By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) The NFL is looking to create parity across the league, but 2012 is starting to look a lot like 2011. Six of the eight division winners from last season remain on their perch and most likely will for the rest of the season. However, the “any given Sunday” cliché is alive and well, so here’s my take on how Week 8 is going to play out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
Patriots 27, RAMS 17 (At London) – Noon
Even though this game is in London, it is technically a home game for the Rams. However, I have a feeling this crowd will be decidedly pro-Patriots. The Patriots are the anti-Lions. They start fast every week, then fall apart late in games. Against legitimate teams, that’s a losing formula. The Rams defense is legit, but their offense isn’t. Thus, I’ll take the “road” team with the home-field advantage.
TITANS 23, Colts 20 – Noon
Nothing cures offensive ills like a matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Much to the delight of jaded fantasy football owners, Titans running back Chris Johnson broke out last week, averaging a first down per carry, en route to a 195 yard, two touchdown performance. I see bad things happening to a Colts run defense that surrenders 140 yards per game. As bad as the Titans secondary is, Andrew Luck has been brutal on the road, so give me the Titans at home.
PACKERS 31, Jaguars 16 – Noon
The talent gap between these two teams is wider than Peyton Manning’s forehead. Short of Mike McCarthy benching both his starting offense and defense, there’s no plausible way to predict a Jaguars victory. Injuries are forcing key Packers to the bench, Charles Woodson (collarbone), Greg Jennings (groin), and possibly Jordy Nelson (hamstring). Even so, the Jaguars have no chance.
Chargers 23, BROWNS 20 – Noon
The Browns literally let a win slip through their fingers last week in Indy when wide receiver Josh Gordon dropped a picture-perfect pass from Brandon Weeden in the end zone. Some questionable coaching decisions won’t help the long-term prospects of head coach Pat Shurmur. With new owner Jimmy Haslam at the helm in Cleveland, Shurmur is on borrowed time. Getting beat by a rested Chargers team at home will insight pitchfork and torch wielding Browns fans, wearing dog masks of course.
EAGLES 24, Falcons 23 – Noon
The Falcons and Eagles are both coming off bye weeks, so they should be well rested. Well, at least the undefeated Falcons should be. For the Eagles, their bye week was anything but quiet. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired, and turnover machine Mike Vick has been carrying a football around the Eagles complex to help sharpen his shoddy ball security. Despite the turmoil, I think the Eagles front four will be the difference as they put the first blemish on the 2012 Falcons, a team that has almost lost at home to the Panthers and Raiders
Seahawks 24, LIONS 20 – Noon
The Lions are toast. Granted their loss to the Bears was only one game, but it was the manner in which they lost. The Lions sleep walk through the first three quarters of games, then when it’s too late, they decide to start playing. To me, that’s yet another sign of how poorly coached they are. On the other sideline, Pete Carroll has the Seahawks believing they can beat anyone. The Seahawks defense has endless confidence that borders on cockiness. After watching the Bears neutralize Calvin Johnson, I think the Seahawks chirpy secondary is eager to get their shot at Megatron.
Miami 20, JETS 17 – Noon
The lack of afternoon games last weekend allowed the entire country to see just how bad Mark Sanchez is. How could Sanchez take that sack in overtime, and then make matters worse by not tucking the ball away? That’s losing football. Don’t forget, the Jets traded up in the first-round to draft him. Suckers. On the other sideline, rookie Ryan Tannehill has shown maturity and poise under pressure, so the Dolphins have to be encouraged by his progress. I like the rested Dolphins on the road to effectively end the Jets season.
BEARS 23, Panthers 17 – Noon
This game provides the perfect palette for lazy national journalists to paint weak, subjective pap about quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. Rather than fan the flames of that nonsense, I’ll focus on the football. The Panthers aren’t as bad as their 1-5 record indicates. They’ve been victimized by untimely mental lapses late in games. However, from a pure talent standpoint, there’s a big gap between these teams. The Bears defense has been the most consistent unit in the NFL all season, so there’s no reason to think they won’t be again on Sunday.
STEELERS 24, Redskins 21 – Noon
RGIII is the real deal. I caught grief this past spring when I wrote in my mock drafts that Griffin’s ceiling was higher than that of Andrew Luck. Seven games into the season, I think everyone agrees now. Griffin did everything he could last week to beat the Giants, but a blown coverage by the defense and a Santana Moss fumble ultimately did in the Redskins. Despite the final score, the Steelers dominated the Bengals last week. I expect Dick LeBeau to dial up some zone pressure this week to scramble the Redskins rookie.
Raiders 17, CHIEFS 16 – 3:05 PM
If bad football is your drug, this game is like a weekend in Amsterdam. It’s devolved to Brady Quinn in Kansas City, so brown paper bags over the heads of Arrowhead faithful aren’t that far away. The Raiders? They needed injuries to Blaine Gabbert and MJD to pull off a win at home against the Jaguars. Shockingly, the Chiefs are worse than the Jaguars, so give me the Raiders on the road.
Giants 27, COWBOYS 23 – 3:25 PM
These two teams participated in the 2012 lid-lifter, with the Cowboys stunning the defending champs in New York. Since then, these teams have taken two different paths. The Cowboys have sputtered along to a 3-3 mark, while the Giants have regained their position as the top team in the NFL. Eli Manning leads a potent passing attack, and the Giants defensive ends are starting to turn the corner. I like the defending champs to exact some revenge in Big D.
BRONCOS 31, Saints 27 – 7:30 PM
It’s a Super Bowl XLIV quarterback rematch in Denver as the Broncos battle the Saints. So far, the Broncos have played the toughest schedule in the NFL, so they must be excited about seeing the Saints on the docket. Both of these quarterbacks are at the top of their game, but the Saints defense can’t stop anyone. If Josh Freeman can light the Saints up, just think of what Peyton Manning will do to them.
49ers 23, CARDINALS 13 – Monday Night
Remember when certain media members were blathering on about how “for real” the Cardinals were? That was funny. Even when the Cardinals were 4-0, I said this team would finish no better than .500, and they’re on their way. You simply cannot mount any consistency on offense when your line is as bad as the Cardinals is. The 49ers front seven will embarrass the Cardinals on a national stage.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.