Time for the futile waste of precious minutes that is my week 8 picks. It's more like tradition than anything now;
Cardinals @ Ravens
Having gambled on a rejuvenated Cardinals last week, who then promptly let me down, they can forget it this time. The Ravens defense did a reasonable number on Jacksonville last week and only the faintest of offensive production would have secured a win. Flacco was bad though and after the game there was much mumbling, groaning and maligning of a lack of carries for Ray Rice. Don't expect that to continue this week. Cam Cameron will probably pull a Mike Martz and shove Rice down peoples throats until they're sick of it. Which actually worked really well for Martz and the Bears, and I'm expecting it to do the same for the Ravens. Ravens win.
Vikings @ Panthers
Rookie quarterback shootout time! Christian Ponder vs. Cam Newton. Traditional pocket style passer with good mobility versus scrambling quarterback with big arm and ridiculously good mobility. Both teams also have rather snazzy running games to back them up and... frankly suspect defenses. That's not to say that both teams can't produce a pass rush. They can. But both teams also struggle to back their pass rush up with something more substantial on the back end.
I think for this one I'm going to side with the Vikings. I think Christian Ponder has big potential in the future, which he's showing in flashes now. He's had more time to work with his receivers now. Hopefully they can get Percy Harvin more involved in the game. Then of course we have the spectre of Adrian Peterson lurking in the back field, who had another big game last week. Antoine Winfield should be back at corner for Minnesota, and that combination of things is what's making me lean towards the away team in this one. Vikings win.
Jaguars @ Texans
After watching the Jaguars last week and comparing that to the Texans, I can't take Jacksonville seriously. They struggle to protect Gabbert, who is predictably having a torrid time in the NFL. Meanwhile the Texans are finding alternative ways to move the ball without Andre Johnson. Their offensive line is up to the task I think and Jacksonville's secondary is porous as hell. Texans win.
Dolphins @ Giants
I'm trying to think of a good reason to take the Dolphins. The only one I can think of is that the Giants offense always poses that risk of turning the ball over 5 or 6 times. It's not worth the gamble though. Giants win.
Saints @ Rams
Colts @ Titans
Now we get an intriguing match up. The predominant reason for this is because both teams are playing so poorly right now. The Colts offense minus Manning has been positively wretched. They occasionally string some passes together against the weaker teams, but they don't have the punch when it really counts. Delone Carter was a big bright spot in the running game last week and it's possible the Colts will try something new and lean on him somewhat this week, but that's a big "if".
The Titans? Matt Hasselbeck started the season well, but that early optimism is starting to tail off at a time when it should be building up further. Chris Johnson has bombed out since signing his big contract and despite claims by the coaching staff that Javon Ringer wasn't about to be thrust into the starting line up, I'd still say it's a safe bet that he'll get more carries this week.
So who wins? Errrm. Nobody? Alright, serious answer, I kind of can't help leaning towards the Colts. I can't even really explain why. I guess in my head I'm thinking their defense is more suited to the style of play that Matt Hasselbeck prefers (quick fades etc) and their pass rush is better... when Freeney and Mathis decide to show up. Colts win.
Redskins @ Bills
A part of me keeps ticking over in the back of my mind the fact that the Bills defense is pretty reliant on turnovers to stop people this season. Then a part of me remembers that the Redskins offense has hardly been well noted for it's ball security this season and that Bills running back Fred Jackson has been having a great year. So right now I have to favour the Buffalo. Bills win.
Lions @ Broncos
Last week I got a little lucky taking the Broncos. Lucky in the sense that the Dolphins were awful. This week, can I really take the Broncos over the Lions? I shouldn't. I really shouldn't. But you know what? I can't back down from having spent all this time flying the flag for Tebow. Money where the mouth is time. Broncos win.
Patriots vs Steelers
I made the mistake of overlooking the Steelers last week. But then last week their injury tally was bad, but not quite as bad as it is this week. The Patriots are hardly in prime shape, having dumped corner Leigh Bodden then put Ras-I Dowling onto injured reserve, but Brady has been having a heck of a season and so far nobody has put together a plan for stopping him. My gut instinct therefore is to go with New England. Patriots win.
Bengals @ Seahawks
I can't back the Seahawks. 3 points against Cleveland? Are you kidding me? The Bengals haven't really lit things up in 2011, but they have quietly been plodding along, getting just enough production out of the Andy Dalton - A.J. Green partnership, and just enough production on defense, to get by. So I'm going with the the Orange and Black attack. Bengals win.
Browns @ 49ers
As much as I like Colt McCoy, I don't like him that much. Not against the 49ers pass rush, coupled with a Browns defense that is just bad enough to make Alex Smith look good. 49ers win.
Cowboys @ Eagles
Another Sunday Night Football extravaganza? Ugh, kind of. The Cowboys and the Eagles, both teams notable for the fact that their records are totally out of place with the talent levels they have on their teams. Mainly due to their own errors, specifically turnovers from the quarterback position.
For Dallas the situation got a bit better last week. Romo kept his excesses in check and the Cowboys romped home behind a record setting day for running back DeMarco Murray. The only hitch in that plan was the fact that it was against the Rams, who have been their own special kind of bad this year. Can the Cowboys actually replicate that performance against a slightly stiffer defense (I guess we'll have to wait until after the Eagles game to find out... ba doom tish).
The Eagles have just come off their bye, having gone in 2-4 after beating the Redskins by seven points in a game that saw the Redskins turn the ball over like it was going out of fashion. Which is what worries me about Philadelphia. All those turnovers and they still came up with just 20 points?
I can't see Dallas being that generous (though history has a way of repeating itself) and so I'm inclined to lean towards Dallas. Cowboys win.
Chargers @ Chiefs
Ghosts and ghouls, tricks and treats, and all those other boring Halloween jokes that I'm sure everyone's making about this game. In case you hadn't guessed, I hate Halloween. I think it's the dumbest and most commercialised holiday in existence. More so than Christmas, because at least with Christmas there is (or at least used to be) an underlying excuse for it all and you get a couple of days off work, which isn't to be sniffed at. Halloween is just a bunch of brat kids in shitty costumes eating everyone's f**king sweets, while people old enough not to go trick or treating and too young to be considered adults go to the pictures, further encouraging movie companies that "SAW 2012" will be a good idea, even though that franchise plainly died its creative death after the first excellent movie.
What? ........... Oh yeah football game.
It's the Chargers and Chiefs for Gods sake. Last time these two played on a Monday night I called the Chiefs win correctly, in large part thanks to the Chargers complete special teams ineptitude. I think relying on a repeat would be overly optimistic.
In fact, I think relying on the Chiefs at all is optimistic. I'm not buying the sudden resurgence of Matt Cassel or the mystery and mystique surrounding Todd Haley's beard. I can think of three much better reasons why Kansas has won three back to back games and those reasons would be the Vikings, the Colts and the Raiders.
Not that I'm about to start cheer leading the Chargers, who can't seem to find any of their magic from last year. Not that they were particularly casting many dazzling spells on teams in 2010 as it was. Still, they're the lesser of two evils in this game, so I think I'm going to throw my Ouija board in behind the arcane skills of Norv Turner, Phillip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Shaun Phillips. Chargers win.