NFL Week 8 game picks: Steelers nip Bengals; Pack still perfect

Sizzling matchups all around in Week 8 ...

Come on, man: Dolphins at Patriots, Bengals at Steelers, Packers at Broncos. And can you imagine, if Tony Romo were healthy, how fun Seahawks at Cowboys would be?

One underrated showdown that really excites me: Jets at Raiders, which features a spectacular uni matchup with AFL overtones, history and (suddenly) current relevance.

Now that's some serious analysis.

Below, you'll find my thoughts on that matchup -- and every other one in Week 8. As always, let me know your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place. Uni talk is cool, too.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 9-5 on his predictions for Week 7, giving him a record of 64-41 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 8? His picks are below.

All of America will be glued to the television for this breakfast bout. Or not. Maybe 20 years ago, when it would have been Barry Sanders versus Marcus Allen, with Derrick Thomas screaming around the edge and Herman Moore catching 10 passes. Both teams competing for playoff spots, fans speculating about Wayne Fontes' job for the fifth year in a row, and Marty Schottenheimer talking about "a gleam."

OK, back to 2015. Kansas City could win this game based on a pass rush that will make Matthew Stafford uncomfortable. Given that Detroit has no ground attack ( 68 yards per game -- dead last) to keep K.C. honest, protecting Stafford will be difficult. Still, thinkin' the change at OC helps Stafford and Co. when it comes to the general game plan. #DETvsKC

You might recall that this was a Thursday night snoozer/massacre one year ago. The Falcons won that contest 56-14. Thinkin' they'll prevail again in this game, although wouldn't it be something if the Bucs -- fresh off blowing a 24-point lead in Washington -- strolled into Hotlanta and upset the Falcons? For Atlanta, Matt Ryan to get the Ice back. In two of the Falcons' past three games, he's posted sub-65 passer ratings and thrown more picks than touchdown passes. Ryan seems to be missing throws that he shouldn't at this stage of the game. The good news here is Devonta Freeman, who continued his breakout season last Sunday in Nashville and now has 931 yards from scrimmage through seven games. At issue for the Buccaneers: Their defense in the red zone, where Tampa's bending ... and breaking. Opponents who enter the Bucs' 20 are scoring touchdowns 75 percent of the time -- far and away the worst in the league. #TBvsATL

Weird that the Cardinals are playing an AFC North opponent for the third week in a row, but I like it: Get those interconference scraps out of the way, then backload the division stuff in December. But wait: The Cards only play one division game from Week 14 on. So there goes that rant.

The Browns need a win, as their next two games are at Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh. Cleveland needs to keep Carson Palmer in check to stay in this one. The Browns' run defense is worst in the league, but if they can limit the home runs to John Brown and intermediate routes to Larry Fitzgerald, CJrejuvenatedK and Andre Ellington won't beat them all by themselves. #AZvsCLE

This seems like a game where the 49ers could conceivably surprise us all. St. Louis has been known to lose winnable games in the past. The great elixir here is Todd Gurley, who, if you haven't caught on, is pulling an Odell Beckham Jr.: tearing up the league after a delayed start to Year 1. Over the past three games, Gurley has rushed for 433 yards at a staggering 6.4 yards per carry. The 49ers' run defense is ranked 20th, in case you were wondering. The pass defense? Next to last. Nick Foles has eclipsed 200 yards just once this season. That could change Sunday. We touched on Colin Kaepernick's Beats earlier this week. The wiry quarterback is taking a beating in the media right now. Winning allegedly cures everything -- will Kap get enough time in the pocket to do so? #SFvsSTL

If you like defense, this probably isn't your game: The Giants rank 29th in that department, while the Saints sit at 30th. That said, New Orleans has shown some improvement on that side of the ball. That and the home crowd should be enough to win the day against a Giants offense that has done nothing the last couple of weeks. After racking up 525 yards versus the 49ers in Week 5, New York has only managed 536 combined over the last two games. Surprisingly, the passing game has been the problem, with Eli Manning completing only 59.7 percent of his passes in that span at 5.8 yards per throw. Never fear! Orleans will take on the Saints in New Orleans. It's Orleans Darkwa we speak of; he rushed eight times for 48 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. I heard someone say that Orleans Darkwa was a place for Gandalf to scout in Middle Earth. But I digress. If Drew Brees doesn't like the scouting reports he sees on the Big Blue pass rush (only nine sacks), then he won't like anything ever -- except those sexy Luke McCown commercials. #NYGvsNO

This is perhaps the most difficult matchup to prognosticate. Sure, Minnesota looks solid. Meanwhile, Chicago has eked by in their two wins. Still, Vikings- Bears is a division game, and it's at Soldier Field. Teddy Bridgewater continued his up-and-down campaign in Detroit last week. After starting the season with a 79.0 passer rating against the 49ers, that number went up 41.6 points in Week 2, then down almost 70, up 41.5, down 27.3, then waaay up again 53.2 points. In fact, that 118.3 at Ford Field was the highest he's produced in his nine career road starts. Thinking Minnesota will lean on Adrian Peterson early, before hitting a vertical ball to Stefon Diggs in the second quarter. Speaking of big plays, the Bears need to start generating some. Chicago has mustered (Brad Muster'd?) just 66 plays of 10-plus yards. #MINvsCHI

This was one of the premier contests of the 2014 season, with Philip Rivers pulling off the comeback to keep the Bolts in the playoff hunt.

[Insert Oh what a difference a year makes lazy-brained line here.]

The 2015 Chargers can't run the ball, even though they spent a first-round pick on Melvin Gordon. Over the last two weeks, Mike McCoy has dialed up 127 pass plays versus 42 runs. That's throwing the ball 75 percent of the time. Unfortunately for the Ravens, if ever there was a team to throw the ball on, they are it.

Random Note: Been ruminating on Steve Smith Sr.'s career, and feel he must get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame. What a competitor. #SDvsBAL

This is the head honcho of Week 8. The Big Kahuna. The Triple Lindy. There is no better matchup in the NFL on Sunday due to the division implications. Ben Roethlisberger returns to the lineup just in time to get Pittsburgh right back into the thick of the AFC North race. The Bengals obviously will have some degree of trouble with a "Man, did I miss my quarterback" Antonio Brown and immediately-productive Martavis Bryant. What could really hurt Cincy, though, is Le'Veon Bell on early downs. The Bengals allow opposing teams to gain 4-plus rushing yards on 47.4 percent of carries, which is 30th in the league. On the other hand, the Bengals' offensive attack has so many weapons that the Steelers' secondary will have to grow up real fast. Andy Dalton is not afraid to spread the ball around. In fact, he's been downright masterful at it. And blitzing him doesn't help: The Red Rifle has posted an NFL-best 133.5 passer rating when attacked by extra rushers. Wonderful game. #CINvsPIT

EDITOR'S NOTE: This forecast was penned before Marcus Mariota was ruled out for Week 8.

Oh boy, is this an interesting game. Well, for the five people -- outside of Tennessee and South Texas -- who are watching it. Those five people will see a Houston victory, as the team rebounds from the absolute embarrassment in Miami last week. Marcus Mariota returns to the lineup for Tennessee, but the reality is that he has looked quite rookie-ish since the spectacular performance in Week 1. Since posting a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his NFL debut, Mariota has seen that number steadily decline: 96.3 to 84.2 to 68.1 to 67.6. This is the week the allegedly-fierce Texans pass rush starts displaying what has thus far been merely hype (13 sacks in seven games). Oh, and Alfred Blue is going to get 20 carries, fantasy peeps. #TENvsHOU

Wow, this is a really cool matchup. First of all, the uni pairing is top-10 stuff. Secondly, this was the classic AFL matchup, from the Heidi Game to the 1968 AFL Championship, when Joe Namath had to launch a bomb to Don Maynard to set up the game-winning score. Furthermore, Lyle Alzado uncorked his temper (and helmet) in a second-round playoff game between these teams in the 1982 season. And the two clubs met in both the 2001 and 2002 playoffs, with the Raiders prevailing both times.

In 2015 ... New York will be able to bottle up Amari Cooper with Darrelle Revis, forcing Derek Carr to find the likes of Michael Crabtree and Clive Walford. Latavius Murray? Have fun with that top-ranked Jets run D, which gives up yards like they are C-notes. #NYJvsOAK

While not the sultry NFC matchup it could be, Seahawks at Cowboys looks at least a little shinier with an unwrapped Dez Bryant. The star wideout is ditching the walking boot to suit up against the "Legion of Boom." It will be interesting to see if Richard Sherman shadows Bryant or sticks to his left corner spot, per usual. Trust that Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will move Bryant around to create opportunities. The issue is the distributor. Can Matt Cassel make plays on a Seattle defense that dominated Beats by Dre, I mean, Colin Kaepernick last week? While aware that the Cowboys won this matchup in Seattle last season, Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray were integral to that victory. Romo is sidelined, while Murray is in Philadelphia watching Ryan Mathews make more explosive runs. #SEAvsDAL

Another marquee matchup, although Green Bay only faces Denver once every four years. The last time these two met was in 2011, right before Tebowmania (Kyle Orton's second-to-last start for Denver). This will mark only the second time that Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have faced off in their careers. The Packers beat the Colts in the initial matchup back in 2008, one of only six wins Green Bay posted in Rodgers' first year as a starter. Mr. Rodgers will find the going quite tough against the league's top-ranked defense. Thus, if Randall Cobb is going to get his Randall Cobb back (under 50 yards in each of his last three games with zero TDs), this might not be the game it happens.

Now, while Denver boasts the league's No. 1 defense in terms of yards allowed, do you know which squad possesses the NFL's stingiest scoring defense? Your Green Bay Packers, cheeseheads. How about that? #GBvsDEN

Carolina wins its 11th consecutive regular-season game. Incredible run for Ron Rivera's mötley crüe, with the run game being the live wire. Sure, Cam Newton has accomplished much with very little, but the face of the franchise was largely ineffective versus the Eagles last Sunday. Jonathan Stewart, on the other hand, continues to be a runaway mack truck. After a slow start to the season, Stewart has carried the rock 44 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns over the past two weeks. Against this 23rd-ranked Colts run defense, mark Stewart down for 20 touches. Which, frankly is what the Colts should provide Frank Gore. The veteran runner -- the NFL's 16th-highest ground gainer of all-time -- was most effective with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, when the Colts' staff was cognizant that they shouldn't put the whole game on their QB's shoulders. Why not do the same for Andrew Luck? Just a thought. #INDvsCAR


On paper, these Dolphins should be able to compete in New England. They have handled their business -- and then some -- against the Titans and Texans over the last two weeks. (Those two squads are giants among NFL teams, obvs.) Throw in the social-media banter about Dan Campbell's physique -- and viability vs. Ivan Drago -- and we have a ballgame here. The issue lies in Miami getting to Tom Brady, which no one is doing enough. Brady has been sacked 16 times ... but he's still gotten off 251 throws! Only Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck are averaging more attempts per game. The other issue for Miami: Who matches up with Rob Gronkowski? This question becomes even more pressing now that my man Ian Rapoport says Dion Lewis is returning to action for the Pats. Reshad Jones is having a fantastic season, but if you put him on Gronk, then it'll be on a linebacker to cover Lewis. (Side note: Lewis carves those guys up.) The best way for the Dolphins to win is to keep Lamar Miller involved. Give Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and company time to rest their legs. #MIAvsNE

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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