Sunday's action, and Monday night's Detroit Lions vs. Las Vegas Raiders showdown serve as the final opportunity for front offices to evaluate their own rosters, and potential trade targets, prior to Tuesday afternoon's 4 p.m. trade deadline.
Some games, such as Philadelphia's win over the Commanders, could determine the course of a franchise's decision whether to begin selling off in advance of Tuesday. Likewise, the loss of Kirk Cousins in Minnesota and breakout of Will Levis in Tennessee, just might shape the quarterback market.
Given that several teams might look different by the time Week 9 kicks off than they did as Week 8 ended, this week's column is a mixture of big picture takeaways from this weekend's games and tidbits gleaned from league conversations of what might be to come in the coming days:
First Down: The Chicago Bears Should Trade for Chase Young
As FanBuzz reported Sunday morning, trade talks have intensified much quicker when it comes to Montez Sweat than they have around Chase Young, but that doesn't definitively mean Young will be a Commander come Tuesday afternoon at 4:01 p.m.
After coming up short against the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-31, multiple league sources believe that Washington will be fully open for business ahead of the deadline. Especially at 3-5, general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Ron Rivera could be on the hot seat.
Despite passing for 397 yards with four touchdowns to one interception against the Eagles, Sam Howell's inconsistency continues to raise questions about his ability to break through into the upper echelon of NFL franchise quarterbacks.
Few moves could generate more job security, or excitement from the fanbase than a Commanders trade to acquire Justin Fields from the Chicago Bears.
Sunday, Pro Football Talk suggested that the Bears could be a team to watch in the Young sweepstakes. Meanwhile, a league source intimated during a Sunday phone conversation that a Young for Fields swap could be exactly what both franchises need.
"You have to remember that Ryan Poles didn't draft Justin Fields," the source told FanBuzz by phone. "Chicago is going to draft a quarterback with their top pick, Bagent looks competent enough to get them through the season, and you'd be adding an elite pass-rusher to fill a major need on the Bears' defense.
"Plus, if you're Washington, Mahew and Rivera can walk up to the owner's suite and sell putting a former first-round pick, who has Pro Bowl traits into an offense with Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and that running game of theirs, and it might just save their jobs."
It doesn't seem as if Luke Getsy has a feel for building an offense or calling a scheme that maximizes Fields' strengths, such as making throws on the run, designed rollouts, read options, etc., and there might not be a path for the former Ohio State standout to return to the Windy City as anything other than a bridge quarterback to Caleb Williams or Drake Maye next season.
Meanwhile, Fields could be the ideal schematic fit for Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy's system, and would walk into the nation's capital inheriting the most dynamic and prolific cast he's had since departing Columbus.
Several sources, both agents and from teams around the league, believe that this trade deadline could feature a blockbuster move, or two. Perhaps a Young for Fields swap will be one of them.
Second Down: A.J. Brown Makes History, Continues to BE Eagles' Offense
In a game the Eagles had to have, to preserve any semblance of margin for error in the NFC East race ahead of next Sunday's clash with the Dallas Cowboys with the most daunting stretch of their schedule looming, A.J. Brown proved he is Philadelphia's offense.
Against the Commanders, the Eagles couldn't get any semblance of a ground attack going, averaging 2.7 yards per carry with D'Andre Swift leading the way with just 57 yards and a touchdown, Brown was Philadelphia's driving force.
Brown made history against the Commanders, becoming the first wide receiver in NFL history to surpass 125 receiving yards in six straight games, catching all eight of his targets from Jalen Hurts for 130 yards with a pair of touchdowns, including a one-handed snag that was one of the most impressive catches you'll ever see.
— NFL (@NFL) October 29, 2023
When the Eagles needed a play against the Commanders, Brown delivered.
If Sunday, and really the past month, serves as any indication, the Eagles' offense will go about as far as Brown can take them. Over the past six weeks, Brown has caught all five of his touchdowns on the season and seems to be strengthening his connection with Hurts each week as the season's gone on.
Philadelphia is going to need Brown to keep delivering, especially entering a gauntlet that includes a pair of games against the Dallas Cowboys, showdowns with the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and Seattle Seahawks, before coming up for air on Christmas day in their first game against an opponent with a sub-.500 record.
Make no mistake, the Eagles are going to need to be significantly more balanced than they were against Washington. It's possible that general manager Howie Roseman adds an edge rusher at the trade deadline, and could even kick the tires on a running back such as Dalvin Cook.
However, if this is the same Eagles team on Wednesday that boarded the Amtrak train back to Philadelphia on Sunday evening, Brown makes this offense one of the most feared and effective in the league, even if the rest feels like a bit of work in progress.
Third Down: Brett Veach, Kansas City Chiefs Must Address Glaring Need at WR
The Kansas City Chiefs have spent the season trying to slap together a wide receiving corps comprised of spare parts held together by industrial grade masking tape.
Sunday afternoon in Denver, the tape came apart at the seams.
As the Broncos knocked off the Chiefs in blowout fashion, 24-9, for the first victory over their AFC West rivals in 16 years, it became more evident than ever that even with Patrick Mahomes Kansas City cannot survive through the air on Travis Kelce alone.
Sunday at Mile High might have been the low-water mark for this underachieving Chiefs receiving corps.
While it's true that Patrick Mahomes played through an illness, and that nine different Chiefs caught a pass, no one on Kansas City's offense logged 60 receiving yards. Kelce led the way with six catches, on nine targets, for 58 yards. Sunday's loss was just the second time in Mahomes' 87 career games that the Chiefs did not score an offensive touchdown.
This is not a new problem for the Chiefs, though, and even after re-acquiring Mecole Hardman in a trade with the New York Jets, general manager Brett Veach has a significant problem on his hands.
Kelce is Kansas City's leading receiver, with 583 receiving yards and four touchdowns through first eight weeks, but no other Chiefs receiver has even 300 yards.
As the Baltimore Ravens strengthen their identity as a multi-faceted offense built to both bludgeon with the running game as well as Lamar Jackson's ability to beat teams on the run as effectively as from the pocket, the Bengals pick up steam, and Tyreek Hill continues an MVP caliber campaign for the explosive Miami Dolphins, suddenly the Chiefs' perch atop the AFC hierarchy feels more precarious than ever because Mahomes' receiving corps is as limited as it has ever been.
It has reached the point in Kansas City where Veach must explore every option, kick every tire, to get Mahomes some help.
After Sunday, it feels unfathomable that free agent Jarvis Landry isn't wearing Chiefs red. Landry has 713 career receptions for 7,870 yards with 38 touchdowns, and is staying in shape waiting for his next opportunity.
Likewise, if Veach isn't working the phones aggressively trying to make a trade for Titans star DeAndre Hopkins, or New England's Kendrick Bourne, or even trying to give Panthers underachieving receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. a change of scenery, the former Executive of The Year would be doing his team a disservice.
Mahomes wasn't at his best on Sunday afternoon, but even when he is, it's difficult to envision this Chiefs team reaching its potential if his receiving corps remains at its worst.
Fourth Down: 2024 NFL Draft is Going To Be Quarterback Bonanza
Before hopping in the car to drive home from hosting the Eagles post-game show on FOX29 in Philadelphia, I fired off some text messages surveying multiple league sources what their biggest takeaway from the eighth NFL Sunday of this season. One reply really struck me.
"Quarterback play overall in this league is pretty bad," a prominent NFL agent said.
In Week 8, there were 15 quarterbacks with one touchdown pass or fewer.
Whether it is due to injury or an underachieving starter, nearly half the league might be storming the gates to select a quarterback in the first couple rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft.
"I think you could see 12 or 13 teams looking to take a quarterback in the first three rounds," the agent suggested. "And, there are going to be teams who reach, because they think they can start their guy in Year 1 or Year 2."
The suggestion doesn't seem that far off, especially when you consider:
Jets - New York Needs a long-term solution for life after Aaron Rodgers, beyond 2024. And, Sunday's comeback win over the Giants not withstanding, Zach Wilson is not that solution.
Patriots - Mac Jones has surpassed 300 passing yards once this season, and been benched twice. Jones has proven he isn't the answer.
Cleveland Browns - The Browns are going to regret the Deshaun Watson contract, and not just because of the deserved scrutiny of paying a 28-year-old credibly accused by 26 women of sexual harassment and misconduct, but also because he looks like the shell of the passer he was in Houston.
Las Vegas Raiders - The Raiders are in freefall, Jimmy Garoppolo is the definition of a journeyman.
Minnesota Vikings - Kirk Cousins' Achilles injury casts doubt over his future, and the Vikings need long-term stability at quarterback.
Denver Broncos - Sunday's win not withstanding, Sean Payton seems eager to move on from Russ, who looks Cooked.
Chicago Bears - The Bears will likely be picking No. 1 and No. 2 overall, and Justin Fields has done little to change that.
New Orleans Saints - Somehow, Derek Carr undermines everything the Saints' offense used to do well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Baker Mayfield's renaissance has been a nice story, but it's past time the Buccaneers commit to a rebuild, and do so around a young quarterback of the future.
Seattle Seahawks - Is Geno Smith the Seahawks' weak link? Would this roster be better served by a young quarterback with upside to harness theirs?
Los Angeles Rams - Matthew Stafford's best days are behind him.
Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals seem to have serious buyers' remorse on that Kyler Murray contract.
San Francisco 49ers - The Brock Purdy bandwagon is rolling along on a couple of broken wheels. But, San Francisco won't be picking anywhere near the top of the board next spring, so may just be trading one lottery ticket for another.
Half a season remains, but all of these teams — and their need at quarterback — could shape next year's draft. Both in terms of possibly over-drafting quarterbacks but in creating opportunities for teams with stable quarterback situations to land the caliber of prospects they otherwise might not have.
Week 8 MVP: Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Arguably the most tangible takeaway from Sunday's action is that Joe Burrow is definitively back.
It's one thing for Burrow to pass for 317 yards with multiple touchdowns against the Cardinals in Arizona, as the Bengals' star did two weeks ago. It's quite another to author the kind of performance that casts legitimate doubt over the 49ers' ceiling this season, as Burrow orchestrated in Week 8.
Against the a reeling 49ers team that entered feeling the desperation that comes with riding a two-game losing streak, only four of Joe Burrow's 32 passes touched the ground, and none were intercepted, as passed for 283 yards with three touchdowns en route to a 134.8 passer rating in a 31-17 victory.
Big picture for Cincinnati, and perhaps most encouraging, Burrow also rushed for 43 yards continuing to distance himself from a preseason calf injury that had limited him for much of the first half of the season.
A healthy Burrow is a dangerous assassin from the pocket and critical to the Bengals' Super Bowl aspirations.
Now above .500, and with Burrow showing fewer ill effects each week of his training camp injury, Cincinnati feels like the kind of team whose record won't matter once the postseason arrives with this team capable of mounting a legitimate charge at the Lombardi.
Week 8 Breakout Star: Will Levis, QB, Tennessee Titans
With apologies to Jon Landau, I have seen the Tennessee Titans' future, and his name is Will Levis.
On an afternoon that the Titans donned throwback uniforms once worn by the Houston Oilers, Levis made his debut in place of Ryan Tannehill who was sidelined with a high-ankle sprain, and made several throws that Warren Moon would appreciate.
While guiding the Titans to a 28-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons was impressive, even more so was how Levis did it. .
Levis, chosen by the Titans with the No. 33 overall pick in April's draft, after sliding out of the first-round, completed 19-of-29 passing attempts for 238 yards with four touchdowns, while adding seven rushes for 11 yards, and perhaps most importantly, zero turnovers.
"He looked much better than I expected he would," an NFC personnel executive told FanBuzz on Sunday evening. "Most importantly, he looked every comfortable. The moment wasn't too big for him."
The former Penn State and Kentucky signal caller flashed elite arm-strength, and anticipation, against a defense that had been holding opponents to just 222 passing yards per game.
At minimum, Levis showed enough against the Falcons to earn the opportunity to be the Titans' starter the rest of the season, even once Tannehill is healthy to return.
But, now 3-4, Levis delivered the kind of victory that could keep Tennessee in the race, while giving the Titans the best chance to win.
"What you love to see is that arm-strength of his," the executive says. "And, he has the prototypical size you look for at the position. He needs to work on his accuracy, but he throws a really, really good deep ball."
If that's truly the case, and if general manager Ran Carthon agrees, Tannehill just might wind up as a name to watch for the likes of the Minnesota Vikings, after losing Kirk Cousins to an Achilles injury, the New York Jets, or any number of quarterback-needy teams prior to Tuesday's trade deadline.
Week 8 Team of The Week: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers, and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, are winless no more.
Carolina picked up its first victory of the season, dispatching the quarterback they passed on to take Young, C.J. Stroud, who has previously been leading an assault on the Offensive Rookie of The Year award.
If even only fleeting, Sunday's victory was a moment of vindication for head coach Frank Reich, Young, and a Panthers team that had been struggling to build any sort of momentum on offense.
Young threw for 235 yards with a touchdown as the Panthers defense swarmed around Stroud, holding him to 140 yards with one rushing touchdown, while sacking him twice and hitting him three times
Carolina isn't going to make the playoffs this season.
But, against the Texans and with a certain to be emotionally turbocharged game looming next week against the Indianapolis Colts, who unceremoniously fired Reich last November, the Panthers are in the midst of a stretch of games that present the opportunity to build an identity, and forge some team chemistry that might be the foundation of what's to come in the future.
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