Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 11/1/11

Week 8 is now in the books. For some teams, it is the midway point. For some, they wish the season was completely over. Others look forward to the final nine weeks with a gleam in their eye.

We are now down to three teams chasing perfection. Green Bay had a bye this week and still sits at a perfect 7-0. Miami and Indianapolis both lie at opposite end, the Colts at 0-8 and the Dolphins at 0-7. The competition at both ends of the spectrum is fierce, though.

This past weekend saw St. Louis get its first win. Miami just missed (again) on the road against the Giants. The Cardinals charged out toward their second win of the season only to recede back to singular win status. The Vikings also recorded win #2. The significance of all this is who is in the running for the #1 pick.

On the upside of the ledger, the 49ers find themselves still with only one loss, the only team that can make that claim. The Steelers, Ravens, Giants, Bills, Lions and Bengals all preserved their two-loss credentials, while the Pats slipped into that category.

Oh, and Tebowing became popular, although often not in the manner he might have preferred.

A quick look at divisional races tells us that the AFCE, AFCN, AFCW, NFCS and possibly the NFCN are three-team fights. The AFCS is a two-team race. The NFCW is a runaway and we don’t quite know what to make of the NFCE. It looks like two teams are trending up and two down, but that can change quickly.

As for Week 9, look to the Bucs at New Orleans and Jets at Bills to be the big early games. The late games feature the Bengals at the Titans, Giants at Pats, and the Pack at San Diego to be the pacesetters. The Sunday night game gives us the war between the Ravens and Steelers in Pittsburgh. Monday has the Eagles hosting the Bears.

Until then, enjoy our recap of Week 8.

Good
Detroit Lions – The Lions were hearing the skeptics say they were returning to mediocrity (or worse) after their 5-0 start. On the heels of two consecutive losses, they traveled to Denver and blasted the Broncos. Their tally of 45 points was basically posted in three quarters of play. Stafford had a trey of TD passes, one to Calvin Johnson for 56 yards. Johnson had six catches for 125 yards. The offense did not even try to turn the ball over. On defense, they limited Denver to 183 yards and 3 points until Chris Houston took a Tebow pass 100 yards the other way. Sure, it was against a team hell-bent on Ugly, but the Lions did what a good team must when they have gone cold: go on the road and take care of business.

Philadelphia Eagles - After six uninspiring games, the Philadelphia Eagles came out of their bye week looking like the super team they were once billed as. Firing on all cylinders, they were able to take Dallas out of the game early. Mike Vick had his best game of the season while LeSean McCoy ran all over Dallas’ number 1 ranked rush defense. Because of their early game success, the Eagles forced the Cowboys to abandon their ground game that was so successful last week. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ cornerbacks did their job to near perfection and kept Tony Romo in check. Philadelphia is usually good coming out of the bye, whether this game was a sign of things to come or if this game was an anomaly remains to be seen.

Pittsburgh Steelers - Steeler fans all probably recognize that next week’s match up against Baltimore will have more of an impact on playoff seeding that this week’s win over the Patriots. However, to exorcise the demon that is Tom Brady has to make the Yinzer smile like a virgin in a ***** house on dollar night this morning. The Steelers shut down New England’s high power offense better than any team this season and they did it with both their offense and defense. On offense Ben Roethlisberger used a ball control passing game, which had to look oddly familiar to the opposing QB, which ate up almost 40 minutes of clock and 430 yards. The only thing the Steeler’s offense fell a little short on was their red zone conversion, having to settle for four FG attempts and two TDs. The Black and Gold also defense did their part, going away from their zone blitzing scheme and adopting a man to man press coverage which knocked the Pats passing game off rhythm. Mike Tomlin deserves a ton of credit for going away from their trends to attack the Pats. It is something that Belichick did for years against the Bill Cowher led Steelers.

St. Louis Rams – Whenever a team gets its first win in Week 8, it almost automatically warrants notice here. When that win comes by smothering a team who many believe has a legitimate shot at a playoff run, it gets a Good. The Rams did just that on Sunday at home against the Saints. Steven Jackson ran wild, to the tune of 159 yards and a pair of TD’s. The defense contained the normally potent Saints offense to under 300 yards and sealed the deal when Darian Stewart intercepted Brees and returned it 27 yards to extend the Rams lead to 17 points with less than 3:00 remaining. This was perhaps the first time this season the Rams defense justified the high opinion that most had of them entering 2011. It is almost certainly too little, too late for the Rams, but getting their first win, at home, in front of a crowd that was fresh off a World Series win, against a solid opponent, by shutting down their strongest asset (the offense) is worthy of a Good.

Bad
New England Patriots - All week, all we heard was “Tom Brady owns the Steelers.” Apparently Brady and company thought their legend would carry them in this game. Although they had two weeks to prepare, they neglected to do so. As for the defense, did they make an important stop all day? It’s doubtful, but regardless it is pretty evident Belichick’s defensive genius is in the past, I have seen matadors that do a better job of stopping bulls than that defense did against Ben and Company.

San Diego Chargers – Let’s not take a lot away from the Chiefs. They started 0-3 and have now tied the Raiders and Chargers for the division lead at 4-3. However, this game was sitting there for the Chargers to win. Rivers was picked off twice. The Chargers committed 12 penalties for 105 yards, one negating a TD. On that same drive they followed up with a second major penalty, pushing them into a long FG attempt which went awry. They fumbled twice inside the Chief 25, killing scoring chances. The second of which was with about a minute to go while they were trying to position the ball for a shot at the winning FG. It is not like the Chiefs put together a spotless effort themselves (four turnovers of their own). But the Chargers shot themselves in the feet (plural) enough to overcome whatever else they did along the way to miss a golden opportunity to deal a divisional rival a shot to the chops. Too often, these types of missed opportunities loom large in December.

Ugly
Dallas Cowboys - Where do we begin? On defense, the Cowboys were gored by the Eagles, giving up almost 495 yards, 34 points, 31 first downs, 239 yards rushing, collected no turnovers and failed in any way to be anything more than a very minor impediment. Take away Demarcus Ware and they were not even that good. Ware had four sacks and ten tackles all by himself. Then move to the offense, who held the ball for less than 18 minutes, rolled to 267 yards and were generally impotent until the game was 34-0 in the fourth quarter. Until that point, they ventured into Eagle territory only once. 154 of their 267 yards came after the horse was put down. 70 of those 154 yards came on their lone TD. The Cowboys were beyond Ugly, they were inert.

Denver Broncos – Any discussion of NFL Ugliness must include the Broncos. They are a mess at this point. Consider this: Sunday, at home against the Lions they almost jumped out to a 7-0 lead, did take a 3-0 lead and then gave up the next 45 points. The game was over by halftime. The offensive line does not pass block, their choices at QB are a guy who defines mediocrity and a guy who will struggle to achieve it. Tebow directly accounted for 14 Lions points, 7 on an interception and 7 on a fumble. Neither QB will even reach mediocrity behind this offensive line. Sunday’s tally was seven sacks. Even if the line protected them, the receiver corps is questionable. Then there is the coach. Is it any wonder the Lions feasted in the Mile High City Sunday? While the Broncos are not the worst team in the NFL, they are on the list of teams that can be considered tonics for what ails opposing teams.

New Orleans Saints - Really? they followed up the 62 point showing with that pathetic effort vs AJ Feeley and company? Is is there any doubt the Saints overlooked this game on their schedule? Not much more to say than that.

Washington Redskins - After an impressive 3-1 start to the season, Washington is starting to look like the team most people thought they would be at the start of the year. The Redskins looked abysmal in Toronto playing against the Bills. Washington had no sign of a rushing game and John Beck threw two interceptions. Buffalo came into the game with four sacks on the year, but was able to get nine on a porous Redskin offensive line. Washington’s defense struggled against Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson. At the moment, Washington finds itself in the basement of the NFC East and is well on the way to a top 10 pick.

Honors
Ben Roethlisberger - In the past, he has had statistically good games against New England. What made Sunday’s performance his best was that he out performed the Hall of Famer across the field. Roethlisberger is having one of his best seasons as a pro and how he is doing it should shut up all of his critics. He has always buttered his bread by using his physical attributes to make athletic plays outside the pocket when the play breaks down. This week he showed the mental progression of his game by picking apart the 32nd ranked pass defense with his pre-snap reads and his quick release with in the pocket. There should no longer be any doubt that this guy is an elite QB.

Ike Taylor - The guy is having a pro-bowl season. Unlike some of the other top CBs, Taylor is given the assignment every week to match up against the other teams top WR and follow him wherever he should go. This week he held the league’s leading receiver to 6 catches for 39 yards and 0 TDs. Welker came into this game averaging almost 9 rec for 130 yards and a TD. Kudos to Ike.

DeMarcus Ware – Cowboys fans are singing a variation of the old Hee-Haw song, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for Demarcus Ware, we’d have no defense at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me.” Ware accounted for 10 tackles, 4 sacks, an assist and a forced fumble. The Cowboys defense had only 4 sacks, one forced fumble, and seemingly 11 tackles.

Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson & Steven Jackson - These four could each get their own write up for the key roles they played in their teams’ wins. The four combined for 493 rushing yards, 18 receptions for 159 receiving yards, and 9 TDs. Great players do great things and these four did great things when their teams’ needed them the most.

Dishonors
Chris Johnson - For most of the first half of the season, the question on the minds of many was when is Chris Johnson going to get back on track. After this week’s putrid performance, you have to start wondering if the answer is not this year. Johnson ran for just 34 yards on 14 carries (2.4 YPC) on a defense that allows almost 150 yards per game on the ground. The former 2,000 yard runner is on pace to rush for just 690 yards. As long as Johnson continues to under-perform, people will continue to question whether or not his love for the game was all about the money.

Philip Rivers - Simply put, Philip Rivers had a day to forget. Late in San Diego’s loss to the Chiefs, Rivers could be seen on the sideline saying “This is the worst day ever” and for good reason. In a game full of ugly, the San Diego QB was no exception. Rivers threw 2 interceptions and no touchdowns, but that would have been forgivable had he not fumbled the ball on the KC 15 yard line. Had Rivers been able to handle the snap, San Diego would have basically been guaranteed a victory and would be looking pretty atop the AFC West. Instead they are tied with Oakland and Kansas City at 4-3. Unless Rivers is able to turn around his awful season, San Diego chances at the playoffs are no bueno. It looks as if Rivers has caught a case of Romo-itis this season.

Awards
Ciron Black (Best of the Good) - For a good portion of the season to date Pittsburgh and Philadelphia had been paying homage to their home state this year by slugging down Keystone, but this week they both did well enough to break into the good stuff together. Pittsburgh got a huge monkey off their collective back by beating a Patriot team which pretty much had their number for the last half decade. Roethlisberger did an impressive job finding replacement targets for an injured Hines Ward.
meanwhile over by the coast the Eagles finally decided enough was enough with the “Dream Team” backlash and poured a season’s worth of angst right down the throats of a division rival and made the NFCE race a lot more interesting for the second half of the season

Aunt Esther (Ugliest of the Ugly) – New Orleans didn’t know quite when to quit, draining the bottle dry after last week’s emphatic Ciron Black win, and apparently, sneaking out to the liquor store and picking up another. When they rolled over Monday morning with just a mild headache (even the hangovers are better with Ciron) they were horrified to find Esther’s bedroom eyes greeting them, and acting as the tell-tale that they’d just completed the rare run from top to bottom in a one week span. We don’t expect the Saints to lie low for long, but in exactly the opposite manner of the Eagles they’ve made their division race a lot tighter looking and the upcoming game at Tampa just got a lot more interesting.

Lone Ranger (Who Was That Masked Man?) – Steven Jackson. Jackson pretty much defined the Lone Ranger on Sunday in every way. Feeley threw a clean game but didn’t have many attempts so Jackson for all intents and purposes was the Rams offense and he came through just in time with 6 yards per carry on 25 touches and his first 100 yard game in 3 seasons

Amber Alert (Greatest Disappearance) – Rob Ryan. If there was ever a reason to keep your mouth shut and do your job, Rob should have learned it Sunday night. The Cowboy defense is too good to lay eggs like they did in Philly Sunday night. If this keeps up, Ryan is liable to find himself missing in Dallas, but nobody will be looking for him.

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