– Bill Annechino
Tennessee 36 Jacksonville 22
I was tempted to just write “LOL” and move on from this one. However, there are a few points to be made here. The first is that Tennessee is somewhat ahead of schedule in terms of where we thought they would be. Through a series of trades, the Titans have 6 picks in the first 3 rounds of this coming NFL draft. I am still not sold on Marcus Mariota as a franchise quarterback, but I do have to give credit where credit is due: he put up an 81.6 QBR in this game and really wasn’t terrible. DeMarco Murray also continues to be an elite running back, as Tennessee’s “exotic smash mouth” has the Titans sitting at 4-4, which has to be better than anyone figured they would be at the halfway mark of this season.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, has to be considered the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season. Many people, myself included (unfortunately), thought that the Jaguars might push for the division title, on the strength of free agent signings and draft picks. The team came out and said that Gus Bradley is not going to be fired, but does it even matter anymore? The Jaguars are probably the least-relevant team in the NFL year in and year out, and I don’t really see a path to relevance for them anytime soon. Another miserable Thursday night game for the NFL, which has seen a rash of subpar primetime games this season. On to the weekend’s games.
Washington @ Cincinnati (9:30 EST) London
Why you might care: A.J. Green? There’s a lot of fantasy starters involved in this one. Detroit’s mediocre passing defense, combined with Matt Stafford’s MVP-level quarterback play mean that this could end up being a decent game, if you like high-scoring affairs. The field conditions at Wembley could do a lot to put a damper on that, though.
Why you probably don’t: Oh great, another stellar London game. If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s waking up early on a Sunday to watch two mediocre football teams slug it out in Wembley.
Kansas City @ Indianapolis (1:00 EST)
Why you might care: This is one of the more intriguing early games. Can Andrew Luck continue his MVP-caliber season against a Chiefs defense that might be ok? You may remember last week, where Drew Brees had a pretty decent game against them. Luck has been posting some pretty big numbers, and Indianapolis has one of the league’s more explosive offenses this year. Meanwhile, Alex Smith looks to throw 220 yards and 2 touchdowns against one of the worst defenses in the league. Can Spencer Ware continue his surprising campaign? Ware has looked like one of the better running backs in the league this year, to the point that not only is Kansas City in no hurry to bring Jamaal Charles back from his injury, but his job may have been taken. The NFL is all about what have you done for me lately. All Spencer Ware has done lately is been a top-5 yards from scrimmage guy, averaging 130 such yards per game. With him involved, the Kansas City offense is suddenly exciting.
Why you probably don’t: You’re going to be watching Saints/Seahawks, right? I sure will be. In all honesty, you could do worse than this game for this week, so it might not be the worst idea to keep this one on the channel flip.
Oakland @ Tampa Bay (1:00 EST)
Why you might care: Jameis vs. Derek Carr? At the beginning of the season, you probably could have sold me on this battle of the quarterbacks, and I think I still might be in. Oakland’s defense has been beatable via the pass, although they have played better lately. This is another game that features a lot of fantasy starters, as pretty much the entire starting offenses of each team are owned and started in most leagues. I personally have Jacquizz Rodgers and Mike Evans (in different leagues, unfortunately). I’m sure you, or someone in your life, has someone playing in this game.
Why you probably don’t: I don’t really enjoy watching Tampa Bay play football. I think it was ridiculous what they did running Lovie Smith out of town, and they haven’t really been better for it yet. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston’s development is dangerously close to stagnating. This is another game that you could probably do worse than, in terms of watching, due to the fantasy relevance and Oakland’s suddenly high-powered offense. I’m still getting used to typing that.
Seattle @ New Orleans (1:00 EST)
Why you might care: Drew Brees in the Superdome is must-watch. The Seattle defense really hasn’t been the same as it has been in recent memory, so I would expect to see some fireworks from the New Orleans offense. One interesting fact about the Seahawks’ defense is that, last week, they spent more time on the field than any other defense in the history of football and held the Cardinals out of the endzone. That may not translate to future success or mean anything outside of the vacuum of that terrible game, but it does bear mentioning. This is also Jimmy Graham’s return to New Orleans.
Why you probably don’t: I can’t think of too many reasons not to watch this game. I told you to watch the Falcons/Chargers game last week, as well as Redskins/Lions and I was right about those, wasn’t I? Tune in to this one.
Detroit @ Houston (1:00 EST)
Why you might care: Matt Stafford is playing some of the best quarterback in the league right now, and has Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron scheduled to return in this one. You also, like me, might live in Houston.
Why you probably don’t: You really want to watch a Brock Osweiler game? Seriously, I hate that dude. I can’t remember ever seeing a guy get as much money as him, then look decent in a few games before completely melting down. What Osweiler did was especially cruel because he looked like a respectable quarterback for a game or two, suckered the Texans’ fans in, then punched them right in the gut. It’s probably a multi-way tie between all the people who hate Osweiler right now between DeAndre Hopkins for ruining what should have been his best season yet, Lamar Miller for making him run into 8 man boxes all game long and also ruining what should have been his breakout season, or the entire city of Houston for being terrible.
New York Jets @ Cleveland (1:00 EST)
Why you might care about this game: I have no idea.
Why you probably don’t: Say anything. Literally, say anything somewhat related to this football game, and that’s why you don’t care about it.
New England @ Buffalo (1:00 EST)
Why you might care about this game: Maybe you’re a Patriots fan, like me, and can’t wait for some revenge on Buffalo. Isn’t it unbelievable that the Bills beat our third-string quarterback and their fans were running around like they just won the Super Bowl? If I still lived in Western New York, I would be at this game. I’d be wearing my Brady jersey, too. Don’t be fooled by people like Robert Klemko, who feel a need to make the parking lot at Ralph Wilson Stadium (or New Era or whatever the hell it’s called now) look like some kind of Klan rally by fabricating stories about Bills fans trying to commit hate crimes: this place couldn’t be a more welcoming environment for the Patriots and us fans.
Why you probably don’t: Unless you’re a vindictive piece of garbage like me, you are aware that Brady + Bills = Patriots win, and don’t want to watch that.
Arizona @ Carolina (1:00 EST)
Why you might care about this game: You may be hoping for another thrilling touchdown-less tie, like the Cardinals’ last game. You also may be enjoying the David Johnson breakout season. You could be hoping that there’s time for the Panthers to right the ship in an increasingly-mediocre NFC South. Let’s talk about this for a second. Atlanta is in first place in the division, but they have also lost two straight games, putting them at 4-3. The Panthers sit at 1-5 and in last place in the division. They’re only 3 games out, which is a lot of ground to make up at the halfway point of the season, but we’ve seen Ron Rivera’s squad go on winning streaks before, as well as the Falcons fall apart. I also don’t have a ton of faith in New Orleans and Tampa Bay, so if the Panthers win this game, their season really isn’t over by any means. But this is an all-caps MUST-WIN game for them. Another reason you may care about this game is that you might have just woken from an 8-month coma this week and are excited for an NFC Championship rematch.
Why you probably don’t: You know, when this matchup was announced, the NFL was probably pretty excited because they figured that there was no way they could lose with an NFC Championship rematch between two teams that figured to be right in the thick of the playoff race again. If you’re like me, and the NFL’s misery is your joy, you have to be loving this turn of events. You also probably don’t want to watch this game. Just trust me, there’s better early games.
San Diego @ Denver (4:05 EST)
Why you might care about this game: Hey wait, didn’t this game just happen? I love random scheduling quirks like teams playing each other twice in 17 days. I can’t get enough of Philip Rivers, either, and this is one of two late games. So, you really don’t have a reason not to watch this game. You could get the channel flip going, or tune in to Red Zone and pretty much watch both games in their entirety. San Diego is also right in the mix of the AFC West, even though they’re in last place. If they beat the Broncos again, which I’m not sure they can, they could potentially end this week 1 game out of first place. Denver also lost C.J. Anderson, but I think this may be a good thing for them, as Devontae Booker has looked explosive and can bring a dimension to that offense that has been lacking since Ronnie Hillman left.
Why you probably don’t: Maybe you’re like me and you’re so jaded by everything that you can’t even shut up and enjoy a football game that looks to be entertaining on paper. I think this should be a solid game, and I’ll probably watch a lot of it, especially since there’s only one other game on. It’s weeks like this where Red Zone is at its absolute apex.
Green Bay @ Atlanta (4:25 EST)
Why you might care about this game: Hey it’s the “We really need a win” Bowl! The Lions are charging hard, tied with Green Bay in the win column. A Packers loss here would drop them to 3rd in the division and move Detroit up to second. A Packers win, meanwhile, keeps them 1 game out of first place, and possibly into a tie for first, depending on the Vikings/Bears Monday night game, although I think it’s fair to say that Minnesota losing that game would be a shocking upset. Meanwhile, we already detailed the Falcons tenuous grip on the NFC South. Let me say it again: the Falcons absolutely have to win this game. I think they can, too. Green Bay really hasn’t had the look of a good team this year; they’ve been fairly blessed to have had a somewhat-weak schedule. The Falcons, meanwhile, have two players (Matt Ryan and Julio Jones) who are playing at the peak of their positions in the NFL this year. I’m inclined to think that they’re better than the Packers, but this game really is a toss-up. It’s also being played in a dome which, if Aaron Rodgers was still alive, would mean that this one was going to be a shoot-out.
Why you probably don’t: See previous game. There’s 2 games on. Red Zone it up.
Philadelphia @ Dallas (8:30 EST)
Why you might care about this game: This is the premier matchup of the week, so I really hope you care about this. Dallas has Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a returning Dez Bryant. I don’t think the Philadelphia defense has a cover man that they should feel comfortable sticking on Bryant one on one, so this means that they’re going to have to use a safety to give some over the top help to whichever cornerback is guarding Bryant. This will, in turn, open up running lanes for Elliott. The Eagles still have a lot to prove, although last week’s Minnesota game goes a long way. Knocking off the division-leading Cowboys would do a lot for them.
Why you probably don’t: If you’ve stuck around with the NFL this long, through this terrible season, and I can’t interest you in two good rookie quarterbacks going at it in a divisional game, then I don’t know what to tell you. I know that there’s a World Series game where the Cubs or Indians could possibly be clinching their first title in forever, but put that on a second screen. You need to be watching that game and this football game at the same time. It’s 2016, we have the technology.
Minnesota @ Chicago (Monday Night Football)
Why you might care about this game: Nope.
Why you probably don’t: It’s the worst team in football against the second-best! The NFL is killing it with these primetime games, aren’t they?
Enjoy week 8, everyone! I’ll be back later in the week with a mid-season award column, so for the 3 or 4 of you who read me, you won’t want to miss this.
– Bill Annechino (Twitter)