The NFL season is already reaching its halfway point, so here is what you need to know for Week 8:
Game of the Week
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
This will be the first meeting between rookie quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz and I have a feeling that this could become one of the league’s elite rivalries again with the way their first seasons have gone. The excitement of two successful rookie quarterbacks in a division rivalry game is the reason why this is the game of Week 8.
The Eagles proved their status as a contender in the NFC East by beating the undefeated Minnesota Vikings at home this past Sunday, and now they can take first place in the NFC East this week if they can get a win down in Dallas on Sunday night.
However, the Cowboys have won five straight going into their bye and hold the best record in the NFC. Their latest win was also likely their most impressive win, a road victory against the Packers. Through six games, the Cowboys have already exceeded their win total from a year ago and they should be considered Super Bowl contenders.
They have done all of this behind Prescott. Despite his incredible play and setting a new record with the most passes attempted without an interception to start a career, owner Jerry Jones has indicated that his beloved Tony Romo will be the starter come Week 9, when he will be healthy and eligible to return. This means that this is probably Prescott’s last chance to prove his owner and team wrong. That is why I have the Cowboys winning this game.
Despite being the best in the NFC, Dallas still has a lot to prove. Philadelphia also has a lot to prove. Carson Wentz has played well as the second overall pick and can make a huge point in a win on Sunday. However, Dallas has been the most complete team in the NFC.
Cowboys 24, Eagles 20
Upset of the Week
Green Bay Packers over Atlanta Falcons
Despite blowing a 17-point lead to the Chargers this past Sunday, the Falcons are still favored to beat the Packers. After beating the Broncos in Denver, the Falcons have dropped two straight in games that were clearly in their hands to win.
The Packers are coming off a win on Thursday night, which gave them a few extra days to prepare for this game. While the Packers running game is still nonexistent, that should not be a problem as they look to expose the shoddy Atlanta secondary. Philip Rivers took advantage of it with his inexperienced Charger receivers. Green Bay had three different receivers with double-digit catches last week, and they should light up the scoreboard on Sunday.
Atlanta also has one of the most efficient offenses in the league. Matt Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards, but the Falcons’ strength has been their offensive balance. However, the Falcons will likely be without running back Tevin Coleman for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Coleman is having an outstanding season, already having scored five touchdowns in seven games. Luckily, Atlanta still has Devonta Freeman, who is very good, but won’t be able to fulfill both his and Coleman’s duties.
This game is going to be a shootout between two likely playoff teams, and both of these teams are battling from injuries, but I like Green Bay’s chances to win this game, because their defense is slightly better than Atlanta’s, and Rodgers is going to create some major damage in this game.
Packers 37, Falcons 31
Fantasy Start of the Week
Chiefs RB Spencer Ware
I drafted Ware’s teammate Jamaal Charles very high in multiple leagues, hoping he would come back from his ACL injury stronger than ever. Charles is playing, but he is being overshadowed by Ware, who has been playing incredibly as of late. He was just seen as a filler for Charles, but now he is looking like a real replacement for Charles, who will be 30 in December. He has a touchdown in each of the last two weeks, is a threat in both the passing game and the ground game, and has a very favorable matchup against the Colts. What is there not to like about this guy? There is hope for Charles; don’t drop him from your roster. However, Ware is playing at a level that makes him impossible to bench, both in fantasy and real-life.
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Patriots TE Martellus Bennett
Ever since Tom Brady’s return three weeks ago, he’s gone back to his favorite tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Bennett played well while Brady was out and Gronkowski was recovering from injury, but it is clear that Bennett is not the main guy in New England. Ever since he scored three touchdowns against the Browns in Week 5, he has yet to score. He only had one catch for five yards against the Steelers, which is slightly worrisome for his value. Gronk is the dude in New England, and while Bennett may be OK with that in real life because they hold the league’s best record, in fantasy, it is best to look elsewhere for other options at tight end.
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Broncos RB Devontae Booker
There isn’t a real obvious pick up for fantasy leagues this week. If Jay Ajayi is still available in your league, pick him up. He has more than 200 rushing yards in his last two games, and with his teammate Arian Foster announcing his retirement, he is the clear back for the Dolphins moving forward. However, he won’t help you this week as Miami is on their bye.
However, another young running back could make a very nice pickup. After fumbling his first career carry in the opening game of the season, Broncos running back Devontae Booker seems to finally be having a breakthrough. On Monday Night Football, he got double-digit carries for the first time this season. He also scored his first NFL touchdown in the win. Booker is not the clear-cut starter in Denver, but the chances of seeing a committee with the Denver running backs, with Booker getting the goal-line carries, seems more likely now more than ever. With C.J. Anderson likely out for several weeks with an injury, Booker will get the best opportunity to contribute both on the field and in the fantasy world.
Lock of the Week
Minnesota Vikings over Chicago Bears
I was wrong about the Vikings last week, but this week, I am certain that they will win, mostly because they are playing the Bears.
Chicago is lucky they have the Cubs, because the Bears are not close to a championship any time soon. They were starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback while Jay Cutler was injured. Cutler was injured since the last time the Bears played on Monday Night Football in Week 2, and has been out ever since.
Despite their loss last week, the Vikings are still one of the league’s best teams. Their loss came off their bye week and they likely were still very rusty last week. Now, they get to face one of the league’s easiest opponents, with the rust gone, and they get an extra day worth of rest. This is important because the Vikings have suffered many injuries on their offense this season, but the offensive line is down two starting tackles, which could affect the health of their backup running backs and backup quarterback.
Minnesota is still thriving despite their constant injuries, most notably because they have one of the best defenses in the league. They are strong and dominant at all three levels, and are less injured than the offense. Their defense is good enough to carry them throughout the entire season, and it should carry them through this week against the Bears.
Vikings 24, Bears 9
Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.
Patriots minus 6 at Bills
The Bills beat the Patriots, 16-0, in New England, but that was without Tom Brady for the Pats and with a healthy LeSean McCoy for Buffalo. Brady is back and McCoy is hurting. The Patriots haven’t been swept by a divisional opponent since Brady became the starting QB in 2001. This is one streak that won’t end.
Last week: 0-1. Season: 3-4.
Hot Player of the Week
Ravens WR Steve Smith Sr.
Smith Sr. is one of the most colorful players in the NFL, and this week, he showed off his domestic violence awareness cleats on Instagram. Thank you for using your voice for those who cannot, Steve!
Enough is ENOUGH. Thank you to @aceandsmitty who gives me the opportunity to paint cleats like this. It has never, and will never be ok in my eyes to resort to violence. Sometimes the hardest thing for someone to do is say Enough is enough. I commend those women who are brave enough to come forward because it's not easy, and to anyone who is scared to, I pray you have the courage one day to understand you don't deserve that no matter what he says. #SolesBySir #1of1 #customCleats #MoreThanCleats #SteveSmithSr #BaltimoreRavens #AgainstDomesticViolence #BreakTheSilence #YouAreNotAlone #YouDeserveBetter #helpSomeone