We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications.
If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
NFL Week 8
1. The Andy Dalton era is over in Cincinnati
ICYMI, the Bengals are 0-8, and they might not even be that good. Cincinnati is usually a talented but disjointed hodge-podge of players, but this season, that role has been taken by the Browns. So, the Bengals have taken over the basement in the AFC North. Andy Dalton isn’t having a terrible season by his standards: His yards per game and attempts per game are up, his completion percentage is just off his career average. So why the change at QB?? Well, it’s a little complicated, but to put it simply, the Bengals want to know what they have in Ryan Finley. The Bengals have two weeks to get their fourth-rounder ready as they navigate the bye week. The bad news is that he’ll make his debut against the division-leading Ravens… In any case, the Bengals have half a season to figure out if Finley is the guy or not, seeing as how they’re very likely to be picking in the top three in next year’s draft.
2. The Niners would like you to know they’re still undefeated
I’m not surprised that the Niners beat the Panthers at home with Kyle Allen under center. I am, however, somewhat shocked by the absolute stomping they put on Carolina. The San Francisco defense intercepted the young QB three times and sacked him a whopping seven times en route to a 51-13 shellacking. The Niners ran for an insane 232 yards and five rushing TDs in the matchup, just absolutely mauling the Panthers defensive front. If there was any question about the Niners being ready, this game removed all doubt. Until they get beat, the Niners are the favorites in the NFC. I said it.
3. Le’Veon Bell is struggling mightily
As the trade deadline came and went, plenty of folks weren’t sure if Bell would remain a Jet. He has, so at least he has that going for him, but any thoughts that he was going to turn the Jets into a contender have long since faded. As I mentioned in the preseason, Bell’s style is contingent on patience, waiting for the offensive line to create space. In New York, it simply hasn’t developed. Bell ranks 28th among rushers, and he’s a full yard per attempt behind his career average. I predicted he’d rank behind New England’s Sony Michel this season, and so far, he’s trailing the Pats workhorse at the halfway point. This week, Bell could manage only 23 yards against the Jags in a loss that dropped the Jets to 1-6.
4. Aqib Talib is now a Dolphin
But he’ll probably never play in turquoise. The Rams shipped Talib off to Miami along with a fifth-round pick in exchange for a late-round selection in the future. Why? To clear cap space. The Rams are exceptionally top-heavy after adding Jalen Ramsey, so to have any hope of sustaining this core, they need to get back down at least within spitting distance of the cap. Parting ways with the injured Talib will save the Rams 4.2 million give or take. The Dolphins will most likely flip him for more picks down the road, as they aren’t likely to need his services more than the picks he could bring when healthy. He’s not the lock-down number one corner he once was, but he’ll be a valuable veteran piece in someone’s secondary.
5. Washington is a mess
Trent Williams may be coming back to the team, but he sure isn’t happy about it. The talented left tackle would have generated a flood of interest in the trade market, but Washington’s brass preferred to play chicken, refusing to cave to his contract demands and his trade requests. They opened up trade discussions at the 11th hour, but it looks like no one was willing to give Washington the asking price. So,Williams will be back on the field the rest of the way, but it seems clear that this is a symptom of a poorlyrun franchise, and the situation with Williams will get worse before he gets a second chance in a new city.
6. The Eagles still have some swag
If the Eagles looked dead and buried after that 37-10 shellacking by the Cowboys, they may still be alive…or…undead…after a convincing road win against the Bills this week. While the win only gets the Eagles back to 4-4, it was a quality win, over a quality team (especially defensively). Philly was able to run the ball effectively using Jordan Howard (23 rushes for 96 yards and a TD) and Miles Sanders (3 rushes for 74 yards and a TD) on a day when Carson Wentz looked mediocre, throwing for only 172 yards on the day. The 31-13 road win represents the Eagles largest margin of victory all season. I’m not sure if the Eagles have enough in the tank to catch the Cowboys for the NFC East title, but a loss in week eight would likely have turned them into sellers at the trade deadline.
7. The Browns looked…better?
I know that Cleveland lost by two touchdowns to New England. I know that they committed three turnovers on three consecutive offensive plays in the first quarter. I know that Baker Mayfield couldn’t really get it going with either of his elite receivers Jarvis Landry or OBJ. Both caught five passes each for 65 and 52 yards, respectively. But they did do one thing pretty well and it might provide a bit of a roadmap for other teams to attack this Patriots defense. The Browns spread the field, then went rush heavy with Nick Chubb. If the Browns RB didn’t fumble twice, we might be talking about how Cleveland took New England right to the edge. It’s a tactic that attacks New England’s 3-4-based man coverage, and I’m interested to see if Baltimore tries to replicate some of the success Cleveland had in week 8.
8. The Patriots have little patience for missed kicks
Following the win against Cleveland, where Mike Nugent missed a field goal, and had another blocked, the Patriots have moved on from the veteran kicker. They’ll turn to another journeyman, Nick Folk, who’s been out of the league for a hot second. The veteran kicker has hit just over eighty percent of his field goal attempts in his career but was a mess in his final year in Tampa Bay, where he made just over half, I repeat, half of his attempts. Ouch. If the Patriots have a weakness going down the stretch, we know what it is. Paging Carli Lloyd…
9. The Cowboys just got better
With Michael Bennett turning into a square peg in Bill Belichick’s round hole 3-4 system, it was a foregone conclusion that he’d get shipped out before the trade deadline. He did, and surprisingly enough, the Pats sent him to a potential division winner. Maybe they don’t see the Cowboys improving enough to challenge the Niners, Saints and Packers for supremacy in the NFC, but in any case, Bennett is a top-notch pass rusher who will help shore up the Cowboys defensive line. I expect to see a lot more from him in Dallas than we saw in Foxboro. It might be just what Dallas needed to keep Philly in the rear view.
10. But they didn’t get Jamal Adams
In a trade deadline that ended up being more sizzle than steak, one of the hottest stories was the potential for Jets safety Jamal Adams to head to Dallas as well. While the deal didn’t end up happening, it looks like there was some saltiness on the part of the elite safety, who did NOT want to be traded. He took to twitter to express some frustrations with New York’s brass… So, I’m sure that won’t get awkward any time real soon or anything…
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