Minnesota Vikings (1-6) @ Carolina Panthers (2-5) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX): Rookie QBs Christian Ponder (Minnesota) and Cam Newton (Carolina) battle it out to give their one-win teams hope for the future. With their seasons already in the tank, there’s not too much pressure for either to get a win, especially since this is only Ponder’s second start. However, Newton undoubtedly feels personal pressure since he’s watched his incredible debut performances amount to almost nothing.
Detroit Lions (5-2) @ Denver Broncos (2-4) (Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, FOX): Both offenses are struggling, but Detroit is feeling some heat for losing two straight after their fairy tale beginning. Star Lions running back Jahvid Best is out again this week with a concussion he suffered in Week 6, putting more pressure on QB Matthew Stafford, who’s battling his own nagging ankle injury. For Denver, QB Tim Tebow waited until the last minutes of the game last week to give Denver fans hope for the future. Can he deliver on expectations a bit sooner this Sunday?
New England Patriots (5-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) (Sunday, 4:15 PM ET, CBS): This one always promises to be entertaining, even though Patriots QB Tom Brady has owned the Steelers secondary, beating them in four of their last five matchups at Heinz Field, and with a record of 6-1 overall against the Steelers. With any other two teams, I’d say that the nasty weather blanketing the northeast this week might affect the game, but these teams thrive in the wet stuff. Expect the Steelers to play like they have something to prove as the front seven grinds it out against the Patriots offensive line.
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) (Sunday, 8:20 PM ET, NBC): Despite a rocky start for Philadelphia, they can still stay alive in the NFC East division race if they can pull off a win against the inconsistent Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys, for their part, could be facing a let-down game after their easy-breezy win against the woeful St. Louis Rams last week. Can Cowboys rookie RB DeMarco Murray have another show-stopping performance against a stouter Eagles D?
San Diego Chargers (4-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) (Monday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN): This is another division battle in a wide-open AFC West division. With the Oakland Raiders imploding without their starting QB and the Broncos off to a dismal start, the completely average records of these two teams put them both in contention for the division title. The Chargers are winning, but have also suffered from late-game hiccups that have cost them games. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have won three straight after a depressing 0-3 start, and their confidence is growing every week. They intercepted the Oakland Raiders’ QBs a total of six times in Week 7 and the Kansas City secondary must be licking its chops at the thought of facing San Diego QB Philip Rivers. Rivers has thrown nine interceptions this season, including two in the fourth quarter last week in the team’s loss to the New York Jets. Can Rivers and the Chargers shake off the cobwebs and get their mojo back against the resurrected Chiefs?
Another Week 8 note: the Washington Redskins face the Buffalo Bills at the Bills’ sometimes-home field in Toronto.
Teams with byes this week: Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Enjoy Week 8 and have a Happy Halloween!