What’s in store this week as the NFL concludes October? It’s anybody’s guess.

“The NFL is kind of like a soap opera-every week has big storylines,” says Houston Texans running back ARIAN FOSTER, who finished with 234 scrimmage yards (115 rushing, 119 receiving) in the Texans’ 41-7 win over AFC South rival Tennessee. “But you have to go out and prove it every single day in practice and every single Sunday.”

And the storylines continue as we approach Week 8. For example:

  • There are 22 teams with a .500 record or better, the most through the first seven weeks in NFL history.
  • Comebacks have been a constant trend in 2011. There have been 21 games this season in which a team trailed by at least 10 points and came back to win. That total is the second-most through the first seven weeks all-time (23 in 1987).
  • The points are piling up. There have been 4,629 points scored in 2011, the most through seven weeks in NFL history. The 44.9 points per game average is the highest through seven weeks since 1970.

“One of the great lessons you learn in football is the courage to keep fighting when you’re down, when you’re knocked down over and over again, you’re going to keep getting up,” says Broncos quarterback TIM TEBOW, who helped Denver become the first team to win a game after trailing by 15+ points with three minutes remaining since 1970.

A look at some of the key games in Week 8:

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-3) at BUFFALO BILLS (4-2) in Toronto (Sunday, FOX, 4:05 PM ET)                 

 

The Buffalo Bills return to Canada for a regular-season game for the fourth consecutive year when they host the Redskins at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

 

Buffalo is in the midst of a turnaround season, starting 4-2 in 2011 after posting an 0-6 mark at this point a year ago. The Bills’ success this season has been sparked by an offense that averages 31.3 points per game, third-best in the NFL, and a defensive unit that has registered 16 takeaways (12 interceptions, four fumble recoveries), tied for the most in the league.

 

“We still have to go out there and perform every week and not be satisfied with what we’ve done, but continue to work,” says Bills quarterback RYAN FITZPATRICK. “We’ve got big expectations.  We’ve got a lot of confidence in this locker room.  We’re going to keep expecting things to go well for us.”

 

The Redskins arrive in Toronto with a 3-3 record and seek to end a two-game losing streak after a 3-1 start. 

 

“We have to win,” says Redskins head coach MIKE SHANAHAN. “That’s the nature of the game. We have to find a way to win.”

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-1) at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-2) (Sunday, CBS, 4:15 PM ET)                 

 

At least one of these two teams has played in eight of the past 10 AFC Championship Games (Patriots five appearances; Steelers five appearances), including facing each other in the 2001 and 2004 conference championship games.

 

“Both teams know each other well, so I don’t think there will be a ton of surprises here,” says Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK. “It will come down to preparation, execution and decision making on game day.”

 

New England returns from the bye week riding a three-game winning streak. With a victory on Sunday, the Patriots’ quarterback-head coach tandem of TOM BRADY and Belichick (116) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO and DON SHULA of Miami for the most wins (116) by a quarterback-head coach duo in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

 

“I feel like I have a good player-coach relationship with Tom,” says Belichick. “We have spent through the years a decent amount of time together on a regular basis. I think that’s important. We talk regularly during the week about what’s going to happen, how we’re doing it and then we review what did happen and then we move on to the next stage. It’s a continuous cycle that we’ve kind of been in that routine for a lot of years now. I think it’s good to have a good line of communication with your quarterback.”

 

Pittsburgh has won three games in a row after a 2-2 start and is back to its stingy ways on defense. The Steelers have allowed an NFL-low in passing yards (171.9 yards per game) this season, which will be put to the test against the Patriots’ league-best passing attack (350.5 yards per game)

 

“There have been winning performances and that is what is required of us in order to be the kind of team that we desire to be,” says Steelers head coach MIKE TOMLIN. “We are perfect by no stretch. I think we are improving and finding ways to win along the way. The arrow is pointed up and we need to continue moving in that direction.”

 

DALLAS COWBOYS (3-3) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-4) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)                

 

The Eagles are refreshed after a bye in Week 7 and begin a three-game stretch at home with Dallas, Chicago and Arizona. Philadelphia looks to gain momentum from a 20-13 win at Washington in Week 6.

 

“The fact that we got the win before the bye is good because now we can put some wins together,” says Eagles cornerback NNAMDI ASOMUGHA. “I think for a young team and a new team, getting that win is a good spark. It’s what you need and hopefully it helps more people believe what we can do.”

The Eagles have won 12 consecutive games after a bye, the longest such winning streak since the bye was instituted in 1990Philadelphia is an NFL-best 18-4 (.818) after a bye.

 

The Cowboys ride into Philadelphia after a breakout performance in Week 7 from rookie running back DE MARCO MURRAY. A third-round selection from Oklahoma, Murray rushed for a franchise-record 253 yards with one touchdown in the Cowboys’ 34-7 win over St. Louis.  Murray’s 253 rushing yards were the second-most in a game by a rookie in NFL history (ADRIAN PETERSON, 296).

 

Dallas, which defeated the Redskins 18-16 in Week 3, can improve to 2-0 in the NFC East with a win.

 

“It’ll be a great challenge for us,” says Cowboys head coach JASON GARRETT on facing the Eagles. “They’re an awful good football team at their place. They’ve got a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball. We know the challenges of the Cowboys playing the Eagles. We’ve got to get locked in on that. There’s a lot of football to be played.”

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-2) at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (3-3) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)                

 

First place in the AFC West will be on the line when the San Diego Chargers visit the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Halloween.

 

The Chiefs have certainly made a comeback in 2011. Kansas City started the season at 0-3 and have now won their past three games. With a win on Monday night, the Chiefs canbecome the first team since the 2000 Pittsburgh Steelers to start a season 0-3 and win its next four games.

 

“The great part about what this team has done is we continue to grind and take it one game at a time,” says Chiefs quarterback MATT CASSEL. “You can see us get better from the start of the season until now and hopefully we’ll continue to make progress. Again, we know it’s a one-game season every week and the San Diego Chargers are the next team on this list.”

 

San Diego hopes to rebound from a 27-21 loss to the New York Jets last week. The Chargers are 20-6 (.769) against the AFC West under head coach NORV TURNER and are focused on getting back on track in a pivotal divisional road game.

 

“We play them twice a year and we know them,” says Turner. “It’s going to be a very, very physical game.  It’s going to be in Kansas City on Monday night and it’s a very difficult place to play. It’s going to be a great challenge.”

###

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 8

 

2011 GAMES ARE THISCLOSE: Seven games in Week 7 were decided by seven points or fewer, four of which featured pivotal scores in the game’s waning moments. Thus far in 2011, 54 games have been decided by seven points or fewer,tied for the second-most such contests ever through the first seven weeks

 

The most games decided by seven or fewer points through Week 7 and Week 8:

 

MOST GAMES DECIDED BY

SEVEN-OR-FEWER POINTS

THROUGH WEEK 7

 

MOST GAMES DECIDED BY

SEVEN-OR-FEWER POINTS

THROUGH WEEK 8

1999

55

 

1999

62

2011

54

 

1983

60

2010

54

 

1987

57

1983

51

 

1988

56

1988

50

 

2010

56

1982

50

 

 

 

 

— NFL —

 

MORE SCORESThere have been 4,629 points scored in 2011, the most through seven weeks in NFL history. The 44.9 points per game average is the highest through seven weeks since 1970.

 

Nine teams in 2011 are averaging at least 25 points per game, on pace to tie 2008 for the highest number of teams to average 25+ points per game in NFL history.

 

2011 POINTS PER GAME LEADERS

POINTS PER GAME*

 

MOST TEAMS TO AVG. 25.0+ POINTS

PER GAME IN A SEASON

New Orleans Saints

34.1

 

Green Bay Packers

32.9

 

2011

9*

Buffalo Bills

31.3

 

2008

9

New England Patriots

30.8

 

2009

8

San Francisco 49ers

27.8

 

2007

8

Detroit Lions

27.7

 

1975

8

Houston Texans

26.0

 

1967

8

Baltimore Ravens

25.8

 

*Through Week 7

 

New York Giants

25.7

 

 

 

*Through Week 7

 

 

 

 

 

— NFL —

 

HOME IS WHERE THE START ISThe Buffalo Bills will play a regular-season home game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto for the fourth consecutive year when they host the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

 

Buffalo has won its first three home games this season, bettering or matching its home win total of each of the past three seasons. With a victory in Toronto, Buffalo would become the eighth team in NFL history to win its first four home games after starting the previous season 0-4 at home.

 

TEAM

WINLESS HOME START

NEXT SEASON HOME START

Cleveland Browns

0-4 in 1956

6-0 in 1957*

Cincinnati Bengals

0-6 in 1987

8-0 in 1988*

Atlanta Falcons

0-4 in 1997

8-0 in 1998*

San Diego Chargers

0-5 in 2000

4-0 in 2001

Chicago Bears

0-4 in 2000

4-0 in 2001

Carolina Panthers

0-5 in 2007

8-0 in 2008*

Kansas City Chiefs

0-4 in 2009

7-0 in 2010

 

 

 

Buffalo Bills

0-4 in 2010

3-0 in 2011

*Finished the season undefeated at home

 

— NFL —

 

ONES VS. ONESIn Week 8, the NFL’s top passing and rushing attacks will face their defensive counterparts. 

 

Division leaders New England and Pittsburgh own the best passing offense (NE, 350.4 net pass yards per game) and passing defense (Pit., 171.9 net pass yards allowed per game), respectively, and meet this Sunday at Heinz Field.

 

In Week 14 of 2007, the Patriots and Steelers ranked first in the same categories entering their matchup, a game that resulted in a 34-13 Patriots’ home victory.

 

Sunday Night Football features an NFC East tilt between Philadelphia’s top-rated rush offense (170 yards per game) and Dallas’ top-ranked rush defense (69.7 yards allowed per game). 

 

— NFL —

 

GIVE ME FIVEMinnesota Vikings running back ADRIAN PETERSON leads the league in rushing yards (712) and rushing touchdowns (8) this season. Peterson, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl the past three years (2008-2010), needs 38 rushing yards this weekend at Carolina to register his fifth consecutive season with at least 750 rush yards and eight touchdowns. 

 

Peterson can join Pro Football Hall of Famers JIM BROWN and EMMITT SMITH and LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON as the only running backs to register 750 rushing yards and eight touchdowns or more in five consecutive seasons to start a career.

 

RUNNING BACKS WITH 750+ RUSHING YD & 8+ RUSHING TD SEASONS

PLAYER

TEAM

MOST CONSEC. TO BEGIN A CAREER

LaDainian Tomlinson

San Diego Chargers

8 (2001-2008)

Emmitt Smith

Dallas Cowboys

7 (1990-1996)

Jim Brown

Cleveland Browns

7 (1957-1963)

 

 

 

Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings

4 (2007-2010)*

*712 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns

 

 

— NFL —

 

CAM CAN: 2011 first-round draft choices CAM NEWTON (No. 1, Carolina) and CHRISTIAN PONDER (No. 12, Minnesota) will start at quarterback in the Vikings-Panthers game. Newton, who started opposite of rookie quarterback BLAINE GABBERT (No. 10, Jacksonville) in Week 3, will become the first rookie quarterback selected in the first round to start against two first-round quarterbacks from his class since the advent of the common draft in 1967

 

Last week, Newton passed for 256 yards with one touchdown to record his fourth 250-yard passing game. If he passes for at least 250 yards against Minnesota, Newton will become the fourth quarterback since 1960 to reach 250 passing yards in five games during his rookie campaign.

 

QUARTERBACK

ROOKIE YEAR

TEAM

250-YD. PASSING GAMES

Peyton Manning

1998

Indianapolis Colts

6

Sam Bradford

2010

St. Louis Rams

5

Matt Ryan

2008

Atlanta Falcons

5

 

 

 

 

Cam Newton

2011

Carolina Panthers

4*

*Through seven games

 

 

 

— NFL —

 

CHIEF CHANGE: The Kansas City Chiefs started the season 0-3 and have won their past three games. With a win on Monday Night Football against AFC West rival San Diego, Kansas City can become the first team since the 2000 Pittsburgh Steelers to start a season 0-3 and win its next four games.

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