NFL Team Grades for Week 8

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2018

NFL Team Grades for Week 8

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    Week 8 of the 2018 NFL season was wild. We had a trick-or-treat bag filled to the brim with a variety of contests—including one-sided thrashings, offensive shootouts and fourth-quarter comebacks.

    Thankfully, with essentially half the season in the books, we're finally getting an idea of which teams deserve to be considered contenders. Unfortunately, there's a middle-of-the-pack group that remains mired in murkiness.

    Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers shined brightly in Week 8, while teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles...well, they won.

    How did your favorite team grade out in Week 8? Let's take a look.

        

Arizona Cardinals

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    Week 8 Opponent: San Francisco 49ers

    Result: Won 18-15

    It wasn't pretty for the Arizona Cardinals—none of their games have been this season—but they did get a win and a little bit of hope for the future. Practically all of that came from rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who led the Cardinals back from a 15-3 fourth-quarter deficit.

    Rosen was 12-of-18 for 150 yards and two touchdowns in that final quarter.

    Of course, Rosen completed just 50 percent of his passes and had just 102 yards passing in the first three quarters, so he deserves a little bit of the blame for landing in the fourth-quarter hole.

    Still, fans can embrace the fact that Rosen didn't shy away from the game's biggest moments and that he showed the leadership needed to put his team in position to win.

    This year is about the future for the Cardinals, but for the first time in a while, that future appears just a little bit bright.

    Week 8 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: D

Atlanta Falcons

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    Week 8 Bye

    The Atlanta Falcons slogged through a sloppy win against the New York Giants before heading into their Week 8 bye. That win may have saved Atlanta's season. At 3-4, the Falcons are simply trying to stay alive in the NFC South.

    The offense has been humming for Atlanta, but the defense—ranked 30th in both yards (419.4) and points (30.3) allowed per game—continues to be a a liability. Playing the New Orleans Saints (Nov. 22) and Carolina Panthers (Dec. 23) is going to be a massive challenge.

    From here, Atlanta has back-to-back road games against the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.

    Season Grade: C-

Baltimore Ravens

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    Week 8 Opponent: Carolina Panthers

    Result: Lost 36-21

    Just who are the 2018 Baltimore Ravens? It's a good question and one that lacks a clear answer. This team has embarrassed the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans while coming an extra point away from taking the New Orleans Saints to overtime. This team has also been blown out by the Cincinnati Bengals and lost to the Browns in overtime.

    The Ravens are 4-4, but are they a good .500 team or a bad one?

    Against the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens looked like a lower-tier team. The defense napped through the first half, allowing the Panthers to jump out to a 24-7 halftime lead. The offense committed two turnovers during that span—Joe Flacco also finished with two interceptions—and it couldn't climb out of that hole in the second half.

    If the Ravens are going to be a factor in the AFC North in the second half of the season, they had better start playing more efficiently in a hurry. Next week, they'll host the Steelers, who looked dominant in Week 8.

    Week 8 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C

Buffalo Bills

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    Week 8 Opponent: New England Patriots

    Result: Lost 25-6

    The Buffalo Bills deserve a lot of credit for hanging with the New England Patriots as long as they did on Monday night. They have an undermanned offense with a recently added journeyman quarterback, and yet the Patriots couldn't pull away until the fourth quarter.

    That is a testament to the defense, which came in allowing just 320.9 yards per game, fourth-fewest in the NFL.

    Tom Brady was harassed all game, and the Patriots produced just 18 points on offense. The other seven points came on a fourth-quarter pick-six thrown by Derek Anderson.

    Of course, it was the underwhelming Buffalo offense that put this game out of reach. The defense held New England to four field goals and one miss on its first five scoring opportunities, but the offense could never close the game.

    That is a major problem—and one that won't make life any easier on rookie quarterback Josh Allen if and when he re-enters the starting lineup.

    Week 8 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: D+

Carolina Panthers

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    Week 8 Opponent: Baltimore Ravens

    Result: Won 36-21

    If there is going to be a challenge to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South this season, it's going to come from the Panthers. Carolina proved that on Sunday with a dominant win over a Ravens team New Orleans barely beat.

    What makes Carolina so dangerous is the fact that it is playing complementary football. The defense, while not a shut-down unit, is opportunistic. It creates big plays, gets turnovers and makes key stops when it needs to.

    It allows Cam Newton and the Carolina offense to play a run-oriented, grinding style of offense. The Panthers rushed for 154 yards against a quality Ravens defense and controlled the clock for 34 minutes of game time.

    The Ravens never had a chance of mounting a comeback.

    The brand of football the Panthers are playing right now will give them a good chance against explosive teams like the Buccaneers and Steelers—the next two teams on their slate—and, of course, the Saints.

    Week 8 Grade: A

    Season Grade: B

Chicago Bears

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    Week 8 Opponent: New York Jets

    Result: Won 24-10

    When second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky avoids big mistakes, the Chicago Bears are a tough team to handle. Their defense has the potential to win games on its own, and with weapons like Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton, the offense is no slouch either.

    The New York Jets found this out the hard way in Week 8 in a game that became more lopsided as it wore on.

    Chicago held a mere 7-3 halftime advantage, but it was able to play through its defense and running game and find separation in the second half. New York could do little offensively. Chicago forced six three-and-outs, and the Jets totaled just 207 yards on the afternoon.

    Trubisky protected the ball this week—he had two interceptions against the Patriots in Week 7—which prevented the Jets from getting any easy scoring opportunities. As a result, Chicago rolled.

    Week 8 Grade: A

    Season Grade: C+

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Week 8 Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Result: Won 37-34

    A week ago, the Cincinnati Bengals looked like they didn't belong on the same field as the Kansas City Chiefs. On Sunday, they bounced back with a win, but their defense still had issues.

    Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston tossed four interceptions, and the Bengals carried a 34-16 advantage into the fourth quarter. Then Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game, took advantage of Cincinnati's 29th-ranked pass defense (300.7 yards per game allowed) entering Sunday and mounted an 18-point comeback.

    Thankfully, the Buccaneers defense is also bad, and Cincinnati was able to drive down and kick a game-winning field goal in roughly a minute.

    Cincinnati has enough firepower on offense to hang with most teams. If that offense stumbles at all, however, the defense is going to make it hard to beat playoff-caliber opponents down the stretch. The Bengals will face just such a team in two weeks when they visit the Saints.

    Next week is Cincinnati's bye.

    Week 8 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: B-

Cleveland Browns

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    Week 8 Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Result: Lost 33-18

    Sorry, Browns fans. It's shaping up to be another losing season in Cleveland. These Browns are competitive, and with two overtime losses and a tie, they could easily have a winning record right now. Sunday's blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, showed just how far away this team is from being a legitimate contender.

    Mistakes and mismanagement are costing Cleveland more than a lack of talent. The players on the field are giving themselves opportunities, but miscues are taking them away. Case in point, a missed Greg Joseph field goal cost Cleveland an early 9-0 lead.

    Poor coaching is a bigger problem, though. The offense consistently loses its way in the red zone—which is why that potential 9-0 lead was never in danger of being a 21-0 lead. The defense has a habit of breaking down at the worst possible times, and penalties are a steady problem in all phases.

    Cleveland now has 65 penalties on the season.

    When your team regularly starts slow, loses focus and gets in its own way, that's a coaching problem—and it's not too early for owner Jimmy Haslam to start weighing his coaching options for 2019. For now, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be in charge. Head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were both fired on Monday.

    Week 8 Grade: F

    Season Grade: C-

Dallas Cowboys

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    Week 8 Bye

    The Dallas Cowboys made a big move during the bye week, sending a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for wide receiver Amari Cooper. This should help the Cowboys offense because Cooper will give it a field-stretching outside receiver, but it isn't going to fix all the problems.

    One issue that has plagued Dallas is uncreative and timid play-calling. Cooper will find it difficult to be a difference-maker if the Cowboys continue making themselves easy to defend.

    At 3-4, Dallas is alive in the NFC East, but it remains a couple of notches below the top teams in the conference.

    Season Grade: C-

Denver Broncos

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    Week 8 Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

    Result: Lost 30-23

    Case Keenum might not be the quarterback of the future, but he's giving the Denver Broncos chances to win that they didn't have a year ago. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was the once-vaunted defense, which came in allowing 373.2 yards per game (21st in the NFL), that let the Broncos down.

    Denver did a good job of shoring up its run defense, which has allowed two 200-yard rushers this season. It held Kareem Hunt to just 50 yards rushing and 3.1 yards per carry, so that's a positive. However, the Broncos defense had no answer for Patrick Mahomes and the passing game—though to be fair, no one has this season.

    Mahomes finished with 303 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

    Yes, Keenum had two turnovers, but poor offensive line play, a lackluster performance from the secondary and a missed field goal all played parts in the loss. The Broncos weren't a quarterback away from being title contenders coming into the season. While Keenum is an upgrade over the mess Denver had at quarterback last season, the Broncos have the same 3-5 record they had last year.

    Week 8 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C-

Detroit Lions

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    Week 8 Opponent: Seattle Seahawks

    Result: Lost 28-14

    We saw the return of the pass-heavy Detroit Lions in Week 8, partially because the Seattle Seahawks jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first half. This proved to be costly because Detroit doesn't have a shutdown defense.

    Coach Matt Patricia's defense is opportunistic, but it is more effective when Detroit is able to control the tempo with the running game. Instead, it was the Seattle Seahawks who controlled the tempo—and the clock, for nearly 35 minutes—to grind out a win.

    Matthew Stafford attempted 40 passes, and the offense ran the ball just 13 times. This is not a winning formula for the 2018 Lions.

    Take a look at Detroit's first possession—a 13-play, 91-yard, nearly seven-minute touchdown drive—for an idea of what that winning formula is.

    Mistakes also hurt the Lions, as an early fumble set up Seattle's second touchdown and Stafford had two turnovers during Detroit's comeback attempt. The club will need to tighten things up with a pivotal matchup with the Minnesota Vikings on tap for next week.

    Week 8 Grade: D

    Season Grade: C

Green Bay Packers

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    Week 8 Opponent: Los Angeles Rams

    Result: Lost 29-27

    It's rare that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn't go out and do something incredible. The Los Angels Rams have a fast and physical pass rush, and Rodgers laughed in the face of it while leading the Packers to an early 10-0 lead.

    Rodgers also led Green Bay back from a 26-20 fourth-quarter deficit to take a late lead. However, he doesn't play defense or return kicks.

    Green Bay's defense held up well in the first half, but it allowed 21 second-half points. Rodgers' second chance at a fourth-quarter comeback never got off the ground because Ty Montgomery fumbled a kickoff return with just over two minutes remaining.

    This was a back-and-forth game that could have easily gone Green Bay's way. The Packers proved that when Rodgers is healthy, they can hang with the best teams in the NFL. However, they also proved they don't have enough overall talent to win those games when making critical mistakes.

    Week 8 Grade: C

    Season Grade: C+

Houston Texans

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    Week 8 Opponent: Miami Dolphins

    Result: Won 42-23

    The Houston Texans are beginning to put it all together, and that's bad news for the rest of the AFC South. Not only is quarterback Deshaun Watson back to 100 percent and playing at a Pro Bowl level, but defensive end J.J. Watt is too.

    In fact, Watt (8.0 sacks, four forced fumbles this season) is playing like a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

    The Miami Dolphins had no answers for either Watt or Watson on Thursday night. Watt only had one sack, but he and the Texans pass rush harassed Brock Osweiler throughout the game. No one harassed Watson, as he dissected the Miami offense for an efficient 239 yards and five touchdowns.

    Lamar Miller (133 yards, one touchdown) also ran wild over his former team, and the Texans cruised to their fifth consecutive victory of the season. How did this team lose to the New York Giants?

    Week 8 Grade: A

    Season Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts

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    Week 8 Opponent: Oakland Raiders

    Result: Won 42-28

    Quarterback Andrew Luck is back to pre-injury form; we've known that for a few weeks now. What is going to make the Indianapolis Colts a little dangerous down the stretch is the fact that the running game is finding its way and the defense is making at least the occasional stop.

    Indianapolis' defense allowed the Raiders to score 28 points, but it also produced a fourth-quarter fumble and got a key stop on Oakland's next possession. Because of that Colts rushing attack, which totaled 222 yards, the Raiders didn't get many possessions, either.

    Oakland only got nine tries with the ball because Indianapolis controlled the clock for more than 36 minutes. When you only get nine possessions and one ends with a fumble and one ends with the end of the half, you're not going to beat a team capable of dropping 42 points.

    This team is far from perfect, but the Colts don't need to rely on Luck to carry them anymore. If they get down and need him to pull them back, though, the quarterback is obviously capable. This gives Indianapolis a fighting chance in the AFC South, even at 3-5.

    Week 8 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: C-

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Week 8 Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

    Result: Lost 24-18

    No team has fallen harder this season than the Jacksonville Jaguars. This team fell just a few plays short of the Super Bowl last season. It started 2018 slow, and it has spiraled out of control from there. A week ago, starting quarterback Blake Bortles was benched in favor of Cody Kessler because of inefficiency and turnovers.

    The Jaguars bounced back to a degree against the Philadelphia Eagles in London. The defense wasn't the sieve it had been in the previous three weeks, and Bortles (286 yards passing, one touchdown, zero turnovers) was much more effective.

    However, Jacksonville couldn't trade punches with Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense. Part of the problem was a running game that has struggled with Leonard Fournette sidelined by injury. Bortles actually led the Jaguars with 43 yards rushing. Jacksonville is now 2-11 when he's the leading rusher.

    Jacksonville kept the game close but couldn't pull ahead in the fourth quarter. Close isn't good enough for a team that is now 3-5 and in serious trouble.

    Week 8 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: D+

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Week 8 Opponent: Denver Broncos

    Result: Won 30-23

    Is anyone going to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' passing attack? No, probably not. A more realistic question is whether anyone is going to slow it enough to win a game that doesn't devolve into a complete shootout.

    The Broncos couldn't, and the Chiefs rode Mahomes and the passing game to their seventh win in eight tries. Some Denver mistakes helped mask another questionable outing by the defense, which allowed 411 yards of offense.

    Still, it was Mahomes and the high-flying passing attack that netted Kansas City a win.

    "We've put together an interesting offense over the offseason with the pieces we grabbed," tight end Travis Kelce said, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. "Pat is 100 percent a part of that. You can't say he's not."

    If the Chiefs offense ever stumbles for more than a handful of drives, the defense will make this team vulnerable. Right now, though, that hasn't been a problem.

    Week 8 Grade: B

    Season Grade: A-

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Week 8 Bye

    The Los Angeles Chargers were on bye in Week 8, and that could be bad news for the Seahawks and Raiders, who host Los Angeles over the next two weeks. The 5-2 Chargers are one of the league's hottest teams, and they'll be well-rested.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they'll have a healthy Joey Bosa coming out of the bye.

    "He's just not there yet," one unnamed source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Even without Bosa, the Chargers have looked like a playoff team...and a dangerous one at that.

    Season Grade: B

Los Angeles Rams

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    Week 8 Opponent: Green Bay Packers

    Result: Won 29-27

    The Rams remain the NFL's lone undefeated team. However, they narrowly escaped and showed they aren't invincible. In fact, this easily could have been a loss had the Rams not been handed the ball with a late two-point lead on a fumbled kickoff return.

    The fact that the L.A. defense allowed 359 yards and 27 points against one of the game's best quarterbacks isn't alarming. However, it is cause for concern because, well, top quarterbacks are exactly what the Rams will face in the postseason.

    It's what the Rams will face next week, in fact, as they'll head to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints.

    As long as Jared Goff and Todd Gurley (114 yards rushing against Green Bay) are on the field, there aren't going to be many questions about Los Angeles' offense. However, it's unclear if the defense can carry the team against a top-tier opponent if needed.

    There's no arguing with 8-0, though, and there's always the chance the Rams never need the defense to carry them.

    Week 8 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: A

Miami Dolphins

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    Week 8 Opponent: Houston Texans

    Result: Lost 42-23

    In a lot of ways, Miami is the polar opposite of Houston right now. The Dolphins started the season 3-0 and looked like a potential playoff team. Since then, they've gone 1-4, they've had to start Brock Osweiler at quarterback because starter Ryan Tannehill isn't healthy, and they've looked like a middling team at best.

    Against the Texans, the Dolphins played like one of the worst teams in the league. You can blame having Osweiler in at quarterback and the injury absences of wideouts Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills for the disjointed offensive effort. However, there's no excusing the defense, which often appeared as if it was just there for show.

    Houston averaged an impressive 7.8 yards per offensive play and finished half of its drives with touchdowns.

    The Dolphins can climb back to the right side of .500 against the Jets next week, but right now, they're reeling.

    Week 8 Grade: D

    Season Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

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    Week 8 Opponent: New Orleans Saints

    Result: Lost 30-20

    The Vikings didn't have a disaster of an outing against the Saints, but mistakes cost them. Kirk Cousins had an interception returned for a touchdown, a lost fumble led to an easy Saints touchdown, and Laquon Treadwell couldn't come down with the ball on a critical fourth-down conversion attempt.

    Was this a disappointing loss for fans? Sure, but it isn't the kind of loss that should incite panic. If even one of these mistakes doesn't happen, this is close to an even game.

    There are positives to take away too. Latavius Murray continues to run well, Adam Thielen had yet another 100-yard game—a record-tying eighth consecutive to start the season—and the defense didn't make things easy on the Saints, who finished with a so-so 270 yards of offense.

    Still, the loss puts the Vikings in a precarious position. At 4-3-1, they're now sitting behind the Bears in the NFC North, with important games against the Lions and those same Bears upcoming.

    Week 8 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C+

New England Patriots

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    Week 8 Opponent: Buffalo Bills

    Result: Won 25-6

    If there's one thing we know about the Patriots, it's that they adapt. Playing without rookie running back Sony Michel, New England found other ways to move the ball on the ground. James White, Cordarrelle Patterson and even Brady at times shouldered the load.

    When the Patriots couldn't punch the ball into the end zone, they took the field goals they could get and leaned on their defense to widen the gap.

    By the time New England finally did score a touchdown, it went up by two scores and forced Buffalo to go into pass-first mode. The end result was Devin McCourty's 84-yard interception return for a touchdown.

    The challenge now will be figuring out how to adapt to Rodgers and the Packers, who visit Foxborough next week. Leaning on the defense in that game will prove a little more difficult.

    Week 8 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: B-

New Orleans Saints

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    Week 8 Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

    Result: Won 30-20

    There was no miracle in Minneapolis this time. The Saints struck first against the Vikings, scored often and made enough plays defensively to open up a 17-point fourth-quarter lead. From there, it was only a matter of holding on, which New Orleans did.

    Much to the chagrin of some fantasy owners, Drew Brees wasn't a major piece of the victory. He had just 120 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Saints fans will enjoy the fact that Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were able to carry the offense while the defense chipped in with a touchdown of its own.

    New Orleans was dangerous down the stretch last season because the defense, while not dominant, was able to play an opportunistic brand of football. That's what it did against the Vikings—it allowed 423 yards but also forced two turnovers, had a key fourth-down stop and a defensive score.

    Perhaps this game was a sign that we'll see the same trend in the second half of 2018.

    Week 8 Grade: A

    Season Grade: A-

New York Giants

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    Week 8 Opponent: Washington Redskins

    Result: Lost 20-13

    Could this be the end of the road for Giants quarterback Eli Manning? Head coach Pat Shurmur at least isn't ruling it out.

    "I'm going to look at everything," Shurmur told reporters. "I don't want to go there [right now] and I don't want to tease that."

    Manning was part of the reason New York lost. He had 316 yards passing and a garbage-time touchdown, but he also had two interceptions—one in the red zone—and was sacked seven times. However, quarterback play is far from the only issue with this team.

    The offensive line is a mess (Did we mention those seven sacks?), and while the defense is talented, it makes too many mental errors.

    Washington amassed 360 yards and held the ball for nearly 34 minutes of game time. Yes, Manning helped derail the Giants' comeback attempt, but he wasn't the reason New York had to mount one in the first place.

    Week 8 Grade: F

    Season Grade: F

New York Jets

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    Week 8 Opponent: Chicago Bears

    Result: Lost 24-10

    Give the Jets credit. Even with a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold, they've stayed competitive in 2018. The reality, though, is that they don't have enough talent to hang with playoff-caliber teams. We saw that last week against the Vikings, and we saw it again against Chicago.

    Darnold protected the ball for the most part—he did have another fumble, but he recovered it. The problem is that he struggled to find open targets and push the ball downfield, especially early. Darnold had just 54 passing yards in the first half.

    New York couldn't get much going on the ground either. The Jets had just 57 yards rushing for the game and averaged a mere 2.4 yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell, who had a 200-yard game earlier this season, averaged less than two yards per run.

    The defense kept the Jets in the game during the first half, but it couldn't hold up for four quarters with the offense not doing its part. 

    Week 8 Grade: D

    Season Grade: C-

Oakland Raiders

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    Week 8 Opponent: Indianapolis Colts

    Result: Lost 42-28

    The Raiders are a complete mess, and not just because they've traded away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. In fact, Oakland didn't miss Cooper one bit against the Colts, as Derek Carr was still able to throw for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

    The Raiders didn't miss Marshawn Lynch, either, as Doug Martin rumbled for 72 yards on just 13 carries.

    What Oakland is missing is a cohesive game plan—and we're not talking about the obvious one that involves turning the corner on the rebuild in Las Vegas.

    The Raiders defense is a complete liability, and it quickly became obvious that it wasn't going to even slow the Colts offense. Instead of trying to control the clock and keep the defense off the field, though, Jon Gruden chose to lean on Carr and the passing game. Oakland ran just 17 times if you don't count a couple of quarterback sneaks from Carr.

    Perhaps Gruden is tanking. Perhaps the Raiders are going to use their collection of first-round picks in the next couple of drafts to build a dynasty. What's clear now is the Raiders are irrelevant in 2018.

    Week 8 Grade: D

    Season Grade: D-

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Week 8 Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

    Result: Won 24-18

    The Eagles faced a tough situation in Week 8. Coming off a disappointing loss to the Panthers, they had to travel to London to play a Jaguars team that has played there once a year since 2013. It wasn't a dominant performance, but Philadelphia did what was needed.

    A lot of the credit has to go to Carson Wentz, who had to overcome an early fumble and a steady Jaguars pass rush.

    "The guy is as mentally strong as they come," tight end Zach Ertz said of Wentz, per Tim McManus of ESPN.com. "He's never going to show that he's down. He's always looking forward to the next play."

    Wentz used his mobility to keep plays alive and find yardage on the ground. The Jacksonville defense was stouter than it had been recently, but Wentz still managed to finish with 286 yards passing, 28 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

    The Eagles defense came up with some timely stops in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

    Philadelphia doesn't look like the same team that won the Super Bowl in February, but it is still very much alive in the NFC East.

    Week 8 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: C-

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Week 8 Opponent: Cleveland Browns

    Result: Won 33-18

    The Steelers had perhaps their most complete game of the season against the Browns on Sunday. The defense pressured rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield for four full quarters, Ben Roethlisberger settled into a rhythm, and running back James Conner (146 yards rushing, 66 yards receiving, two touchdowns) feasted on Cleveland's defense.

    Pittsburgh had to shake off a little bye-week rust, and it spotted the Browns a 6-0 lead during the process. After that, it was a smooth ride to a dominant divisional win.

    When the Steelers play like they did in Week 8, they're going to be difficult for anyone to beat. Oh, and with Conner going off like he has recently, the Steelers probably aren't worried about getting Le'Veon Bell back this season, either.

    We're likely to find out just how dangerous the Steelers can be in the coming weeks. They face the Ravens next week and the surging Panthers the week after. Winning at least one of those games will be critical, as Pittsburgh finishes the year with the Patriots, Saints and Bengals.

    Week 8 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers

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    Week 8 Oppinent: Arizona Cardinals

    Result: Lost 18-15

    The San Francisco 49ers might not be the worst team in the NFL, but they're in the running. We got a good look at just how far the Cardinals are from contention when the Broncos demolished them in prime time in Week 7. The 49ers couldn't even put them away after holding a 12-point fourth-quarter lead.

    Injuries are obviously part of the issue. Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season in Week 3, while offseason acquisition Jerick McKinnon never made it on the field for San Francisco. However, there's still a serious lack of overall talent.

    All that hype the 49ers got heading into the season? Yeah, that was overblown.

    In a battle of NFC West basement-dwellers, it was the Cardinals who came out on top. San Francisco averaged 3.5 yards per carry as a team, quarterback CJ Beathard completed just 50 percent of his passes, and the defense surrendered 321 yards of total offense—much of it in the fourth quarter.

    The 49ers were at least close to winning, and that keeps them from getting a hard F. However, this was still an embarrassing loss in a futile season.

    Week 8 Grade: D-

    Season Grade: D-

Seattle Seahawks

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    Week 8 Opponent: Detroit Lions

    Result: Won 28-14

    It's too bad the Rams are running away with the NFC West, because the Seahawks could make things interesting most years. They're not a dominant group, but they have a team identity.

    The Seattle defense is vulnerable, so the plan is to keep it off the field as much as possible with a methodical run-first offense and let Russell Wilson break things open with a few chunk plays per game. When the defense can come up with a couple of turnovers, as it did against Detroit, Seattle has the potential to take over a game.

    All of this is possible because of the emergence of Chris Carson, Mike Davis and the rest of Seattle's rushing attack. It racked up 176 yards on the ground against the Lions, and Seattle was able to script a nearly flawless game.

    The Seahawks won't challenge for the division crown, but if they slip into the postseason as a wild card, other teams should be wary.

    Week 8 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Week 8 Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

    Result: Lost 37-34

    It's premature to say that FitzMagic is back in Tampa Bay, but uncertainty at the quarterback position certainly is.

    Jameis Winston got benched after throwing four interceptions against the Bengals. Fitzpatrick came in and racked up 194 yards and two touchdowns in just over a quarter of play. He helped the Buccaneers rattle off 18 straight points. Naturally, they had to have all 18 for even a shot at overtime because of Winston's poor play and because the defense was, once again, underwhelming.

    "I know I'm definitely the reason we came up short with this game, and I own that," Winston said, per Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today.

    Questionable defense is still a problem for Tampa, but the bigger issue is that coach Dirk Koetter has to figure out who the best quarterback is for this season.

    Neither Winston nor Ryan Fitzpatrick may be the man beyond 2018, and it feels like a near-certainty that Koetter will be out as well.

    Week 8 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C-

Tennessee Titans

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Week 8 Bye

    If there's one thing we know about the Tennessee Titans, it's that first-year head coach Mike Vrabel has them playing hard. What we don't know is whether there's enough talent on the roster to push for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

    The 3-4 Titans have knocked off the Texans and the defending champion Eagles. They've also been embarrassed by the Ravens and barely outlasted the Bills. There has been inconsistency in the running game, while Marcus Mariota and the passing game continue to stall.

    We'll get a better idea of how good the Titans are next Monday night when they take on the Cowboys.

    Season Grade: C

Washington Redskins

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Week 8 Opponent: New York Giants

    Result: Won 20-13

    Of all the storylines we might have predicted for Washington during the offseason, Adrian Peterson returning to Pro Bowl form wasn't one of them.

    Peterson is becoming the centerpiece of the Redskins offense, and he's regularly giving it the opportunity to close out games. He racked up another 149 yards rushing against the Giants—including 64 on a touchdown run—and he helped slam the door shut on New York in the fourth quarter.

    Washington is evolving into a complete team. The defense, which came in ranked fifth overall (322.4 yards per game allowed) is keeping the Redskins within striking distance, while Alex Smith is playing the role of game manager to perfection.

    There's nothing flashy about the Redskins or the way they win games, but style points aren't going to win the NFC East. Smart, efficient football will, and that's what Washington is providing.

    Week 8 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: B+