Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is getting a ton of credit for the way he’s playing this season, but his entire career may still be somewhat underrated. When you watch some of Wilson’s performances in 2020, it’s hard to believe he’s never received a single MVP vote in his nine-year NFL career. Even if you look past his Super Bowl victory in 2013 and his return to the Big Game a year later, Wilson has some career statistics that warrant much higher praise than they currently receive. One of those stats will be featured in this week’s numbers to know, and it might make you rethink the quarterback hierarchy many have come to accept over the past decade or so.

While Wilson is striding toward his first league MVP, rookie Tua Tagovailoa is taking his first baby steps toward becoming the future franchise quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. Tagovailoa made his first NFL start over the weekend, after being selected fifth overall out of Alabama in this year’s draft. The Dolphins won the game, but it wasn’t the explosive debut many fans hoped the 22 year old would deliver. We’ll dive into some of the weirder numbers from Tagovailoa’s first start, as well.

Before we highlight Wilson and Tagovailoa, though, let’s take a look at some other numbers to know from Week 8 in the NFL.

0

The outlook was bleak for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow heading into Week 8. He had been sacked an NFL-high 28 times (tied with Carson Wentz) through the first seven weeks of the season, and his offensive line was missing multiple starters for Sunday’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Somewhat miraculously, however, Burrow was sacked zero times and led the Bengals to a 31-20 upset win over the Titans. Cincinnati’s rookie signal caller completed 70.3 percent of his 37 pass attempts in the victory, including two that went for touchdowns.

This is just as much an indictment on Tennessee’s defense as it is an accomplishment for Burrow’s offense. The Titans, who have the NFL’s worst third-down defense, allowed the Bengals to convert 10 of their 15 third-down attempts on Sunday. They have just seven sacks on the season; only the Jaguars (6) have gotten to the quarterback fewer times. Star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney is sitting at zero sacks on the season. His one-year, $13 million contract looked like it might be a bargain when he first signed it in September, but now it feels like the Titans are getting fleeced.

3

The New Orleans Saints are winning games, but not by much. After beating the Chicago Bears 26-23 on Sunday, the Saints have now trailed by double-digit points in three straight games and come back to win them all. New Orleans is currently riding a four game winning streak, but each of those victories were decided by six points or fewer and the last two were settled in overtime. The Saints have to be happy with their 5-2 record, because they’re not that far away from being 1-6.

The Saints don’t deserve to be knocked for winning close games. Their record proves that they’re a tough team to beat. The one factor that is holding them back from being a powerhouse in the NFC, however, is the absence of All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. Without him (or No. 2 wideout Emmanuel Sanders) in the lineup, New Orleans is leaning heavily on running back Alvin Kamara to produce as a pass catcher. Thomas hasn’t played since Week 1 due to both injury and discipline issues, but he recently returned to practice and could provide the boost this Saints team is currently missing.

6

It’s ALIVE! I’m talking about the arm of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, of course. That appendage looked shot earlier this season, but maybe Rivers just needed a month to warm up his cannon. The 38-year-old quarterback threw three touchdowns in a 41-21 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. He’s now thrown six touchdown passes (and only one interception) in his past two outings, after throwing more picks (5) than touchdowns (4) through his first five games of the season. Indy’s 41 points in Week 8 also marked a new high watermark for the Rivers era.

With the Colts on a two-game winning streak and the Titans on a two-game losing streak, both teams are 5-2 overall and tied atop the AFC South. The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are both 1-6, so this division is a true two-horse race. Right now, Indianapolis has all the momentum. The Colts have played well on defense all year, and now the offense is starting to discover its rhythm. Rivers is probably past his prime, but he’s playing well as of late and is leading what appears to be a playoff-caliber team.

7

The Cleveland Browns are the definition of a “feast or famine” team, and Sunday’s 16-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders fell into the latter category. In each of their five wins, the Browns have scored at least 30 points. In each of their three losses, they’ve scored no more than seven points. The six points Cleveland mustered in Week 8 were likely the result of adverse weather conditions, combined with the absences of top running back Nick Chubb and top wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

But even when the Browns have been at their best, the opposition has not been impressive. Two of their five wins have come against the Bengals, who are still finding their footing with a rookie quarterback. Two of their three remaining wins have come against NFC East teams (Washington and Dallas), which is by far the worst division in the NFL. Their only real résumé builder was a 32-23 win over the Colts in Week 5. Cleveland has a respectable record at 5-3, but this team isn’t consistent enough to be considered a serious contender in the AFC.

16

Rooting for the Los Angeles Chargers (there are people who do that, right?) has become a routinely painful experience. They blew a 21-point lead and lost 31-30 to the Denver Broncos on Sunday and are now the first team in NFL history to blow leads of at least 16 points in four consecutive games. Los Angeles was lucky enough to win one of these games (Week 7 vs. Jacksonville), but the other three were soul-shattering losses. That’s not even including an overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, when they held an 11-point lead in the third quarter.

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has put up big numbers, but he’s struggling to put games away. On Sunday, he joined Deshaun Watson as only the second rookie in NFL history to throw three-plus touchdown passes in four straight games. The only problem is he also threw two interceptions, marking the first multi-INT outing of his young career. Herbert, with his statistical explosions and snakebitten finishes, has the rare potential to bring the Chargers years of heartbreak as their future franchise quarterback.

22 

In the least surprising outcome of the weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs annihilated the New York Jets 35-9. They’ve now scored at least 23 points in 22 straight games (including last year’s playoffs). This ties an all-time NFL record set by … the Chiefs from 2018-2019. Kansas City has been held under 23 points just once in its past 45 outings (regular + postseason): a 19-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 of last season.

We’ve known for a while now that head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes are an ideal match, but Kansas City’s passing game is getting even closer to perfect in 2020. On Sunday, Mahomes became the first player in NFL history with 20-plus passing touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions through his first eight games of the season. The Chiefs are 7-1 on the season and have shown zero signs of a Super Bowl hangover. Unless your team has a quarterback who can outpace Mahomes in a shootout, you’re not going to take down this unit.

66 

Is Bill Belichick the greatest coach of all time, or did he just have the greatest quarterback of all time leading his team for two decades? This is suddenly a legitimate question, looking at his overall records with and without Tom Brady. After the New England Patriots’ 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 8, Belichick is 224-66 with Brady as his starting QB and 51-66 without him as his starting QB (dating back to his days as head coach of the Cleveland Browns).

After starting the season 2-1, Belichick’s Patriots have dropped four straight and fallen to 2-5. This is the first time they’ve been 2-5 since 2000, which was Belichick’s first season with the team. Quarterback Cam Newton, who lacks quality weapons around him, is really struggling to command the offense. On defense, the Patriots can’t stop the run (140.4 yards/game allowed) and bears no resemblance to New England’s typically stingy units of the past. Perhaps this is just a rebuilding year and Belichick will be back to his winning ways in 2021, but he needs to find his next Brady. Who knows if that’s even possible?

250 

If you don’t already respect Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as one of the best passers of all time, this number should make you reconsider your position. Wilson threw four more touchdown passes in Seattle’s 27-37 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and now has 253 passing touchdowns for his career. He joins Dan Marino and Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history to throw for at least 250 touchdowns in his first nine seasons. That’s it. No Tom Brady. No Drew Brees. No Aaron Rodgers. Just Marino, Manning and Wilson.

Wilson leads the NFL with 26 touchdown passes this season, and is making a solid case for himself as league MVP with his Seahawks sitting at 6-1 (best record in the NFC). Seattle reconfigured its strategy to “Let Russ Cook” this season, and it appears to be paying off. While the defense is hemorrhaging yardage at a historic pace (460.9 yards/game allowed), Wilson has proved perfectly capable of winning games with his arm. This makes for a wild ride some weeks, but it could be one that finally leads the head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl.

326

Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made his first start for the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 and it was … kind of weird. The Dolphins beat the Los Angeles Rams 28-17, but they were out-gained by 326 total yards. Before Sunday, NFL teams had won 53 straight games when out-gaining their opponents by at least 300 yards (a streak that dated back to 2006). The Dolphins, who had just 145 yards on offense, became the first team in league history to gain less than 150 yards and win by double digits. On top of the yardage discrepancy, the Rams also had 23 more first downs and possessed the ball for nearly 13 more minutes than the Dolphins.

Tagovailoa, who was strip-sacked by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald on his first drop-back of the game, got a lot of help from Miami’s defense and special teams. The Dolphins forced four Jared Goff turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles), returned one fumble for a 78-yard touchdown and also returned a punt for an 88-yard touchdown. Tagovailoa completed just 12 of his 22 pass attempts (54.5%) for 93 yards, but one of them did go for a three-yard touchdown to wide receiver DeVante Parker. It wasn’t the prettiest first start imaginable, but Miami is 1-0 with Tua under center.

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