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NFL Week 8 takeaways – What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks

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Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season had some close Halloween matchups, including an overtime Titans-Colts game that saw a wild pick-six for Tennessee in the final two minutes and then a game-tying drive for Indianapolis. The Titans ultimately won on a big OT field goal.

The Jets came from behind to beat the Bengals with Mike White under center, notching their second victory of the year. The Steelers navigated a 15-10 win over the Browns despite losing their kicker, and the Panthers got past the Falcons to get back in the win column. And on Thursday night, the Packers hung on against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to hand them their first loss of the year.

But not every Sunday game was close. The Eagles blew out the Lions behind a dominant run game, and the Rams’ offense posted 38 points against the Texans. The Bills won against the Dolphins, who fall to 1-7 on the season, and the 49ers scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Bears.

In the afternoon slate, Tom Brady threw a late pick to end the Buccaneers’ comeback hopes vs. the Saints. The Seahawks destroyed the Jaguars, the Broncos beat Washington and the Patriots boosted their playoff hopes by stopping the Chargers.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the takeaways and lingering questions from this week’s action. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating — a 0-10 grade of how they feel about the team’s outlook coming out of the week. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:
TEN-IND | MIA-BUF | PIT-CLE
LAR-HOU | SF-CHI | CAR-ATL
CIN-NYJ | PHI-DET | GB-ARI
WFT-DEN | NE-LAC | JAX-SEA
TB-NO

Saints

What to know: What a resilient win for the New Orleans Saints, who battled back after quarterback Jameis Winston was carted off with a knee injury in the second quarter. The defense, which has been New Orleans’ driving force all season, forced three turnovers by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady — including the game-clinching pick-six by defensive back P.J. Williams. Veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian was an unlikely hero. This wasn’t a perfect win by any stretch, with the defense giving up two uncharacteristic deep balls in the second half. But it’s getting harder by the week to dismiss this team’s scrappiness. — Mike Triplett

Who plays QB for the Saints if Jameis Winston misses extended time? Taysom Hill would be the natural choice, but he has been sidelined by a concussion since Week 5. With Hill’s status unclear for Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints may opt to stick with Siemian in the short term. Siemian hasn’t been a regular starter since 2017, but he’s 13-12 as a starter and obviously got the job done in a huge spot Sunday, especially if he plays turnover free ball like he did against the Bucs. — Triplett

Triplett’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.2, up from 7. Maybe the Saints should take a dip after Winston’s injury. But this team was already leaning so heavily on its defense and run game and the cupboard isn’t bare at QB. Getting Hill back soon is key, no matter his role.

Next game: vs. Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Buccaneers

What to know: The Bucs overcame a 16-point third quarter deficit against the Saints in the fourth quarter, only to surrender a field goal and for quarterback Tom Brady to be pick-sixed by P.J. Williams to close out the game. Brady turned the ball over three times with a lost fumble, the Williams’ pick, and a pick by C.J. Gardner-Johnson. But the real story? Penalties. Coach Bruce Arians said earlier this week, “You can’t go into a game against these guys and beat yourself.” They did that, with 11 penalties for 99 yards — second-most of the season for them — with six of them setting up Saints’ first downs, including one from Ross Cockrell on third-and-5 that allowed the Saints to retake the lead 29-27 with 1:41 to go. — Jenna Laine

Can the Bucs cut down on penalties? This isn’t a brand new issue. The Bucs opened their season with 13 penalties against the Dallas Cowboys. They also led the NFL in penalties before making a concerted effort to get it corrected after their Week 4 loss at the Chicago Bears last season. And they wound up having the fewest penalties in the league last season from Week 5 on. The Bucs also had just one penalty last week against the Bears. Against New Orleans, they played with emotion instead of passion. — Laine

Laine’s confidence rating (0-10): 8, no change from 8. The Bucs are now 6-2 and the Saints are 5-2, so they still have a half-game lead over the Saints in the NFC South.

Next game: at Washington (1 p.m. ET, Nov. 14)

Broncos

What to know: After a 10-day stint since the Thursday night loss in Cleveland in Week 7, the Broncos hoped getting wide receiver Jerry Jeudy‘s and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam back would bring some good fortune. But they might have lost another defensive starter to injury in cornerback Bryce Callahan and their offense remains a choppy affair. For example, when it was trying to simply run out the final 38 seconds, Denver fumbled twice in three plays with Washington recovering the second for a last gasp. Yes, the Broncos did just enough to claw back to 4-4 by eking out a win against a team with almost as many problems, but if that’s what a mini-bye week of self examination brings, the teams with postseason aspirations will continue to feast on Denver’s inconsistencies on offense and a defense that is having an increasingly difficult time holding up. — Jeff Legwold

Just how stubborn are the Broncos going to be with this offense? It’s unclear how many times the Broncos have to keep seeing this movie, but the same things have been popping up over and over again during the past five games. They continually open up the formation though they don’t protect well enough to either keep quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from taking a hit or have more time than to throw short of the sticks. They keep abandoning a run game they say they like in one-score games. And they don’t find matchups they can exploit often enough or work to expose those matchups. In the end it hurts their ability to find any momentum. — Legwold

Legwold’s confidence rating (0-10): 5, no change from 5. Same as it’s been, because the losing streak might be over but if the offense isn’t going to do more the Broncos will be starting a new one soon.

Next game: at Cowboys (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Washington

What to know: Washington is just a bad team. Forget about being young or immature. Washington has now lost four straight games. While it has shown some grit and resiliency — down three offensive line starters among other injuries — but they need to show results. They cut a kicker in Dustin Hopkins, who had made 12-of-14 field goals for a guy who had not kicked in five years and in two games he’s had three kicks blocked. Chase Young has not produced; it’s not just about sacks it’s about applying consistent pressure. Yes, injuries have played a role, but that alone is not a reason for the bad play. Patience will be tested real soon; if they don’t show progress in the second half, 2022 will be interesting. — John Keim

Where do they go from here? Washington has a bye week, then hosts Tampa Bay. Barring a big upset, it’s staring at a 2-7 record and there’s little it can point to as true progress. They might be favored in one game the rest of this season (home vs. Philadelphia). The offense has made 13 trips inside the opponents’ 30-yard line the past two games; it has one touchdown, two field goals, three blocked field goals and six loss of downs. Horrible. They need a quarterback. But that’s not surprising; Taylor Heinicke will be a good backup and that has never been in question. Their key offseason acquisitions have not produced; their young defensive ends, notably Young, have not lived up to expectations — his own or anyone else’s. Another frustrating year for Washington fans. — Keim

Keim’s confidence rating (0-10): 3, down from 4.3. It continues to plummet; not only are they banged up — quite a bit on offense — but they have yet to play a complete game. It adds up to tough times for Washington.

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Nov. 14)

Patriots

What to know: These are the types of games the Patriots had been losing — filled with costly holding penalties, ball-security issues and questionable playcalling — but their ability to stay mentally tough and make game-changing plays in the clutch finally helped them overcome it. Safety Adrian Phillips was the star performer, with two interceptions, the second of which he returned 26 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. On a day quarterback Mac Jones looked like a rookie — falling off after a hot start before rebounding with a key fourth-quarter, clock-killing drive — the Patriots needed the defense to pick him up and help them overcome some questionable playcalling at the 1-yard line (two incomplete passes instead of running against the league’s worst rush defense). That’s long been one of the winning ingredients to the Patriots’ success — when one unit lags, another picks it up. — Mike Reiss

Can this win catapult the Patriots into the playoff race? Up to this point, the Patriots had a notable mark against them — their wins had come against the Jets (twice) and Texans. They had to prove they could beat a team with a winning record — on the road no less. By doing so against the Chargers (4-3), albeit not in the most aesthetically pleasing fashion, the Patriots take another step forward in becoming the team they hope to be. It evens their record at 4-4, with the rest of the season ahead of them and a wide-open AFC playoff race. They now look ahead to a three-game stretch at Carolina, at home against Cleveland and on the road against Atlanta. This can be a confidence-builder. — Reiss

Reiss’ confidence rating (0-10): 5.2, no change from 5.2. A grind-it-out win on the road — when self-inflicted wounds and a slow start on defense easily could have led the team to falter — was a significant step.

Next game: at Panthers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Chargers

What to know: For a second straight year, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was given fits by the Patriots. In 2020, he was hit 11 times, sacked three times and threw two interceptions as the Chargers were blown out 45-0. While they scored this time around, it wasn’t much better in 2021. Herbert threw two interceptions, one of which was returned by Adrian Phillips for the go-ahead touchdown, and couldn’t lead his team on a game-tying drive when the Chargers were down 24-17 in the fourth quarter. He seemed out of sorts at times and barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes (18-for-35). It was very un-Herbert like in a game they were predicted to win. For the second straight year, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made Herbert look ordinary. — Shelley Smith

With injuries to CBs Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr., who’s left in the secondary? Well, they still have Derwin James Jr. and Chris Harris Jr., but it’s not enough. They might have to acquire someone by Tuesday’s trade deadline, which GM Tom Telesco has not done since 2013. But he might not have a choice depending on the severity of Davis’ hamstring injury and Samuel’s concussion. — Smith

Smith’s confidence rating (0-10): 5, down from 5.7. They are running out of players on defense, where they are at their most vulnerable.

Next game: at Eagles (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Seahawks

What to know: The Seahawks played their most complete game in recent memory. And for one afternoon at least — with quarterback Geno Smith playing his best football since taking over for Russell Wilson and the defense pitching a shutout until the final two minutes — they looked like the dominant Seahawks of old, as opposed to the one whose season has been hanging by a thread. Yes, it was against a one-win team. And the hole they dug themselves by starting 2-5 may prove to be too deep to climb out of, but they’ll give themselves a chance if they play like they did Sunday. Geno Smith completed his first 14 attempts — the most by any QB to begin a game this season. With no certainty on when Wilson will be back, the Seahawks may need more of that from Smith for at least one more game. — Brady Henderson

When will Russell Wilson return? He’s had his stitches removed from his right middle finger and, as coach Pete Carroll put it, is “making all of the strides that he should be making” since Oct. 8 surgery to repair two injuries. But Wilson has yet to have the pin removed from his finger, which has to happen before he can resume throwing. As of Friday, no one had a good idea of when that will happen. The Seahawks head into their bye before playing the Packers on Nov. 14. Wilson will be eligible to come off IR this week, and that Green Bay game will be on the early end of the 4-8 week timetable initially reported by ESPN. With the pin still in, Wilson returning in Green Bay is anything but a given. — Henderson

Henderson’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.8, up from 4.3. There were all sorts of encouraging signs in this game, but the test will be much tougher against the 7-1 Packers at Lambeau Field, where the Seahawks haven’t won since 1999.

Next game: at Packers (4:25 p.m. ET, Nov. 14)


Jaguars

What to know: Boy, does quarterback Trevor Lawrence need a lot of help. There’s nobody on the field who scares defenses. Nobody who teams worry about game-planning to stop. No outside speed. Marvin Jones Jr. is a solid receiver. Laviska Shenault Jr. was supposed to have a breakout year, but that hasn’t happened. When running back James Robinson left the game because of an ankle injury, they were unable to find any kind of rhythm. The Jaguars need help in a lot of spots, but adding playmakers for Lawrence has to be this team’s top priority in the offseason. — Mike DiRocco

Should Jaguars fans worry about Trevor Lawrence after this performance? Heck no. Lawrence was not good today — it may have been his worst game of the season — but rookies are going to have games where they play badly. Lawrence had progressed steadily over the first six weeks. Had he not done that, then, yeah, today would be a major red flag. The youngster is going to be fine. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence rating (0-10): 1.9, down from 3. Jaguars looked a lot like they did in Week 1: disorganized, confused and sloppy — on both sides of the ball.

Next game: vs. Buffalo (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Titans

What to know: The Titans proved they can win an important game without an outstanding performance from running back Derrick Henry. That was in large part due to Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown, who connected 10 times for 155 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. The win gives the Titans a sweep of the Colts and a three-game lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South. Tennessee has the Rams and Saints as the toughest games left on their schedule. The Colts have difficult matchups with the Bills, Buccaneers, Cardinals and Raiders. — Turron Davenport

Are the Titans wearing Derrick Henry down with so many touches? Henry carried the ball 28 times against the Colts after 29 carries against the Chiefs last week. Henry endured a pretty good pounding against a physical Colts team on Sunday and didn’t have his usual explosiveness. Henry has 219 carries on the season, putting him on pace to break Larry Johnson’s single-season record of 416. The Titans’ staff has no plans to scale back Henry’s carries. Fortunately for Tennessee, Henry has shown in the past that he is capable of carrying the load. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence rating (0-10): 9, up from 8. The Titans overcame an early 14-0 deficit and came back on the road against a division rival. Tennessee was able to generate two turnovers to put it in position to win. The Titans are now in the driver’s seat with a 6-2 record (3-0 in the AFC South).

Next game: at Rams (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Colts

What to know: So much for the Colts making the AFC South race interesting. What started out with them sending a message early by jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead, ended when Colts quarterback Carson Wentz threw his second interception of the game — all in the final 90 seconds of regulation and in overtime — to severely damage their chances at winning the division. The Colts’ best hope at making the playoffs now is wild-card spot as they’re three games behind the Titans in the division while also losing the tiebreaker because of the season sweep. Wentz had thrown one interception all season, but his two Sunday led to 10 points and a victory for the Titans. — Mike Wells

Does the schedule favor the Colts to make a run to the playoffs? No. Six of Indianapolis’ final nine games are against teams that went into Sunday with a winning record. The one thing that favors the Colts is only two of those games against teams currently with a winning record — Buffalo and Arizona — will be played outside of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. — Wells

Wells’ confidence rating (0-10): 4.4, down from 5. It’s hard to be a playoff team if you can’t beat teams with a winning record. All three of Indianapolis’ victories this season have been against teams with a losing record.

Next game: vs. Jets (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

49ers

What to know: The 49ers won a game they had to have, but the next two weeks will be the real test of whether this season is headed in a positive direction. It wasn’t pretty, and Bears quarterback Justin Fields made the Niners’ defense look silly at times. But when you’re on a four-game losing streak, style points don’t matter. At 3-4, the Niners are staring up at the top two teams in the NFC West division: the Cardinals and Rams. Coincidentally, those are the next two teams on the schedule, with both coming to Santa Clara. Things can change quickly in the NFL, and if the 49ers are going to truly turn the tide on this season, we’ll know it after those games. — Nick Wagoner

Is Deebo Samuel headed toward his first All Pro honor? The competition is tough, but the way it’s going, he should absolutely be in the conversation. Samuel had another monster game Sunday, finishing with six catches for 171 yards. He now has 44 receptions for 819 yards in just seven games this season. That’s the most receiving yards by a 49er in the first seven games of a season ever, surpassing Jerry Rice’s 781 in 1986. What’s more, Samuel’s 819 yards has already eclipsed his career-high total for a full season (he had 802 in 2019). The likes of Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase and Tyreek Hill are going to be in the Pro Bowl mix, too. But it’s time Samuel at least gets mentioned among the game’s best at the position. And even if he doesn’t land a nod, he’s in line for a really nice payday in the offseason. — Wagoner

Wagoner’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.3, up from 4.9. There was a lot to be encouraged about offensively, but until the Niners show some consistency on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to go much higher than this.

Next game: vs. Cardinals (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Jimmy Garoppolo runs the option to perfection on this 5-yard touchdown.


Bears

What to know: Chicago seemingly had the game under control until its defense allowed the 49ers to score three second-half touchdowns. Simply inexcusable. The Bears have allowed 30 points or more in back-to-back games for the second time in the Matt Nagy era. Chicago’s defensive collapse ruined a strong day for rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who dazzled the Soldier Field crowd with a sensational 22-yard touchdown run. But it did not matter. The Bears lost a game they simply had to win, all but ending their NFC North title hopes. — Jeff Dickerson

Where do the Bears go from here? The Bears (3-5) trail Green Bay by four games in the division. You can forget about them winning the NFC North, and the playoffs seem like a long shot. The Bears still have the Ravens, Cardinals and Packers on the schedule, not to mention two games against the Vikings. This could get ugly. With many calling for Nagy’s job, the final nine games could get uncomfortable. The Bears only have themselves to blame. The defensive effort in the second half against San Francisco was atrocious. The fear now is that the Bears are about to sink even deeper. — Dickerson

Dickerson’s confidence rating (0-10): 2.3, down from 2.6. If you can’t beat the struggling 49ers, who can you beat?

Next game: at Steelers (8:15 p.m. ET, Nov. 8)

Jets

What to know: Quarterback Mike White, in his first career start, delivered one of the Jets’ most memorable wins in years. In a word, he was sensational. He did what injured starter Zach Wilson hasn’t: He energized the franchise by playing “boring” football, to use coach Robert Saleh’s word. White played a smart, conservative game, throwing underneath and hitting his checkdowns. He wound up passing for 405 yards and three touchdowns, the Jets’ first 400-yard performance in 327 games. He didn’t attempt a pass over 20 yards, and he got the running backs and wide receiver Elijah Moore involved in the passing attack. White did have two interceptions, but they weren’t bad decisions, just slightly off-target throws. A no-name QB gave the Jets their best win in years. — Rich Cimini

Do the Jets have a quarterback controversy? One thing is for sure: White earned another start. He will start Thursday night against the Colts, no doubt. Joe Flacco, acquired in a trade, had designs on that gig, but it’s not happening. What about long term? Wilson (knee) may miss one more game. If White has another big game, the Jets will have a decision to make. Clearly, Wilson is the future, but the future can wait a little bit, right? — Cimini

Cimini’s confidence rating (0-10): 6, up from 2. From one of their worst losses to one of their best wins in a span of seven days.

Next game: at Colts (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)


Bengals

What to know: The Bengals got the humbling lesson they desperately wanted to avoid. Cincinnati blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and, despite being heavy favorites, suffered a stunning upset. Cincinnati was coming off a massive win over Baltimore. And against a one-win New York team, the Bengals squandered a chance at a thee-game winning streak and instead created questions about whether they can sustain their strong start. — Ben Baby

Is the defensive performance concerning? A little. The Bengals have statistically been one of the NFL’s best defenses this season and were coming off a dominating performance against the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson. Cincinnati was straight-up walloped by first-time starter Mike White, who threw for 405 yards and three TDs. — Baby

Baby’s confidence rating (0-10): 6.5, down from 8.5. Some of the Bengals’ old ghosts — shaky offensive play early and a bad defensive outing — showed up in the worst way in the Meadowlands.

Next game: vs. Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Bills

What to know: The Bills put together four consecutive scoring drives to end the second half, but this was not the blowout performance against inferior teams that Buffalo had earlier this season. The defense allowed quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to find receivers downfield, especially DeVante Parker, and seemed slow to get going overall. There were mistakes on offense, defense and special teams, and against a one-win Dolphins team, it was hard to tell that Buffalo was coming off a bye week. Tight end Dawson Knox and starting right tackle Spencer Brown were missed. The positive for the Bills is that despite all of that, they made solid halftime adjustments and came away with the win. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver, someone Buffalo needed to take a step forward this year, exploded at the line of scrimmage throughout the game. The Bills are 5-2 and have yet to play their best football. — Alaina Getzenberg

Are the Bills’ offensive issues in the first half — especially against the blitz — something to be concerned about? The Bills struggled to get anything going offensively in the first half, converting one of six third downs and earning five first downs. The three points scored were the team’s lowest in a half since Week 17 of 2019. Quarterback Josh Allen struggled against the blitz in the first two quarters, going 3-for-9 for 17 yards and zero first downs. Allen entered the day facing blitzes at the second-lowest rate this season (16%). The Bills put together two nine-plus-play scoring drives to establish a significant lead in large part because of adjustments to the Dolphins’ blitz, with Allen completing 11 of 15 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns vs. the blitz in the second half. The offensive line was reshuffled for this game with Brown out due to a back injury, and getting him back will help. Going forward, it’s not something to be overly concerned about as this offense is still dangerous, but the Bills need to make better first-half adjustments. — Getzenberg

Getzenberg’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.7, down from 7.8. The Bills were coming off a bye week, yet looked slow and the game was far too close against a struggling Dolphins team, but this is still a good football team that played one of its worst games and won.

Next game: at Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Jordan Poyer gets the interception, and Josh Allen runs in a touchdown to help the Bills top the Dolphins.


Dolphins

What to know: Players don’t tank — and the Dolphins haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. Holding the Bills’ second-ranked scoring offense to three points at halftime took an inspired effort, especially considering Buffalo’s bye week gave it extra time to prepare. Miami held quarterback Josh Allen in check throughout most of Sunday’s game and was especially impressive on third down early. While Miami’s offense took a while to get going after missing a field goal and fumbling on its first two trips to the red zone, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led his team to a TD that pulled Miami within six points with 9:39 left, completing a 40-yard pass on fourth-and-6 in the process. All things considered, the Dolphins redeemed themselves from the 35-0 drubbing Buffalo handed them in Week 2 and have a very winnable matchup against the Texans in Week 9. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

At 1-7, will the Dolphins be sellers at the trade deadline on Tuesday? ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Texans aren’t expected to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson before Tuesday’s deadline, but with its season essentially beyond saving, Miami could acquire some extra draft capital by trading a player or two. Receiver DeVante Parker returned from injury and caught eight passes for 85 yards, both season highs. He could possibly fetch a pick from a contender in need of a physical receiver. Miami could get a first- or second-round pick for cornerback Xavien Howard as well, saving it the hassle of renegotiating his contract this offseason. — Louis-Jacques

Louis-Jacques’ confidence rating (0-10): 3.5, up from 1. They are clearly not ready to close games out, but giving the Bills all they could handle deserves recognition.

Next game: vs. Texans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Steelers

What to know: Even without a place-kicker in the second half, the Steelers proved resilient in their first meeting with the Browns this season. Neither side of the ball earned any style points, but the offense did just enough to grind out a win thanks to Najee Harris‘ (24 carries, 88 yards, one TD) continued development and Pat Freiermuth‘s emergence (four catches, 44 yards, one TD). Defensively, the Steelers mostly neutralized the league’s best run game and held the Browns to fewer than 100 yards rushing. The defensive stand late in the fourth quarter that forced the Browns to turn the ball over on downs at the Pittsburgh 26 coupled with T.J. Watt‘s recovery of Jarvis Landry‘s fumble kept Cleveland at bay. — Brooke Pryor

How much did the Steelers’ failed fake field goal affect the outcome? It wasn’t insignificant. The Steelers have made questionable playcalls at other points this season, but none more head-scratching than the decision to attempt a fake field goal facing fourth-and-long from the 10. Not only did Chris Boswell‘s high pass to a well-covered Zach Gentry in the end zone have no prayer of being completed, the Steelers’ kicker was drilled on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Jordan Elliott. In an absolute worst-case scenario, not only were no flags thrown, but Boswell was also ruled out the rest of the game after being evaluated for a concussion. That left the Steelers without a true place-kicker in the second half. Rookie punter Pressley Harvin III took over kickoff duties and warmed up for field goals on the sideline with defensive back Cam Sutton working as the emergency holder. But the Steelers’ lack of confidence in the patchwork crew led to the team attempting — and failing — on two 2-point conversions. Instead of leading by seven points midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers had just a 15-10 lead. They held on thanks to a defensive stand and a Browns fumble, but things got dicey in the fourth quarter. — Pryor

Pryor’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.8, down from 5. The Steelers came out victorious in a typically atypical AFC North slugfest thanks to timely defensive plays, but they were hindered in the second half without a place-kicker.

Next game: vs. Bears (8:15 p.m. ET, Nov. 8)


Browns

What to know: The Browns, who entered this year with Super Bowl aspirations, find themselves in last place in the AFC North standings. And following an uninspiring performance against the Steelers, that’s exactly where the Browns deserve to be approaching the halfway point of the season. The passing game has fallen off a cliff. The defense can’t get key stops. Mental mistakes are abundant. And the injuries continue to mount. Cleveland’s season, which began with so much promise off last year’s playoff run, is already teetering on the verge of calamity. — Jake Trotter

What has happened to Cleveland’s passing attack? QB Baker Mayfield has been up and down all season while battling the torn labrum to his non-throwing shoulder. But Sunday, during Cleveland’s final two drives, he gave the Browns a chance late in the fourth quarter. Instead, multiple drops and a Jarvis Landry fumble robbed Cleveland’s hopes of a comeback. With Odell Beckham Jr. having become a total nonfactor and Mayfield ailing, Cleveland’s offense is suddenly a total mess — even with its overpowering ground game. — Trotter

Trotter’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.8, down from 6.7. At 4-4, the Browns have little margin for error to still make the playoffs — and they have multiple issues they’ll have to resolve to get there.

Next game: at Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Eagles

What to know: The Eagles ran the ball! And whaddya know, it worked. Quarterback Jalen Hurts had been shouldering too much of the offensive load for the bulk of the season, but he had an easier day at the office Sunday as Eagles backs rushed 39 times for 165 yards in a blowout win vs. the Lions. Jordan Howard and Boston Scott combined for four rushing touchdowns, which is one more than all Eagles running backs had combined coming into the game. Coach Nick Sirianni was more creative in his playcalling. He and the offense showed growth. — Tim McManus

Was this performance for real, or just a product of playing the winless Lions? The Lions’ ineptitude factored in pretty heavily here. But both Sirianni and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon made some adjustments to their approach, and those changes helped accentuate the strengths of their units: the big men up front. With a lean toward the ground game, the offensive line was able to play downhill and exert its will, while tighter coverage in the back end and more pressure looks on defense allowed the defensive linemen to get home against Lions quarterback Jared Goff. It’s a recipe the Eagles should stick to moving forward. — McManus

McManus’ confidence rating (0-10): 3.7, up from 3.1. The Eagles need to show up like this against a decent team. Next week’s home game against the Chargers provides such an opportunity.

Next game: vs. Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Boston Scott runs in a pair of short touchdowns for the Eagles vs. the Lions.


Lions

What to know: On paper, this was a potential get-well game for both teams. And it was for one. Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions played their worst game of the season in a 44-6 loss. Fans began to exit Ford Field before the end of the third quarter with the Lions down 38 and boos showering the stadium. The sour reaction was warranted as the Lions barely avoided a shutout. — Eric Woodyard

Should the Lions be concerned about the offensive line? Yes. Granted, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow both remain out with injuries, but the O-line still shouldn’t be allowing quarterback Jared Goff to be sacked five times against Philadelphia. Goff was sacked four times in the first half alone, which tied for his most first-half sacks in any game in his NFL career and also tied for the most first-half sacks by any quarterback in a game this season, per ESPN Stats & Information. This is a serious concern in an embarrassing effort by the home team, which fell to 0-8 for the first time since the infamous 0-16 season in 2008. — Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence rating (0-10): 1.5, down from 3. Although they’re eight games into the season, the Lions lack an identity as the losses continue to mount.

Next game: at Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Nov. 14)

Panthers

What to know: Coach Matt Rhule was right: Carolina had to run to protect Sam Darnold and win. The Panthers rushed a season-high 47 times for 203 yards, and Darnold wasn’t sacked after being sacked 15 times in the previous four games, all losses. The only flaw in Rhule’s theory was Darnold didn’t protect himself on a fourth-quarter run, which resulted in a concussion that could sideline him for the next game. Carolina (4-4) still stuck to the run for the clinching touchdown. — David Newton

Will the Panthers spread out the running game as they did Sunday when Christian McCaffrey returns? McCaffrey should come off injured reserve this week after missing five games because of a hamstring injury. He typically takes the bulk of the workload, but to protect him, the Panthers may be wise to spread the wealth as they did Sunday. Chuba Hubbard had 24 carries, but Ameer Abdullah had eight, Royce Freeman five and Darnold eight. The backs also were targeted eight times on passes. A solid formula. — Newton

Newton’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.3, up from 4. McCaffrey’s potential return would give reason for optimism, but the potential loss of Darnold is concerning, even as poorly as he had been playing the previous four games.

Next game: vs. Patriots (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Falcons

What to know: It looked, in many ways, like the season-opening offense against the Eagles. Not much movement. Not much downfield. A game plan that appeared at times ineffective and at others disjointed. There are a lot of potential reasons for this — and one has to wonder how much the game plan was altered by Calvin Ridley being inactive because of a personal issue after practicing all week. But even with Ridley out of the lineup, there’s little reason for Atlanta to have been this ineffective. — Michael Rothstein

How does this team move on without Ridley? The receiver announced during the fourth quarter that Ridley was stepping away from football to work on his mental health, and it’s not clear when or if he will return. His absence means the Falcons are without one of their best offensive options — and their biggest playmaker outside. This elevates Kyle Pitts to becoming the team’s top receiving threat and means perhaps an even bigger role for running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. There’s also this reality: No one Atlanta could bring in would offer the skill set Ridley does at this point. But the team clearly needs to add someone to the receiving corps because without Ridley, the offense looked fairly lifeless against Carolina. — Rothstein

Rothstein’s confidence rating (0-10): 4, down from 5.1. A combination of an offensive meltdown, an ineffective run defense (204) and Ridley’s uncertain return leave many questions about Atlanta’s current state heading into New Orleans.

Next game: at Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Rams

What to know: No letdowns. Coming off back-to-back division matchups, the Rams entered a three-game stretch against the struggling New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, three teams with a combined record of 3-20 after Sunday’s early action. Perhaps it would have been easy to lose focus somewhere through a three-week slog that included two road games, and although they did not earn many style points along the way, the Rams did not suffer any egregious lapses as they improved to 7-1. — Lindsey Thiry

What’s the situation with the once-crowded receivers room? Until a few days ago, the receivers room featured a stacked group. There’s no doubt that Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson can lead this team to a Super Bowl, but recent developments have led to some depth concerns. Veteran receiver DeSean Jackson was inactive Sunday after requesting a trade earlier this week (and it’s extremely unlikely he’ll suit up for Los Angeles again), rookie Tutu Atwell suffered a shoulder injury against the Texans when returning a punt, and after catching a 68-yard pass, Jefferson limped off the field. He later returned — but it was concerning, to say the least. Rookie Ben Skowronek was inserted and fared well, but the Rams should be looking for reinforcements. — Thiry

Thiry’s confidence rating (0-10): 8.3, up from 8.2. It’s a slight uptick for the Rams, who dominated the Texans on the road. But let’s be real: The Texans are bad. Really, really bad. So Sunday’s game hardly provided an accurate gauge of how good the Rams are, and therefore how confident we should feel. But the Rams will have a chance next Sunday in prime time against the Tennessee Titans to show whether they can return to playing at the high level we saw in a Week 3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or if some of their recent ugly wins turn into ugly losses.

Next game: vs. Titans (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Darrell Henderson finds the end zone for his second touchdown of the game, putting the Rams up by three scores.


Texans

What to know: Tyrod Taylor‘s return from a left hamstring injury might not make a difference for this team. The Texans have not won any of rookie quarterback Davis Mills‘ six starts this season, but the offense as a whole has struggled. Without Mark Ingram, who was leading the Texans in rushing before being traded to the New Orleans Saints last week, Houston ran for 44 yards on 14 carries. Will having Taylor back salvage the offense? — Sarah Barshop

Who will still be on the team after the Nov. 2 trade deadline? Even if quarterback Deshaun Watson is not traded before Tuesday, there may be other moves made by the team. While wide receiver Brandin Cooks and left tackle Laremy Tunsil are not expected to be moved, sources say, linebacker Zach Cunningham or safety Justin Reid could draw interest. The Texans are slowly adding to their draft capital but seem a long way from competing. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence rating (0-10): 0.6, down from 0.8. Again, this number has continued to drop since the Texans won the first game of the season. How low will it get by the end of the year?

Next game: at Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Packers

What to know: This team might have the “it” factor. There’s no way to measure that, but given how it has held together despite a rash of injuries, there seems to be something potentially special in play. You get the sense quarterback Aaron Rodgers might think so, too, after he said this: “You never know how the team’s going to come together and the chemistry and the relationships and the guys stepping up and dealing with injuries and all the adversity. But we have a good group of guys. There’s a different feeling to the team than even the last couple years. I’m not sure how it’s going to finish up, but I like the energy that we have in the locker room.” Rodgers didn’t have to be Superman for the Packers to win, either. They ran the ball 34 times (a season high) for 151 yards (78 after contact for their second-most such yards of the season) and controlled the clock. — Rob Demovsky

Who needs Stephon Gilmore? Packers fans were upset the team didn’t make a bigger play for the veteran cornerback, who was traded from the Patriots to the Panthers on Oct. 6. That’s the same day the Packers signed cornerback Rasul Douglas off the Cardinals’ practice squad. Who knows whether Gilmore could have had the game-saving interception Douglas made in the end with 12 seconds left? But chances are he wouldn’t have, considering that he had yet to play a game for the Panthers entering Week 8. For Douglas, that was his first interception since Week 17 of the 2018 season. He had played 1,450 defensive snaps since the start of the 2019 season, the fifth most by a defensive back without an interception in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Info. — Demovsky

Demovsky’s confidence rating (0-10): 8, up from 7.5. No one would have blamed the Packers if they lost this one as 6.5-point underdogs on a short week with a bunch of guys injured. But in some ways, it shouldn’t have even come down to Douglas’ end zone interception. They could have sealed the game earlier. Coach Matt LaFleur was kicking himself for some of his playcalls in the goal-to-go situations. “I told the group in there, ‘I tried to screw it up for you guys but you wouldn’t allow it.’ That’s a credit to everybody in that locker room,” he said.

Next game: at Chiefs (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Cardinals

What to know: The Cardinals are mortal. They suffered their first loss of the season after injuries and COVID-19 decimated their defensive front and passing game. However, they were still in position to win with 15 seconds left, a sign that, no matter what is thrown this team’s way, they can still give themselves a chance behind quarterback Kyler Murray. — Josh Weinfuss

Will this loss snowball into a larger midseason problem for the Cardinals? We saw this movie last season: Arizona gets off to a hot start, then Kyler Murray gets injured and the bottom falls out. Arizona is 7-1 and Murray was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot on his left leg. However, as long as the Cardinals’ get their defensive injuries figured out soon, that side of the ball can help prevent a repeat of a similar tailspin while Murray gets right. Murray could be back as soon as next week against the 49ers or in a week or two. But this year’s Cardinals are built differently than last year’s, both from a personnel and emotional standpoint, which will likely prevent another meltdown. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence rating (0-10): 8.2, down from 9.5. Having a chance to win with 15 seconds left should show everything anyone needs to know about Kyler Murray, but if the injuries keep up, then a rough stretch may be coming up.

Next game: at 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Potential No. 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux to declare for NFL draft, skip Oregon Ducks’ bowl game

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Star Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is declaring for the NFL draft, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Thibodeaux will not play in the Ducks’ bowl game, a matchup against No. 16 Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, and instead will start preparing for the draft, sources said.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Thibodeaux rated No. 1 overall in his latest Big Board. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the No. 2-rated prospect in this year’s draft class.

The 6-foot-5 Thibodeaux was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last year after arriving at Oregon as the No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2019. He played 10 games this season — an ankle injury slowed him up early — and finished with seven sacks and 49 total tackles.

Thibodeaux was also at the forefront of players’ ability to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. He signed a handful of deals, including one with Ebay, another with United Airlines and a six-figure memorabilia deal. He also released an NFT in partnership with Nike founder Phil Knight and sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield that sold for $100 per unit. In September, he launched his own cryptocurrency called $JREAM.

Thibodeaux’s early exit came on the same day Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the head-coaching position at Miami.

Information from ESPN’s Paolo Uggetti was used in this report.

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New York Giants QB Daniel Jones (neck) unlikely to play vs. Los Angeles Chargers, sources say

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After further visits with team doctors and specialists to have his neck injury evaluated, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones missed Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. He was injured the previous week in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants (4-8) remain hopeful he won’t miss much more time and will return this season.

Mike Glennon started in Jones’ place on Sunday, but was diagnosed with a concussion after the contest. That puts newly acquired quarterback Jake Fromm potentially in line to start against the Chargers. It only adds to questions about whether Jones has done enough in his first three professional seasons to convince the Giants — and potentially a new general manager — that he is a true franchise quarterback they should build around.

Fromm, a University of Georgia standout, was signed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad last week. He has never played in an NFL game and could be making his first start 11 days after joining the team.

“It’s the beauty of the NFL. It’s next man up. Jake is getting his opportunity,” said Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was also his teammate at Georgia. “I’m excited for him to get his chance. But like I said, next man up, and we’re doing everything to help him.”

The Giants also have former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke on their practice squad. He seems to have been immediately jumped by Fromm on the depth chart.

Judge said that Fromm would be next in line this week at practice with Jones and Glennon sidelined. The Giants might still add additional contingencies.

“We’re talking internally about a lot of options personnel-wise to see what we can do and build in depth for a multitude of reasons,” coach Joe Judge said.

Judge said after the game in Miami that Glennon would remain the starter if healthy while Jones remained sidelined. But Glennon’s status is in doubt and might not be decided until late this week.

He’s currently in the concussion protocol.

“The optimistic view would be to have [Glennon] ready for the game on Sunday,” Judge said during a Monday afternoon conference call from Arizona, where the Giants are practicing this week.

New York is also dealing with COVID-19 issues. Offensive lineman Wes Martin and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski tested positive on Monday, per Judge.

Martin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday afternoon. Schuplinski was involved in meetings virtually throughout the day as the Giants try to get Fromm coached up quickly for a potential start.

Having Fromm start would provide some limitations.

“For a guy who has only been in your system for a couple days, you have to go ahead and select more of a menu what he can operate with in a game,” Judge said. “That is not always based on what he’s capable of with his ability, it’s just based on being new in a scheme and system and what he’s comfortable going out there and playing aggressively and making the right decisions within.”

Fromm has crammed hard since joining the Giants. He stayed after practice on Friday last week and did extra work with Jones there to provide input.

The fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills last year has made a positive first impression.

“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s demonstrated that already,” Judge said. “He has very good poise out there and he has a very good presence. Once thing that is very impressive about this guy is you talk to former teammates of his, like we did before he got in here, most of those Georgia guys, and every single one lit up and said we’d absolutely love to have that guy on the team.”

The bar won’t be especially high. The Giants failed to score a touchdown on Sunday in Miami. They have one touchdown in the two games since offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired.

Glennon went 23-of-44 for 187 yards with an interception against the Dolphins.

Jones has completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,428 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

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New Orleans Saints WR Deonte Harris suspended three games; DE Cameron Jordan put on COVID-19 list

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METAIRIE, La. — The hits keep coming for one of the NFL’s most depleted rosters.

New Orleans Saints receiver/kick returner Deonte Harris was officially suspended three games Monday for a summer DUI arrest after his appeal was unsuccessful. And defensive end Cameron Jordan was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list — putting one of the NFL’s longest iron man streaks in serious jeopardy.

Jordan has played in 172 consecutive regular-season games — the longest active streak of any nonspecialist in the NFL. He will need two negative tests 24 hours apart to be able to return in time for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets. Ironically, Saints linebacker Demario Davis would replace Jordan atop that list if he can’t play. Davis has played in 156 consecutive games.

Jordan, 32, has never missed a game since being drafted in the first round in 2011. He has four sacks this season and 98.5 in his career.

The Saints (5-7) are already thin at defensive end, with fellow starter Marcus Davenport having missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and veteran backup Tanoh Kpassagnon having been placed on injured reserve last week.

Their offense has also been seriously banged up during their current five-game losing streak — though they are hoping to get at least some from the group of running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk back from knee injuries this week.

Quarterback Taysom Hill will also be playing through the pain of a mallet finger injury in his right throwing hand and a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot.

The 24-year-old Harris, a third-year pro who has taken on a bigger role on offense this year, leads the Saints with 523 receiving yards and has three long touchdowns on 31 catches.

Harris’ DUI case was resolved earlier in November when he was sentenced to one year of supervised probation. Maryland court records show that Harris pleaded not guilty but agreed to the statement of facts in the police report. According to that police report, which was obtained by NOLA.com, Harris registered a blood alcohol content of 0.246% after driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and swerving across three lanes of traffic on the interstate at 1:30 a.m.

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