Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season is underway, and the surprising portion of the Buffalo Bills' 24-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up being that Baker Mayfield was able to drag the Buccaneers down the field twice in the game's final 10 minutes to have a chance to win. Tampa Bay needed a 17-play, 92-yard drive to score their second touchdown of the night, a 24-yard pass to Pro Bowler Mike Evans. They somehow had a shot at a 55-yard, game-winning Hail Mary as time expired despite struggling to generate consistent offense throughout the night.
Since just about anything can happen when it comes to the NFL, what's next, you ask? Well, here are five bold predictions for this weekend's Week 8 slate.
Travis Etienne Jr. becomes first player since LaDainian Tomlinson to have four consecutive games with multiple rush TD
The Jaguars are on a roll, in the midst of a 4-0 month of October and seeking their first five-win month in franchise history. Much of this success has to do with their Clemson Tigers backfield of quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. Lawrence is playing like a top 10 quarterback across the last four weeks, ranking top 10 in the league in completion percentage (69.8%, fifth-best in NFL), touchdown-to-interception ratio (five passing touchdowns and one interception, tied for the third-best in the NFL) and passer rating (100.2, seventh-best in the NFL).
Since Week 5, Etienne's six rushing touchdowns are the most in the league, and he has divided them up equally in that span, scoring two in each of the last three games. It's been a long time since someone scored two or more rushing touchdowns in four straight games: 17 years to be exact. Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson is the last player to do so, an accomplishment he achieved from Weeks 8-15 during his 2006 NFL MVP season when he scored an NFL single-season record 31 scrimmage touchdowns, 28 of them rushing. Only two other players have accomplished the feat in the 21st Century: Chiefs running back Priest Holmes across the 2003-2004 seasons (six consecutive games) and Dolphins running back Ricky Williams (four consecutive games).
The Jaguars' Week 8 opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, provide a great opportunity for Etienne to run into the end zone twice given they are only one of two teams that have been outgained in every game this season, along with the 1-6 Arizona Cardinals. That has resulted in the Steelers averaging 27:06 for their time of possession this season, the second-lowest in the NFL ahead of only the floundering Broncos (averaging 27:01 in time of possession). Jacksonville will have plenty of time to chew clock, win the game and get Etienne into the end zone twice.
Cowboys' Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard both snap scoring slumps
The Dallas Cowboys are 4-2 and near the top of the NFC standings, but as far as their offense goes, it's been a struggle. When you remove the special teams and defensive touchdowns -- of which they have four, the most in the NFL -- the Cowboys are averaging 21.0 points per game, 16th in the league. Just average. Dak Prescott has thrown for one or no passing touchdowns in each of the last four games, tied for the second-longest such streak of his eight-year career. Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard has only two touchdown this season, both of which came in their season opener at the Giants.
However, both will break out on Sunday against the Rams, with Prescott throwing multiple passing touchdowns and Pollard getting back into the end zone for a score. Despite the Rams having a 37.7% quarterback pressure rate, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL entering Week 8, their sack rate is only 5%, the fifth-lowest rate in the league. That bodes will for Prescott being able to escape the pocket via a scramble for either a nice gain with his legs or a massive gain with his arms. In Week 6 against the Chargers, the last game Dallas played before their Week 7 bye, in an 18-yard rushing touchdown on a fourth-and-two play via a read-option keeper, and scrambles that led to a two-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandin Cooks as well as a 60-yard catch-and-run by Pollard.
Not even Rams three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald can get going when it comes to sacking opposing quarterbacks: he has gone three straight games without a sack after having half a sack or more in three of Los Angeles' first four games. Donald only has 2.5 sacks in seven games this season while the Rams as a team have 12, the fourth-fewest in the NFL. Thanks to Prescott's ability to extend plays, both he and Pollard will find their way back to the promised land that is the end zone in Week 8.
In past seasons, the Titans have embodied head coach Mike Vrabel's never-say-die mentality despite mounting injuries to make a run to the postseason. Under Vrabel, they are 5-0 in the game after their bye week. Despite that run of success, the 4-3 Atlanta Falcons, the NFC South division leaders, are going to go into Nashville and leave with a victory.
The Titans have lost 10 straight games against teams who entered the matchup with a .500 or better record, something the Falcons possess. That's the longest such streak in the NFL. Tennessee's offense is the primary reason for that as they have scored fewer than 28 points in 23 consecutive games, the longest such streak in team history. Sunday likely won't change that streak with second-round rookie Will Levis while 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis is also .
While the Titans offense has regressed, the Falcons defense has progressed. They have the third-best total defense in the NFL entering Week 8, allowing just 285.4 total yards per game, after allowing 362.1 total yards per game in 2022, the sixth-most in the league. The change under first-year defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who come over from the Saints this past offseason, has been stark. Atlanta is one of four teams to allow 24 points or fewer in each game this season along with the Chiefs, Ravens and 49ers.
Falcons defensive rankings entering Week 8
Total YPG Allowed
Third Down Pct Allowed
Red Zone TD Pct Allowed
The Falcons have also gotten key contributions for a number of their newly acquired defensive players this season.
Falcons Notable 2023 Offseason Defensive Acquisitions
- DL David Onyemata: team-highs 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 10 QB hits
- Played his first 7 NFL seasons with Saints (with Ryan Nielsen)
- Played first 15 seasons with Cardinals, Jaguars and Ravens
- DE Bud Dupree: 9th straight season with multiple sacks
- Played first 8 seasons with Steelers and Titans
- LB Kaden Elliss: team-high 32 solo tackles
- Played first 4 seasons with Saints (with Ryan Nielsen)
- S Jessie Bates III: only NFL player with 30+ tackles, 3+ interceptions and 2+ forced fumbles
- Played first 5 seasons with Bengals
- CB Jeff Okudah: NFL-low 30% completion percentage allowed (minimum 20 targets)
- Played first 3 seasons with Lions (2020 3rd overall pick)
No matter how badly head coach Arthur Smith Bijan Robinson (the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft), wide receiver Drake London (the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft) and tight end Kyle Pitts (the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft), Nielsen's defense will do enough to stifle the Titans struggling offense, thus snapping their post-bye week winning streak.rookie running back
Packers snap four-game streak of scoring 20 points or fewer
The Packers offense has been stuck in the mud across the last month: they have scored 20 or fewer points in four consecutive games, their longest such streak since 2005 -- Aaron Rodgers' rookie year in which Brett Favre threw 20 touchdowns to 29 interceptions in a 4-12 campaign.
Rodgers' successor Jordan Love, who threw six touchdowns and no interceptions in his first two games as the Packers primary starting quarterback, has since thrown more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (four).
|Jordan Love's first 2 Games
|Love's last 4 Games
What has been consistent for Love is being just a bit off on his deep shots this season. He ranks second in the NFL in air yards per pass attempt, averaging 9.4 this season, trailing only Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's 9.8. However, Love's 57.5% completion percentage ranks last among 32 qualified quarterbacks. An area where Love has been solid is against the blitz, as he is one of eight quarterbacks with multiple touchdowns (two) and no interceptions against the blitz No team blitzes at a higher rate than the Vikings under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores, doing so on 56.8% of opposing quarterbacks' dropbacks. Something has to give, and Love will hang in there just enough to get the Packers offense in the end zone at least three times.
The 49ers defeat the Bengals with Sam Darnold or a banged-up Brock Purdy starting at QB
The 49ers looked like world beaters through the first five weeks, starting 5-0 with their fifth win being a resounding 42-10 dropkick of the Cowboys on "Sunday Night Football." Quarterback Brock Purdy was playing close to perfect football with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
Well, the last two weeks of action have been the complete opposite. The 49ers have lost consecutive games in Weeks 6 and 7 to the Browns and Vikings. and Purdy has thrown more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two). What's worse is that injury was added to the insult of a second consecutive defeat in Week 7, when Purdy suffered a concussion on a "tush push" quarterback sneak while not picking up the first down. That puts his status in doubt for San Francisco's home Week 8 contest against the Bengals. Purdy did practice in a limited fashion on Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday.
Whether or not he starts should be a big deal, given he ranks second in the NFL in passing yards per attempt (8.6) and passer rating (107.2), trailing only Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in both categories. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is also a whopping 20 games under .500 (9-29) when staring quarterback not named Brock Purdy or Jimmy Garoppolo, who is now a Las Vegas Raider. Shanahan is 48-19 in the regular season when either Purdy or Jimmy G are under center.
However, even if Shanahan has to start backup Sam Darnold, the third overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft who signed with the 49ers on a one-year deal this past offseason, San Francisco will still win. Darnold ranks last in completion percentage (59.7%), touchdown to interception ratio (61-55) and passer rating (78.2) among 26 active quarterbacks with 50 or more career starts. But, the 49ers have Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey, the NFL's leading rusher (598) and the Bengals have the fourth-worst rushing defense in football, allowing 142.8 rushing yards per game in 2023.
Christian McCaffrey stats this season
McCaffrey has scored a touchdown from scrimmage in 16 consecutive games, the longest such streak in NFL history including the postseason, and he only needs one touchdown on Sunday against Cincy to tie Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore for the the most consecutive games with any type of touchdown (17). CMC gets in the end zone multiple times to power the 49ers past a Bengals squad that has the worst total offense (averaging 256.3 yards per game) in the NFL.