NFL Week 8 is done and over with, and all of a sudden we’re approaching the halfway point of the season and that’s making me sad. Week 8 saw some rookie quarterbacks in Will Levis and Bryce Young pick up their first wins, the re-emergence of a sleeping giant in the Bengals, the entire NFC North outside the Lions likely fall out of the race, and a whole lot more. Let’s recap Week 8.
NFL Week 8 Stock Check
Stock Up: Will Levis Stars in Win Over Falcons
It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong, and today I am that big man. One game does not a career or a season make, but credit where it’s due Will Levis was fantastic on Sunday in the Titans’ 28-23 win over the Falcons. It’s not just the numbers that Levis put up, which were spectacular. His four touchdown passes doubled what Ryan Tannehill has thrown this season and he didn’t turn the ball over.
What impressed me most was how Levis looked in the pocket. He looked cool, calm, and collected despite getting sacked several times and having some pressure in his face. He stepped up in the pocket, delivered some really nice throws, and hit multiple deep balls to DeAndre Hopkins. Speaking of which, seeing DeAndre Hopkins have a quarterback is fun, congrats to any people with him on their fantasy team.
It’s just one start, and Levis will get tested big time with three straight road games against the Steelers, Bucs, and Jaguars – all teams with a good pass rush. But after that one start, it’s impossible not to be excited about the way Levis looked. And it also just makes me happy for Levis. He seems like a rookie with a good head on his shoulders and is a good teammate. He got embarrassed on draft night, never really pouted or complained, started the season 3rd on the depth chart, and when he got his chance he didn’t disappoint.
Stock Down: NFC North Teams Not Named the Lions
Unfortunately for teams in the NFC North outside of Detroit, it was a really bad week. We’ll start with the Vikings. They’re a different case than the other two, and I just feel terrible for Kirk Cousins. Cousins suffered a torn Achilles tendon late in the win over the Packers on Sunday. The Vikings got off to a slow start and were losing the coin-flip games they won last year, but they started to turn things around and got themselves back to .500 with the win Sunday.
Now, despite the 24-10 win over Green Bay, things look bleak for Minnesota this season. Cousins is a free agent this offseason and will likely be on his way out. As of now the Vikings starting QB would be rookie out of BYU Jaren Hall. I would have to imagine the Vikings will bring in another veteran either via a trade or free agency but it’s doubtful anyone they can bring in will be as productive as Cousins. It’s just a really tough break for a guy like Cousins who’s been through the wringer the last few seasons, and a team like the Vikings that always seems so close, but now again so far.
As for the other two teams, the Bears and Packers proved (yet again this season) that they’re not very good. The Bears got embarrassed by the Chargers 30-13. Justin Herbert did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and carved up the Bears’ defense. It’s funny how that happens when a star quarterback goes up against a defense with no pass rush. Offensively, the Bears were uninspiring, unimaginative, and unproductive.
And the Packers, well, they don’t have a quarterback. It’s the first time in 30-plus years that the franchise doesn’t have a Hall of Fame talent at the most important position in sports. Jordan Love just isn’t it. The Packers offense has completely stalled. Green Bay has scored 20 or fewer points in each of their last five games, and in four of those five games, it was fewer than 20. It’s going to be a tough season in Green Bay, but they’ll have a top-ten draft pick, and knowing their luck they’ll end up with an elite QB again.
Stock Up: Joe Burrow & The Bengals
So it would appear that Joe Burrow is healthy again. After fighting his way through a calf injury in the first half of the season, Burrow looked fantastic on the road in Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over the 49ers. Burrow was an amazingly efficient 28-for-32 on Sunday for 283 yards, 3 TDs, and no turnovers. Not only were the numbers there for Burrow, but he finally looked healthy and comfortable in the pocket for the first time this season.
Burrow’s favorite target Ja’Marr Chase was pretty fantastic too. The former LSU teammates connected ten times on Sunday for 100 yards and a touchdown. Tee Higgins wasn’t too far behind with five receptions and 69 yards. When the Bengals’ offense clicks, they’re so hard to stop.
It’s about that time of year when the Bengals start to heat up and hit their stride. The AFC is wide open, and the Bengals will have games against the Bills on Sunday, and the Ravens in two weeks with a matchup with Houston sandwiched in the middle. We’ll learn more about them for sure in these next three weeks, but the Bengals team we saw in San Francisco looked a lot like the one that no one wants to see in January.
Stock Down: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers just can’t seem to stop the bleeding after three straight losses. Yes, Sunday was a tough matchup against a Bengals team that played their best football of the season. But it was also a game where Brock Purdy looked bad again, the offensive line continued to struggle, and the defense was just ordinary. With the injuries to Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams, depth is becoming an issue for San Francisco. Both are expected to be back in the next couple of weeks, but long-term if they can’t put things together when the injuries hit they’re going to really struggle beating teams like Philadelphia in the NFC.
To make matters worse, the Niners officially fell out of first place in the NFC West, and the team that just passed them in the Seahawks just went out and added Leonard Williams to bolster its defensive line. I still think San Francisco is the best team in that division, and I think at their peak they’re the best team in the NFC. Having said that, they need to snap out of this spiral and probably make an addition or two at today’s trade deadline.
Stock Up: Bryce Young
Was it the prettiest win? No. Does he still have some growing to do? Absolutely. All of that said though, Bryce Young got his first NFL win on Sunday and did so against the quarterback in C.J. Stroud who had been outperforming him thus far this season. The narrative had been up until that point that Stroud should have gone number one. Maybe he should have, and one game doesn’t change their careers. But this one felt like a win that Bryce Young needed. Not for the narrative, not for the outside perspective, but just to boost some confidence in a season that’s been really tough thus far.
Young’s numbers weren’t spectacular, but they were solid and he took care of the football. One thing I like about Bryce Young is the chemistry he’s found with Adam Thielen. Thielen isn’t the star he was in Minnesota, but he’s still a very good NFL receiver and a great resource for a young QB. Young hasn’t been afraid to lean on him both on the field and off the field. That’s something I like seeing from a rookie. Not in every situation, but when you have to have one, knowing where your best player on the field is and giving him a chance to make a play.
Stock Down: New York Football
Not that I’m super down on both teams, but more so the stock is down because New York fans had to watch this game.
This isn’t totally meant to be too negative against the Jets. They have an elite defense and a quarterback that might not be great but is finding ways to win. However. That game was so, so bad. The Giants finished with NEGATIVE net passing yards at -9. Tyrod Taylor went down early and Tommy DeVito came in and was 2-for-7 with -1 passing yards. Zach Wilson didn’t have a great game and credit the Giants’ defense for that.
The Giants season is essentially done, they’re already shipping pieces out. The Jets are going to keep trying to win ugly while keeping their fingers crossed that Aaron Rodgers can make a miraculous comeback. And don’t get me wrong, I think the Jets can and will keep doing it. But this game in particular felt more like Iowa vs Minnesota in the Big Ten than an NFL game.