NFL Week 8 takeaways: Lessons, big questions for every game

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Week 8of the 2022 NFL seasonfeatured an early riser and plenty of big games.

The Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked things off Thursday night with the Ravens pulling out a 27-22 victory, handing quarterbackTom Brady a 3-5 record for the first time in his career as a starter. With an overtime victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon, theAtlanta Falconstook over first place from the Bucs in the NFC South.

On Sunday morning, the league played its third and final game in London this season.Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos' offense were far from perfect, but they were good enough to get past the Jacksonville Jaguars21-17.

The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 7-0 with a 35-13 win over thePittsburgh Steelerspropelled by three first-half touchdowns from A.J. Brown. The Miami Dolphins rallied back to beat the Detroit Lions on the road, the Vikings held on to win their sixth game of the season and the New England Patriots beat the New York Jets for the 13th straight time. Led by Tony Pollard's three touchdowns, the Dallas Cowboys scored 49 points at home against the Chicago Bears.

In the late afternoon window, Christian McCaffrey became the first player in 17 years to pass for, rush for and catch a touchdown in the same game as he led the San Francisco 49ers to another victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Derrick Henry also continued his mastery of the Houston Texans to lead the Tennessee Titans to a fifth straight win.

On Sunday night,Aaron Rodgers and theGreen Bay Packersdropped their fourth straight, as the Buffalo Billsimproved to 6-1.

On Monday Night Football, theCleveland BrownssackedJoe Burrowand theCincinnati Bengals in an all-Ohio battle.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers are on a bye and will return to action in Week 9.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions off this week's matchups and look ahead to what's next. (Games are Sunday unless noted.) Let's get to it.

Jump to a matchup:






Cleveland 32, Cincinnati 13


What to know: The Browns kept their season alive with the resounding win over the Bengals. The Browns still have work to do to climb back into the AFC playoff picture. But at 3-5, Cleveland's season is far from over heading into a bye week.

Has the Browns defense turned a corner? The Browns entered Monday Night Football ranked 30th in defensive efficiency. But after a promising performance last weekend in a narrow loss at Baltimore, Cleveland's defense finally performed up to its preseason expectations in a dominating effort against Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Talent has never been the issue. The Browns might have uncovered the chemistry and cohesiveness that had previously been missing. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Bengals have little margin for error after another AFC North loss. Divisional dominance was a key reason Cincinnati won the North last season. With an 0-3 start in divisional play in 2022, it makes things tight in the battle for the North crown.

Is the offense in trouble without Ja'Marr Chase? It's a bit early to panic, even after a loss. Cincinnati's offense still has enough playmakfers -- even without Chase -- to avoid going scoreless for three quarters against Cleveland. -- Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Buffalo 27, Green Bay 17


What to know: The connection between quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs remains electric as Diggs finished with a third straight game of 100-plus receiving yards and one touchdown catch. But it was the contributions from others who haven't been as involved that serve as reminders of how effective this group can be. The Bills drafted James Cook to be a receiving back. Against the Packers, he showed his most significant flash yet with a 41-yard reception. Cook also contributed as a rusher, while Devin Singletary had success at times on the ground. Despite some late mistakes and turnovers, this performance was a reminder of how potent the Bills can be if they get the ground game (a season-high 154 rushing yards) and Cook as a receiving threat integrated consistently.

Will the Bills' run defense be a concern going forward? The Bills came into the Packers game having given up 100-plus rushing yards in just one game this season (against the Ravens), partly because opponents have been playing catch-up to the Bills' offense. The Packers, however, committed to the run, with Aaron Jones accounting for 143 rushing yards. This game showed the Bills have some things to clean up in the run game. It's a concern on a very good defense that can afford to be nitpicked and with plenty of time to clean it up. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: at Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: This looks like a lost season. Sure, the Packers, 3-5 and losers of four in a row, have recovered from rough starts under Aaron Rodgers in seasons past, but there was always reason to believe they would go on a run. What reason is there now? Right now, the only thing they have going for them is Aaron Jones (20 carries for 143 yards). They had hoped the return of wide receiver Christian Watson from his hamstring injury would spark the offense, but he didn't make it out of the first quarter before he sustained a concussion. They already were without Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. If the season isn't a complete loss yet, then it would be if they lose next Sunday at the Detroit Lions (1-6).

Is it even worth trading for a receiver anymore? The past two weeks we've asked if it was time for the Packers to trade for a receiver. But unless they're able to bring in several, trading for one might not make that big of a difference -- at least not for this season if it's a player in the final year of his contract. However, a trade might be worth it -- not necessarily to save this season but to bring in someone who will be around for another season or two. -- Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Seattle 27, N.Y. Giants 13


What to know: It's getting hard to consider the Seahawks anything other than legitimate contenders after their win over the previously 6-1 Giants, which keeps Seattle atop the NFC West standings at 5-3. Their defense neutralized Saquon Barkley and a strong Giants run game. Their special teams forced two takeaways. Geno Smith and their offense put the game away late after a rough start. It was only close through three quarters because Tyler Lockett made a pair of uncharacteristic blunders that he made amends for by catching the go-ahead touchdown pass.

Will the Seahawks make a move by Tuesday's trade deadline? They've got plenty of draft capital, with extra first- and second-round picks from the Russell Wilson trade, as well as an extra fifth-rounder. But they have only around $3 million in cap space and have already reworked two of their veteran contracts to free up money. That gives them more incentive to find a trade partner for cornerback Sidney Jones IV and the remainder of the $2.6 million he's making this season. -- Brady Henderson

Next game: at Cardinals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


What to know: It was bound to end eventually. The Giants couldn't win every close game. Sunday was another tight contest, tied early in the fourth quarter, and this time Geno Smith and the Seahawks got the best of them at noisy Lumen Field. Nothing to panic about. The Giants are 6-2 heading into their bye week, with home games against Houston and Detroit on deck. They're still in good shape for a playoff berth but need to get healthier to be more dangerous offensively (233 total yards in Sunday's loss).

What do the Giants do ahead of the trade deadline on Tuesday? Everyone naturally points to receiver. It's certainly a need, but the Giants are just as likely to add to their defensive line considering their struggles stopping the run this season. They lacked depth and lost veteran Nick Williams (biceps) on Sunday. A receiver is still possible, but only if it makes sense for the future and doesn't cost premium draft capital, which is likely the case with Denver's Jerry Jeudy. General manager Joe Schoen remains realistic about where this 6-2 roster stands. -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Texans (Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. ET)

Washington 17, Indianapolis 16


What to know: Washington's resiliency does not make for impressive wins, but the Commanders have turned it into a three-game winning streak. It starts with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, who shook off another interception to lead the Commanders to consecutive scores, including a winning 89-yard drive to go ahead with 22 seconds remaining. He's the ultimate competitor, which helps compensate for any physical flaws. It's fair to wonder how good Washington is, but the Commanders do scrap. It's how the defense came up with two turnovers in the red zone. It's how Washington overcame a sluggish offensive showing to score twice late.

Are the Commanders really playoff contenders? In the NFC, yes they are -- whether people want to believe it or not. But the next two weeks will tell the story, with Minnesota (home) and Philadelphia (away). Those teams are a combined 13-1. If the Commanders want to stick around, a split would be a big boost. The hard part is that Washington plays in the NFL's best division, but with a third wild card, the Commanders can stay in the race for a while. However, they will need to do a better job generating a consistent run game and not giving up huge plays on defense. But a key for them has been limiting penalties and improved special teams play. They're better in the details. -- John Keim

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger made his first career start after a much-discussed decision by the team to bench veteran Matt Ryan, but the team's lack of scoring punch did not change. Ehlinger played a clean game -- completing 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards -- but 16 points won't win many games in today's NFL. The good news is Ehlinger made a handful of intermediate and deep throws that began to address some of the questions about him in that area. He also allowed his receivers to take advantage of some yards-after-catch opportunities, including a 38-yard catch-and-run byParris Campbell. But in the end, the Colts' offensive woes are hardly fixed.

What's next for the Colts at quarterback? Indianapolis has publicly committed to sticking with Ehlinger for the remainder of the season, even though Ryan isn't expected to miss significant time because of his current shoulder injury. The reality is the Colts' quarterback change didn't fix what is arguably their biggest problem: the offensive line. Ehlinger did his best to avoid some of the pass rush but still succumbed at times. Additionally, the running backs were stuffed at key moments because of a lack of running lanes, like when Jonathan Taylor was stopped for no gain on a critical third-and-3 in the third quarter (resulting in another field goal). -- Stephen Holder

Next game: at Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

San Francisco 31, L.A. Rams 14


What to know: The 49ers traded for running back Christian McCaffrey because they believed he could be a force multiplier who elevates the entire offense. If Sunday's eighth straight regular-season win against the Rams is any indication, that's exactly what he is. McCaffrey threw for, ran for and caught a touchdown pass in San Francisco's blowout victory as the Niners moved to 4-4 heading into the bye. He's only the fourth player since the 1970 merger to complete that hat trick and the first since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005. With McCaffrey rolling and a chance for Deebo Samuel to come back from the bye healthy, the Niners' offense looks poised to handle its share of the load over the season's second half.

What does Sunday's win mean for the Niners as they enter the bye? The difference between 3-5 and 4-4 was stark for the Niners. To be 4-4 and, more importantly, 3-0 in the NFC West, puts them in prime position to make a run at the division crown and another playoff berth following a bye that should bring some key players back from injury. -- Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Chargers (Sunday, Nov. 13, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Rams aren't as good as the 49ers, and that's key for their playoff chances and the divisional race. Los Angeles has now lost eight regular-season games in a row to the rival 49ers. Of course, the Rams won when it mattered most last season in the NFC Championship Game. But on Sunday, Los Angeles was blown out, and San Francisco did it without Samuel. The Rams certainly haven't lost the division at 3-4, but losing both games to San Francisco puts them at a huge disadvantage as far as tiebreakers.

Will the Rams make a splash move before Tuesday's trade deadline? At 3-4, it doesn't appear Los Angeles is a trade away from making a deep playoff run. The Rams have been exploring adding a pass-rusher, but they did get three sacks -- including two from Leonard Floyd -- on Sunday. Running back is another story. The Rams' backs combined for 42 rushing yards on 16 carries, but unless they find a clear upgrade, they might choose to rely on a combination of Kyren Williams, Ronnie Rivers and Darrell Henderson Jr. instead. -- Sarah Barshop

Next game: at Buccaneers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Tennessee 17, Houston 10


What to know: Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing went back in time against the Texans, dialing up 45 rushing plays -- mostly from Derrick Henry, who gained 219 yards on 32 carries. Henry now has four consecutive 200-rushing yard performances against Houston and six over seven seasons -- tying him with Adrian Peterson and O.J. Simpson for the most in a career. Henry's two rushing touchdowns gave him 75 career touchdowns, breaking Eddie George's franchise record (74). Dontrell Hilliard chipped in with eight carries for 83 yards. The Titans rushed for 314 yards after entering the game averaging 108.7 yards per game.

How good can this Titans defense actually be? Tennessee's defense can be one of the top units when Jeffery Simmons (sack, two tackles for a loss) is playing the way he did against Houston. The Titans' defense has premier players at every level. Simmons, Bud Dupree, Teair Tart and Denico Autry make up a front that torments opposing offenses. Linebacker David Long Jr. is a weekly playmaker. Kevin Byard remains one of the best safeties in the league, while Kristian Fulton is quietly becoming a top cover corner. Tennessee has allowed only one play of 40 yards or more in two weeks after allowing six in the first five games. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: at Chiefs (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Texans' offensive performance was the complete opposite of their Week 7 output against the Raiders, when they finished with a season-high 404 yards. Against the Titans, the Texans gained only 161 yards, 90 of those coming on the final drive, resulting in their only touchdown with 17 seconds remaining. Quarterback Davis Mills threw for 152 yards, one touchdown and an interception, and running back Dameon Pierce -- who came in as the NFL's top rookie rusher -- finished with only 35 yards on 15 carries.

Will Brandin Cooks be a Texan after the trade deadline? The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. And there are trade rumors surrounding Cooks, with the nine-year veteran having a down year in comparison to previous seasons. Prior to Sunday, he was averaging 46 yards per game, second lowest in his career. Cooks hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game all season, either. But against the Titans, he flashed the ability that draws interest from teams, as he finished with four catches for 73 yards on six targets. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: vs. Eagles (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

New Orleans 24, Las Vegas 0


What to know: Saints running back Alvin Kamara urged the team to get its swag back after a loss to the Cardinals in prime time. The team certainly responded. Kamara scored his first (and second and third) touchdowns of the season; quarterback Taysom Hill couldn't be stopped as a runner; and the defense looked like it did when Saints coach Dennis Allen was the defensive coordinator, with the pass rush getting to quarterback Derek Carr all game. All of that contributed to an easy win against Allen's old team. It was the Saints' most complete game of the season, offensively and defensively.

Can the Saints use this as a launching point to win a weak NFC South? The Saints have had a rough start to the season, but the NFC South is still very much in reach. The Saints have lost several games this season because of their own mistakes, whether that be critical penalties or key turnovers. Their win against the Raiders felt like one of the few times this year they played fairly mistake-free football. If the Saints can get players such as Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas back from injury and continue to keep the mistakes down, it certainly feels as if they could make a run. -- Katherine Terrell

Next game: vs. Ravens (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: Maybe the Raiders aren't ready to go on a run after all. Yes, after last week's blowout of the lowly Texans, we thought Las Vegas, which opened 0-3, was primed to run off a series of victories to get above .500. But after no-showing in the Big Easy to fall to 2-5, the Raiders have to do a serious self-scout on their week at the IMG Academy before Sunday's game at Jacksonville. Especially as wide receiver Davante Adams had just one catch for 3 yards and minus-1 rushing yards.

Could the Raiders trade away players at Tuesday's trade deadline? It depends what they can get in return. Offensively, the only players who could potentially garner a significant package would be tight end Darren Waller, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury but signed a three-year, $51 million extension in August, and running back Josh Jacobs, the team's best player who is in a contract year. If Las Vegas has no intention of re-signing Jacobs, it could potentially get a third-round comp pick for him. -- Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Philadelphia 35, Pittsburgh 13


What to know: The Jalen Hurts-A.J. Brown tandem is a force to be reckoned with. Hurts threw a career-high four touchdowns Sunday -- three going to his good friend/No. 1 receiver Brown, who erupted for 156 yards on six catches. The Eagles' offense continues to show it can attack in a variety of ways. Sunday it was with the deep ball. Hurts is just the third QB with four touchdown passes of 20-plus air yards in a single game since ESPN began tracking air yards in 2006.

Who can slow this team down? The undefeated Eagles had the easiest remaining strength of schedule coming into this week, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. Their next three games are against the Houston Texans, Washington Commanders and Indianapolis Colts, none of whom entered Week 8 with a winning record.-- Tim McManus

Next game: at Texans (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense isn't elite. It hasn't been elite since the moment T.J. Watt went out in Week 1. Against the Buccaneers and Dolphins, the Steelers' unit showed signs of improvement. But in a 35-13 loss to the Eagles, the Steelers' secondary was exposed as Jalen Hurts picked on Ahkello Witherspoon and connected with A.J. Brown for three touchdowns. Witherspoon was in coverage on two of those scores. Even safety Minkah Fitzpatrick looked outmatched. The pass rush recorded a rare multisack game, but the defense was overwhelmed as it gave up nearly 9 yards per play.

What can the Steelers' offense reasonably fix during the bye week? Every phase needs work, but there's only so much that can be addressed in a week. The offense is inconsistent, more often running a quick three-and-out than a long scoring drive. The run game and 2021 first-rounder Najee Harris are invisible. Kenny Pickett might be taking incremental steps forward, but he's still missing receivers and making costly rookie mistakes. The offensive line, while not as dismal as it appeared in the preseason, is committing costly penalties in addition to not getting a ton of push on run plays. Even the pass protection fell apart against the Eagles as Pickett got sacked six times. There's certainly no easy fix, but is there any troubleshooting the Steelers can do to improve their offensive output? Or are the problems too pervasive to solve in-season? -- Brooke Pryor

Next game: vs. Saints (Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. ET)

New England 22, N.Y. Jets 17


What to know: It wasn't pretty, but the Patriots had to have it. They hung in the fight after a terrible first half to help Bill Belichick break a tie with George Halas to move into second place on the career wins list (325), thanks in large part to clutch kicker Nick Folk, hard-charging running back Rhamondre Stevenson and some gifts from interception-happy Jets QB Zach Wilson. This was far from a win that makes the Patriots a team to beat in the AFC, but improving to 4-4 at least buys them more time to try to play better football on a more consistent basis.

How much concern is there with Mac Jones' decision-making? Jones' decision-making had the Patriots living on the edge at times. He was quite fortunate late in the second quarter to have a pick-six negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty. He also had a would-be interception in the second half dropped by a Jets defender. This isn't to put it all on Jones, who was running for his life on a day in which the offensive line struggled to protect him (six sacks) and rookie left guard Cole Strange was replaced by Isaiah Wynn in the second half. The final stat line was solid -- 24-of-35 for 194 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT -- but Jones still seems to be knocking off some rust from his three-game absence with a high left ankle sprain. -- Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Without star rookie RB Breece Hall, who is lost for the season with a knee injury, the Jets needed quarterback Zach Wilson to be the catalyst on offense. He failed miserably, and so ended the four-game winning streak. A skittish Wilson threw three interceptions, all under duress. Clearly, Bill Belichick is in his head. This was reminiscent of last year's home game against the Patriots, when he threw four interceptions. Wilson isn't a rookie anymore, so there's no excuse. His play has regressed, and it doesn't get easier next week as they face the Buffalo Bills.

Why can't the Jets beat the Patriots? The coaches change, the rosters change, but the results remain the same: The Jets have a huge mental block when it comes to the Patriots. This was their 13th straight loss in the series. The Jets felt this was their time, talking tough about avenging last year's 54-13 loss, but they committed too many big mistakes -- most notably a roughing-the-passer penalty on DE John Franklin-Myers. This was the kind of missed opportunity that can haunt a team. -- Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Miami 31, Detroit 27


What to know: Eight games into the season, we can make it official -- the Dolphins' identity has done a complete 180 from the past three seasons. The offense has clearly been their strongest unit and had to carry the team during Sunday's win over the Lions. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa proved once again he can be the reason his team wins a game, throwing for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns on 29-of-36 passing. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle also each cracked 100 receiving yards for the third time this season.

Can the defense adjust to injuries in the secondary? The Dolphins don't know when cornerback Byron Jones will be ready to return from offseason Achilles surgery, and Nik Needham and Brandon Jones are out for the year. It's time to stop thinking about the players who are missing and start looking at those who have taken their place. Miami's secondary at full strength makes it possible for defensive coordinator Josh Boyer to call aggressive, blitz-heavy schemes. But Boyer and the Dolphins will now need to adjust to the quick-passing offenses their opponents have had so much success running this season. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Lions' secondary couldn't contain Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins' offense. The Miami QB picked Detroit apart, throwing for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns while Miami wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle each went over 100 yards receiving. Dating back to last season, the Lions' defense has now allowed 24 points in nine consecutive games, which is the second-longest such streak in franchise history.

Will the offense continue to put up big numbers? The offense topped the league in points through the first four weeks, but it put up just six in the next two games. Against Miami, running back D'Andre Swift and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown returned to the lineup to help put up 27 points in the first half, but the offense stalled out after the break. The second-half shutout is certainly concerning, but Detroit has proved it can still score among the best in the NFL. -- Eric Woodyard

Next game: vs. Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Dallas 49, Chicago 29


What to know: The bye week always comes at a good time, and this is a good time for the Cowboys. Dallas is 6-2 and lost a linebacker, two safeties -- at least temporarily -- and didn't have three other starters Sunday, including Ezekiel Elliott. The previous 10 times the Cowboys have started a season 6-2 or better since Jerry Jones took over as owner and general manager in 1989, they have made the playoffs. The offense showed signs of life, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions. Tony Pollard, replacing Elliott, became the first Cowboys running back with 100 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns in a game since Julius Jones in 2004. Dak Prescott threw two touchdowns as the offense topped 25 points for the first time this season.

Have the Cowboys done enough to fix their run defense? The Cowboys traded for Johnathan Hankins last week hoping his 340-pound frame could help slow the run. They might need to do more after Chicago ran for 240 yards Sunday. Justin Fields didn't hurt them as much with designed quarterback runs, but he was able to scramble for big gains. In six of their eight games, the Cowboys have allowed at least 117 yards on the ground. The trade deadline is Tuesday, but the fix might have to be more schematic than personnel at this point. -- Todd Archer

Next game: at Packers (Sunday, Nov. 13, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Bears' offense is evolving. Chicago's 29 points were the most allowed by Dallas' defense -- a top-six unit -- this season. The Bears had four different players rush for at least 30 yards, and the offense scored on four of its six trips inside the red zone, which had been a weakness all season. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields went 17-of-23 for 151 yards and two touchdowns and added 60 rushing yards and a TD. Fields continues to get better, despite the noticeable talent gap around him. The Bears need to focus their efforts on building around him.

What happened to the Bears' run defense? Chicago entered Week 8 ranked 29th against the run (149.7 yards per game) and showed signs of improvement after holding New England to 70 rushing yards in Week 7. That progress went out the window when the Bears let Tony Pollard rush for 131 yards and three touchdowns. On two of those TD runs, Chicago failed to make any contact with the running back. Everything starts up front, and the lack of pressure or ability to set the edge sheds light on what Chicago's priorities need to be this offseason. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Minnesota 34, Arizona 26


What to know: The Vikings picked up where they left off before their bye: needing second-half heroics to hold on for a victory. They forced three turnovers after halftime Sunday and closed out the game with two sacks to beat the Arizona Cardinals. Their offense set a season high with 34 points, but eight weeks in, fans might need to accept that this is the way the team will play this season: well enough to win, but needing four quarters and some white-knuckling along the way to do so.

How will the Vikings cope with DT Dalvin Tomlinson's injury? Tomlinson departed in the third quarter with a calf injury and did not return. The Vikings have been incredibly free of injuries, but Tomlinson has been having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, and a calf injury could take time to mend. If he has to miss extended time, the Vikings will be hard-pressed to replace him with an equal performer. -- Kevin Seifert

Next game: at Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Cardinals got off to yet another slow start Sunday in Minnesota, which caused them to be fighting for the game in the final minutes. Arizona had just three points until the final minute of the first half, a position the Cardinals are all too familiar with this season. Amid their comeback in the second half, which saw them pull ahead at one point, a handful of self-inflicted mistakes -- two interceptions, a botched snap and a muffed punt -- put the brakes on any sort of late-game heroics.

How can the Cardinals get going in the first half? It comes down to tempo and utilizing the right personnel. Getting wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins involved more quickly and having quarterback Kyler Murray make more plays with his feet, which would make the defense have to consider him at all times, could set the tone for Arizona in the early minutes -- Josh Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Seahawks (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Atlanta 37, Carolina 34


What to know:Atlanta should have lost this game twice. But in the wacky, weird NFC South this year, anything appears possible. And in a division in which every team has a lot more questions than answers, the improbable Falcons might be the best of the bunch. How they arrived here -- a strong run game and an opportunistic defense highlighted by a Lorenzo Carter interception returned for a touchdown against Carolina -- has been one of the most underrated stories in the NFL. Atlanta is in first place in the division by a game, with what coach Arthur Smith called a "unique opportunity" multiple times this week. And it's an opportunity that, so far, the Falcons have been able to take advantage of.

What is going on with Atlanta's defense? Atlanta's defense failed on Sunday. Giving up a Hail Mary with 12 seconds left was a backbreaker -- especially considering DJ Moore beat two defenders. Yes, the Falcons were bailed out by the Panthers - twice -- but there are issues. Getting off the field on third down has been one of the biggest problems for the Falcons all year, and they allowed Carolina to go 5-of-12 on Sunday. That included multiple explosive plays to elongate drives, like a 21-yard reception by Moore in the fourth quarter and a 29-yard reception in the third. Atlanta's defense, down three starters in the secondary, struggled in the second half overall. If the Falcons are going to be realistic contenders in a weak NFC South, they need to figure out a way to be better on third down. When it mattered, though, linebacker Rashaan Evans sacked Carolina quarterback PJ Walker on what ended up being the final Carolina third down of the game. -- Michael Rothstein

Next game:vs. Chargers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know:Panthers owner David Tepper said interim coach Steve Wilks had to be "exceptional'' to get a shot at the job permanently. Wilks has been exceptional at keeping a team competitive that was left for dead at 1-4, and accused of tanking when it traded star running backChristian McCaffreyto theSan Francisco 49ers. He didn't let them give up when they appeared beaten Sunday. He kept them believing they could win by playing hard defensively and committing to the run game, something former coach Matt Rhule never did. WithD'Onta Foremanputting in consecutive 100-yard games, including a three-touchdown effort on Sunday, Wilks has helped Carolina fans forget about McCaffrey for the time being. Carolina lost this one in overtime because it missed a chip-shot field goal, but Wilks has been exceptional.

What does the future look like forBaker Mayfield?Despite a pick-six byPJ Walkerin the first half, replacing him with Mayfield (who was healthy) was never a consideration. WithSam Darnoldlikely to come off injured reserve this week, and the Panthers wanting to see what he can do, it appears Mayfield's future with the team may be that of a backup at best. Mayfield's NFL-worst 15.3 Total QBR through the first five games may have sealed his fate as he becomes a free agent after the season.-- David Newton

Next game:at Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Denver 21, Jacksonville 17


What to know: Well, the Broncos certainly did bring everything to London, including penalty woes (10 in the first half alone), spotty quarterback play from Russell Wilson (his second pass attempt was intercepted) and a pile of offensive troubles that have plagued the Broncos all season, including repeated stumbles on first downs. It was all there on display in Wembley. Right up until they somehow, some way put together an 80-yard drive for a game-winning touchdown with 1:43 to play for a 21-17 lead, and K'Waun Williams made it stand with an interception. No team or coaching staff likely needed a win more than this one.

Will the Broncos be sellers at the trade deadline? General manager George Paton said Thursday in London the Broncos were "not in a mode where we want to get rid of our best players,'' but now we'll see whether that's really the case. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb has, and will, draw the most interest as Tuesday's deadline approaches. Chubb is in the last year of his rookie deal and having his best all-around season as a pro. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who scored Sunday in London, has also gotten some interest, but the player who could have the best chance to move is tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. He was a game-day inactive for the third consecutive week and had been clearly displaced in the offense by rookie Greg Dulcich. Okwuegbunam has rare speed (4.49 at the combine) and was in John Elway's last draft class as the Broncos' top football decision-maker. -- Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Any concerns about whether Travis Etienne Jr. could handle the RB1 role should be put to rest after Sunday. Etienne ran for a career-high 156 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. His one TD run should have been good enough for the game-winning score had the defense not given up a TD drive late. This is why the Jaguars felt comfortable trading James Robinson earlier in the week.

Has anyone seen Josh Allen? Allen had just two tackles against the Broncos and has just two QB hits in the past four games and one sack in the past five games. This was a game in which the Jaguars' pass rush was critical with Russell Wilson dealing with a hamstring injury, but Allen was practically invisible. A top-10 pick should be counted on to make plays when the game is on the line, and Allen isn't. -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Raiders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Baltimore 27, Tampa Bay 22


What to know: The Ravens need to embrace their ground-and-pound identity. In the first half, Baltimore scored three points when Lamar Jackson threw the ball 30 times. In the second half, the Ravens totaled 24 points when they ran the ball 26 times for 204 yards. It's tempting to want to let Jackson throw the ball more in his fifth NFL season. He just hasn't shown enough consistency to do so. Since Jackson took over as starter midway through the 2018 season, Baltimore is 37-8 (.822) when the Ravens run the ball 30 or more times.

How significant are the injuries to Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman? Andrews and Bateman were ruled out for the entire second half, but coach John Harbaugh said neither suffered "serious" injuries. Andrews injured his right shoulder, and Bateman aggravated his left foot injury that sidelined him for two games earlier this season. The good news is the Ravens play only one game over a 23-day span (at the Saints on Nov. 7 before going on a bye). The Ravens did learn they can win without Jackson's top two targets. Isaiah Likely (six catches for 77 yards) and Demarcus Robinson (six for 64 yards) stepped up to fill the void. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Saints (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Bucs' stunning free fall continues. Despite scoring on their first possession and ending the NFL's fourth-longest opening drive scoring drought, the Bucs couldn't keep it rolling. They failed to score another touchdown until 53 seconds remained, when Julio Jones hauled in an 8-yard grab in his first game back since aggravating a knee injury in Week 4. They managed to contain the Ravens' offense until Shaq Barrett suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter, surrendering three touchdowns after.

How do the Bucs climb out of this? The one thing going for them right now is the NFC South is looking extremely weak, with the Bucs at 3-5, just behind the 3-4 Falcons but holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta. But there aren't many real "gimme" games remaining on this schedule, although the combined record of their remaining nine opponents is 30-39. Next week features a game they've been eyeing since the schedule came out -- a rematch of their NFC divisional playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams, they lost to 30-27. Brady has gone 0-3 against the Rams since joining the Bucs. -- Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

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