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Winners, losers from NFL Week 8: Jalen Hurts’ MVP case, Trevor Lawrence creates long-term doubt

Matt Johnson
NFL Week 8, Jalen Hurts
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 8 is drawing to a close with Sunday’s action wrapping up. From an alarming performance by quarterback Trevor Lawrence to stellar play from Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from NFL Week 8.

The early afternoon slate provided a lot of excitement, even if it didn’t come with surprises. We saw the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers engage in a OT back-and-forth that left you uncertain if they wanted a top pick or first place in the NFC South more.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears combined for 78 points, while Philadelphia Eagles stomped out the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots crushed the New York Jets’ hopes.

We still had plenty to enjoy in the later half of the NFL Week 8 slate. San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey made NFL history, helping Kyle Shanahan maintain his ownage over Sean McVay. On top of that, Derrick Henry ran over the Houston Texans all while the New York Giants vs Seattle Seahawks clash looked like a legitimate playoff battle.

Related: NFL Week 8 scores

Let’s dive int our winners and losers from NFL Week 8.

Winner: Tua Tagovailoa comes alive in NFL Week 8

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

A week after nearly throwing multiple interceptions and losing the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looked a lot like the passer we saw early in the season before his head injuries. After posting a 117.8 QB rating with an 8-2 TD-INT rate and 71.3% completion rate in his first three games, Tagovailoa reached that level again on Sunday.

Related: NFL games today – 2022 NFL schedule

Facing the Detroit Lions, Tagovailoa delivered the fifth 300-yard game of his career and his second of the 2022 season. While he underthrew a few passes to Tyreek Hill, the connections with the All-Pro wideout and Jaylen Waddle still make this one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Miami’s defense keeps it multiple tiers below the Buffalo Bills, but this is a legit playoff team.

Loser: Ship keeps sinking for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are starting to take on too much water. Already dealing with several holes on the roster, the torn Achilles for Shaq Barrett is only going to make things work. Defensively, Tampa Bay was already banged up and its defense doesn’t have the energy or depth to spend 65% of games on the field. It’s not going to be saved by the offense either.

Related: NFL defense rankings

After delivering 17 rushing yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, the Buccaneers’ ground game totaled just 27 rushing yards on their next 10 drives. It created third-and-long situations, resulting in a 30.7% third-down conversion rate. To make matters worse, Tom Brady clearly doesn’t trust the offensive line and reinforcements aren’t coming anytime soon. Maybe the Buccaneers win the NFC South because it’s the worst division in football, but this is a bad team.

Winner: Jalen Hurts-A.J. Brown connection is special

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to start adjusting the conversation centered on Jalen Hurts. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback is no longer just the breakout player in 2022, he’s firmly in the hunt for NFL MVP and earning himself tens of millions of dollars for a contract extension. The Eagles’ undefeated starter is a credit to the entire roster and front office, but the connection between Hurts and Browns keeps standing out every week.

Related: MVP race entering NFL Week 8

In just their first season together, Hurts and Brown are displaying the level of rapport you see from the likes of elite quarterback-receiver duos. Philadelphia’s No. 1 wideout knows how to create just enough separation deep and his quarterback’s deep-ball accuracy this season is absurd. The Eagles needed Hurts to prove himself in 2022 and he is blowing past the grandest expectations.

Loser: Trevor Lawrence will never meet the hype

NFL: International Series-Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus evaluation of Trevor Lawrence entering the 2021 NFL Draft viewed him as a generational talent, the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. Everyone granted him a pass for an ugly 2021 season, blaming Urban Meyer and a toxic environment. Doug Pederson would fix that. Except, we’re now eight games into the season and there is no real improvement.

Trevor Lawrence statsQB RatingCompletion RateTD-INTYPA
Week 1-3103.169.4%6-16.95
Week 4-872.6757.8%4-56.43

Lawrence’s recent play is alarming. Of more concern is his issues inside the red zone. Territory that is most teams view as the “green zone” because of its scoring opportunities and the effectiveness of great quarterbacks, is the area of the field Jacksonville has to be the most worried about with Lawrence. An interception on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line gave Lawrence his third red-zone interception of the year, most in the NFL. He also entered completing just 46.2% of his attempts inside the 20-yard line.

We’re now 25 games into Lawrence’s NFL career. At the very least, he isn’t making significant progress and a case could even be made he is regressing. Lawrence can still be an above-average quarterback, especially if Jacksonville finds him a No. 1 receiver. Unfortunately, he’s not anything close to the talent that fans were promised.

Winner: Tony Pollard proves he is the Dallas Cowboys’ RB1

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For as much as Jerry Jones loves Ezekiel Elliott, even he must see the obvious. For all the great memories Elliott provided the Dallas Cowboys, he is the second-best running back on the roster and it’s not particularly close.

Simply look at what Tony Pollard is doing this season. Entering NFL Week 8, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry (12th in NFL) and he is responsible for 480 scrimmage yards on just 78 touches (6.2 ypt). With Elliott sidelined on Sunday, Pollard erupted for three rushing touchdowns, XXX scrimmage yards and averaged X.X yards per carry. Elliott can be the short-yardage back and pass block, let Pollard do everything else.

Related: Dallas Cowboys schedule

Loser: Zach Wilson is flying toward draft bust status

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Wins aren’t a quarterback stat. For as much excitement as the New York Jets winning streak provided fans, it served as a temporary mask that hid the reality of an underlying issue. Zach Wilson not only isn’t performing like a franchise-caliber quarterback, he doesn’t appear to belong on an NFL field for the foreseeable future.

  • Zach Wilson stats (career): 55.4% completion rate, 3,382 pass yards, 12-16 TD-INT, 70.04 QB rating, 6.4 ypa, 54 sacks in 18 games

Look at what happened in NFL Week 8, we’ve got plenty of examples to choose from. Look at the third-and-7 interception, a reckless decision and an awful throw erased any shot of a Jets’ fourth-quarter comeback. On a fourth-and-5, Wilson turned down a scramble that would be a first down and instead made an awful overthrow.

The raw talent isn’t translating into on-field success and the baffling decision he makes with the football warrant a long-term benching. Wilson is the worst quarterback in the NFL right now and it’s fair to argue Joe Flacco is a better option for New York right now.

Winner: Christian McCaffrey makes history in NFL Week 8

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fair to say the San Francisco 49ers are feeling even better about the Christian McCaffrey trade right now than they did a week ago. On a Sunday when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t get much going – par for the course – Kyle Shanahan unleashed McCaffrey by allowing McCaffrey to do everything.

The All-Pro offensive weapon kicked things off with a 34-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in the second quarter. With the 49ers trailing late in the third quarter, McCaffrey got down the sideline and made a sensational catch for the 9-yard touchdown. Because all of that wasn’t enough, he then punched in a rushing touchdown that sealed the game. McCaffrey is now the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson (2005) to record a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game and just the third to do it since 1990. McCaffrey is everything for the 49ers.

Loser: Las Vegas Raiders’ offseason was a failure

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at New Orleans Saints
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Many viewed the Las Vegas Raiders as winners from the NFL offseason. They landed Josh McDaniels as head coach, providing Derek Carr with a quarterback whisperer and instituting discipline and a well-designed offense in Las Vegas. On top of that, the Raiders snagged Davante Adams, signed Chandler Jones to bolster their pass rush and capped things off with extensions for their offensive core.

It’s time to call the offseason a failure. Carr is coming out of NFL Week 8 with his worst quarterback rating (86.8) and completion rate (62.8%) since 2017. Meanwhile, tight end Darren Waller hasn’t come close to earning that $51 million contract extension and Adams is a massive disappointment. The only positive for Las Vegas, it can move on from Carr in 2023 but the rest of this season will be rough.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks are a legit NFC threat

NFL: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing left for the Seattle Seahawks to prove. In a season where everyone expected this team to rebuild, tearing everything down and tanking for Bryce Young, Seattle is a legitimate playoff contender. Quite frankly, there might even be an argument that this is the second-best team in the NFC.

Seattle is clearly better than the likes of the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams and Washington Commanders. After that, we’re comparing them between the 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

Based on the level of play this season, Geno Smith is better than Garoppolo. The 49ers are certainly superior defensively, but it’s not unreasonable to think that the rematch against San Francisco on Dec. 15 could be a coin-flip. As for the Vikings, their resume isn’t that much better than the Seahawks. Needless to say, we’re excited to see what this offense and an improving defense does moving forward.