The Week 8 NFL schedule for the 2021 season is stacked with great matchups, and we got you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe hands out helpful fantasy football as well. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Let’s get into the full Week 8 slate, including a meeting between AFC South running backs Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor, Jameis Winston facing his former team and a Sunday night showdown between two of the NFL’s top wide receiver groups. It all culminates with a Monday Night Football matchup between the Giants and the Chiefs on ESPN. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 62.5 | Spread: IND -1.5 (51)
What to watch for: Can the Colts’ defense contain Titans’ Derrick Henry? The best running back in the NFL has topped at least 100 yards in four straight games against the Colts, rushing for 542 yards (135.5 per game) and four touchdowns in those four matchups — and he picked up 113 on the ground against Indianapolis earlier this season. The Titans, more importantly, are 3-1 against the Colts in that four-game span. — Mike Wells
Bold prediction: Despite the return of Colts guard Quenton Nelson, the Titans will sack Indy quarterback Carson Wentz four times. The Titans’ defensive front has found its mojo over the past two games thanks in large part to a package that features former Colt Denico Autry and Bud Dupree on the outside with Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry on the interior. Tennessee has seven sacks in the past two weeks. — Turron Davenport
Stat to know: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his career. No Colts player has hit 100 in three straight games since Hall-of-Famer Edgerrin James had five straight in 2005.
What to know for fantasy: Henry is on pace for 464 carries this season, has 869 rushing yards and has a chance to set his career-high for receptions in an entire season this weekend. See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: Indianapolis has covered four straight games, but Tennessee is 4-0 outright and against the spread (ATS) against teams that made the playoffs last season. Read more.
Davenport’s pick: Titans 31, Colts 27
Wells’ pick: Titans 27, Colts 23
FPI prediction: IND, 53.6% (by an average of 1.3 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 53.4 | Spread: BUF -14 (48.5)
What to watch for: Can the Bills’ defense have another dominant performance against Miami, or will the Dolphins’ offense support quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and put up more of a fight in Buffalo? When the AFC East foes met in Week 2, the Bills held the Dolphins scoreless, but Tagovailoa was also knocked out of the game with an injury. The Dolphins have struggled as a team during a six-game losing streak, but Tagovailoa has been solid in his past two starts. Against the No. 1 defense in several categories, can the Dolphins keep things close? — Alaina Getzenberg
Bold prediction: The Dolphins have held consecutive opponents under 100 rushing yards, and they will extend that streak to three on Sunday. The Bills are currently rushing for 130.7 yards per game, but expect Miami’s stout run defense to continue. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Stat to know: The Bills have led at halftime in 15 straight games, which is the longest streak in NFL history.
Mike Clay explains why Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley should have a good fantasy day on Sunday.
What to know for fantasy: Buffalo QB Josh Allen has thrown for multiple touchdowns in all seven of his career starts against the Dolphins, but the 16.7 fantasy points he scored against them in Week 2 was a career-low against the divisional rival. See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: Miami has failed to cover in four straight games, but coach Brian Flores is 10-5 ATS as a road underdog. Read more.
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 34, Dolphins 14
Getzenberg’s pick: Bills 38, Dolphins 17
FPI prediction: BUF, 87.9% (by an average of 15.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: Dolphins’ No. 32-ranked defense is bending and breaking … Don’t panic, Buffalo: Why the Bills are still positioned for a top playoff seed … The wheels have come off for the Dolphins … Can Bills tight end Sweeney step up in Knox’s absence?
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 50.2 | Spread: CLE -3.5 (42.5)
What to watch for: What will the Browns look like at quarterback, as Baker Mayfield attempts to return from the left shoulder injury that caused him to miss Cleveland’s last game? If he does start instead of backup Case Keenum, Mayfield will attempt to become the first Browns QB since Bernie Kosar in the late 1980s to defeat Pittsburgh in three straight games. — Jake Trotter
Bold prediction: The Browns will double up the Steelers’ rushing numbers. Even with their best running backs working through injury, the Browns have the league’s best run game and the No. 2 run defense. As missed tackles piled up, the Steelers gave up 104 rushing yards to Seattle in the second half of their Week 6 win. With Mayfield’s game status up in the air, the Browns will feature an even heavier run game, one that Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler said has no problem running through arm tackles. If the Steelers don’t correct their tackling issues from Week 6, Sunday could be a long game. And on the other side, the Steelers’ ground game has gotten better with the offensive line finding cohesion and Najee Harris getting into his rhythm, but the Browns will be their toughest test yet. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has spent an average of 2.2 seconds in the pocket this season, the lowest rate in the NFL. He has a Total QBR of 31.5 when having 2.5 seconds or more to throw (second-worst in the NFL) and 63.3 when having 2.5 seconds or less (19th in the NFL).
What to know for fantasy: Pittsburgh is coming off its bye, but in Weeks 1-6, Harris was one of only two players in the league who had 15-plus touches in every game (Derrick Henry). See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: Both Pittsburgh road games this season went under the total. Since 2015, the under is 37-12-1 in Pittsburgh road games. Read more.
Pryor’s pick: Browns 21, Steelers 17
Trotter’s pick: Browns 16, Steelers 13
FPI prediction: CLE, 52.9% (by an average of 1.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Rookie Norwood is developing into key member of Steelers’ secondary … How Johnson went from working on a fishing boat to the NFL … Steelers’ Tomlin emphatically ends speculation about interest in college football openings … Mayfield could ‘absolutely’ play against Steelers
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 43.6 | Spread: LAR -14.5 (47.5)
What to watch for: Last week, Rams receiver Cooper Kupp became the fifth wide receiver to record at least nine catches, 125 receiving yards and two touchdowns in consecutive games. Can he become the first receiver to do it in three consecutive games against a Texans defense that is allowing an average of 12.6 yards per reception and 29 points per game? — Sarah Barshop
Bold prediction: Los Angeles’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald will earn his first multi-sack game of the season, and its secondary will continue it’s multi-interception streak to four games. The Texans are among the lowest-scoring offenses in the NFL, averaging only 13.6 points per game. They’ve proven to be susceptible to turnovers and sacks, so watch for the Rams’ defense to turn it up another notch. — Lindsey Thiry
Stat to know: Matthew Stafford leads the NFL in Total QBR (78.8) and trails only Tom Brady in passing touchdowns this season with 19. He also ranks third in passing yards (2,172) and yards per attempt (9.01).
Mike Clay explains how the Mark Ingram trade will impact the fantasy value of David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay.
Betting nugget: Houston is the second team in the past 10 seasons to be a double-digit underdog five times in its first eight games (2019 Miami). Read more.
Thiry’s pick: Rams 32, Texans 14
Barshop’s pick: Rams 31, Texans 17
FPI prediction: LAR, 85.4% (by an average of 14.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: Rams defense has been opportunistic but is still work in progress … Ingram traded by Texans, reuniting him with Saints … Rams QB Stafford throws for 3 TDs in win over former Lions team: ‘Glad to have this one over with’
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 36.8 | Spread: SF -4 (39.5)
What to watch for: Something has to give on Sunday. The 49ers arrive in Chicago losers of four straight, but the Bears may be in greater disarray. Chicago is fresh off back-to-back losses to Green Bay and Tampa Bay, and to make matters worse, coach Matt Nagy recently tested positive with COVID-19. And on top of it all, Bears star pass-rusher Khalil Mack missed practice all week with a foot injury and is iffy to play in Week 8 and beyond. — Jeff Dickerson
Bold prediction: 49ers receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr. will throw a touchdown pass. The Niners’ offense needs a spark, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they pull out a few Halloween tricks to try to snap their four-game losing streak. Sanu has four touchdown passes and is 7-of-8 for 233 yards passing in his career, but he has yet to attempt a throw with San Francisco. This would be a good week to change that. — Nick Wagoner
Stat to know: San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel has 648 receiving yards — the most by any 49ers player through six games since Jerry Rice had 662 in 1989.
What to know for fantasy: Samuel and Cooper Kupp are the only two players with at least three games with a 7-100-1 receiving stat line this season. See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: Chicago games are 6-1 to the under this season, the highest under percentage in the NFL. Read more.
Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 20, Bears 17
Dickerson’s pick: Bears 17, Niners 16
FPI prediction: SF, 58.9% (by an average of 3.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Garoppolo returns to Chicago no longer the 49ers’ savior … Nagy: No decision on banged-up Mack … Garoppolo remains starting QB even after ‘his worst game’ … Bears’ Nagy tests positive for COVID-19
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 27.0 | Spread: ATL -3 (46.5)
What to watch for: Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold has thrown interceptions in four straight games. And after not picking off a pass in the season’s first four weeks, Atlanta has intercepted passes in its past two games. Add in that Carolina has allowed 25 or more points in three of its past four games, and Atlanta has scored 25 or more in four of its last five games, and there’s a case for a potential big day for the Falcons. — Michael Rothstein
Bold prediction: The Falcons will attack with a wide-zone rushing attack — which Carolina has been vulnerable to — and finish with a season-high 135 yards on the ground to set up a big play-action day for quarterback Matt Ryan. Dallas had 245 yards and Minnesota posted 198 with that scheme. — David Newton
Stat to know: Falcons rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has 471 receiving yards — the most by a tight end through six career games in NFL history. He already became the first Falcons tight end with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, and he is now seeking to become the first rookie tight end in the NFL with three straight.
What to know for fantasy: Atlanta receiver Calvin Ridley is one of four players averaging at least 2.0 red-zone targets per game this season (Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs and Chris Godwin are the others). See Week 8 rankings.
Field Yates and Mike Clay examine what they expect from Chuba Hubbard this week in fantasy.
Newton’s pick: Falcons 28, Panthers 21
Rothstein’s pick: Falcons 31, Panthers 24
FPI prediction: CAR, 51.1% (by an average of 0.5 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 24.8 | Spread: CIN -10.5 (43)
What to watch for: An ascending Cincinnati team with a No. 1 overall pick (Joe Burrow) faces a floundering New York team with a No. 171 pick (Mike White) in a lopsided quarterback matchup. The Bengals are coming off a 24-point win over the Ravens, whereas the Jets are coming off a 41-point loss to the Patriots. Get the picture? This could be a first-round knockout. The Jets have been outscored in the first quarter 44-0, and the mojo probably won’t change with White, who makes his first NFL start. — Rich Cimini
Bold prediction: Bengals backup quarterback Brandon Allen will throw a touchdown. That’s right. For the third straight game, the Cincinnati’s No. 2 signal-caller should see the field, and he will get his second TD throw of the season. — Ben Baby
Stat to know: The Bengals’ defense ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per play allowed (5.1) and yards per attempt allowed (6.6), and sixth in yards per rush-allowed (3.99).
What to know for fantasy: Since the beginning of last season, a rookie receiver has scored 27.5 fantasy points in a game seven times. Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase has done it twice in the past three weeks. See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: New York has the worst average cover margin in the NFL (minus-9.9), and it had the second-worst mark last season. The Jets are 1-5 ATS this season, all as an underdog. Read more.
Baby’s pick: Bengals 31, Jets 14
Cimini’s pick: Bengals 35, Jets 13
FPI prediction: CIN, 76.2% (by an average of 9.7 points)
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 16.4 | Spread: PHI -3.5 (47.5)
What to watch for: Could this be the week that the Lions get their first victory under coach Dan Campbell? Detroit is coming off a tough road loss against former franchise star Matthew Stafford and the Rams. They played tough and even had the lead entering the fourth quarter. Despite the winless start, the Lions have won three straight against the Eagles, and Philadelphia seems vulnerable while off to their worst seven-game start since 1999, which was Andy Reid’s first season with the team. — Eric Woodyard
Bold prediction: The Eagles and Lions will tie. Seriously, is there a matchup more ripe for a draw? Both clubs are in the dumps, neither feels particularly deserving of a win, and it would fit perfectly with the tone of this season if each fanbase walked away dissatisfied. Plus, it’s kind of their thing. The Eagles played to a tie in 2020, while the Lions did so the year before. And they have 60 draws between the two of them over their respective histories. Let’s put the bold back in bold predictions. — Tim McManus
Stat to know: Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts is the only player in the NFL with at least 10 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns this season. But he also has three consecutive starts completing less than 60% of his passes, tied with Zach Wilson (Weeks 1-3) for the longest streaks by any starting QB this season.
What to know for fantasy: Lions running back D’Andre Swift has four games with more than 10 carries and more than 50 receiving yards this season. That’s double the total of any other player. In fact, Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler were the only two players to have at least four such games in all of 2020. See Week 8 rankings.
Field Yates considers Kenneth Gainwell the best RB option that the Eagles have.
Betting nugget: Detroit is 4-3 ATS despite its 0-7 outright record. Of the 53 teams to start 0-7 since the 1970 merger, Detroit is the third to have a winning ATS record (2017 49ers went 4-3, and 1977 Buccaneers went 4-2-1). Read more.
McManus’ pick: Lions 20, Eagles 20
Woodyard’s pick: Lions 21, Eagles 17
FPI prediction: PHI, 56.8% (by an average of 2.4 points)
4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 60.3 | Spread: LAC -5 (49.5)
What to watch for: Will Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert step up to the occasion? He has been solid this season, but he’s facing Patriots coach Bill Belichick who can fool just about anybody. The Patriots walloped Herbert and the Chargers 45-0 last season, but as L.A. running back Austin Ekeler said, “This isn’t last year’s team.” The Patriots have plenty of post-snap trickery and love to run man defense with two safeties high. But Herbert has more experience this season and won’t be caught by surprise. — Shelley Smith
Bold prediction: Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers will catch his first touchdown pass in the NFL. He has played in 36 career games and has 126 receptions with no TDs — the first player since the 1970 merger with that kind of combination. The Chargers can be tough to throw against, but quarterback Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense enters off its most explosive performance of the season. — Mike Reiss
Stat to know: The Chargers have allowed the most rushing yards per game (162.5) and yards per rush (5.5) in the NFL this season. And their 975 rushing yards allowed is the team’s most through six games since 1975.
What to know for fantasy: Just four quarterbacks over the past 20 years have scored 460 fantasy points in their first 21 starts: Patrick Mahomes (532.2), Lamar Jackson (516), Deshaun Watson (472.9) … and Herbert (466.9). See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Patriots are 6-0 ATS against the Chargers since 2010, including the playoffs. But Herbert is 8-2 ATS in his past 10 starts. Read more.
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 27, Chargers 23
Smith’s pick: Chargers 27, Patriots 21
FPI prediction: LAC, 61.8% (by an average of 4.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Patriots laud Henry’s play as TE returns to face Chargers … Chargers’ Ekeler uses dogged work ethic to pay it forward … Patriots tradition: Receivers don’t just catch passes, they throw them, too … Chargers cut struggling kicker Vizcaino, sign veteran Hopkins
4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 26.7 | Spread: SEA -3.5 (44)
What to watch for: Can the Seahawks keep their defensive turnaround going against quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars? If the improvement they’ve shown in recent weeks is real, it will continue Sunday against the NFL’s 27th-rated quarterback in terms of QBR. And that will make life easier on their own QB, Geno Smith. Russell Wilson‘s replacement hasn’t been able to lead a game-winning drive in three chances. The best thing the Seahawks can do Sunday is avoid that scenario altogether and put the game away early — but that’s easier said than done with a backup QB. — Brady Henderson
Bold prediction: Seattle tight end Gerald Everett will have 100 receiving yards and score at least one touchdown. He has 13 catches for 128 yards and one TD combined in five games this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he came close to those numbers on Sunday. The Jaguars haven’t defended tight ends well all season: They’re allowing 78% completions when QBs are targeting tight ends and have allowed 474 yards and four TDs. — Mike DiRocco
Stat to know: Seattle receiver DK Metcalf will be playing his 40th career game on Sunday. With 23 career receiving touchdowns, he trails only Daryl Turner (25) for the most through 40 career games in Seahawks franchise history.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry like the matchup for Tyler Lockett vs. Jacksonville.
What to know for fantasy: Jaguars running back James Robinson has four straight games with 70 rushing yards and a rushing score, the longest such streak in a decade (LeSean McCoy had a five-game streak in 2011). See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: Smith has covered seven straight starts dating back to 2014. Read more.
DiRocco’s pick: Seahawks 27, Jaguars 20
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 24, Jaguars 19
FPI prediction: SEA, 70.4% (by an average of 7.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: Besides Lawrence, Jaguars getting very little from rookie class … A reason for hope at 2-5? Seahawks’ embattled defense has ‘turned the corner’ … Seahawks unable to capture customary late-game magic with Smith
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 86.5 | Spread: TB -5.5 (50)
What to watch for: Saints quarterback Jameis Winston’s first game against his former team will add extra intrigue, but this matchup doesn’t need it, as these two teams continue their battle for NFC South supremacy. The Buccaneers are the favorites, barely missing a beat this year as reigning Super Bowl champions. But remember, the Saints have won the last four NFC South titles and swept Tampa Bay in convincing fashion in the regular season last year before the Bucs got revenge in the playoffs. — Mike Triplett
Bold prediction: Winston will throw two interceptions. He has dramatically cut down on his picks with just three this year — tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL — but his desire to shine against his old team may get the best of him. Tampa Bay is one of four teams with double-digit interceptions this season (10). — Jenna Laine
Stat to know: Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore will square off Sunday, and it’s a matchup that Lattimore has dominated. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the two have lined up against each other 96 times since 2019. Evans has recorded just one reception on eight targets with Lattimore as the nearest defender in that time (a 3-yard touchdown).
What to know for fantasy: In an era where mobility at the QB position is close to mandatory, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady has been a top-four fantasy option at the position in four of the past six weeks. See Week 8 rankings.
Betting nugget: New Orleans is 10-2 ATS as an underdog since 2018, and Tampa Bay is 0-3 ATS on the road this season. Read more.
Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Saints 21
Triplett’s pick: Buccaneers 26, Saints 23
FPI prediction: TB, 64.1% (by an average of 4.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: Buccaneers fan rewarded for giving up Brady’s 600th TD ball … Lutz out for year
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 38.5 | Spread: DEN -3 (44)
What to watch for: In their past three games, the Broncos haven’t once held lead. Four of the Broncos’ seven opponents, including the last three, have scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game, while Denver has scored one first-possession TD all season. A slow start would quickly remove the Broncos’ home-field advantage as an increasingly surly fanbase is quick to crank up the boos for the home team these days. Washington has won its only two games in which it has scored at least 23 points, so Denver has to keep the Washington offense in check, especially early on. — Jeff Legwold
Bold prediction: Washington running back Antonio Gibson will record his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. He hasn’t surpassed 69 yards rushing since Week 2, and Denver’s run defense ranks eighth overall. But in the past three games, Denver is 22nd in yards per carry allowed and 29th in yards allowed per game. Washington needs to take pressure off quarterback Taylor Heinicke. — John Keim
Stat to know: Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has thrown five interceptions in his last three games after throwing none in his first four games of the season.
What to know for fantasy: Washington has allowed over 10.5 fantasy points to a tight end four times this season. One of those instances was to Travis Kelce, and there’s no shame in that, but the other three names on that list are Robert Tonyan (16.3 points last weekend), Dawson Knox (14.9 in Week 3) and Jared Cook (10.6 in Week 1). Denver tight end Noah Fant could have a big week. See Week 8 rankings.
Mike Clay breaks down what to expect from Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick against Washington.
Betting nugget: Washington is 1-6 ATS this season, the worst mark in the NFL. It is 0-4 ATS as an underdog and 0-3 ATS against the AFC West. Read more.
Keim’s pick: Washington 21, Broncos 17
Legwold’s pick: Broncos 23, Washington 20
FPI prediction: DEN, 69.0% (by an average of 6.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: QB Fitzpatrick to undergo MRI on injured hip in two weeks … Broncos must take an honest look at their problems if they want the losing to stop … Washington’s defense shows signs of life in defeat … Broncos could throw better if they ran a little more … Rams trade LB Young to Broncos
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 75.7 | Spread: DAL -1 (55)
What to watch for: Expect a high-scoring affair in what could be the best game of Week 8. Dallas is averaging a league-best 34.2 points per game compared to Minnesota’s 24.5 (14th) — and with a host of high-end skill players on both offenses, it could very well take 40 points for one team to emerge victorious. Both franchises emerge in Week 8 coming off a bye, but the Cowboys are more banged up than the Vikings. With quarterback Dak Prescott recovering from a calf injury, Dallas hopes its dominant offensive line can withstand the No. 1 pass-rush in the NFL. — Courtney Cronin
Bold prediction: Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs will make it seven straight games with an interception. When he does, he will make NFL history. No player has picked off a pass in the first seven games of a season. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been intercepted in each of his last four games at home. He has thrown 17 touchdowns and five interceptions in his career against the Cowboys, but he has not been intercepted in two games against Dallas since joining Minnesota. — Todd Archer
Stat to know: Prescott has four straight games with at least three touchdown passes, the longest streak in Cowboys history and tied with Patrick Mahomes for the longest such streak in the NFL this season. No QB has thrown three in five straight games since Andrew Luck had eight straight in 2018.
Betting nugget: Dallas is the only team in the NFL undefeated against the spread (6-0). Last season, it failed to cover its first eight games of the season. Read more.
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 34, Vikings 30
Cronin’s pick: Cowboys 40, Vikings 38
FPI prediction: DAL, 50.7% (by an average of 0.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: With cap issues looming in 2022, Cowboys need to win now … How The Griddy swept over the NFL, and beyond: Vikings WR Jefferson’s TD dance, step by step … What sets Cowboys’ Lamb and Vikings’ Jefferson apart? NFL evaluators tell us
What to watch for: Can the Chiefs’ offensive line and quarterback Patrick Mahomes handle the Giants’ pressure? The Chiefs did a poor job of handling the Titans’ pass rush last week, when Tennessee blitzed just one time in 44 dropbacks but pressured Mahomes on 18 of those plays. Keep an eye on Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who has struggled this season against speed rushers. — Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce will have 150-plus yards receiving and two touchdowns. He has already topped 100 yards twice this season. The Giants’ defense has been pedestrian against tight ends, and it hasn’t faced anyone like Kelce. Dalton Schultz went for six catches and 79 yards against them. It makes you wonder the type of damage Kelce can do. — Jordan Raanan
Stat to know: When getting the ball out within 2.5 seconds, Mahomes has a 13-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an 86% completion percentage this season. But when he takes longer, he has a 5-8 ratio and a 48% completion percentage.
What to know for fantasy: A running back has scored over 16 fantasy points when playing the Giants five times this season. Darrel Williams is in line to start for the Chiefs with Clyde Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve. See Week 8 rankings.
Matthew Berry predicts good fantasy production from Darrel Williams as the Chiefs hope to bounce back in Week 8.
Raanan’s pick: Chiefs 35, Giants 20
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 27, Giants 26
FPI prediction: KC, 74.7% (by an average of 9.1 points)
If Ben Roethlisberger retires, who’s the next Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback? – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog
With the Steelers’ season-ending skid and playoff debacle against the Cleveland Browns fresh in his mind, Roethlisberger made it known he was ready to attempt another Super Bowl run. After discussions, the Steelers determined they wanted that too, but not at Roethlisberger’s $41.25 million cap hit.
The two sides negotiated and came to a deal in March: Roethlisberger reduced his pay by $5 million for a $14 million salary in 2021 and added four voidable years to his deal, freeing up $15 million in cap space for the 2021 season.
And speaking in August, team CEO and President Art Rooney II didn’t rule out a scenario where Roethlisberger played beyond the 2021 season.
“It’s not written in stone that this is his last year,” Rooney told a small group of reporters at Steelers camp. “We’re aware this could be Ben’s last year. We hope it’s a great one. That’s as far as we can go with it right now. Obviously, if this is his last year, then next year we’ll be making decisions on a quarterback, and we’ll address it as the time comes up.”
But with six games left in the regular season, the 39-year-old quarterback is telling former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Steelers are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games including playoffs since starting 11-0 in 2020.
That leaves the Steelers without a clear path forward at quarterback — something they delayed while the organization attempted to build a supporting cast for Roethlisberger’s final run.
Who might the Steelers turn to under center? There isn’t an obvious choice, but there are plenty of options.
On the Steelers roster
Rudolph is the only quarterback currently on the roster with a contract through 2022. The Steelers believed he had first-round talent when they drafted him in 2018, but that hasn’t come to fruition in the four years since. Rudolph split the starting job with former UDFA Devlin “Duck” Hodges in 2019 after Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury. The Steelers brought in Matt Canada in 2020, initially as a quarterbacks coach to further help develop Rudolph. When Canada was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2021, the Steelers hired veteran quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan to lead the position.
Rudolph started one game for the Steelers this season, filling in against the Detroit Lions after Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19. Afterward, Mike Tomlin said Rudolph “gave us a chance to win,” but he was inconsistent and often threw off-target and high. Rudolph is expected to remain with the organization in 2022 and have an opportunity to compete for the job. The Steelers also have former first-round pick Haskins on the current roster, though he couldn’t beat out Rudolph for the No. 2 spot through the preseason and training camp. He’s been inactive for all but one game this season. Sullivan praised Haskins for his development and attention to detail during practices, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to show growth in a game situation. During the preseason, Haskins had bright moments, but in his lone start, the preseason finale against the Panthers, he completed 9 of 16 attempts for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Steelers are currently projected to have the No. 13 overall pick, and according to ESPN’s FPI, they have a 28.6% chance to have a top-10 pick. This year’s quarterback class is underwhelming. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones stands out from the current rookie class, but while the rest of the group has experienced growing pains, it’s still much stronger than the next group up. If the Steelers added a first-round quarterback to the room, they would be setting up for a longer-term rebuild — something coach Mike Tomlin might not want to do after more than a decade of working with Roethlisberger. But, the Steelers take pride in homegrown talent, and there’s at least one option that checks all the boxes.
The Steelers let Pittsburgh native and Pitt quarterback Dan Marino get away in the 1983 draft, and it kept them from having a solid succession plan after Terry Bradshaw. Now, they could make a move to keep Pickett in town. A Heisman contender and ACC Player of the Year, Pickett helped lead the Panthers to the ACC Championship game in his fifth season, and he threw for over 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions. And, his 79 career touchdowns passes tie him for first in school history Marino. Pickett is emerging as the Steelers’ best option in this class, but it’s not a sure thing they can move up high enough to get him.
Howell, with a career 10,078 passing yards and 91 touchdown passes to go with 1,006 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, is a better version of Baker Mayfield, and Willis has a strong arm along with his mobility. Corral also may go too high for the Steelers to make a play, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the class with a 68 completion percentage for 3,339 yards and 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 597 yards and 11 TDs.
The Steelers prefer to draft and develop, but it’s not out of the question to think they could make a push for a veteran quarterback. The Steelers already have some key pieces entering the 2022 season that keep the team from undergoing a complete rebuild: T.J. Watt, Najee Harris, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson, Cameron Heyward and Pat Freiermuth. The offensive line needs help in the offseason, and the Steelers will have to discuss big-ticket extensions for Fitzpatrick and Johnson, but the team could avoid a large-scale rebuild if they land a veteran quarterback. And, they have the money to do it. Roethlisberger’s voided contract carries a $10.3 million cap hit in 2022, but they’re projected to have about $45 million in 2022 cap space, according to OverTheCap and Spotrac. That number could rise even more with the new TV deals expected to push the salary cap even higher. The Steelers could put together a blockbuster trade to acquire a big name or settle for a middle-of-the-road free agent option and use their 2022 draft capital and cap space to bolster the offensive and defensive lines and secondary.
Amounts listed are the cap hits the Steelers would incur if they acquired the player in either a pre-June 1 trade or a post-June 1 trade. Figures are courtesy of OverTheCap.com:
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, pre-June 1 trade: $19.3 million cap hit; post-June 1 trade: $26.9 million cap hit
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, pre-June 1: $11 million cap hit; post-June 1: $24 million cap hit
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers, pre-June 1: $25.6 million cap hit; post-June 1: $25.6 million cap hit
Derek Carr, Raiders, pre-June 1: $19.9 million cap hit; post-June 1: $19.9 million cap hit
Kirk Cousins, Vikings, pre-June 1: $35 million cap hit; post-June 1: $35 million cap hit
Deshaun Watson, Texans, pre-June 1: $24.2 million cap hit; post-June 1: $35 million cap hit, plus three years left on his contract
Outside of Watson, these options essentially have one year left on their current deals. Given his upside, cost and team’s current trajectory, Wilson, who is under contract through 2023, makes the most sense. He was unhappy prior to the season and Schefter reported Wilson would consider a trade to the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders or Bears. The Seahawks eventually smoothed things over but at 3-8 and a stint on injured reserve, Wilson’s season hasn’t gone according to plan and he could ask for a trade.
Like Wilson, Rodgers was also unhappy with his situation, but the Packers reworked his deal and voided the 2023 year, making 2022 the final year of his contract. However, Rodgers carries a $46.1 million charge against the Packers’ salary cap in 2022, guaranteeing the team would either have to move on from him or sign him to another extension. If another team trades for him, they would almost certainly rework his contract and give him new money and an extension. This season, his team is an NFC Super Bowl favorite, and he’s in the midst of another MVP-caliber season. But, never say never. Rodgers and Tomlin did a little flirting in the weeks around the Steelers Week 4 game against the Packers, with each complimenting the other in news conferences and smiling at each other when Tomlin called a timeout to keep Rodgers from quick-snapping on the Steelers’ defense. Rodgers also talked about his appreciation for Pittsburgh on Pat McAfee Show, further raising eyebrows. Still, Rodgers seems more content than he did a few months ago, making it less likely he winds up in black and gold.
Garappolo, who began his career as a backup in New England, became a lame duck quarterback the minute the San Francisco 49ers drafted Trey Lance No.3 overall in May. He’s not as flashy as Rodgers or Wilson, but he’ll likely have a lower asking price than the top-tier options. Since helping the 49ers to Super Bowl in 2019 with 27 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, Garoppolo has been average at best. In an injury-shortened 2020 season, he had seven touchdowns to five interceptions, and this season, he has 13 touchdowns to six interceptions. Lance is the obvious future in San Francisco, making Garoppolo a prime trade target.
Two other tradeable veteran quarterbacks to keep an eye on are Carr and Cousins, who both have one year left on their deals. Both the Raiders and the Vikings appear at a crossroads with their respective quarterbacks and coaching staffs. The Raiders (6-5) already fired Jon Guden, while Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are approaching the hot seat with the Vikings sitting at 5-6. If ownership decides to start fresh in either situation, the Steelers could make a play for Cousins or Carr, although Cousins is the most expensive of the bunch.
And, there’s Watson. He hasn’t played a game this season and has told the Houston Texans he intends never to play for them again, and he would like to be traded. He also faces 22 civil lawsuits by women who accuse him of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. A no-trade clause allows him control over a destination, if the Texans are willing to trade him. Despite a flurry of activity before the trade deadline, Watson stayed put. But, until the civil cases are resolved, Watson comes with numerous unknowns, including the possibility of NFL discipline pending the outcome of the league’s investigation.
Winston is the most viable longer-term solution for the Steelers among their free-agent options. Prior to his injury in New Orleans, Winston appeared poised to get his career back on track. In seven appearances, Winston threw 14 touchdowns to three interceptions, completing 59% of his passes. The Steelers had an opportunity to sign Winston when he became a free agent in 2020, but general manager Kevin Colbert said in April 2020 the team didn’t make any offers to any veteran quarterbacks, and Winston ultimately went to the Saints.
Dalton and Bridgewater are just OK options, and at best, would compete with Rudolph for the starting job as a band-aid until a stronger quarterback draft class materializes.
Like the free-agent class, these options are most likely temporary fixes — but intriguing options. Trubisky, a former first-round pick by the Chicago Bears, is backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo on a one-year deal. His best season came in 2018 when he threw 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, and while his tenure as the second-overall pick was disappointing, he has potential to rejuvenate his career in the right circumstance.
Once Washington’s fourth-string quarterback, Heinicke has been pretty solid as the Washington Football Team’s starter after Ryan Fitzpatrick went down. He even helped his team overtake a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in Week 10. He’s under contract in 2022. Washington isn’t likely to part with him, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (ankle) a game-time decision vs. New York Jets, sources say
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles want to see how quarterback Jalen Hurts‘ injured ankle is feeling before making a final decision about his status for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.
Minshew got the lions’ share of snaps during practice on Thursday and Friday.
Hurts sprained his ankle in the second half against the New York Giants when he was stepped on. He finished the game but was limping noticeably at times.
Earlier this week, Hurts declared that he would be “ready to go” for the Jets game.
“You guys obviously know I’m dealing with a little something, but it’s business as usual,” he said.
Hurts is expected to remain the Eagles starter regardless of how Minshew plays. He has completed 60.1% of his passes through 12 games for 2,435 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions while racking up 695 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Hurts is coming off arguably his worst start as a pro, throwing a career-high three interceptions in a 13-7 loss to the Giants.
The Eagles acquired Minshew for a conditional 2022 sixth-round pick in late August. He has appeared in one game this season, going 2-for-2 for 11 yards in the closing minutes of a blowout win over the Detroit Lions. Minshew, 25, started 24 games over two seasons in Jacksonville, completing 62.9% of his throws for 5,530 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
“I feel confident with either guy — either of the guys if they have to go play the way they prepared all week and went about their business,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said earlier this week.
Las Vegas Raiders rule TE Darren Waller out vs. Washington
Waller, who set a franchise record with 107 catches last season, suffered injuries to his back and left knee in Las Vegas’ 36-33 overtime win at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving and missed the second half of that game. He did not practice this week. His 53 catches for 643 yards rank second on the Raiders and his two TD catches are tied for third.
It will be the second game Waller will miss this season as an ankle injury kept him out of the Raiders’ Week 7 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. In that game, tight end Foster Moreau stepped up with six catches for 60 yards with an 18-yard touchdown.
“We’ve kind of gone through this twice,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said Friday, before Waller was ruled out. “We’ve gone through it when we didn’t have him for a game and certainly Foster stepped up in the plan that [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] had put together.
“And then we lost Darren in the second quarter last week and we were still productive as the game went on and Greg made some really good adjustments that way as well, personnel-wise, in the things that we did. So, again, we are prepared to do that if we have to this week.”
A fourth-round pick of the Raiders in 2019 out of LSU who missed three games of his rookie season because of a torn ACL, Moreau has 10 touchdown catches in 40 career games. He has 12 catches for 135 yards and three TDs this season.
Moreau said he relished the opportunity to step in for Waller and also was asked about the coaching change at his alma mater. After a pair of lengthy pregnant pauses, Moreau said, “My mom always said, If you don’t have anything nice to say, you should probably just keep it to yourself. Yeah, I don’t know anything about Brian Kelly, truthfully, I know he’s a family-oriented man and I’m excited for the opportunity he has.
“Fit’s always important. Chemistry’s always important. The more you can be around people, the more you can understand where they come from. Obviously, Coach O [Ed Orgeron] knew just about every inch of Louisiana and anything in that soil and that was very meaningful to the state, obviously to the university, and he was not only an incredible coach but ambassador for football in southeast Louisiana.”
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