Photo By: Adrian Curiel from Unsplash
Monday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants will be discussed in next week’s edition of this column.
With week eight of the NFL season in the books, let’s take a look at three of the standout games, as teams look to gain separation in their divisional playoff races.
Statement win for the New Orleans Saints
Many have questioned the New Orleans Saints’ abilities to compete at a playoff level this season. After losing future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees in the offseason, the team decided to fill his spot with the talented-but-shaky Jameis Winston.
The Saints, who now sit at 5-2 after a massive win over the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have done it despite disappointing play (or no play at all) from some who have been staples of their offense in the past.
A high-scoring affair on Sunday, the Saints went on to win 36-27 in a shocking result after the second quarter injury to Winston. The quarterback was carted off the field with an apparent knee injury and did not return to the game. After the contest, head coach Sean Payton said it isn’t looking good for the young quarterback, and fans fear he may be done for the season. The Saints rolled with backup Trevor Siemian for the remainder of the afternoon.
It’s unknown who will start for the Saints going forward, as the Payton-favourite backup/utility player Taysom Hill works his way back from a week five concussion. Nonetheless, the Saints moved into second place in the NFC South with the win, and will likely be in contention for one of three wild card playoff spots.
AFC South divisional battle
The Indianapolis Colts, who had been trending upwards after a dogfight loss with the Baltimore Ravens and back-to-back wins, played host to their divisional foe Tennessee Titans this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. While the Colts jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, the Titans continued to chip away and eventually forced overtime. Costly interceptions from Colts quarterback Carson Wentz made the difference in this one, as the Titans won it 34-31 on an overtime field goal.
The Titans, who are now 6-2 with a relatively comfortable lead in the division, continue to find a way to win. Despite not getting much from all-pro running back Derrick Henry (held to under 100 rushing yards for the second week in a row), it was wide receiver A.J. Brown who stepped up. Brown went for a season-high 155 receiving yards on 10 catches with a touchdown. Brown’s yardage totals have increased every week since returning from injury.
It will be interesting to see if the Titans look to bolster their defense in the secondary as they did last year with the November 2nd trade deadline. The bigger concern for the Titans though is the recent news of Henry’s potential season-ending foot injury, which could very well sink their ambitions of contending for an AFC championship.
Undefeated no more
The Arizona Cardinals, who sat at 7-0 heading into their week eight duel with the Green Bay Packers, have been one of the surprises of the season to this point. While many projected the Cardinals as a playoff team, few expected them to look as dominant as they have.
What was setting up to be an offensive showdown between two of the NFL’s best teams, was hampered by the removal of the two top Packer receivers, Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, due to COVID-19 protocols. It’s easy to forget that COVID-19 can still throw a wrench into games, as we feel so far removed from last year’s slate in which nearly every game had a few players missing in action.
Despite the loss of his two top targets, Aaron Rodgers made do with what he had on Thursday night in Arizona. Running back Aaron Jones led the team in receptions with seven for 51 yards, and Rodgers found his old partner Randall Cobb for a pair of touchdowns.
On the other end, Kyler Murray had one of his more quiet games of the season. Murray did not throw a touchdown pass but did throw two interceptions, including one in the final seconds on what would have been the game-winning touchdown were it not for a miscommunication with receiver A.J. Green.
The Packers went on to kneel it out and win the game 24-21. Both teams sit at 7-1 after the game and are tied with the Los Angeles Rams (who pummelled the miserable Houston Texans this week) for first place in the NFC.