Week 7 certainly didn’t lack surprising outcomes. Top teams lost and bottom-dwellers won, producing plenty of movement in the NFL Power Rankings.
Now, in the wake of that wildness, we turn to a Week 8 slate that features a number of consequential matchups. With that in mind, it feels like a perfect time for a round of “Who needs the win MORE?” Let’s dig in, Schein Nine style.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? New York Jets
I’m still dubious about Zach Wilson, whose limitations are represented by his paltry touchdown total (four), but he’s played better lately, cutting down on turnovers (from four in Weeks 1 and 2 to two over his past four games). Breece Hall, who ranks 10th in rushing yards per game (71.0), can help carry the offensive load. And Gang Green’s defense is truly special. The Jets defeated Josh Allen in Week 1 and Jalen Hurts in Week 6, and they flummoxed Patrick Mahomes in a narrow Week 4 loss, holding the three star QBs to a single passing touchdown each. The Jets also picked off Allen three times, Hurts three times and Mahomes twice.
So the Jets’ defense should have little trouble against a Giants team averaging an NFL-worst 12.1 points per game, whether Tyrod Taylor makes another start or Daniel Jones returns under center. (For the record, I’ve long called for Taylor to start over Jones.) That said, the Giants had a chance to beat Buffalo in Week 6, and against Washington in Week 7, they sacked Sam Howell six times while securing their second win of the season. The Jets’ bye week was good to them, with the Bills and Dolphins both losing on Sunday. Gang Green’s playoff hopes are alive. Robert Saleh’s crew cannot lose the battle of New York to a talent-poor Giants squad.
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WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Pittsburgh Steelers
The Jaguars are rolling, having won four straight, thanks to some great, tough play from Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne’s nose for the end zone (he’s scored two touchdowns in each of his past three games). But we just saw T.J. Watt and the Steelers hold Matthew Stafford below 50 percent completions on Sunday. Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, meanwhile, mounted back-to-back scoring drives in the fourth quarter of the comeback win, in which Pittsburgh reached the 300-yard mark on offense for just the second time this season.
I’m a big Pickett backer, and while I was encouraged by his effort in Week 7, I think he and Canada need to seize the opportunity to build on the momentum they gained against the Rams. They should be able to unlock another level in this attack, now that Diontae Johnson is healthy and catching passes opposite George Pickens. The Jaguars have a fair amount of leeway in the AFC South, with the Texans being the only other team without a losing record. The Steelers, meanwhile, have zero margin for error in the AFC North, where they are scrapping for position with three other playoff contenders.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Los Angeles Chargers
This week’s edition of Sunday Night Football features a battle between two coaches who have generally had a rough go of it. But at least Matt Eberflus has won two of the Bears’ last three games, including an 18-point laugher against the Raiders on Sunday, with ex-Division II QB Tyson Bagent under center.
Brandon Staley’s Chargers, meanwhile, probably haven’t made anyone forget about the end to last season (a stunning playoff collapse against the Jaguars) or the season before that (when Staley played to win instead of settling for a tie against the Raiders — and lost, missing out on a playoff berth). We haven’t even dug into Staley’s recent eyebrow-raising in-game calls, or the regrettable decision not to sit Mike Williams in Week 18 of 2022. After Chicago, the Jets (whom we established above as a tough out above) and Lions loom on the Bolts’ slate. The Bears might offer Staley his best chance at getting through Week 10 with more than two wins.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Minnesota Vikings
Jordan Love played well in Weeks 1 and 2, but he’s done little since then to prove to his doubters (including me) that he can be Green Bay’s long-term answer at quarterback. Against the Raiders in Week 5, Love posted the sixth-worst passer rating (32.2) in a game by a Packers QB since 1992. His individual numbers looked better in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, but that matters little in light of his inability to muster even a single point in the first half against a Denver defense that entered the day allowing 33.3 points per game. Green Bay went all in on a post-Aaron Rodgers youth movement. If Matt LaFleur wants to avoid the first 10-loss campaign of his career, he has to get the Packers moving in the right direction.
And yet, I think Minnesota needs this one more. Allow me to explain …
The road has been bumpy for the Vikings, who started the season with three straight losses and are without Justin Jefferson until further notice. But they also just knocked off the 49ers, one of the top teams in the NFC. Kirk Cousins is fresh off his most brilliant performance ever in prime time. And Minnesota is just better than Green Bay, even without the game’s best receiver. I think the Vikings can still do damage this year, which is more than I can say about the Packers. If Minnesota can get back to .500 via a win at Green Bay, the Vikes can build on that momentum with a favorable schedule in the coming weeks. Bottom line: With more to lose, Minnesota is more in need of a win.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Cleveland Browns
These teams did not take the same path to a 4-2 record. Seattle is a well-coached, solid all-around squad that has shown it can hang with the other contenders in the NFC. Cleveland has relied on a heady combination of talent and luck to climb two games over .500 this season. Let me expand on that Browns commentary …
First, the talent: Myles Garrett is in superhero mode. Forget about the Defensive Player of the Year award — he’s giving off MVP vibes, rampaging his way to 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He leads an utterly nasty defense that dominates opponents, especially in the passing game. Cleveland is allowing 149.2 passing yards per contest, currently the lowest mark by an NFL team in a season since 1982.
Now, the luck: A missed field-goal late in Week 6 and some fortuitous Colts penalties in Week 7 helped the Browns win back-to-back games with PJ Walker under center. And Deshaun Watson’s availability is again up in the air. Figuring out a way to prevail against Seattle would sure give Cleveland a boost heading into the second half of the season.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Buffalo Bills
The Buccaneers jumped out to a surprising 3-1 start, but they’ve lost two straight since a Week 5 bye. Honestly, this is what the 2023 Bucs are: an erratic, incomplete team that will experience ebbs and flows. On the other hand, the Bills should be squarely in the Super Bowl mix, not losing to the anemic Patriots. So, the answer in this one is Buffalo.
After looking like an elite world-beat in Weeks 2-4 — outscoring the Raiders, Commanders and Dolphins by a combined tally of 123-33 — the Bills have played like zombies over the past three games. Totally unacceptable. Josh Allen remains a sensational individual talent, but he needs help from his play-caller and run game. Meanwhile, the defense still needs to figure out how to overcome crippling injury losses on all three levels: DT DaQuan Jones, LB Matt Milano and CB Tre’Davious White.
Hosting Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football, Buffalo needs to put on a show for Bills Mafia and build momentum for Week 9’s Sunday Night Football game at Cincinnati.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? New Orleans Saints
Both teams are 3-4, but they’re in entirely different spots. The Colts are facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs, with Anthony Richardson’s season-ending surgery forcing the team to soldier on with backup QB Gardner Minshew. The upside in Indy feels quite capped. Meanwhile, the Saints have lost four of their last five games … but they’re still just a game out of first place in the muddled NFC South.
Atlanta hardly has a stranglehold on the South with Desmond Ridder playing hot potato with the football. I still love the Saints’ talent and expect them to win the division, but I have my questions about this coaching staff. Can Dennis Allen and Co. get New Orleans back above .500 over the next two weeks with wins in Indianapolis and at home vs. Chicago? It’s definitely doable … so do it! The heat is on.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Las Vegas Raiders
Both teams were destroyed in Week 7, but there’s a totally different feel in the aftermath. Yes, the Lions got wrecked in Baltimore. 38-6 is humiliating. But the loss came against one of the NFL’s model franchises, who are quarterbacked by an electric former league MVP. And Detroit still holds a two-win advantage over the rest of the NFC North.
Meanwhile, the Raiders offer much less inspiration. They lost by 18 points to a Chicago team that had entered the game with a 1-5 mark in the standings and an undrafted rookie quarterback in the starting lineup. Las Vegas might currently sit in second place in the AFC West, but let’s be honest: Nobody’s gonna catch 6-1 Kansas City. After a 6-11 debut in 2022, Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels really needs to show progress in Year 2. Remember, McDaniels didn’t even make it through his second season as the head man in Denver. The coach and his team need this win more.
WHO NEEDS IT MORE? Los Angeles Rams
As Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told me last week on my SiriusXM Radio show, “Schein on Sports,” nobody gets more unjust scrutiny than Dak Prescott. It’s absolutely true. So, in theory, the answer is ALWAYS Dak and Dallas. But in reality, the Rams need this win more.
This is a fascinating Los Angeles outfit with more promise than most anticipated entering the season. Sean McVay’s team just had a golden opportunity to beat the Steelers, but former Cowboys kicker Brett Maher cost the Rams big time. (And in turn, cost himself a job.) I think the Rams are a playoff team, but I’ll feel much more bullish on that front if they can win in Dallas to get back to .500, as opposed to falling two games under. L.A. needs this more.
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