Related FeaturesWhatIfSports NFL Season-to-Date
FOXSports.com - NFL
Each Tuesday morning, we will preview every NFL game of the upcoming week. All of our NFL content, including our most recent power rankings and links to the pre-season preview are located here.
The inputs to the 10,001 simulations of each upcoming game are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date performance, click here.
Game of the Week: #6 Minnesota Vikings 22 @ #8 Green Bay Packers 25
Will Brett Favre and the Vikings run away with the NFC North? Or will they be locked in a battle with the Green Bay Packers from here on out?
Those questions could be answered with just one game on Sunday between Favre's new team and his old.
In two of the divisional races in the AFC, the top two teams are already separated by at least 2.5 games. Not so in the NFC. Only one division race has a first-place team even two games ahead of its closest foe, but that could change this week as the Viking's 1.5-game lead will either extend to 2.5 games - if Minnesota bounces back to from last week's debacle at Pittsburgh to win this week - or just 0.5 games if the Packers hand the Vikings their second consecutive loss. Minnesota won the first meeting between the teams, 30-23, and Green Bay will be desperately looking for a season split.
Green Bay hasn't lost since falling to Minnesota in Week 4. Since then, it has benefited from a bye week and games against two of the NFL's worst teams - the Packers outscored the hapless Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns 57-3 over the last two weeks. Thanks to four victories, none of them against teams with a winning record, the Packers' defense now ranks amongst the league's best. They're fifth in scoring defense, allowing just 16 points per game. Bolstered by an off-season switch to the 3-4 defense, opponents are rushing for 167 yards per game; they're doing so on just 3.5 yards per carry. The Packers are also giving up just 4.5 yards per play overall. The Packers don't rank quite as highly on the offensive side of the ball. They rank outside the top ten in rushing and passing yards per game, but their numbers per attempt look much better. Ryan Grant is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and Aaron Rodgers is passing for 8.3 yards per attempt. They will likely need to keep those numbers up against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
Minnesota's undefeated run came to an end on Sunday with a 27-17 loss at Pittsburgh. The Vikings, who were 6-0 up to that point, also boasted a few cupcake victories - over the Browns, Lions and St. Louis Rams - but had been able to edge some of the league's front-runners as well. Minnesota beat Green Bay, San Francisco and Baltimore by a combined 12 points, and the close games against tough teams took their toll on the Vikings' statistical rankings. They rank third in scoring with nearly 30 yards per game, but are outside the top ten in most other offensive categories. The Vikings are 12th in rushing yards per game despite having one of the best backs in the league. Adrian Peterson already has eight touchdowns and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, but with Favre at the helm, Minnesota has gone to its passing game far more than in previous seasons. Even with Favre, the oft pass-hungry Vikings are averaging less than seven yards per attempt. On defense, lineman Jared Allen was an absolute beast in the first meeting between the two teams. His early bid for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award has helped Minnesota hold opponents to just seven yards per passing attempt.
It looks like the Vikings will need some more heroics from Favre in his first trip back to Lambeau Field since parting ways with the Packers after the 2007 season. In 10,000 simulations, Green Bay exacts its revenge on Minnesota 54.8% of the time and by a score of 25-22. With the spread opening at just that margin - three - the Packers only cover 51.8% of the time. With the total at 47, the under is the stronger play, but it's pretty weak at just over 51% as well.
Green Bay gets the edge from a few bigger passing plays. In what many will surely view as another battle between Favre and his one-time backup and present-day successor Rodgers, the latter completes just one more pass on three more attempts, but throws for nearly 40 more yards, 0.2 more touchdowns and 0.2 fewer interceptions per simulation (View Boxscore).
The Packers also seem to take care of their offensive line woes. After giving up eight sacks to the Vikings in their first meeting, they give up just three this time around.
Our Against the Spread "Lock of the Week" is now 6-1 on the year and 22-4 all-time. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date accuracy, click here.
Click on the Boxscore below to the average results from 10,001 simulations of that game. Or click on Simulate Game to play the game once and view stats and play-by-play from that simulation.
NFL Week 8
|@ San Diego Chargers||84.9||30||Simulate Game|
|@ Arizona Cardinals||81.7||28||Simulate Game|
|@ Dallas Cowboys||81.7||30||Simulate Game|
|@ New Orleans Saints||81.5||29||Simulate Game|
|@ Chicago Bears||75.5||24||Simulate Game|
|San Francisco 49ers||29.1||17||Boxscore|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||70.9||25||Simulate Game|
|New York Giants||41.5||19||Boxscore|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||58.5||24||Simulate Game|
|@ New York Jets||57.9||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Green Bay Packers||54.8||25||Simulate Game|
|@ Tennessee Titans||50.1||25||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||57.9||21||Boxscore|
|@ Detroit Lions||42.1||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Baltimore Ravens||41.3||19||Simulate Game|
|@ Buffalo Bills||34.2||17||Simulate Game|
Other Notable Games in Week 8
Every week seems to be the week where NFL fans expect to see the Denver Broncos' undefeated start come to an end and this week is no different as they travel to Baltimore. In the simulations though, the Broncos keep their streak alive, winning 58.7% of the time on the road, but by an average margin of just one point in a defensive struggle that sees the under come through 63% of the time.
The tight race in the NFC East becomes just a smidgen clearer as front-runners New York and Philadelphia square off in the City of Brotherly Love. The home-standing Eagles, who struggled the past two weeks with Washington and Oakland, score a major victory 58.5% of the time and by a score of 24-19.
New Orleans and Indianapolis, the only other teams that remain undefeated heading into Week 8, both look like they'll extend their streaks into Week 9. The Saints top the Falcons 81.5% of the time and by double-digits, while the Colts beat the 49ers more than 70% of the time and by an average of eight points.
Other Notable Names in Week 8
Former #1 pick Alex Smith surely won't have an easy assignment as San Francisco hands the reins back to the former starter against Peyton Manning. Smith, who returned to action for the first time in nearly two years last week, throws for 172 yards, one touchdown and probably one interception in his first start since November 12, 2007.
Even with Leon Washington's season-ending injury, the Jets trampled all over the Oakland Raiders last week, rushing for 265 yards and three touchdowns in a rout. Rookie Shonn Greene and starter Thomas Jones have a little tougher outing against Miami and the league's eighth-ranked rushing defense this week. Jones rushes for almost 77 yards and Greene nearly 70, each averaging 0.6 touchdowns per game.
And Miles Austin, on an unprecedented two-game tear that includes more than 400 yards and four touchdowns (a pace of 128 receptions, 3,368 yards and 32 TDs over 16 games), has a decent chance to extend his streak of success to three games against Seattle and the 15th-ranked pass defense. Austin averages more than 80 yards and half a touchdown as the Cowboys roll at home.
Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in fantasy football simulation analysis and football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!