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Around the NFL: What we learned in Week 8

It was a strange week in the NFL. The Packers lost, the Broncos won because of their offense rather than in spite of it, the Buccaneers won and there were 13 touchdown passes in one game. But the officials were terrible. At least that was normal.

Even when good Eli shows up, the Giants still lose.
Even when good Eli shows up, the Giants still lose.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Canning Ryan Mallett appears to have been addition by subtraction.

One absolute positive that came out of Mallett getting the boot: Brian Hoyer no longer needs to be looking over his shoulder. Look, I'm a life-long fan of the University of Pittsburgh, but Tom Savage isn't going to steal the starting job away. At this point, the only one who is going to take the job away from Hoyer is...well...Hoyer. Sure, beating Tennessee isn't exactly a difficult thing -- and beating the Titans while they are missing quarterback Marcus Mariota is like clubbing baby seals -- but a win is a win. Doing so, and looking pretty good at the same time? That's important for a team that desperately needs a rebound.

Speaking of bad teams beating bad teams, the Ravens knocked off the Chargers.

This one was a costly win, though: Baltimore was already perilously thin at wide receiver, and then lost their best guy for the season. For Steve Smith, this was supposed to be his farewell tour. Either he changes his mind and comes back for one more shot in 2016, or he is going to say farewell about eight games sooner than he expected. For anyone wondering, this is what the Baltimore depth chart looks like at receiver right now: Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Breshad Perriman, Chris Givens, Jeremy Ross, Darren Waller, Jeremy Butler. Not one of them has even 100 career receptions, and two have not yet played a down in the NFL.

The Packers now have just a one-game lead over the Vikings with both head-to-head games still to be played.

What looked like a sure thing for the Packers earlier this year is anything but. Now, I'm not saying Minnesota will win the division, or even win one of the head-to-head games. But Minnesota is looking a lot like the Carolina Panthers right now: they may not be winning pretty, but they are scrappy. Sure, they lost to the 49ers -- but that was in week one, and they only lost to the Broncos by three points a few weeks ago. The next six weeks will tell us if this is a good team or not: they play the Rams, at the Raiders, the Packers, at the Falcons, the Seahawks and at the Cardinals. Yikes.

It's not that Atlanta lost by three that should be cause for concern.

It's that they were down, at one point, by seventeen points to the Buccaneers. Tampa was about a step and a half above awful on Sunday -- Winston barely completed more than half his passes, no receiver had more than three catches and they only managed to sack Matt Ryan once. Tampa had no reason to be in this game, let alone up by 17 points -- eeeeeeexcept that the Falcons turned the ball over four times to the Bucs' zero. I don't care who you are playing against:

If you turn it over 4 times...

The NFL's list of stars is starting to look like a hospital triage status board.
The biggest name to go down with an injury this week was the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell, but following him down the rabbit hole of finished or potentially finished 2015 seasons were the aforementioned Steve Smith, Chicago's Matt Forte, Miami linebacker Cameron Wake, Khiry Robinson of New Orleans, Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette and San Francisco's Reggie Bush. Of that list, only Forte's might not be a season-ender. Add to that the not-so-major injuries to Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets, Joe Haden and Donte Whitner of the Browns and...well...everyone in San Diego not named Philip Rivers.

College Football Bonus! The only Top-25 team to lose was Duke, and they got jobbed.
The ending of the Duke-Miami (FL) matchup was something right out of a movie. Steelers fans will remember a similar miracle almost occuring at the end of the team's 2013 game against the Dolphins, stopped only by Antonio Brown inexplicably stepping out of bounds with no one close enough to him to make a difference. But here's the problem: there were at least two -- and possibly as many as four -- illegal blocks in the back. And one of the laterals should not have counted because the guy was down. That those calls were missed was not the worst part -- that they were missed after a review was the bad part. In response, the ACC has suspended the entire officiating crew for two games, but that does nothing to help the Blue Devils.

At least get it right after reviewing the replay! MEME

And finally...the sky is not falling, Steelers fans.
Take a step back from the ledge and breathe. Yes, losing Le'Veon Bell hurts. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger had some bad, bad throws and made a few dumb decisions -- for instance, throwing an interception after holding onto the ball almost long enough to knit a sweater. Yes, you can make the argument that clock management is not improving. But just...just breathe. DeAngelo Williams is a great backup running back who could start for a lot of teams. Ben has never played well in his first game back from injury. And I actually think Mike Tomlin handled the time right in the fourth quarter. Calling a timeout before the two-minute warning may have given the team more time on the clock, but they would not have had that final timeout in their pocket in the waning seconds. They had a chance to win all the way down to the final play of the game, against one of the top-five teams in the NFL under pretty extreme circumstances. This Steelers team has a lot of fight in them. They will adjust.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Rinse, repeat ad nauseum. It'll be okay.