Here are Derrick Gunn's five matchups to watch for Week 8 of the NFL season.
Cardinals at Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Don't look now, but the Cardinals have won three in a row. Their defense is third in the league in sacks with 22, but the defense as a whole has had issues defending the run (129.1 yards per game) and pass (263.3 yards per game), which explains why that unit is ranked 29th overall. Young QB Kyler Murray is showing signs of progress but still going through growing pains. As for the Saints, Teddy Bridgewater is putting himself in line for a big payday next year. But that's for later - right now, Bridgewater is 5-0 since taking over for Drew Brees. Arizona has had a nice run, but a win in New Orleans is not in the cards.
Chargers at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX)
Philip Rivers is still the same gunslinger, but the Chargers as a whole have been shooting blanks and are currently tied for last in the AFC West at 2-5. They've lost three straight and have all kinds of injuries along their offensive line. The return of RB Melvin Gordon has not helped improve their lethargic run game (27th in the NFL with 74.3 yards per game). The Bears' run game is just as putrid (28th with 70.0 yards per game). Chicago's stout defense fell apart against the Saints, allowing a season-high 424 yards. This will be Mitchell Trubisky's second game back from a shoulder injury. For me, defense is the key in this one, and I like the Bears' defense more than the Chargers'.
Panthers at 49ers, (Sunday, 4:05 p.m., FOX)
The Panthers are coming off a bye. Cam Newton is back on the field at practice, but head coach Ron Rivera made it clear early this week that Kyle Allen will be the starter, and why not? Allen is 4-0, completing 65.5 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Carolina, led by all-purpose back Christian McCaffrey, will be put to the test against a Niners squad that has yet to be defeated. San Francisco's second-ranked defense has been playing lights out. The Niners have gaven up just 64 points, second-fewest in the league. They're No. 1 against the pass (133.5 yards per game) ands second in points allowed (10.7 points per game). The Panthers are trying to stay hot on the Saints' heels in the NFC South, but will run into a roadblock out west.
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Raiders at Texans (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS)
The Raiders' offense is balanced. Derek Carr can sling it and rookie RB Josh Jacobs can pound it on the ground (554 yds rushing, 5.1 yards per carry). Their defense, especially against the pass (31st with 289.8 yards allowed per game), is a major problem. That's good news for the Texans, who have WR DeAndre Hopkins on one side of the field and Kenny Stills on the other side. In a strange move, the Raiders traded starting CB Gareon Conley to the secondary-depleted Texans. The Raiders will keep this one close if their ground game can move the chains, but they won't take down Houston at home.
Browns at Patriots (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS)
In the New England area, they're saying this could be the best Patriots defense of all time. The Patriots are first in overall defense with 223.1 yards allowed per game, 26 sacks and 18 interceptions. But those lofty stats have been compiled with wins over the Jets (twice), Miami, Washington, and the Giants. The Pats also got an upgrade to their passing game this week with a trade that gave them former Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu. All the hype about the Browns has been just that - all hype and little substance. Cleveland is coming off a bye at 2-4 and doing a lot of soul searching. The Browns desperately need a win to boost morale. Unfortunately for them, they're in Tom Brady's house.
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