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Around the NFL: What We Learned in Week Eight

The Steelers may have been off, but 28 other teams played in week eight. And, since knowledge is power, here are a few takes on what went down in those 14 games.

NFL: International Series-Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals
This is how close both Washington and Cincinnati came to winning — and losing — Sunday in London.
Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

It was a surprisingly competitive week in the NFL.

Eight of 14 games were decided by a single score and no game had a margin bigger than two scores. Even Cleveland managed to lose by just three, which is probably the closest they will come to actually winning in 2016. I’m beginning to think there was a clerical error in the NFL Karma Department, and the Browns are now paying the penalties for Tom Brady and Vontaze Burfict.

Anyway, onward, ho! Here is what we learned in week eight.

I billed Philly at Dallas as the game of the week, and it certainly was.

A game between two of the best teams in the NFC? Check. A back-and-forth contest? Check. Several lead changes? Check. Two electric, young quarterbacks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz? Check. A double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback to tie? Overtime? Legendary tight end Jason Witten’s first touchdown of the season as the game winner? Check, check, checkmate. If you chose to skip this game, you missed one of the most exciting this season.

Washington at Cincinnati ending in a tie was poetic.

In retrospect, there may not be two more evenly-matched teams in the league. There may not be two more similar teams in the league. Both have solid-if-unspectacular quarterbacks. Both have problems protecting said quarterbacks. Both have defenses capable of greatness, but more likely to be mediocre. Both have experienced Jay Gruden. Both teams have suspect front offices who seem to do more harm to the team than good. And, quite frankly, the play of both teams in 2016 is making 2015 seem like a lifetime ago for their fanbases.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s complaints are valid, but...

...they are falling on deaf ears, and in no place more so than Pittsburgh. Cam, you have a legitimate argument, you really do. And I know this is a self-serving response to a question you never asked. But, until you stand up with your nose twisted sideways because of an intentional and supremely dirty punch to the face that doesn’t so much as earn an illegal-hands-to-the-face flag, I’m really not interested in hearing it.

My own homerish rant aside, though, you are barking up the wrong tree. You are taking your argument to the league commissioner, but he’s the one who has fostered this environment where some players are treated differently than others. The only thing that’s going to change anything is to have Goodell removed from power, and the only people with the power to do that are the owners. And most of them party at King Roger’s house and are happy with him so long as the TV contracts keep getting fatter. Just sayin’.

The AFC North Victory Drought continues.

Only half of the division played in week eight. but neither of the two Ohio teams won a game. Cincy did manage to not lose but that still isn’t a win. Going back to week five, the Steelers and Bengals each have one win apiece — and that’s it. For the entire division. Baltimore hasn’t won since week four, and Cleveland hasn’t won since Bill Clinton’s first term as president, or something like that. So, in the last four weeks of football, the AFC North is a disgusting 2-12.

The Weekly Bellyflop Award isn’t even close.

Two weeks ago, the Vikings were the last undefeated team. Now they have two losses and look like they could be headed for more after a loss to Jay Cutler’s Bears Monday night. If you played the Steelers’ three losses on a continuous loop for three days straight, you wouldn’t see as many missed tackles as the Vikings had against the Bears. Despite the fact that half of Cutler’s passes looked like they dressed up as the Nintendo Entertainment System game Duck Hunt for Halloween — which is pretty much par for the Cutler course — the Vikings couldn’t have stopped the Bears with field artillery and guided missiles. Despite the fact that the Bears were so out of sync at times that Cutler’s most accurate pass of the night bounced off the back of totally-unaware receiver Alshon Jeffrey’s head, they still beat the league’s best defense by 10 points.

Sadly, when I tried to give the team the Weekly Bellyflop trophy, none of them managed to hold on to it and the trophy proceeded to score a 72-yard touchdown.

College Football Bonus! Tough week for the Top 25.

Twenty of the top 25 teams played in week nine of the college football season. Ten of them either lost to a lower-ranked or unranked team, or won by seven points or less. A few were understandable, like no. 3 Clemson squeaking by no. 12 Florida State. But five of the top 25 teams lost to unranked teams, which is pretty bad for this far into the season.

And, finally...bye weeks are intolerable.

Yes, the Steelers needed the week off to get healthy, and the injury to Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t have come at a better time if it had to happen at all. For as much as we hated to see the Steelers lose to New England (again), the team’s week-nine matchup against the Ravens is more important.

Nevermind that the Ravens are, once again, an awful team, showing that 2015 wasn’t that fluky after all. This is a division game. It’s a rivalry game. The Steelers need all the weapons the can get, especially against the same, lowly Baltimore team that got 40 percent of their five 2015 wins by sweeping Pittsburgh. Bad team or not, Baltimore gets up for the Pittsburgh games, and Pittsburgh gets up for the Baltimore games. News that Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Heyward practiced Monday is a huge boost. And, in the end, a division game is more important than a non-division game, which is why week nine is more important than the loss in week seven. Let’s be thankful for the week of rest.

But bye weeks still suck.