Week eight was a fun and wild end to October. There are some surprising teams in first place while some playoff seasoned teams are getting worse. The first two months of the season were anything but dull. It’s time to break down the week eight winners and losers on Halloween.
Winners: Dennis Allen
Here’s a story for anyone who didn’t follow or remember the 2014-2015 NFL season: Dennis Allen was in the third year of his contract with the then Oakland Raiders. At the time, Allen was the youngest coach hired in the league at 36 and the first defensive minded one the organization selected since John Madden’s tenure in about 40 years.
Dennis Allen’s last year with the Raiders is remembered for fielding one of the most porous defenses to play the game. Since it was one of the last years head-to-head tackling and vicious hits could take place, it’s considered a top three all-time worst defense. They gave up almost 500 points in 16 games. Allen was fired before October began and had eight wins in not even three and a half seasons.
Fast forward to Sunday and things couldn’t be more different. It’s undisputed he was hired way sooner than expected. Allen coached the New Orleans Saints to their third win of the season against his former team the Raiders. Las Vegas is supposed to be a much better team on offense but that wasn’t shown at any point. New Orleans shut them out 24-0 in the most dominant game a team’s played this season.
The Saints will struggle on offense and have defensive issues due to injuries for the remaining nine games but Dennis Allen proved he’s a superior coach over Josh McDaniels (another NFL coach who hadn’t led a team in over six seasons).
Dallas Cowboys (especially the offense)
Dallas is in a good place after October. Starting quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense had their best game of the season at home against the Chicago Bears.
The Bears played two impressive games in a one week span. It’s just Dallas is a better and more complete team. Prescott threw for 250 yards, two touchdowns, a 114.5 quarterback rating and 21 of 27 passes. Backup runningback Tony Pollard had a great game too. He ran for 131 yards on 14 carries (over nine yards per run) and three scores.
The defense played well too. The unit sacked sophomore quarterback Justin Fields four times and scored a touchdown after recovering runningback Khalil Herbert’s fumble.
A lot of people wondered if there was a quarterback controversy in Dallas after Cooper Rush kept winning games in Dak Prescott’s absence. Head coach Mike McCarthy has kept the team focused on playing their schedule and not overlooking opponents. Last but not least, the Cowboys went up in the standings after their division rival New York Giants lost their first road game of the season.
Miami’s undefeated when their former first round pick starts and finishes every game. The offense is explosive and head coach Mike McDaniels’ play-calling flows better.
The Dolphins and Lions went back and forth in a high-scoring game Sunday. The last touchdown pass Tagovailoa threw gave Miami their first lead of the day.
There’s a stark contrast with Miami’s offense when Tua’s comfortable and reads the field. He picked Detroit’s defense apart most of the game even in a ten point second half. Tagovailoa has the Dolphins third in passing yards this season while receiver Tyreek Hill has 961 yards in eight games (the most for any receiver this season). Defenses will have headaches figuring out how to contain Miami’s offense the rest of 2022.
The former Carolina Panther star is already a playmaker in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. In Sunday’s sweep against the Los Angeles Rams (more on them later) McCaffrey did everything on offense to get the 49ers back to .500.
The second score of the game was a trick play toss to the runningback, who threw a dazzling 34 yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Aiyuk. McCaffrey would later catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garappolo to give San Francisco their first lead of the game. They never trailed after.
Christian McCaffrey would later run for a one yard touchdown, giving the 49ers a double digit lead. Despite injuries San Francisco has this season, trading for a dynamic runningback takes pressure off the passing game and creates havoc for opposing defenses. Viewers shouldn’t be surprised to see Shanahan’s team have an ascent to the playoffs similar to last season’s.
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Losers: Kenny Pickett
Whenever a team drafts a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft, fans and analysts expect that player to start at some point in the upcoming season. Yet it personally irritates me when there’s a starting quarterback struggling not even a month into the season and almost everyone leads a conversation about the rookie starting for the rest of the season just so things look better.
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t better with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett behind center. One might say the loss to an undefeated Philadelphia Eagles team shouldn’t warrant such criticism, but this was a point I made after a close loss to the New York Jets in his debut.
While Pittsburgh heads into a bye week, three of their next five games feature teams that play great on defense, and the Steelers haven’t scored more than 20 points since week one. In Pickett’s four starts since he was named QB1 after the the Jets loss, the Steelers have scored three, 20, ten and 20 points. The lone touchdown in that blowout loss to Philadelphia was a one yard pass from receiver Chase Claypool.
It feels like this lesson has to be learned by viewers every year. A team shouldn’t thrust a rookie quarterback into the starting role unless there’s no other option. It wouldn’t be surprising if coach Mike Tomlin makes a change again sometime before Thanksgiving.
We made it eight weeks before a kicker was named to the loser’s section (I consider it a win with everything going on this season). There’s a lot of discussion and anger being directed towards receiver DJ Moore after he scored what would’ve been the game winning touchdown for Carolina because he took his helmet off after the play. It drew a flag and a longer extra point attempt for his team’s kicker.
A 48 yard extra point attempt is pretty bad. It’s not as bad as missing an easy 33 yard game winning field goal attempt in overtime. If Pineiro made the kick there would be an all-out tie for first place in the awful NFC South. The discussion about the division would transform into how the duo of quarterback P.J. Walker and interim coach Steve Wilks are turning things around mid-season.
Good old Eddy is in the losers section, so you can guess how that game ended.
Los Angeles Rams
If you were told the Rams were the current Super Bowl champions, you’d never know based from their play. In fairness to viewers who watched last season’s games, you can make the case that Los Angeles went from winless all of November to the Super Bowl. Many things went into that reversal of fortune. However more change is needed this year in order for the Rams to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles was again swept by their in-state rivals Sunday. Every team has a divisional foe they can’t get past at some point, but the Rams’ bye was a week before the sweep. They looked awful after the first quarter.
It’s also fine to acknowledge Los Angeles is also one game under .500 despite the ugly play. They’re in third place ahead of Arizona, a team they barely beat. The Rams’ other two wins were a shocking nail-biter versus Atlanta and an ugly win against Carolina in what was Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule’s last game.
There’s nothing stellar, fun or reminiscent of last year’s Super Bowl contending team. The running game is second-to-last in the NFL. The offense is bottom five in a lot of categories while the defense is ok at best. The schedule gets easier after November but it’s hard to see how this team improves and keep playoff aspirations given the competition in the NFC East and the two teams ahead of them in the west.
That hilarious penalty on Pete Carroll where referee Jerome Boger had no idea who Seattle’s football team was
There aren’t many hilarious penalties drawn from head coaches but the one called on Pete Carroll was a good laugh. Carroll was hyping his offense, got caught up having fun on the field and hit a referee. It drew a flag for illegal member of the home team. Even funnier was referee Jerome Boger thinking Seattle’s football team was the Mariners and not the Seahawks. The Mariners are Seattle’s baseball team that was eliminated from post-season play at the beginning of October.