If there's one upset that no one saw coming on Sunday, it was definitely the one in Cincinnati.
In a game where the Bengals didn't have their starting left tackle (Jonah Williams), their starting center (Trey Hopkins), their starting right tackle (Bobby Hart) or their starting running back (Joe Mixon), Cincinnati was still somehow able to pull off a 31-20 upset and they were able to do that thanks to the magic of Joe Burrow.
Despite playing behind a depleted offensive line, Burrow was still able to dice up the Titans secondary for 249 yards and two touchdowns while getting sacked exactly zero times. The rookie quarterback looked like a seasoned veteran and that's a big reason why the Bengals were able to walk away with the stunning win.
One of Burrow's best throws came in the second quarter on a play where the Bengals were facing a fourth-and-4 from Tennessee's 43-yard line. Bengals coach Zac Taylor could have called for a punt, but instead, he showed some serious faith in his rookie quarterback, who responded by throwing a 22-yard bullet to Tee Higgins.
The Bengals would end up scoring a touchdown three plays later to take a 17-7 lead and that's when it genuinely started to feel like they might be able to pull off the upset.
Although Burrow had a clean pocket on the pass to Higgins, he did face plenty of pressure in this game. As a matter of fact, one of those plays came on a third-and-10 in the third quarter on a play where it looked like the Titans were going to sack Burrow for a 10-yard loss. Instead, the rookie made some magic happen on a play where he ended up gaining seven yards.
No, Burrow didn't get the first down, but that's the kind of play that can deflate a defense and spark an offense. Burrow's mobility was a big reason why he got sacked zero times in the game, which was minor miracle when you consider how many starters were missing from Cincinnati's offensive line.
With Burrow under center, the Bengals have an offense that can go toe-to-toe with any team in the league. Burrow has also proven that he can make clutch throws with the game on the line like he did on a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. With the Bengals ahead 17-7, Burrow basically iced the game when he threw a perfect strike to Tyler Boyd for a seven-yard score.
The Bengals offense has been rolling over the past three weeks and with the team's defense slowly getting better, this is a team that might be able to sneak their way into the wild-card conversation after their Week 9 bye. Coming out of the bye, the Bengals play the Steelers in Week 10, but then they have four very winnable games after that (at Washington, Giants, at Miami, Dallas). If the Bengals can go 4-1 in that span, that would get them to .500 and in a season where seven teams will make the playoffs from the AFC, it wouldn't be shocking to see them surprise some people, just like they surprised the Titans on Sunday.
Alright, let's get to the grades for every game from Week 8. If you're looking for a deeper dive on the Falcons-Panthers game that was played Thursday, be sure to click here.
Cincinnati 31-20 over Titans
|The Titans have had one of the worst defenses in the NFL this year and a big reason for that is because they've struggled to rush the quarterback and they can't stop anyone on third down, and both of those problems reared their ugly heads again this week. Despite going up against a depleted Bengals offensive line, the Titans didn't manage to sack Joe Burrow a single time. They also let the Bengals convert 10 of 15 times on third down. Offensively, although the Titans were able to move the ball, they made too many big mistakes, including a Ryan Tannehill interception in the Bengals' end zone and a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.|
|We already covered the Bengals' offense above, so let's talk about how well their defense played, which was arguably the biggest surprise in this game. The Titans only had seven points going into the fourth quarter and a big reason for that was because the Bengals defense kept making big plays, including a red zone interception of Ryan Tannehill in the first half and two big third down stops to start the second half. With the way the Bengals offense was playing, the defense just need to make a few stops to get the win and they came up with those. Kick returner Brandon Wilson also came up with a huge play in the fourth quarter with a 49-yard return that set up a Bengals touchdown after the Titans had cut the lead to 24-14.|
Monday: Tampa Bay 25-23 over N.Y. Giants
|Tom Brady doesn't have a great history with the GIants and it's almost like he took it upon himself to make sure he didn't lose to them again. After a first half where the Buccaneers struggled on both sides of the ball, Brady came out firing in the second half as he led the Bucs to points on four of their first five possessions. The 43-year-old seemed to get better as the game went on as he completed 12 of 16 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Although Tampa's defense struggled to stop the Giants offense, the Bucs did come up with several huge plays, including a pass break up from Antoine Winfield on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game with 28 second left. Besides Brady, kicker Ryan Succop also came up big for Tampa, hitting 4-of-4 field goals in a game where the Bucs needed every single one of his points.|
|The Giants put together an offensive game plan against Tampa Bay that was nearly perfect, but it all fell apart because of Daniel Jones. Not only did the second-year quarterback overthrow his receivers on multiple deep passes, but he also threw two back-breaking interceptions in the second half that led to 10 points for the Buccaneers. Jones' struggles overshadowed a spirited performance from a Giants defense that sacked Tom Brady twice while holding the Bucs to just 4-of-12 on third down conversions. Darius Slayton (five catches, 56 yards) and Sterling Shepard (eight catches, 74 yards) also had big nights and those nights would have been even bigger if Jones would have been more accurate with his throws. Jones almost redeemed himself with a late scoring drive in the fourth quarter, but the Giants weren't able to punch in the two-point conversion that would have tied things up in the waning seconds.|
Indianapolis 41-21 over Detroit
| The Colts offense got off to a slow start, but then they turned on the jet engines. After punting on each their first three possessions, Philip Rivers caught fire, throwing three touchdown passes in the second quarter alone. Two of those TD passes went to Nyheim Hynes, who only had three catches in the game. Defensively, the return of Darius Leonard seemed to reinvigorate Indy as they forced two turnovers while sacking Matthew Stafford five times (with one of those coming from Leonard). One of the turnovers the defense forced was a pick-six by Kenny Moore in the fourth quarter that basically iced the win for Indy. |
|The Lions actually kept this game close, but then things fell apart in the second half after Matthew Stafford turned the ball over on consecutive plays. The first turnover came when Stafford lost a fumble in the third quarter that the Colts later turned into a TD. On the Lions' next offensive play, Stafford threw a pick-six, and all of the sudden, a 20-14 lead by the Colts was up to 35-14. In Stafford's defense, he got no help from his run game (the Lions finished with just 29 rushing yards) or his offensive line (Stafford was sacked five times).|
Minnesota 28-22 over Green Bay
|With the Vikings' season on the line, Dalvin Cook put the team on his back and carried them to victory. Cook bulldozed through the Packers defense for four straight quarters with 163 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. That's a career day for most backs, but Cook actually added even more production in the passing game with 63 receiving yards and a touchdown. The Vikings' "bend but don't break" defense also deserves some credit for coming up with several huge plays, including two fourth down stops in the second half and a strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers on the Packers' final offensive play of the game that prevented a potential Green Bay comeback.|
|If this Packers team has one glaring weakness, it's definitely the defense's ability to stop the run. The defense had no answers for Dalvin Cook and a Vikings rushing attack that gashed them up for 173 yards while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Aaron Rodgers kept the Packers in this game with three touchdown passes, but when your defense can't make a stop, it's almost impossible to win in the NFL and the Packers found that out the hard way on Sunday.|
Kansas City 35-9 over N.Y. Jets
| Apparently, the Jets thought they could beat the Chiefs by kicking field goals. The problem with that is that when you're the worst team in the NFL, you can't beat the Chiefs by kicking field goals. The Jets offense actually moved the ball in the first half, as they got into Chiefs territory on each of their four possessions, but Adam Gase was more than willing to settle for field goals. Of course, even if the Jets had gotten touchdowns on those drives, it might not have mattered, because the wheels fell off the wagon in the second half: The Jets couldn't move the ball and they couldn't stop Kansas City's offense, which is why this one turned into a blowout. |
|At times in this game, it almost felt like Patrick Mahomes was scrimmaging a high school team. The Chiefs quarterback basically spent four quarters toying with the Jets defense in a game where he threw for 416 yards and five touchdowns. Ironically, one of the best passes in the game for Kansas City wasn't even thrown by Mahomes. With the Chiefs clinging to a 7-3 lead early in the game, Andy Reid called for a fake punt on fourth-and-4 that ended with punter Tommy Townsend completing a 13-yard pass for Byron Pringle. The Chiefs ended up scoring a TD on the drive and coasting to the win.|
Miami 28-17 over L.A. Rams
| Sitting at 5-2, maybe the Rams were overconfident, but they shouldn't have been -- for a couple reasons. The first is because despite their impressive record, they're in third place in the loaded NFC West and couldn't afford to drop one in Week 8. The second is, well, the Dolphins are 3-3 on the season and have shown they have a defense that can get after the quarterback, and a secondary that can delete multiple receivers. The Rams found this out the hard way, and their demise at Hard Rock Stadium was largely accountable to how disturbingly bad Jared Goff was. Four turnovers in the first half alone helped bury the Rams, and they couldn't come back from the dead once the coffin door slammed shut in the second quarter.|
| They entered the game as 3.5-point underdogs on their own field, but that's not how they played. The Dolphins had a huge chip on their shoulder and they used that anger to slap the Rams around at will in the first half, recovering from an early fumble by Tua Tagovailoa with an onslaught of defense and special teams play that propelled them to a 28-17 win that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. It took all three phases of the game to get the win for the Dolphins, and while Tagovailoa didn't have the gleaming first start many would've hoped, his first career NFL touchdown came after a Jared Goff interception and was timely in helping to establish momentum for Miami. In the end, all told, this was a dismantling at the hands of Brian Flores and his overlooked Dolphins.|
Rams-Dolphins grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Buffalo 24-21 over New England
| For a team that didn't look like it had any business of being in this game, New England was just a few yards away from winning it. Despite a number of key pieces missing on both sides of the ball, the Patriots were able to hang around against Buffalo all the way until the clock hit 31 seconds in the fourth quarter, when Cam Newton fumbled the ball. The second half seemed to unlock something for the offense as the Patriots were able to score 15 of their 21 points over that stretch, but extremely slow starts continue to plague Bill Belichick's club, which has now lost four straight.|
| Buffalo may have gotten the win, but it let an inferior Patriots team hang around until the final seconds when they really had no business of doing so. The Bills' struggles against the run continued to be apparent as New England rushed for 188 yards as a team and two touchdowns. While Josh Allen was efficient as he completed 11 of his 18 throws, he failed to really light up a New England secondary that was without its star corner in Stephon Gilmore. After getting the opening touchdown, Allen led the Bills offense to two punts before throwing an interception. Again, they got the win and ran the ball extremely well, but had Newton not coughed up the ball, this would have at least went to overtime. |
Patriots-Bills grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Pittsburgh 28-24 over Baltimore
| Pittsburgh scored 14 points off of two interceptions of Lamar Jackson, who was sacked four times while failing to complete half of his 28 pass attempts. The Steelers' offense also got their passing game going in the second half, with JuJu Smith-Schuster leading the way with seven receptions. Pittsburgh's defense, after allowing Jackson, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins to rush for nearly 180 yards in the first half, held Baltimore to under 90 rushing yards in the second half. The Steelers' defense also came up with two critical stops in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.|
| Despite out-gaining the Steelers in yards, 457-221, the Ravens lost after losing the turnover battle 4-1. Baltimore's defense also committed three costly penalties on Pittsburgh's final scoring drive. The Ravens' defense allowed the Steelers to score touchdowns on all three of their red zone possessions. Baltimore missed starters Mark Ingram, offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley, Tyre Philips and defensive end Matt Judon. Ingram was ruled out due to injury prior to kickoff, while Stanley and Phillips suffered in-game injuries. Judon was ejected after making contact with an official near the end of the first half. Stanley has suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Baltimore did receive a strong game from rookie J.K. Dobbins, who rushed for a season-high 113 yards while averaging 7.5 yards per carry.|
Steelers-Ravens grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Las Vegas 16-6 over Cleveland
| Las Vegas did not play particularly well. The Raiders dropped some passes on offense and had some errant throws. They did not do a great job of stopping the run, but Cleveland continuously shot itself in the foot when it came to extending drives. What Las Vegas did do well is steal the soul of the Browns' defense on the ground. It was a game that necessitated running the football due to windy conditions, and Cleveland could not stop them. The only person who did not see the screens and quarterback runs coming in third down situations was Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods.|
| Cleveland was awful on both sides of the ball. The few passes that did arrive on target were dropped, but that will get swept under the rug because the defense was embarrassing. Las Vegas' offensive line stole the Browns' lunch money and ran over them all day. The tackling was deplorable. The play-calling was abysmal. The situational awareness was unfathomable. Don't blame the refs. Don't blame the weather. You earned this loss, Cleveland. |
Raiders-Browns grades by Josh Edwards (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Denver 31-30 over L.A. Chargers
|When you lead a game by 21 points with under seven minutes left to play in the third quarter and lose, you get an F. The Chargers have had some ugly meltdowns this year, but this was one topped them all. After dominating the Broncos for the better part of three quarters, the Chargers defense absolutely disappeared, allowing Denver to put together four touchdown drives of at least 75 yards. Before those scoring drives, the Broncos didn't have a single possession that went for more than 19 yards. Justin Herbert also threw two interceptions that led to 10 points for Denver. The Chargers have now somehow lost three games this season where they've held a lead of 16 or more points (Broncos, Saints, Buccaneers).|
|With seven minutes left to play in the third quarter, the Broncos were trailing 24-3 and looked to be left for dead, but then Broncos offense caught fire. Phillip Lindsay started the comeback with a 55-yard TD run and then Drew Lock took over from there. The Broncos quarterback was unstoppable in the fourth quarter, completing 13 of 16 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. In the first three quarters, Lock was just 13 of 25 for 98 yards and an interception, which made the comeback all the more improbable.|
New Orleans 26-23 over Chicago (OT)
| It wasn't pretty, but New Orleans found a way to win a tough game against a swarming Bears defense in Chicago. Drew Brees kept the Saints in control by not turning the football over and relying on Alvin Kamara -- who's making his case for offensive player of the year. Kamara had 163 yards from scrimmage on the afternoon, including the 20-yard run in overtime that set up Wil Lutz's chip shot for the win. Kamaar has 1,038 yards from scrimmage in seven games -- the only player in the NFL with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Cameron Jordan took advantage of the Bobby Massie injury and pressured Nick Foles throughout the second half, which got New Orleans the ball back for the winning drive in overtime. The Saints don't look like a contender, but they keep winning. They'll be around in January. |
| Nick Foles is under a lot of scrutiny in Chicago, but he deserves credit for getting that game to overtime in the first place. Foles had a 15-yard strike to Anthony Miller on 3rd-and-18 that set up Cairo Santos to tie it with a 51-yard field goal to force overtime. The Bears were down 10 points in the fourth quarter as Foles completed all six of his passes for 55 yards on a touchdown drive to give the defense a chance and give Chicago the ball back. Chicago's defense is as good as they come, but Foles has been too inconsistent throughout games and the running game is awful -- even with David Montgomery running for 89 yards on 21 carries. Chicago isn't winning the division unless Foles improves -- even though he did led the Bears to overtime. |
Saints-Bears grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Seattle 37-27 over San Francisco
| The 49ers' quarterback situation is something we probably need to discuss. Jimmy Garoppolo completed 11 of 16 passes for 84 yards and an interception, while Nick Mullens completed 18 of 25 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns in just a single quarter after Jimmy G left for the locker room with an ankle injury. With Garoppolo, the offense was not in sync and throwing downfield was not much of an option. The Seahawks came into this game with what really was the worst defense in the league, as they allowed an average of 479.2 yards of total offense per game. Even if we don't want to have the discussion about benching Garoppolo, we at least have to question how healthy he is.|
| It's about time we start mentioning DK Metcalf when we discuss elite wide receivers in the NFL. He caught six passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns just in the first half! He was bigger, faster and more athletic than anyone the 49ers had in the secondary. It's almost unfair when you consider the kind of challenge he presents as both a jump-ball receiver and then a home-run hitter as well. His two scores in the first half had everyone feeling like the Seahawks were in control, and Russell Wilson was able to take it from there.|
49ers-Seahawks grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 23-9 over Dallas
|Nine points in a divisional loss that all but puts the nail in their coffin, and the Cowboys don't get an "F?" Well, consider the circumstances: It was Ben DiNucci throwing the football with the game on the line. And for a while, despite an utterly atrocious third-down performance, they were within one score and at one point looked at least a little capable of pulling off the upset. For a team starting a third-string QB behind a battered offensive line, they showed some fight, and the defense took full advantage of Carson Wentz's errors. Still, lots to pick apart: Is Ezekiel Elliott even good? Was Amari Cooper awake? And did Mike McCarthy and/or Kellen Moore think five straight WR reverses would work?|
|A prime-time victory over a longtime rival to maintain first place in the division and take a legitimate step toward a future playoff run? Yeah, it's still pretty darn hard to get pumped about Philly's performance. In fact, the only reason it's not a failing grade is because the defense capitalized on Ben DiNucci's inexperience (and Dallas' general offensive issues) and multiple times bailed out Doug Pederson's own unit. Travis Fulgham was another genuine positive. Otherwise? My goodness, did Pederson and Carson Wentz realize what defense they were playing? The win is huge in the standings, no doubt, and there's time to improve, but this is still by and large a very ugly team.|
Cowboys-Eagles grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)