Three-and-out: NFL’s best matchups of Week 8

While there are plenty of NFL dog matchups in Week 8, there are a couple of good ones on Sunday afternoon and perhaps the best game of the year to date on Sunday night as the calendar turns to November.

New York Giants (4-3) at New Orleans Saints (3-4)

The Saints appear to be finding life after Jimmy Graham and have won three of the last four in this series, but the two NFC teams haven’t met in three years and much has changed since then (Graham is gone for the Saints; Odell Beckham Jr. is in the NFL … in case you hadn’t heard).

The quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Drew Brees, couldn’t be much closer in their stats this season. Manning has three more passes (259), three fewer completions (168) and 95 fewer yards (1,776). But he also has three more touchdown passes and the same amount of interceptions (four) as Brees.

The Giants have Beckham Jr. leading the receiving corps with 42 catches for 524, but he also has a sore hamstring. But don’t expect him to sit out for his homecoming – he from New Orleans and played at LSU.

The Saints answer with Brandin Cooks with 35 catches for 444 yards, and the Saints average 52 more yards per game. The Giants, however, are atop the league with a plus-10 takeaway advantage, with CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie coming up with two interceptions last week, including a 58-yard touchdown.

While the Saints are known for Brees and his passing attack, RB Mark Ingram rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown last week and is third among NFL backs with 685 scrimmage yards. His father, Mark, was a receiver for the Giants, adding to the Beckham connection to New Orleans.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

The Steelers can get right back in division contention if they can knock off the undefeated Bengals, and Pittsburgh has won 8 of the last 10 in the series while Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is only 7-18 against the Steelers.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton continues to lead the league with a 116.1 passer rating and proved he knows how to win on the road. He needs one more road win to tie Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan for most wins on the road (23) in a quarterback’s first five seasons. The Steelers get the return of Roethlisberger, but how much will a brace on his knee affect him? He brings with him a 113.1 rating so far this season and has won 8 of his last 10 against the Bengals.

Both teams also feature solid running games. The Bengals are led by Giovani Bernard with 427 yards and Jeremy Hill has 623 scrimmage yards in seven career road starts. The Steelers counter with Le'Veon Bell and his 511 yards.

They each have star receivers, too. For Cincinnati, it’s A.J. Green with 531 yards and he averages more than 100 yards per game in his last five against Pittsburgh. For Pittsburgh, it’s the defending yardage leader of the league, Antonio Brown, who has 671 yards so far and leads the league with 285 catches and 3,868 yards since 2013.

Both teams have plus-3 turnover ratios and similar defensive numbers, further adding to the competitiveness between them.

Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Denver Broncos (6-0)

The only Week 8 matchup of the five undefeated teams left in the league takes place on prime time Sunday night, with both teams coming off their bye weeks and not having played each other in four years.

The Aaron Rodgers vs. Peyton Manning storyline has soured a bit with Manning struggling this year. He has seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 72.5 rating. Meanwhile, Rodgers leads the NFC with a 115.9 rating on 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Surprisingly, Green Bay is ranked higher in rushing offense than passing offense, but Denver has the top-ranked defense, the top-ranked pass defense and the fourth-ranked run defense. Success won’t be so easy for the Packers offense as it has been in recent games this season. Eddie Lacy is still considered the top dog in the backfield, but James Starks had 112 yards on the ground in Green Bay’s last game and scored two touchdowns.

While the Green Bay defense allows 355 yards per game, Denver’s 281 is best in the league.

Both teams can dial up the pressure, with Green Bay tied for the league lead with 23 sacks and 10 of those coming from linebackers Julius Peppers (5½) and Clay Matthews (4½). Denver counters with pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, who has 4½ sacks in his past five games, an element of the Broncos defense that helps cornerbacks like Aqib Talib and Chris Harris.

With both teams at 6-0, this isn’t just the best matchup of the week, it’s likely the best matchup of the 2015 season to date.

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