5 NFL Week 8 Games to Watch
Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants
What are the five games to watch in NFL week eight?
The 2012 season is at the halfway mark and games get bigger and bigger every week. As the year goes on we will get more divisional games and better matchups. The list may grow from five games to watch to 10. This is as it should be. The NFL season should get better each week.
Week seven brought us some good divisional matchups and a game between the top teams in the AFC. With the exception of Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans all of them were close. The New York Giants needed a last minute touchdown to beat the Washington Redskins. The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets in overtime. The Pittsburgh Steelers held off the Cincinnati Bengals to win by seven. And the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions in a physical defensive affair.
This week most teams will be playing outside of their division. This does not mean that there won't be any quality matchups. On paper there are five that stand out.
The Patriots and St. Louis Rams travel to London, England to meet in the league's annual goodwill game. The Redskins travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. The Philadelphia Eagles pay a visit to the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants and Dallas Cowboys play game two of their annual rivalry. And the San Francisco 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals Monday night.
Let's take a look at each game and try to see what will happen.
Of course as former NFL head coach Jim Mora once said, we think we know, but we just don't know. And we never will.
New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
On Sunday the Patriots and Rams will play in London. Why the league does this I have no idea. The NFL will never go global and Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to deal with it. Get rid of this game and give it back to the fans who buy season tickets.
New England is 4-3. This is a surprise. The Patriots are always expected to run away with the AFC East title. This season they have not been able to close the deal in two of their three losses. Everyone is to blame. Fortunately for New England they have been able to stay atop the division.
The Rams are 3-4 under new head coach Jeff Fisher. They have lost two straight.
Fisher will ask his defense to slow down the Patriots offense. If St. Louis can do this they are very capable of beating the Patriots. This was the formula that the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals used in their victories over New England.
The Patriots are 0-2 against the NFC West this season. St. Louis will try to make it 0-3.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be playing against the team that drafted him number one for the third time. He and his teammates will be trying to give Atlanta its first loss of the 2012 season.
Philadelphia's season can be described in one word. Turnovers. The Eagles are -9 in turnover ratio. Vick has been at the center of this with eight interceptions and nine fumbles. Some of it is him and some is his offensive line.
The Falcons undefeated record has been accomplished by simply playing well enough to win. Their last three games have all come down to the fourth quarter with Atlanta pulling out each one.
This game will come down to the fourth quarter as well. Both teams are coming off of bye weeks so should be well prepared.
This may be a game where home field actually makes a difference. For this reason a slight edge has to be given to Philadelphia.
Washington Redskins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This is the matchup of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III against what used to be the vaunted Steelers defense. The football world waits anxiously to see what the man known as RG3 does against defensive mastermind Dick Labeau.
Nothing that Griffin III does surprises me. He did all of it at Baylor. His pro career is nothing more than a continuation of what Griffin III did in college.
Because of this, the Steelers will have their hands full. If there is one game where Pittsburgh could use safety Troy Polamalu it is this one. He would have been the man assigned to confuse Griffin III and chase him down when he runs.
The Steelers will still try to confuse Griffin III. They will do it with their front seven instead of Polamalu. Look for Labeau to try and break down Griffin III protection and force him to stay in the pocket.
If Pittsburgh limits the number of big plays by Griffin III they will win.
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas won on opening night and everyone said they were ready to challenge for the NFC East title. Seven weeks later the Giants sit atop the division at 5-2 while the Cowboys are 3-3.
In the first game it was the Dallas pass rush that won it as they harassed Giants quarterback Eli Manning all night. They will have to do the same Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Giants highly touted pass rush has not played well this season. They hardly got any pressure on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in game one.
When two teams play each other twice a year the players know each other better than they know their wives. There are no secrets when the Giants and Cowboys meet. Dallas will try to run the ball and give Romo time to throw. New York will rely on Manning to come up with the big plays on third down and figure out the Cowboy defense.
This game will come down to the final drive. The game will either be in the hands of Manning or Romo to win it.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Who would have thought that this would be a battle for first place? Actually, the Cardinals have a good team. When they get good play from the quarterback position Arizona can play with anyone.
The 49ers know that Monday night's game is huge. They are coming off of a divisional win against the Seattle Seahawks. A win over the Cardinals would put them in very good shape going into the month of November.
The San Francisco offense is struggling and running back Frank Gore has sore ribs. Arizona has played pretty good defense for most of the season. The Cardinals will have to do it again Monday.
There shouldn't be too many points scored in this one. It will be a game where the quarterbacks truly manage it. The 49ers Alex Smith and Arizona's John Skelton will have to protect the football and not throw interceptions. Both will be harassed all night.
Whichever team's signal-caller maintains his composure will come out on top.