The Green Bay Packers do not have to defend their undefeated streak this week. This is their bye, a nice break from a schedule that has mostly looked like scrimmages for Aaron Rodgers and the reigning Super Bowl champs. Don't worry, the NFL schedule for week 8 includes plenty of consolation prizes, games that could shake up the standings and cause more than a few meltdowns in the media.
This is already being billed as the week's top matchup thanks to the Patriots' offense and the Steelers' defense. While Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense has lived up to the hype this season, the Steelers' defense may be a tad bit overrated. Ten of Pittsburgh's 17 sacks this season came against the Jaguars and the Seahawks. On the ground, teams are averaging more than 100 yards rushing against them. Whispers about this group being a little old may contain at least a kernel of truth.
Then again, experience comes with age. Pittsburgh promises to be a tough game for the Patriots based on the sheer will Mike Tomlin's team can call up when they need it. Oh, and the Steelers' offense is pretty good, while New England's defense is inherently forgettable this season. Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns passes three weeks ago and another three last week. This should be a high-scoring affair, something few would have predicted when they took their first look at the schedule.
This is the last time these two teams will meet during the regular season, and it's a damn shame because they could be in a real dog fight for the AFC West. San Diego is off to a 4-2 start, their best since Norv Turner took over the teams. That record conceals a particularly easy schedule, and they've lost game against the Jets and the Patriots. They barely beat the Chiefs back in week 3, needing a fourth quarter field goal to hold off a comeback bid. Todd Haley and the beard have the Chiefs playing much better since that game, which was their last loss.
The dream isn't over after all. In week 6, Philadelphia pulled out their first win since the season opener, ending Rex Grossman's run as the Redskins' starting quarterback. Bye weeks have been a real asset for Andy Ried; the Eagles have won 12 consecutive games coming out of their bye week, an NFL record.
After a practice game against the Rams last week, DeMarco Murray has his sights set on another run defense prone to giving up big chunks of yardage. Dallas has won three of their last four meetings with the Eagles, including a last minute, one-point win in week 17 sans Tony Romo. Speaking of Romo, prime time hasn't always been good to him. Expect a good game, but expect even better fallout for which ever team loses this one.
The battle of the very competent looking rookie quarterbacks. Okay, I undersold that one a little bit. Cam Newton is cruising his way toward the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. The first overall pick averages more than 300 passing yards per game, and he became the only player in NFL history with seven rushing and seven passing touchdowns in a season. The media through a fit when Newton declared himself an entertainer, but that's exactly what football players are for the masses of people who watch the games. It's hard to find an act in the NFL right now giving you more bang for your entertainment buck than Newton.
Donovan McNabb complained to the press this week that he should still be the starter in Minnesota. I hate to see an icon wind down his career with this sort of public bitching and moaning. This is what happens to aging quarterbacks. Deal with it. Besides, rookie Christian Ponder looked pretty good in McNabb's place last week, a glimpse of the Vikings' future.
No, I'm not picking this game because it features you know who, despite the appearance that the league has mandated all NFL writers to spill some ink on behalf of Tim Tebow. I'm far more interested in seeing what the Lions do here.
Winning is a relatively new thing for Detroit, and they did a lot of it to start the season. Now this young team has lost two in a row. On paper, Denver should be little more than a speed bump. Matt Stafford is now looking likely to play. He needs to lead his team to a win to shake off the mental block that losing can sometimes cause teams. Resiliency is a key to winning in the NFL; the Lions have to show that they possess that with a big win this week.