The 32 things we learned from Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season:
1. (Another) congratulations to Bill Belichick, who won his 300th game (including playoffs). The symmetry is eerie. Belichick’s Patriots stifled the Browns, the first team he served as head coach. He notched his first victory with Cleveland … against New England in 1991. Belichick trails only Hall of Famers Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) on the all-time win list.
2. Entering the weekend, the 18 interceptions produced by the Patriots defense were double that of any other team. However New England only pilfered Browns QB Baker Mayfield, who had a league-leading 11 entering week 8, once.
2a. Keepin’ it 100: The league’s only 8-0 club, the Patriots boast a plus-189 point differential tied for third most through eight games in the NFL’s 100 seasons. Only the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans (plus-215) and 2007 Patriots (plus-204), the only squad to complete a 16-0 regular season, have had more dominant starts.
2b. New England forced a turnover on three consecutive snaps by the Cleveland offense, the first time that had happened in an NFL game since 2012.
2c. Looking for a clue as to why the Patriots perhaps didn’t pursue a quarterback in the “loaded” 2018 draft to groom behind Tom Brady? New England has now put the screws to 2018 first rounders Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen this season. None has tasted victory against New England, of course, but it’s their collective numbers against the Patriots that are jaw-dropping: 51-for-109 passing (46.8%), 530 yards, 1 TD, 9 INTs, 30.0 QB rating. (For context, an incomplete pass renders a 39.6 QB rating.)
2d. Next up? The fifth and final Round 1 QB of 2018, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, whose Ravens will host the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Week 9.
3. With 13 TD passes, Brady has set a single-season record for a player 42 years or older.
4. With New England and San Francisco maintaining perfect records, it sure seems like Super Bowl LIV’s matchup might be taking shape.
5. The NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday. Interesting to note quite a few notable players who might be on the move (Kenyan Drake, A.J. Green, O.J. Howard, Darius Slay, Delanie Walker) were Week 8 scratches.
6. NFL officiating continues to stray into the theater of the absurd. Yo, Riveron, haven’t we been over this issue of zebras being too trigger happy on the whistle? Not that it helped Cam Jordan in Week 2 … or Deshaun Watson last week … or the Bucs on Sunday, when what might have proven a game-winning TD on a fumble return after they snuffed out a field goal fake by the Titans was blown dead prematurely.
6a. In fairness — something everyone wants to see more from out of officials — Watson’s game-winning TD pass to Houston’s Darren Fells on Sunday against Oakland looked almost identical to the one that was disallowed to DeAndre Hopkins in Indianapolis last week, Hopkins being allowed to evade a would-be sack before drifting to his right and firing toward the end zone.
6b. Unfortunately for Watson and Co., it may prove a Pyrrhic victory given the season-ending chest injury suffered by Texans DE J.J. Watt.
7. Players love to swap jerseys after games. Would have been nice if the NFL had allowed Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston and Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota to trade jerseys … jobs … maybe even mailing addresses this week. The league hasn’t been kind to the top two picks of the 2015 draft, both unsigned beyond this season. And with Winston committing four more turnovers in a losing effort, and Mariota stuck to the pine … either might be lucky to land a backup job in 2020.
7a. But the Titans have pretty clearly made the right move switching to Ryan Tannehill, who won his second straight start since replacing Mariota courtesy of a three-TD day against the Bucs.
8. If the playoffs began tomorrow — they don’t — Tennessee (4-4) … still wouldn’t make the AFC field, currently one game behind Houston for the final wild-card spot. In the NFC, the defending conference champion Rams (5-3) are also currently on the outside looking in, a game back of the wild card-leading Vikings and Seahawks.
9. With his 220-yard day in London, Rams WR Cooper Kupp set a receiving record for an International Series contest. Unless there’s a belated groundswell for Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater, Kupp has probably locked up comeback player of the year honors.
10. And 49ers DE Nick Bosa appears to now be the prohibitive favorite for defensive rookie of the year after piling up three sacks — he now has seven in seven games —and returning an interception 46 yards in San Francisco’s 51-13 pasting of the Panthers.
10a. The Bosa brothers combined for five sacks Sunday with the Chargers’ Joey Bosa getting a pair of his own.
11. The 49ers hadn’t scored 51 points (the bulk coming courtesy RB Tevin Coleman’s four TDs) since 1993.
12. The Saints have blown up for 510 yards in both games QB Drew Brees — he passed for 373 yards and three TDs on Sunday, his first game after thumb surgery — has started and finished this season. Looks like Brees isn’t going to get Wally Pipp’d by Bridgewater.
12a. However injured New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara better pay attention to what understudy Latavius Murray is doing. The past two weeks, Murray has been at least Kamara-esque in the star’s absence, accruing 307 yards from scrimmage and four TDs. The Saints are off in Week 9, but we’d expect Kamara to return with a fury in Week 10.
13. Rough Sunday for Panthers QB Kyle Allen, who served up the first three INTs of his young career while also losing for the first time as an NFL starter. Suddenly, the door seems wide open for the return of former league MVP Cam Newton in Carolina.
14. Don’t ever mistake Broncos QB Joe Flacco’s cool demeanor for a lack of competitive fire. Nice to see him publicly take issue with conservative coaching when it would be quite easy to quietly soldier through what’s probably a lost campaign in Denver.
15. Tough weather conditions in the northeastern U.S. Sunday You could actually see the goalposts shaking in the throes of Buffalo’s winds.
16. The Chargers ran into a Bears team apparently more vexed by kicking woes than the Bolts … though blame for Eddy Pineiro’s game-ending FG miss should be shared at least as much by ultra-conservative Chicago coach Matt Nagy.
16a. But don’t fret, Chicagoans … the Titans will likely make Cody Parkey available any minute with Ryan Succop poised to come off injured reserve in Tennessee.
17. Master (Sean McVay) > Pupil (Zac Taylor).
18. J-A-G-S, jags, Jags, JAGS! > J-E-T-S, jets, Jets, JETS!
18a. Apparently the Jets’ Darnold is going to be literally seeing ghosts for the rest of his career … to the degree one can, uh, literally, uh, see a ghost.
18b. More problematic for Darnold, who threw three more picks to the Jaguars and was sacked eight times, he was thoroughly shown up by fellow Pac-12 alum Gardner Minshew on Sunday. Rookie Minshew, who threw three more TDs against the Jets — the first Jags rookie to ever manage such a trifecta — now boasts a 4-3 record in half a season; Darnold (drafted last year) is 5-12.
18c. How soon before Jets fans begin clamoring for Trevor Lawrence?
19. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette ripped off a 66-yard run on his first carry against New York. His next 18 attempts produced 10 yards.
19a. But credit Fournette for his 2019 turnaround. He’s the only player in the league with at least 85 yards from scrimmage in eight games this season.
20. Coolest sidebar in Jacksonville on Sunday was the reunion of the Williams brothers, Jets rookie DT Quinnen Williams and Jags rookie LB Quincy Williams, who have overcome the adversity caused by cancer. Remember: #CrucialCatch.
21. Give Seattle credit for continuing to stack wins, the team now owns six, which is what it’s all about in the NFL.
21a. But let’s not put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl-contending category just yet — they’re far closer to being paper tigers a la the Bills or Cowboys, meaning good luck finding inspiring wins. Seattle surrendered 30 first downs and 512 yards to the Matt Schaub-led Falcons before escaping Atlanta with a 27-20 victory.
21b. And if ‘Hawks C Justin Britt is out for a significant period, QB Russell Wilson could be facing significant issues behind an often problematic O-line.
22. If Wilson, now 81-38-1 as Seatle’s starter generates six more wins by the end of the regular season, he’ll break Brady’s record for the most in a quarterback’s first eight years.
23. FYI, Schaub (39-for-52, 460 yards, TD, INT) hadn’t started a regular-season game in 1,421 days.
23a. Maybe the fight Atlanta showed will get coach Dan Quinn a post back on Seattle’s staff once the Falcons (1-7) are forced to fire him … though apparently that won’t be happening for awhile even as the team enters its bye.
24. Speaking of teams that have fed on JV opponents, rough day for the Bills (I’ll just say we told you so, #BillsMafia), who lost 31-13 to the Eagles … though you wouldn’t have mistaken Philadelphia for a Division I team after getting rolled by Dallas 37-10 in Week 7.
24a. Guess it helps when Doug Pederson keeps expectations tempered.
24b. It also helps to have RB Miles Sanders, a do-it-all rookie who gave Philly a 24-yard kickoff return, a 25-yard reception and a 65-yard TD run. All in a day’s work (142 all-purpose yards on just seven touches).
25. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that a running back (James Wilder) had the most receptions in the history of the Buccaneers … until Sunday. Congrats to WR Mike Evans, who caught 11 balls to give him 433 career catches, a new Tampa Bay record.
26. Pretty cool for Redskins RB Adrian Peterson to move into sixth place on the all-time rushing list (he passed both Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson) in front of the Minnesota fans who lustily cheered him on for a decade (and did so again Thursday night).
27. With 401 more yards, AD will overtake Curtis Martin for fifth place.
28. For my money, NFL rushing leader Dalvin Cook is still the Vikings’ most valuable player. But Kirk Cousins (a favorite of President Trump’s) has certainly begun stealing some purple MVP electoral votes, arguably the league’s most effective quarterback over the last month and now boasting a 115.2 passer rating. Minnesota is a legit Super Bowl threat, largely because Cousins — he’s even winning prime-time games now — is playing the way you’d expect from a guy getting $84 million guaranteed.
28a. Though you’d think Minnesota would produce more than 19 points from a performance that didn’t require the team to punt (the first time the Vikings had gone punt-less in 15 years) …
29. Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones has committed 12 turnovers in six starts.
30. Congrats to Rams LT Andrew Whitworth, formerly of the Bengals, who has now tasted victory against all 32 of the league’s teams following Sunday’s win against Cincinnati in London.
31. Raiders QB Derek Carr had a nice game Sunday (285 yards passing, 3 TDs), but Houston’s NRG Stadium remains a house of horrors for the Carr brothers … perhaps more so with Halloween looming?
32. I enjoy a good hot take as much as the next guy — and NFL Network analyst James Jones, formerly a receiver for the Packers and Raiders, makes good on an ungodly percentage of his. But J.J. is going to have to get his “20/20” vision thoroughly checked after predicting the Browns would upset New England … then go on to win the AFC North … and host the AFC Championship Game … against Baltimore. Oof.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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