Week 8 viewer's guide


Around The NFL's Kevin Patra fills you in on the key storylines for each matchup. Here's your guide as you settle into your couch for all the NFL action.

The Lions' defensive line should feast on Matt Ryan on Sunday in London. Led by Ndamukong Suh, the Lions' No. 1 defense is tied for third in sacks. Suh will face a pillow-soft Falcons interior line crippled by injury. Atlanta has 36 plays of 20 yards or more (second in the NFL), but will need to protect Ryan for Julio Jones and Roddy White to find space in Detroit's secondary. Expect the Falcons to begin the game with a quick passing attack to avoid pressure on Ryan.

The Falcons' run defense must improve and make Matthew Stafford's offense one-dimensional. The group is allowing 137.7 yards per game and faces a likely tandem of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush/Theo Riddick that hasn't found space this season. Shut down the ground game and the Falcons could force Stafford into several turnovers.

Pregame reading material
Reggie Bush (ankle) sits out practice
DeAndre Levy among those deserving of Pro Bowl nods
Bush optimistic London will have an NFL franchise someday
Julio Jones says the Falcons' offensive struggles start with him

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Lions.

The battle of the boats! (No? OK. No.)

Teddy Bridgewater threw for more than 300 yards in his first start but couldn't even breach the 200-yard mark in either of the last two. He holds the lowest passer rating in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks (67.4). The rookie possesses some positive traits -- his awareness in the pocket is great -- but has made too many errors and forced multiple passes the last two weeks. A woebegone offensive line facing a Bucs team with a good pass rush could put the rookie in more hot water.

Tampa has offensive struggles of its own to deal with. Mike Glennon hasn't gotten the Bucs off to quick starts in any of his games (Tampa has been outscored by 48 points in first halves). The Bucs have scored fewer than 20 points a game in four of their six contests this season and have at least one turnover in 11 straight games dating back to last season. Against a Mike Zimmer defense that has ebbed and flowed this season, Glennon will need to utilize his big pass-catching targets -- and not wait until the second half to do it.

Pregame reading material
Vincent Jackson wants to remain a Buc despite trade talk
Josh McCown (thumb) returns to practice
NFL Fantasy Live: Eleven Sleepers for Week 8
Lovie Smith confident Bucs can right ship

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Vikings.

The Bills' defensive front has been one of the most dominant groups in the NFL. If Kyle Williams and Co. can shut down Chris Ivory and the ground attack it will stunt what the Jets do best (some would argue it's the only thing they do well). If the Bills put Gang Green in third-and-longs, the NFL's leading sack defense (24) will be able to tee off on Geno Smith.

Percy! Percy! Percy! Percy! Percy! Rex Ryan admitted that the receiver won't have a huge role in the offense his first outing. He'll return kicks and perhaps punts. Still, it will be interesting to see the cursory plans offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg unfurls. Will the Jets use him deep to stretch the field, like he wanted to in Seattle? Will he run the jet or fly sweep? Will he line up in the backfield? What he does Sunday won't encompass his complete role, but it could give us some clue as to what the Jets think about his skill set.

Pregame reading material
Rex Ryan grills Sammy Watkins on conference call
Darrell Bevell was disappointed in Percy Harvin
Fred Jackson thinks Bryce Brown is an every-down back
Rex: Calvin Pryor hasn't played to expectations

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Jets.

Perhaps Brandon Marshall picked the perfect time to call out his teammates? The man who does the talking must do the walking. In each of his past two games against the Patriots, Marshall has gone off for 135-plus receiving yards. Also, expect (nay, pray!) Marc Trestman to feed Matt Forte often against a Patriots run defense that is woefully banged-up and was eaten alive in its first outing without Jerod Mayo.

Tom Brady could have a field day in the short passing attack against the Bears' linebackers and safeties. What Ryan Tannehill can do (14 straight completions to open last week), Brady can do better. If Jon Bostic and Lance Briggs remain out this week, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright should have their way against a lost and talent-poor Chicago linebacker corps.

Pregame reading material
Jay Cutler says Brandon Marshall's rant wasn't centered on Cutler
Mike Ditka had some harsh words for his old team
Brandon Marshall only wishes the locker room door was closed
Darrelle Revis had a problem with punctuality on Wednesday

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Patriots.

This is the game for Seattle to get Marshawn Lynch back on track. Beast Mode hasn't hit the century mark on the ground since Week 1 and has a combined 150 yards in the Seahawks' three losses. Facing the Panthers' 26th-ranked run defense (allowing 137.6 yards per game) Lynch should find easy space Sunday.

Cam Newton will key the Panthers' chance to keep the Seahawks season spiraling. The banged-up Seattle secondary hasn't performed well in coverage outside of Richard Sherman. Newton should find space over the middle, where Seattle was hurt last week -- thanks in part to Bobby Wagner's injury. The Seahawks could struggle to cover tight end Greg Olsen, who's having a Pro Bowl season thus far.

Pregame reading material
Luke Kuechly escaped further punishment this week
Darrell Bevell was disappointed in Percy Harvin
Marshawn Lynch's agent says he never lost it after trade
Doug Baldwin thinks the Harvin trade hurt the Seahawks in loss to Rams

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Seahawks.

This could be the week that Ryan Tannehill fishes to find his long ball. The signal-caller has picked apart opponents with the short game but can't connect down the field. Tannehill has a passer rating of 11.0 on passes of 20-plus air yards (lowest in the NFL among QBs with at least 10 such pass attempts), and has only completed four such passes. However, he faces a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 22 completions of 20-plus air yards this season (most in the NFL). Look for Bill Lazor to dial up at least a couple additional deep shots this week.

Like most rookie quarterbacks, Blake Bortles giveth and taketh away. The rookie has 10 interceptions on the season (including three in last week's win). Against a good Miami pass rush Bortles will have to make good, quick decisions -- his athleticism should serve him well in those situations. The Dolphins' shorter corners are sticky, so the rookie might need to check down more than he has in recent weeks.

Pregame reading material
Ryan Tannehill has thrived amid controversy
Toby Gerhart will get mixed and matched with Denard Robinson
Robinson has a chance to keep his starting job
Jaguars will have to figure out how to play without Paul Posluszny

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Dolphins.

Baltimore is looking to avenge a Week 1 loss to the Bengals. Since putting up just 16 points in the opener, Joe Flacco and the Ravens are averaging 29.6 points per game and have found a rushing attack behind Justin Forsett. The Bengals on the other hand have gone the other way, mostly thanks to a defense that has been gashed the last two weeks. Gary Kubiak's offense should be full-throttle again Sunday.

If Andy Dalton is going to put last week's funk behind him, he'll need his offensive line to protect better. With Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs on deck, a repeat pummeling of last week could ensue. A.J. Green (toe) remains a mystery. Getting him back could be huge to open up space for Dalton's other weapons, but if the quarterback doesn't have time to make plays it won't matter if he's on the field or not..

Pregame reading material
Steve Smith: NFC South "is a finesse division"
Steve Smith bids Twitter adieu
A.J. Green says his squad is like the "scum of the crop"
Joe Flacco gained some ground in the QB Index

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Ravens.

Jadeveon Clowney could be back for the Texans. (He'll be a game-time decision.) It would mark the first time since Week 1 that smash brothers, J.J. Watt and Clowney, will be on the field together. That could be a devastating combination for the Titans offense, especially with rookie Zach Mettenberger getting the start. An average Titans offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback. If Clowney joins Watt, it could be checkmate for the Titans' passing plans.

Ken Whisenhunt had apparently seen enough of Charlie Whitehurst and wasn't thrilled with Jake Locker's progress (due to injury and otherwise) that he named rookie sixth-round pick Mettenberger the starter for the duration of the season. The 6-foot-5 Mettenberger has tools that scouts love with his size and a big arm. This will be his audition to prove the Titans' shouldn't draft another quarterback next year. With the strong-armed rookie under center expect the Titans to take chances down field to Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright more than they have this season.

Pregame reading material
Bill O'Brien got emotional on Monday night
Jake Locker no longer in Titans' plans
Jadeveon Clowney says he's ready to return
Nate Washington might be on the trade block

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Texans.

The battle for Missouri! The Governor's Cup! Not enough to get you pumped?

Tre Mason's Week 7 performance showed he has the most potential of any back in the Rams' backfield. Jeff Fisher insists they will go with the hot hand, but expect Mason to get the first shot to catch fire. On balance, the Chiefs' run defense has given up 117.7 yards per game on the ground. Mason could force Fisher to install him as the workhorse on the ground -- the rookie still isn't trusted in the passing game -- with another stellar performance.

Alex Smith has thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Chiefs' three wins this season -- two of those wins came in games he outdueled Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. Elusive quarterbacks have given the Rams trouble this season and Smith has been at his best making plays with his feet. He hasn't tested defenses deep (only 5.9 percent of his passes have traveled 20-plus yards) but he might not have to again this week against a Rams defense that has allowed 100-plus yards rushing to running backs and quarterbacks in five of six games.

Pregame reading material
Rams to continue hot-hand approach at running back
Brett Favre: Austin Davis could be next Kurt Warner
Jeff Fisher is coaching like someone with nothing to lose
Mike Mayock: Alex Smith is a franchise quarterback

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Chiefs.

The last time we saw the Eagles, LeSean McCoy looked more like Shady than any other time this season. Philly has averaged 174.0 rush yards per game in their last two outings. However, they face a Cardinals defense ranked No. 1 against the run (72.5 YPG). It will be exceedingly fun to watch how the genius of Chip Kelly (coming off a bye) matches wits with the scheme versatility that Todd Bowles has employed this season.

On the flip side, the Cardinals' offense has gotten back to its field-stretching ways with Carson Palmer under the helm. Palmer said this week he has not experienced residual effects from his nerve injury. Running back Andre Ellington has carried the load (105 rushes for 393 yards, TD; 25 receptions for, 260 yards, TD). His speed out of the backfield could cause fits for an Eagles defense that struggled to cover the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw this season.

Pregame reading material
Sound FX: Foles and Kelly lead the team
Six trades we'd love to see at the trade deadline
Andre Ellington performing at historic clip for Cards
Chiefs among the needy for Week 7
Ellington gives away a TD

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Eagles.

Ben Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 134.2 on passes of 20-plus air yards this season (highest in the NFL among QBs with at least 15 such attempts). But he will face one of the NFL's toughest defensive backs duos in Vontae Davis and Greg Toler. The Colts' defense has allowed opponents to complete just 19.4 percent of 20-plus air yard passes, the lowest completion percentage in the NFL.

The Steelers' defense could be picked apart by the speed of the Colts' offense. Expect Ahmad Bradshaw to have another great game out of Indy's backfield, as Pittsburgh has struggled to defend backs in space. Even if Reggie Wayne can't play, the Colts have the weapons in T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and an emerging Dwayne Allen to put a ton of pressure on a thin Steelers secondary.

Pregame reading material
Colts don't believe Reggie Wayne's injury is serious
Snoop Dogg thinks Steelers are click-clackin'
Dean Blandino thinks the Antonio Brown call was right
Wilson vs. Luck is a good fantasy problem to have

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Colts.

Darren McFadden has looked more spry the last two weeks than any other time this season. He has a great matchup to improve Oakland's chances of getting their first win of the season. Cleveland's run defense ranks dead last in yards allowed per game (155.5) and has allowed eight runs of 20-plus yards this season, second most in NFL. Fifty percent of all runs against the Browns go for 4-plus yards.

The Browns' ground game should see a boost as well after it was shut down last week. Oakland's opponents are rushing 53.6 percent of the time, highest in NFL -- in part due to lead situations. Oakland is the worst in the NFL on third down, allowing teams to convert 52.9 percent of the time. We suspect the Browns will go back to the Ben Tate-Isaiah Crowell combo this week after Terrance West was terribly ineffective, and benched, last week.

Pregame reading material
Darnell Dockett claims Raiders' fans threw coins, ice at Cardinals
Winless Raiders off to worst start in 52 years
Frustrated Brian Hoyer: 'My wife doesn't want to be around me' of Week 6
Hoyer: 'We got our butts kicked'

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Browns.

It will be all about the quarterbacks on Sunday night. Last week, Aaron Rodgers joined Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only QBs in NFL history with a streak of four games with three-plus pass TDs and zero INTs. No QB has ever had three-plus pass TDs and zero INTs five games in a row. Rodgers is on a tear and faces a Rob Ryan defense that has caused just four turnovers this season.

Drew Brees at home is tough for any opponent to deal with. He's coming off a great performance in Week 7 that was sullied by a game-killing interception. Getting Jimmy Graham a larger workload this week will aid Brees in what should be a shootout. The quarterback needs to avoid turning the ball over and giving Rodgers extra opportunities (Brees has thrown at least one pick in five out of six games).

Pregame reading material
Drew Brees: This game is not a must-win scenario
Brees: I let New Orleans down in loss
QB Index: Is Andrew Luck the new No. 1?
Saints plan for turnovers in Operation: Feed Drew

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Packers.

The Redskins' defense has had good moments this season. They rank in the top 12 in both passing yards allowed (eighth) and rushing defense (12th). It's been the turnovers that have contributed to their 24th-ranked points per game allowed -- 26.1. Colt McCoy will (most likely) get the start as Washington continues to wait for Robert Griffin III's return. McCoy has the weapons around him to move the ball; he just has to protect it -- something Kirk Cousins couldn't do.

The Cowboys' offense will continue to flow through a dominating offensive line. At some point DeMarco Murray's load will be lessened, but unless Dallas gets a big lead, don't expect it to come in prime time against a division rival. Dez Bryant will be the man to watch this week against a Redskins secondary that can get lost in coverage. Bryant has eclipsed 47 percent of the Cowboys' targets in two different contests this season, per Pro Football Focus, and should see another heavy dose Monday night.

Pregame reading material
Stephen Jones thinks Jason Garrett is maturing as a coach
DeMarco Murray rewards his linemen with iMacs
RGIII's status for 'MNF' depends on thinks the Steelers are ankle clearance
Jerry Jones: Sunday's win might be Romo's best ever

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Cowboys.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses the top 10 under the radar Pro Bowl candidates for 2014. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.