As we approach the halfway mark of the 2017 NFL season, there are few certainties. For example, we think New England has turned a corner after throttling Atlanta at home. We think Seattle’s offense is finally cooking with Russell Wilson and maybe — a big maybe — Jimmy Graham. And we think that Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams are good. But we really don’t know if any — or all — of this is true.
And that is all the more reason to offer up our five bold predictions for Week 8.
Joe Flacco gets benched Thursday night versus Miami
At 32 years old, Flacco is playing the worst football of his career, with zero signs of life. Maybe he was tainted by the $120.6 million contract extension? Simply put, he looks terrified and wholly unprepared for the blitz, and instead of calling the correct audible, is simply taking unnecessary sacks. It’s hard to understand why. Remember, the Baltimore front office went out and got him a legitimate wide receiver in Jeremy Maclin, who even before getting injured, had a minimal impact on the offense. With no running game to speak of and Flacco attempting a league low 5.31 yards per attempt while compiling a 70 quarterback rating (only DeShone Kizer’s is worse), a short week against an aggressive Dolphins defense could spell doom.
Miami ranks seventh in total defense and while its given up some big plays, expect a lethal pass rush featuring Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake (2.5 sacks last week against the Jets) to potentially force the Ravens into finally giving Flacco the hook. Don’t overlook the fact that the surging Dolphins have now held an opponent to seven points or less, and less than 110 yards in the second half three games in a row.
2. Amari Cooper garners 15 more targets in Buffalo
It took nearly half a season for Oakland’s Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper to turn a corner. 19 targets later against Kansas City, Cooper amassed the first 200-yard game of his young career, to go along with two touchdowns from Derek Carr. It wasn’t perfect, as he’s still committing uncalled for drops, but it proved that a heavy dose of targets can fix anything, especially when Carr is on point. The Raiders travel to Orchard Park to take on the resurgent Buffalo Bills and their vastly improved defense, which is all the more reason to force feed Mr. Cooper.
3. Jacoby Brissett sacked eight more times versus Cincinnati
Indianapolis is a dumpster fire right now. Chuck Pagano’s Colts were completely unprepared for Jacksonville’s blitzing front and Brissett was dumped 10 times as a result. The Bengals — who rank ninth in the league with 18 sacks — will look to do much of the same with Geno Atkins and company, capitalizing on the fact that Indy can’t pass-protect and the shaky Brissett continues to hold onto the ball far too long inside the pocket. Oh, and the 2-5 Colts have stopped playing for Pagano, which won’t help either.
4. Deshaun Watson has a big game in Seattle
Watson has been nothing short of sensational since he took over the starting gig in Houston. The rookie quarterback is tied with Tom Brady and Alex Smith for second-most touchdown passes (15), to go along with over 200 yards rushing and two more scores. Watson faces his stiffest test Sunday in a showdown against the vaunted Seahawks defense, in Seattle to boot. While he won’t be without a few mistakes, I’m expecting Watson to once again rise to the occasion and deliver a big time performance. He has played in a ton of high pressure games dating back to college, and he continues to come through in the clutch. In other words, look for the 22-year-old to go for 300 total yards and three more scores.
5. New York Jets upset the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium
Atlanta’s offense is just not clicking with first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Reigning MVP Matt Ryan has thrown six interceptions (he had seven all of last year), Julio Jones isn’t getting the ball and as we saw in Sunday night’s loss to the Patriots, the pass is being set up by the run. That was not the magic formula during last year’s magical run to the Super Bowl. Look: Dan Quinn is an excellent coach and he will find a way to get things rolling again, but this feels like an odd spot for his team. The Falcons now travel to New York to take on an overachieving Jets team after getting trounced in the most important game on their schedule. Jets win, 24-20.
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Follow Jordan Schultz on Twitter @Schultz_Report
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