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Sean Gardner/Getty Images
The 2019 NFL season is just about halfway over, and there’s been no shortage of star turns, disappointments and surprises.
Two teams have yet to lose a game. That one is the New England Patriots is not a surprise. That the other is the San Francisco 49ers most assuredly is. But after watching the Niners dismember the Carolina Panthers in Week 8, there can be no doubt the team is the real deal.
Conversely, two teams have yet to notch a victory in 2019. The Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins are both well and truly terrible, but sooner or later one is going to have to win—they play each other in Week 16.
The Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts have both exceeded expectations this year, working their way into the top 10 of these rankings. The Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers have both been massive disappointments, falling into the bottom half of the league.
Oh, and the New Orleans Saints got quarterback Drew Brees back. We hear he’s good.
As has been the case every week during the 2019 season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Brad Gagnon and Gary Davenport have gathered to sort through the happenings of Week 8 and rank the league’s teams from the bottom to the top.
Here’s their take on the NFL’s pecking order heading into Week 9.
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Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Last Week: 32
Week 8 Result: Lost 27-14 at Pittsburgh
The Miami Dolphins almost messed around and won a football game.
Well, they led the game, anyway. Their advantage was 14 points, and it was the first time the team has held a lead that large this season.
But these are the 2019 Miami Dolphins, so you knew that wasn’t going to last. And sure enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers peeled off 27 straight points to cruise to a win.
There was a play just before halftime that summed up the season for the Dolphins. On 3rd-and-20, Miami—in its infinite wisdom—dialed up an all-out blitz. Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph found young wide receiver Diontae Johnson over the middle, and he scampered into the end zone to draw the Steelers within four points.
The players who are still marooned in Miami are doing the best they can to stay in football games. And the Dolphins have assembled a boatload of draft capital over the next two years.
But whoever said it’s always darkest before the dawn must have been a Dolphins fan, and daybreak seems a long way off.
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Frank Augstein/Associated Press
Last Week: 12
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Rams 24-10 (London)
It seems that every week the Cincinnati Bengals find a new way to be terrible.
For once, Cincinnati’s tissue-paper run defense was pretty good against the Rams. After allowing almost 190 yards per game on the ground over the first seven weeks of the season, the Bengals gave up just 98 yards on the ground in London.
But Cincy’s injury-ravaged secondary was shredded by Jared Goff to the tune of 372 yards through the air. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp had 220 yards all by himself.
In a race to the bottom with the Miami Dolphins, the Bengals are the first team to hit eight losses. Week 16 has now taken on a rather macabre level of importance in the NFL. On December 22, the Bengals travel to Miami—with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft potentially on the line.
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Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press
Last Week: 30
Week 8 Result: Lost at Minnesota 19-9
Dwayne Haskins isn’t ready to start for the Washington Redskins.
Washington didn’t have any choice but to roll the rookie from Ohio State out Thursday night in Minnesota after starter Case Keenum was forced from the game with a concussion. And to Haskins’ credit, he completed 60 percent of his passes against the Vikings.
That was sarcasm. Haskins only attempted five passes in the game, and one of those was picked off.
Thursday’s loss was another miserable offensive performance in a season full of them for Washington. The team managed just 216 total yards, turned it over twice and went 0-of-2 in the red zone.
If there was a bright spot of sorts, it’s that Adrian Peterson moved past Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson into sixth on the all-time rushing list—an achievement that earned Peterson a standing ovation from the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That’s the 2019 Redskins in a nutshell—when they come to town, opposing fans cheer.
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Last Week: 29
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 27-20
Dan Quinn is toast.
Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank has spent plenty of time defending his embattled head coach of late, but after Atlanta’s losing streak hit six on Sunday, Blank said he’s going to take a hard look at Quinn’s future over the bye week.
“I would say, much like the coaches said, I’m extraordinarily disappointed in the season,” Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN. “Nobody would have anticipated 1-7, and the lack of consistency. Today was a prime example of that. … So, we’ll take the next couple of weeks during this bye period of time and evaluate where we are. Whatever decision we have to make will be made for the right reasons for the long term.”
Yes, Atlanta had a 67-year-old (approximately) backup quarterback under center against the Seattle Seahawks. But this team is terrible. The season has been a disaster. Since Atlanta’s collapse in Super Bowl LI, the franchise has steadily worsened.
And it will be a massive surprise if Quinn is coaching the team in Week 10 in New Orleans.
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Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press
Last Week: 28
Week 8 Result: Lost at Jacksonville 29-15
When the New York Jets stunned the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, the hope was that the return of quarterback Sam Darnold would spark a run from the team.
Um, yeah. About that.
Over the past two weeks, Darnold has been…what’s the word…horrendous. After a five-turnover disaster against the New England Patriots, Darnold threw three more picks Sunday in a 14-point loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“New York’s free fall isn’t entirely Darnold’s fault,” Davenport said, “but there’s no denying he’s being incredibly reckless with the ball. Maybe it’s because of the time he missed and the losing streak that accompanied it. Maybe one of the side effects of mono is that it makes you unable to see defensive backs. But seven interceptions isn’t a good month for a quarterback. In two games, it’s a disaster. Another season for Gang Green has become gangrenous—and it’s not even Halloween yet.”
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Leon Halip/Getty Images
Last Week: 27
Week 8 Result: Lost at Detroit 31-26
Remember when Daniel Jones won his first two games and the Big Apple went completely bonkers over the youngster?
Seems like eons ago.
Since that two-game honeymoon, things have gone downhill for Jones and the Giants fast, as they’ve lost four games in a row.
Of course, Jones can’t be blamed for the latest setback—not after chucking four touchdown passes against the Lions. As Pat Leonard reported for the New York Daily News, the latest loss left safety Jabrill Peppers more than a little salty.
“We need to hold everybody accountable, from a man to a man,” Peppers said. “We have great game plans week in and week out; we’ve just got to execute them, myself included. We’re tired of this feeling. We’re better than what we’re putting on tape. We’re better than the results.”
We’ll see if the players-only meeting called by the Giants makes a difference on Monday night in Dallas against the rival Cowboys.
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Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Last Week: 26
Week 8 Result: Lost at Indianapolis 15-13
The Denver Broncos have become zen masters of pulling defeat from the jaws of victory in 2019.
Last week’s 30-6 beatdown at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs was an aberration for these Broncos. They prefer to wait until the very end of games to rip the still-beating hearts of their fans from their chests in the most traumatic way possible.
There was a two-point loss to the Chicago Bears on a field goal as time expired back in Week 2. Another two-point defeat on a field goal as time expired two weeks later against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And now for the third time this season, the Broncos fell by two points on a field goal at the very end of the game.
This isn’t to say that the Broncos aren’t bad—they are.
But there’s not a lot separating these 2-6 Broncos from being the 5-3 Broncos.
Football, as they say, is a game of inches.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Last Week: 19
Week 8 Result: Lost at New England 27-13
The Cleveland Browns are their own worst enemy.
For much of Sunday’s matchup with the New England Patriots, the Browns held their own. Cleveland had nearly as many total yards as the defending Super Bowl champions and averaged more than seven yards a carry.
But that came after the Browns dug themselves into a 17-0 hole after turning the ball over on three straight plays—one of which was a Nick Chubb fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
It’s the story of Cleveland’s season. Unforced error after unforced error. In addition to all those turnovers, the Browns racked up 13 penalties for 85 yards.
Despite a miserable start to the season, Sobleski holds out hope that a second-half turnaround is possible.
“All is not lost in Cleveland,” he said, “even though it seems like it. The first half of the Browns’ schedule was brutal, and the team managed a highly disappointing 2-5 record. However, the second-half schedule is far easier. If the Browns can cut down on their mental errors, a turnaround is possible.”
Davenport isn’t so sure.
“The Browns are talented,” he said. “But they are also sloppy and undisciplined. There’s been zero indication that’s going to change, and at this point I don’t think Cleveland will be able match last year’s seven wins.”
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Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Last Week: 23
Week 8 Result: Lost at Tennessee 27-23
It was no secret that the 2019 season was a make-or-break year for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston—the final year of his rookie deal. The hope was that new head coach Bruce Arians would be able to maximize Winston’s talents while minimizing the turnovers that have plagued the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
It hasn’t happened.
Two weeks after a six-turnover fiasco against the Carolina Panthers, Winston turned it over four more times in a four-point loss to the Titans. Winston now has a jaw-dropping 15 turnovers in seven games. In four-plus years in Tampa, Winston has fumbled the ball 46 times, losing 21.
And yet, as Mike Florio reported for Pro Football Talk, Winston all but guaranteed the 2-5 Buccaneers will win in Seattle next week.
“I’m feeling like we’re going to get better next week and we will win,” Winston said. “That’s how I’m feeling. I’m feeling like we will win.”
“I have a guarantee for you, too,” Davenport said. “I guarantee that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will never be a playoff team with Winston as their quarterback. His decision-making with the ball is terrible. Always has been. Always will be. It’s time to move on.”
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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Last Week: 25
Week 8 Result: Won at Chicago 17-16
The good thing about the Los Angeles Chargers’ one-point win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday is that it finally and mercifully put an end to the Bolts’ three-game skid and stretch of five defeats in six games.
That’s just about the only good thing that can be said about it.
The Chargers probably should have lost. The team managed just 231 yards of total offense. The run game was MIA yet again, picking up all of 36 yards. The Chargers were a miserable 2-of-10 on third down.
Had Chicago kicker Eddy Pineiro not missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired, we’d be talking about another close loss and miserable performance from a team that was seen as the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
The Chargers got the win in Week 8, but they aren’t going anywhere except downtown mediocrity.
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Bryan Woolston/Getty Images
Last Week: 24
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Tampa Bay 27-23
Marcus Mariota needs a hug. And maybe a comfortable cushion.
Because the way Ryan Tannehill is playing, Mariota won’t be leaving the bench any time soon.
After topping 300 yards with two scores in a win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week, Tannehill followed that performance up with 193 yards and three touchdowns in a comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Tannehill’s passer rating for the season is 108.3—higher than those of Deshaun Watson, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Per Jim Wyatt of the team’s website, Tannehill downplayed his recent success.
“We did some good things today,” he said, “but I feel like we need to be more consistent and put more drives together throughout the game.”
Tannehill might not be the long-term answer under center in Nashville, but he’s certainly been a shot in the arm for a Titans team that has climbed back to .500.
However, Gagnon isn’t buying the team as a playoff threat.
“Tennessee benefited greatly from opponent/officiating gaffes the last two weeks, and I’m not about to buy into Ryan Tannehill based on that,” he said. “The Titans should be 2-6, not 4-4. Good defense, bad offense, questionable coaching. They’re just lucky, and it helps that they’re in a bad division in the weaker of the two conferences.”
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Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Last Week: 17
Week 8 Result: Lost at New Orleans 31-9
After reeling off three wins in a row, Week 8 presented the Arizona Cardinals with a litmus test on just how improved the team is: a trip to New Orleans to battle the one-loss Saints.
It did not go well.
The Cardinals hung around for the first three quarters, but Arizona’s defense eventually wore down. With young tailback Chase Edmonds joining David Johnson on the shelf, the Cardinals managed just 40 rushing yards for the game and were shut out of the end zone.
It was something of a reality check for the Redbirds. That the team is better is undeniable—Arizona has already won as many games in 2019 as it did all of last year.
But this is still a team with a first-year head coach, a rookie quarterback and a defense that was torched for 510 yards Sunday.
“Maybe we had an inflated opinion of Arizona based on three consecutive wins over opponents who are a combined 3-21 this season,” Gagnon said. “In their four games against teams that currently possess winning records, the Cardinals have been outscored by a total of 63 points. Let’s not pretend this team won’t have a top-10 pick in the 2020 draft.”
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Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Last Week: 21
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Miami 27-14
For most of the first half of Monday night’s game, there were some very nervous fans in Pittsburgh.
They are nervous again after the Steelers’ 13-point win over the hapless Dolphins, but for another reason.
After a choppy start to the game that saw the Dolphins race out to a 14-0 lead, young quarterback Mason Rudolph and the Steelers settled down and took care of a team they were supposed to beat. The offensive star of the game was young running back James Conner, who had easily his best outing of the season: 145 rushing yards, over six yards per carry and a touchdown.
But Conner left the game late with a shoulder injury, casting a pall over an otherwise great evening for the third-year back.
At 3-4, the Steelers have moved into second place in the AFC North. And while they may not be a playoff contender, they are at least showing they can beat bad teams and won’t be an easy out for good ones.
That’s assuming Conner doesn’t miss significant time, of course.
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Tim Warner/Getty Images
Last Week: 20
Week 8 Result: Lost at Houston 27-24
Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans is something of a microcosm for the 2019 Raiders season.
In many respects, the Raiders played well. They piled up 378 yards of total offense—just 10 fewer than the Texans. Quarterback Derek Carr had an outstanding game, passing for 285 yards and three scores while posting a passer rating of 125.
For most of the game, the Raiders led. But Oakland’s defense, while better in 2019 than it was a year ago, couldn’t hold the lead late. And a Raiders team that can’t afford miscues committed far too many, piling up 100 yards on 11 penalties.
It was a disappointing result, to be sure. But Oakland came close to winning its third game of the season against a team that made the playoffs last season. As the Raiders’ time in Oakland winds down, the team is headed in the right direction.
The Las Vegas Raiders might actually be pretty good in 2020.
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Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Last Week: 13
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 17-16
The Chicago Bears are a mess, And the heart of that mess is third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
After rushing the ball just seven times against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7, the Bears rededicated themselves to running the ball Sunday against the Chargers. The results were good: 162 yards on 38 carries and rookie David Montgomery’s first 100-yard game.
But the Bears still lost the game.
They outgained the Chargers by over 150 yards on Sunday. Held the Chargers to just two third-down conversions in 10 attempts. And won the time-of-possession battle by a margin of almost two-to-one.
But Chicago lost the game.
Eddy Pineiro’s missed field goal at the end of the game might appear the obvious reason, but it was just the final symptom of a larger condition—the inability of the Chicago offense to move the ball consistently through the air. Trubisky’s 253 passing yards were his most this season, but he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the fourth time in six starts and committed two back-breaking fourth-quarter turnovers.
“Could Matt Nagy’s offense get any worse? Technically, it can, but the unit is still woefully inadequate,” Sobleski said. “Mitchell Trubisky looks well on his way to first-round bust status. The running game isn’t as effective as it should be. And Nagy’s play-calling, as a whole, leaves much to be desired. Who cares if the Bears have a damn good defense if they can’t consistently score any points?”
The defending NFC North champions are right back where they were in 2017—last place in the division.
And to get out, a change at quarterback may be required.
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Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press
Last Week: 22
Week 8 Result: Won vs. New York Jets 29-15
We may have the makings of a quarterback controversy in Jacksonville.
Had you told the Jaguars that they’d be sitting at .500 halfway into the season, the team probably would have taken it given that eight games in last year the team was 3-5 and mired in the middle of a seven-game skid.
Mind you, that’s with Nick Foles at quarterback. That rookie Gardner Minshew II has guided the Jaguars to four wins in seven starts since Foles broke his collarbone is pretty remarkable.
Minshew had one of his better games in Sunday’s win over the Jets, passing for 279 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. For the season, the sixth-rounder from Washington State has thrown 13 touchdown passes against just two picks with a passer rating of just under 100.
The Jaguars head to London next week to face the Houston Texans in a big AFC South battle. If Minshew can get the win there and lift the team to a winning record, it’s going to be awfully hard to turn to Foles when he’s eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 11.
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Ben Margot/Associated Press
Last Week: 15
Week 8 Result: Lost at San Francisco 51-13
The Kyle Allen express hit a bit of a snag Sunday in San Francisco.
And by “hit a snag,” we mean it derailed, rolled into a ditch and burst into flames.
Any momentum the Panthers built up over their four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt in Santa Clara. Allen and the Panthers offense could do nothing against San Francisco’s smothering defense, managing just 230 total yards while allowing seven sacks and turning the ball over three times. Those three turnovers were Allen’s first three interceptions of the season.
Carolina’s defense didn’t fare much better, surrendering 232 rushing yards and over six yards per carry.
The loss was a sobering blow—and one that Gagnon thinks could have a long-term impact.
“Carolina was cruising before a devastating blowout loss to the Steelers derailed its 2018 season, and it’s fair to wonder if that embarrassing showing against San Francisco might have the same effect,” he said. “Defenses are figuring out Kyle Allen, and there’s little reason to believe Cam Newton can come to the rescue. They’re in trouble in a really tough conference.”
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Leon Halip/Getty Images
Last Week: 16
Week 8 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 31-26
The Detroit Lions need to decide who they are.
By virtue of Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, the Lions are back at .500 seven games into the season. An NFC North title may be a tad unrealistic, but the Lions are in the hunt for a wild-card spot.
If the Lions are going to make a push for the playoffs as presently constructed, quarterback Matthew Stafford is going to have to stand on his head. The 31-year-old did Sunday, throwing for 342 yards and three scores.
However, the ground game was completely nonexistent. With tailback Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, Detroit managed just 59 yards on 25 carries—an average of just 2.4 yards a carry.
With the trade deadline upon us, the Lions have two choices. The first is to stand pat and either hope one of Detroit’s other backs fills the void or that the team can go pass-heavy and still move the ball consistently.
The second is to acquire a veteran runner.
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Ron Jenkins/Associated Press
Last Week: 14
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
The Dallas Cowboys have been a hard team to figure out in 2019.
Over the first three weeks of the season, the Cowboys looked like one of the best teams in the NFC. But that winning streak came against a string of tomato cans, and the next three weeks featured a skid that included getting pounded at home by the Green Bay Packers and an embarrassing loss to the New York Jets on the road.
The Cowboys’ most impressive effort of the season came in Week 7—a 37-10 thrashing of the rival Philadelphia Eagles that moved Dallas into first place in the NFC East.
The off week came at a good time for the Cowboys, who have prominent players banged up all over the place, whether it’s along the offensive front, the defensive line or at linebacker.
But for Dallas to be taken seriously as a contender in the NFC, the team is going to have play more consistently over the second half of the season.
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Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images
Last Week: 18
Week 8 Result: Won at Buffalo 31-13
After getting blasted on the road by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7, the Philadelphia Eagles needed more than just a win. Philly needed a statement: something to indicate it was still a contender in the NFC East.
It got that statement, taking a 5-1 Bills team behind the woodshed in Buffalo to get back to .500 for the season. And in doing so, the Eagles may have happened upon a recipe to get their season back on track.
Rather than try to throw the ball with a banged-up wideout corps against one of the league’s better pass defenses, the Eagles went ground-and-pound. They ran the ball 41 times for 218 yards Sunday, led by a 23-carry, 96-yard effort from bruiser Jordan Howard.
The Eagles have a winnable game on tap next against the reeling Chicago Bears that could allow them to build some momentum, but they need speedster DeSean Jackson back on the field when they return from a Week 10 bye.
Their first game after the break is a Super Bowl LII rematch with the unbeaten Patriots.
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Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
Last Week: 9
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 31-13
Fun fact: The Buffalo Bills have never started a season 6-1 and not made it to the Super Bowl.
Not-so-fun fact: The Buffalo Bills are not 6-1 after getting waxed at home by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Mind you, there’s certainly no shame in starting a season 5-2. But the Bills didn’t just lose to the Eagles. They were pushed around on both sides of the ball. They surrendered a whopping 218 yards on the ground but were able to generate fewer than 100 themselves. The Eagles converted over half their third-down attempts and outgained Buffalo by almost 120 yards. Bills quarterback Josh Allen was sacked four times and threw for just 169 yards.
In Gagnon’s opinion, the loss exposed the Bills.
“The Bills were such a phony ‘contender,’ and now they’ve been exposed with a three-score home loss to a limping opponent,” he said. “Josh Allen is not ready to quarterback a team in big games in December and January.”
Tell us how you really feel, Brad.
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Frank Augstein/Associated Press
Last Week: 12
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Cincinnati 24-10 (London)
Does your team have the blues? Have they not been playing their best?
The Cincinnati Bengals are here to help.
After a three-game skid dropped the Rams to .500, they have righted the ship—at least to an extent. The Rams took care of the worst team in the NFL not named the Miami Dolphins in London on Sunday behind a big day from quarterback Jared Goff and an absolutely massive stat line (seven catches for 220 yards and a score) from wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
However, all is not sunshine and puppies in Los Angeles.
The run game continues to be an issue, averaging fewer than four yards per carry against a run defense that entered the week allowing almost 190 yards per game on the ground. The Rams defense also allowed over 400 yards of offense to a Bengals team that has struggled on that side of the ball.
“The Rams are playing better,” Davenport said. “But not only are they not making it back to the Super Bowl, but they’re also the clear-cut No. 3 team in their own division. There are just too many holes on this team in 2019—holes Jalen Ramsey’s arrival did nothing to fix.”
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Tim Warner/Getty Images
Last Week: 11
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Oakland 27-24
The Houston Texans may have won the battle but lost the war Sunday.
Thanks to 279 passing yards, three touchdowns and some late-game heroics that included a game-winning score after being kicked in the face, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson led Houston to a comeback win that helped it keep pace with the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.
But the win came at a terrible cost. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt tore a pectoral muscle in the win, and the injury will end his season.
The impact of his loss can’t be overstated. The Houston secondary was already a mess. Now, with Watt on the shelf and Jadeveon Clowney in Seattle, it’s fair to wonder where the team’s pass rush will come from moving forward.
“The Texans remain a good team,” Davenport said, “And it’s possible they could overtake the Colts in the AFC South. But between the loss of Watt and the team’s problems on the offensive line and in the secondary, I don’t see these Texans as a legitimate threat to make it to Miami.”
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Last Week: 10
Week 8 Result: Won at Atlanta 27-20
It’s not all that often that an NFL team barely manages 300 yards of total offense, allows over 500 yards and still wins the game.
That’s what happened Sunday in Atlanta, where the Seattle Seahawks raced out to an early lead and then held off a late rally to send the Falcons to their sixth loss in a row.
It was a game that wound up closer than it probably should have been given that Matt Schaub was under center for the Falcons. But style points mattered less here than the win itself. With the 49ers rolling through opponents like a dreadnought, the Seahawks couldn’t afford to fall any further off the pace in the NFC West.
Still, the whole thing made Davenport just a little uneasy.
“The Atlanta defense is 12 kinds of terrible,” he said, “and the last time Matt Schaub started an NFL game was in 2015 with the Baltimore Ravens. In other words, this shouldn’t have been a seven-point game, and the Seahawks played down to their opponent. I’ll give half a pass for a West Coast team traveling for a 1 p.m. ET game, but it’s a bit concerning to see a supposed Super Bowl contender sleepwalk its way to a win like this.”
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David Eulitt/Getty Images
Last Week: 8
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Green Bay 31-24
In some respects, the Chiefs deserve credit from Sunday night’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. They stayed in the game until the end despite the absence of MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Journeyman backup Matt Moore played well, passing for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But there’s still more than one reason for concern in Kansas City.
The Chiefs have now dropped three straight games at home. That Arrowhead skid probably won’t be enough to jeopardize Kansas City’s chances of winning the AFC West, but home-field advantage in the playoffs and a first-round bye are looking less likely by the week.
Also, Kansas City’s defense continues to be a concern. That defense isn’t quite as porous as last year’s unit, but after giving up 374 yards to the Packers, it ranks outside the top 20 in total defense and 17th in scoring defense.
However, Sobleski isn’t hitting any panic buttons yet.
“The Chiefs are biding their time,” he wrote. “Surprisingly, Kansas City’s offense didn’t fall off a cliff with Matt Moore leading the way. Still, Patrick Mahomes could return after missing only one game with a dislocated kneecap, and the Chiefs will be right back among the league’s best upon the MVP’s return. No one wants to watch Moore play any longer than necessary.”
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John Froschauer/Associated Press
Last Week: 6
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
In many respects, the bye week came at the perfect time for the Baltimore Ravens.
Fresh off a 30-16 victory in Seattle that was the Seahawks’ most impressive win of the season, the Ravens get a week off that will help allow banged-up players such as rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown time to get healthy ahead of a huge Week 9 showdown with the New England Patriots.
At 5-2, the Ravens have already established an ironclad grip on first place in the AFC North. Lamar Jackson’s ability to hurt opponents with his legs has made them one of the more difficult teams in the league to defend.
However, next week’s home tilt with the Pats gives Baltimore an opportunity to show it is more than just the best team in one of the NFL’s weakest divisions. It’s a chance to show that it’s a legitimate contender in the AFC as a whole.
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AJ Mast/Associated Press
Last Week: 5
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Denver 15-13
There are two ways you can look at the Colts’ ugly two-point win over a bad Denver Broncos team.
On one hand, it’s a tad alarming they needed a last-second field goal to beat a team that got trounced by the Matt Moore-led Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7. Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett had one of his poorer performances of the season, passing for just 202 yards without a touchdown while losing a fumble.
On the other hand, there are games during every season in which teams don’t put forth their best effort. The difference between good teams and bad teams is that the good ones find a way to gut out victories in those contests. That’s what the Colts did Sunday to stay in first place in the AFC South.
”The Colts showed some vulnerabilities Sunday against the Broncos,” Davenport said. “But the team also showed resiliency in finding a way to eke out a win. Given what happened to the Texans on Sunday (J.J. Watt’s injury), I’m more convinced than ever that the Colts are the class of their division, even if they didn’t really look the part in Week 8.”
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Jim Mone/Associated Press
Last Week: 7
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Washington 19-9
The Minnesota Vikings are on a roll.
Granted, the Vikings’ 10-point win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night wasn’t the team’s most impressive victory of the season. But after pitching and lurching their way to a 2-2 start, the Vikings have peeled off four straight wins and sit at 6-2 at the season’s halfway mark.
The biggest reason for Minnesota’s surge is the player who, not that long ago, was the target of more than a little vitriol from the fanbase. Kirk Cousins didn’t throw a touchdown pass against Washington, but the $28 million quarterback misfired on just three of 26 pass attempts and posted a passer rating over 110 for the fourth game in a row.
During Minnesota’s winning streak, Cousins has 10 touchdown passes and just a single interception.
“I’m still not sold on Minnesota as a Super Bowl contender given its 1-2 mark inside its own division,” Davenport said. “But if the Vikes can keep the momentum rolling on the road at Kansas City and Dallas the next two weeks, it will go a long way toward bringing me around.”
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Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Last Week: 4
Week 8 Result: Won at Kansas City 31-24
In the AFC this year, it’s the New England Patriots and everyone else.
The NFC bracket, on the other hand, is shaping up to be quite the gauntlet. The New Orleans Saints went undefeated with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and now have Drew Brees back. The San Francisco 49ers have yet to lose a game and just annihilated the Carolina Panthers.
Then there’s the Green Bay Packers, who sit at 7-1 after downing the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead on Sunday night.
In years past, the Packers went as far as quarterback Aaron Rodgers took them. But in 2019, they have more balance. The defense is improved. Running back Aaron Jones was the hero Sunday night, exploding for 226 total yards and two touchdowns. And the Packers keep rolling despite not having wide receiver Davante Adams on the field.
They should be able to handle the Chargers in Week 9, and the Panthers came back to earth this week in San Francisco. But Green Bay’s Week 11 bye will come in handy. The next game after that is in San Francisco.
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Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Last Week: 3
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Carolina 51-13
There are statement wins. Then there are statement wins. And then there’s the mudhole the San Francisco 49ers stomped the Carolina Panthers into on Sunday afternoon.
This game was all but over before it started. It was 14-3 by the end of the first quarter and 27-3 at halftime. The 49ers dominated the contest in every category imaginable. They outgained the Panthers by over 150 yards, racked up an impressive 232 yards on the ground, piled up seven sacks and forced three turnovers.
It was as dominant an effort as we’ve seen from any team in the NFL this year, and it came against a Panthers squad that had won four straight entering Week 8.
“A light schedule favored the 49ers during their 6-0 start, but no one can deny how good San Francisco really is after it trounced the Carolina Panthers, who had won four straight contests going into the meeting,” Sobleski said. “San Francisco continues to dominate in the trenches. Its defensive line is the league’s best, and it has a beautifully designed ground attack. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. are gunning for the No. 1 overall spot.”
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Bill Feig/Associated Press
Last Week: 2
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Arizona 31-9
Week 8 brought with it a very welcome sight for the New Orleans Saints: the return of veteran quarterback Drew Brees. Not only was it great to see him back under center, but something even better happened.
It looked like Brees never left.
In his first action since tearing a ligament in his right thumb against the Los Angeles Rams, Brees threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. As is usually the case, wide receiver Michael Thomas was the primary beneficiary of the quarterback’s return, but just as was the case when Teddy Bridgewater stepped in, a veteran player helped fill the void created by an injury.
With Alvin Kamara sitting out, Latavius Murray was called on to fill a larger role in the backfield. All he did was run for 102 yards and a score on 21 carries while adding 55 more yards and another touchdown on nine receptions.
The Saints are talented. The Saints are balanced. The Saints are deep.
And with Brees back on the field, the Saints are very, very dangerous.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Last Week: 1
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Cleveland 27-13
The New England Patriots defense was at it again Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
The NFL’s most opportunistic D once again piled up the big plays, sacking Baker Mayfield five times, forcing three turnovers and scoring yet another defensive touchdown. In a game during which the two teams recorded a nearly identical amount of yardage, those big plays were the difference for a Pats team that hits the halfway mark at 8-0.
However, while the Pats have a perfect record, most of the wins have come against less-than-stellar opposition. That leaves Gagnon nursing a measure of skepticism regarding New England’s top billing here.
“I don’t think this is a complete no-brainer,” he said. “You can’t take New England out of the No. 1 spot as an undefeated defending champion, especially considering seven of their eight wins have come by 14-plus points. But it might only take one Patriots slip-up for the Saints or 49ers to leapfrog the Pats. Both those teams look more powerful than ever right now, especially with Drew Brees back in New Orleans and Nick Bosa tearing it up for the San Francisco defense.”
For his part, Davenport is just looking forward to New England’s biggest test of the season against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.
“Lamar Jackson on one side,” he said. “Bill Belichick‘s defense on the other. I’ve already started popping popcorn for this one.”