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Terrance Williams/Associated Press
Every week in the National Football League is a roller coaster, and Week 8 of the 2020 season was no different.
In Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers remained the lone unbeaten team in the league, downing the rival Ravens in a hard-fought affair.
In Cincinnati, the first NFL season for quarterback Joe Burrow continued to be an impressive one as he and the Bengals stunned the previously 5-1 Tennessee Titans.
In Miami, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made his professional debut, helping to lead the ‘Fins to a shocking victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
At Lambeau Field, Green Bay’s chances of being the No. 1 seed in the NFC took a sizable hit, courtesy of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and his four-touchdown day.
And that was just the 1 p.m. ET slate of games.
It was a week of fantastic performances and face-plants. Of emphatic wins and crushing losses. As is the case every week, Week 8’s action sent shock waves through the NFL’s pecking order.
As Week 8 moves from present to past, Bleacher Report NFL Analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have gathered to sift through the rubble and sort the NFL’s teams from No. 32 to No. 1.
There’s no change at the ends (high or low), but the rest went through the proverbial blender.
1 of 32
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Last Week: 32
Week 8 Result: Lost at Kansas City 35-9
Adam Gase needs a hug.
After watching his New York Jets get blasted 35-9 by the defending Super Bowl champs in Kansas City, the embattled head coach offered this nugget of wisdom to reporters.
“I’m doing this job to win,” Gase said, “not to get my face stomped in.”
It’s understandable if some people thought the Jets actually were doing this job to get their faces stomped in—because they have become exceptionally good at it.
The Jets are terrible in every way a team can be. Quarterback Sam Darnold’s confidence looks shot. The offense can’t move the ball. The defense can’t stop anyone.
At this point, the Jets look to be on a collision course with the worst record in the NFL, if not a winless season. That would mean the first pick in 2021—and likely drafting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
It’s fair to wonder if Darnold would be sad about being replaced as the Jets starter or relieved.
2 of 32
Derik Hamilton/Associated Press
Last Week: 31
Week 8 Result: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Monday Night Football)
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said in a press conference earlier this week that the Giants are close to winning some games. The team just needs to figure out how to close teams out:
“When you look at a lot of these games this year, like you said, we’ve been close. It’s come down to a couple plays or a possession there at the end. When you look at it, you have to look at the entire game. I think you can see a lot of positives, a lot of things we’ve done well. Like you said, we have to find a way to finish. I think you can take good from it, you can certainly take a lot of positives from it and learn from what’s led to us ultimately not getting the results that we’ve hoped for.”
That Jones made those statements in the week following New York choking away an 11-point lead in Week 7 against the Philadelphia Eagles is very Giants.
Long story short, the Giants are terrible. Jones hasn’t played well. The offense is awful. The defense might be worse.
The only thing that is keeping this team out of the basement in these power rankings is the Jets.
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Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
Last Week: 30
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
The Jaguars had a very Jacksonville bye week—in that even when the team didn’t play, something went wrong.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com), when the Jags return to action next week against the similarly floundering Houston Texans, it will be without starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II. The second-year pro had been dealing with discomfort in his throwing hand, which turned out to be because of a sprained ligament and small fracture.
Either veteran Mike Glennon or rookie Jake Luton will be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback in Week 9. Given that Minshew almost got the hook in favor of Glennon a week ago, it’s fair to wonder if we’ve seen the end of Minshew Mania.
The cold, hard truth is that Jacksonville’s Week 1 win over the Indianapolis Colts notwithstanding, the Jaguars are who we thought they were heading into the season—one of the league’s worst teams.
There’s going to be a lot of work to do in the offseason to change that.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Last Week: 29
Week 8 Result: Won at Carolina 25-17
Good luck figuring out the Atlanta Falcons.
From a quick look at the stat sheet, one wouldn’t think the Falcons played especially well in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 281 yards but didn’t tally a touchdown pass. The Falcons gained 131 yards on the ground, but it took 36 carries to do so.
So of course the Falcons won on the road against their division rivals in Charlotte, because that’s the kind of season it has been in Atlanta.
The Falcons got win No. 2 on the season Thursday, but it came at a cost. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wideout Calvin Ridley (who leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdown grabs) left the game with an ankle injury that puts his Week 9 status in doubt.
Given that the Falcons are headed nowhere at warp speed in 2020, there’s no reason to rush Ridley back.
This team has been playing for draft position for a while.
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Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
Last Week: 28
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
It wasn’t supposed to be like this in Houston.
Entering the 2020 season, the Texans were the defending AFC South champions. The team had aspirations of a deep playoff run, maybe even repping the AFC in Super Bowl LV.
Instead, the Texans headed into their bye week with one win in seven games. Head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien has already been fired. And with the trade deadline right around the corner, some think a Texans team light on draft capital could be on the verge of a fire sale.
“They could make five trades if they wanted to,” one NFL executive told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. “I’m not sure how far they’ll go with it.”
That J.J. Watt’s name has been mentioned more than once in trade speculation shows how far this team has plummeted in the span of a couple of months. In September, the notion of trading the heart and soul of the franchise would have been laughable.
No one is laughing in Houston in November.
6 of 32
Chris Szagola/Associated Press
Last Week: 26
Week 8 Result: Lost at Philadelphia 23-9
The waking nightmare that is the 2020 season for the Dallas Cowboys continued Sunday night.
Despite notching four takeaways in Week 8 and outgaining the Eagles, the Cowboys could manage just nine points with rookie Ben DiNucci under center and fell to the rival Eagles to drop to 2-6 on the season.
There isn’t much of anything going right for the Cowboys. The defense is a sieve. A Dallas offense on its third quarterback was forced to resort to gadget plays to move the ball.
The Cowboys entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations. They will exit it staring at a potential rebuild.
“It’s mind-boggling to think the Cowboys entered Sunday night’s contest against the Eagles with a chance to move their way to the top of a dreadful division, while simultaneously feeling like the team’s season is already done,” Sobleski said. “Dallas lost. Dak Prescott isn’t coming back this year. The offensive line is in shambles. The defense is atrocious. Some kind of overhaul will be needed next offseason.”
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Susan Walsh/Associated Press
Last Week: 23
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
Over the first half of the 2020 season, Washington head coach Ron Rivera has received some criticism for being inconsistent. After speaking out in support of quarterback Dwayne Haskins in Week 3, Rivera benched the youngster a week later. But Rivera says he’s simply doing his best to adapt to changing circumstances.
“It does look a little inconsistent, but the consistency is that I’m going to make them based on what I know, on my gut feeling on things,” Rivera told reporters. “Hopefully, they’re good decisions. If they’re not, we’ll know and I’ll take responsibility, that’s for doggone sure.”
Washington has something of a conundrum. Calling it a good team is playing fast and loose with the term, but at 2-5, Washington also entered its bye week just a half-game out of first in the NFC East.
The next month will define Washington’s season. It doesn’t play a team with a winning record until Week 13. If there’s going to be a “playoff run,” the WFT needs to take advantage of that soft stretch.
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Tony Ding/Associated Press
Last Week: 21
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Indianapolis 41-21
Sunday was an important day for the Detroit Lions. After peeling off two straight wins to climb back to .500, a home date with a good Colts team afforded the Lions the opportunity to make a statement. To say that they are more than paper tigers—or lions, as the case may be.
That didn’t happen.
The Lions did take a 7-0 lead against the Colts, but Detroit then allowed 20 unanswered points. Just like that, the day was all but decided. Offensively, the Lions had no run game to speak of—29 yards on 13 carries. Defensively, the Lions couldn’t get off the field, allowing the Colts to convert 50 percent of their third-down attempts.
It was a sobering reminder that the Lions are a team with flaws on both sides of the ball. But despite the setback, they aren’t done yet—Detroit doesn’t play a team with a winning record until visiting Chicago on Dec. 6.
Detroit isn’t a playoff team. But it may still pretend to be one for a little while.
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Morry Gash/Associated Press
Last Week: 27
Week 8 Result: Won at Green Bay 28-22
Minnesota’s stunning win over the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday can be summed up in two words: Dalvin Cook.
Cook wasn’t an important part of the Minnesota offense at Lambeau Field—he was the Minnesota offense. The fourth-year pro carried the ball 30 times for 163 yards and three scores, chipping in another 63 yards and a score on two catches.
Cook’s quarterback greatly appreciated his huge day.
“Dalvin did a great job today,” Kirk Cousins told the media. “Anytime you score four touchdowns, you deserve some credit. Just a great player, dynamic player, we’re always trying to find ways to get him the football.”
One win doesn’t erase what has been a wildly disappointing first half of the season in Minnesota—a first half that started with a loss to the Packers in Week 1.
But it had to feel good to get a little payback.
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John Munson/Associated Press
Last Week: 20
Week 8 Result: Lost at Buffalo 24-21
It’s been well over a decade since the New England Patriots missed the playoffs. But barring a miracle, the Pats aren’t going to be in the postseason tournament for the first time since 2008.
The Patriots hung with the Buffalo Bills for most of the game Sunday, driving into field-goal range late for a chance to tie the game. But in a play that served as a metaphor for New England’s 2020 season, quarterback Cam Newton fumbled away a chance to tie the game.
Newton took responsibility for the gaffe that sent New England to a fourth consecutive defeat.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” he told reporters, “but this league is not what have you done for us, but what have you done lately? I understand this is a production-based league.”
It’s jarring to see a team long defined by executing plays at a high level self-destruct week after week. It’s not just Newton either. Offensive execution has been off. There have been more defensive lapses in the last four games than seemingly the past four years.
These Patriots just aren’t very good, and their struggles aren’t going to magically reverse themselves.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Last Week: 19
Week 8 Result: Lost at Denver 31-30
According to ESPN Stats & Info, NFL teams other than the Los Angeles Chargers are 52-4 this season when leading by 17 points.
After blowing a 24-3 third quarter lead against the Denver Broncos, the Los Angeles Chargers are now 0-3 in that situation in 2020. They’re the first team in NFL history to blow three straight 17-point leads, per the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info).
The Chargers dominated the Broncos in the first half Sunday. Over the first 30 minutes, Denver had only two first downs and 60 yards of offense. Its only points came off a turnover.
In the second half, the Bolts couldn’t slow the Broncos down, much less stop them.
“The way we lost a game today, that is unacceptable,” head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters after the game. “Everything we wanted is still in front of us. We’ve got to figure this out and turn it around soon.”
But Davenport isn’t so sure.
“One big blown lead is bad enough,” he said. “Three in half of a season is ridiculous. And the blame for that inability to finish games lies largely with Lynn and the coaching staff. Unless something changes pretty drastically over the second half of the season, Lynn’s fourth season in Los Angeles is going to be his last.”
“The Chargers are the league’s best bad team,” Sobleski continued. “Justin Herbert is easily the favorite for NFL Rookie of the Year. The team is talented with the capability of building big leads, which it has repeatedly done. Unfortunately, Los Angeles hasn’t found a way to close out contests. The Chargers blew leads of 17, 17, 16 and 21 points in each of the last four games, per The Athletic’s Daniel Popper. That’s Atlanta Falcons levels of bad (two for the price of one with that shot).”
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Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
Last Week: 25
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Chargers 31-30
In Week 7, the Broncos were blown out at home by the Kansas City Chiefs. On Sunday, they appeared destined for that same fate when they fell behind 24-3 to the Los Angeles Chargers.
But while they folded in Week 7, they rallied Sunday. The Broncos outscored the Chargers 28-6 down the stretch, with Drew Lock tossing the game-winning touchdown pass on the final play of regulation to complete an improbable comeback.
It was a big win for the Broncos, but running back Phillip Lindsay told reporters afterward that Denver needs to quit falling into early holes:
“It was a great win, but we’ve got to go back to work and find ways to do something in the beginning of the game so that we’re not in predicaments like this. That’s our problem right now. We need to find ways to have explosive plays so that our defense isn’t put under pressure for so long. You can only do that for so long.”
With the two-win Falcons up next, the Broncos have a real chance to be a .500 team at the midway point of their season and at least on the fringes of the wild-card conversation.
However, Gagnon remains skeptical of their rest-of-season outlook.
“I’m not about to crown the Broncos based on that comeback,” he said. “The Chargers are just too much of a joke, and I need Drew Lock and Co. to prove that wasn’t an anomaly. I think Denver is too depleted to fully turn this thing around.”
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Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Last Week: 24
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Tennessee 31-20
The Cincinnati Bengals won’t be playing past the first weekend in January this season. But after handling the Tennessee Titans in Week 8, it’s clear that they’re making progress under rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
By most measurements, Burrow outplayed Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He had more passing yards, fewer turnovers and a higher passer rating.
The Bengals head into their bye with some momentum, but Burrow told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that he won’t be resting on any laurels:
“I think the games we have coming up are all very, very winnable. We have a stretch here that we can rattle off four or five wins in a row that I think would be big for this organization and big for this team. I don’t think we’re out of it yet and if we continue to play the way we did today I think we have a good chance.”
That’s a fairly bold statement. There are some winnable games on the horizon, but when next we see the Bengals, it will be in Pittsburgh against the undefeated Steelers.
“The Bengals now have a better scoring margin than the Browns,” Gagnon wrote. “They’ve been in every game they’ve played except one, and it’s hard not to get excited about the Joe Burrow-Tee Higgins connection. The future is undeniably bright.”
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Derik Hamilton/Associated Press
Last Week: 22
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Dallas 23-9
The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night to ensure they’ll be in first place in the NFC East heading into their bye week.
That’s about it when it comes to the good news.
Facing one of the NFL’s worst defenses, the Eagles managed only 222 total yards. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had another turnover-filled mess of a game, passing for a meager 123 yards and two scores with a pair of interceptions and two lost fumbles.
After the game, Wentz was the first to admit his level of play needs to improve.
“I’m not good enough,” he told reporters. “I can be better. I know I will be.”
However, there’s been nothing to date to indicate that Wentz will improve his level of play this season. While Sunday’s effort was good enough to get past a reeling Cowboys team on its third quarterback, there’s no reason to believe this team can hang with any of the big dogs in the NFC.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Last Week: 18
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta 25-17
Maybe we were right about the Carolina Panthers.
After peeling off three wins in a row to get to 3-2 on the season, it appeared that many pundits (including our NFL analysts) had underestimated Matt Rhule’s team. But after losing to one-win Atlanta Falcons team, the Panthers have hit the halfway point of the season 3-5 and well off the lead in the NFC South.
Rhule didn’t mince words when asked about Carolina’s up-and-down first half.
“Bill Parcells said it best: You are what your record says you are,” he told reporters after the loss. “I want to be a team that is better in the second half of the season than we were in the first half.”
Improving in the short term isn’t going to be easy. In Week 9, the Panthers travel to Kansas City to face the defending Super Bowl champs. That’s followed by a home date with the 5-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Last Week: 16
Week 8 Result: Lost at Seattle 37-27
The San Francisco 49ers have a quarterback problem.
Since returning from a high ankle sprain, Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t played especially well. He certainly didn’t in Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, passing for only 84 yards and an interception before exiting the game after aggravating that same ankle in the second half.
“He had a good week of practice throwing, but high ankle sprains linger, so you never know when it’s going to affect you,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters afterward. “I know he hurt it later in the game, or re-hurt it, and we’ll wait until tomorrow to see how bad it is.”
Garoppolo wasn’t the only offensive player to leave the game early, either. Tight end George Kittle and running back Tevin Coleman also didn’t make it to the end of the game.
That could leave the last-place 49ers precariously short-handed on Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers in a game the Niners badly need to win to keep their lagging playoff hopes afloat.
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David Richard/Associated Press
Last Week: 13
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Las Vegas 16-6
The Cleveland Browns have a credibility problem.
There’s no shame in losing to the Las Vegas Raiders in awful weather conditions in Cleveland. And the Browns are still 5-3 heading into the bye, which fans gladly would have taken at the beginning of the season.
But the Browns have now played four games against teams that presently sport a winning record. Cleveland is 1-3 in those games and have been outscored 115-51.
Luckily, the Browns have only three more games against teams with a winning record, and four games against teams who have one or fewer win to date this year.
But even if the Browns get to the playoffs, at least one analyst expects it to be a short trip.
“Just because the Browns are better in 2020 doesn’t mean they are good, and that’s being borne out when they play teams that aren’t tomato cans,” Davenport said. “Their soft schedule may well get them into the postseason, but their even softer defense is going to get them shelled in a playoff game.”
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Last Week: 11
Week 8 Result: Lost at Miami 28-17
The Los Angeles Rams held the Miami Dolphins under 150 total yards in Week 8…and lost.
The Los Angeles Rams gained more than three times as many yards as the Dolphins…and lost by double digits.
The Rams outplayed the Dolphins in any number of facets. But they turned the ball over four times (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and allowed a score on a punt return.
The stunning setback dropped the Rams into third place in the NFC West and gave one of our analysts pause regarding their legitimacy as a contender in the NFC.
“Every time I’m ready to buy into the Rams as a real threat in the NFC, something makes me reconsider,” Davenport said. “The only good team the Rams have beaten this year is the Chicago Bears, and even they aren’t as good as their record. These Rams might be good enough to earn a spot in the expanded playoff field, but they aren’t likely to knock off the Packers or Seahawks in the postseason.”
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Ron Schwane/Associated Press
Last Week: 17
Week 8 Result: Won at Cleveland 16-6
Generally speaking, NFL teams don’t win many games in 2020 when the starting quarterback throws for 112 yards.
But generally speaking, most NFL games also aren’t played in conditions with 35 mph winds and graupel falling sideways.
Yes, graupel. It’s a thing. It’s essentially not quite snow and not quite hail. In other words, it’s unpleasant.
After getting drilled at home by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, the Las Vegas Raiders got back on track with a 10-point win against a Cleveland Browns team that came into Week 8 with a 5-2 record.
With the weather wreaking havoc on the passing game, it was all Josh Jacobs in this one. The second-year running back carried the ball 31 times for 128 yards. It also marked the first time this season that the Vegas defense allowed fewer than 24 points.
Even with a head-to-head win over the rival Chiefs, the Raiders aren’t likely to catch Kansas City in the division. But with an extra wild-card spot this season, the Silver and Black are very much in the playoff conversation.
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Last Week: 15
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 28-17
It’s Tua time!
The fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft made his NFL debut Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. And while Tua Tagovailoa’s numbers were modest (12-of-22 passing for 93 yards and a score), the Dolphins rode a special teams score, a defensive touchdown and four takeaways to a surprising 11-point win over a good Los Angeles Rams team that lifted them above .500 for the first time since Week 14 of the 2018 season.
Are the Dolphins going to the Super Bowl this year? No. But the fact you can say “Dolphins” and “playoffs” in the same sentence with a straight face eight weeks into the 2020 season demonstrates that the rebuild under head coach Brian Flores is ahead of schedule.
The best part? Winning doesn’t hurt the Dolphins’ draft position too much since they also own the one-win Houston Texans’ first two picks thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade.
“The Dolphins might not be one of the 10 most talented teams in the NFL, but they’re playing that way,” Gagnon said. “When they take the field in Arizona on Sunday, they won’t have lost a game in over a month. The highly ranked, opportunistic defense is greater than the sum of its parts, and Flores is a hell of a coach. They might grab a wild-card spot.”
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Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Last Week: 14
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. New Orleans 26-23 (OT)
The bloom is coming off the rose in Chicago.
After falling in overtime to the New Orleans Saints, the Bears have dropped two in a row and three of five. They have scored more than 23 points only twice in eight games.
Chicago has played four teams this season that presently sport a winning record and is 1-3 in those games.
The Bears suffered through numerous unforced errors Sunday. There were dropped passes. Seven penalties, including one that resulted in an ejection. Head coach Matt Nagy is frustrated that the Bears keep shooting themselves in the foot.
“There [are] issues there,” he told reporters after the game. “That’s what bothers me and that’s what [ticks] me off, is that there is that issue still going on.”
The Bears aren’t a bad team. The defense will keep them in more games than not. But their inconsistent offense leaves little room for the errors that they keep making.
And while the Bears might not be a bad team, they aren’t a great one, either.
22 of 32
Wade Payne/Associated Press
Last Week: 7
Week 8 Result: Lost at Cincinnati 31-20
Two weeks ago, the Tennessee Titans were one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the AFC and all alone in first place in the AFC South.
Then came a comeback against the Pittsburgh Steelers that came up just short. Unfortunate, but no big deal.
However, going to Cincinnati and falling to a one-win Bengals team is less excusable.
Tennessee has struggled defensively of late, especially on third down. But after the game, head coach Mike Vrabel said the team’s lack of a defensive coordinator isn’t to blame for its defensive issues.
“I would say that that’s not a factor,” he told reporters. “I’m positive that that’s not a factor. We have to continue to coach better and play better. I’m certain that that’s not what’s leading to us giving points and us not getting off the field on third down.”
Whatever the problem is, the Titans need to figure it out quickly. Their next five games are all against teams with a winning record, including two contests against a Colts team that is now tied with them atop the division.
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Tony Ding/Associated Press
Last Week: 12
Week 8 Result: Won at Detroit 41-21
It might be time to start taking the Indianapolis Colts seriously in the AFC.
For much of the 2020 season, the Colts defense has been ranked close to the top of the NFL in a number of categories. But the offense has been inconsistent.
If Sunday’s emphatic win over the Detroit Lions was any indication, Philip Rivers is starting to figure it out. Against the Lions, Rivers had arguably his best game of the year, as he finished 23-of-33 for 262 passing yards, three scores and a passer rating of 123.5.
The win, coupled with Tennessee’s surprising loss in Cincinnati, moved the Colts into a first-place tie atop the AFC South. Staying there won’t be easy, though. They’re welcoming the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, face the 5-2 Titans in Weeks 10 and 12 and host the Green Bay Packers in Week 11.
“I want to like the Colts because of that defense, but the upcoming schedule is beyond tough,” Davenport said. “It isn’t at all hard to imagine the Colts going 1-3 over the next four, in which case 5-2 will become 6-5 and hanging on by a thread. The Colts are good, but not as good as the Ravens and Packers. Throw in a split with Tennessee, and there goes the shine.”
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Last Week: 9
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
It would be understandable if the Arizona Cardinals wanted to take a breath over their bye week. After all, they’re coming off an overtime win over the rival Seahawks that thrust them into the thick of the NFC West race.
But after getting pounded by the Los Angeles Rams following their bye in 2019, quarterback Kyler Murray and the Redbirds aren’t taking their collective foot off the gas in 2020, per Darren Urban of the team’s website:
“This is year two for me, so understanding what happened last year, what I did last year. For me, there is no bye week. Last year, we kind of treated it like there was a bye week; this year, the head stays down. There is no bye week for me, so I’m going to keep at it and be ready to come back and lead these guys.”
That’s a good thing, because some stiff tests await after the bye week. A home date with the Miami Dolphins in Week 9 is followed by tilts with the Buffalo Bills at home and then a rematch with the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 11. Two weeks after that, the Los Angeles Rams come to town for the first of two meetings over the season’s final five weeks.
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Adrian Kraus/Associated Press
Last Week: 10
Week 8 Result: Won vs. New England 24-21
It’s been a quarter-century since the Buffalo Bills won the AFC East. They took a big step toward ending that dry spell in Week 8 by dispatching the team that has ruled the division for the past two decades.
It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Bills snapped a seven-game losing streak to the New England Patriots, grinding out a three-point win that pleased veteran safety Jordan Poyer.
“It feels amazing,” Poyer told reporters afterward. “It feels good to be 4-0 in the AFC East, it feels good to come out with a victory at home. It was a grind. We didn’t play the way we wanted to, but we got the victory.”
The Miami Dolphins are still surprisingly lurking only 1.5 games behind the Bills. But it’s abundantly clear that Buffalo is the class of the division, and it will be an upset if they don’t win the East,
“Buffalo’s win over the Patriots may not have been pretty (a last-minute fumble by Cam Newton sealed the deal), but it doesn’t matter,” Sobleski wrote. “Why? The Bills had to overcome the AFC East bully and finally stake their claim as the division’s best. New England didn’t find a way to pull out a win. Bill Belichick didn’t work his magic. The Bills forced their own path. In doing so, they don’t have to worry about being beaten down by the King Kong-sized gorilla that dominated the division for so long.”
The question now is whether the Bills are capable of making noise in the playoffs. It’s a question we may have an answer to relatively soon. Before their Week 11 bye, the Bills face two NFC contenders in the 6-1 Seattle Seahawks at home followed by a trip to Arizona to battle the 5-2 Cardinals.
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Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Last Week: 8
Week 8 Result: Won at Chicago 26-23 (OT)
The New Orleans Saints appear to have figured it out. After a 1-2 start to the season, the Saints have peeled off four straight victories, with the latest being an overtime win in Chicago that helped them keep pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South.
The win featured the usual suspects. Drew Brees passed for 280 yards and two scores with a passer rating of 109.8. Star running back Alvin Kamara mustered 163 total yards on 21 touches. And as has been the case in each of the Saints’ past three games, the contest was decided by a field goal.
Two of those games went to overtime, and linebacker Demario Davis said he has been impressed by the resiliency the Saints have shown this season.
“We kept swinging as a team,” he told reporters afterward. “So just proud of the team and the way that we were able to handle that, and go through that adversity.”
That resiliency will be put to the test Sunday night, when the Saints travel to face Tampa in a Week 1 rematch that could have a massive impact on the division race.
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Morry Gash/Associated Press
Last Week: 3
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 28-22
There’s a downside to adding a seventh playoff team in each conference: Only the No. 1 seeds will be taking Wild Card Weekend off.
If the Green Bay Packers wind up having to play that week, we may well look back to Sunday’s home loss to the Minnesota Vikings as the reason why.
The Packers had no answer at all for Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who piled up well over 200 total yards and scored touchdowns on each of Minnesota’s first four drives. It wasn’t the first time this season that the Green Bay defense has been exposed, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chewed them up in a blowout loss a few weeks ago.
Green Bay remains in first place in the NFC North by virtue of Chicago’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, but the Packers’ claim to being the best team in the NFC wasn’t helped in this one.
“I still trust the Green Bay defense more than Seattle’s, but I’m leaning harder toward Tampa as the best team in the NFC,” Davenport said. “Seattle can’t stop the pass, and if Sunday’s loss and the Tampa game are any indication, the Packers can be run on with relative ease.”
“Injuries are a problem,” Gagnon continued. “Ditto for the run defense, which has been a vulnerability for quite some time. It’s going to be a challenge for the Packers to battle back from this rough stretch and land that coveted first-round bye.”
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Gail Burton/Associated Press
Last Week: 4
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 28-24
Turnovers are the kiss of death in the NFL, which the Baltimore Ravens learned the hard way in Week 8.
In most statistical categories, the Ravens dominated the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Ravens amassed 457 yards of total offense compared to only 221 for Pittsburgh. They piled up a staggering 265 rushing yards against a Steelers defense that entered the week allowing less than 70 yards a game on the ground. They also converted more than half of their third-down attempts.
However, Baltimore turned it over four times, including a Lamar Jackson pick-six in the first quarter. Against a team as good as Pittsburgh, you aren’t winning the game with four giveaways.
With the loss, Baltimore’s chances of repeating as AFC North champions and potentially earning a first-round bye in the playoffs took a sizable hit. And with three of the next four games against teams with winning records (including a Week 12 rematch with the Steelers in Pittsburgh), the Ravens need to tighten things up quickly to keep their fading hopes in the division alive.
“The Ravens have now lost their most important five games dating back to New Year’s Day 2019,” Gagnon said. “Two losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, two playoff losses and Sunday’s loss to the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers indicate they have a serious issue when it comes to taking care of business in big games. They’re good at piling it on against significantly weaker opponents, but that only gets you so far.”
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David Becker/Associated Press
Last Week: 6
Week 8 Result: At New York Giants (Monday Night Football)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on a roll.
Since dropping the season opener in New Orleans, the Buccaneers have peeled off five wins in six games. Over the past two weeks, Tampa has blasted the Green Bay Packers at home and the Las Vegas Raiders on the road. Heading into Week 8, the Bucs held a half-game lead in the NFC South.
“I think we’re improving every week, which has been really fun for me to see,” Brady said. “I just want us to continue to improve. The only thing that really gets me excited is winning games.”
Given the polar opposite directions these teams are barreling in, it’s hard to imagine the Buccaneers having much trouble making it to 6-2 Monday night.
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Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Last Week: 5
Week 8 Result: Won vs. San Francisco 37-27
With injuries ravaging their backfield, the Seattle Seahawks turned to their passing game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
When you have Russell Wilson at quarterback and Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf at wide receiver, that’s not such a bad thing.
Wilson and Metcalf were unstoppable Sunday. Wilson went 27-of-37 for 261 yards and four scores, while Metcalf reeled in 12 catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
“Russell played terrific today,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “He knew how this game was going to go; we had to throw the ball quick, and a lot of short stuff and all that. … He did a great job throughout the day.”
Carroll wasn’t the only one who was impressed.
“The Seahawks defense remains a major concern, although the addition of Carlos Dunlap and getting a healthy Jamal Adams back should help,” Davenport said. “But when Wilson is playing at such a ridiculous level, the Seahawks can beat anyone in the NFL. Handily.”
“Seattle’s offense is spectacular with MVP front-runner Russell Wilson and his star wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf stealing the show on a weekly basis,” Sobleski added. “The defense has been a major problem, though. In fact, the Seahawks’ defense was the worst through five games in NFL history.
“With that said, a little bit of improvement occurred in Sunday’s win over the rival 49ers. Seattle’s defense doesn’t need to be good. It just needs to be good enough to make a few stops and let the offense do its thing.”
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Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Last Week: 2
Week 8 Result: Won vs. New York Jets 35-9
Patrick Mahomes is pretty good at the whole throwing the football thing.
Granted, it came against a New York Jets team that is redefining the word putrid on a weekly basis, but Mahomes was just about perfect at Arrowhead on Sunday. He finished 31-of-42 for 416 yards, five touchdowns and a passer rating of 144.4.
Kansas City didn’t have much success running the ball during its blowout win—it mustered only 50 yards on 20 carries—but that hardly mattered on a day where three different pass-catchers topped 90 receiving yards with a touchdown.
As tests go, Week 8 wasn’t much of one for the defending Super Bowl champions. But Chiefs won’t face many more in the regular season. Only three of their remaining opponents—the Las Vegas Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints—currently sport winning records.
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Last Week: 1
Week 8 Result: Won at Baltimore 28-24
If there was any question about whether the Pittsburgh Steelers deserved the top spot in these power rankings, they answered that in emphatic fashion Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
From a look at the stat sheet, one would think this game turned out much differently. The Steelers were outgained more than 2-to-1 offensively, as they managed only 221 yards of total offense. Pittsburgh’s vaunted run defense was gashed for a dropping 265 rushing yards by the Ravens.
However, the Pittsburgh defense also piled up four sacks and four takeaways and took a Lamar Jackson interception to the house for the game’s first score.
With the win, the undefeated Steelers are now two up in the loss column on the Ravens in the AFC North. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t blowing anyone’s doors off, but it’s been efficient. The defense gave up a lot of yards Sunday but made big plays when it needed to.
The Steelers are now heading into three straight games against teams with losing records ahead of a Thanksgiving rematch with the Ravens. Pittsburgh may well be 10-0 going into that game.