Welcome to the Week 8 grades!
This week was unofficially sponsored by the "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" because that's what we got in the NFL on Sunday. The good came from the Cowboys, who absolutely destroyed the Rams in a 43-20 win. The Bengals also looked good with a 31-17 dismantling of the 49ers.
And then we have the ugly. The ugly came from the Jets-Giants game and there was A LOT of ugly. Let's take a quick look at just how ugly things got in New York:
- There were more punts (24) than points (23). The 24 combined punts was the most that two NFL teams have combined for in a game since 1998.
- There were 16 combined three-and-outs, which was tied for most in a game since 2000.
- The two teams went a combined 4-for-34 on third down, which was worst combined third-down conversion rate since 2009 in a game where the two teams combined for at least 30 attempts.
- The Giants finished with -9 pass yards, which was fewest by any team since 2000 when the Browns had -9 in a 48-0 loss to the Jaguars.
One thing that's not ugly this week is our grades, so let's get to them, starting with the Monday night game between the Raiders and Lions.
Detroit 26-14 over Las Vegas
|The Raiders are officially in the running for having the worst offense in the NFL. They only had one drive in this game that went over six plays, they only converted one third down and they didn't even put up 160 total yards. The Raiders defense did its best to keep things close by forcing three turnovers, including a Marcus Peters pick-six in the second half that cut the lead to 16-14, but the offense was so bad that their efforts went to waste. Josh McDaniels is in charge of the offense and if it's not working, that's on him. If the Raiders coach wasn't on the hot seat going into this game, he should be now.
|The Lions offense was already good, and now, it's even scarier thanks to the emergence of Jahmyr Gibbs, who put up huge numbers against the Raiders. The rookie running back totaled 189 yards, including 152 and a TD on the ground. The Lions were able to move the ball at will on a night where they piled up 486 yards of offense. The defense also looked impressive, forcing two turnovers while also sacking Jimmy Garoppolo six times. The Lions held the Raiders to just 157 yards, which was the lowest number they've held an opponent to since 2013. Although the Lions were good, this wasn't a perfect game by any means, they turned the ball over three times and missed a chip-shot field goal. If they're winning this handily when they don't play perfect football, just imagine what's going to happen when they do.
Raiders-Lions grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Dallas 43-20 over L.A. Rams
|The Rams defense came out hot, sacking Prescott twice on Dallas' opening drive. However, the Rams couldn't maintain that intensity as the Cowboys ended up scoring on that drive and many more times throughout the afternoon. The team showed some fight at the end of the second quarter and in the second half, but it was too little, too late.
|The Cowboys dominated in all three phases of the game. Dallas became the first team with a defensive touchdown (a 30-yard pick six by cornerback DaRon Bland), a blocked punt, and a defensive safety (Sam Williams blocked the punt out of the end zone) since 2017. Offensively, Dak Prescott had his sixth career game with 300 or more passing yards (304) and four passing touchdowns, tying Tony Romo for the most such games in Cowboys history. CeeDee Lamb accounted for 158 of those yards (a career-high in receiving yards) and two of those touchdowns. As for special teams, rookie Brandon Aubrey nailed both of his field goals, including a career-long 58-yarder in the first quarter. Returner KaVontae Turpin had a 63-yard return that led to a 10-yard Lamb receiving touchdown two plays later. There aren't many more things the Cowboys could have done to play better.
Rams-Cowboys grades by Garrett Podell (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Minnesota 24-10 over Green Bay
|Kirk Cousins was hot on Monday night and his hot streak continued in this game. The Vikings QB threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and he was a big reason why the offense was able to convert more than 50% of its third downs (10 of 18). With Justin Jefferson still out, Cousins has had to find other receivers to throw to and he did a brilliant job of that in Green Bay with three receivers finishing with more than 80 yards (K.J. Osborn, T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Addison). This was a big win for the Vikings, but it came at a huge cost with Cousins suffering a season-ending injury.
|The Packers offense officially looks broken. After another ugly start -- the Packers totaled just 97 yards in the first half -- Jordan Love and the offense did look slightly better in the second half, but they couldn't come up with any big plays. In the fourth quarter alone, the Packers came away with zero points, even though they got the ball inside of Minnesota's 15-yard line TWICE. If the Packers offense doesn't get things figured out soon, this team isn't going to win very many more games this season.
Vikings-Packers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tennessee 28-23 over Atlanta
|The Falcons offense looked helpless during a first half where it totaled just 89 yards. Desmond Ridder got sacked five times and he actually had to leave the game at halftime due to a concussion. Taylor Heinicke played the second half and provided a spark for the Falcons, throwing for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Falcons coach Arthur Smith might now have a QB conundrum on his hands. Of course, even if the offense had played well for all four quarters, Atlanta might still have lost this game and that's because its defense couldn't stop DeAndre Hopkins. The defense had its worst performance of the season on a day where it got picked apart by a rookie QB (Will Levis), who was making his first career start.
|The Titans might have just found their quarterback of the future. In his first career start, Will Levis absolutely diced up the Falcons defense. The rookie QB threw for 238 yards and he had more TD passes in Week 8 (four) than Ryan Tannehill has had all season (two). Levis had an especially good connection with DeAndre Hopkins, who caught four passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns. With Levis shining in his debut, the Titans will certainly have to think about letting him start for the rest of the season, even when Tannehill (ankle) is healthy enough to play.
Falcons-Titans grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New Orleans 38-27 over Indianapolis
|After struggling for the past two weeks, the Saints offense caught fire in this game. One reason that happened is because the Colts didn't seem prepared for the role that Taysom Hill was going to play. The Saints' Swiss Army knife threw for 44 yards while also totaling 63 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Hill seemed to spark a Saints red zone offense that had been struggling for most of the season. Rashid Shaheed seems to come up with a few big plays every week and this week was no different as he averaged 51 yards per catch. With 511 yards of offense, the Saints crossed the 500-yard mark for the first time since 2020. If the offense continues to look like this, there's no reason the Saints can't win the NFC South.
|The Colts defense appears to officially be a liability for the team. For the third straight week, the Colts surrendered 37 points or more. In this game, the defense got absolutely steamrolled by a Saints offense that piled up more than 500 yards. The Colts offense played pretty well thanks in large part to Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss, who combined to average 7.0 yards per carry. That being said, it doesn't matter how well the offense plays if the defense can't stop anyone and right now, the defense can't stop anyone.
Saints-Colts grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Miami 31-17 over New England
|Some day, Bill Belichick will figure out how to slow down the Dolphins offense, but today wasn't the day. Belichick is one of the smartest defensive coaches in NFL history, but he had no answers for Jaylen Waddle or Tyreek Hill, who both went over 100 yards. Also, the Patriots already knew this, but they don't have the offensive firepower to hang with the Dolphins. This was another ugly loss in what's turning out to be an ugly season for New England.
|Tua Tagovailoa continues to own Bill Belichick. The Dolphins QB is now 6-0 in his career against the Patriots coach and he was a big reason why Miami won on Sunday, throwing for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Tua didn't give an "A+" performance, he did turn the ball over twice, but the Dolphins defense played so well that the turnovers didn't really hurt. The defense was especially good on third down, allowing the Patriots to convert just 1 of 9 attempts. The Dolphins weren't perfect, but they still won by two touchdowns, which tells you how good they are.
Patriots-Dolphins grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
N.Y. Jets 13-10 over N.Y. Giants (OT)
|The Jets defense pulled off one of the most impressive performances of the season, holding the Giants to NEGATIVE passing yards. Even with the defense playing well, the Jets needed an offensive miracle to win and they actually got it. Zach Wilson, who struggled for most of the game, led a wild 58-yard drive with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter to set up Greg Zuerlein's game-tying field goal (Zuerlein also hit the game-winner in overtime). Garrett Wilson had 40 of his 100 receiving yards on the two key drives. The Jets have mastered the art of winning ugly this year, which isn't a bad thing to master. They've now won three in a row and they're now over .500 for the first time this season.
|It's nearly impossible to win in the NFL when you finish with negative passing yards and that's what happened with the Giants, who had negative-9 passing yards against the Jets, which was the lowest by any NFL team since 2000. Despite that ugly showing, the Giants still almost won this game thanks to a defense that forced the Jets to punt 11 times. Unfortunately, the Giants just made too many big errors: Graham Gano missed two field goals and the Giants got flagged for two pass interference penalties on the Jets' game-winning drive in overtime. Quite simply, the Giants lost a game they probably should have won.
Jets-Giants grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Carolina 15-13 over Houston
|The Texans defense played a rock-solid game on Sunday ... until the fourth quarter. With the game on the line, the Texans had no answers for a Panthers offense that drove 86 yards for a game-winning field goal. The Texans defense was actually impressive for most of the day, sacking Bryce Young six times while holding the Panthers to under 225 yards, but the Houston offense sputtered for a good chunk of this game. When you have a rookie QB, you're going to have some highs and lows throughout the season and this was definitely a low for C.J. Stroud.
|It took eight weeks, but the Panthers finally picked up their first win of the season. In a duel between the top picks in the draft (Bryce Young) and the second pick (C.J. Stroud), Young came out on top and that's because he came up clutch for Carolina when the team needed him most. On the Panthers' game-winning drive, Young threw for 50 yards to set up Eddy Piniero's game-winning field goal. Although Young has struggled at times this season, the game-winning drive could be something that gives him -- and the Panthers offense -- some serious confidence going forward.
Texans-Panthers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Jacksonville 20-10 over Pittsburgh
|The Jaguars coughed the ball up three times and still beat the Steelers by 10 points in Pittsburgh. Making the Jaguars' win more impressive was the fact that they won the game with several injuries to their secondary. The injury-plagued unit still picked off Mitch Trubisky twice while sewing up the Jaguars' sixth win. We'd be remiss not to mention the play of Trevor Lawrence, who threw for 292 yards in the win.
|Pittsburgh's defense gets a "B," but the offense flunked Sunday's exam after scoring just one touchdown. The Steelers offense did little before Kenny Pickett's injury and didn't do much more when he left the game with a rib injury near the end of the first half. The unit has to get off to better starts; Pittsburgh had 7 total yards in the first quarter and didn't pick up a first down until 9:33 left until halftime.
Jaguars-Steelers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 38-31 over Washington
|Wasn't the perfect day for Philadelphia, as the Eagles had two turnovers inside the 5-yard line (both fumbles) and the defense gave up a ton of yards in the middle of the field. The Eagles still managed to score 28 points in the second half behind the prolific passing of Jalen Hurts. The defense made plays in the fourth quarter, including Reed Blankenship's interception that led to Julio Jones' go-ahead touchdown. Still some things to clean up in Philadelphia, but the Eagles find ways to win. That knee injury Jalen Hurts is dealing with doesn't seem to be a problem either.
|The Commanders always seem to perform well against the Eagles, even if Washington couldn't preserve a 14-3 lead. Sam Howell had a fourth-quarter turnover, but nearly executed Eric Bieniemy's game plan to perfection in finding openings in the middle of the field. The offensive line only gave up one sack, but it was at a crucial moment in the fourth quarter and Haason Reddick broke free on fourth down. Ron Rivera not calling a timeout late was questionable too. The Commanders always play the Eagles tough, but they're 3-5 for a reason.
Eagles-Commanders grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Seattle 24-20 over Cleveland
|The Browns defense almost carried Cleveland to a victory in this game, but the unit couldn't quite overcome three turnovers by P.J. Walker. The Browns backup QB, who was making his second start of the season, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. That total includeed a back-breaking pick that came with just two minutes left in the game while the Browns were clinging to a 20-17 lead. The Browns have a playoff-caliber defense, but it might go to waste this season if they don't start getting better quarterback play, whether that's from Walker or Deshaun Watson when he gets healthy.
|The Seahawks saved their best for last in this game. After falling behind 20-17, the defense kicked things up a notch. The Browns had the ball three times in the fourth quarter and the Seahawks forced a punt, came up with an interception and then extinguished Cleveland's hopes of winning with a fourth down stop in the final minute. Overall, Seattle's defense forced three turnovers and the Seahawks ended up getting 10 huge points off of those. Offensively, the Seahawks struggled at times, but Geno Smith came up big by driving Seattle down the field for a game-winning TD in the final two minutes of the game. The final TD pass went to rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who is starting to look like a true weapon in this offense. Thanks to the win, the Seahawks are now in first place in the NFC West and it feels like they have a very real chance of winning it.
Browns-Seahawks grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Baltimore 31-24 over Arizona
|With Baltimore's offense struggling for most of the day, the Ravens needed a huge defensive performance and they got one. There were two fourth down stops plus a Brandon Stephens interception in the first half. In the second half, Geno Stone was the hero with a third quarter pick that essentially iced the game. On a day where Lamar Jackson didn't put up the video game numbers that we've become accustomed to, Gus Edwards carried the offense with 80 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. The Ravens weren't anywhere close to perfect, but they escaped Arizona with a win and that's all that matters.
|At this point, every Cardinals game feels the same: They keep things close in the first half, before completely disappearing in the second half. On the positive side, the Cardinals defense did a solid job of bottling up Lamar Jackson, who totaled just 174 yards. The problem for Arizona is that Josh Dobbs threw two ugly interceptions that both led to Baltimore touchdowns. The Cardinals also went for it twice on fourth-and-1 in the first half and failed both times. If they had converted either of those, it could have been a different game. As always, this teams is good enough to compete, they just can't really figure out how to win.
Ravens-Cardinals grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Denver 24-9 over Kansas City
|Patrick Mahomes apparently had the flu going into this game, which makes sense, because he played like he had the flu. The Chiefs QB, who was constantly flustered by the Broncos defense, was inaccurate on a day where Kansas City's offense turned the ball over five times. The nine points scored by the Chiefs was the team's second-lowest total since Mahomes took over as the starter in 2018. The Chiefs defense did its best to keep this close -- they had six sacks of Russell Wilson while also forcing a turnover -- but it wasn't enough in a game where Kansas City's offense was simply broken. The Chiefs probably shouldn't be too worried about this performance considering Mahomes had the flu, but if they play like this next week against the Dolphins, it might be time to start panicking.
|The curse is finally over. The Broncos have finally beaten Patrick Mahomes and for that, they get an 'A.' Going into Sunday, the Broncos were 0-12 against Mahomes, but the streak finally ended and it was mostly thanks to a nearly perfect performance from Denver's defense. The Broncos forced five turnovers and Denver was able to score 17 points off of those and that was the difference in the game. Offensively, Russell Wilson only completed 12 passes for 114 yards, but he made the most of those completions with three TD passes. The Broncos now have some positive momentum with two straight wins as they head into their bye.
Chiefs-Broncos grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cincinnati 31-17 over San Francisco
|The Bengals are starting to look like the Bengals that we've come to know since Joe Burrow arrived in Cincinnati. They are now above .500 on the season after rolling into Levi's Stadium and upsetting the 49ers. Burrow looked back to full health and was running around freely, totaling 43 yards on the ground. Oh, and he was pretty spectacular with his arm as well, at one point completing a career-high 19 passes in a row. He completed 87.5% of his throw on the day and seemed to have an answer with whatever the Niners defense threw his way. Not only was Burrow stellar, but the defense came out of the gate firing and forced Brock Purdy into three second-half turnovers that helped put the game away and pull off the upset. If the Bengals continue to play like this, they'll be in the thick of the playoff conversation and possibly go on another deep run.
|It wasn't an outright horrible game for the 49ers, but they lacked energy at various moments in the loss. The offense couldn't consistently string together scoring drives in the first half (two three-and-outs), and Brock Purdy started to melt down in the second half with three turnovers. His two interceptions were particularly damning as the first came at his own 8-yard line and the other (on his very next pass attempt) put the Bengals inside the red zone yet again. Meanwhile, the defense had little answer for Joe Burrow and the passing game, especially in the red zone where Cincinnati found the red zone in four of their five trips. This is San Francisco's third-straight loss as they enter the Week 9 bye, so Kyle Shanahan will certainly have his work cut out for him as he tries to get his team back on track.
Bengals-49ers grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Chargers 30-13 over Chicago
|The Bears were stuck starting a backup quarterback as a big road underdog in a prime-time game and that was a recipe for disaster. Although Tyson Baget gave the team a spark last week, there was no spark to be had this week. The Bears' first three possessions ended with two punts and an interception and things only got uglier after that. The Bears couldn't run the ball, they couldn't throw the ball and their defense had no answers for Justin Herbert. The NFL could have flexed this game out of prime time, but instead, the league kept this game in place. After Chicago's performance, the league might be more open to flexing bad teams out of Sunday night going forward.
|Justin Herbert completed his first 15 passes of the game, and from there, it was pretty clear that the Chargers were going to have their way with the Bears defense and that's exactly what happened. Herbert seemed to toy with Chicago's defense on a night where he threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns. The bigger news for the Chargers offense is that Austin Ekeler is starting to look like Austin Ekeler again. After averaging just 54 yards per game over the past two weeks, Ekeler went off for 123 total yards, which included 94 receiving yards. Defensively, the Chargers manhandled an overmatched Bears offense. This game was never close with the Chargers dominating from start to finish.
Bears-Chargers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Buffalo 24-18 over Tampa Bay (Thursday)
|The Buccaneers actually came inches away from winning, which was surprising, because the Bills seemed to dominate for most of the game. The Bucs offense had trouble moving the ball for most of the night, but they did come alive in the fourth quarter. Of course, the Bucs must have forgotten they were trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth, because they had zero urgency during a key TD drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock (You can't take seven minutes off the clock when you're trailing 24-10 in the fourth quarter). The Bucs defense got run over early in the game, but it also came up with several big plays, including a goal-line stand and an interception of Josh Allen that set up a TD in the first half. The Bills were definitely the better team, but the Bucs should get some credit for keeping this close.
|This win basically epitomized Buffalo's season so far: For a good chunk of the game, they looked like one of the best teams in the NFL, but there was also a solid portion where they were wildly inconsistent, which is why Tampa Bay was able to keep things close. Josh Allen finished with impressive numbers (365 total yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing TD), but he did most of his damage during the first two-and-a-half quarters. After going up 24-10 in the third quarter, the Bills ended up punting on their final four offensive possessions, which kept the Bucs alive. Speaking of punting, Sam Martin was one of the stars of the game for Buffalo. The Bills punter pinned the Bucs inside their own 8-yard line a total of three times in the second half. The Bills have the talent to beat anyone, but it remains to be seen if that talent can play consistently good football.
Buccaneers-Bills grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)