NFL 2023 Week 8: Biggest questions, risers and takeaways

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Week 8of the NFL season started Thursday night with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropping their third straight game, this time to the Buffalo Bills. Can the Buccaneers find a way to turn it around?

On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys came out of the gate running against the Los Angeles Rams, the 2023 No. 1 (Carolina'sBryce Young) and No. 2 (Houston'sC.J. Stroud) draft picks faced off for the first time, and the Minnesota Vikingslost quarterbackKirk Cousinsin the fourth quarter to what sources told Adam Schefter is a torn Achilles.In Tennessee, rookie QBWill Levisimpressed in his NFL debut and threw four touchdown passes in the Titans' win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The surprises continued in the late-afternoon window, as the San Francisco 49ers suffered their third straight loss of the season, and the Denver Broncos snapped their 16-game losing streak to the Kansas City Chiefs. On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Chargers easily handled the visiting Chicago Bears.

Then, on Monday night, the Detroit Lions rode a breakout performance from rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs to a 26-14 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Our NFL Nation reporters reacted to all the action, answering lingering questions coming out of each game and picking out who -- or what -- is rising and falling for every team. Let's get to it.

Jump to a matchup:





Detroit 26, Las Vegas 14


How will the Lions split the workload when RB David Montgomery returns? The Lions' coaching staff has insisted it will ride the hot hand between Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. So, after a breakout game in which Gibbs finished with 189 yards from scrimmage -- and Montgomery sat with a rib injury for the second straight week -- it would make sense for Gibbs to continue to carry the heavy workload until Montgomery returns to full strength. Then, once Montgomery is back, tailor their usage to each opponent going forward.

Stock up after the win: Defensive tackle Alim McNeill. McNeill had two of the Lions' six sacks on the night. Detroit's defense has now finished with at least five sacks in a game three times this season, which is tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for the second-most such games. Only the Baltimore Ravens have more (four games).

Stock down after the win: Wide receiver Jameson Williams. The second-year wideout is still trying to find his groove after returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league's gambling policy. He made two catches but dropped another from Goff, giving him three drops in his past three games. Last week in Baltimore, the No. 12 overall pick in 2022 finished with zero catches on six targets. -- Eric Woodyard

Next game: at Chargers (Sunday, Nov. 12, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Does Jimmy Garoppolo truly give the Raiders their best chance for success?Garoppolo was playing for the first time since suffering a first-half back injury against the Patriots two weeks ago. And despite his horrid night -- 10-of-21 passing for 126 yards with an end zone interception and six sacks -- the coaching staff and players believe he is still the guy over rookie Aidan O'Connell and 15-year veteran Brian Hoyer, with the New York Giants heading to Allegiant Stadium next week. Still, stay tuned.

Stock up after the loss: Defense. A fumble recovery by linebacker Robert Spillane, the seventh career pick-six by cornerback Marcus Peters and a strip and recovery by defensive end Maxx Crosby gave the Raiders their second three-takeaway game in four games. It's a good trend for a defense that, before this season, did not have a three-takeaway game since Week 6 of the 2021 season, and it kept the Raiders in the game entering the fourth quarter.

Stock down after the loss: Receivers. Of course a receiver cannot be involved unless he is thrown the ball. But not a single first-half touch for a unit that includes an All-Pro in Davante Adams, a former Pro Bowler in Hunter Renfrow and a rising No. 2 WR in Jakobi Meyers is unfathomable. Adams had one catch, on seven targets, for 11 yards. -- Paul Gutierrez

Next game: vs. Giants (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

L.A. Chargers 30, Bears 13


Is Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert back? After fracturing the middle finger on his left hand in Week 4, Herbert had one of the worst three-game stretches of his career, with career lows in passing yards and completions. But on Sunday, Herbert, no longer sporting a glove on his left hand, looked more comfortable and confident than he has since the injury happened. He began the game with 15 straight completions and finished with 294 yards and three touchdowns as the Chargers' offense cruised against Chicago.

Stock up after the win: RB Austin Ekeler. After missing three games with a high right ankle sprain, Ekeler returned in Week 6 but hadn't played to his standard. That changed on Sunday as he scored the game's first touchdown and led the Chargers in receiving yards. The score was Ekeler's 30th receiving touchdown in his career and also his 400th reception. He's the seventh Charger to record at least 400 receptions and 30 receiving touchdowns.

Stock down after the win: Rushing offense. The Chargers' rushing offense has been among the worst in the NFL all season, and that didn't change on Sunday night, as they finished with 54 yards. The Bears' defensive line closed openings, and the Chargers' rushers were often stopped before passing the line of scrimmage. The running struggles didn't matter on Sunday, but this is an issue the Chargers need to fix moving forward. -- Kris Rhim

Next game: at Jets (Monday, Nov. 6, 8:15 p.m. ET)


Why did the Bears' defense regress after two good weeks? All the goodwill Matt Eberflus' defense built up against the Vikings and Raiders quickly dissipated when the Bears allowed Justin Herbert to complete his first 15 passes and throw for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Chicago did not generate pressure on 30 of Herbert's 40 dropbacks (he completed 86.7% of throws in those situations) and missed countless tackles en route to allowing 202 yards after the catch and 58 yards after contact. The Bears allowed long drives (three TD drives of 92, 55 and 75 yards) and looked completely overmatched by an offense that went 7-of-12 on third down and found a workaround through the air when it couldn't run the ball.

Stock up after the loss: TE Cole Kmet. For a game that featured very few positives, the veteran caught a team-high 10 passes (on 10 targets) for 79 yards. Kmet was the security blanket rookie QB Tyson Bagent needed to keep Chicago's first touchdown drive alive with three catches after a dropped TD and illegal shift penalty threatened to force the Bears off the field without points.

Stock down after the loss: WR Velus Jones Jr. The Bears wide receiver drew a 15-yard penalty for running into Chargers punt returner Derius Davis and dropped a wide-open touchdown when he slipped and fell in the end zone. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Denver 24, Kansas City 9


Having ended the 16-game losing streak against the Chiefs with it, will coach Sean Payton lean more on the run game? The Broncos are better, more efficient and can hang with the best the AFC has to offer if they muscle up and run the ball. There were times Sunday the Broncos controlled every bit of the tempo and the line of scrimmage with a methodical rushing attack that consistently bore first-down fruit. But then Payton will drift into a pass, pass, pass, punt series that is too often a rally killer. The Broncos' run game passes both the eye test as well as the advanced metrics -- they have been among the league's best in percentage of explosive runs and run block win rate all season -- and until somebody stops it they should lean on it.

Stock up after the win: CB Ja'Quan McMillian. McMillian had his first career interception Sunday against Chiefs QBPatrick Mahomes and continues to show up with some fire in run defense (he had a tackle for loss as well Sunday).

Stock down after the win: QB Russell Wilson. Yes, he had three touchdown passes, but it was a choppy ride. He had barely crossed 100 yards passing at the start of the fourth quarter -- he had 104 -- had been sacked four times, fumbled twice (losing one) and is holding the ball far too long. -- Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Bills (Monday, Nov. 13, 8:15 p.m. ET)


How damaging is the loss in the bigger picture? It's not ideal. The Chiefs were the only AFC team with one loss entering Sunday but are now in a 6-2 group with the Dolphins, Jaguars and Ravens. It now feels like next week's game against Miami is a must-win for the Chiefs if they are going to claim the AFC's No. 1 seed at the end of the season.

Stock up after the loss: Pass rush. The Chiefs were able to get consistent pressure and sacked Wilson five times. Defensive end George Karlaftis' strip sack late in the first half led to a Chiefs field goal.

Stock down after the loss: QB Patrick Mahomes. He wasn't at his best and couldn't even threaten the Broncos with any kind of late comeback. He didn't get much help as he was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since Dec. 5, 2021, against the Broncos, but the Chiefs were still 0-for-3 in the red zone. -- Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Dolphins (in Germany) (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)

Baltimore 31, Arizona 24


Are the Ravens the best team in the AFC? The Ravens made that argument by following up a blowout of the Lions with a road victory over the one-win Cardinals. It wasn't a blowout, but now the Ravens are tied with the Chiefs, Dolphins and Jaguars for the best record in the AFC at 6-2. Baltimore has the most favorable schedule for landing the top seed in the conference as it plays six of its last nine games at M&T Bank Stadium, where QB Lamar Jackson is 26-8 for his career. That's the third-best home mark since 2018 (minimum 10 starts) behind Patrick Mahomes (34-8) and Aaron Rodgers (33-8-1).

Stock up after the win: S Geno Stone. The fill-in starter recorded his NFL-leading fifth interception in the third quarter. His five picks are tied with Hall of Famer Ed Reed (2007) for the most by a Ravens player in the team's first eight games of a season.

Stock down after the win: WR Odell Beckham Jr. This marked only the second time in his 102-game career that he failed to record a catch. Beckham, who left the game late in the third quarter with a stomach contusion, did draw three penalties, though. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Seahawks (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Why isn't the Cardinals' offense more consistent? It's the question that plagues Arizona week in and week out, including Sunday. After an impressive, methodical opening drive, the Cardinals didn't score again until late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs missed too many easy passes, throwing high on a few, and threw two interceptions, one costly. When the Cardinals' run game gets stagnant, as it did at times Sunday, the pass game can't make up for it and the entire offense looks like it's stuck in the mud.

Stock up after the loss: TE Trey McBride. He had a strong fourth quarter with 74 receiving yards in a late comeback attempt. McBride finished with 10 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Stock down after the loss: WR Rondale Moore. He had just 21 yards from scrimmage -- 11 on the ground and 10 receiving -- and was largely a nonfactor, but it wasn't necessarily all his fault as his role in the offense is questionable. -- Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Cincinnati 31, San Francisco 17


Did the Bengals reestablish themselves as Super Bowl contenders? The Bengals looked like a championship contender for the first time this season in beating the 49ers. The defense came up with three big turnovers in the second half. Offensively, QB Joe Burrow had a massive performance (28-of-32 passing for 283 yards) that featured 19 straight completions at one point, three touchdown passes and no interceptions. And while the 49ers were a bit short-handed and are struggling, a win against one of the best teams in the NFC says volumes about where Cincinnati is at this point in the season.

Stock up after the win: WR Tee Higgins. After struggling through the first six games of the season, even before suffering a rib injury in Week 4, he bounced back on Sunday with five catches on six targets for 69 yards.

Stock down after the win: TE Irv Smith Jr. On top of limited production to date in his short stint with the Bengals, Smith had a fumble deep in San Francisco territory that raises further questions about his role in the offense. -- Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Bills (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What's wrong with the 49ers as they head into their bye? A lot. The defense has struggled to get off the field due to a combination of poor tackling and a lack of pressure paired with soft coverage. The offense that once looked unstoppable has become mistake-prone in the worst possible situations. The 49ers have also been missing some key players because of injury. Just three weeks ago, they were 5-0 and on top of most Super Bowl contenders list. The bye week should help with the health part of the equation, but the Niners are also heading into the trade deadline in need of some serious soul-searching before the toughest stretch on their schedule.

Stock up after the loss: DT Arik Armstead. The Niners have been desperately seeking sacks in recent weeks, and Armstead, who hadn't recorded a full regular-season sack since Week 18 of 2021, brought Burrow down twice on Sunday.

Stock down after the loss: QB Brock Purdy. Purdy was far from the problem for the first two-plus quarters on Sunday but threw two more interceptions and lost a fumble in the second half, costing the Niners a shot at victory. -- Nick Wagoner

Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, Nov. 12, 1 p.m. ET)

Seattle 24, Cleveland 20


Is the defense really as good as it looked over the previous three games? The Seahawks were dominant enough on that side of the ball to evoke mentions of the "Legion of Boom" days, and while no defense should be held to that impossible standard, they didn't look nearly as stout on Sunday, as they allowed 385 yards to the Browns and their backup QB. They weren't great against the Browns, but they were good enough with three sacks and three takeaways, including an interception by Julian Love that set up the game-winning score.One factor was that they were on the field for way too long -- nearly 37 minutes -- thanks in large part to the team's offensive struggles. Some iffy calls against Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon didn't help, either.

Stock up after the win: LB Jordyn Brooks. The fourth-year inside linebacker is having a strong season under any circumstances, but especially given the fact he's coming off a major injury. Brooks made it back by the season opener despite being less than 8 months removed from a torn ACL. He looks as good -- and as fast -- as ever. Brooks had a sack fumble in the first half that set up a touchdown. He had another QB hit and finished with 10 tackles. Brooks is in the last year of his rookie contract and playing his way to a big payday.

Stock down after the win: Run defense. The Seahawks were the best defense against the run in the NFL over the first month or so of the season, but they've started to leak a bit of oil. Cleveland rushed for 155 yards on 40 attempts for a 3.9-yard average. The bigger issue Sunday was Cleveland's success on screen passes to tight end David Njoku. -- Brady Henderson

Next game: at Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Did the PJ Walker magic run out? Walker gave the Browns a valiant three performances as Cleveland's starting quarterback (he replaced Deshaun Watson in the first quarter last weekend in Indianapolis). But even though he played his best overall game in Seattle, Cleveland's upside was always going to be capped with him behind center. That showed in the fourth quarter, with the interception off the helmet of blitzing safety Jamal Adams, which set up the Seahawks' winning touchdown drive. Who knows when the Browns will get Watson back? Who knows what version of Watson the Browns will be getting, too? But at the least, Cleveland's ceiling will be higher when Watson is back behind center.

Stock up after the loss: CB Martin Emerson Jr. The second-year player continues to shine, highlighted by an interception that wiped out a Seattle scoring opportunity at the end of the first half.

Stock down after the loss: Browns' fourth-quarter defense. After giving up 17 points in the first quarter, Cleveland's defense controlled the game -- but couldn't come up with the final stop on Seattle's winning touchdown drive. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

N.Y. Jets 13, N.Y. Giants 10


Another terrific Jets comeback or just dumb luck? Yes, the Jets have a penchant for comebacks, but this was a rabbit-out-of-the-hat win. Embarrassingly inept for 59 minutes, the Jets somehow pulled out an overtime thriller. They had no business winning this game; the Giants had a 98% win probability with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter, per ESPN analytics. The Jets committed eight penalties for 85 yards and almost lost to third-string QB Tommy DeVito. This was their third straight win, but make no mistake, they have a lot to fix.

Stock up after the win: K Greg Zuerlein and P Thomas Morstead. Zuerlein won it with two field goals -- a 35-yarder to send the game to OT and a game-winning 33-yarder. Morstead punted 11 times, including four inside the 20.

Stock down after the win: OC Nathaniel Hackett. He made some questionable play calls, especially on third down. The Jets went 2-for-15 on third down, including a first-quarter fumble by Zach Wilson. -- Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Chargers (Monday, Nov. 6, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What are the Giants going to do now at quarterback? It didn't look good for Tyrod Taylor, so at least until Daniel Jones is cleared for contact, it's Tommy DeVito's show. The New Jersey native completed just two passes in Sunday's loss, but he did rush for a touchdown. Jones is close to a return. The question is whether it will be this week vs. the Raiders or the following week against the Cowboys. Jones took more scout team reps on Thursday, according to sources. It seems like a pretty good indication that he's not far off. In the meantime, Matt Barkley and Ian Book worked out recently for the Giants. Don't be surprised to see Barkley added. He is familiar with coach Brian Daboll's playbook from their time together in Buffalo.

Stock up after the loss: LB Kayvon Thibodeaux. The No. 5 overall pick in 2022 had a sack/fumble on the game's opening drive that led to three points and two sacks late in the fourth quarter. He now has 8.5 sacks in eight games and is on pace for 18 this season.

Stock down after the loss: K Graham Gano. Maybe we're just so used to him hitting 90% of his kicks, like he had in his Giants career prior to this season. But there is no doubt Gano is struggling. He missed two field goal attempts on Sunday -- a 47-yarder in the first half and a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter -- marking the third time in four games he has missed at least one kick. -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Raiders (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

New Orleans 38, Indianapolis 27


Can the offense build momentum after this performance? The Saints got running back Alvin Kamara going in the pass game, utilized Taysom Hill at the right moments and hit wide-open receivers for big plays. They also set a season high in points after multiple weeks of miscues, and their 511 yards of offense is the most since Christmas Day against the Vikings in 2020. The Saints came up big after 10 days of rest, but whether they can sustain it will be key.

Stock up after the win: WR Rashid Shaheed. Shaheed had his first career 100-yard receiving game (three catches for 153 yards), had a 58-yard touchdown reception and had two clutch catches late in the game to seal the win.

Stock down after the win:Run defense. The Saints gave up their most net rushing yards (164) this season and allowed two runs of more than 40 yards because of tackling issues. -- Katherine Terrell

Next game: vs. Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Should the Colts lean more into their running game? Indianapolis was the rare team to have substantive rushing success against New Orleans this season. And yet, Colts coach Shane Steichen often seemed to ignore that seeming advantage in the game. Running back Jonathan Taylor had his most first-half yardage in nearly two years (94 rushing yards), but Taylor inexplicably got just one carry in the second half. The backdrop for all of this was the continued struggles of quarterback Gardner Minshew, who had difficulty connecting with receivers and threw a critical interception after halftime. Is Steichen asking too much of his backup quarterback?

Stock up after the loss: LB Shaquille Leonard. He has been under much scrutiny as he works his way back from a frustrating two years of lower leg issues, but he's becoming more impactful with each week, finishing with a season-high 11 tackles, including a couple of run stuffs.

Stock down after the loss:Pass defense. The Colts' pass defense continues to undermine its defense as injuries have crippled the unit. Against the Saints, little-used cornerback Tony Brown was torched after getting a surprise call to start the game, giving up 58- and 51-yard completions. -- Stephen Holder

Next game: at Panthers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Tennessee 28, Atlanta 23


Should Will Levis be the quarterback going forward? Levis displayed his big arm on three touchdown passes that traveled 20 or more air yards. Levis played like a veteran, using pump fakes to move defenders out of position and open passing lanes. The wide receivers came alive with Levis under center. Entering the game, Tennessee had three total touchdown receptions on the season. They had four Sunday. Levis has at least earned an opportunity to start Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be a tall order going against the attacking Steelers defense, but it will also give Ryan Tannehill's right high ankle sprain another week to recover.

Stock up after the win:WRDeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins caught three touchdown passes, ending a drought of nine games without a receiving touchdown.

Stock down after the win:QBMalik Willis. Titans coach Mike Vrabel considered playing both Willis and Levis, but the first snap to Willis was a little high and went through his hands and was recovered by the Falcons. Levis received the lion's share of the snaps after that. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: at Steelers (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What do the Falcons do now at quarterback? Flipping from Desmond Ridder to Taylor Heinicke -- Atlanta announced Ridder had cleared concussion testing -- led to a sparked offense with 20 second-half points. Heinicke was brought in for this reason: If things weren't going well, he could provide stability. He was 12-of-21 for 175 yards and a TD. Ridder has been turnover-prone, with seven over the past three weeks. For the time being, it might be best for Atlanta to go with the veteran Heinicke.

Stock up after the loss: WRKhaDarel Hodge. All season, Falcons coach Arthur Smith has said he had increased expectations for Hodge, and Hodge showed why with three catches for 75 yards (his second-highest total in a game).

Stock down after the loss: QBDesmond Ridder. What an awful day for the second-year pro, who was benched after being sacked five times in the first half, losing his sixth fumble of the season and managing only 89 total yards before being replaced by Heinicke. -- Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Philadelphia 38, Washington 31


Should A.J. Brown be considered for MVP? Absolutely. He became the first player in NFL history to record 125 or more receiving yards in six consecutive games, breaking a post-merger record held by Calvin Johnson. Brown has made life easier for quarterback Jalen Hurts. That continued Sunday, as both of his touchdowns against Washington were tightly-contested catches. Brown now has 12 receiving TDs on throws of 15-plus yards downfield since the start of last season, the most in the NFL in that span.

Stock up after the win: Hurts. On a day in which the defense struggled to slow down Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, Hurts answered the bell with four touchdown passes. It was Hurts' third game since the start of last season with at least three TDs on passes 15-plus yards downfield in a single game. No other player has multiple such games over that span.

Stock down after the win: Red zone offense. The Eagles lost two fumbles inside the 3-yard line Sunday. They are the second team since 2000 with multiple lost fumbles inside their opponent's 3-yard line in a game, along with the 2022 Broncos (season opener against the Seahawks). Philadelphia has been shaky inside its own 20 through eight weeks -- an area that needs to get cleaned up for the second half of the season. -- Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


How does the loss impact the trade deadline? At 3-5, the Commanders will be more aggressive in trying to trade future free agents at Tuesday's trade deadline. The two who will command the most attention: ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young. There has been an offer for Sweat. A league source said he'd be more in demand than Young because of possible concerns about Young's recovery from a knee injury and his durability. One team source, however, said it won't be a fire sale.

Stock up after the loss: Pass protection. It has been the single biggest issue on offense, but quarterback Sam Howell wasn't sacked until a fourth-and-5 late in the game -- a function of the game plan, improved protection in the interior and quick passes.

Stock down after the loss: The secondary. Philadelphia's receivers consistently torched Washington's corners, catching a combined four touchdown passes while both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith surpassed 99 yards. -- John Keim

Next game: at Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Minnesota 24, Green Bay 10


Has Kirk Cousins played his final game for the Vikings? Cousins was ruled out almost immediately in the fourth quarter after suffering what ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported as a torn Achilles, according to a source. Cousins' contract is due to void after the season, and he will be 36 when the 2024 season starts. Prior to Sunday, it was an open question on whether the Vikings would re-sign him for next season. Adding a serious injury to that equation -- even for a player who hasn't had one in his entire NFL career -- could well move the needle in favor of parting ways with him.

Stock up after the win: WR K.J. Osborn. With Justin Jefferson midway through his minimum stint on the injured reserve list, Osborn stepped up to be an important outlet with six receptions for a team-high 99 yards.

Stock down after the win: The run game. The Vikings really tried to run the ball Sunday, but between Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers, they managed only 50 yards on 19 carries. That's an especially concerning shortcoming given that they'll probably be playing without Cousins. -- Kevin Seifert

Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What happened to quarterback Jordan Love? Three games into the season, it looked like the Packers had their next franchise quarterback. Now, not so much. Love doesn't look like the confident passer he was early on. He missed open receivers, took off running on third-and-long when there was no chance at converting and threw another pick -- his eighth in the past five games -- on a ball that Vikings safety Josh Metellus took away from Jayden Reed because it was underthrown. It was Love's fifth straight game with an interception, the longest streak by a Packers quarterback since Matt Flynn (2013 to '14).

Stock up after the loss:OTYosh Nijman. The Packers finally made a change on the offensive line after weeks of watching Rasheed Walker struggle at left tackle. They replaced him in the second quarter with Nijman, who for some reason had played only 24 snaps on offense all season despite having the second-highest salary ($4.3 million) among Green Bay offensive linemen this season. Not that it helped much, and when Nijman left late in the game (foot injury), Walker returned and was called for another penalty, his sixth of the season.

Stock down after the loss: The third-down defense. It looks now like the improvements the Packers showed on defense in recent weeks were the product of playing terrible offenses, because Cousins dominated on third downs, going 12-for-13 for 139 yards and a touchdown before he left the game. -- Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Rams (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Jacksonville 20, Pittsburgh 10


How good are the Jaguars? The Jaguars are 6-2 for the first time since 1999, but they're coming off a sloppy victory in Pittsburgh and have yet to put together a complete game. They're going to get back four injured starters after the bye -- WR Zay Jones, LG Walker Little, CB Tyson Campbell and S Andre Cisco -- and should be at full strength for the second half of the season -- which is good because they'll be tested right away against San Francisco and also have a three-game stretch against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore in December. The Jaguars, who already have a victory over Buffalo, can show they're legit contenders in the AFC, or not.

Stock up after the win: S Andrew Wingard. Subbing for inactive starter Andre Cisco (hamstring), the core special-teamer Wingard came up with six tackles, two pass breakups and a fourth-quarter interception that led to the Jaguars' final field goal.

Stock down after the win: Red zone offense. They Jaguars turned it over on two of their three trips -- TE Evan Engram lost a fumble and QB Trevor Lawrence threw an end zone interception -- and those plays allowed the Steelers to hang around late into the fourth quarter. -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. 49ers (Sunday, Nov. 12, 1 p.m. ET)


Can the Steelers overcome costly injuries on a short week? The Steelers dropped Sunday's game and also lost several key players with a Thursday night game against the Tennessee Titans on the horizon. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick went down with a hamstring injury midway through the first quarter, quarterback Kenny Pickett was knocked out 17 seconds before the half with an injury to his ribs, and top receiver Diontae Johnson limped into the blue injury tent after George Pickens' 22-yard touchdown. Johnson returned for the next series, but left tackle Dan Moore Jr. exited briefly with a knee injury. Without Fitzpatrick, the Steelers' top tackler, the team gave up a 56-yard touchdown reception to Travis Etienne Jr. The unit, though, still forced three turnovers. While Pickett's injury isn't good on a short week, the most concerning is Fitzpatrick's, given the Steelers' lack of quality depth at safety.

Stock up after the loss: Inside linebackers. Elandon Roberts combined with Alex Highsmith to sack Trevor Lawrence on the first play of the second drive. On the next drive, Kwon Alexander forced Evan Engram to fumble and Cole Holcomb recovered the loose ball.

Stock down after the loss: Run game. The Jaguars have one of the league's best run defenses, and the Steelers' run game all but disappeared when they needed it most. Najee Harris had seven carries for 13 yards, while Jaylen Warren had five carries for 13 yards. Harris and Warren did combine for nine catches and 61 yards. -- Brooke Pryor

Next game: vs. Titans (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Carolina 15, Houston 13


Could the win give the Panthers (1-6) momentum to start a mini run? The wild celebration after the walk-off field goal has to be worth something. The Colts are at Bank of America next week and the following week Carolina is at Chicago. Get to 3-6 in the weak NFC South, where no team has taken control, get a few key players off injured reserve and give players some hope, and who knows what could happen. The second half of the season isn't daunting outside of games against Dallas and Jacksonville. And the confidence of quarterback Bryce Young is growing.

Stock up after the win: QB Bryce Young. His statistics (22-of-31 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown) might not show it, but he played his best game in terms of decision-making and getting the ball upfield. He still doesn't have the offensive line and playmakers to do more, but he showed some of the reasons Carolina picked him over C.J. Stroud.

Stock down after the win: Red zone offense. Carolina had a chance to make a statement early but couldn't score on three plays after having second-and-goal at the Texans' 1. That might have prompted the Panthers to kick a field goal on fourth-and-short in the third quarter inside the red zone. -- David Newton

Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Have defenses figured out quarterback C.J. Stroud? In his first four games, Stroud averaged 303 yards passing. In the past three, he has averaged 196 yards per game. It's not all on Stroud, as receivers and tight ends haven't helped the rookie. But to remain competitive in the AFC playoff race, the unit must get the passing attack on track.

Stock up after the loss: DEJonathan Greenard. Greenard stood out with2.5 sacks for the Texans and now has a total of six sacks on the season.

Stock down after the loss:WRNico Collins. Collins had his season low of 30 yards after entering the day ranked in top 12 in receiving yards. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Miami 31, New England 17


How dire is the Dolphins' situation at offensive line? At one point Sunday, the Dolphins were down four starters with Terron Armstead and Isaiah Wynn on injured reserve, Connor Williams active but not playing with a groin injury and Robert Hunt out of the game with a hamstring injury. To make matters worse, backup left tackle Kendall Lamm also briefly left the game with an abdominal injury, but was able to return in the second half. It's not ideal, but Armstead is eligible to return for next week's game against the Chiefs, and Williams should be healthy enough to play as well. Losing Hunt would be a major blow, but he never left the sideline and appeared able to play in an emergency. Don't hit the panic button just yet, Dolphins fans.

Stock up after the win: CB Jalen Ramsey. He made his presence known in his Dolphins debut, allowing just one reception for 24 yards on three targets as the nearest defender -- one of which resulted in his first interception of the season.

Stock down after the win: The running game. The Dolphins ran for only 78 yards on 26 carries Sunday (3 per carry), marking Miami's second straight lackluster performance on the ground. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. Chiefs (in Germany) (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)


Will QB Mac Jones find answers to avoid committing costly turnovers? Jones' interception late in the second quarter was one of the key plays in the game, as his pass sailed and was picked by Ramsey. The Patriots were trailing 14-7 but had advanced to the Dolphins' 23-yard line, facing first-and-10 at the two-minute warning. Working the clock and coming away with points was critical in that situation. Instead, the Dolphins turned the miscue into a field goal and were able to keep the Patriots at bay the rest of the way. Jones played a cleaner game in Week 7 against the Bills, with no interceptions while leading a late fourth-quarter comeback, so this was a step back, similar to his struggles in Weeks 4-6. He went 19-of-29 for 161 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Stock up after the loss:SKyle Dugger. The starting safety intercepted his first pass since Jan. 1, 2023 -- also against the Dolphins -- and led the team with nine tackles and one sack. He did appear to be responsible for a late TD, though.

Stock down after the loss: Team health. The Patriots lost three key players -- top WR Kendrick Bourne (knee), top off-the-ball LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (hamstring) and WR DeVante Parker (head) -- adding more problems to a 2-6 team. -- Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Dallas 43, L.A. Rams 20


Are the Cowboys ready for the Eagles? Four weeks after a 32-point loss to the 49ers, the Cowboys can prove they can compete with the NFL's best when they take on the Eagles next week. Coming off a 23-point win against the Rams is the right way to go into it. Dak Prescott had three first-half touchdown passes and hit eight different pass-catchers, although the O-line was shaky. The defense had another score (a DaRon Bland pick-six) and Micah Parsons was a menace on defense.

Stock up after the win:WRCeeDee Lamb. Entering the week, Prescott had completed 81% of his passes to Lamb, the second best of any QB-WR duo with at least 30 attempts. Lamb had 12 catches, 158 yards and 2 TDs for his second straight 100-yard game and his fifth game with 10 or more catches, tied with Miles Austin for the fourth most in team history.

Stock down after the win:The offensive line. Prescott was sacked three times, including two of the first three snaps, and it would have been three of the first four if not for a Rams penalty. The unit settled down, and the return ofTyron Smith (neck) will help greatly against the Eagles' pass rush. -- Todd Archer

Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What happens if QBMatthew Stafford (thumb) misses time? Coach Sean McVay will have to get creative on offense, with RB Kyren Williams already sidelined. Brett Rypien completed 5 of 10 passes for 42 yards in relief of Stafford. The Rams' offense struggled without Stafford last season, although the group was missing Cooper Kupp for all but one of those games and rookie Puka Nacua was not on the team. The Rams drafted backup QB Stetson Bennett in Round 4, but he has been on the reserve/non-football illness list since Sept. 13.

Stock up after the loss:DTAaron Donald. The defensive tackle had two sacks on Sunday, his first two-sack game since last season against the Cowboys. It was his 19th career game with two sacks. Only J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan (20 each) have more since Donald entered the league in 2014, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Stock down after the loss: Stafford. Last week, McVay called the quarterback's interception at the start of the second half "a killer." His interception on Sunday -- a pick-six -- came earlier, but it had the same effect. It was the 27th of his career, tying him with Dan Marino for the second most all time. -- Sarah Barshop

Next game: at Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Buffalo 24, Tampa Bay 18


How concerning is the Bills' inability to close out opponents? There's some concern. The Bills have allowed opponents to score an average of 9.5 fourth-quarter points over the past four games, the fourth most in the NFL. In their previous two games, the Patriots staged a late rally to beat the Bills and the Giants came within one play of doing the same. The defense was able to hold off the Bucs on Thursday -- after giving up eight points on a 17-play Tampa Bay drive in the fourth quarter -- but it's something to keep an eye on.

Stock up after the win:WRKhalil Shakir. The second-year receiver had a career day against the Buccaneers, finishing with six receptions on six targets for 92 yards, all from the slot, and played the second-highest snap percentage of his career and highest of the season (66.2%).

Stock down after the win:CBKaiir Elam. The fact that 35-year-old practice squad corner Josh Norman was elevated in place of 2022 first-rounder Elam is just the latest sign of where Elam stands with the team. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: at Bengals (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


Will three straight losses snowball into a losing season? A late touchdown from Baker Mayfield to Mike Evans and two-point conversion to Cade Otton against the Bills did turn this into a more respectable loss and showed the Bucs have a lot of fight. But the realization has set in, as Mayfield put it this week that they "aren't a run-first team," and they won't beat many quality opponents if they continue to drop back and pass 40-plus times every game. Tampa Bay needs offensive balance and must pick up some of the slack from a defense that has surrendered 400-plus yards of offense in back-to-back weeks.

Stock up after the loss:RBRachaad White. Rushing yards have been tough to come by for the Bucs' lead back, but White led the Bucs with seven catches for 70 receiving yards and for the second straight week played a crucial role in the passing game.

Stock down after the loss: OTLuke Goedeke. Goedeke has looked far more at home at right tackle than he did at left guard last year, but his three pre-snap penalties Thursday were damaging. -- Jenna Laine

Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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