Week eight kicks off with an exciting Thursday night football matchup. The play-off race is taking shape as we move closer to the halfway point of the season.
Genius Sports Report takes a data led approach to four of the week’s most significant games.
Green Bay Packers (6-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (7-0):
Kick off time: Thursday 20:20 EST
Green Bay and Arizona face off in a primetime matchup that could have a major impact on the NFC playoff race.
With only one team earning a bye week in the playoffs, this matchup may be the deciding factor. The Packers have their hands full facing the number four ranked scoring offense and number one ranked scoring defense.
The Cardinals defense has been the deciding factor in their 7-0 start. Many counted on the explosive offense led by Murray and Hopkins, but overlooked a fierce new defensive identity with defensive end JJ Watt and Chandler Jones.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Cardinals lead the league in QB pressures leading to turnovers with 10 while three Cardinals’ defenders are tied for the league lead (3): Watt, Jones and Markus Golden.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4) @ Cleveland Browns (4-3):
Kick off time: Sunday 13:00 EST
Two storied franchises face off in an AFC North battle.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, currently below .500, have never had a losing season under head coach Mike Tomlin while the Cleveland Browns look to maintain pace in the division despite multiple key injuries.
Last week, Browns backup quarterback Case Keenum led the team to victory against the Denver Broncos.
Keenum found success passing to his running backs and slot receivers, going 11/12 for 102 yards and a +19.7 CPOE rating tracked by Next Gen Stats.
Running back D’Ernest Johnson led the team with 22 carries for 146 yards and one TD in his first ever start.
The Steelers are coming off a bye in week seven, but defeated the Seattle Seahawks in week six. Pittsburgh went back to its roots by running the ball and relying on their defense to cause turnovers. R
Rookie running back Najee Harris had 127 yards from scrimmage and a +7 YACOE rating tracked by Next Gen Stats.
All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt strip-sacked Seattle QB Geno Smith late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The turnover was Watt’s 12th turnover caused by pressure since 2018, 3rd most in the NFL during that span.
Tennessee Titans (5-2) @ Indianapolis Colts (3-4):
Kick off time: Sunday 13:00 EST
This is the second time these division opponents have faced each other this season with the Tennessee Titans winning the first game at home 25-16.
Both teams enter the game on winning streaks as the Colts have now won two straight matches, outscoring their opponents 61-21 in those wins.
The Titans will look to sweep the season series through a combination of physical runs from NFL rushing leader and MVP candidate Derrick Henry and a fierce defense.
Despite blitzing only 22% of pass plays (20th most) the Tennessee defense is first in QB pressures, 3rd in hurries and 9th in sacks.
Dallas Cowboys (5-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-3):
Kick off time: Sunday 20:20 EST
Dallas and Minnesota come off their bye weeks looking for big wins.
Despite Minnesota’s 3-3 record, QB Kirk Cousins has played well and the team’s three losses come from a combined 11 points, two of which were at the hands of the undefeated Cardinals and AFC leading Bengals.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott continue to impress the league. Prescott is second in the league with a 73.1% completion percentage and fifth in the league with 16 TD passes.
Elliott has returned to form and is currently fifth in rushing yards, despite having a bye last week.
QB Kirk Cousins leads an impressive air attack that will face a much improved Dallas defense from 2020.
Cousins has thrown three TDs and 0 INTs in five of his last eight games.
Meanwhile, the Dallas defense leads the league in interceptions (11) with second year CB Trevon Diggs leading the league with seven interceptions— two of which he has returned for touchdowns.