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ProCanes NFL Week Eight Preview: Vilma Enshrined, Duke in London, Graham’s Streak

Even in the NFL, you don’t have to look too hard to see the bond that is the ’Canes family.

NFL Divisional Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

After this week, half of the NFL season will be behind us. It’s a humbling point to think that the conclusion of the regular season is almost upon us. However, we now know who the contenders, pretenders, and those who will be looking to draft some Hurricanes in the 2018 NFL are at this point. Week eight action will feature plenty of Miami alums in the spotlight of entertaining and crucial games on Sunday.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots 1PM EDT

Big plays are all WR Travis Benjamin knows. He was able to break a 65-yard punt return touchdown against the Broncos last week,, the fourth punt return touchdown of his career. Benjamin added a 42-yard receiving touchdown to help the Chargers pull back into contention in the AFC West division race. This week, the Chargers travel to the Eastern Standard Time zone to faceoff with the Patriots, who appear to have found their footing in the last three games. Los Angeles would love to get another special team’s score from Benjamin to take the pressure off of QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. Even just flipping the field would be huge for the Chargers who have a habit of starting games slow when leaving the Pacific timezone.

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots
With an explosive weapon such as WR Phillip Dorsett going off the bench, the Patriots remain loaded on offense in 2017.

Slowly but surely, WR Phillip Dorsett has been getting more snaps on offense for the Patriots. With Danny Amendola’s history of injures, Dorsett has been on some snaps, but has yet to connect with QB Tom Brady. WR Chris Hogan, WR Brandin Cooks, and TE Rob Gronkowski remain the focal point of the Patriots’ passing game. Dorsett has been primarily used on big plays down the field, stretching opposing defenses vertically, but for now Dorsett remains an insurance policy more than an integral chess piece.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns 9:30 AM EDT

There is nothing harder in the NFL than winning a game. You don’t need to explain that to the Cleveland Browns. TE David Njoku has played as well as one could hope in his rookie season with Cleveland. Njoku enters Sunday’s game with a stat line of 16 receptions for 176 receiving yards and three touchdowns. What doesn’t help Njoku is the instability at quarterback for the Browns. With two first-half interceptions and post-game criticism for indulging in Cleveland’s nightlife, QB DeShone Kizer was benched and unable to finish another game as the starting quarterback. The drought in Cleveland worsened, now that stalwart LT Joe Thomas will miss the rest of the season with a tricep injury. If the Browns can’t find anyone to establish themselves as the go-to QB, it’s going to continue to be tough sledding for any player on that offense.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
Could RB Duke Johnson and the Browns earn their first win of the season on foreign soil?
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

One shining hope for Cleveland’s offense has been the play of Duke Johnson. Against the Titans, Johnson appeared to have made a couple big plays, only to have them come back because of penalties. Johnson was targeted a team high of seven times, catching six receptions for 45 receiving yards and rushing for 26 yards on seven carries. Johnson could see a similar total in targets to last week’s total, given how well Minnesota defends the run as the third-ranked team in rushing defense. With the Browns averaging just 92.3 yards per carry rushing, it would be beneficial to look for their x-factor on offense in the hopes of pulling off their first win of the season.

The Vikings suffered a couple injuries along the offensive line in last week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. Fortunately, G Danny Isidora was active, providing a key block that sprung RB Latavius Murray for a touchdown run. At the time of posting, it’s unclear if Isidora would be in line for his first career start in place of the injured G Jeremiah Sirles or G Nick Easton.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals 1PM EDT

The Colts are one of the most prepared and well-run teams in the NFL. Yet, they could not have predicted that their season would be as miserable at it has been to date. QB Andrew Luck does not appear like he will be ready to participate in a game anytime soon. Current start Jacoby Brissett has shown flashes, but has been unable to provide any consistency on an offense that possesses weapons. After last week’s beatdown at the hands of the Jaguars, Colts WR TY Hilton went on to call out the subpar play of the offensive line in the 140 characters or less forum.

RB Frank Gore has not made a comment about the situation, but if his 3.4 yards per carry average were an emoji, it probably would have given a thumbs up to Hilton’s comments. That said, Gore and the Colts’ offensive matchup with a Bengals’ defense that was gashed by Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers for 134 rushing yards. Cincinnati will look to continue the misery for a Colts’ offense that can hardly get anyone out of the way.

Houston Texans vs. Seattle Seahawks 4:05PM EDT

Houston RB Lamar Miller appeared to enjoy his bye week, returning to his alma mater to watch the Hurricanes beat the Syracuse Orange. Playing the Seattle Seahawks’ defense feels like a rude welcoming committee. Winners of their last three games, Seattle’s front-seven have limited running backs to minimal gains, with Rams’ RB Todd Gurley being the only back to rush for more than 40 yards during the streak. For his part, Miller has rushed for at least 40 yards in every game this season. Considering the scrambling ability of Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson, that added dimension may force Seattle to hesitate for a heartbeat to compute where the Texans will go with the ball. Houston’s offense—now that WR Will Fuller is healthy—has opened up, which could give the Seahawks and their ‘Legion of Boom’ secondary all that it could handle.

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants
TE Jimmy Graham’s uptick in production and the Seahawks’ success on offense are not coincidental.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s actually happening. Seattle’s offense finally realizes that they should get the ball to TE Jimmy Graham. Graham rewarded the team catching a touchdown and three catches for 51 yards. The former ’Canes’ hoop star now has touchdowns in back-to-back games, a feat that Graham hasn’t achieved since the 2014 regular season when he scored four touchdowns in a three-game span. There are some unknowns for Houston’s defense that will be with DL JJ Watt and LB Whitney Mercilus. Can Houston still get to Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson without their big stars? It will be a productive day for Graham if that answer is no.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions 8:30PM EDT

When the discussion is brought up about who the two best teams in the AFC are, the two teams you hear are the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Black and Yellow have hit another gear in recent weeks on both sides of the ball. Even with criticism of QB Ben Roethlisberger and trade demands of WR Martavis Bryant, the Steelers continue to illustrate why this may be their season to win it all.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs
Taking a big step in his second season, CB Artie Burns has become one of the better coverage defenders in the NFL.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

CB Artie Burns has truly stepped his game up in his second year in the league. Burns has an 82 coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus, and did a good job last week against Bengal receivers. The Lions are coming off a bye in week seven, after a shootout against the Saints in week six. Even with WR Golden Tate out for the game with an arm injury, Lions QB Matthew Stafford will look to the air to give Detroit a shot of pulling off the win. Look for Burns to get after Lions’ receiver Marvin Jones Jr. Sunday night in a matchup that favors the improving corner.

LB Anthony Chickillo continues to see his fair share of snaps on defense as well as special teams. Chickillo is a reserve linebacker who comes on the field during the Steelers’ linebacker rotation. He has not picked up a stat in the last four games.

ProCanes Fantasy Player of the Week

RB Lamar Miller

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texan
Finding the end zone against the Seahawks could be tough, but RB Lamar Miller should be up to the challenge Sunday.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

We’re going back to the well by selecting Lamar Miller. The matchup against the Seahawks is not the best, but you could do worse this week. Miller serves as a good flex option in standard leagues, with the added bonus of being Houston’s best receiving back out of the backfield to have value in PPR (points per reception) leagues.

Quick Outs

  • Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell set a new career best with 10.5 sacks. He also leads the league in total sacks entering week eight.
  • Former linebacker, ESPN analyst and entrepreneur Jonathan Vilma was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Vilma played for six seasons with the Saints, earning two Pro Bowl appearances in New Orleans.
  • NFL Analyst and HOF WR Michael Irvin summarized Miami’s 24–19 win against North Carolina on Saturday