The league’s most dominant defense was smashed to bits…
Before Sunday’s slate of games got going, there was some serious drama in London as the Jacksonville Jaguars made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
That should have clued us in to the fact that NFL Week 8 was going to get weird.
The league’s most dominant defense was smashed to bits. Adrian Peterson outplayed Saquon Barkley. And a former No. 1 overall pick hit a new low.
These were the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 8.
Winner: Deshaun Watson rising
There’s a lot of warranted gushing about what Patrick Mahomes is doing in his second season. But let’s not forget about Houston’s second-year passer, who is back with a vengeance after an ACL took him out as a rookie.
Watson and the Texans improved to 5-3 with a blowout win over Miami on Thursday night. He was nearly perfect, completing 16-of-20 passes for 239 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
This brings his seasonal total up to 2,176 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air, and he’s heating up as his offensive line and running game rounds into shape.
Loser: Jameis Winston probably lost his job
Despite missing the first three games of the 2018 season to suspension, Winston exits Week 8 with 10 interceptions, good for second-worst total in the league. He threw four of them on Sunday against Cincinnati, including a truly nauseating pick-six, before being benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Even more damning as it concerns Winston’s potential job security (or lack thereof) is the fact that once Fitzpatrick entered the game, suddenly the Bucs were alive on offense. After the pick-six, Cincinnati was up 34-16. Fitzpatrick tied the game up with three scoring drives in the final 17 minutes of the game before the Bengals won it on a field goal as time expired.
Winston cannot keep his job after this, and he’s teetering dangerously toward the bust label.
Winner: Cam Newton shreds league’s best defense
Heading into Week 8, Baltimore’s defense was playing better than any other the league had to offer. It ranked third in yards allowed and first in points allowed, leading many to speculate that Sunday wasn’t going to be a banner day for Cam Newton.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Playing like a legitimate MVP candidate, Super Cam showed up in a big way. Executing Norv Turner’s offense to perfection, he utterly shredded the Ravens, both on the ground and through the air.
Newton completed 20-of-29 passes for 219 yards and no interceptions — though, it’s true teammate Christian McCaffrey bailed him out in a big way in the end zone. He rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. More importantly, the Panthers crushed the Ravens at home, 36-21, to improve to 5-2 on the season.
Loser: Big Blue blues continue
To nobody’s surprise, the New York Giants are still completely broken on offense. Despite big games from Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, who combined for 247 yards, Big Blue managed just 13 total points — well below their already pathetic average of 19.6 per game.
Eli Manning was wrecked in the pocket as New York’s abysmal offensive line resembled a wet paper bag against Washington’s vaunted defensive front. He was sacked seven times and hit 10 times. He also threw two bad interceptions.
New York’s defense also is partly to blame for the outcome Sunday, as it collapsed down the stretch when it needed to step up the most. The Giants head into the second half of the season with a single win, and that feels like it happened ages ago.
Winner: Colts stampede in win over Raiders
The Indianapolis Colts are inching back into contention in the AFC South. They followed up a big win at home against Buffalo with another win on the road in Oakland in Week 8. The weak competition sure helps, but they’ll take their wins however they can get them.
On Sunday, they got a win because the offense absolutely rolled against the hapless Raiders. Andrew Luck, who’s been red hot lately, stayed sharp. He finished with 239 yards and three touchdowns, and Indy didn’t turn the ball over once.
Additionally, like we saw last weekend the run game came alive. Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines combined for 210 yards and two touchdowns (both scored by Mack), as the Colts piled up a total of 461 yards in their 42-28 blowout win.
Loser: Ty Montgomery chose…poorly
The Green Bay Packers nearly pulled off a huge upset against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams. They did so many things right, including a defensive effort that held the Rams under 30 points and allowed just 5.5 yards per play — pretty good numbers against Los Angeles.
Late in the fourth quarter, they were going to have a shot at coming back after the Rams scored a go-ahead touchdown. With just under two minutes remaining, they were down by two points when Greg Zuerlein kicked off to Ty Montgomery.
The ball went into the end zone. Especially because of the new rules that give offenses 25 yards on a touchback, it was stunning that Montgomery made the decision to take the ball out — the chances of getting past the 25-yard line aren’t great, and it takes time off the clock as well.
Interestingly enough, head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that Montgomery was told to take a knee if he could. After all, the Packers have a guy named Aaron Rodgers who’s one of the best of all-time when it comes to coming back in the fourth quarter.
Well, Montgomery didn’t listen. Then he fumbled the ball on the return, and the game was over.
Winner: Old Man Peterson keeps trucking
Before he was lost for the season due to a neck injury in 2017, it was almost a sure thing that a good game from Adrian Peterson would be followed up by a poor one. That hasn’t been the case in 2018.
The veteran is running as hard as ever before. On Sunday, he eclipsed 100 total yards for the fourth time this season, racking up 156 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-sealing 64-yard scamper.
He’s been the main weapon in Washington’s offensive arsenal all year long, and the past three games have seen him rack up a total of 360 yards. Talk about productive.
Loser: The Brocketship crash-landed
Brock Osweiler was actually pretty darn good in the three games he appeared in prior to Thursday night’s blowout loss in Houston. He had thrown six touchdowns and just two interceptions, giving Miami a real chance with Ryan Tannehill out of commission.
That run of success didn’t carry over in Week 8. He had some really nice rapport with DeVante Parker, who caught six passes for 134 yards. But outside of that, Osweiler failed to do much of consequence that helped his team. Throwing to players not named Parker, he completed 15-of-28 passes for 107 yards — not good.
Even worse, his interception in the first quarter led to the second touchdown of the game for Houston, which took all the momentum away from the Dolphins.
Winner: James Conner continues to dominate
The Pittsburgh Steelers really aren’t missing Le’Veon Bell. Not even a little bit. James Conner’s rise to prominence has been one of the biggest storylines of the 2018 season. And he continued his dominant play Sunday leading Pittsburgh to victory over Cleveland.
Conner was brutally effective on the ground, racking up 146 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. In Le’Veon-esque fashion, he also shredded through the air, adding 66 more yards on five receptions — that’s a 212-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Folks, Conner now has 922 yards and nine touchdowns on the season and is on pace to finish with 2,107 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Loser: Detroit stinks up Ford Field
The Seattle Seahawks were one of our upset specials this weekend on the road in Detroit, and boy did they deliver. Though, a lot of that had to do with a poor effort by the Lions in front of their home crowd.
It’s impossible to single out one player. Matthew Stafford definitely deserves some blame, especially for his two fourth-quarter turnovers that doomed Detroit’s comeback bid.
That said, other players shoulder plenty of responsibility as well. Cornerback Teez Tabor was roasted multiple times by David Moore. Ameer Abdullah fumbled on a return, leading directly to points for Seattle. It was an all-around team effort at stinking up Ford Field.
Now the Lions are 3-4 facing what figures to be a rough schedule this next month.
Winner: Thunder and lightning display in Chicago
The Chicago Bears had little trouble dispatching the banged-up New York Jets. Though, a big reason why they were able to cruise to a 24-10 win at home was that Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard both had big games.
Chicago has struggled to get Howard going this year, but he pouned out a nice performance on Sunday, tallying 81 yards on the ground with one touchdown. Cohen got the offense going in a major way early with an electric 70-yard touchdown reception, and he finished with 110 total yards.
The thunder and lighting duo is starting to come alive, which is a problem for the rest of the league. Also, Chicago moved to 4-3 on the season and remains in great shape for a playoff push.
Loser: Jaguars’ tank-fest hits new low
Jacksonville continues to swirl around the drain after getting dominated yet again on Sunday.
Carson Wentz overcame a really rough start — he had two turnovers on the Eagles’ first two drives — and finished with three touchdown passes. The Eagles were able to impose their will on Jacksonville’s defense and racked up 133 yard on the ground.
New addition Carlos Hyde might as well have not played (he gained 11 yards on six carries), and the Jaguars abandoned the run game completely in the second half.
From Super Bowl contenders to…well…to whatever the Jaguars are now — the fall from grace has been precipitous. Jacksonville has now dropped four straight games and is third place in the AFC South, two games behind the Texans.
Winner: Josh Rosen gets his first fourth-quarter comeback win
The Arizona Cardinals think they have a franchise passer in rookie Josh Rosen. On Sunday he gave them a first taste of what they hope will be coming in droves as the years go by.
Down by 12 points after Robbie Gould kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter, Rosen led the Cardinals on two touchdown-scoring drives, including one that put them ahead for good with just 34 seconds left on the clock.
The rookie showed some guts, and got the Cardinals out of the NFC West basement in the process. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a huge first step that shows he’s capable of much, much more.
Loser: Oakland’s fourth-quarter woes continue
Fourth-quarter collapses are all the rage for the Oakland Raiders this year. So, it wasn’t really that surprising to see them blow the lead, up by a touchdown once the third quarter ended.
The Colts engineered three straight touchdown-scoring drives in the fourth quarter as Oakland’s defense collapsed completely. The offense, which had been red hot all afternoon, went ice cold, going punt, fumble, and turnover on downs in consecutive fourth-quarter drives.
That’s how you get to 1-6.
Winner: Big-play Mahomes keeps setting records
No nobody’s surprise, the Kansas City Chiefs won on Sunday, sweeping their AFC West rival Denver Broncos with a 30-23 victory.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 303 yards and four touchdowns. He also got Sammy Watkins heavily involved, as the receiver hauled in eight passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Along the way, the second-year quarterback made more NFL history, setting records for most pass yardage and most pass touchdowns in a player’s first nine career games. The sky is the limit to what he can accomplish.
Loser: Two huge turnovers sunk the Vikings
In a game that was ultimately decided by 10 points, two huge mistakes loom large for the Minnesota Vikings in their loss at home to the New Orleans Saints.
All-world receiver Adam Thielen — who had his eighth-straight 100-plus yard receiving game to set a new record, by the way — fumbled near the end of the first half. This turnover not only negated a huge interception of Drew Brees, but it led to a Saints touchdown right before halftime.
Then in the third quarter, near midfield and down by a touchdown, Kirk Cousins threw an ugly interception. He was being harried and panicked, throwing right to P.J. Williams, who romped to the end zone on what turned out to be a dagger pick-six (watch here).
Those two turnovers, and the points gained off of them, were the difference in the game.
Winner: Jared Goff took a beating and kept on slinging
The Packers got to Jared Goff early and often, and he didn’t have a lot of success at the outset of Sunday’s game. Green Bay ended up sacking the young quarterback five times and hitting him eight times throughout the contest.
The former Cal Bears star didn’t wear down, however. Instead, he continued to stand tall in the pocket and deliver under pressure. In the end, he put together a phenomenal outing, outplaying Aaron Rodgers along the way, throwing for 295 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Goff also kept the Rams undefeated with a fourth-quarter comeback win. Not too shabby.
Loser: Joe Flacco had a brutal game
Baltimore Ravens fans are not happy with Joe Flacco right now. He was awful on Sunday as the Ravens dropped to 4-4 on the season and generated just 14 points while the veteran quarterback was in the game.
Flacco threw two really bad interceptions, and his lone touchdown went to a running back. He completed just 22-of-39 passes for 192 yards against a defense that allowed an average of 275 passing yards per game before Sunday.
Making matters worse, at least from an optics perspective, is that rookie Lamar Jackson looked fantastic after he replaced Flacco, throwing for 46 yards and a touchdown on just five attempts.
Baltimore is now 4-4, in third place in the AFC North, just 1.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Winner: Saints get some revenge in Minneapolis
Sunday night’s big win over the Vikings won’t take the sting of last year’s Minnesota Miracle away completely. But it had to have felt wonderful to go into Minneapolis and wax their opponent like the Saints did.
Rookie Marcus Davenport is making his impact felt on defense, and boy, did that unit come through in a big way against the Vikings. Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Latavius Murray all had some big plays. But on the whole Minnesota’s offense was harangued all night long and came away with just 20 points while giving seven away.
Drew Brees didn’t do much damage through the air and actually threw his first interception of the season. But Alvin Kamara had a huge night, and kicker Wil Lutz mopped up when touchdowns weren’t forthcoming.
It was a huge team win, and the sixth straight for the NFC South-leading Saints.
Loser: Poor decisions haunt 49ers
First off, Matt Breida should have never been playing Sunday on his balky ankle. Sure, he looked great early on a 10-yard carry. But the poor guy finished with just 42 yards on 16 carries against the league’s second-worst rushing defense. Clearly, he wasn’t healthy.
Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert both looked much better, combining for 46 yards on just eight carries. It’s hard to understand what Kyle Shanahan was thinking there.
Then late, the 49ers got too conservative — both on offense and defense — with the lead, allowing the Cardinals to get back into, and ultimately, win the game.
Winner: Adam Vinatieri breaks yet another NFL record
Future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri has already made NFL history this year.
He needed just five more points on Sunday to add another accolade by breaking Morten Anderson’s all-time record for most points in NFL history.
He got those points, and then some, helping the Indianapolis Colts beat the Oakland Raiders. Nailing 2-of-2 field goals and all four of his extra-point attempts, Vinatieri finished Week 8 with 10 points and another NFL record to add to his legacy and legendary career.