The NFL season hits the halfway mark and we check out the hits and misses from Week 8.
Maul of Dallas
For all the questions surround the Dallas Cowboys offensive line this season, the unit seems to be rounding into form. Over the past two weeks the unit has plowed the path for Ezekiel Elliott to rush for a combined 297 yards. The big boys up front are back to their powerful, mauling ways and it is to the benefit of the entire team.
Wilson & Watson Wage War
Russell Wilson was as good as he’s been all year against the Texans. He threw for 452 yards, 4 TD with one nearly costly interception — down by three with 5:42 remaining in the game — but bounced back to lead Seattle to victory. His counterpart, Texans rookie Deshaun Watson, was just as exciting. With 402 passing yards, 67 rushing yards, 4 TD, Watson more than held his own against the Legion Of Boom, although the L.O.D. did get theirs with the picks, including one of the pick-six variety.
Ju Don’t Know?
Steelers rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is becoming a star…on and off the field. Coming off a week where he had his bike stolen then recovered, Juju was a social media maven. Then on the biggest stage, in front of the whole world, Smith-Schuster lit up the Lions to the tune of 193 yards on seven catches, including a 97-yard score (the longest in Steelers history. He also became the only player in league history to score 4 touchdowns before his 21st birthday.
Bills Are Due
The Buffalo Bills are sitting at 5-2 and a half-game out of first place in the AFC East. They have am established identity that is obviously working well. Buffalo plays stingy defense, runs the ball well and allows Tyrod Taylor to take care of the rest. We’ve been fooled before, of course, but it appears there may finally be a legit challenger to the Patriots in the division.
Pep In Your Step
Tom Brady is not the only ageless winner in the NFL. Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, 37, is still going strong. He registered his team-leading 7.5 sack against Tampa Bay in week 8. Kudos to Peppers, as he closes out his hall of fame career…whenever he decides to act his age.
No one outside of New Orleans picked the Saints to win the NFL South in 2017. At 5-2 the Saints are perched atop the division. Winning without a Drew Brees touchdown pass since 2009, they showed the ability to win ugly in Week 8. Even with Mark Ingram coughing up two 4th quarter fumbles, rookie Alvin Kamara took over to sell the game against Chicago.
Philly Front Seven
While Carson Wentz and the offense struggled in stretches versus San Francisco, the defense was patently dominant. Once the Eagles took the lead, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Vinny Curry and Mychal Kendricks wreaked havoc on C.J. Beathard and the 49ers offense. Philly is 7-1 thanks in large part to one of the more dominant defensive fronts in the NFL.
No catchy headline for this one…the Miami offense is just plain bad, regardless who is under center. Some actually thought Matt Moore would make a play to supplant Jay Cutler as the starter. Moore failed to make any plays at all, as the Dolphins were beat down by the flailing Ravens 40-0 Thursday night. Miami head coach Adam Gase summed it up perfectly, calling his offense “a joke”.
Those Trendy Bucs
The Bucs were one of the sexy offseason picks to emerge as contenders in 2017. Yeah, about that. With their week 8 loss to Carolina, Tampa Bay fell to 2-5, last place in the NFC South. Jameis Winston hasn’t taken the next step, the running game is nonexistent and the defense has been disappointing. Long way to go, but it Soares safe to say that we’ll have to wait at least another year to see substantial results from the Buccaneers.
Raiders Of The Lost Spark
Another squad that many thought would be in the running for a Super Bowl. Not so fast. Actually, that’s a perfect description of the Oakland defense…slow and ineffective. The more troubling piece is the offense, which was pegged as perhaps the league’s best coming into the season. With and without Derek Carr, the Oakland offense has been far from impressive for the majority of the first half.
Jets Can’t Close
The New York Jets have marched down the field to score on its opening possession for three consecutive weeks to establish early leads. They’ve lost each of those games. And while one of those loses came as the result of a horrendous touchdown reversal against the Patriots, the Jets must show the ability to close teams out moving forward.
San Francisco lost a few close games to start the season — 3 of their first 5 kisses were by 3 points or less. Since then they’ve been blown out with a rookie quarterback taking the reigns. Injuries on the defensive side of the ball have decimated a once-promising unit. Things seem to be getting worse for Kyle Shanahan’s bunch.
At Least They’re Not…
The Browns went to London and got handled by the Vikings, falling to 0-7. After hanging around for most of the first half, the Niners watched Minnesota take over and walk away with a 33-19 international victory. Cleveland got better play from rookie QB DeShone Kizer, but still not enough to notch their first W.
Damn You, Injury Bug
Bears tight end Zach Miller dislocated a knee in week 8 and will miss the rest of the season. Doctors had to fight to save his leg during surgery.
San Francisco lost safety Jimmie Ward to a fractured forearm and he is out for a while.
Joe Staley, the pro bowl left tackle of the 49ers suffered a broken orbital bone and had to be taken to a local hospital. He’ll be out indefinitely.