NFL Week 8 takeaways: Seahawks surging toward wild card?

The Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks boosted their playoff chances with wins on Sunday, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals kept pace with wins in a tight AFC North race. Also, the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams positioned themselves for a big showdown next week.

All that and more in Week 8's biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:

New Orleans Saints 30, Minnesota Vikings 20

Each of the Saints' past three victories cemented their status as serious Super Bowl contenders (a Week 5 rout over the Redskins, a Week 7 slugfest at Baltimore and turning their biggest weakness into a strength at Minnesota). The Saints' embattled secondary forced two game-changing turnovers for a 30-20 win on a night when Drew Brees threw for only 120 yards. The secondary will continue to battle inconsistency, but the way the Saints have bounced back from their early struggles is very encouraging for a 6-1 team about to host the 8-0 Rams. -- Mike Triplett

Not even a miracle could save the Vikings from their uncharacteristically self-destructive ways against the Saints, despite their driving up and down the field throughout the first half. Adam Thielen's fumble with 1:11 in the second quarter ripped away momentum from the Vikings and prevented their chance to "double dip" by scoring at the end of the half and on the first possession of the second half. Coach Mike Zimmer doesn't expect Thielen to fumble very often, and despite an atypical mistake that led to a snowball effect of errors, the Vikings are tied for fourth in the NFL with seven fumbles lost this season. The Vikings beat themselves in Week 8 with costly mistakes in critical situations that were too much to overcome. -- Courtney Cronin

Carolina Panthers 36, Baltimore Ravens 21

The Panthers are not to be overlooked as a contender in the NFC, maybe even the entire NFL. Cam Newton & Co. had their way with Baltimore's top-ranked defense. They finally put everything together and played a complete game. Newton should be considered an MVP candidate with his sixth consecutive game with multiple touchdowns throws. That's a career best and one off the team record with the 3-4 Bucs up next. -- David Newton

The Ravens face the crossroads of their season after an embarrassing loss in Carolina. Baltimore falls to 4-4 and into third place in the AFC North. Players in the locker room consider the next two games -- home against the Steelers and Bengals -- as must-wins to end their three-year playoff drought. "We're 4-4 and we're an average team at this point," safety Eric Weddle said. "But everything is right there for us to go get it." -- Jamison Hensley

Kansas City Chiefs 30, Denver Broncos 23

The defense isn't going to be perfect, but the Chiefs can count on at least some help from that side of the ball each week. The Chiefs have received something of value -- whether some key stops or a crucial turnover -- to help the cause in seven of eight games this season. That should only continue with upcoming games against the Browns and Cardinals. -- Adam Teicher

The Broncos have lost five games to four different opponents -- Sunday's loss was the second of the season to Kansas City -- but it's universally known who the toughest opponent has been. "It's us,'' cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. Harris added he was "fed up'' with the Broncos' mistake-prone ways as they arrived to the midway point at 3-5. Denver has lost three games combined to the Chiefs and Rams this season by a total of 13 points, but "it doesn't mean s---,'' defensive end Derek Wolfe said. Things don't get any easier for the Broncos next week against the AFC South-leading Texans. -- Jeff Legwold

Seattle Seahawks 28, Detroit Lions 14

The Seahawks' win over the Lions was the latest evidence they're more than a team in transition. They've looked like a legitimate playoff contender, winning four of their past five following an 0-2 start. The Rams may be too tough to catch in the NFC West, and Seattle's schedule has tough matchups over the next month starting next week against the Chargers, but there's a lot working in the Seahawks' favor. They're healthy, they're at home for six of their final nine games and, as they showed again in Detroit, they're currently rolling. -- Brady Henderson

Detroit was outplayed in every facet. The same old issues popped up again (poor run defense, offensive drives stalling, special teams gaffes aplenty), and that's really troubling for the Lions, who now have five consecutive games against teams with winning records, starting with the Vikings next week. -- Michael Rothstein

Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Cleveland Browns 18

James Conner is much more than a fill-in. He's a catalyst and a Browns killer, with 404 total yards in two games against Cleveland this season. The Steelers need to give Conner a healthy number of carries each week. When he gets going, they are tough to stop because of their passing weapons. "He plays with a passion that's out of this world," guard Ramon Foster said. The big question for this week: Will Le'Veon Bell finally report? -- Jeremy Fowler

The Browns are staggering after a one-sided loss in Pittsburgh, their third in a row. With Kansas City and Atlanta ahead, there isn't much room for the struggling team to get its legs. And now the Browns must navigate what seems to be a tenuous relationship between offensive coordinator Todd Haley and coach Hue Jackson. -- Pat McManamon

Chicago Bears 24, New York Jets 10

The Bears' defense is good enough to beat mediocre teams like the Jets without Khalil Mack. Chicago gave up only 207 total net yards and held New York to less than 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. Perhaps the Bears are better off sitting Mack for next week's winnable game at Buffalo, too. They need Mack healthy when they play five division games over the final eight weeks of the regular season. -- Jeff Dickerson

Predictably, the Jets were abysmal on offense, managing only one trip to the red zone. You've got problems when Deontay Burnett, an undrafted rookie previously cut by a team, is your leading receiver. Without his top two receivers, Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, QB Sam Darnold had no chance. The Jets (3-5) are on the verge of losing their season. -- Rich Cimini

Cincinnati Bengals 37, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34

The defense may have had four interceptions, but it's in serious trouble. The Bengals gave up 576 yards of total offense, including several long touchdowns. They also lost pass-rushing specialist Carl Lawson, who suffered a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, according to a report by Adam Schefter. The bye week couldn't have come at a better time considering how many starters are out with injuries. With the Saints' offense up next, they'll need all hands on deck. -- Katherine Terrell

Jameis Winston threw four interceptions -- including a pick-six -- and was benched in the third quarter in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw two touchdowns and had a successful two-point conversion to tie the game with 1:10 remaining. Winston turned the ball over three times last week and now has 11 through four games and three starts. When coach Dirk Koetter was asked if he'd be making a change at quarterback next week in Carolina, he said, "Today is not the day I have to decide that. I don't have any problems making decisions and I'll make it when the time is right." -- Jenna Laine

Washington Redskins 20, New York Giants 13

The Redskins have won three consecutive games and are 2-0 in NFC East games. They have a defense that has dominated vs. the run, holding Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley to a combined 92 yards. Their offense runs well with Adrian Peterson, who now has 687 yards this season. But Washington will be in trouble if it doesn't develop a passing attack, and it will be tested when facing more high-powered offenses over the next two weeks (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). However, what the Redskins are doing might be good enough in the NFC East. -- John Keim

The Giants (1-7) enter their bye week with the worst record in the NFL. They shouldn't look any further than their offense, which managed one touchdown in the final seconds on Sunday. The latest setback only increases the focus on the Giants' rebuild. Who will be gone by Tuesday's trade deadline? Will they bench Eli Manning? Manning said afterward, "I want to stay here," and he has a no-trade clause in his contract. Odell Beckham Jr. said, "I don't think I'm going anywhere." This is what happens when you have team that started unloading players last week. -- Jordan Raanan

Indianapolis Colts 42, Oakland Raiders 28

The Colts head into their bye on a two-game win streak and as a team that has some offensive balance for the first time in Andrew Luck's seven-year NFL career. The Colts had back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, and Luck has thrown for 23 touchdown passes this season. "It's a lot of fun," center Ryan Kelly said. "It takes pressure off the other parts of the game. Being in two-minute drives game after game after game. If you can avoid that, it's a helluva lot more fun." Sunday was the Colts' last road game until they go to Jacksonville on Dec. 2. -- Mike Wells

The Raiders are closer to being an expansion team than to being a contender. These things happen when you strip a roster down in an effort to rebuild. While Derek Carr showed flashes of his 2016 self with three TD passes and his first career rushing score, it was not nearly enough to keep Oakland from falling to 1-6. "Defensively, we've got to take a long look at who we can get on the field to help us right now," coach Jon Gruden said. The Raiders play for Bay Area bragging rights on Thursday against the 49ers in a game that will feature the lowest combined win percentage (.133) even for a prime-time NFL game on Nov. 1 or later, per Associated Press. -- Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Rams 29, Green Bay Packers 27

The Rams overcame a 10-point deficit, their largest hole of the season, to remain undefeated. Jared Goff, who until Sunday delivered only one comeback in eight tries when facing a double-digit deficit, overcame a sluggish first half to complete 19 of 35 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Goff's victory over Rodgers and the Packers is a bold statement for the third-year quarterback, and the Rams next prepare for Drew Brees and the Saints. -- Lindsey Thiry

What could have been a momentum-building win turned into a heartbreaking loss. But can it still be a galvanizing moment for the Packers? "It better be," linebacker Clay Matthews said. Aaron Rodgers said, "The urgency has to pick up, so maybe it does that, but there's no momentum gained from a loss." It won't get much easier next week against the Patriots and Tom Brady on the other side of the country. -- Rob Demovsky

Arizona Cardinals 18, San Francisco 49ers 15

The Cardinals' floundering offense found a bit of a respite Sunday, especially in the fourth quarter, coming back from a 12-point deficit to win on the back of Josh Rosen. The rookie QB showed unflappable poise down the stretch, but he had help in the form of Larry Fitzgerald, who had his first 100-yard game of the season. The offense's showing in the fourth provided a glimpse of how it could look under interim coordinator Byron Leftwich. -- Josh Weinfuss

For all intents and purposes, the 49ers' season is over. If it was a distinct possibility when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered his season-ending knee injury, it's now almost a certainty. There are eight games left, and the Niners need every one to develop and evaluate their young talent. It's time to begin looking ahead to what will be an important offseason by the Bay. -- Nick Wagoner

Philadelphia Eagles 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 18

Carson Wentz rebounded from a rough finish against the Panthers in Week 7 to lead the Eagles to a critical win over the Jaguars. He now has 13 touchdown passes and two interceptions on the season. Wentz's performance gives the Eagles reason for optimism as they enter the bye week at 4-4. -- Tim McManus

Blake Bortles rebounded from his Week 7 benching -- 286 passing yards, one touchdown and no turnovers -- but the Jaguars couldn't get anything going in the run game, and the defense couldn't get off the field as the Eagles were 7-for-12 on third down. There were more injuries, with safety Barry Church the most notable, as Jacksonville enters its bye at 3-5 with four straight losses. The Jags travel to Indianapolis in Week 10. -- Michael DiRocco

Houston Texans 42, Miami Dolphins 23

The Texans' offense finally got into a rhythm Thursday night, putting up a season-high 42 points on the way to a fifth-straight win. Deshaun Watson threw five touchdowns and looked like the quarterback who lit up the NFL before he tore his ACL last season. The offense suffered a huge blow, however, when wide receiver Will Fuller tore the ACL in his right knee midway through the fourth quarter. Houston (5-3) doesn't have much depth on the roster to fill his production, and its next two games are on the road -- at Denver and at Washington. -- Sarah Barshop

The Dolphins have hinted toward notable change, particularly on the defensive side of the ball after laying another egg Thursday. Coach Adam Gase ruled out firing defensive coordinator Matt Burke, but a starter losing his job, significant scheme changes and a shake-up trade are all in the realm of possibilities. Miami has given up 436 rushing yards over the past two games. The 4-4 Dolphins aren't going anywhere playing like that, no matter who the quarterback is. -- Cameron Wolfe