FOX sports betting analyst
Week 8 of the NFL season is coming to a close with only Monday night to play. After 13 games on Sunday, whose stock was up and down? I have my answers.
AJ Brown — Philadelphia Eagles
It was my belief that one wide receiver has far less impact on wins and losses than most football fans would have you believe. For example, trading Tyreek Hill did not affect the Chiefs’ win-loss record. Davante Adams didn’t help the Raiders win at all. But like all theories, it’s never absolute — and every now and then a trade for a wide receiver can change the offense and/or the quarterback. That’s what AJ Brown did for the Eagles offense.
Last season, the Eagles offense lacked a consistent passing attack in the middle of the field. I firmly believe that you cannot win at the elite level in this sport without explosive assists. This type of passing attack would wear down a defense that would be primed to stop the Eagles great play. Philadelphia traded for Brown to help Jalen Hurts unlock a deep offensive threat, and it showed on Sunday. Brown had three touchdowns in the first half and finished the game with six receptions for 156 yards. He absolutely made an impact. The tight ends have to locate Brown instead of focusing on the run game, and the Eagles’ rushing attack gets more favorable coverage to run. That trade has already paid off in Philadelphia.
Christian McCaffrey — San Francisco 49ers
In the second game since he was traded to the 49ers, McCaffrey’s versatile abilities were on full display. When the trade for CMC was made, I thought it would only make sense for the Niners if CMC could produce explosive passes. They didn’t need him running between the tackles; they already have such a game. They need him to play in space and without Dib Samuel in the lineup on Sunday, CMC was that guy. McCaffrey had eight catches for 55 yards, including a terrific touchdown catch. He added 94 yards on the ground. In addition, he threw for a touchdown on focus.
I’ll caveat emptor in tonight’s speech by saying that the Niners own the Rams in the regular season. Everything they do offensively seems to work against Los Angeles. So while CMC was able to unlock more yards and more points, their formula always seems to work against this team. I want to see it against other opponents before passing judgment on CMC’s impact on this offense.
The Vikings are 6-1 and have the second-highest winning percentage in the NFC. They absolutely haven’t gotten the credit they deserve for their fast start this season. They beat one team with a winning record, and it was the Dolphins without Tua at quarterback. The Vikings are about in the middle of the pack in terms of both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they’ve been missing some big passing plays. That seemed to change after their bye with the Cardinals. Both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen had explosive catches today and Cousins averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. That number isn’t small, but it’s higher than what we’ve seen from the Vikings. This is a positive improvement. The Vikings pass rush was able to harass Kyler Murray and make life difficult for him today. The Vikings’ defense also stymied the Cardinals’ traditional running game. The Vikings are on their way to winning the NFC North, and while they may not get the credit they deserve, their stock has risen significantly.
The Vikings beat the Cardinals 34-26 after Minnesota’s defense came up with two clutch catches on the game’s final two series
The Vikings defense was the hero in a 34-26 win over the Cardinals. Za’Darius Smith and Harrison Phillips both came up with sacks.
Los Angeles Rams
Where to start? The Rams just aren’t very good right now, and it seems unlikely that will change this season. General manager Les Snead’s mantra is “Hell they pick,” and while it worked last year, the lack of depth on the roster is now apparent. Their offensive line is a wreck, with no reliable running backs and no pass rush outside of Aaron Donald. Matthew Stafford’s arm doesn’t look as crisp, and Allen Robinson hasn’t helped much. To make matters worse, it appears that Cooper Kupp suffered a potentially serious injury late in their loss to the 49ers. If he is out for any length of time, it will be very difficult for the Rams offense to score.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see any way forward other than adding a few pieces at the trade deadline, which the Rams shouldn’t be doing. The Rams have the Buckeyes, the Chiefs, two games with the Seahawks, the Chargers and plenty of challenges ahead. With the 49ers and Seahawks playing the way they are, it doesn’t seem like the Rams will be a playoff team.
In the worst division in football, the losing team can win the division. After the craziest game of the day, where the Falcons should have lost several times but still won, they are 4-4 and lead the division. But what do falcons do well? Run the ball? Okay, of course. The Saints and Panthers are 3-5, and if the Saints can recover, they’ll just be buoyant. The Panthers are good enough to make games close, but they won’t win more than six games this season. The best bet for a team with a winning record to take over the crowd in the division is Tampa Bay. The Bucs look completely broken right now. They can’t do anything right, but they have Tom Brady. They also have a struggling offensive line, a terrible running game at times, and wide receivers with drop issues. I just got into the habit of ignoring Tom Brady.
Atlanta is coming off a crazy overtime win against the Panthers.
Carolina tied the game with 12 seconds left in the game, but due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a Panthers touchdown, they were kicked back and missed the PAT.
I’ve played in over 80 games and sat on the sidelines for another 40 or so. In those 120 games, I can count on my hands the number of times a team I’ve played for or against has made a full line change with subs. It’s rare because even with a blowout, there’s always a sense that a comeback could happen. Plus, guys have bonuses for playing time and other incentives to keep playing. Well, the Eagles played the game without a bench and all the players who dressed got a chance to play because there was no punt the Steelers could play. Eagles center Jason Kelce was even spotted wearing a Halloween mask on the sidelines during the fourth quarter.
This is far from saying the Steelers are bad. They are uncompetitive against any competent opponent. They lost to the Bills 38-3 and the Eagles 35-13. The offense was expected to be tough with Kenny Pickett learning the position, but the scheme is so awful it doesn’t help the young quarterback. The defense continues to flash against the worst offenses, but they are clearly missing TJ Watt. When he returns, I’ll be interested to see if their defense can keep them in games.
Jeff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL with five different teams. He started at right tackle at Oregon State University for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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