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The Cowboys & Redskins Both Need a Win — NFL Week 8 Preview

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys
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Intra-divisional rivalries highlight Week 8 of the 2017 NFL season. Here’s a preview of the week’s most interesting games:

Sunday, October 29

The Patriots Will Run an AFC West Gauntlet
Atlanta Falcons v New England Patriots
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L.A. Chargers at New England | Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

After a few early stumbles, the New England Patriots (5-2) should end October in the same position as usual: first place in the AFC East. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Co. look solid — if not Super — again. This Sunday, New England starts a three-week run against AFC West teams when they take on Los Angeles (3-4). After a bye week in Week 9, the Pats visit Denver on Nov. 12, and play Oakland in Mexico City on November 19 — not an easy stretch.

The Chargers roll into Foxboro on a three-game win streak fueled by the play of Philip Rivers, the NFL’s fifth-leading passer. Rivers and the Los Angeles offense should challenge the sometimes leaky New England secondary. As always, the key to beating the Pats is getting to Brady — the league’s passing yardage leader. If he has time, he’ll put enough points on the board for his team to win.

Can Deshaun Watson Keep Rolling Against Seattle?
Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals
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Houston at Seattle | CenturyLink Field, Seattle; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Deshaun Watson has been a pleasant surprise for the Houston Texans (3-3). The rookie quarterback is second in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 15, and he remains a threat to take any broken play to the end zone with his feet. Watson’s emergence gives hope to a Houston franchise that has only won with defense in the past.

This week, Watson must find a way to beat Seattle (4-2) and the league’s eighth-ranked pass defense. Count on Pete Carroll throwing coverage looks and blitz packages at Watson that he’s never seen before. Offensively, the Seahawks rank 11th in passing yards per game (243.8) thanks to the elusive Russell Wilson, who has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,556 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wilson needs to be at his best against the Texans defense, even in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

The Cowboys & Redskins Are at a Crossroads
Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys
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Dallas at Washington | FedEx Field, Landover, Md.; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Longtime rivals Dallas (3-3) and Washington (3-3) find themselves at a crossroads in the 2017 season. Both teams have enough talent and time to make a run at a playoff spot, but either the Cowboys or the Redskins will likely find themselves three-and-a-half games behind the Eagles at the end of Sunday’s games. That’s a lot of ground to make up in the second half of the season, especially for a Washington team that’s lost to Philly twice already in 2017.

Dallas needs to protect quarterback Dak Prescott and get its Ezekiel Elliott-led running game going against the Redskins defense. Washington QB Kirk Cousins shouldn’t be stressed against a Cowboys defense that gives up 23.7 points per game, but he must eliminate turnovers. This isn’t quite an elimination game yet, but it’s damn close.

Le’Veon Bell Is Carrying the Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
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Pittsburgh at Detroit | Ford Field, Detroit; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

After a few terrible losses to the Bears and Jags, the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) have found their way back to the top of the AFC North thanks to the running of Le’Veon Bell. The NFL’s second-leading rusher, Bell has carried Pittsburgh to key wins over the Chiefs and Bengals the last two weeks. The more defenses key on Bell, the more that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should find an easier time passing the ball via play-action.

The bulk of the offense for Detroit (3-3) comes from quarterback Matt Stafford. Unfortunately for the Lions, the Pittsburgh defense is the NFL’s best against the pass and it sacks quarterbacks more often than every other team except Jacksonville. Since Stafford has been sacked an NFC-high 23 times this season, Sunday seems like it could be a long night for Motor City football fans.

Monday, October 30

The Chiefs & Broncos Are Sliding Into Mediocrity
Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs
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Denver at Kansas City | Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
AFC West contenders Kansas City (5-2) and Denver (3-3) both enter Monday’s prime time game on losing streaks. Unbeatable just a few weeks ago, the Chiefs (5-2) are suddenly in danger of falling back to the pack of AFC title contenders thanks to their two-game skid. It won’t get easier when the Broncos come into Arrowhead this Monday.

KC’s Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception this season, but he has been under pressure quite a bit (21 sacks). Denver’s Von Miller-led pass rush is likely to aggressively pursue Smith and try to force turnovers. The Broncos’ most pressing issue is their offense, which has scored just 10 points in the last two games. Quarterback Trevor Siemian will have to do better on Monday. The winner of this game takes a big step toward the division crown.

Other Games

Thursday, October 26
Miami at Baltimore | M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Sunday, October 29
Minnesota at Cleveland | Twickenham Stadium, London; 9:30 p.m. (ET) on NFL
Oakland at Buffalo | New Era Field, Buffalo; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Indianapolis at Cincinnati | Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Chicago at New Orleans | Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Atlanta at N.Y. Jets | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
San Francisco at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Carolina at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox

Bye Week:
Green Bay, Tennessee, L.A. Rams, N.Y. Giants, Arizona, Jacksonville

NFL Standings
NFL Stats

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