National Football League
McCaffrey does it all; Vikings are legit; Steelers are a mess: 3 up, 3 down
National Football League

McCaffrey does it all; Vikings are legit; Steelers are a mess: 3 up, 3 down

Updated Oct. 31, 2022 12:16 p.m. ET

Week 8 of the NFL season is nearing closure, with only Monday Night Football left to be played. After 13 games on Sunday, whose stock has moved up and down? I have my answers.


A.J. Brown — Philadelphia Eagles

I've been on the record in my belief that a single wide receiver has far less of an impact on winning and losing than most football fans would like to believe. For example, the trade of Tyreek Hill has not impacted the Chiefs' win-loss record. Davante Adams has not helped the Raiders win at all. But like all theories, it's never absolute — and every so often a transaction for a wide receiver can transform an offense and/or the quarterback. This is what AJ Brown has done for the Eagles offense.


The Eagles offense lacked a consistent downfield passing attack last season. I strongly believe you can't win at an elite level in this sport without explosive passes. This type of passing attack would loosen up a defense that would be geared up to stop the outstanding Eagles run game. Philadelphia traded for Brown to help Jalen Hurts unlock a deep passing threat for the offense and it was on full display Sunday. Brown had three first-half touchdowns and finished the game with six receptions for 156 yards. He has absolutely made an impact. Safeties have to locate Brown instead of focusing on the run game, and the Eagles rushing attack gets more favorable coverages to run the rock. This trade has already borne fruit in Philadelphia.

Christian McCaffrey — San Francisco 49ers

In his second game since being traded to the 49ers, McCaffrey's diverse abilities were on full display. When the trade for CMC was made, I thought it only made sense for the Niners if CMC was able to create explosive passing plays. They did not need him to run between the tackles; they have that game already. They need him to make plays in space, and without Deebo Samuel in the lineup Sunday, CMC was that guy. McCaffrey had eight catches for 55 yards, including an awesome touchdown catch. He added 94 yards on the ground. Plus he threw for a touchdown on a trick play.

I will caution restraint over today's performance by saying the Niners own the Rams in the regular season. Whatever they do on offense seems to work against Los Angeles. So while CMC was able to unlock more yards and more points, their formula always seems to work against this team. I want to see it against other opponents before rendering judgment on the impact of CMC on this offense.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are 6-1 and have the second-best win percentage in the NFC. They have absolutely not gotten the respect they deserve for their fast start this season. They have beaten a single team with a winning record, and that was the Dolphins without Tua as their quarterback. The Vikings are right around the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive efficiency and they lacked some big plays in the passing game. That seemed to change after their bye against the Cardinals. Both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen had explosive catches today and Cousins averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. That number is low but it's higher than what we've seen from the Vikings. That is a positive improvement. The Vikings pass rush was able to hound Kyler Murray today and make his life difficult. The Vikings defense also stymied the Cardinals' traditional running game The Vikings are on track to win the NFC North and while they might not get them the appreciation they deserve, their stock is way up.

Vikings defeat Cardinals 34-26 after two clutch sacks by Minnesota defense on last two plays of the game

The Vikings' defense proved to be the heroes in their 34-26 victory over the Cardinals. Za'Darius Smith and Harrison Phillips came up with the sacks.


Los Angeles Rams

Where to begin? The Rams are just not good right now, and it seems unlikely that changes this season. GM Les Snead's mantra is "F*** them picks," and while it worked last year, the lack of depth on the roster is showing now. Their offensive line is a wreck, they have no reliable running backs and they have no pass rush outside of Aaron Donald. Matthew Stafford's arm doesn't look as crisp and Allen Robinson hasn't helped much. To make things worse, it appears Cooper Kupp sustained a potentially serious injury at the end of their loss to the 49ers. If he's out for any period of time the Rams offense will really struggle to score.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to see any path forward outside of adding multiple pieces by the trade deadline, something the Rams should not do. The Rams have the Bucs, Chiefs, two games with the Seahawks, Chargers and more challenges ahead. With the 49ers and Seahawks playing the way they are, it appears the Rams will not be a playoff team.

NFC South

The worst division in football may see a team with a losing record win the division. After the wildest game of the day, where the Falcons should have lost multiple times but won anyway, they are 4-4 and lead the division. But what do the Falcons do well? Run the ball? OK, sure. The Saints and Panthers are 3-5, and if the Saints can get healthy, just will be feisty. The Panthers are just good enough to make games close but they won't be winning more than six games this season. The best option for a team with a winning record to take the division crowd is Tampa Bay. The Bucs appear completely broken right now. They can't do anything correctly but they have Tom Brady. They also have a struggling offensive line, horrific play calling at times and wide receivers with drop issues. I just make it a habit to not count out Tom Brady.

Atlanta pulls off a wild victory in overtime versus the Panthers

Carolina tied the game with 12 seconds left in the game but because of an unsportsman-like conduct penalty after the Panthers' touchdown they were pushed back and missed the PAT.

Pittsburgh Steelers

I played in over 80 games, and stood on the sidelines for another 40 or so. In those 120 games, I can count on my hand the number of times the team I was playing on, or playing against, executed a complete line change with the substitutes. It's rare because even in a blowout there's always a feeling a comeback can happen. Also, guys have play time bonuses and other incentives to keep playing. Well, the Eagles had an empty-the-bench game, with all the players who dressed getting an opportunity to play because there was no shot the Steelers could make a comeback. Eagles center Jason Kelce was even spotted wearing a Halloween mask on the sidelines during the fourth quarter.

That's a long way of saying the Steelers are bad. They are uncompetitive against any competent opponent. They lost to the Bills 38-3 and the Eagles 35-13. The offense was expected to struggle as Kenny Pickett learned the position but the scheme is so awful it doesn't help the young quarterback. The defense still flashes against the worst offenses, but they are clearly missing T.J. Watt. When he comes back, I'm curious to see if the defense keeps them in games.

Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.


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