As the NFL hits the midway point of the season, there’s a major backdrop around the league. It comes in the form of Tuesday’s trade deadline.
What we see happen this week could dramatically change what teams have planned moving forward on the season.
On the football field itself, there’s a lot to look at here. Can Kyle Allen and his Panthers make a statement against the NFC’s sole remaining undefeated team on the road?
Remaining in the NFC, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will look to take out a championship contending Chiefs team in Kansas City.
These are among the top storylines for NFL Week 8.
Eagles’ season on the brink in Western New York
At 3-4 on the season, Philadelphia simply can’t afford to fall any further back in the NFC Playoff race. It would likely limit the team’s ability to make the playoffs through only a division title. Having already lost to Dallas in blowout fashion, that would be a less-than-ideal scenario for Doug Pederson and Co.
Unfortunately, the Eagles must now travel to Western New York to take on a 5-1 Bills team that boasts one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Eagles’ Carson Wentz-led offense has turned it over seven times in the past two games. Buffalo’s defense will certainly be salivating at the opportunity to go up against this mistake-filled unit.
Browns looking for that first signature win
Cleveland got a much-needed bye in Week 7 after surprisingly dropping four of its first six games to open the season. The hope here is that these Browns will be reinvested after said bye and ready to turn things around.
This week’s game comes against the undefeated defending champion New England Patriots on the road. It’s not exactly a great situation for the Browns in what is a must win now that they are 2.5 games behind Baltimore in the AFC North. Could Freddie Kitchens’ squad finally provide that first signature win of the season?
Panthers face hellacious test in Santa Clara
Carolina has already ruled Cam Newton out for this week’s game against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers after he missed each of the past four games to injury. This means that Allen will make his fifth consecutive start. The former undrafted free agent is a perfect 4-0 this season and has thrown seven touchdowns compared to zero interceptions.
The issue here is a San Francisco defense that has yielded 10 points over the past three games and puts a ton of pressure on the quarterback. This unit is pressuring opposing quarterbacks north of 50% of the time on the season and has given up less than 100 combined net passing yards over the past two games. Despite his success, Allen boasts a 42% completion mark when under pressure. He’ll have to do better if Carolina wants to keep pace with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Dan Quinn coaching for job against former team
We’re not too sure how much longer Falcons owner Arthur Blank can go to bat for his head coach. Atlanta was absolutely destroyed by a struggling Los Angeles Rams team at home last week. Frustrations boiled over on the field. Franchise quarterback Matt Ryan suffered a high-ankle sprain. It all led to the Falcons losing 37-10 and falling to 1-6 on the season.
At some point, it becomes apparent that a head coach has worn out his welcome. Given Atlanta’s regression since the team earned a Super Bowl appearance back in 2016, that time might be now for Mr. Quinn. Interestingly, a blowout loss to his former Seattle Seahawks team could expedite matters in this regard. Atlanta has a bye in Week 9, which is the perfect time to move on from a head coach.
Continued domination from Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Revenge game? We’re pretty sure that Cousins circled Thursday night’s outing against his former Washington Redskins team on his calendar a while ago. For Cousins and the Vikings, it could not come at a better time. The much-maligned quarterback has been absolutely brilliant over the past three games, tallying nearly 1,000 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception. In fact, this three-game span has Cousins in the record books.
He now has the pleasure of taking on a one-win Redskins team that just saw former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum put up 50 net passing yards in a shutout loss to the 49ers. This isn’t just a revenge game for Cousins, it’s one that will likely help him continue this recent string of success.
A must win for Mitchell Trubisky
It was evident last week during a blowout loss that Bears fans have already turned on this third-year quarterback. For good reason. Prior to leading his Bears on two late-game garbage-time touchdowns, Trubisky was downright horrific in his return to action. Head coach Matt Nagy has watered down the playbook to take into account the quarterback’s limitations. That’s never a good sign.
With his Bears at 3-3 heading into this week’s game against a struggling Los Angeles Charges team, it’s high time for Trubisky to step up and show he can be a starter-caliber quarterback. If not, Chicago could very well make a drastic move for a quarterback ahead of the Oct. 29 deadline.
Will Minshew Mania lead to second-half relevance?
The Jacksonville Jaguars head into Week 3 at a surprising 3-4 and just one game behind Indianapolis in the win column in the AFC South. It’s been a combination of some opportunistic defense, a stout rushing attack and Gardner Minshew’s shocking performance as a rookie. The sixth-round pick has tossed 10 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions en route to leading the Jags to a 3-3 record in six starts.
Jacksonville will now have the pleasure of taking on a one-win Jets team this week that embarrassed itself last Monday night. It affords the team an opportunity to move to 4-4 at the midway point of the season. With high-priced free agent signing Nick Foles set to return from injured reserve here soon, it could also lead to a quarterback controversy in Duval.
Zac Taylor looking for first win…against former team
One of only two remaining winless teams, the Bengals have lost four of their games by a single score. Last week against Jacksonville, that included Andy Dalton throwing an horrific pick-six with the game on the line. It’s been an unmitigated disaster for Taylor in his first season with Cincinnati after working under Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams.
The schedule makers also have a bit of a sense of humor here. Taylor will lead his Bengals to Los Angeles to take on those very same Rams Sunday afternoon. Will the young head coach lead his team to an upset win over the defending NFC champs? Don’t bank on it.
The Jameis Winston dynamic
Prior to the season, this Buccaneers-Titans was billed as a matchup between the top two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. That was thrown for a loop when Tennessee benched Marcus Mariota for last week’s game. Ryan Tannehill responded by putting up one of the best quarterback performances of the week in a win over the Los Angeles Rams.
All eyes in Nashville will be on Jameis Winston after he turned the ball over six times in a 37-26 loss to the Panthers prior to last week’s bye. Recent reports suggest that neither team views these quarterbacks as franchise guys moving forward. For his part, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians put Winston on blast after the above-mentioned effort. Could this be one the impending free agent’s final starts as a member of the Bucs?
Jacoby Brissett as Colts’ franchise quarterback
Fresh off last week’s stirring four-touchdown performance to take first place from the Houston Texans, Brissett now gets to take on a two-win Broncos team at home on Sunday. It’s yet another opportunity for the youngish quarterback to prove his worth as the long-term replacement for the recently retired Andrew Luck.
All Brissett has done in six games this season is put up 15 total touchdowns and just three interceptions. He’s averaging north of 230 yards and has his Colts at 4-2. We’re highly intrigued to see how Brissett will respond after a career-best performance in Week 7.
Potential trap game for the Saints
A perfect 5-0 since Drew Brees went down to injury. The looks of a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Everything seems to be working in the Saints’ favor heading into this week’s home game against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. That’s until we realize this could be the definition of a trap game.
Arizona has won three consecutive games, including two on the road. It is averaging nearly 30 points per game during that span. With a Week 9 bye looming and Brees set to return here soon, the Saints would be smart not to overlook Arizona.
Aaron Rodgers looks to continue dominance
This former NFL MVP completed 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards with six total touchdowns and zero picks in a 42-24 win over the Oakland Raiders last week. Rodgers has finally started to click in first-year head coach Matt LaFleur’s system.
Green Bay now heads to Kansas City to take on a championship contending Chiefs team on Sunday. Despite some questions on defense, the Chiefs have yielded the 13th-fewest points in the NFL and an opposing 84.9 passer rating on the season. This will be a good test for Mr. Rodgers.