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Week 8 NFL thoughts

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A few quick observations from the eighth week of the season:

• Don't overlook what the Lions' 28-24 win over the Seahawks might mean for the NFC playoff picture. I count five (San Francisco, Chicago, Green Bay, Atlanta and New York) teams in the conference that I'd consider likely to make the playoffs. Seattle could have taken the pole position on that sixth and final spot with a win; instead, it's in a muddled mess with the Vikings, Cowboys, Eagles and maybe the Buccaneers, Redskins, Cardinals and Rams. Oh, and the Lions. They absolutely had to have the win; not only did they get it, but they got that elusive huge game from Matthew Stafford (34-49, 352 yards, 4 total TD). Their defense has actually been pretty good; if Stafford and company come around, they're very much alive.

• If the NFC's final wild-card spot is up for grabs, the entire AFC is the same way ... except for the AFC South title and maybe the East and West titles. I think the Patriots will eventually prevail in the East, and it's tough to see the Chargers making a run at the Broncos in the West at this point. I just can't believe how far Phillip Rivers' star has fallen. In a game his team had to have, Rivers went 18-for-34 for 154 yards and couldn't lead his offense to the end zone once against a mediocre Browns defense in a 7-6 loss. Even with the inexplicably employed Norv Turner as coach and with dwindling talent around him, Rivers should be able to take his team to greater heights than these.

• That Miami would beat the Jets, even in New York, isn't a big surprise. But this is a Jets team that had played close games with both the Texans and the Patriots in its previous two losses. And the Dolphins built a 20-0 lead by halftime en route to a 30-9 victory. It was a different formula than usual for Miami, which actually allowed Shonn Greene to rush 15 times for 77 yards (and Mark Sanchez to throw for 283). But a special-teams touchdown helped the cause, and Matt Moore was 11-for-19 for 131 with a touchdown in relief of Ryan Tannehill. At 4-3, a Dolphins playoff berth in this AFC isn't just a non-pipe dream, it's getting close to being likely.

• Yeah, it was another tough loss for the Cowboys, but it was more about their awful start than about Dez Bryant's foot not coming down in bounds. But I was impressed by a few things about Dallas in its 29-24 defeat at the hands of the Giants. One is its defense, which played extremely well, again, without Sean Lee against Eli Manning and all of his weapons. Another was the resiliency the Cowboys showed after falling behind 23-0. They'll need DeMarco Murray to hurry back, because Felix Jones isn't the answer for their running game. But other than that, if they can get Tony Romo to get back close to his 4,184-yard, 31-touchdown and (most importantly) 10-interception form of 2011, they're pretty scary.

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