The NFL has certainly provided its share of uncertainty through eight weeks, starting with the competitiveness of games throughout the year. There have been 55 games decided by a touchdown (six points) or less and 71 games decided by one score (eight points), both the most such games through the first eight weeks all time. There have been 94 games within one score in the fourth quarter this season, the most such games through the first eight weeks in NFL history.
The competitive balance has led to the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons being surprising division leaders, along with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers having losing records after dominating the NFC the last few years. The Buffalo Bills lead the pack in the AFC, yet there are plenty of teams trying to challenge them and the Kansas City Chiefs for conference supremacy.
What did we learn about each team after the Week 8 slate of games? Some teams certainly showcased their strengths and weaknesses in this week's slate of games.
The run defense had a surprisingly poor day: Arizona's run defense has been good this season, not allowing more than 139 yards in any game this year and allowing only 101.1 yards per game prior to Sunday. The Cardinals allowed a season-high 173 rushing yards in Sunday's loss to the Vikings, allowing 6.0 yards per carry in the defeat.
Arizona was a top-10 run defense prior to Sunday, now the Cardinals are 13th. The Vikings' duo of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison had 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns and built a double-digit lead in the second half.
If the Cardinals stopped the run earlier, they might have escaped Minnesota with a win.
The best team in the NFC South: Crazy to think this is where we stand after eight weeks, but the Falcons are the only .500 team in the division -- and the best team. Atlanta can win the ball against anyone, finishing with 167 yards in Sunday's win -- the sixth time the Falcons have rushed for 150-plus yards this year (Atlanta is 4-2 in those games).
The Falcons are getting Kyle Pitts involved in the offense now, a scary proposition given how well they run the ball. Arthur Smith is a good head coach and gets the most out of a team that may have more talent than originally thought.
With all the flaws in the NFC South, the Falcons are the one team that has a clear strength over the rest of the division. Until the run game is stopped, Atlanta is the best team.
Two good pass-catching tight ends: Mark Andrews is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the game. Now Andrews has another playmaker to help free him up.
Isaiah Likely was excellent in his absence, catching six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown as Andrews left the game with a shoulder injury. Likely, a fourth-round rookie, was Lamar Jackson's most reliable target Thursday -- as Jackson had a 152.1 passer rating targeting Likely.
The Ravens offense would be scary in "12 personnel" with Andrews and Likely. This could be Greg Roman's play going forward knowing what Likely can provide for this offense.
As Stefon Diggs goes, so does the Bills: Josh Allen is the driving force behind the Bills offense, yet Diggs can easily be the cog that makes the well-oiled machine go. Diggs had six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in Buffalo's win over Green Bay, including an impressive 26-yard touchdown catch that was part of the offense scoring on five consecutive possessions.
The Bills are 5-0 when Diggs has 100 yards receiving this season and 13-1 in his 14 100-yard receiving games. When Diggs has a huge game, so does the Bills offense. That's not a coincidence.
Derrick Brown has arrived in the NFL: Carolina has waited two years for Brown to live up to his top-10 draft status, and the 2022 season has been well worth the wait. Brown has 40 tackles, a sack, and five quarterback hits through eight games -- just one shy of his career-high for tackles.
Brown's six passes defensed are already a career high and his 19 pressures are only four off from last year. Brown was a solid player, but he's now the game wrecker the Panthers projected him to be two years ago.
Brown had 12 tackles and a 0.5 sack in Sunday's win. He's an impact player on a Panthers team that needs them.
N'Keal Harry should be the No. 2 wide receiver: The Bears passing game is improving by the week, but Chicago needs someone to complement Darnell Mooney. Harry, who was acquired by the Bears in the offseason, has played in just two games -- including two catches for 24 yards and a touchdown Sunday.
Dante Pettis can still be the deep threat in the offense, but Harry was brought into Chicago for a second chance in the NFL. He's shown enough in his limited snaps (up to 63% of the snaps this week) to garner even more playing time and targets as the season progresses.
Fields is getting better by the week. Would help his development if him and Harry could grow together in what is still a new offense.
Offense clearly misses Ja'Marr Chase: The Bengals offense just wasn't the same with Chase out of the lineup, having just 100 yards and no points in a first half that involved two turnovers (interception, fumble) and a missed field goal. The Bengals ran 30 plays and averaged 3.3 yards per play.
This is an offense that has Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon still on the field. Chase makes that significant of an impact in the passing game that it was nonexistent until Cincinnati was down 25-0 in the third quarter.
Any Bengals touchdowns in this game were empty calories. This offense has a lot of work to do with Chase out for a significant period of time.
Offensive line flexed their muscles: Cleveland had an impressive 440 yards of offense, but the best part about the performance was how well the offensive line played. The Browns had 172 rushing yards without Jack Conklin in the fold throughout the game, as he was dealing with an injury. James Hudson played well in relief of Conklin.
Jacoby Brissett also had plenty of time to get rid of the football, completing 77.3% of his passes and having a season-high 133.7 passer rating. If the Browns can get offensive line play like this every week, they'll play a significant role in the AFC North race.
Tony Pollard should be the No. 1 running back: This one is pretty obvious right? If 14 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns weren't enough to start Pollard over Ezekiel Elliott -- maybe 49 points by the Cowboys offense is enough to convince Jerry Jones.
Pollard has 81 carries for 506 yards and five touchdowns on the year, averaging 6.2 yards per carry -- ranking third amongst all running backs in yards per carry. Pollard's career average is 5.3 yards per carry, so he's an explosive playmaker when he touches the football.
Pollard averages 10.1 attempts per game, but that's not even close to enough. He should be starting over Ezekiel Elliott.
Greg Dulcich may be the solution to the struggling offense: The Broncos offense put up 20 points for just the second time this season, no coincidence Dulcich was in the lineup, Making his first career start, Dulcich was an excellent pass-catching option for Russell Wilson -- finishing with four catches for 87 yards in the win.
Dulcich made his impact in the third quarter, catching passes of 18, 22, and 38 yards on a game-changing 98-yard drive to get Denver a 14-10 lead. The Broncos clearly missed Dulcich early in the year with a hamstring injury, but the third-round rookie should be the No. 1 tight end now. The offense is clearly better with Dulcich on the field.
The pass defense can't stop anyone: Tua Tagovailoa had a field day against the Lions pass defense, a unit that game up a season-high 369 yards against one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Tagovailoa was 15 of 18 for 290 yards and three touchdowns on passes of 10-plus air yards against the Lions secondary, as Detroit had no answer for him.
On third down, Tagovailoa was 9 of 10 for 139 yards with two touchdowns as the Lions defense gave up 8 of 12 third down conversions. They just couldn't get off the field and Dan Campbell was left scratching his head in frustration again.
Green Bay Packers
About time the running game got going: Give Matt LaFleur credit for committing to Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, as the two combined for 30 carries for 197 yards in a loss to Buffalo (6.56 yards per carry). The explosive plays in the air have been lacking all season, leaving Green Bay with no choice but to get the run game going.
Aaron Rodgers was under duress all night with the Bills pass rush, so the running game was the only way to protect him and keep him upright. Against many teams, using the run to set up the pass will benefit Green Bay. The Packers just aren't at the level of the Bills.
Green Bay needs to keep going to the run game. That's how the Packers will stay in games and get points on the board.
Davis Mills just isn't the guy: May be time to realize Mills isn't going to be the long-term answer in Houston. Mills was 17 of 29 for 152 yards with a touchdown and an interception in Sunday's 17-10 loss, with the passing touchdown coming in the final minute with the game well out of hand.
Mills was 5 of 11 for 17 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in the first half, a 17.6 passer rating. The Texans were still in the game (trailed 7-3) through no help of their quarterback. He doesn't have much to work with, but Mills also ranks towards the bottom in a number of the major passing categories.
The Texans will be looking for a quarterback come the 2023 draft.
The run game was significantly better with Sam Ehlinger at quarterback: The Colts finished with 135 rushing yards in Sunday's loss to the Commanders, the most in a game since Week 1. Perhaps it was Ehlinger's mobility that created some holes for Jonathan Taylor (16 carries, 76 yards, 4.75 yards per carry), but the Colts were also more efficient on third down and improved their yards per carry by a full yard this week.
This was the first time the Colts averaged at least 4.7 yards per carry since Week 1 (season average is 3.9). Having a quarterback that can roll out of the pocket has its dividends. The Colts found that out with their running game and Ehlinger.
Travis Etienne is unleashed: No longer having to worry about splitting carries with James Robinson, the Jaguars allowed Etienne to unleash his full potential Sunday. Etienne had 24 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to Denver, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
This was the first game Etienne logged over 20 carries, while setting a new career-high in rushing yards. The Jaguars want this offense to run through Etienne, getting a first look at the mismatches he creates for a defense.
Denver struggled with stopping the run over the past few weeks, but Etienne highlighted those flaws with his elusiveness and ability to get to the outside. He's the real deal.
Las Vegas Raiders
How did this pass game get worse?: The Raiders added Davante Adams to a pass-catching group that already had Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller, but somehow the passing attack is significantly worse than last year.
This was in full effect Sunday, as Adams and Renfrow combined for just two catches for nine yards in a shutout loss to the Saints. Adams was playing through an illness, but he had only one catch for three yards. The 73.1 yards per game by Adams is his lowest since 2017, along with 5.4 catches per game.
Renfrow has just 18 catches for 166 yards and no scores. The 33.2 yards per game is far from the 61.1 yards per game Renfrow had last year. Another pass catcher with a down year.
Ask Josh McDaniels what happened to this group.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams shouldn't go all-in at the deadline: Los Angeles isn't a piece away from making a Super Bowl run like in years past, so there's no use trading away draft picks to make a run at the NFC West title.
The Rams offensive line is still poor with Brian Allen back, they can't tackle anyone on defense, and they miss Darious Williams in the secondary. There are just too many holes on this team to make a big splash at the deadline and trade away more valuable assets.
The Rams may make the playoffs in 2022, but this team is nowhere near a Super Bowl contender. Sunday's blowout loss to the 49ers proved that.
Tua Tagovailoa is a deep-ball quarterback: Here's a telling stat on how good Tagovailoa is on his deep ball accuracy. The Dolphins quarterback is the only player in the league to complete over 60% of his passes on passes of 10-plus air yards. He also has the highest passer rating (128.1) on passes that traveled 10-plus air yards.
Tagovailoa was 15 of 19 for 302 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions on passes that traveled for 10-plus air yards Sunday, a passer rating of 153.8. 78.9% of those passes went to wide receivers.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have made a major difference in Tagovailoa's game, but the Dolphins quarterback always could throw the deep ball. Tagovailoa just needed the opportunity.
Closing games remains an issue: After Minnesota took a 28-17 lead in the third quarter, the Vikings ran 16 plays for 42 yards with a fumble and three punts. There was a touchdown in those five possessions, but the Vikings had a short field due to muffed Cardinals punt deep in their own territory.
Greg Joseph left four points on the board with a blocked kick and a missed PAT, the latter would have given the Vikings a two possession lead with 8:36 left. The forced the defense to make multiple defensive stands to win the game instead of one. The play calling was suspect in the final minutes too, which led Minnesota to hold on for a win instead of blowing Arizona out.
The Vikings are 6-1, but they're playing with fire when the match doesn't need to be lit.
New England Patriots
Jakobi Meyers is the best wide receiver the Patriots have: Meyers has far exceeded expectations in New England, being the only wide receiver Mac Jones can trust. The only Patriots wide receiver to have more than once catch in Sunday's win, Meyers finished with nine catches for 60 yards and a touchdown -- the score that gave New England the lead for good.
The Patriots have a different type of slot receiver in Meyers, who has 35 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns this season. New England needs a reliable wide receiver, but Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and DeVante Parker haven't been consistent enough.
Meyers is the only one that consistently makes plays in the passing game amongst the wideouts. He's the best wide receiver on the team.
New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara is too good to trade: Sunday's performance against the Raiders may have reminded the Saints how good Kamara is. The sixth-year running back had 158 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, making life significantly easier for Andy Dalton (who has nine touchdowns to four interceptions this year).
Kamara has 700 yards from scrimmage and is averaging 5.5 yards per touch, with all his touchdowns coming Sunday. The Saints have reportedly listen to offers for Kamara, but New Orleans is better off keeping Kamara around for a division title run with the NFC South being as bad as it is.
Kamara is the best player in the Saints offense. Imagine the impact he'll have once Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry get healthy.
New York Giants
Shut down Saquon Barkley, shut down Giants offense: Barkley wasn't in his dominant form Sunday, as the Seahawks made sure the star running back was contained. Barkley finished with 20 carries for just 53 yards and a touchdown, and three catches for only nine yards.
The 62 yards were by far a season low, and the Giants could only muster 225 yards of offense and 13 points -- both season lows. Take Barkley out of the game and there's no player on the Giants offense that can make up for his lack of production.
The Giants have a shelf life. That was demonstrated by Seattle limiting Barkley.
New York Jets
Zach Wilson doesn't have a starting QB job locked up for 2023: Wilson is 4-1 as the Jets starter, yet New York has won games in spite of him. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft was poor in Sunday's loss to the Patriots, finishing 20 of 41 for 355 yards with two touchdowns to three interceptions (64.6 rating).
Pressure gets the best of Wilson, forcing him to make quick decisions -- which gets him into trouble. Those three interceptions were all poor throws that could have been avoided, causing the Jets to worry if Wilson is the franchise quarterback.
Wilson is 34th out of 35 qualified quarterbacks in completion rate (54.9%) and 34th in passer rating (71.0). He's holding a talented Jets roster back and needs to be significantly better in the second half of the year.
Jalen Hurts can throw the deep ball: Hurts has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the deep pass this season. On passes of 25-plus air yards this year, Hurts is 8 of 13 for 329 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions (145.0 rating). Only Josh Allen has more pass touchdowns and a higher passer rating in those categories.
Hurts had three touchdowns of 25-plus air yards in Sunday's win over Pittsburgh, showcasing his accuracy on the deep pass on a day the Eagles could throw the ball at well. That weapon in the Eagles offensive arsenal was on full display Sunday, a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
The third-down offense is abysmal: Pittsburgh wasn't even a threat to get back in Sunday's game against Philadelphia because of how putrid the Steelers' third-down offense was. The Steelers moved the ball against the Eagles, but went just 1 of 12 on third down that stalled plenty of drives.
Pittsburgh has converted just 33.6% of its third downs on the year, 28th in the NFL. The Steelers are last in the NFL in scoring (15 points per game) and average 4.7 yards per play (also last). This struggles aren't getting better, but converting third downs and moving the chains would certainly help.
San Francisco 49ers
Only took Christian McCaffrey a full week of practice to get going: McCaffrey was dominant in just his second game with the 49ers, finishing with 149 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Rams. McCaffrey had 94 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards, averaging 5.7 yards per touch.
McCaffrey ended up with 183 total yards as a result of his touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk, becoming the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005 to have a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown, and receiving touchdown in the same game.
Kyle Shanahan was able to dial up this excellence with McCaffrey in just 10 days. Imagine what he can do with a bye week to get McCaffrey acclimated to the offense. The possibilities are endless.
Run defense pulls off the shocker of the week: The Giants have been able to run the ball against anyone this season, so it was natural to pile up yards against a Seattle defense that allowed 165.8 yards per game through the first six contests.
Over the last two weeks, Seattle has allowed 53 rushing yards and 78 rushing yards -- an average of 65.5 per game. Shutting down Saquon Barkley was Seattle's best performance of the year, as Barkley averaged just 2.7 yards per carry and the Giants 2.8 as a team.
The Giants put up just 225 yards of offense as a result, the product of the Seahawks defense getting better every week. The Seahawks have allowed just 289.7 yards over the past three games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Can't block, can't tackle: The Buccaneers may have the skill players, yet need to watch the game film where the problems lie. Tampa Bay averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on the ground and allowed 7.0 yards per carry in Thursday's loss to the Ravens. The Buccaneers average only 61.9 yards per game and allow 132.4 (202 over the last two weeks).
That's simply not good enough to win games, even with Tom Brady at quarterback. Averaging 3.0 yards per carry and 4.8 yards per rush (6.7 over last two weeks), is a formula destined for failure.
The Buccaneers can't run and can't stop the run. Simple.
King Henry gets the throne back: Henry tied O.J. Simpson and Adrian Peterson for the most 200-yard games in NFL history (six) after rushing for 219 yards and two touchdowns in leading Tennessee to its fifth straight win. Henry is second in the NFL in rushing (755 yards) and third in rushing touchdowns (seven) -- leading the league with 107.9 rushing yards per game.
Henry has rushed for 563 yards and five touchdowns over the last four games and the Titans are 4-0 in each of those contests. The Titans need Henry to win games and he's doing just that, while becoming the premier back in the league again.
Terry McLaurin is still underrated: The impact McLaurin has in a game is massive, and it was on display in Sunday's comeback win over the Colts. McLaurin had six catches for 113 yards in Washington's win, setting up the Commanders with a 33-yard reception after wrestling the ball away from Stephon Gilmore at the 1-yard line in a 16-10 game with 41 seconds left.
The Commanders scored on the next play and pulled off the last-second victory, getting back to .500 on the year. McLaurin has 11 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown in his two starts with Heinicke -- and those numbers will only improve a sthe duo are back together.
McLaurin continues to be the most clutch player on the Commanders. Where would they be without him?