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Sport: 32 things we learned from Week 8 of 2021 NFL season: Frights abound

Baker Mayfield plans to face Broncos on Thursday despite shoulder injury

  Baker Mayfield plans to face Broncos on Thursday despite shoulder injury Backup Case Keenum remains available to fill in for Mayfield if Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski ultimately decides to protect his QB1 from himself.According to Kevin Patra of the NFL's website, Mayfield addressed reporters Tuesday and left no doubt he's planning on playing against Denver.

The 32 things we learned from Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season:

1. With the Arizona Cardinals suffering their first loss of the season Thursday – the final team to taste defeat – to the scorching (if short-handed) Green Bay Packers, the 2021 campaign looks as wide open as ever. The NFC now has three 7-1 teams (Cards, Pack, Los Angeles Rams) with the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers lurking at 6-2 despite Sunday's surprising loss to the New Orleans Saints and the resilient Dallas Cowboys checking in at 6-1 after their Sunday night triumph at Minnesota without injured QB Dak Prescott. A compelling second half of the regular season is already taking shape.

Cardinals' J.J. Watt: Texans 'not the same organization that I remember'

  Cardinals' J.J. Watt: Texans 'not the same organization that I remember' J.J. Watt spent his first 10 NFL seasons in Houston, and his Cardinals will host the Texans this week.Understandably, Watt discussed facing his former employer while speaking with reporters Thursday.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow reacts as he sits on the ground during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. © Frank Franklin II, AP Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow reacts as he sits on the ground during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J.

2. Halloween fell on a Sunday for the first time since 2010 – coincidentally, perhaps, the last time the Packers won the Super Bowl. The 2021 Pack are the third team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to reel off seven consecutive victories in a season following a loss of 30 points or more. The other two that managed it, the 1976 Raiders and 1994 49ers, went on to win the Lombardi Trophy. So let's go ahead and put Green Bay in the driver's seat. Right?

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Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to have MRI on hip in two weeks

  Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to have MRI on hip in two weeks It was said last month that Washington Football Team starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would miss approximately six to eight weeks of the NFL season because of the right hip subluxation he suffered in the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports Per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, head coach Ron Rivera offered an update on Fitzpatrick's recovery on Monday coming off the 24-10 loss at the Green Bay Packers that dropped Washington to 2-5 on the campaign. Rivera explained that Fitzpatrick is set to have an MRI on his hip in two weeks.

3. Numerous NFL players were in the Halloween spirit, too – Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and several teammates making the most of their relaxing weekend – which made Week 8 even more fun.

4. Bengals gonna Bengal? Seven days after a convincing win in Baltimore, Cincinnati succumbed to the lowly New York Jets 34-31 to fumble away the top spot (for now) in the overall AFC standings while ceding first place in the AFC North to the idle Ravens.

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  Geno Smith to remain Seahawks starting QB with Russell Wilson hurt Thus far this season, Smith has completed 45 of 71 passes (63.4%) for 507 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also lost a costly fumble in overtime that directly resulted in the Pittsburgh Steelers defeating Seattle on Oct. 17. Subscribe to Yardbarker's Morning Bark, the most comprehensive newsletter in sports. Customize your email to get the latest news on your favorite sports, teams and schools. Emailed daily.

4a. You do have to wonder, though, if the Bengals would have survived had CB Mike Hilton not been flagged late in the game on a very dubious roughing penalty that allowed the Jets to maintain possession and run out the clock.

5. But let's award ample credit to Jets QB Mike White, who was making his first professional start in place of injured rookie Zach Wilson. White passed for three TDs, 37 completions (most ever by a player in first NFL start), 405 yards – only Cam Newton (422 in 2011) had more in his first start, and no NYJ QB had posted as many in two decades – while sparking what had largely been a lifeless New York offense, one that posted its initial first-quarter points of the season Sunday. Maybe White keeps this job for a minute – coach Robert Saleh didn't dismiss the possibility – not to mention that No. 5 jersey recently reacquired veteran Joe Flacco might want back.

5a. White was picked in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft ... by the Cowboys. Maybe they could have used him Sunday with Prescott sidelined by his lingering calf injury, though Dallas QB2 Cooper Rush ultimately came through in a nip-and-tuck affair with the Vikings.

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  NFL Week Eight injury report roundup: Rob Gronkowski, Richard Sherman questionable for Bucs Week Eight of the 2021 NFL season kicked off on Thursday with a win by the Packers and it continues with 13 more games on Sunday, which means that the 24 teams in those games submitted their final injury reports of the week on Friday. The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their final [more]The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their final injury reports until Saturday and are not listed here.

6. Lions gonna Lion? Just when you thought Detroit was primed to break through with its first win of 2021, the Lions get blown out 44-6 by a Philadelphia Eagles team that had lost five of six games entering Sunday and was missing several key players. Could the first franchise to go 0-16 (2008) really also be the first to finish 0-17?

7. Wentz gonna Wentz? Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz, who led the NFL with a career-worst 15 INTs in 2020 while with the Eagles, had only thrown one in 2021 going into Sunday (none in the past five games) ... before hoisting a pair of horrifying picks – one resulting in a TD, the other setting up the Tennessee Titans' game-winning field goal – in an overtime loss.

8. It looked Sunday like the AFC South was just about wrapped, the Titans (6-2) building a three-game lead and securing the season sweep of the second-place Colts.

8a. Tennessee also assumed a half-game lead on the AFC field in the race for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

8b. However the Titans received grim news Monday, learning two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry – he's currently leading the league with 937 yards and 10 TDs on the ground and also owns the most yards from scrimmage (1,091) – might miss the rest of the year after breaking a bone in his foot.

Kyle Shanahan had funny explanation for his game ball recipient

  Kyle Shanahan had funny explanation for his game ball recipient It’s customary when an NFL team picks up a win for the head coach to hand the game ball to someone who performed particularly well, or for who the win was particularly meaningful. That was no different for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, but coach Kyle Shanahan’s approach was a little unusual. © Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports Shanahan said after the game that the game ball would go to punter Mitch Wishnowsky’s wife Maddie, who gave birth to a baby girl on Saturday night. Wishnowsky himself would not get a game ball because, according to Shanahan, the punter was way too nervous during the birth.

9. The last time the Eagles scored at least 40 points was their 41-33 Super Bowl 52 triumph against the New England Patriots.

10. I know I'm in the minority, but I prefer my Chargers in navy over powder blue ... an opinion I've held since LaDainian Tomlinson lived in San Diego end zones.

11. Following Cards QB Kyler Murray's two-INT game against Green Bay, against whom he also suffered a sprained ankle, it's also worth asking who's emerged as the league's MVP front-runner – and maybe no one has. But with Murray coming back to the pack and Henry getting hurt, Prescott, Rams QB Matthew Stafford, Bucs QB Tom Brady and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, the 2019 MVP, all have stronger résumés by comparison. Neither Stafford, Murray nor Prescott has ever won the award. Brady ... hasn't been MVP since 2017, so he's clearly overdue to win it a fourth time.

12. And let's not discount (double check) Rodgers, the reigning MVP and a guy playing ruthlessly efficient football – 1,761 yards passing, 17 TDs, 1 INT, 114.1 passer rating – since that Week 1 dud in Jacksonville against the Saints.

13. Halloween seems like the appropriate time to stake the defending NFC East champion Washington Football Team, which was a combined 6-for-19 on third and fourth down Sunday, had two field goals blocked, was 0-for-2 in the red zone and turned the ball over twice in a 17-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. Needlessly wasted year after the last-place WFT (2-6) botched its opportunity in the offseason to continue progressing this franchise.

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  Jets vs. Colts live score, updates, highlights from NFL 'Thursday Night Football' game Sporting News is tracking live scoring updates and highlights from Jets vs. Colts on "Thursday Night Football." Follow along below for complete results from the NFL Week 9 game.The Jets upset the Bengals, 34-31, on Sunday. The star of the game was Jets backup quarterback Mike White, who led the NFL in passing yards for the week with 405 in his first-career NFL start. White will make his second start against the Colts as Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson remains out with a PCL injury from Week 7.

13a. However Sunday was also a last hurrah for the Broncos, who made a shocking move Monday by agreeing to trade LB Von Miller to the Rams.

14. New (and former) Saints RB Mark Ingram II wearing No. 14? So weird. (DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson owns the No. 22 Ingram donned in New Orleans from 2011-18.) The league's relaxed policy on jersey numbers offers up strange visuals weekly, and Ingram fell into the latest one after his original team liberated him from the Houston Texans in a trade last week.

15. The Carolina Panthers broke a four-game slide as CB Stephon Gilmore debuted with his new team – while wearing jersey No. 9 – and picked off a pass against the Atlanta Falcons. Speaking of nine, RB Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) could return in Week 9 and give this club a chance to rekindle its early season momentum.

16. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan ... the guy covered in blood on Halloween.

17. Now riding a three-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) have crept above .500 for the first time since their Week 1 upset at Buffalo – looking like their run-heavy, defensive-oriented forebears and not the sling-it-around-the-field outfit of recent seasons.

17a. Reminder: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, now in his 15th season in the Steel City, has never finished with a losing record.

18. Meanwhile, ineffective Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. is a microcosm of his 4-4 team, which now sits in the AFC North cellar. Beckham finished with one reception for 6 yards in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh and is on pace to finish the year with 43 catches and 580 yards. His 38.7 yards per game aren't even half his career average (80.3).

COVID-19. Still a pandemic. Still wreaking havoc across the nation and in the NFL. The Packers were without All-Pro WR Davante Adams and sidekick Allen Lazard as well as defensive coordinator Joe Barry on Thursday. Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy was out Sunday. And there were several others around the league on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

NFL odds, lines, picks, spreads, bets, top predictions for Week 10, 2021: Model loving Bills, Broncos

  NFL odds, lines, picks, spreads, bets, top predictions for Week 10, 2021: Model loving Bills, Broncos SportsLine's advanced model has locked in its Week 10 NFL picks for every game on the NFL scheduleSan Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) during Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium.

20. Though fascinating to note Green Bay has won its last seven games without Adams.

21. Eagles CB Darius Slay hoped his 2020 trade from the Lions would mean more NFL wins and happiness. Hasn't exactly worked out that way for "Big Play Slay," but he did get a small measure of revenge on his former team Sunday, returning a fumble 33 yards for Philadelphia's final TD of the game.

22. If QB Jimmy Garoppolo is the San Francisco 49ers' new red-zone threat – two rushing TDs in Sunday's win against the Bears – why'd they need Trey Lance?

23. We'll leave the big picture vision to coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch, but also worth noting Jimmy G. passed for 322 yards during his Chicago homecoming. Garoppolo is now 7-0 all time with the Niners when surpassing 300 yards through the air.

24. Not that there was any doubt, but we have confirmation: Seattle's college coach> Jacksonville's college coach.

25. Despite scoring just 26 points in Sunday's win over Miami, the Bills have averaged nearly 37 in their seven-game winning streak against the Dolphins.

25a. Buffalo hasn't suffered a loss following its bye week since 2014. Wonder what coach Sean McDermott learned from his former boss in Philadelphia, post-bye wizard Andy Reid.

26. The Patriots know something about dealing with the bye, too, now 10-2  against teams coming out of the off week over the past 10 seasons after surviving the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The Pats are 2-0 against the Bolts in SoFi Stadium.

27. The Patriots (4-4) are also now a half-game back of the Chargers (4-3) for the AFC's third wild-card spot, but with the key head-to-head tiebreaker now in hand.

28. Speaking of (ex-)Patriots, Brady became the fourth player to post 25 TD passes and 2,500 passing yards through the first eight games of a season. While throwing four TDs in defeat, he also owns 98 career games with at least a trio of TD tosses, a new NFL record, and 38 with four ... also a new NFL record. Sorry, Drew Brees. Twice.

28a. However Brees can take solace that the Saints are 3-0 against TB12 in the regular season since he signed with the Bucs last year.

29. Yet little consolation for Brees' replacement in New Orleans, QB Jameis Winston, who suffered a serious knee injury Sunday. News emerged Monday that Winston tore an ACL and damaged an MCL, ending his promising 2021 campaign prematurely. The Saints are 5-2 with a solid grip on the NFC's second wild-card spot but resetting under center at the midpoint of a season is suboptimal to say the least. Brees shot down any notion he might come out of retirement during NBC's "Sunday Night Football" telecast, so expect Taysom Hill and/or Trevor Siemian, who relieved Winston with Hill still recovering from a concussion, to take the baton from here. Fourth-round rookie Ian Book – he's been prematurely compared to Brees – might also get a look at some point.

29a. Winston is also scheduled to hit free agency in 2022, so an especially cruel blow for him after it appeared the No. 1 pick of the 2015 draft was on course to resurrect his career in the Big Easy.

30. Halloween was terrifying for kickers, Atlanta's Younghoe Koo, Denver's Brandon McManus and Chicago's Cairo Santos suffering their first misses of the season after all had been perfect on field goals and extra points.

30a. Incidentally, why don't more punters cross-train as placekickers and vice versa? Specialists are infamous for their low-key practice weeks, yet the Steelers were lucky to survive Sunday's lurch, when K Chris Boswell suffered a concussion trying to pass the fall on a fake field goal. Rookie P Pressley Harvin III had no experience as a kicker ... and it showed when he tried to kick off plus the fact Pittsburgh only went for two-point conversions on the pair of TDs scored following Boswell's injury.

31. Falcons WR Calvin Ridley, who's missed two of the team's last three games for previously unstated personal reasons, has become the latest athlete to take a pause while focusing on his mental health. Here's hoping he gets better soon.

32. A break apparently served Eagles RT Lane Johnson well, and he's admirably used his platform to put a spotlight on mental well-being while transparently acknowledging his own issues after missing a few weeks. Johnson also said after Sunday's game he's received a tremendous outpouring of support. Bravo all the way around.

***

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 32 things we learned from Week 8 of 2021 NFL season: Frights abound

NFL odds, lines, picks, spreads, bets, top predictions for Week 10, 2021: Model loving Bills, Broncos .
SportsLine's advanced model has locked in its Week 10 NFL picks for every game on the NFL scheduleSan Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) during Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium.

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