There are some intense NFL matchups on the schedule in Week 8 that will have a significant impact on the standings as we get ready to hit the second half of the season.
Featuring some of the biggest superstars in the league, and several of the remaining undefeated teams, these contests guaranteed to provide entertainment for the masses.
These four are the biggest games on the schedule in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)
There are a few big early games on the Week 8 schedule, but none come close to the one being contested at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. between the Bengals and Steelers. Being a divisional contest, the stakes are higher than normal, especially considering a Steelers win would bring Pittsburgh to within one game in the win column of Cincinnati in the AFC North.
Ben Roethlisberger should be back. He’s listed as “probable” on the official injury report, which essentially means he’s playing, given his reputation as one of the NFL’s toughest competitors. With Big Ben back in the fold, fans should see plenty more production out of receiver Antonio Brown, who has suffered in Roethlisberger’s absence.
So far, no team has been able to crack Cincinnati’s perfect record, however.
The Steelers will need to be extraordinarily good defensively to stop the juggernaut Bengals offense, which has been piling up over 410 yards per game (No. 3 in the NFL).
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton is performing at a level previously unseen to lead this remarkable charge. He currently leads the league with a passer rating of 116.2, throwing 14 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. With A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert all making significant contributions in the passing game, opposing defenses are having to pick their poison.
This one gets kicked off at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.
Prediction: Bengals win on the road 24-23.
Seattle Seahawks (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-4)
Sunday afternoon provides us with an important battle in Texas featuring two would-be powerhouses that are struggling to get to .500.
The Seahawks are 1-2 in their last three games, and the only win came against the hapless San Francisco 49ers. The offensive line for Seattle is a huge problem, and nobody should be surprised if Greg Hardy and Co. end up sacking Russell Wilson multiple times.
Perhaps the best game plan for the ‘Hawks is a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch, who came back in a huge way last weekend with 122 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers.
Another way Seattle could find success against Dallas is via defensive scores. Backup quarterback Matt Cassel was atrocious in his first start for the Cowboys last weekend, throwing three interceptions in a loss against the New York Giants — a team that isn’t exactly loaded at defensive back.
For the Cowboys, it will be interesting to see how Darren McFadden fares against the Seahawks. He’s freshly anointed as the starting running back — something Joseph Randle didn’t take well at all — and has looked explosive this year. If McFadden does find running lanes, then the ‘Boys might actually have a chance to break their four-game losing streak.
Fox has this broadcast, which is set to kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET.
Prediction: Cowboys find a way to break the streak, winning 27-17.
Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Denver Broncos (6-0)
Featuring the top quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers against Denver, which features the top defense in the league, Sunday Night Football should be spectacular.
As we are all aware, Peyton Manning just isn’t himself these days. But the Broncos have been so darn dominant defensively it hasn’t been a huge problem — yet. Only Ryan Mallett, recently released for tardiness, has a worse passer rating than Manning, who has thrown 10 interceptions — the worst mark in the league.
The Broncos lead the league with 26 sacks and 13 forced fumbles, and the defense has come up with nine interceptions of its own to counter Manning’s 10.
This outstanding defense will face its stiffest test of the season on Sunday night.
Rodgers is the league’s premier quarterback these days, and he knows how to beat pretty much anything opposing defenses try to throw at him. That said, given Denver’s propensity for getting after the quarterback (and given the injuries to Green Bay’s receiving corps) he could be poised for a rare bad performance.
If the Packers can establish some consistent production from the running game, though, then it will open things up for Rodgers to go over the top to James Jones for some big plays.
The game starts at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC, so make sure you tune in to see two of the hottest teams in the league get after one another.
Prediction: Green Bay walks out with a big win, 31-24.
Indianapolis Colts (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (6-0)
Monday Night Football in Week 8 features two teams headed in opposite directions, but remarkably both are division leaders.
This is pretty much a must-win for Andrew Luck and the Colts, who hold a one-game lead over the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South. Luck, despite missing two games, has already thrown nine interceptions this year, and he looks completely out of sorts right now.
Facing Carolina’s intimidating defense — featuring the likes of linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman — Luck and the Colts must shape up quick or face another embarrassing loss.
Of further concern for the Colts must be the outstanding play of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who has come into his own as a top-flight quarterback in the NFL this year. Always a threat, Newton has married his outrageous physical attributes with an understanding of the game in a way we’ve never seen before. His signature win over the Seahawks in Seattle was a prime example of this.
It’s going to be a tall task indeed for the Colts to find a way to walk out of Bank of America Stadium on Monday night with a win. The game begins at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be viewed nationwide on ESPN.
Prediction: Panthers crush the Colts at home, 35-21.