Some thoughts after Week 8 of the NFL season…
Tennessee 34, Indianapolis 31
Despite losing Derrick Henry, I still think the Titans are going to be good. I do not think they are as good without him, but he did not have an effective game yesterday. They wasted 28 carries on him for just 68 yards, and they won the game anyway.
He does generate so much attention, which helps Tannehill and the rest of the offense, but I think that has become slightly overrated. Also, there are just not a lot of instances of a good team totally falling apart because of a running back injury. With a four game lead on Indy (because of the tie-breaker) and with three games left against the Texans and Jaguars, I am not sure Indianapolis is capable of catching them in the division race.
The Colts are entering a very unfavorable predicament. After their loss on Sunday, they sit at 3-5 and are currently four games behind the Titans. After upcoming must-wins against the Jets and Jaguars, the next two weeks they have games against the Bills and Buccaneers.
It is very likely they are 5-7 at that point, and if Wentz is still healthy, he would rapidly be approaching the 75 percent snap threshold that would award Philadelphia a first round pick. I think the seventh playoff team in both conferences will have a big impact on their thinking. With six playoff teams, I think it would be virtually impossible for them to make the playoffs. With seven teams, I think they have a moderate chance.
New England 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24
New England is a solid team. They are smart, extremely well-coached, and they have done a good job of restocking with relatively cheap talent around a young quarterback. On defense, they are looking like a typical Bill Belichick-led defense that is top 12 in the NFL in both takeaways and sacks.
They had Justin Herbert, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, totally lost. He only completed 51.4 percent of his passes, which was a season-low, and he averaged under 6.5 yards per passing attempt for only the second time this season. He also threw two interceptions, which he had not done in a game since September 19.
Belichick’s success against rookie and second-year quarterbacks is unbelievable. There has to be some universal concept he implements against younger quarterbacks, regardless of skill set. It does not matter if he is playing a mobile quarterback or a guy that is playing really well, he almost never loses.
Even after back-to-back poor games, I still think Herbert is very close to being a top 5 quarterback. He is becoming one of the best deep-ball passers in football, and it looks like he has the frame to last a long time in the NFL.
Regardless of any struggles right now, he would be on a short-list of guys I would want to start a franchise with. It is just not often a guy has that kind of arm talent, with that frame and that level of mobility.
Philadelphia 44, Detroit 6
The Eagles are still the same team, with a bunch of considerable holes, but they did show they have enough to exploit weaker opponents. That said, Philadelphia was just coming off a game where the opposing quarterback completed 31 of 34 passes, and they have not shown any ability to stop the pass. Knowing that, Detroit still ran D’Andre Swift 10 times in the first half for 18 yards.
Meanwhile, Jared Goff completed 14 of 17 passes in the first half for over 6 yards an attempt. Goff was sacked four times, but three of them occurred on 3rd or 4th down. The Eagles will have a shot to beat any team that commits to the run early and allows themselves to fall behind. Their defensive line is still good enough that they will not give up big leads, except to really good opponents.
With Jalen Hurts, you see some things that make you hopeful, and then you see some things that are really concerning. Against Detroit, he showed nothing that makes you think he can carry a team against a tough defense. He only completed nine passes and only even attempted one pass over 15 yards.
The key to evaluating Hurts effectively is being able to see him complete 10 to 20-yard passes on a regular basis against good defenses. To no fault of his own yesterday, he did not need to do that to win the game. He also has not shown that on a regular basis this season yet, so I think there are major concerns still with him in Philadelphia. If I had to project it right now, I would have a lot of apprehension about committing to him for the long-term.
DeVonta Smith has been struggling a little bit with only 107 receiving yards in the past three games. I still think unless injuries catch up to him because he is lighter, he is really talented and even more so than I originally thought. Guys that can create consistent separation and have great hands, those are the top receivers, even if they do not have the best speed.
Cooper Kupp is not the fastest guy, but he is so effective at creating separation and has some of the best hands in the NFL. I think Smith has the potential to be that kind of player, except with really elite speed. There are not many receivers in the NFL that have great separation ability, great hands, and great speed. It is a small group of guys that DeVonta Smith could be a part of.
Buffalo 26, Miami 11
I thought Brian Flores was a very good hire, but he is just not coaching well enough right now. On defense, I thought they would be playing better, and I think their offense has major issues we knew about coming into the season. So much of their offense relies on horizontal passes, and it does not look like their coaching staff has a lot of confidence in Tua Tagovailoa.
He was already a smaller player with injury concerns coming in, but he looks very fragile behind a poor offensive line. This is why it was total mismanagement to trade an additional first round pick for the receiver you preferred. There was a chance at the time it was a top 10 pick, and now, it has the possibility to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. I cannot comprehend how they did not think of that scenario as a possibility.
They are in a really interesting position because I would not want to be tied to Tagovailoa as my franchise quarterback. Outside of the injury concerns, he is only averaging around 200 passing yards a game and has a TD-INT ratio of 7-5. On third and fourth downs, he is completing less than 60 percent of his passes and only has a QB rating of 71.8.