It didn't matter whether teams were playing in London or the United States–there was still plenty of chaos in a thrilling, high-scoring week of football. Just in case you missed anything, we've got you covered.
Who Earned His Paycheck?
The Thursday night game kicked things off with a broken record and a career-high: Antonio Gates moved into #1 on San Diego's all-time receiving list, finishing the night with 9,610 career yards. The tight end also brought in two touchdowns in a 35-21 loss to the Broncos. On the other side, Emmanuel Sanders caught all nine of his targets for 120 yards and three scores. Sanders had never even scored twice in a game, let alone three times.
At this point, it appears that Detroit is incapable of playing a game that doesn't come down to the wire. Kicking off at 6:30am on the West Coast, the Lions and Falcons finally gave London a decent NFL game. After going down 21-0 at the half, Detroit clawed its way back, aided by two touchdowns from Matthew Stafford, who now is the Lions' all-time leader in TD throws, with 120. Improbably, it was kicker Matt Prater who clinched the win, nailing a 48-yarder as time expired. That came moments after he missed a 43-yarder, but fortunately for Detroit (and quite unfortunately for Atlanta), the play clock expired just a fraction of a second before the ball was snapped. Prater moved back five yards, and calmly hit the game winner on take two. After a blistering 3-for-3 day, Lions kickers are now 9 for 19 on the year. So close to 50%, fellas!
A month ago, everyone and their mother thought Tom Brady was done, and it looked like the QB might go to selling Uggs full-time. But rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Brady torched the Bears on Sunday; his TD:INT ratio over the past four weeks is now 14:0. He had as many touchdowns (five) as incompletions. And in one 57-second span, the Pats scored three times.
Jacksonville has a tough time getting a full stadium. But there was one fan who stuck around for the entire second half: a pigeon that happened to land on the field during the third quarter. Jaguars' mascot Jaxson de Ville tried to sneak up and capture the winged fan, Ace Ventura-style. That attempt failed, and the pigeon made a glorious return to the broadcast during the fourth quarter, hanging out and enjoying the nice view from the field. No word yet on if he's been invited to join the Jaguars' practice squad.
Anthony Barr of the Vikings pulled off the trifecta in overtime against the Bucs: a strip, a fumble recovery, and a return for a touchdown. The Vikes' rookie ripped the ball from fellow rookie Austin Sefarian-Jenkins on the first play of overtime, then scooped it up and scored the game winner. It's the shortest overtime this year–just 17 seconds.
Carson Palmer's never been one to shy away from a deep ball, and he got some great help Sunday. Larry Fitzgerald took a short pass 80 yards for a score–the longest reception of his career. He finished with seven catches, 160 yards and that touchdown. And John Brown, from little Pittsburg State, scored the game winner with about a minute and a half left, a 75-yard bomb off a double move that he caught in stride and ran to the house. Head coach Bruce Arians called it a "Willie Mays catch." Arizona's D deserves some credit, too. Frostee Rucker forced a fumble inside the five and Deone Bucannan recovered the ball at the 2-yard line. Antonio Cromartie also picked off Nick Foles twice, and on the final play of the game, Rashad Johnson knocked the Eagles' Jordan Matthews out of bounds, negating what would have been a game-winning catch. Jeremy Maclin finished with 12 catches for 187 yards in the loss.
Ben Roethlisberger followed up a solid Monday Night Football performance with an absurd day against the Colts. He finished 40 for 49, for 522 yards and six touchdowns, both career highs. Big Ben is the only quarterback in history with multiple games throwing for 500+ yards. The Steelers have now scored 165 points in their five wins, while managing just 40 in their three losses.
New Orleans once again proved they're a different beast at home. The Saints crushed Green Bay 44-23. Drew Brees was his usual impressive self, going 27 for 32 for 311 yards and three scores. Mark Ingram bounced back from a broken hand with 24 rushes for a career-high 172 yards. Brandin Cooks had 98 total yards and both a rushing and receiving score, and Jimmy Graham started to look like himself again, adding 59 yards and a score on five catches. Eddie Lacy looked fantastic in the loss, picking up 182 yards (including 123 on eight catches), and bouncing off tacklers like every defender was a trampoline.
Do we have another quarterback controversy brewing in Washington?! Probably not. But for another week, Colt McCoy did just enough to get a win. The third-stringer went 24 for 29 for 299 yards, and added a rushing touchdown as well. His performance was capped off by a ridiculously impressive floater to Jordan Reed on third down, where he gestured wildly for the tight end to run down the sideline, then lofted the ball perfectly into his arms. Very impressive win for the Redskins. DeMarco Murray once again went off, racking up 221 total yards, though he lost his fifth fumble on the year. And curiously, after gaining eight yards on the first play of overtime, with the Cowboys needing a score, Murray didn't get another rush the rest of the game. Curious playcalling from Dallas down the stretch.
Whose Performance Deserves A "Needs Improvement"?
Atlanta just cannot catch a break. The Falcons went up 21-0 in the first half–really the only negative thing that happened was a pick-six thrown by Matt Ryan, but CB Rasean Mathis was called for a defensive pass interference, so the play was negated. Then the second half started and things just fell apart. Ryan threw an abysmal interception that actually looked like it was targeted for a Lions defender. That led to a field goal. Then, with under two minutes left, the Falcons got called for a holding penalty on second down, and Julio Jones dropped a screen pass on third down. The Lions were able to save about 80 seconds. Since they got the ball back with 1:38 left, it's fair to say the Falcons really blew their late game management.
Geno Smith threw three interceptions in the first 10:14 of the game. He finished 2-for-8 on the day for five yards and the three picks. He was promptly benched for Michael Vick, who briefly provided a spark, but still finished with three turnovers himself. The Jets lost 43-23 to the Bills. Even though they beat Oakland in Week 1–and Oakland is still winless–the Jets are far and away the worst team in the NFL right now. They're not even competitive and just look completely lost on the field.
Sammy Watkins finished with three catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in that win over the Jets. He should have had two scores, but he prematurely celebrated on a long throw, thinking there were no defenders nearby. Technically, he was right–there was no actual defender around him. But WR Saalim Hakim, forced to play cornerback because of the Jets' banged-up secondary, tripped him up at the 5-yard line. It didn't ultimately matter because the Bills scored two plays later, but you can bet that'll be the last time Watkins does a touchdown dance before he's actually crossed the end zone.
Remember a few weeks ago when Stephen Tulloch sacked Aaron Rodgers, then tore his ACL when he jumped and mocked Rodgers' "Discount Double Check" move? Would you believe that kind of injury happened again on Sunday? The Bears' Lamarr Houston tore his ACL after celebrating a sack on backup Pats' QB Jimmy Garoppolo. You'll notice we didn't say it was on Pats' QB Tom Brady. Garoppolo was in the game because the Patriots were up by 25 with three minutes left. That's right–Houston ended his season by celebrating a play with his team down by four scores. At least in Tulloch's case, the Lions were winning. Maybe Houston was celebrating his first sack of the season, but it also turned out to be his last. The injury is just the latest disappointment in a season full of them for the Bears.
Hell hath no fury like facing a defending Super Bowl champion defense after two straight losses. The Seahawks bottled up Cam Newton all day, holding the QB to just 12 completions for 171 yards, and 12 rushes for 24 yards. Newton also threw an interception and lost a fumble, as he was sacked three times on the day.
Last week, the Colts defense held Cincinnati to 54 plays for 135 total yards and zero points. The Steelers had more total yards after the first quarter, and just demolished Indy's D all day long. The final numbers for Pittsburgh: 81 yards, 639 total yards, and 42 points (Andrew Luck also threw a pick-six and got flagged for intentional grounding while sitting on his butt in the endzone, giving the Steelers an additional two points). Just a shocking turn of events, and a really poor effort from the Colts.
Aaron Rodgers came into Week 8 with 18 touchdowns and just one interception on the year, and that one pick was in Green Bay's first game of the year against Seattle. Rodgers threw two more interceptions against the Saints, though both were catchable balls that went off his receivers' hands and straight up into the air. After scoring a touchdown in the first two minutes of the game, the Pack didn't find the endzone again until the 5:07 mark in the fourth quarter. Rodgers appeared to tweak his hamstring during the game, as well. Fortunately for Green Bay, they have a bye to rest up and get healthy.
Most Interesting Stats From Week 8
The Steelers and Colts combined for 907 passing yards in Pittsburgh's 51-34 shootout victory, the second most in NFL history.
This was the first day in NFL history that saw four quarterbacks throw for at least 400 yards: Ben Roethlisberger had 522, Aaron Rodgers finished with 418, Nick Foles had 411, and Andrew Luck had 400. Only Roethlisberger's team was victorious.
We'll give punters some love, too–the Saints/Packers game was just the third time that there was not a single punt, as both Tim Masthay and Thomas Morstead didn't see the field. Curiously, the second game without a punt happened just a month ago, and also featured Green Bay.
Notes From Vegas
Favorites went 7-8 against the spread (59-59-3 on the year) and 9-6 straight up (79-42 on the year). Two games switched favorites–Cincinnati opened at -3 but closed at +3 against Baltimore, and Arizona opened at -2 before closing at +1. In both cases, the team that closed as the underdog ended up winning. Including Atlanta, who was technically at home, despite playing in London, home dogs went 4-3 and moved to 15-20-1 on the year. [UPDATE AFTER MONDAY]
Top Dogs: Minnesota was backed by 45% of bettors at +1.5, and by 57% of ML bettors at +105. Washington had the best payout, at +380 on the ML, with 36% of bettors taking them on the moneyline.
Biggest Upset: 75% of backers took the Colts against the spread, who opened as a pick'em and finished at -4.5. They lost by 17. 74% chose Green Bay as a ML pick at +110, but they fell to the Saints.
Week 9 Picks
Last Week: 0-4, Overall: 13-19
Just a dreadful week–Detroit won but didn't cover, Indy had the ball down eight in the fourth quarter but immediately turned the bowl over via a safety, Baltimore had what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown in the final minute that was negated by a questionable pass interference penalty, and Green Bay was looking great until Aaron Rodgers tweaked his hamstring. Sigh…let's move on to Week 9.
San Diego +1.5 over MIAMI
Oh, hello again, Miami. It's too tempting to lay off you, especially in this situation. San Diego lost at home to a Chiefs team that hasn't looked bad this year, and then mostly stuck with Denver on Thursday night. Granted, they didn't cover in either of those games, but Miami at home is not really a home field advantage. I think San Diego wins outright in this game, which is enough to cover at +1.5.
Oakland +15 over SEATTLE
Yes, Oakland is winless, and Seattle is the defending Super Bowl champion. But the Seahawks have only covered in three of their seven games this year (also only winning one game by more than 10 points), and haven't done so since October 6. Does Oakland get their first win this week? Absolutely not. But the Seahawks are struggling enough that they might win by ONLY two touchdowns, which would still give Oakland the cover. Gotta love these absurdly high lines.
CAROLINA +2 over New Orleans
As bad as Carolina looked and as good as New Orleans looked Sunday, being on the road for the Saints makes things a bit murky. They'll still be without Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, which once again means a heavy workload for Mark Ingram. But unlike the Packers, the Panthers actually have a good pass rush, and I don't think Ingram runs wild. Thanks to New Orleans' win on Sunday, this game isn't a must win, and with the couple extra hours of rest, I think Carolina is the best home dog of the week. That's not saying much, but options are limited.
CLEVELAND -6.5 over Tampa Bay
Speaking of teams that play well at home, the Browns are usually pretty good about giving Clevelanders something to cheer about. They average just a shade over 25 points a game at the Dawg Pound, Tampa Bay has only topped 17 points twice all season, and the Browns defense is starting to come around. Let's hope that math continues.