What to watch for in Week 8

Ryan Tannehill will try to lead the Dolphins past the Jets in New York. (US Presswire)

Week 8 means the first half of the NFL season is about to close out and it's starting to be clear which teams are good or bad.

Every team that made the playoffs last year, except Denver, had a winning record after Week 8. There are six teams deadlocked at 3-3 and all have a chance to get a winning record by the end of the weekend and stay in the playoff race.

Here are the things I'm looking for Sunday and Monday:

Can the rookie quarterbacks win on the road?

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First-year quarterbacks are 4-13 on the road, which is the reality of learning the position. Ryan Tannehill visits the Jets, RG3 heads to Pittsburgh, Andrew Luck travels to Tennessee, and Russell Wilson is in Detroit. Those are tall orders for all four, but to keep their teams' playoff hopes alive they must deliver.

Atlanta needs to go no-huddle

It is amazing to me how many people criticize the Falcons and like to say they really aren't a 6-0 team. As Bill Parcells likes to say, 'You are what your record says you are.' Believe me the Falcons are the only undefeated team for a reason. To stay undefeated on the road I sure hope they use their no-huddle, hurry-up offense. Why? Because new Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has never called a defense in the NFL and the Falcons need to apply as much pressure as they can. A hurry-up, no-huddle will reduce the defensive calls a team can make and create stress for the play-caller.

Going down to the wire is commonplace

Games are very close these days and the value of a kicker has never been more important. So far, 19 games have been decided in the final 2 minutes. Nine games have already gone to overtime and 30 games have been decided by three or fewer points. As for the kickers, 18 games have been decided by a field goal, the most in the first seven weeks of a season in 28 years.

Life without the middle linebacker

The Ravens and the Texans are lucky they have a bye this week to regroup from the loss of their middle linebackers (Ray Lewis and Brian Cushing). But the Cowboys and the Panthers have to try and win a game without the quarterback of their defense. Sean Lee (Dallas) and Jon Beason (Carolina) will not play and it should have a negative effect on the ability to play good defense. Look for the Giants and the Bears to rotate personnel groups, use more motions and shifts as well as "trading" the tight ends to force the backup MLB to make adjustments right up to the snap.

The last time

The last time the Redskins beat the Steelers RG3 was 1 year old. It seems like the Skins have been waiting a lifetime for their savior -- and literally they have. The last time the Rams beat the Patriots was 2001. St. Louis is still trying to make amends for the Super Bowl loss to the underdog Patriots 10 years ago. There was no last time the Cowboys beat the New York Giants in their beautiful new stadium. Eli Manning is not only 3-0 in Jerry's Place he autographed a wall in the new stadium after the first time the Giants won there. They have returned two more times to beat Dallas. In three games in Texas Stadium, Eli has thrown for 1,036 yards (345 per game), eight touchdowns and was only sacked one time in 121 pass plays. Is Dallas going to finally do something about it?

 
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