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Week 8 predictions: Broncos, Saints go off; Bengals hang tough

It's time for Week 8 predictions, and with all the recent injuries, we're just trying to figure it out ...

... kind of like "Jason X" or "Halloween 5." I watched the latter while trying to bang out a short intro to our picks column. That's right, it's "our" picks column, which is why I expect someone reading this to explain the connection between Michael Myers and the little girl in that movie. While you're at it, maybe you can explain the connection between a Vikings quarterback and his receivers, because there doesn't seem to be any.

The Vikings host the Packers, and we expect them to lose. Elsewhere in the NFC North, there is a much more difficult game to pick ...

Thanks for clearing that up, Keith. In an informal vote on Twitter, about 60 percent of respondents sided with the Lions, with one vote for Jason in Space and, oddly, another vote for the Bears. That came from my colleague @MattMoneySmith, who still thinks Erik Kramer is the Bears' quarterback.

As for the other, non-NFC North-related matchups, expect Jets-Bengals and Falcons-Cardinals to be the closest calls. New York has been playing much better, while the Falcons are so depleted on offense that it's tough to pick them in any contest. How do we see those games -- and the 10 others this weekend -- playing out? See below. And, per the usual, feel free to send your thoughts ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it ...

Elliot Harrison went 10-5 on his predictions for Week 7, giving him a record of 67-40 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 8? His picks are below, with home teams listed second.

It's easy to grin ... when your ship comes in ... and you've got the stock market beat ... and you're playing guys off the street. Put Cowboys defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in a navy jacket, a scarf and a captain's hat, and he'd look as happy as Judge Smails, given how well his unit played in Philadelphia last Sunday. Can that Dallas line hold down the Lions the way it did the Eagles' offense? The key is whether or not that group can get any pressure on Matthew Stafford -- and how well Brandon Carr can play against Megatron. Detroit, meanwhile, should run Reggie Bush and force Cowboys linebackers to cover him in space. #DALvsDET

Yes, you read that score right: The Jaguars are getting all field goals. Don't back talk! Feeling a game for the tight ends here. After Anquan Boldin made the key catches for the Niners in Nashville, Vernon Davis might be the man for San Francisco this week. Antonio Gates was held in check last Sunday by this Jaguars defense, but San Diego doesn't run the ball like the 49ers, whose ground attack can lead to success with play action and tight end leaks out of power formations. Jacksonville, meanwhile, just welcomed back Marcedes Lewis. Footballdamus sees the big, tall target having a touchdown call nullified this week ... call it a Jags-esque occurrence. For Jacksonville to stay in this one, the Jags need to be able to exploit the 49ers' secondary and stop the run. We don't expect them to do either, however, especially the last part. Can you believe Jacksonville is allowing 153.3 yards per game on the ground? That's 26 more than the next closest team! #SFvsJAX

We originally had the Chiefs winning 23-10, but we're showing faith in the Browns' defense. Of course, if starter Jason Campbell makes a patented "Brandon Weeden play" (trust me, there are no threats to that patent), then this game could get out of hand. The book on Campbell reads like this: He might not make the big mistake, but he won't seize the vertical opportunities to make something happen, either. His career yards per attempt is 6.7 -- that's low. The thinking here is that Cleveland will go conservative on offense while hoping the defense can force Alex Smith to make a mistake. Of course, Andy Reid also would be smart to go conservative, considering that Smith has not played well the past three games -- and the Chiefs' defense has allowed the fewest points and lowest third-down conversion rate in the league, while racking up 10 more sacks than anyone else. Wow. #AlbertLewis #DeronCherry #CLEvsKC

Do the Dolphins ever play well in New England? Do you know the last time they won there? It was 2008, during the matchup famous for the unveiling of the Wildcat: Ronnie Brown threw a touchdown pass and the Fins Tony Sparano'd the Patriots, 38-13. Those days are gone, although Miami could use some of that old imagination. The passing attack lacks big-play ability, while the Dolphins are averaging just 78 rushing yards per game. The Patriots should run their offense through tight end Rob Gronkowski -- or they should just plain run more. After going to the ground 35 times in a Week 6 win over the Saints, New England rushed just 20 times in a loss to the Jets last Sunday. #MIAvsNE

If our predicted score is any indication, we don't like the Bills in this game. Buffalo will keep it tight in the first half -- the Bills have played every opponent tight -- but I believe the Saints will make the necessary second-half adjustments to turn this into a late blowout. Yes, the Bills have held their past three opponents to an average of just 230 passing yards per game, but the quarterbacks they've played -- Brandon Weeden, Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill -- have not been able to challenge defenses vertically the way Drew Brees has over his illustrious career. Buffalo would be well-served using Fred Jackson AND C.J. Spiller to slow down the game and give its defense a blow, but at publishing, Spiller's status for Sunday remained uncertain. The Bills' front seven, meanwhile, has the formidable task of disrupting Brees' timing in the pocket. We're aware Buffalo has 23 sacks thus far. But would you believe that, for as much as New Orleans throws the ball, Brees hasn't been sacked more than 26 times in a season with the Saints? Good luck. #BUFvsNO

Philadelphia surprised everybody by playing a little defense against the Cowboys last Sunday. Too bad the offense scored three points. Now, Michael Vick likely will be running the show this week, which is important. Last week, the tandem of Nick Foles and Matt Barkley performed as well together as Axl Rose's jorts and age. Surprisingly, LeSean McCoy didn't have his best game, either. While the Giants can contain McCoy, they'll have trouble with the aerial attack; Vick brings escapability, as well. With this game being at the Linc -- and with the way Eli Manning has been playing -- we'll take Philly at home. #NYGvsPHI

Tell you what: From afar, this game looks fun. Both squads can actually play defense when so inclined; meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how "for real" the Jets are. No one -- no one -- thought New York would be 4-3 coming off a win over the Patriots. For the Jets to get to 5-3, they'll have to ground and pound with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell -- the latter was a non-factor last Sunday, but I'm thinking this week, the Jets will need everybody. It should be noted that the Bengals' defense is not all that easy to ground and pound on, having allowed just 97.9 rushing yards per game this year (3.83 yards per carry). Can Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton perform as well as he did in Detroit? #NYJvsCIN

Ben Roethlisberger will win this game. Don't get us wrong; the Raiders should give the visiting Steelers all they can handle. Terrelle Pryor is tough to prep for, because so many of his reads are simple. If Pittsburgh sends the blitz, Pryor will just take off -- and considering the fact that the Steelers have almost zero speed on defense, that would be bad for them. What keeps us from taking Oakland here is the trust we have in Roethlisberger's ability to perform in any end-game scenario. It'll be interesting to see if the Raiders dedicate Brandian Ross or Charles Woodson to Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who tore it up in Oakland last season. Expect Le'Veon Bell to get at least 20 carries for Pittsburgh. #PITvsOAK

Atlanta wins a close deal down in Arizona. The difference here? Turnovers. Carson Palmer, who is second in the NFL in interceptions (13), hasn't shown a penchant for protecting the football. The Falcons will get 23 points on the strength of a Palmer giveaway and Matt Ryan's ability to distribute the ball conservatively yet evenly. What do we mean by that? Sometimes, when a guy like Julio Jones is available, quarterbacks try to feed him early, so as to get him involved in the flow of the game. Ditto coaches, who have plays on their flip cards designed specifically to get Player X the ball. But when that star goes down, signal-callers like Ryan simply find the open read. Sometimes that's a good thing. Of course, Ryan shouldn't expect the running game to give him anything, as this Cardinal defense can play with anybody. #ATLvsAZ

Man, is Denver going to be rockin' for this game. You think Peyton Manning will be focused? How about the Broncos' defense? I expect John Fox chewed out that group after last Sunday night's loss in Indianapolis. The unit has not been asked to do anything this season; now it's time to start playing ball and quit expecting the quarterback to put up 30 (or 40) every game. Of course, speaking of scoring in the 40s, that's what the Redskins just allowed the Bears to do ... in Washington ... with Chicago backup Josh McCown playing much of the game. The really ominous note for the Redskins: Their D leads the NFL in quick-strike drives allowed (possessions in which an opponent scores a touchdown in three plays or less). Ouch. We'd say Washington should let Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III run 40 to 50 times to limit Manning's snaps, but -- would you believe it? -- Denver has the top-ranked run defense in the league. #WASvsDEN

So Christian Ponder is likely to get the start for Minnesota this week. One wonders about the third-year veteran's confidence level, given the Ponder-to-Cassel-to-Freeman-to-Ponder carousel he's been a part of this season. It should be noted that Ponder had perhaps the best game of his career last time out against the Packers. The bottom line for the Vikes, however, is the dysfunctional nature of their passing game as a whole; they rank 30th in team passer rating (68.0). Defensively, Minnesota will have more to contend with than just Aaron Rodgers. In three October games, Eddie Lacy has run for 301 yards -- in his past two contests, he's gained 10 first downs. #GBvsMIN

To be perfectly frank, this is the kind of game the Rams normally win -- and, in fact, last year, they did. Sam Bradford is out, however, which means we get Kellen Clemens. I like Kellen. I celebrate the guy's entire catalog. And yet ... it's hard to give the Rams much of a chance here. Clemens barely has played this season. And consider this: When a backup comes in mid-game, he's playing with house money, i.e., he has nothing to lose. But it's a different deal when the understudy preps for the start all week. Why? Because a talented defense -- like the Seahawks' unit -- spends the same amount of time prepping for him. St. Louis running back Zac Stacy might get 20 carries. Since becoming the starter three weeks ago, he's averaging 16.3 carries per game. Problem is, trying to run on first down to set up the pass doesn't work against Seattle. The Seahawks are allowing just 2.97 yards per carry on first down. #SEAvsSTL

ALREADY COMPLETED:

Cam Newton has been ripping it up the past two weeks, tossing four touchdown passes while giving up zero interceptions and compiling a passer rating of 140-plus. Tampa Bay rookie Mike Glennon, meanwhile, has been solid lately, but the Bucs have a, well, bang-for-the-buck problem: Glennon's 5.55 yards-per-attempt average is the second-lowest in the league, ahead of only -- wait for it -- Josh Freeman (5.18). Tampa Bay simply isn't getting big plays downfield. And now with Doug Martin out, the offense is really in trouble. Speaking of trouble, the Bucs' defense shouldn't have too much of it with the Panthers' running backs, but Newton's play and ability out of the pocket will make a difference. If not, the Panthers' third-ranked defense will be enough. #CARvsTB



Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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