bill is troubling. This week, they’ll travel to Kansas City to take on Brady Quinn and the Chiefs. Kansas City named Quinn its definitive starter this week, in an effort to assuage frustrated fans, but the difficulties the Chiefs face are above Quinn’s pay grade (who threw two interceptions and zero touchdowns in his debut, for the record). Oakland, on the other hand, could easily have fallen to Jacksonville last week at home. As with last Sunday, if you enjoy watchable football and have access to the Giants-Cowboys game, you might want to stay on Fox.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25pm
In this rematch of the NFL opener, the Giants will travel to Dallas with payback in mind. Improvements have been made on New York’s defense: its secondary is far more complete with a healthy cornerback Prince Amukamara present and its vaunted pass rush has perked up in recent weeks. Dallas is now reeling from injuries, as linebacker Sean Lee and his team-high tackles are done for the season with a toe injury and starting running back DeMarco Murray continues to nurse a hurt foot that will more than likely sideline him against the Giants. A win this week is exactly what Dallas needs to continue contending in the NFC East, but the Giants, with a division record of 1-2, will be equally motivated.
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos, 8:20pm
New Orleans interim head coach Joe Vitt returned this week from his bounty-related suspension. His traditional title is assistant head coach, but he’s a defensive guy. It will be interesting to see what changes may be made to the defense in his first game this week. But for as hot as Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense has been this season, they have yet to face a strong defense. Ranked eleventh overall and tenth against the pass, Denver will easily pose the largest challenge the Saints have faced in 2012. Throw in a Denver offense, led by Peyton Manning and a pack of receivers he’s begun clicking with, and the Saints’ win streak could be resoundingly snapped at two.
San Francisco Giants at Arizona Cardinals, 8:30pm Monday
Three consecutive losses have threatened to topple Arizona’s season off the rails, and a visit from San Francisco this Monday could result in a full-on freefall. For as excellent as the Cardinals’ defense has been throughout 2012, its offense has sputtered and ground to a halt. There’s talk about trading for a quarterback to take over for ailing Kevin Kolb and ineffective John Skelton, but the number one priority in Glendale should be improving the offensive line. No quarterback will play well or stay healthy with no protection. San Francisco’s defense got back on track last week against Seattle, but its offense continues to look worrisome. Watch to see if quarterback Alex Smith returns to one of his most reliable targets in tight end Vernon Davis. When Davis is involved in the offense, things just run more efficiently.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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