Here is a rundown of Sunday’s NFL games in Week 8, from the most significant down to the “plenty of good seats were available at halftime” contests. This is the week that was in the National Football League.
Steelers 51, Colts 34 There was no other choice for the top game on Sunday in Week 8, and there are several reasons for it. First on the list is Ben Roethlisberger’s 522 passing yards and six touchdowns—both franchise records. The most surprising fact, however, is that Roethlisberger became the first player ever in the NFL to record more than 500 passing yards twice in a career. On top of that, the Steelers were facing an Indianapolis defense that held the Bengals scoreless the week before. No one saw this coming. The over/under for this game was 49. The two teams scored 55 in the first half.
Saints 44, Packers 23 The Saints looked like the Saints at home again. Even though they have stayed true to the “win at home/lose on the road” theme this year, their two previous home wins were not your typical New Orleans’ dominations (20-9 over Vikings, 37-31 OT vs. Buccaneers). Sunday night featured long pass plays for both teams and a rare two-interception night for Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers also appeared to tweak a hamstring in the third quarter but stayed in the game until the final minutes. A bye for the Packers this week will certainly help get him healed up. A final tidbit: There were no punts in this game. This is the second time this has happened this year in the NFL. The first was the Packers and Bears on Sept. 28. Before this year, it had happened only once in NFL history.
Bengals 27, Ravens 24 After going winless for three weeks, the Bengals went 80 yards in 10 plays and took the lead with less than a minute left and hung on for the victory. Baltimore appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 80-yard pass with 32 seconds left, but Steve Smith was called for a questionable offensive pass interference penalty. Cincinnati now leads the AFC North and, more importantly, has swept the season series with the Ravens.
Patriots 51, Bears 23 Tom Brady has risen to the elite status once again as an NFL quarterback. After a slow start this year, Brady has thrown for almost 1300 yards with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games–five of them against the Bears on Sunday. For the second week in a row, the Chicago Bears appeared uninterested in playing professional football. To make matters worse, it was announced on Monday that defensive end Lamarr Houston, whom the Bears acquired in the off-season to shore up their defense, has a torn ACL. He injured it while doing a celebration dance after sacking New England backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the fourth quarter. At the time, Chicago was down 25 points and there were three minutes remaining. At this point in the season, maybe it is best the team start celebrating small individual victories.
Seahawks 13, Panthers 9 Panthers beat the spread! Panthers beat the spread! There is no getting around it–the Seahawks are not an elite team anymore. In fact, without their copycat “12th Man” for home games (Texas A&M is the original), there are merely average. The last time Seattle looked like the awesome team of 2013 was in their 36-16 pasting of the Packers on opening night. If they did not have “Defending Champions” before their name, they would merely be another team in the NFC West.
Cardinals 24, Eagles 20 Sure, the Cardinals won the game on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to John Brown with 1:21 remaining. Arizona has been eking out some wins this year. Those wins, however, have helped them to the best record in the NFC at 6-1 (along with the Cowboys) and it is a result of Coach-of-the-Year candidate Bruce Arians simply finding a way. The Cardinals have a defensive backfield diluted with injuries, and were forced to play without QB Palmer for three games because of nerve damage. Their only loss this year came at Denver, in a game Palmer missed, and backup Drew Stanton had to leave because of injury. A tough test awaits the Cards next week in Dallas.
Lions 22, Falcons 21 Detroit (-3.5) was one of the NFL Best Bets this weekend, and it was somewhat discouraging to wake up to a 21-0 deficit first thing Sunday morning. The win for the Lions was not a win for those who had the bangers to bet on them, and they tried their best to lose outright. They could not even do that right, as they missed a winning field goal but got a second chance because of a delay-of-game penalty. Detroit has squeaked by two weeks in a row now and, to be fair, maybe there are simply “finding a way” to win (see Cardinals) until Calvin Johnson’s return.
Dolphins 27, Jaguars 13 There is not much to say about a team who does the expected and beats Jacksonville, except that Miami has now won three of their last four, and the one loss was in the final seconds to the Packers. The Dolphins are 4-3, but their last three wins have been over teams with a combined record of 4-19. Their one signature win was at home over the Patriots on opening weekend.
Bills 43, Jets 23 Chicago Bear fans can look at New York and say “At least we aren’t the Jets.” Before Geno Smith was pulled in the first quarter for Michael Vick, he had thrown eight passes and completed five of them—three to the Buffalo defense. The one thing the Jets have had this year is a stout defense, but Bills’ QB Kyle Orton threw for four touchdowns and the Bills were never challenged after taking a 24-17 lead into halftime.
Texans 30, Titans 16 Arian Foster is awesome (151 yards, 2 TDs) and the Houston defense is only going to get more awesome when Jadeveon Clowney, who has returned from a knee injury, gets back up to speed. The Texans piled up a 27-3 lead and coasted to the win. With the Colts loss, they are only a game behind Indy for first in the AFC South.
Chiefs 34, Rams 7 Kansas City had 143 yards rushing, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and had seven quarterback sacks. They are turning into one of the most complete teams in the NFL, and one of the most fun races to watch this year will be the three-way between the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs.
Vikings 19, Buccaneers 13 In a game in which only three points were scored before halftime, it was probably fitting that it ended on a defensive score. Minnesota rookie Anthony Barr stripped the ball from the hands of Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in overtime and returned it for a touchdown to give the Vikings the win in Tampa. Another rookie, QB Teddy Bridgewater, threw for 241 and a touchdown to lead Minnesota.
Browns 23, Raiders 13 Highlight: Cleveland covered a 7-point spread, but needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to do it. The Raiders out-gained the Browns 387-306, but lost the turnover battle 3-0. Don’t look now, but every team in the AFC North sports a winning record.