Six teams will have the opportunity to rest while the rest of the league grinds out another bruising week of play. Let’s examine the clubs on the bye if any are locked as our NFL picks when they return.
Detroit Lions (1-7 SU, 1-7 ATS)
It is hard to summarize just how poorly this season has gone for the Detroit Lions but their 45-10 shellacking by the Kansas City Chiefs in front of an international audience may be the perfect microcosm for this bleak 2015 campaign. Historically the Lions have not been good. In fact last season they had 11 wins which was only the fifth time since 1970 that the franchise has had 10 wins or more. And even if this year's edition doesn't win another game they would still be have a better record than the 2008 club that registered an 0-16 record.
The Lions fired their offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi before the transatlantic flight to London and promoted Jim Bob Cooter to the role. The problem was the executive brass did so at the start of the week giving Cooter no time to do anything more than execute Lombardi's game plan. Didn't they know they had a bye week in front of them? That would have been the right time to hire and fire, giving Cooter a full two weeks to implement his own offense. But then again there is no game plan that can account for a hellacious offensive line that saw Matthew Stafford get sacked six times against Kansas City.
There will be more changes to come and right now Lions' fans must be rooting for losses in order to capture the first overall pick in the draft. Detroit's winter of discontent continues when they travel to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to meet the Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-5 SU, 3-5 ATS)
The Chiefs had not only dropped five straight heading into their Week 7 meeting with the Steelers but also lost arguably the most talented rusher on the planet in Jamaal Charles. Things were not looking good but the Chiefs showed signs of life in defeating Pittsburgh 23-13 at Arrowhead. Yet the NFL odds makers were not convinced this Chiefs' team was markedly better than the cellar dwelling Lions and installed them as 3-point neutral site favorites over the toothless Lions. When the dust settled at Wembley Stadium the Chiefs throttled the Lions 45-10, emphatically making the case that their season is not over with still plenty of time to right a ship that had strayed off course.
Despite Kansas City's season high 45 points rung up on the Lions, it was in fact the defense that could be the key to turning this wayward season around. For the second consecutive week the Chiefs have held the opposition in check. Against Detroit the Chiefs recorded six sacks and a pair of picks which, prior to the season, is exactly how many believed this defense would operate week in and week out. Whether this resurgence is a temporary uptick or a precursor that the best is yet to come will be put to the test when Kansas City returns to meet their divisional rivals, the Denver Broncos, at Mile High.
Arizona Cardinals (6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS)
Those who included the Cardinals in their NFL picks in Week 8 had to be biting their fingernails when their seven-point road favorites were trailing 20-10 at the half. But Carson Palmer turned that around with 24 unanswered points and a "cool as the other side of the pillow" demeanor.
“When your quarterback is always calm -- good, bad or indifferent -- he can talk and he can reason, that’s really cool to have, somebody [who has] always got his composure,” Fitzgerald said. “It trickles down from the top.”
The veteran quarterback patiently dispensed advice when the team trailed and his offense responded. Instead of berating running back Chris Johnson when he fumbled for the second time Palmer pointed out that he had followed his blocking and made the right moves. It is that kind of paternal assurance and reinforcement that kept Arizona from mailing it in when the chips were down. The Redbirds travel to Seattle when they return from their bye week.
Seattle Seahawks (4-4 SU, 2-5-1)
The Seahawks haven’t been winning pretty but they have been winning. They can thank the schedule makers that they have had weak sisters Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and most recently Dallas to contend with early in the season but only the Lions and 49’ers were dominating wins. A blown call at the end of the game against Detroit gifted them that win and on Sunday they were trailing Dallas until Steven Hauschka's 24-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining cinched the game 13-12. It was hardly a thing of beauty but a win is a win even if they have been torturing those who have backed them in their NFL picks this season with a 2-5-1 ATS mark.
Russell Wilson has done about as well as you could expect considering a porous offensive line and limited options at his disposal. Ironically this is the team that dealt All-Pro center Max Unger and a first-round pick in exchange for the erratically used Jimmy Graham. Graham has made the plays when called upon but the head-scratching decision to make him a role player as opposed to a centerpiece of the Seattle offense is more than a bit odd. This is still Marshawn Lynch’s world and Graham is just living in it. The irony is that the absence of Max Unger has had a bigger negative impact than any successes the offense has had because of the inclusion of All-World tight end.
The club is tied for 25th place in points scored and ranks 26th in passing yards per game. However, the Legion of Boom has returned and the defense is allowing only 17.5 points per game which ranks them 3rd in the league. Had it not been for the defensive unit limiting Dallas to 12 points in Week 8 then the Seahawks could be staring down the barrel of a 3-5 record with a mountain to climb just to get back into the playoff picture.
Seattle reported wideout Ricardo Lockette underwent surgery to repair ligament damage in his neck suffered in the Dallas game. He will be out for the remainder of the season. The Seahawks welcome Arizona when they return in Week 10.
Baltimore Ravens (2-6 SU, 1-6-1 ATS)
The Ravens won a see-saw battle with the Chargers ending in a Justin Tuck 39-yard field goal with no time remaining to defeat San Diego 29-26. It was a Pyrrhic victory to be sure as veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. likely saw his last game of his storied career end in anguish when he tore his Achilles late in the third quarter on Sunday. Factor in Breshad Perriman’s sprained knee and third year man Kamar Aiken is the next man up as Joe Flacco’s primary target.
Going forward the season is pretty much lost at this point. The Cincinnati Bengals are the surprise team of the league with a perfect 7-0 mark. Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Steelers got their main man Big Ben back under center which should bolster their chances to improve upon a 4-4 record through eight games. Even the Cleveland Browns, tied with Baltimore in the AFC North cellar, are no longer a “gimme” game for the Ravens. Despite their win over the Chargers the future is bleak for even a respectable season. Baltimore entertains Jacksonville when they return in Week 10.
Houston Texans (3-5 SU, 3-5 ATS)
Houston did on Sunday against the Titans what many believed they would be doing to opponents throughout the season – shut them down. When the final gun sounded the Texans were 20-6 winners over their guests from Tennessee and notched a badly needed victory in this season of unfulfilled expectations. The defense came equipped with big names that made any fan salivate with the monster himself JJ Watt complemented by former number one overall pick Jadaveon Clowney and of course the anchor, formerly of New England, Vince Wilfork.
Those who anticipated a Steel Curtain of the new Millennium adorned in Houston colors have been aching for another game in which the Texans held the opposition to less than double digits besides their Week 3 win over the Bucs. After eight weeks the defense ranks a disappointing 22nd in points allowed averaging 25.6 per game. But on the bright side the Texans have finally ended any quarterback controversy with Brian Hoyer taking the reins after Ryan Mallett was cut loose for essentially being a jackass. The Texans will travel to Cincinnati when they return from their bye.