Week 8 Picks – The League That We’ll Never Figure Out

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos

Image courtesy of: charlotte.cbslocal.com

Rory Goulding

You probably don’t know this, but Peyton Manning is a very good quarterback. I wasn’t sure of it either until he made my favorite team look like a bunch of 8th graders last Sunday night.

STATS! Through his first 38 games in Denver, Manning’s thrown 111 touchdown passes. If that number doesn’t impress you by itself, then put it in perspective of this: Andrew Luck has only thrown 65 touchdown passes in his first 39 games with the Colts. Or maybe this: current Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, has been in the league for 9 years and has only thrown two more TD passes over his ENTIRE CAREER1 than Manning has thrown in his first 2 ½ seasons with the Broncos.  I hate to make this about my team, but any 49er fan that still thinks we should’ve kept Alex Smith over Colin Kaepernick, read that last sentence and then take a big swig of Drano.

Going against Manning on the road during a short week is never the greatest thing, but it poses even more of a problem for San Diego. The Chargers have been hit hard with the injury bug this season – the three running backs at the top of their depth chart are all out with significant injuries, they’ll most likely be missing their top two defensive backs, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett, and their 2nd-year linebacker, Manti Teo, is out indefinitely in order to spend more time with his girlfriend because of a foot fracture. That’s no bueno for a team coming off a tough division loss to the Chiefs.

If you’re in the betting mood for tonight, here’s a little advice2 – take the Broncos -8.5 and the over at 51.5. In their five victories this season, the Broncos’ margin of victory is just less than 15 points, and the Thursday night games have an average of 54 combined points scored. Also, probably the best tip in picking NFL games is to answer these two questions: “Is Peyton Manning playing?” and “If so, which team is he playing for?” There’s your answer for tonight – The Denver Broncos.

Broncos 41, Chargers 24.

 

Jim Armstrong

We’re halfway through the NFL’s regular season…wow did the first half fly by. Feels like I was just flipping hot dogs on Labor Day…now the leaves have turned, Peyton Manning is making a run at his 6th MVP award, Tom Brady looks like Tom Brady again and Aaron Rodgers has 1 interception in his 147 pass attempts this season (212 pass attempts dating back to last season). Three of the best QB’s in the game are in peak form or nearing peak form at the season’s halfway point.

Football’s not that simple or predicable though. The Arizona Cardinals are leading the NFC West by two in the loss column, with a 5-1 record. The 49ers and Seahawks have combined for 6 losses in their first 13 combined games. Drew Brees has thrown for only 11 TD’s in his team’s first six games, against 8 turnovers. The best team in the NFC South is the 3-3 Carolina Panthers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers who have been a bottom three team in the NFL (along with the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars) are only two games back of first place in the division….two games back! The Bucs are #30 in total offensive yards, ahead of only…you guessed it, Jacksonville and Oakland, respectively.

Just when you really think you have the league figured out, the defending Super Bowl champions decide to ship out their highly priced prized free agent acquisition from a season before, in Percy Harvin. He signed a 5-year, $64.2 million contract with the Seahawks in March 2013 and suited up for a grand total of 6 games. Just like that, the entire complexion of the Seahawks offense changes with a single trade. The Seahawks look fallible, the Broncos look emboldened, the Lions look disciplined and the Cardinals look resilient.

Dallas’ 6-1 start and DeMarco Murray’s 7 consecutive 100-yard games have taken the football world by storm above all of the other aforementioned storylines. Murray is on pace to record 427 carries and 2,086 yards. Eric Dickerson holds the all-time single season rushing record with 2,105 yards, set in 1984. Murray doesn’t get close to Dickerson’s record…he just has too many factors working against him (insanely heavy workload, defenses adjusting in 2nd half of season & his extensive injury history). Remember when Larry Johnson registered 416 carries in the 2006 regular season and at 27, was dubbed the next great running back? Well, he missed half of the 2007 season the following year and never again sniffed 400 carries in a season. Heck he never cracked 200 yards in a season again or eclipsed 900 yards.

I just hope the Cowboys don’t regret all of the tread they are wearing off of DeMarco’s Murray’s shiny tires. The cautionary tale of Larry Johnson looms large over Dallas in the second half of the season.

As for tonight’s game, which pits the visiting San Diego Chargers against the Denver Broncos, I’m tempted to pick the Chargers. The Chargers triumphed over the Broncos in week 15 last year, winning 27-20. This was the second win of a 4-game winning streak that propelled the scrappy Chargers into the playoffs. The Broncos are a different team this year though. DeMarcus Ware is coming off of a 3-sack game in the Broncos’ shellacking of the 49ers two weeks ago. Aqib Talib and TJ Ward bring a different mentality to the Broncos DB’s as well, something the team has been missing since the retirement of Brian Dawkins after the 2011 season.

Philip Rivers is having a stellar, MVP type of year (although he is coming off a week 6 loss against the Chiefs) but the Chargers are just too decimated right now at the running back position to keep the ball away from the potent Broncos offense.

Denver wins big, 34-20.

 

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