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The Baker’s Dozen, Week 8: Rams rise to the challenge, Browns fire coaches

In this week’s edition of The Baker’s Dozen: the Rams rise to the challenge, the Browns fire their coaches, and more takeaways from Week 8 in the NFL.

Green Bay Packers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Week 8 is in the books, and we saw some pretty interesting football in a week that the Falcons were on bye. Thanks to a Bucs’ loss, Atlanta actually takes over third place in the division due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. Small victories, folks. At any rate, there were plenty of other games that mattered, and I’m here to bring you all the biggest takeaways. Read on for this week’s edition of The Baker’s Dozen.

Texans continue to rise

After starting the season 0-3 and looking dead in the water, the Houston Texans (5-3) have rebounded in a major way. They’ve rattled off five straight victories and have taken control of a division that looks very weak in 2018. Deshaun Watson finally looks healthy, and although the offense did just lose Will Fuller for the season, Tuesday’s trade for WR Demaryius Thomas should more than make up for his absence.

Eagles get back to .500 in London

Two teams that both desperately needed wins met in London Sunday morning, but only one could come away with the win. The Eagles (4-4) came out on top, returning to .500 against the Jaguars (3-5), who are now on a bit of a downward spiral. With the NFC East wide open and Philly making an interesting trade for WR Golden Tate today, they’ve still got plenty of opportunity to find their way into the playoffs after a mediocre opening half.

Baltimore’s offense is struggling

Just when you think Joe Flacco is starting to actually look like a consistently decent NFL QB, his true colors show. Against the Panthers (5-2), Flacco threw for only 192 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs...and it was bad. Not to mention, the ground game for the Ravens (4-4) has virtually stalled out this season. I’m wondering when we’ll get to see Lamar Jackson get a crack at this starting job. At least he’d be fun to watch.

Mahomes and Chiefs just keep winning

The Broncos (3-5) have actually done a pretty admirable job of matching up with the Chiefs (7-1) this year, but they fell short once again on Sunday. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense continues to look unstoppable. With the Chiefs starting to play a little better on defense, this team looks to be on a collision course with New England in the AFC Championship. If the game is in Arrowhead this time, I think the Chiefs have a real shot.

The Browns lost, and fired several coaches

What can you say about this Browns (2-5-1) team? They actually got some breaks against the Steelers (4-2-1), but it didn’t matter because the offense was completely anemic. Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb both look like long-term answers at QB and RB, but the team as a whole is just...bad. The reason for that isn’t the coaches—though Cleveland did fire HC Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley this week. It’s Jimmy Haslam. When you have this much turnover and nothing seems to make a difference, it’s clear that the problems come from the top.

Seattle continues to improve

With as much turnover as the Seahawks (4-3) had this year, I thought they’d surely suffer a down season. Well, that hasn’t happened. After a slow start, Seattle has started to find their footing, and continued that against the Lions (3-4). Russell Wilson has been efficient, and RB Chris Carson has been a difference maker. Can they really compete for a playoff spot in the NFC? Who knows, but they’re going to put up a fight.

Is Fitzmagic back?

On the back of a truly horrific day for Jameis Winston that saw him throw 4 (!!!!) picks, the Buccaneers (3-4) went back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. Despite being down big, Fitzmagic roared to life and brought Tampa Bay within striking distance of pulling off a miraculous comeback against the Bengals (5-3). Will the Bucs stick with Fitzpatrick? I don’t know—but they should.

The Bears have taken the lead in the NFC North

In a rather stunning turn of events, the Bears (4-3) have taken control of the NFC North. While it isn’t exactly a commanding lead, Chicago has been playing excellent defense and the offense is starting to find its footing under Mitchell Trubisky. They played a boring game against the Jets (3-5), but came away with a comfortable win. If it leads to consistent Ws, boring will be just fine.

The Colts offense is legit

It’s been so long since Andrew Luck has played at this level that I almost forgot what it looked like. Well, it’s clear that Luck is back—and the Colts (3-5) are benefiting. Indianapolis is chock full of weapons, with TE Jack Doyle back and RB Marlon Mack finally looking healthy. In a slumping AFC South, the two biggest contenders could really be the Colts and the Texans.

Arizona won the battle of the bads against San Francisco

In a thoroughly ugly game to determine the worst team in the NFC West, the Cardinals (2-6) managed to come out on top with a 15-point 4th quarter. While rookie QB Josh Rosen hasn’t been great, he’s started to gain some momentum—and the switch to Byron Leftwich at OC has clearly made things better. Meanwhile, the 49ers look like they’re on a collision course with a top-3 pick—which could actually end up benefiting them quite a bit in the long run.

The Rams and Packers played a great game

In the best game of the week, the Packers (3-3-1) looked poised to potentially pull off the upset against the Rams (8-0). That was before a special teams gaffe gave Los Angeles the chance to close out the game without ever giving the ball back to Aaron Rodgers—and that’s exactly what they did. It was a back-and-forth affair, but the Rams played an extremely sloppy first half and still managed to control the game at the end. This is the best team in the NFL, and they’ll get another test next week against New Orleans.

Minnesota lost a sloppy game to the Saints

The Vikings (4-3-1) picked the worst possible time to have a sloppy game, and allowed the Saints (6-1) to come away with the victory. The Vikings’ defense held Drew Brees and the Saints RB duo in check throughout much of the game, but it didn’t matter. An Adam Thielen fumble quickly led to a TD for New Orleans, and a Kirk Cousins pick-six pretty much sealed things. Despite a strong performance from Minnesota’s offense, they couldn’t get out of their own way.

Baker’s Bonus Take: The Bills defense is competitive, the offense is...not

For a little while, it looked like the Bills (2-6) might make things interesting against the Patriots (6-2), but that quickly evaporated in the 4th quarter. New England spread the ball around to a lot of targets, and gave WR Cordarrelle Patterson 10 (?) carries as an RB. They didn’t have a great offensive output, but it didn’t matter because the Bills’ offense gave up three sacks and multiple turnovers. With backup QB Derek Anderson injured at the end of the game, we might be seeing Nathan Peterman again...

What are your thoughts on Week 8’s games? Are you upset that the Vikings blew it against the Saints? Do you think the Buccaneers are better off with Fitzpatrick as their starter over Jameis Winston? Who is the best team in the league right now?