Eagles Vs. Jags and Other Week 8 Games That Altered the Playoff Picture

Before this weekends game kicked off, I’ve looked at a few match ups that might not be “must win” games but will go a long way to deciding a team’s fate between now and January.

I settled on the first game of the day and the last of this season’s international series games. This was billed as a potential Super Bowl rematch when it was announced last year. And it almost was, with Jacksonville coming within a few plays of knocking off the Patriots in that riveting AFC championship game. Fast forward to now and both these teams came into Wembley with a 3-4 record, having showed flashes of last seasons form but nowhere near certainties to make it back to the playoffs.

The Eagles improve to 4-4, a loss means falling to 3-5 for the Jags and with it a slim chance of making the playoffs. History shows, 3-5 teams make the playoffs just 8% of the time, while that rises to 32% for 4-4 teams. Both teams were also in similar positions within their division and wanted to go into the bye week with some positive momentum, without losing more ground.

The Eagles are just a game back of the Redskins who ground out a win over the Giants, and have yet to play their division rivals. The Jags are now 2 games back from Houston with the Texans also owning the tie breaker at the moment. Deshaun Watson had his coming out party of 2018 while lighting up the Dolphins on Thursday night, which might make it harder to gain ground.

For this reason, it was such an important game for Jacksonville to win but perhaps more than that they seem to have lost their identity. Last season they went to the playoffs built on a run game and one of the best defensive units the league has seen in years. This year they have not been effective in the run game without Fournette, who can’t stay healthy and the defence has not been playing to the level they did.

It wasn’t just a huge game for the Jags as a team but also for Blake Bortles. The Jags backed him with a contract extension which has yet to look like a solid investment. In the absence of a run game, he has not shown that he can carry this team to the playoffs, aside from a week 2 performance in which New England’s misfiring secondary made him look good. They’ve shown faith in him again by putting him back in following last weeks benching.  A win for the Jags here coupled with a big performance from Blake Bortles could’ve set the team up for a run. A loss leaves them still searching for answers.

Bortles put in a decent performance but not enough to quiet some of the questions over his future as a franchise quarterback. It seemed like more of the same, he engineered some good drives but also at times overthrew open receiver and held the ball taking some sacks. NFL network highlighted during the game how he was more effective when getting rid of the ball quickly but when he had time to hold the ball he often made mistakes.

A clear positive is that the Jacksonville Defence came to play, generating turnovers and getting 4 sacks on Wentz. Philadelphia’s first 2 possessions resulted in turnovers but Bortles and the offence could only turn this into 3 points. The Jags need to find a way to turn it around after their bye week.

Some other notable games I considered were:

Ravens @ Panthers

Baltimore fall to 4-4 in a competitive division while Carolina improve to 5-2 as they try to keep pace with the streaking Saints. The Ravens have looked very good in spots but lost to the Saints last week, and while Flacco has been taking advantage of the weapons they have given hm this season their wins are against Buffalo, Denver, Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Of those teams, only Pittsburgh are realistic playoff contenders this season.

Carolina have beaten a slightly better calibre of opposition, with wins against Cincinnati, Philadelphia and overcoming a good Cowboys defence, although they also laboured to a win against the struggling Giants and lost to a Falcons team that has also had it’s struggles.

This was a big statement win for Carolina, in overcoming a Ravens Defence that has been league leading, however it’s still very realistic that both these teams make the playoffs. A loss here hasn’t impacted that a whole lot, it would have been more damaging for Carolina but far from terminal.

Seahawks @ Lions

This is another game where both teams were in an almost identical spot. Seattle and Detroit both came into this 3-3, looking to keep pace with the NFC wildcard teams. Rams are looking good money for the NFC west division crown, with a 3-game lead and playing the best football of any NFL team at the minute. While Detroit are in a dogfight in perhaps the most competitive division in football. They’re behind Minnesota (4-3-1), Chicago (4-3) and now Green Bay fall to (3-3-1). Minnesota and Green Bay losing both helped Detroit remain in touch within the division but improvement on defence is needed as they couldn’t stop Seattle. Their saving grace is 2 division games coming up against Chicago and Minnesota.

Seattle coming fresh off a bye and a good performance in London got a big win in a game where some lines had Detroit as favourites. For what it’s worth I didn’t agree with that and it proved to be the case, as they took care of Detroit who never threatened after taking an early lead.  Improving to 4-3 keeps Seattle in touch with other NFC wild card contenders ahead of a tough slate of games against the Rams, Chargers and Packers.

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