This week will mark the halfway point on the schedule for many NFL teams. The early-season excitement and optimism that permeates each organization has now given way to the grind of the 16-game NFL schedule.
There are a handful of intriguing divisional matchups in Week 8, including the second AFC East battle of the season between the Patriots and Bills. A month ago, Buffalo went into New England and shutout the Tom Brady-less Patriots, 16-0. The rematch, which figures to be vastly different with Brady now back under center, is featured in this week's look at the NFL's biggest mismatches.
Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals (-3, 47)
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green vs. Redskins Pass Defense
Dalton and Green have spearheaded the NFL's fourth-best passing attack with 276.9 YPG through the air. Green (50 Rec, 775 YDS, 3 TDs) has the league's second-most receptions, while Dalton has thrown just two INT's and posted a passer rating 100.7.
This week they face a below-average Redskins pass defense. Big-ticket signing Josh Norman has been an improvement on one corner, but this unit still ranks just 17th against the pass. Washington has allowed an average of at least 10.0 yards per catch in every game but two, and those were against the offensively-challenged Browns and Ravens. Things have been even worse in recent weeks as both the Lions and Eagles gouged the Redskins for at least 13.0 per catch the previous two games. Those are dreadful numbers.
The one thing that could alter this potential mismatch is the pass rush on Dalton. The Redskins have done a good job getting to the QB as their 19 sacks ranks seventh in the league. This week they face a Bengals team that's allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL (22).
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (+6.5, 47)
LeGarrette Blount vs. Bills Run Defense
Blount, who has averaged a hefty 20.4 carries per game this season, ranks sixth in rushing yards (566) and is tied for league-lead in touchdowns with eight. The bruising back has led the Patriots to the sixth-best ground attack at 122.7 yards per game.
Buffalo did a good job of containing Blount back in the Week 4 matchup, holding him to 54 yards on 13 carries, but that came with Brady out and Rob Gronkowski severely limited . The Patriots utter lack of a passing threat to keep things honest allowed the Brothers Ryan to stack the line against the run. But with New England's two Pro Bowlers back in the lineup, that would seem an unwise strategy this time around.
The Bills enter with the league's sixth-worst run defense (125.0 YPG). They have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground each of the past three weeks, which includes being gouged for 256 rushing yards by the Dolphins last week. This could be a case of pick your poison for Buffalo.
Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints (+2.5, 48)
Seahawks Offensive Line vs. Saints Pass Rush
The Saints have just nine sacks all season, which is tied for the third-fewest in the league. That tally doesn't figure to rise much this week. The Seahawks have given up just 11 sacks all season, the fifth-fewest in the NFL.
This lack of pass rush is nothing new in New Orleans. The Saints have consistently had one of the league's worst pass defenses-this season they rank No. 30 against the pass-and it's due largely to the inability to get to the passer. Opposing quarterbacks are rarely if ever pressured into mistakes, which is evidenced by New Orleans' grand total of two interceptions all season.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense has struggled this season, but the numbers suggest a trip down to the bayou could be the perfect antidote.
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