Five things to watch: NFL Week 8

Five things I’ll be looking at in the eighth week of the 2017 NFL season:

1. What was expected to be an interesting game between 3-3 Houston and 4-2 Seattle took on new significance in the wake of Texans’ owner Bob McNair’s inmate comments.

It’s uncertain if the Texans plan a pre-game protest. And whether the uproar will become a distraction that will affect their play. It could pull them apart or make them come together.

Either way, the game will now get a lot of attention.

2. Atlanta at 3-3 will be attempting to snap a three-game losing streak when it goes to the 3-4 New York Jets.

The Falcons are trying to get their offense back on track after a disappointing showing against the Patriots last week. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is getting a lot of flak, but the offensive players are struggling.

The Jets are on a roller coaster ride, losing two, winning three and then losing the last two weeks to the Patriots and Dolphins.

3. The Los Angeles Chargers’ visit to New England will feature a duel between Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.

The Chargers started out 0-4, but won their last three and can reach .500 with a victory. The Patriots defense had given up 300 yards in passing every week until clamping down on Matt Ryan last week.

Rivers will test the Patriots defense to see whether it really has started to improve. The Patriots offense needs to give Brady more protest because he is taking too many hits but it still having a good season at age 40.

4. The Kansas City Chiefs will be trying to end their two-game losing streak after a 5-0 start when they host the 4-3 Denver Broncos on Monday night.

A key is whether the Broncos can stop rookie Kareem Hunt, who was held to 108 yards in the two losses. Kansas City coach Andy Reid has had 11 days to prepare for this game since losing to Oakland on the final play last Thursday night.

5. Dallas and Pittsburgh are two of the NFL’s best attractions and the league is hoping they can improve the ratings.

Dallas will play in the second game of the Fox doubleheader against Washington in a nationally televised game. And then Pittsburgh goes to Detroit for the Sunday night game. The Steelers will be in prime time five of the next six weeks.

The Atlanta at New England Super Bowl rematch Sunday night was a disappointment and wasn’t the highest-rated Sunday night game of the year.  It ranked second to the Dallas-Washington Sunday night opener.

The NFL hopes the ratings will improve in the second half of the season and are hoping Dallas and Pittsburgh can be a big part of that.

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