At roughly the midpoint of the National Football League season, who would have thought the best record would belong to the Philadelphia Eagles? Giants’ fans likely counted on another stellar season from WR Odell Beckham Jr. and another trip to the NFC playoffs. Beckham fell to injury – he’ll miss the rest of the season – and the Giants are just 1-6. J.J. Watt? Done. Jimmy Garoppolo? Traded. Yes, it has been a crazy start to the 2017 season. Here’s what we learned from NFL Week 8. [toc]
After NFL Week 8 The Eagles Are for Real
Philadelphia is 7-1 and its only loss is to 6-2 Kansas City, which might be the best team in the AFC. Quarterback Carson Wentz has been very impressive thus far with 2,063 passing yards and 19 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions. The Eagles running game is the fifth-best in the NFL and it just got better. Philadelphia traded for former Miami running back Jay Ajayi who will pair nicely with leading rusher LeGarrette Blount (467 yards). Oh, don’t forget the Eagles’ defense. Philly is No. 1 against the run allowing opponents just 70.4 yards per game and they are in the top 10 in scoring defense (19.5 points per game) after NFL Week 8.
Deshaun Watson Is the Best of the 2017 Draft Class
His Houston Texans did not beat Seattle in NFL Week 8, but Watson’s performance was magnificent. He was 19-for-30 for 402 yards and four touchdowns and was his team’s leading rusher with another 67 yards on eight carries. He is a rookie and did throw three interceptions, but one of those was a desperation heave on his team’s last play. In the fourth quarter, Watson was 5-for-6 for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Impressive.
Buffalo Is Prepping for the Postseason
The Bills are 5-2 after a 34-14 victory over Oakland in NFL Week 8. Running back LeSean McCoy leads a powerful Bills running game (124.6 yards per game) that will get a boost from new wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The former Carolina receiver was acquired via trade just before the deadline and gives QB Tyrod Taylor a legitimate threat. Buffalo receivers are dead last in the league in receptions and receiving yards. Buffalo’s defense is third in the league in points against (16.4). When you play good defense and run the football, you have a shot at making the postseason for the first time in 18 seasons (the NFL’s longest playoff drought).
Dallas Is Not
The legal system may have decided the fate of the Dallas Cowboys. Running back Ezekiel Elliott will have to start serving his six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Without Elliott, who is currently third in the NFL in rushing, the Cowboys probably do not have enough firepower to catch the NFC East-leading Eagles. Elliott would not be able to return until NFL Week 15 when the Cowboys face the Raiders. In between, Dallas must face Kansas City, defending NFC champ Atlanta, and Phliadelphia among their next six opponents.
Martavis Bryant Was Wrong
After the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers beat Cincinnati 29-14, Bryant, who missed all of last season as the result of suspension, went to social media to claim that he was better than Steelers rookie receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
Fortunately, Bryant is not Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin who used Smith-Schuster to the tune of seven catches for 193 yards and a touchdown in a win over Detroit. The Pittsburgh rookie scorched the Lions’ defense for a 97-yard touchdown catch from QB Ben Roethlisberger late in the third quarter. Sorry Martavis, but Juju is better.
Most Likely to Be Overlooked as an MVP Candidate
Without quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks would not be 5-2 and in command of the NFC West. The Seahawks have absolutely no running game. The Eddie Lacy experiment has been a failure and Wilson, with 194 yards, is the team’s No. 2 rusher. Wilson’s ability to win games almost single-handedly was on display in NFL Week 8 in the 41-38 win over Houston. Wilson was 26-for-41 for 452 yards and four touchdowns. It was his 18-yard scoring toss to TE Jimmy Graham that gave Seattle the victory despite rushing for just 33 yards (Wilson had 30 of them) and being outgained. Seattle did trade for LT Duane Brown in an attempt to shore up a weak offensive line which could help Wilson even more.
The New Orleans Saints Can Play Defense
The Saints have spent the previous three seasons going 7-9 with an extremely porous defense. The offense, with QB Drew Brees, has always been able to produce. This year is no different. Brees and the Saints score 27.3 points per game (sixth-best in the league). What is different is the New Orleans defense. The Saints are 12th in scoring defense (20.7), have a shutout under their belts, and held Green Bay to 17 and Chicago to 12 in their past two games. New Orleans will be tested in the second half – they face Atlanta and Tampa Bay twice as well as Buffalo – and if they pass the Saints will likely get back to the postseason for the first time since 2013.