Week 8 was a strange week in that there weren’t a lot of close games. Only four games this week were decided by one possession, and all the games kind of went as expected. Of course, that makes it tough to pick out winners and losers from this week, but we’ll power through!
Winner: Seattle Seahawks (Won 28-14 at DET)
Many (including myself) thought the Seahawks were bound to take a step back this season and fall out of playoff contention. After all, they had just cut ties with several of the members of the old “Legion of Boom” and didn’t seem to have the talent to compete in a tough NFC. Now, these Seahawks have a new identity. That identity is to run the ball, early and often. Seattle is in the top five in rushing yards per game, and it showed once again this week on the road against the Lions. Chris Carson once again eclipsed 100 yards, rushing for 105 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. Carson’s 61 first half rushing yards also helped Seattle set the tone from the start, as the Seahawks jumped out to an early 21-7 lead. That forced Detroit to abandon its running game, and the opportunistic Seahawks defense was able to force three turnovers. As long as Seattle is able to continue to run the ball efficiently and force turnovers, they won’t be going away anytime soon. This is no longer a team that has to be carried by Russell Wilson, which means that they can compete with anyone. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves once again next week, as the 5-2 Chargers come to town.
Loser: Minnesota Vikings (Lost 30-20 vs NO)
After three straight wins, the Vikings looked to have finally hit their groove and looked like the class for the NFC North. Up until about a minute to go in the second quarter in a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Saints, that looked to still be the case. Then, the unthinkable happened. Adam Theilen, who now has eight straight games with over 100 yards, made a mistake. Up 13-10 and in the red zone, Theilen caught a screen pass and fumbled the ball, which would be picked up by the Saints and returned deep into Minnesota territory. Receiver Laquon Treadwell’s unsportsmanike conduct penalty for slamming his helmet added 15 yards to the end of the play and made the collapse even more inevitable. The Saints ran the clock down, scored on an Alvin Kamara rushing touchdown, and suddenly had the lead. All seemed fine though, as the Vikings were getting the ball to start the second half and could regain momentum with a score. Instead, the Vikings offense forgot how to play football, and suddenly couldn’t move the ball against a lackluster New Orleans defense. A pick six by Saints corner PJ Williams when Stefon Diggs stopped his route proved to be the dagger, and Minnesota just ran out of time after the Saints drained the rest of the clock. Long story short, the Vikings held Drew Brees to 120 yards and an interception, had 423 total yards, AND lost. If you can’t beat the Saints, who rely on their offense and yet had just 270 total yards, with all that going for you, then maybe you aren’t a contender. Yes, the injuries to star corner Xavier Rhodes and linebacker Anthony Barr hurt, but the defense wasn’t the problem. Kirk Cousins still can’t beat a team with a record above. 500 (Cousins is now 4-21-1 against teams with a record above .500). Super Bowl aspirations need to be put on pause, but luckily for them, they have a winnable game next week in a divisional matchup at home against the Lions.
Winner: Carolina Panthers (Won 36-21)
Can we start paying attention to the Panthers? After a dominant win against the Ravens, Carolina is now 5-2 and looks like a premier Super Bowl contender. Sunday’s outing showed what a complete team they were. Cam Newton was once again efficient, completing 72% of his passes to go along with a 117 QB rating. He also had 52 yards rushing, and was the spark plug once again for an offense with underrated playmakers and a lot of speed. The offenses’ 386 yards and complete control of the time of possession (34:01) was paired with a defense that made a lot of big plays. The Panthers defense forced a pair of turnovers, had great coverage down the field, and kept Baltimore’s defense off-balance. If not for a garbage time score by rookie backup Lamar Jackson, this score would look even more lopsided. Carolina is a dangerous team, capable of beating everyone, and look to be the second best team in the NFC after the undefeated Rams. Next up, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the dysfunctional Buccaneers at home, it just keeps on getting better for the Panthers.
Loser: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Lost 37-34 at CIN)
When receiver Desean Jackson asked for a trade, Bucs general manager Jason Licht dismissed it and insisted to Jackson that they were in “win now mode”. Yet, the product that we get every Sunday looks more like a team in desperate need of a rebuild than a team ready to contend anytime soon. After barely beating the Browns at home, the Bucs were 3-3 and had a chance to make a statement with a big road victory at Cincinnati. Instead, they were so horrible for 3+ quarters of football that even “Fitzmagic” couldn’t save them. Heading into halftime, Tampa Bay was down 27-9 and looked completely lost. They were down 34-16 in the 4th quarter until Jameis Winston has benched, Fitzpatrick was inserted under center, and they scored 18 unanswered, just to watch the defense let the Bengals drive down the field and kick a game winning field goal. It’s looking like Winston’s time with the Bucs is done, as the former first overall pick once against struggled despite playing a below average defense. He threw four interceptions and was sacked five times. The Tampa defense was even worse, allowing 402 total yards letting Joe Mixon rush for nearly six yards a carry, as well as not being able to stop the Bengals one time in the Red Zone. (Cincinatti was 4-4 in scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone) This team has no identity, no clear top quarterback, and a whole lot of chaos. Changes need to be made this offseason, and a rebuild must occur. There’s not enough talent for this team to compete, and it gets tougher as they travel to Carolina to take on the streaking Panthers.
Winner: Washington Redskins (Won 20-13 at NYG)
Despite being 4-2 and playing the 1-6 (now 1-7) Giants, the Redskins weren’t even favored to win. They made a statement with another impressive victory and look like the best team in the NFC East. This team is not going to win any style points, but Sunday’s performance was yet another extremely efficient outing on all fronts. Alex Smith continues to be the perfect game manager, completing 63% of his passes and making just enough big plays without any turnovers. Adrian Peterson once again looked like he was 10 years younger than he actually was, rushing for 149 yards and 5.7 yards per carry. The offense is conservative and has run first style, but it works due to their impressive defense. Washington sacked Eli Manning SEVEN times, forced two interceptions, and held the Giants to 37 rushing yards. The Redskins aren’t flashy, but they’re a complete team that needs to be taken seriously in the NFC. Next up, a home affair against the Falcons in a perfect matchup between efficient and flashy.
Loser: Miami Dolphins (Lost 42-23 at HOU)
The fall of the Dolphins was ineveitable. This was a team at the bottom of every team’s power rankings, without their two most productive receivers, and who are starting Brock Osweiler under center in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill. Still, it’s dissapoiting to see Miami fall off this quickly after an impressive start to the season. Miami has manhandled by Houston on Thursday Night Football in all facets of the game. On offense, they had 370 total yards, but relied on gimmick plays and coverted just 30% of their third downs. Osweiler was also pressured constantly and he was never given a chance to succeed with subpar play from his supporting cast. On defense, Miami was just nonexistent. They allowed 427 total yards, let Deshaun Watson have more passing touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4), and also couldn’t stop the running game (Texans had 188 rushing yards). When you have a below average defense to go along with a below average defense, you’re not going to contend, and that’s the reality with the Dolphins. They do have a chance to get back over .500 somehow, as they host the 3-5 Jets in an AFC East matchup that will do nothing but determine second place behind the Patriots.