Week 8 NFL Takeaways: Some unlikely heroes dressed up as high-octane QBs for Halloween

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New York Jets vs New York Giants was a horrifying watch, but besides that, the football played during NFL spooky season was the one least likely of all eight games to make viewers cover their eyes.

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Offense has been difficult to come by for much of the 2023 season. Defenses are playing looser coverages and pass rushers are built like real-life horror characters. After years of scoring reaching unprecedented heights, there has been a precipitous dip the past two seasons. The averaged combined score of games in 2023 is 43.4. Last season the average was 43.3. Both are the lowest since 2010.

If it wasn’t for the Miami Dolphins, that 2023 average would be even lower. Miami was solid in a 31-17 win against the New England Patriots, but there were several other offenses that put up big numbers on a compelling Sunday of action in which there were no bye weeks.

There were also teams that struggled, and some were quite the surprise. The Kansas City Chiefs scored only nine points, on the road, in a loss to the Denver Broncos and their underwhelming defense. It was the Broncos first win against the Chiefs since 2015. While the Chiefs’ five turnovers played a key role in the loss, it is not like the Broncos went 5-5 on field-goal attempts to eke out a victory. They won, 24-9, and Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes, which is evidence that their offense has greatly improved this season. He has thrown for three touchdowns three times in 2023. In 2022, he didn’t reach that single-game total until December.

Wilson was far from the only quarterback whose passes repeatedly found their way into the end zone. The teams that were successful on offense in Week 8 gathered points like fourth graders grab candy on Tuesday.

The Washington Commanders continue to give the Philadelphia Eagles problems

There were eight passing touchdowns in this game, four each from Jalen Hurts and Sam Howell.

The Howell roller coaster continues for the Commanders, but they were not able to turn his best performance of the season into a victory. He paired those touchdown passes with a tick under 400 yards passing. Also, every one of his TDs was thrown to a different player. This performance follows a Week 7, 14-7 loss to the Giants in which Howell completed 52 percent of his passes and averaged less than six yards per attempt.

On defense, the Commanders were able to hold the Eagles’ dominant rushing attack to 2.7 yards per carry. Hurts rushed for just six yards. Fortunately for Philly, its top wide receiver can haul in back-shoulder touchdown catches with one hand. A.J. Brown caught six passes for 130 yards and two scores. He broke an NFL record with 125 or more yards receiving in six consecutive games.

For as well as both offenses played, the Commanders had a chance to take the game in the fourth quarter. Howell’s only interception of the match led to a quick Eagles touchdown that gave them a 31-24 lead. The Commanders would go on to force the Eagles into a 3-and-out on their next possession, but they book-ended that by turning over the ball on downs on consecutive drives.

For two seasons in a row the Eagles defense has been one of the best in the NFL. The Commanders have scored 30 points against that unit in three consecutive games and with two different quarterbacks, but still have gone 1-2 in those matchups.

Derek Carr turned up the volume on the New Orleans Saints offense

Heading into Week 8, the Saints had scored 30 points only once this season. That was their Week 5 shutout against the Patriots. Mac Jones turned the ball over three times in that game, including a first-quarter pick-six that was the Saints’ first score of the day. Carr passed for 183 yards in that win.

Against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Carr was more explosive as a passer than he has been the last two seasons. Going into Week 8, Carr had not averaged 10 or more yards per pass attempt since Week 6 of the 2021 season. In 2023, Carr had surpassed eight yards per attempt only once.

In the Saints’ 38-27 victory against the Colts, Carr averaged 11.5 yards per attempt. Unlike the previous two weeks, Carr did not need to throw the ball 50 times to get 300 yards in Week 8. It took him only 27 pass attempts to throw for 310, while Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara led a rushing attack that balanced the Saints’ offense with 161 yards.

While the Colts got spanked on defense, their offense has continued to impress. Going into the game, they were ranked 12th in Offensive DVOA. This is with Top-5 pick Anthony Richardson missing most of this season due to injury, and 2021 All-Pro Jonathan Taylor not playing until Week 5.

With Gardner Minshew behind center, along with Taylor and Zach Moss as a rushing tag team, the Colts had a chance, down 35-27 late in the fourth quarter. That drive started with a false start, sack and a near INT by Minshew. He converted a 3rd and 18, but went on to throw another near pick on their next set of downs and the Colts ended up punting.

Shout out to you, Will Levis

Will Levis tumbled in the 2023 NFL Draft like he was a part of that cheese-rolling race in England. Levis went from being discussed as a Top-5 pick to being selected in the second round by the Tennessee Titans.

That fall certainly hurt his bank account — hopefully that Hellmann’s Mayonnaise endorsement helped soften the blow — but he did end up on a team with a strong infrastructure. The Titans have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

Since Levis was drafted by a team expected to contend, it was highly unlikely that he would unseat Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback. He rode the bench while the Titans compiled a 2-4 record.

Tannehill missed Week 8 with an injury and Levis put on a performance far spicier than his favorite condiment. All four touchdowns in the Titans’ 28-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons were initiated by Levis’ arm. Also, none of those touchdown passes were short, red-zone scores. The final one was off of his back foot for 33 yards to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.

Mr. Mayo brought the heat in his first start and kept the Titans’ playoff hopes alive.

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