I’m calling it right now: Blowout week is over. We got that out of our system. Week 8’s slate of games is pretty exciting. Out of 13 games, there are six that are highly compelling. Not a bad ratio at all.
As always, we’ll start at the top. Here’s a preview of Week 8:
Vikings at Packers: Favre Bowl II, this time it’s outdoors! All-time cable TV viewing records were set when Brett Favre faced the Packers on Monday Night Football a few weeks back, but now he returns to Green Bay, to a scorned fan base that once adored him. The Vikings are no longer undefeated, and had a fourth-quarter that did not break perfectly for them. The Packers can’t let Jared Allen rampage their QB the way it went down last time. Maybe LT Chad Clifton returns. It’s going to be some kind of charged atmosphere.
Broncos at Ravens: Both teams are coming off a bye. Baltimore’s struggling defense needs to get its pass coverage straightened out, while Mike Nolan, one of the Ravens’ former defensive coaches, has Denver playing the best D in the league. The Ravens have lost three in a row. Conversely, the Broncos have yet to lose despite playing some heavy-duty foes. Joe Flacco has been worse at home than on the road in his career, and with Pittsburgh and Cincy charging, the Ravens need this game.
Falcons at Saints: New Orleans could dang near wrap up the NFC South with a win. The second-half comeback last week was amazing, and the Falcons have to find a way to play some ball control against them. The Saints already have 72 points off turnovers and lead the NFL in takeaways — a complete turnaround from last season. Darren Sharper has a way with feasting on young QBs. Matt Ryan is special, but he’s going into the belly of the beast this week.
Giants at Eagles: The top two teams in the NFC East are limping into this one. Philly’s offense has not looked right for a few weeks now, and Brian Westbrook is a concussion concern. Eli Manning is sputtering some, and the defense — pass D in particular — is looking poor. The Giants need to get guys like Aaron Ross and Michael Boley back, ASAP. It’s another opportunity for Michael Vick to perhaps show something — it’s been stale thus far, though,, his old burst finally shined briefly on one third-down run Monday night. The Giants have to contain DeSean Jackson’s big-play tendencies, or they could end up in a shootout they can’t win.
Dolphins at Jets: Can Miami gash New York with the Wildcat again just a few weeks after doing so on Monday Night Football? You would think Rex Ryan would pick up something from the approach Gregg Williams took with the formation last week — more attack, less two-gap — but with no Kris Jenkins that power game is going to be tough to stop. New York still doesn’t have much of a vertical attack, but it’s hard to imagine the Jets getting swept by the Dolphins and being a real playoff factor. We also get another chance to watch clips of all the jawing between Ryan and Channing Crowder from the offseason, which never gets old.
49ers at Colts: Suddenly the 49ers are sputtering and will have a new QB under center. Michael Crabtree was quietly effective in his debut and Vernon Davis seems to have something going with Alex Smith. But can the 49ers contain the Colts? They did well to stop the bleeding against a high-powered Houston attack, but couldn’t pull the upset. Perhaps a bit of a trap game for the undefeated Colts, but with Indy getting healthier, it’s hard not to like what the team has cooking.
Seahawks at Cowboys: Seattle is getting bodies back on defense, but with big Walter Jones possibly staring at IR, the protection issues still loom large. DeMarcus Ware, freshly paid, might go off on Matt Hasselbeck. Miles Austin will be looking for his third straight monster game, but Dallas has a way of sapping its own momentum. It’s a must-win game for the Seahawks, who have not been good on the road.
Panthers at Cardinals: There is a possibility Matt Moore gets the start at QB for the Panthers. Carolina lacks weapons in the passing game at this point and Arizona is hitting its stride, on a 4-1 tear. This could be a game where Arizona establishes more of a running presence. With the 49ers at Indy, this is a crucial opportunity for the Cardinals to start putting some distance between them and the only team in the NFC West that seems capable of mounting a threat.
Jaguars at Titans: The Titans have to win a game here soon, right? And Vince Young has to play in something other than garbage time, maybe even in a Wildcat setting? Coming out of a bye without a win and with all that time to prepare for a division opponent, they must have a trick up their sleeve, right? Hard to fathom Tennessee could be top-5 in rushing average and rushing average against, yet without a victory. The Jags rely on the power run game but it could be tough sledding out there.
Texans at Bills: Buffalo fans surely hope Mother Nature plays a role and helps derail the Houston’s attack. The Bills have been doing anything but rolling over for coach Dick Jauron, despite mounting injuries. They’ll be without QB Trent Edwards again, and it hasn’t been pretty with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. T.O. might not make a big play this season, but winning ugly is plenty pretty. The Texans are notorious for letdown games that end up costing the team dearly come January. Can’t afford one here.
Browns at Bears: What the heck happened to Chicago last week? That was a total devastation at the hands of the Bengals. You would have to think there is no way they let Derek Anderson and any tailback currently on Cleveland’s roster duplicate what Carson Palmer/Cedric Benson accomplished Sunday. Jay Cutler’s turnover rate has been alarming and Matt Forte just can’t get going. The Bears have played a very tough schedule, however, and this might be the springboard they need into the second half.
Raiders at Chargers: Remember that season-opening Monday night game between these teams, and how the Raiders beat the snot out of the Chargers on both sides of the ball? They lost, but still won, at least in all ways not pertaining to the actual scoreboard. It made for compelling watching, if nothing else, and hopefully we get another dose of that Raiders team as opposed to the one on display most weeks. The Chargers can’t afford any slipups, but when you can’t run the ball or usually stop anyone on defense, there’s always a chance you might lose to an inferior team.
Rams at Lions: St. Louis has lost 17 games in a row dating back to last season, and is 2-21 since the start of the 2008 season. The Lions lost all 16 games last season and are 1-21 since the start of 2008. Are you ready for some football?