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NFL Week 8 game picks: Panthers best Falcons; Steelers top Ravens – NFL.com

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Gregg Rosenthal went 10-4 on his predictions for Week 7 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 66-38-1. How will he fare in Week 8? His picks are below.

THURSDAY, OCT. 29

Carolina Panthers 27, Atlanta Falcons 24

The Panthers don’t have much of a pass rush because of injuries, and their safer-than-sorry zone defense is susceptible to giving up long drives to veteran quarterbacks, which makes this matchup tricky. Surprise: The Falcons’ offense is way more dynamic with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Julio Jones back playing well! I still give the Panthers a slight edge because they are greater than the sum of their parts, while the Falcons have a masochistic streak late in games. Teddy Bridgewater is like a poor man’s young Drew Brees or peak Alex Smith. Only three weeks after handing Dan Quinn the final loss of his career as the Falcons’ coach, Matt Rhule is now coming for Raheem Morris.

SUNDAY, NOV. 1

Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Baltimore Ravens 24

These teams are so good that it’s hard not to focus on the imperfections. The running game should be the foundation of the Ravens’ attack, but it’s hard to imagine it working consistently against a Steelers defense that represents Baltimore’s toughest challenge this season by far. The way to beat Pittsburgh is over the top, with big passes against some vulnerable cornerbacks. Lamar Jackson and friends are capable of exploding at any moment, but I haven’t seen it enough yet to trust them this week. Pittsburgh’s formula of young wideouts making plays after the catch buoyed by an improving James Conner feels more sustainable.

Los Angeles Rams 24, Miami Dolphins 23

Just as I was beginning to believe in the Dolphins as a potential playoff team, they benched Ryan Fitzpatrick and went on a bye week. It remains to be seen whether Tua Tagovailoa is an upgrade, but dismissing the possibility is foolish. He’s entering a fine situation. Chan Gailey’s offense is perfect for Tua’s quick-passing, quick-twitch style. The offensive line looks better on tape than the analytics say. Coach Brian Flores’ defense, 14th in DVOA, is great when it gets ahead on down and distance. That will be tough to do against the Rams’ underrated rushing attack led by Darrell Henderson, which makes this game feel like a total coin flip.

Kansas City Chiefs 34, New York Jets 11

After a few signs of life early against the Bills, Sam Darnold retreated. Whether it’s Darnold’s fault or Adam Gase’s, the third-year quarterback’s decision-making remains his biggest problem. Opposing coordinators are still making him see ghosts too often. It’s a matchup that plays beautifully to the Chiefs’ defensive strengths. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves cooking up blitzes and using Tyrann Mathieu to mess with the minds of young signal-callers. The return of underrated cornerback Bashaud Breeland to the Chiefs’ lineup makes this Kansas City defense dynamic, especially in the right matchup.

Indianapolis Colts 26, Detroit Lions 20

The Colts are getting healthier, just in time for the tougher part of their schedule. Darius Leonard‘s absence in the last two games outlined why the linebacker is one of the league’s most valuable defenders, but it appears he’s likely to return this week. Rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and speedy pass rusher Kemoko Turay might not be far behind. That doesn’t make the Colts some huge favorites in this game, unless Philip Rivers can bring back the mid-range magic he displayed against the Bengals before the team’s bye. I don’t have a great feel of either team here. They are NFL teams in the middle, prone to playing in one-score games in silent domes during a season none of us will ever forget.

Las Vegas Raiders 33, Cleveland Browns 30

Baker Mayfield shined last week in part because the Bengals never took away his first read. This bankrupt Raiders defense is also unlikely to do so, which sets up a shootout. I like how Derek Carr has amped up his aggression in recent games, even when it doesn’t work out. Myles Garrett needs more help from his well-paid teammates on the D-line in this one and I’m not confident he’ll get it against a strong Raiders O-line and roster that is getting healthier.

Tennessee Titans 31, Cincinnati Bengals 28

The Bengals are 1-12-1 in one-score games under Zac Taylor. I can’t tell if he’s the best 3-19-1 coach of all time or a massive underachiever, considering how competitive the Bengals have been. Joe Burrow and the offense look better each week, and the Titans’ milquetoast pass rush and secondary represent a sneaky-good matchup. That sets up the Bengals to do what they do best: Lose a close game against a quality team with moral victories aplenty when Burrow and fellow rookie Tee Higgins shine.

Buffalo Bills 24, New England Patriots 18

Sean McDermott is 0-6 against Bill Belichick, but these aren’t the same Patriots. Cam Newton‘s deep slump, which started before his positive COVID-19 test, has distracted from how much worse New England’s defense is this year. That’s welcome news for Josh Allen, who hasn’t led the Bills to more than 18 points in any of their last three games after averaging over 30 in their first four. Allen’s struggles against Belichick are well-documented, and Buffalo’s defensive shortcomings versus the run could keep this game close. Still, the talent gap is wide. The Bills should have been ready to beat a limited Pats team in Foxborough last December. If they can’t do it now, something is seriously wrong.

Denver Broncos 27, Los Angeles Chargers 26

This might be my favorite game of Week 8 because there is so much at stake and because it’s fun to say surprising things. I need Justin Herbert to have a bad game against a savvy veteran defensive coordinator or it will be hard to contain the hyperbole that I desperately desire to shower upon him as one of the best quarterbacks to enter the NFL in the last 20 years. The Broncos are coming off an embarrassing performance, and Melvin Ingram‘s return last week changed the Chargers’ defense, yet I can’t help but stubbornly believe for one more week that Denver’s offensive talent is ready to explode and that evil spirits descend upon the Bolts late in games. Surprises are fun.

San Francisco 49ers 28, Seattle Seahawks 27

Deebo Samuel‘s injury takes the air out of the 49ers’ resurgence, but it doesn’t end it. The team’s offensive line cohesion, Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling, George Kittle‘s Kittleness and Brandon Aiyuk‘s emergence makes San Francisco’s offense dangerous again. It always finds a running back. Whether a diminished 49ers defensive line can do enough to bother Peak Russ is another matter, which should make for a fun edition of what is currently the NFL’s best rivalry. This 49ers season has been a rollercoaster, but at their best, they are more complete than the ‘Hawks. San Francisco is the only team other than Tampa Bay that ranks in the top eight of DVOA in offense and defense, while the bye week didn’t solve Seattle’s defensive issues. This wouldn’t be that big of an upset.

New Orleans Saints 26, Chicago Bears 16

The Bears have one of the NFL’s worst offenses and they could be without their best player (Allen Robinson, who’s in the concussion protocol) in a short week. That sets up a get-right game in a matchup of struggling units up front when the Saints’ defense is on the field. I like the New Orleans pass rush — led by Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata — to finally get some push. The Saints’ offense might not be what it once was, but it’s still miles better than the Bears’, even if Michael Thomas remains out.

MONDAY, NOV. 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35, New York Giants 17

It was around the second quarter of Packers-Bucs when I decided Tampa Bay’s the best team in the NFL. DVOA agrees! Until the Buccaneers stop blowing teams out, I’m not moving off that stance. Even with Chris Godwin out this week, this Giants defense shouldn’t present much of a challenge. Tom Brady eats up play it safe zone defenses with long drives and the only way past this fierce Tampa defense is over the top. Daniel Jones is among the least likely quarterbacks to take that approach, ranking higher than only one other starting QB (Drew Brees) in deep-pass percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. The Giants don’t give Jones enough time to set up for long throws against most defenses, much less one as good as the Bucs’.

UPDATE: The Giants placed offensive guard Will Hernandez on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, quarantining close contacts on the roster and coaching staff.

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