Another Thursday Night Football game has gone by and this time we saw the Baltimore Ravens take down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. Now we can look ahead to the weekend slate of games this week! The TWSN game preview crew is here to break every game down.
Denver Broncos vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Russell Wilson said that he is ready to go in this matchup over in London so the Broncos should have their starting quarterback back. However, the way that he has played, that may not be a good thing. Wilson has struggled mightily this season and it has really affected this team. The Denver offense isn’t very good and they have a hard time moving the ball down the field at all. Going up against a Jaguars team that can rush the passer, it could be a long day for the Broncos.
Jacksonville is in their home away from home in London so I’d give them the edge here. The Jags have taken a bit of a fall since their hot start but have a chance to get back on track with a win here. I like the Jags to do just that and send Denver falling even farther down. DUVAL! — Matt Levine
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys
With their win over the New England Patriots on Monday, the Chicago Bears have made this matchup with the Dallas Cowboys a bit interesting. They moved the pocket more for Justin Fields, which allowed for more designed runs or for him to roll out of the pocket and create off-script plays. That will be essential when now facing a defensive front with Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and even Dorance Armstrong who have combined for 16 sacks on the season. Between Fields, David Montgomery, and Khalil Herbert, they form the top rushing attack in the NFL with 1,267 yards and an average of 181 yards per game. The Cowboys pass defense has been good, but their run defense has been shaky at times, allowing the 13th most rush yards per game with 120.1.
For the Bears’ defense, they will be facing Dak Prescott who made his return in the Cowboys win last week against the Detroit Lions. For as good as the Cowboys pass defense has been, the Bears have been just slightly better, allowing only a 63.7% completion percentage for 1,262 yards. Prescott in his return threw for 207 yards and a touchdown on 19 completions. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup are the two noticeable names for Prescott to throw to, but Noah Brown was Prescott’s top target in his return, with a team-high 28% target share. Just like the Cowboys again, the Bears’ weakness on defense has been their run defense. They have allowed the third most rushing yards per game with 149.7. The Cowboys’ may be without Ezekiel Elliott, but Tony Pollard has shown he can lead the backfield efficiently.
Each team matches up well against each other, and it should make for a close, low scoring game. But, expect the Cowboys to get enough pressure on Fields with their defensive line and hold on just enough for a victory. — Marissa Myers
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
If I told you at the beginning of the season that the week eight matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons was crucial to the division, you would have scoffed and remarked that maybe it was crucial for draft position. However, here we sit and if the Panthers win they will be involved in a three-way tie for the division lead. Not only will there be a three-way tie, but all three teams will sit at 3-5. Rough indication of what the division has come to this year. If the Saints win it can become a four-way tie between every team in the division, but that is for someone else to talk about. This game is huge for both teams, and whichever team in this division gets hot at the right time may very well win it.
The Falcons may sit at 3-5, but they are in play for the division and exceeding expectations. Marcus Mariota has been more than serviceable and a nice surprise. There are, however, more questions than answers about this team. The secondary is a mess and AJ Terrell will be missing this week with a hamstring injury. Drake London was non-existent last week against the Cincinnati Bengals and they need him to be a factor to win games. After last week’s hefty loss to the Bengals, it can only go up for this Falcons team. The Panthers, on the other hand, are riding high.
PJ Walker came in at quarterback and delivered not only a great game, but a big division win against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. This all comes on the heels of trading two of their best players in Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson. The Panthers do have some key injuries, with running back Chuba Hubbard out and cornerback Jaycee Horn and wide receiver Laviska Shenault limited. With Walker under center and off a big win, the Panthers’ morale has never been higher. There is only one question to ask both teams. Why not this week? I like the Panthers to continue their winning streak. — Tyler Paluzzi
Las Vegas Raiders @ New Orleans Saints
The Raiders and Saints both came into the season with strong playoff aspirations, but sub-.500’s starts have left both teams with their backs against the wall. The Raiders have begun stringing together some offensive consistency, moving the ball well over the past couple weeks. Josh Jacobs has been an efficiency workhorse on the ground, while Davante Adams has been a target hog through the air. However, their defense has been an issue, and it’s something the Saints could pick apart. Andy Dalton at quarterback isn’t super inspiring, but with Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave, Taysom Hill, and the looming return of both Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, I’m penciling New Orleans in for a solid offensive day. There’s an illness taking course in the Raiders locker room, and the Saints are home underdogs off a week and a half of rest. Give me New Orleans for the win. — Aidan Maher
New England Patriots @ New York Jets
Mac Jones is in line to start for the Patriots this week after some quarterback controversy surrounded the team. Jones has a lot to prove otherwise he may get benched once again. Going up against a Jets team that is firing on all cylinders may not be the best place to try and get right but it is the cards that he has been dealt. If New England wants to win this game, they will need to rely on their run game. That can help set up the passing attack for Jones and make life easier on the second-year play caller.
For New York, they come in playing the best they have in years. Head coach Robert Salah really has these guys ready to go each and every week. Losing Breece Hall to injury hurts the team but they went out and acquired James Robinson so he should help carry the load for them. This is a major game for both teams and while New York is on the rise, I like the Patriots to find a way to bounce back from the embarrassing Monday night loss. — Matt Levine
Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings
The Arizona Cardinals have vastly underperformed their expectations. They sit last in the NFC West at 3-4. Last week’s shootout victory over the New Orleans Saints in DeAndre Hopkins return does spell some hope for a team with a lot of talent. They have a menacing schedule for the rest of the season, so finding their identity and stealing games down the stretch will be crucial to even sniffing the playoffs. Kyler Murray did not have an amazing game, but he did enough to get the job done. With Hopkins back, Murray will be expected to get it going soon. The Cardinals defense is getting better as the weeks go and are the reason they were able to pull out a win last week. If they can limit the offensive onslaught that the Minnesota Vikings bring, Arizona should be in this game.
Speaking of the Vikings, they are having a phenomenal season. At 5-1, their only loss has come to a juggernaut Philadelphia Eagles team. They also lead the NFC North by a lot, with the Packers and Lions sitting behind them at 3-4. Minnesota looks like a team with Super Bowl potential, but they get in trouble by playing close games. With the Bills, Jets, Cowboys, and Giants still on the schedule, not closing out games may bite them later in the season. The Vikings are one of the healthiest teams in the league, and that is a blessing that they must hope continues. Justin Jefferson continues to be one of the best wide receivers in the league, and he is why the offensive output is so high. Dalvin Cook’s name has not been mentioned as much this year because his numbers do not pop out, but he has done an amazing job in the red zone and receiving out of the backfield. The Cardinals cannot be overlooked, but this might just be another stepping stone for the Vikings. Despite this, give me Arizona to pull the upset. — Tyler Paluzzi
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
An AFC South showdown features these two teams on opposite sides of the division. The Titans are in control of the AFC South, sitting at 4-2 on the year while the Texans are 1-4-1, sitting at the bottom. If Tennessee controls the clock with their running game, I can’t see how they loss this game. However, the Texans have played the Titans well in the past and with this game being in Houston, the Texans have a punchers chance.
Derrick Henry will be the X-factor in this game as he normally is. If Houston can slow him down, it could be a tough game for the Titans. However, I see this game being close but with the Titans finding a way to squeak it out in the end. Maybe that’s a field goal or a late game stop. No matter how it happens, give me the Titans to come away with a divisional win. — Matt Levine
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles
The battle of Pennsylvania takes place on Sunday between two teams seemingly heading in opposite directions. The Eagles will be coming off their bye week and remain undefeated while the Steelers come in with a 2-5 record, just recently losing to the Miami Dolphins. The Eagles are one of the more complete teams in the NFL and will give the Steelers similar problems that the Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and even New York Jets gave them. That problem being a quarterback in Jalen Hurts who can either run for yardage or create plays outside the pocket. For Hurts, he is surrounded by talented receivers in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith who will pose challenges for the Steelers secondary. Even on the ground in addition to Hurts’ rushing ability, there is Miles Sanders, and the Steelers have struggled to contain the run allowing 118.9 yards per game.
If there was going to be any way that the Steelers keep this close, it would’ve been their own run game, but that has been nonexistent. Najee Harris only has 329 yards for an average of 3.3 yards per carry on 100 attempts. So, without the run game it will be on Kenny Pickett to find any success through the air. That is easier said than done, the Eagles have allowed only a 56.8% completion percentage, and a league low 1,128 passing yards. James Bradberry, Darius Slay, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson will do a good job at locking down Chase Claypool, George Pickens, and Diontae Johnson.
The Steelers will be able to find some success throwing against the Eagles, but it won’t be enough to pull off an upset, and the Eagles stay undefeated. — Marissa Myers
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
A rematch once again from the NFC championship game sets the tables for the late game window. The 49ers beat the Rams up in Northern California earlier this season, so this game is huge for both teams. San Francisco is coming off a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and wants to get their season back on track. The Rams are coming off the bye week and are hoping that the time off gave them some new life for the second half of the year.
These two teams know each other extremely well. The key is going to be whether or not the Rams offensive line can hold up against the 49ers tough defensive front. I think they will do just enough and allow quarterback Matthew Stafford enough time in the pocket to get the ball out. Give me the Rams to take this game and come out with a much needed victory. — Matt Levine
New York Giants @ Seattle Seahawks
Who would’ve guessed coming into the season that the only game in Week Eight that would feature two winning record teams going against each other would be the Giants and Seahawks. Both teams love to run the ball as the Giants have Saquon Barkley and the Seahawks have Kenneth Walker III. The Giants’ offense may not be loaded with stars at the wide receiver position, but how they’ve been running the offense, it isn’t exactly necessary. Daniel Jones has been efficient and keeps the ball out of harm’s way as they take chunk plays that keep the clock moving. It is the reason they are third in average drive time with 3:07. Not throwing the ball might work to the Giants advantage even more as the Seahawks have Tariq Woolen, who has been phenomenal with four interceptions and six defended passes.
For the Giants offensive recipe for success to continue to work, their defense will need to slow down the Seahawks offense. With Geno Smith under center, they are averaging only 2:45 per drive and averaging the fifth most points per game with 26.1. The offense for the Seahawks could be without DK Metcalf as he suffered a leg injury last week, but Marquise Goodwin stepped up to haul in four receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns against the Los Angeles Chargers. Slowing down opposing passing attacks has been an underrated strength of the Giants, they have allowed a league low completion percentage of 56.6% and only seven passing touchdowns.
This could very well be a ground-and-pound game, with both Barkley and Walker leading the way for their teams against two mediocre run defenses. Having to go to Seattle though in front of those fans could very well lead to the Seahawks extending their lead in the NFC West. — Marissa Myers
Washington Commanders @ Indianapolis Colts
The Colts made the decision to bench Matt Ryan earlier this week and start Sam Ehlinger in his place. Ehlinger will be making his first career start and now can show the team what he has to offer. Expectations aren’t high for the former Texas product but this is his opportunity.
Indianapolis sent wave through the locker room with the benching of Ryan that could end up hurting the team. The culture of the team is at stake here and this could be perfect for a Commanders team that seems to be playing a little better of late. Taylor Heinicke gives this team a chance and I think he can get the job done. Give me Washington here. — Matt Levine
Miami Dolphins @ Detroit Lions
The Dolphins and Lions square off in what may be one of the highest scoring games of the week. Both offenses have slowed down since a hot start, but as both are getting healthier, plus both teams have played very poorly on the defensive side of the ball, we could see plenty of points scored. I like the Lions here to take care of business. — Aidan Maher
Green Bay Packers @ Buffalo Bills
It is clear there is some type of disconnect between Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense. That is clear with his 228 passing yards per game, and 6.03 adjusted net air yards per attempt, both of which are the lowest of his career. The key for the Bills will be to take away the screen game and force Rodgers to throw it deep. Rodgers has attempted the seventh-most passes of 20-plus yards with 33 attempts, but has only completed 10 of those passes. There is a clear lack of connection between Rodgers and his new receivers in this area. Taking away the screens will force Rodgers to hold on to the ball and allow the pass rush to get home, something they have been great at, with sacking quarterbacks 19 times. Von Miller leads the way with six sacks.
For the Bills, on the other hand, their offense is working in unison. Josh Allen has completed 160-of-239 passes for 1,980 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has done so by either successfully targeting Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis deep, or even Devin Singletary underneath. Diggs, who has six touchdowns and an average of 109.3 yards per game, will be seeing a lot of Jaire Alexander. There will be plenty of other players for Allen to find success throwing to, as 14 total players have caught a pass on offense this season so far. The Green Bay pass defense has been moderate so far, they have allowed a completion percentage of 69%, but only six touchdowns through the air.
The Green Bay defense is one of the bright spots for the team, but trying to slow Allen and the Bills offense down is another challenge. And asking the Packers’ offense to keep pace in their current state seems unlikely. — Marissa Myers
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
A big matchup in the AFC North awaits this week between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. Always a dogfight in the division, it will show this week as these teams that share the state of Ohio have a lot of disdain for each other. It is a shame that many big names will be missing from this matchup. Still holding on for dear life until Deshaun Watson comes back, the Browns could be missing names such as Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garrett, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Denzel Ward, David Njoku, Wyatt Teller, and more. That is a long list of skilled players that the Browns are in dire need of. The injury list is definitely not as long for the Bengals, but will have an impact on the game. La’el Collins and Trey Hendrickson did not practice, and yesterday the news was broken by our very own Malik Wright that Ja’Marr Chase is out indefinitely and may go on the injured reseved with a hip injury. Those are massive losses, especially Chase, who the offense has relied on heavily.
With all these injuries and the suspension, the Browns are in their own world of suffering; however, they have been competitive in almost all of their games and find ways to get it done. Beating Joe Burrow and his Bengals is always a challenge, and will be a massive undertakings considering the losses to a defensive unit that keeps them in games. AFC North games are always competitive, and this one should be no different. Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins will all have huge games, but look for the Browns to keep it close. The sad reality of this game is that the missing players are the headline of the matchup. Cincy takes this one. — Tyler Paluzzi