London finale – NFL Week 8 Preview

It’s hard to believe but after this weekend we will have no more International Series games in the UK this season.

The Bengals host the Redskins at Wembley in a game that has the potential to be the best of this year’s three games.

Many teams will be halfway through their seasons by Sunday night as well and the league is really starting to take shape. This week sees some big matchups, particularly in the NFC. The Eagles head to Dallas in the game of the week and the Falcons host the Packers. Week 8 could go a long way in deciding the outcome of the entire conference.

There are four games on Sky this Sunday and then the Vikings at Bears on Monday Night Football. Five Live Sports Extra will also have radio coverage of the Chargers at Broncos.

Redskins at Bengals

Last meeting: Bengals 38 Redskins 31 (23/9/12)
Overall record: Bengals lead series 5-4

It feels like the season has only just started but this weekend sees the final London game of the season. Last weekend the NFL headed to Twickenham for the very first time but will be back at Wembley on Sunday.

The Redskins come into the game on the back of a crushing defeat to the Lions where Matt Stafford’s touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with just 16 seconds left handed Washington their third loss of the season. Kirk Cousin’s best game of the season wasn’t enough to get the win and
cement them as one of the favourites for a wild card spot in the NFC.

As well as the loss, the team may have lost star cornerback Josh Norman for a game or two. He left the game with a concussion and has not been cleared to play this weekend. Going up against one of the best receivers in the league in A.J. Green with your best cornerback would have been tough enough but without him the Redskins could 0struggle. Green currently leads the league in receptions with 50 and could be in for a big day Norman isn’t cleared.

Like Norman, Jordan Reed is still in concussion protocol and could miss another game with the latest in a growing list of concussions that he has suffered in his career. As well as being worrying for Reed on a personal level, it could be a huge blow for the Redskins to be
without a couple of their most important players on either side of the ball.

Matt Jones could also miss the game with a knee injury. If he isn’t ready to go then rookie Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson will fill in.

The Bengals have had a tough start to the season and sit 3-4. However, the four losses have come against the Steelers, Broncos, Cowboys and Patriots with three of those being on the road. Ben Roethlisberger will probably be back sooner than expected but his injury gives the Bengals and Ravens a real chance to catch the Steelers in the AFC north. Their next four games are against teams that are somewhere in the middle of the pack and very winnable starting with this weekend’s
game at Wembley. It wouldn’t be a shock to see them win those and get to 7-4 and right in the mix in the AFC.

Jeremy Hill became the first Bengals 100 yard rusher since 2014 in the win against the Browns. It was a career best 168 yards for the third year running back and an in form Hill could be just what the Bengals need with an offence that has struggled to put up points all season. The Redskins rank 26th against the run and Hill could be one to lookout for at Wembley.

Patriots at Bills

Last meeting: Bills 16 Patriots 0 (2/10/16)
Overall record: Patriots lead series 69-43

That was a tough loss for the Bills. It looked as though they were a real contender for at least a playoff spot in the AFC and then they throw away an 11 point second half lead to Miami. It feels like that could be costly at the end of the season.

Without a couple of key offensive players in Robert Woods and in particular, LeSean McCoy, the offence just couldn’t stay on the field. With the Bills running back looking likely to miss this game, the offence could well struggle again.

McCoy has been one of the best backs in the league this season and was a big part of the 16-0 win the Bills got over the Pats in week 4.

He and Woods accounted for 206 yards of offence in that game and without them and Sammy Watkins, the Bills offence just doesn’t offer much of a threat.

The Buffalo defence has really struggled to stop the run. It could be another big game LeGarrete Blount who sits 6th in rushing yards and ties Melvin Gordon and David Johnson at the top of the list for rushing touchdowns.

The Patriots got the win against the Steelers but it wasn’t exactly their best game. A few sloppy mistakes gave the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh a chance to steal it but just like with the game against the Bengals the week before, New England pulled away in the second half but it wasn’t as comfortable as it probably should have been.

Tom Brady has come in and looked as good as ever with over 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns in just three games. Despite missing a quarter of the season, he is the current bookmakers favourite to win the MVP and unless Ezekiel Elliot gets over 2000 yards, I can’t see it going anywhere else.

Packers at Falcons

Last meeting: Falcons 37 Packers 43 (8/12/14)
Overall record: Packers lead series 17-13

The last time these two teams met they combined for 80 points and things could be similar once again. The Falcons offence has been fantastic so far with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones looking unstoppable. The Packers haven’t been as good as many expected but with Aaron Rodgers on the field then there is always the potential for lots of points.

Atlanta suffered a tough loss in overtime to the Chargers last week despite opening up a 17-point lead at one stage. The offence was as good as ever but the defence just couldn’t come up with the stops it needed to get the win for the Falcons.

Tevin Coleman suffered an injury in the game and is a doubt for this week. He has become a massive part of the offence and it could be a big blow if he isn’t ready. Devonta Freeman has lead the team in rushing but Coleman’s pass catching out of the backfield has been so valuable for Atlanta. The Green Bay defence leads the league against the rush and that will be a key matchup in this game.

The Packers are known as a great offensive team and rightly so with Rodgers at quarterback but things just haven’t gone that way this season. They sit in the bottom half of the league in passing and rushing and despite the defence performing very well, they face a battle to even make the postseason. The Vikings have been fantastic and the Lions are right there in the division. If they can’t catch Minnesota and win the division then they are in a battle with a lot of good teams for just two wild card spots. The offence really needs to turn things around and going up against a porous Falcons defence could be just the remedy.

Eagles at Cowboys

Last meeting: Eagles 33 Cowboys 27 (8/11/15)
Overall record: Cowboys lead series 64-50

The three favourites for Offensive Rookie of the Year all feature in this game with Carson Wentz for the Eagles and Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot for the Cowboys. This is probably the most intriguing game of the week and could be a preview of things to come over the next decade.

The NFC east is surprisingly good this year and that is perhaps down to those three rookies that have come in and got going almost immediately. These two teams are the favourites for the division and both teams have a chance to go all the way to the Super Bowl.

The Eagles got a huge win against the previously undefeated Vikings last week and will look to carry that momentum into this game. The defence that has performed well for most of the season got after Sam Bradford and caused mistakes all game from the Minnesota offence that had barely turned the ball over heading into that game. The Eagles forced four turnovers including Sam Bradford’s first interception of the season.

Carson Wentz didn’t have his best game but it can be forgiven as he was going up against the best defence in the league. He will have a chance to bounce back against a god but not great Cowboys defence.

It was more of the same for the Cowboys against the Packers as Ezekiel Elliot’s superb rushing led the way for the offence. The rookie leads the league in rushing and really sets the tone for the whole Dallas team. They have gone back to the formula that they had when DeMarco Murray was the league’s leading rusher and it is putting them in a great position to succeed. They are arguably the best team in the NFC and that all starts with Elliot’s rushing. The Eagles defence have a big job on their hands to stop this running attack.

Tony Romo is getting closer and closer to returning but it is still not known if he will regain his starting spot from Dak Prescott. The rookie has exceeded all expectations and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that we have seen the last of Tony Romo as the starter in Dallas.

This is a huge game for the division and the conference. If Dallas win they will cement themselves as the favourites for the east and one of the first-round byes. If the Eagles win then it will leave the whole thing wide open.

Vikings at Bears

Last meeting: Bears 17 Vikings 38 (20/12/15)
Overall record: Vikings lead series 57-51-2

The Vikings come into the game on the back of their first defeat of the season after a disappointing performance against the Eagles.

The defence was very good once again, forcing turnovers and putting Carson Wentz under pressure throughout. It was the offence that struggled. Sam Bradford had played well since the big trade but against his former team looked more like the quarterback we’ve seen in recent seasons. He threw his first interception since moving to Minnesota and lost a fumble. He has the perfect opportunity to bounce back against a fairly weak Bears defence.

The Bears will be without Brian Hoyer who broke his arm in the Bears loss to the Packers last week. Jay Cutler is expected to return after his own injury and he will need to get going quickly if the Bears are going to somehow get anything from the game. The Vikings defence has been the best in the league so far this season and Chicago have shown nothing that would make you think that will be any different after this week.

There has been talk that Alshon Jeffery could be traded before the deadline but for now he remains a Bear. He is yet to catch a touchdown and that is a big reason why the Bears offence sits last in scoring.

These are two teams heading in different directions and it would be a huge upset if the Bears managed to get a win here.

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