It’s close to the midway point of the 2012 NFL season, and the line that separates the contenders from the pretenders is starting to form. Well, at least in the NFC. The AFC is a jumbled mess with just three teams above .500, the Patriots, Ravens, and Texans. Baltimore and Houston have a bye this week while New England heads to jolly ole England for a European showdown with the Rams with a chance to further there lead in the AFC East. We also have a crucial game for positioning in the AFC East between the Jets and Dolphins, who are facing each other for the second time this season.
In the NFC we have marquee match ups like Dallas vs New York and Philadelphia vs Atlanta.
Then we have inter-conference contests that will make every football fan salivate heavily: Steelers/Redskins and Broncos/Saints.
But what about the other games going on. You know, the contests between teams that don’t get much love during the season? Well, that’s why I’m here. Here are week eight’s under the radar games that you should make time to watch!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Minnesota Vikings: Thursday, 8:20pm EST (NFLN)
Why Watch: With this game being a national broadcast tonight on the NFL Network, it’s sure to get more viewers than it would if it were played on a Sunday. However, even if this game was being played Sunday, it’s still a game that all football fans should check out. Although it was against a putrid Saints defense, Tampa QB Josh Freeman and WR Vincent Jackson put together their best games of the season. And even though they lost, they still have a solid foundation to build on for the rest of the season to try and make a run at a wildcard spot. Tonight they have a chance to try and prove that the offensive performance last week wasn’t a fluke when they go against Jared Allen, Harrison Smith, and the ninth-ranked defense, in terms of points allowed, in the NFL.
Christian Ponder had a poor showing in the Vikings week 7 win over the Cardinals, but he is going up against a worse defense this week. I expect the Ponder to (Kyle) Rudolph tandem to get back on track this week.
Prediction: Vikings 34-17
Why Watch: Both teams are coming off terrible offensive showings in week 7. The Lions put up just 7 points against the Bears on Monday night, while the Seahawks couldn’t even find the endzone against the 49ers last Thursday. The benefit for the Seahawks is that they had 10 days to prepare for Detroit while the Lions had just six.
I expect Matthew Stafford to get back in the swing of things this weekend and actually connect with Calvin Johnson on some big plays. The Seahawks are a very good team…..at home. This game is in Detroit which puts the advantage heavily on the side of the Lions. Seattle is winless on the road, and while I believe they have a chance to win, I don’t think they will.
Prediction: Detroit wins 27-13
Indianapolis Colts vs Tennesee Titans: Sunday, 1pm EST (Fox)
Why Watch: BREAKING NEWS: Chris Johnson is still in the NFL!
After being virtually invisible the past year and a half, Johnson put up 195 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing against Buffalo last week in a game that made fantasy owners extremely happy. However, it was against the Bills. Johnson’s last two 150+ yard rushing games have been against Buffalo, last week and week 13 last season.
What makes this game crucial is that will we see a revitalized CJ2K after last week, or we will continue to see the player that has vastly under performed since hitting 2,000 rushing yards during the 2009 season.
On the Colts side of the ball, Andrew Luck has continued to look like a QB that will turn this team into a winner sooner rather than later. Rookie WR T.Y. Hilton became the first rookie receiver to eclipse 100 yards receiving in a game during the Colts 17-14 win over Cleveland last week. Are we witnessing the formation of the next great QB-to-WR combination, or was last week just a flash in the pan.
Also, it’s a crucial division game with early season playoff implications on the line. That’s kind of important too, I guess.
Prediction: Colts 27-20