We’ve virtually reached the halfway point of the NFL season, and there are several storylines developing as the teams race each other for playoff berths. Here are ten of the major stories from Week 8.
- No one can stop Tom Brady and the Patriots
Even a resurgent Miami Dolphins defense couldn’t stop Tom Brady, who completed 68% of his passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Brady led the Patriots to a 36-7 win, and New England remains the class of the AFC East.
- Peyton Manning still has some arm left
So far this season, the Broncos have won despite some struggles from Peyton Manning. But in Sunday night’s 29-10 win over the Green Bay Packers, Manning was instrumental. He completed 72% of his passes for 340 yards and an interception. Manning looked much more comfortable as he tied Brett Favre’s record for most wins at 186. Manning is now just 283 yards away from equalling Favre’s NFL record for most career passing yards.
- The Lions have some major issues
In Wembley’s final game of 2015, the Lions were dominated 45-10 by the Kansas City Chiefs. Detroit’s offensive line couldn’t protect Matthew Stafford, who was sacked six times and threw two interceptions and couldn’t open lanes for the running game. Detroit finished with just 276 yards. The defense has regressed dramatically this season and couldn’t stop a Chiefs offense that has often been anaemic this season. Major issues may only be solved with major firings.
- Drew Brees and Eli Manning can still sling it
In a close contest in New Orleans, Brees and Manning combined for a whopping 861 yards, 13 touchdowns and 101 points as the Saints won 52-49 on a last second field goal over the New York Giants. Neither team really bothered with the run and three receivers eclipsed 100 yards in an incredibly exciting contest.
- The Bengals made a statement in the AFC North
With Ben Roethlisberger returning for the Steelers, Cincinnati faced their biggest challenge yet in the battle for the AFC North. But the Bengals remain unbeaten with a 16-10 win and now have a stranglehold on the division. Nobody really picked the Bengals to win the AFC North in the off-season, but Cincinnati have proven their doubters wrong this year. Now all that remains is to get that elusive playoff win.
- Atlanta are slipping back in the NFC South
The Falcons looked like serious contenders for the NFC South division before their unbeaten streak came to an end against the Saints in Week 6. Since then, the Falcons have struggled to stay in touch with the still-unbeaten Carolina Panthers. This week, they lost a close game to the Buccaneers 23-20 in overtime. If they can’t turn things around soon, they could miss out on a chance to contend for the division title.
- The Raiders are for real
Oakland have been one of this year’s more surprising teams. They have beat several teams that were playoff contenders last year. They beat the Ravens, then the Chargers, and have now beaten the New York Jets. Despite going up against one of the league’s best defenses, the Raiders dominated the game, eventually winning 34-20. Derek Carr threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and Latavius Murray rushed for 113 yards against what was the league’s best run defense. At 4-3, the Raiders are in the thick of the AFC wild card race, and now have a game in hand against the Jets. Could we see the Raiders playing in January for the first time since 2002?
- The Steelers have terrible injury luck
When Ben Roethlisberger left Week 3’s game against St. Louis, Pittburgh’s playoff hopes took a serious hit. After missing five weeks, Roethlisberger returned this week against the Bengals in a critical game in the AFC North race. But in a close loss, star running back Le’Veon Bell left the game with an MCL injury and could be out for the rest of the season. Even with Big Ben back, the Steelers have essentially seen their playoff hopes dashed with Bell’s injury.
- Aaron Rodgers is mortal
After throwing an interception at Lambeau Field for the first time since 2012 earlier this season, Aaron Rodgers seems to be struggling. With his receiving corps left shorthanded due to injuries, Rodgers has struggled to emulate his MVP form from last season. Against the formidable Broncos defense on Sunday, Rodgers could throw for just 77 yards with no touchdowns. Green Bay are still NFC playoff contenders, but could they hang with the AFC powerhouses in the Super Bowl?
- The Seahawks are still struggling
Are the Seattle Seahawks suffering a Super Bowl hangover? The Seahawks narrowly reached a 4-4 record after a 13-12 win over Dallas. The Seahawks have struggled on offense this season, and their defense hasn’t been playing at the same level as it did last year. Seattle has had some luck this season to even reach .500 at the halfway mark; they arguably should have lost against Detroit had it not been for a controversial officials call, and barely managed to win against a Matt Cassel-led Cowboys team. The Seahawks need to find some form soon before they fall out of wild card contention completely.