As we saw Thursday night, Week 8 of the NFL season is going to be full of intrigue as the full slate of games play out. By virtue of their win against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, the Denver Broncos now possess a two-game lead in the division. That’s going to be incredibly difficult for Philip Rivers and Co. to overcome.
There are a ton of other games on the schedule that could help dicate what happens in specific divisions as we enter the second half of the regular year.
Here are four other Week 8 matchups involving a team that is in desperate need of a win either to stay in contention in its division or overcome recent struggles.
Heading into Carolina for an important matchup with a struggling Panthers team, Seattle needs to enforce its will on the offensive side of the ball here. It is facing a unit that is yielding an average of nearly five touchdowns per game over the past five weeks. If Russell Wilson and Co. can’t find a way to dominate this defense, the Seahawks could very well find themselves under .500 heading into November.
Defensively, Dan Quinn’s unit must start to get more pressure on the quarterback. They have recorded just seven sacks in six games, which has led to a 103.9 quarterback rating against the Seahawks defense. That is not indicative of the Legion of Boom’s highly-regarded reputation.
Considering this is a team that came into the season with aspirations to repeat as Super Bowl champions, that’s not exactly the situation the Seahawks envisioned with the second half of the season still to come. This is only magnified by the fact that the Arizona Cardinals are 5-1 on the season and the San Francisco 49ers are prepared to get much healthier coming out of their Week 8 bye. In reality, Seattle simply can’t afford to fall too far behind in the best division in football.
New Orleans Saints
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) October 20, 2014
The Saints are in a much different situation than Seattle. Despite boasting a 2-4 record, Sean Payton’s team is only one game behind Carolina in the win column in the NFC South. And now taking on a Green Bay Packers squad that has won four in a row, the Saints have an opportunity to make a statement on Sunday Night Football. That statement could include the ability to actually compete with some of the best teams in the conference. New Orleans is 0-3 this season against teams that are currently .500 or better heading into Week 8.
The good news here is that New Orleans has won 10 consecutive regular season games at the Superdome and is going up against a Packers team that is .500 on the road since the start of the 2012 season. A win by the Saints, and they’re right back in the conversation in the NFC South. A loss, and this team might as well make some vacation reservations for January before it gets too expensive.
Now without a win in three games, the Bengals must take on a hot Baltimore Ravens team that has won five of its last six games. It must do so with A.J. Green still hampered by a toe injury that will at the very least limit him come Sunday. And in reality, the Bengals must pull off this win in order to avoid falling three games behind Baltimore in the win column.
The 55.4 quarterback rating for Andy Dalton on Sunday was the smallest he’s had in a regular season game since Week 3 of the 2011 season.
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) October 20, 2014
The onus is going to be on Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense to get off the snide. They were completely shutout by the Indianapolis Colts last week, tallying a total of eight first downs and 135 yards. That came on the heels of a 513-yard performance against Carolina the previous week. In reality, it’s been all about consistency. One week the Bengals offense is laying an egg, the next week their defense isn’t doing a bang-up job. All three aspects of the Bengals roster must perform at a high level in order to avoid the real possibility of being in last place when November rolls around.
It goes without saying that Chicago needs a win in order to brush off all the negativity we have seen off the field this week. But on the field, it’s a bigger issue. With a loss against the Patriots in New England, Marc Trestman’s team could easily find itself three games behind in the NFC North halfway through its regular season schedule.
And it doesn’t take a genius to realize that it will likely take 10 wins in order to even contend for a playoff spot in the NFC this season. Does anyone have confidence in this team winning seven of its final eight games to reach that 10-win plateau? I didn’t think so. For all intents and purposes, a loss here dooms the Bears’ season.
Photo: NY Post