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NFL Week 8 winners and losers: Jets’ QB Mike White saves the day

Cincinnati Bengals v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens enjoyed their BYE weeks while the rest of the NFL continued their quest towards a playoff push. It was a Halloween Sunday and spooky unnatural phenomena transpired. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ... lost, and the New York Jets ... won? Mike White for MVP, and what about Cooper Rush? It was a Week 8 to remember, and it will culminate with the New York Giants facing an upset Kansas City Chiefs team Monday night in Arrowhead Stadium.

We are just about midway through the NFL season, and time continues to fly by! Here are the winners and losers from this week eight slate.

Winners

The Saints

Sean Payton and the Saints have now defeated Tampa Bay six times in a row during the regular season, as a combination of Jameis Winston (who injured his knee in the game. As of now, early reports indicate a torn ACL) and Trevor Siemian defeated Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 36-27. The Saints jumped out to an early 23-7 lead.

Brady has struggled with this Saints defense ever since he arrived in Tampa Bay last season. Dennis Allen employs a team that runs aggressive man, and Allen’s pressure packages puts Brady into unfortunate situations. Despite some huge defensive plays, Brady still threw for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with two interceptions.

The Saints are now 5-2 with the Buccaneers at 6-2. The Saints offense hasn’t been too fun to watch this season; they’re incredibly conservative, yet they found a way to defeat Tampa Bay with Siemian playing the majority of snaps. Expect Tom Brady to come out of his Week 9 BYE firing on all cylinders against the Washington Football Team.

Mike White

Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson injured his knee in last week’s 54-13 defeat against the New England Patriots. Wilson is expected to miss around four weeks, so the Jets traded for Joe Flacco from the Eagles, but Flacco didn’t have the time to start in time for Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

Fear not, Jets fans! Mike White was present to save the day for Gang Green. He completed his first ten passes and finished the day 37 of 45 for 405 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. White wasn’t perfect, but he surprised many on Sunday, including myself.

Not Mark Sanchez, Zach Wilson, or Geno Smith, but Mike White is the first Jets’ quarterback in 21 years to throw for more than 400 yards. That is wild.

Above is the go ahead touchdown pass, and below is the two point conversion where White did his best Daniel Jones impression.

This is a day to remember for the former fifth-round pick out of Western Kentucky. In his first NFL start, he earned an upset victory - good for Mike White. Head coach Robert Salah already confirmed that White will face the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday Night Football - can he repeat this performance?

Darius Slay/Jordan Howard/Boston Scott

It’s Halloween, and the last name slay is fitting for the holiday. Slay was a member of the Lions for the first seven years of his career. He was one of the top corners in the league, but acrimony with former head coach Matt Patricia ended his Detroit career and led to Slay being traded to the Eagles.

Against his former team, while beating them senseless, the defensive player was given a golden opportunity to actually score a touchdown against his former team - he obliged.

Avante Maddox forced the fumble and Slay returned it for the score. The revenge game narrative comes through for a defensive player. With the way his relationship ended in Detroit, this must have felt amazing for Darius Slay.

As for Jordan Howard and Boston Scott, he hasn’t played in a game yet this season. Starting running back Miles Sanders was injured last week, and Howard was promoted to the active roster. Many speculated that Kenneth Gainwell’s opportunity would significantly expand in the absence of Sanders, but that didn’t necessarily happen.

Gainwell did receive 13 carries, but Boston Scott and Jordan Howard both received 12 carries each, and not they were diversified through the game (not all in garbage time). Howard and Scott both found the end zone...twice. Both Scott and Howard went from irrelevant to effective. The Lions weren’t competitive at all in this game, and questions surrounding Jared Goff persist as he failed to do anything for another week.

New England Patriots

For the second year in a row, the Patriots traveled to Los Angeles and defeated the Chargers. Bill Belichick and his defense absolutely dominated rookie Justin Herbert last season, 45-0, and Belichick was able to earn another victory over the Chargers, a 27-24 win. Herbert struggled in this game as well; he finished 18 of 35 for 223 yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.

New England had four field goals, a Damien Harris rushing touchdown, and a pick six by former Charger Adrian Phillips (winner!). It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but that’s how this Patriots team has been playing. Nevertheless, the Patriots defeated the Chargers, a good team, on the road while they were coming out of the bye week.

The Patriots stuck to their identity of physicality and running the ball. Harris had 23 carries in this game for 80 yards. Not very efficient, but it was enough to earn the win.

Justin Fields

I don’t like selecting a losing quarterback as a winner, but his performance was night and day to last week’s debacle. Head coach Matt Nagy was not present for this game due to COVID-19, and I don’t know if that made a huge difference, but Fields looked like a more comfortable player on Sunday.

The Bears lost, 33-22. However, Fields had several highlight reel plays and he rushed for more than 100 yards, including this touchdown.

His final stat line was 19 of 27 for 175 yards with a touchdown and interception; not great, but a stark difference from last week. I include him in this winners section because his play today could inspire confidence that could carry through the rest of the season and lead to better overall play. Hopefully that play isn’t too good, because, from the Giants’ perspective, we want the Bears to lose every game so that first-round pick is higher.

Nevertheless, though, Fields didn’t look inept and showed flashes of his potential against the 49ers on Sunday.

Losers

Chris Boswell

Somehow, the Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to defeat the Cleveland Browns on the road. My shock is not on behalf of the gap between the two team’s skill-set, but rather a very curious decision from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in the first half. With the score 3-3 towards the end of the first half, the Steelers ran a fake field goal pass that resulted in kicker Chris Boswell getting nailed and effectively removed from the game.

This probably should have been a penalty on the Browns since Boswell is a “passer” on this play. This was shaping up for a classic AFC North defensive battle - the final score was 15-10, Pittsburgh. Attempting to use trickery on this Halloween failed to result in any treats for the Steelers as Boswell was ruled out for the rest of the game, and the Steelers came away with no points from the drive.

The egregious nature of the decision isn’t just the improbable nature of Boswell throwing a touchdown pass in that situation; the Steelers had NO one else on the roster who was capable of kicking at all. Their punter, Pressley Harvin III, launched a kickoff out of bounds and the Steelers were forced to go for every fourth down near the goal line.

With no one capable of kicking, the Steelers had to drastically change their play calling and philosophy. It was poorly managed and a risk not worth taking, in my opinion. However, the Browns could not capitalize, so Pittsburgh gets a big win on the road. Nevertheless, it was a questionable situation.

Cleveland Browns

Yes, this is piggybacking off the previous “loser.” The Browns have been attempting to legitimize themselves as a true AFC North threat. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has essentially dominated the Browns in recent memory, other than the 43-37 wildcard loss last season. The Browns were primed to make a statement against the Steelers at home, but they couldn’t capitalize on the golden situation of Boswell’s unfortunate injury.

Pittsburgh played most the game with a handicap after Boswell was injured, but costly turnovers and four sacks deterred Baker Mayfield from taking advantage of Pittsburgh. The Browns were 3-1 and are now 4-4 at the bottom of the AFC North. This was a pivotal game for the Browns at home, but they couldn’t get it done.

Carson Wentz

The former Philadelphia Eagle has been playing well in recent games, and he had his bright spots in this 34-31 overtime loss as well. However, two late interceptions led to the Titans losing an important home matchup against the Titans. With a win, the Colts could have pulled within one game, but now the Titans sit comfortably at the top of the division.

The score was tied, within the final two minute warning, with Wentz and the Colts on their own 8-yard line. Wentz was under pressure and he inexplicably threw the ball right to a Titans defender that resulted in a defensive touchdown.

To Wentz’s credit, he led a touchdown drive to tie the game which resulted in an overtime period. Two three and outs, one by both teams, led to another Colts possession. Wentz threw a second interception that gave the Titans the ball in great field position. Shortly after the interception, Titans’ kicker Randy Bullock sent a 44-yard field goal through the uprights for a Tennessee victory.

This was a crucial game for the Colts chances to close the gap and position themselves in a position to win the AFC South. Those two bad decisions by Wentz prevented the Colts from defeating the Titans. Wentz will look to bounce back against the Jets on Thursday Night Football.

The end of Jets/Bengals game

Obviously, Mike White and the Jets can’t be labeled true “losers” after their home upset win over the AFC leading Bengals. This game was filled with a lot of excitement. Mike White and Michael Carter both had career games, and a Jets’ upset win spoiled Halloween for a team that represents the holiday’s colors. The Bengals were up by 11 points in the fourth quarter. A designed screen, after the Jets narrowed the Bengals’ margin 31-26, to Ja’Marr Chase was knocked into the air and intercepted by EDGE rusher Shaq Lawson.

The end of this game was ugly. The Jets took a 31-34 lead after the interception, and the Jets defense came up with an important sack on third down to send Mike White and the Jets’ offense back onto the field with just north of two minutes left in the game. The Bengals had all three time outs.

The Jets mismanaged the clock by running out of bounds and throwing incompletions. It looked like this was setting up for another heartbreaking tease for the Jets. However, a costly penalty that is very dubious in my opinion was called against the Bengals.

This was a third-and-11 stop by the Bengals that was gifted a first down ... because ... of ... that ... hit? It’s hard to comprehend this call in that situation when running back Ty Johnson (25) lowers his head just as much as the defender. I am not taking anything away from the Jets win; it was a resilient victory, but they didn’t do a good job managing the clock, and this penalty was a huge, and questionable, decision in the game. I’m all for player safety, but this is, yet again, another inconsistent call. We see similar hits like this all the time with no flags, so this penalty is a controversial decision, to say the least.

Kicking jitters

I don’t have advanced statistics on the matter, but it seems like there’s been more struggles with kicking this season. Early in the 1 p.m. ET slate, there were four missed field goals: San Francisco’s Joey Slye, Detroit’s Austin Siebert, Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo, and Miami’s Jason Sanders all botched very makable field goal attempts. Koo’s miss was his first of the season. These mistakes, combined with the Boswell situation, made for another week of kicking woes.