Week 8’s Top NFL Storylines: Ryan Tannehill, Odell Beckham and the Rams’ All-In Move
There's also a very good reason for the winless Lion to keep rolling with Dan Campbell as their head coach
With Monday Night Football between the Chiefs and Giants wrapped up, Week 8 is over and NFL’s first 17-game season is almost past the halfway point. While we can’t get to everything — like Calvin Ridley missing time for the Atlanta Falcons to focus on his mental wellbeing — here are four of the top storylines to emerge with the season’s eighth week in the books, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: It’s time for Ryan Tannehill to earn his money
In a devastating blow for the Tennessee Titans, NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry will have surgery today on his injured right foot and could be out for more than two months of action and potentially the rest of the season.
No matter what the team does to replace Henry at running back, there’s no way whoever fills in for him will come close to replicating his production at the position, which means the Titans are going to shift the focus of their offense from running the ball to passing it. So it’s time for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to earn his money.
Tannehill, who got a four-year extension worth $118 million including $62 million in fully guaranteed money after the 2019-20 season, is coming off of a career year that saw him throw for nearly 4,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. This season, the nine-year pro has already equaled last year’s interception total and has just 10 touchdowns through eight games.
If the Titans, who are 6-2 despite Tannehill’s lackluster play and have a stranglehold on first place in the AFC South following Sunday’s 34-31 overtime win in Indianapolis, are going to get where they want to go this season, the former Dolphin is going to need to improve his play and make up for Henry’s absence.
There’s reason to believe he can do it, as the 32-year-old QB completed 17-of-27 passes for 272 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in 2019 against the Saints in the only game Tannehill has played without Henry during his time in Tennessee.
He didn’t catch a touchdown in that game, but No. 1 wideout A.J. Brown has been catching passes from Tannehill with more frequency over the past few weeks, averaging 126.3 yards per game to along with two TDs in Weeks 6-8 after averaging just 32.5 yards per game with a single score in Weeks 1-5. Tannehill will need to keep that momentum going, as well as get Julio Jones involved once he returns from injury, for Tennessee’s offense to remain potent.
When the Titans paid Tannehill prior to last season instead of making a run at a proven winner like Tom Brady, it was a move that demonstrated the team believed he is a top-tier NFL quarterback. For a large part of last season, Tannehill played like one. Without Henry on the field, it’s time for Tannehill to do it again and justify his contract.
Sell: Odell Beckham will ever get on track in Cleveland
Since being traded from the Giants to the Browns, Odell Beckham Jr. has gotten more attention for wearing expensive watches than making highlight catches in Cleveland due to a combination of poor health and poor play.
Dealing with an AC joint sprain among other reported injuries to his shoulder, Beckham bottomed out in a loss on Sunday to the Steelers, catching just one pass for six yards during a game the former star wideout didn’t seem particularly interested in participating in.
With fewer than three catches and 30 receiving yards in four of his past five outings and no touchdowns on the season, Beckham is giving the Browns almost nothing and is hardly being targeted by quarterback Baker Mayfield.
It may not all be on Beckham, as the jury is still out on whether Mayfield has what it takes to be a quality NFL quarterback, but is now fairly obvious that things are not going to work out in Cleveland for the former Giant.
Should they feel like risking public backlash due to his popularity and status in the league, the Browns could attempt to trade Beckham and get something back for a player they gave up safety Jabrill Peppers and two high draft picks to acquire. What Cleveland could realistically expect for Beckham, who is still owed $8 million this season and has played in just 44 of his past 74 possible games, is another matter entirely.
“Nobody is going to want that salary unless [the Browns] are going to pay part of what’s left on it [this season],” an AFC general manager told Yahoo. “And even if Cleveland is willing to do that, which they probably aren’t, nobody is giving up anything for him. I’ll be very surprised if they can move him for anything.”
There’s a chance that a change of scenery might help Beckham rejuvenate himself and morph back into something resembling the player he was with the New York Giants, but it seems more probable that the soon-to-be-29-year-old is not long for the NFL and could be out of pro football before his contract expires following next season.
Buy: It’s Super Bowl or bust for the Los Angeles Rams
Tied for the best record in the NFC West as well as the conference as a whole, the Los Angeles Rams made it clear they are going for it all this season on Monday, trading their second- and third-round picks in the 2022 draft to the Broncos in exchange for game-breaking linebacker Von Miller.
LA adding Miller, who is not signed beyond this season, to a dominant defense that already boasts top talents Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey is the NFL equivalent to a contending MLB team picking up an ace at the trade deadline in exchange for some young prospects.
It’s the sort of moves that teams who are playing for the present, not the future, often make, and it has the potential to look very good or very bad depending on how LA finishes the season. In order for it to look good, LA probably has to make it to the Super Bowl, if not win the entire thing. The Rams can’t keep trading draft picks — because they really don’t have any.
Following the trade of Miller, the Rams no longer own their picks in the first, second, third, fourth or sixth rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. In the following draft, the Rams have already dealt away their first-rounder, fourth-rounder and seventh-rounder.
In a vacuum, giving up a second and a third for what will likely be a rental of Miller seems like a high price to pay for the seven-time All-Pro. But when you consider what LA has already given up in future assets in order to give the team the best shot at winning now, surrendering picks for the 32-year-old seems much more logical: the Rams are being managed to win in the short-term. Given that position, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see the Rams trade even more future assets before this afternoon’s deadline.
As LA’s Twitter account, proclaimed, the Rams are all-in. But the franchise is also pot committed at this point.
Sell: The Lions should fire head coach Dan Campbell
Now 0-16 since 2011 without traded franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford (the team was only 74-90-1 with him), the winless Detroit Lions sit in the basement of the NFC North following a 44-6 home loss to the Eagles, who are not exactly a high-flying team this year at 3-5.
Winless at 0-8 under first-year head coach Dan Campbell, the Lions have given up more points (244) this season than any other team in the NFL and have only scored more points than the Jets, Texans, Bears and Jaguars.
For a franchise that has seen its fair share of losing teams, this year’s edition of the Lions has a legit chance to distinguish itself and become the NFL’s biggest all-time loser by being the first squad to go winless in the league’s new 17-game season.
“I got outcoached today; I didn’t help these guys at all,” Campbell, who noted his team was floating in “a sea of trash” on Sunday, said after the loss. “We weren’t ready to play today and that’s on me.”
Already almost halfway there with Campbell calling the shots, the Lions have nine games left on their schedule and only four of them are against teams with losing records. Of those four, two are on the road (at Seattle and at Atlanta) and two are at home against divisional opponents in the Bears and Vikings, both teams that Detroit has already lost to this season.
Heading into their bye week in Week 9 with Pittsburgh awaiting in Week 10, the Lions do have the option of firing Campbell in order to give the team as much time to prepare for the Steelers as possible with new leadership in place. But given where the Lions already sit in the standings, that’d be a mistake.
The reality is that Detroit is going nowhere this season and will need to draft a quarterback in April, as it is very clear Jared Goff, who was held without a touchdown for the second time in two weeks on Sunday and only completed passes to one wide receiver against the Eagles, is not the long-term answer for the Lions. That being the case, Detroit would be wise to actively try to lose the majority of their remaining games and get the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Lions already have an extra first-rounder after trading Matthew Stafford to the Rams in the offseason, and adding April’s top selection would give the team plenty of capital to play with and options to move around the draft board.
In other words, losing should be the name of the game in Detroit, and it appears they have the man for that job in Campbell.
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