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Week 8 NFL preview: The clocks are not the only thing that could fall back this weekend

We’re nearly at the half-way point of the season and there are many teams with a lot to prove.

Dallas @ Washington is the biggest game of the week.
Dallas @ Washington is the biggest game of the week.
Image: TNS/ABACA/PA Images

CONSIDER THIS A gentle reminder that the clocks go back this weekend, meaning you’ll have to set your fantasy football team an hour earlier than normal.

As we enter week eight, with so many teams skirting .500 and only the Patriots, Steelers and Eagles looking like sure-fire divisional winners, it is a season where studying the form and analysing the offensive and defensive strengths of each team is just as useful for picking games as tossing a coin.

Last weekend — a few results aside — felt a little more like the NFL seasons we’ve become used to but, even half-way through the year, I’m undecided as to whether or not this season is actually good or not.

Maybe this week will give us a better idea?

Sunday – 1.3opm

Minnesota Vikings (-9.5) @ Cleveland Browns – London

Source: AP/PA Images

Pity NFL fans on this side of the Atlantic. So far they’ve had to watch three complete blowouts where the winning teams have outscored the losing ones by 97-7 — and that score was a Ryan Mallett garbage time touchdown for the Ravens.

Given that the Browns are 0-7 and without their best offensive player for the first time in 11 years — and 10,363 consecutive snaps — it doesn’t look likely that Hue Jackson will improve on his head-coaching record of 2-0 on Christmas Eve and 0-26 on every other day of the year.

Verdict: Vikings to cover

Sunday – 5pm

Oakland Raiders @ Buffalo Bills (-2.5)

After their later-than-last-minute heroics against the Chiefs last week, the Raiders must travel cross-country to take on a Buffalo Bills side that pulled out a win against the Bucs despite trailing late on themselves.

The Raiders’ biggest weakness is their secondary, but it’s worth noting the home side have completed just 34 passes to wide receivers this season and, while the Bills lead the league in rushing attempts, Oakland managed okay against the Kansas City ground game last time out.

Verdict: Raiders against the spread

Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals (-11)

Is there a better tonic for a tough divisional loss than getting to play a Colts team that, despite their record, is the worst franchise in football?

Indy are allowing a league-worst 31.7 points per game and this one could be a hammering.

Verdict: Bengals to cover

LA Chargers @ New England Patriots (-7.5)

The big question from Sunday night’s win over the Falcons is whether or not the Patriots defence is back or Atlanta’s offence just isn’t the juggernaut it was last season? My suspicion is that it’s the latter and the loss of Dont’a Hightower to a season-ending injury doesn’t help.

The Chargers have returned to the mean after a poor start to the season and have a pass rush that will give Tom Brady nightmares on Sunday.

Verdict: Chargers against the spread

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints (-9)

Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The Bears may have caused an upset last weekend when they beat the Carolina Panthers despite their quarterback — Mitchell Trubisky — completing as many passes (4) as he had sacks.

However, the Saints at home are tough to beat. It’s also worth pointing out that, in all bar one season of the Sean Payton era, New Orleans have made the post season when they rank in the top-25 on defence — ie, not be horrific.

Verdict: Saints to cover

Atlanta Falcons (-4.5) @ New York Jets

The Jets will be absolutely kicking themselves they lost to the Dolphins last weekend carrying a double digit lead into the final quarter. It has been such a strange season for Gang Green with Todd Bowles needing to win to keep his job and fans hoping they lose to secure a high draft pick.

Something is definitely up with the Falcons as both the offence and defence are performing below expectations and they will look to bounce back against a team many — this guy included — expected to be the worst in football this season.  However, it’s worth pointing out that all three of Atlanta’s losses this season have come against AFC East teams.

Verdict: Jets against the spread

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles (-13)

The team with the (joint) worst record in football. There’s not much else to say really with the only question being how Carson Wentz will do without All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters?

Verdict: Eagles to cover

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2)

Just seven teams have scored fewer points than the Carolina Panthers over the past three games (17.7) but they’re coming up against a Bucs’ side that has given up 29 per game in the same span.

It still feels like this has the making of a low-scoring divisional affair so this game might be one for the purists.

Verdict: Panthers against the spread

Sunday – 8.05pm

Houston Texans @ Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)

Source: Eric Christian Smith/PA Images

The two best games of the weekend are the late evening games though the fact there is just the pair of matches means it will contain the least amount of action on Redzone this year.

The Texans are coming off a bye and, in Deshaun Watson, have one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the game with offensive lineman Duane Brown back from his holdout to protect him. Russell Wilson wishes he had a player capable of playing at Brown’s level.

Verdict: Texans against the spread

Sunday – 8.25pm

Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) @ Washington

With Philadelphia racing away with the division, this is a must-win game for a pair of sides both sitting at 3-3 but whose six wins have come against teams with a combined record of 12-30 and only Washington has beaten a team with a winning record.

Dallas, and Dak Prescott in particular, looked impressive last week against the winless 49ers and have the chance to catch Washington on a short week.

Verdict: Dallas to cover

Monday – 12.30am

Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) @ Detroit Lions

Much has been made of the fact that nobody has more touches at running back than Le’Veon Bell or yards through the air than Antonio Brown but the secret to the Steelers’ revival this year has been their defence.

Despite the Lions coming off a bye-week, that offensive line is still quite leaky so expect Pittsburgh to stifle the most expensive player in NFL history.

Verdict: Steelers to cover

Tuesday – 12.30am

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)

Both these sides need a win badly but both of the Chiefs’ defeats at least saw them play at the level we’re used to all season.

The Broncos, on the other hand, have suffered awful quarterback play and the option at backup is Brock Osweiler.

Verdict: Chiefs to cover

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