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Tar Heels in the NFL: Week Eight recap

The biggest NFL story for a former Tar Heel this weekend isn’t on the field.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Every NFL game played in America on Sunday featured a former Tar Heel in some way, shape, or form. Three linemen played one hundred percent of their team’s offensive snaps, while a pair of wide receivers followed up big milestones last week with more understated performances this week. However, the biggest story comes from a player who may have played his last game for his current team on Sunday night. Let’s see how everyone did.

Thursday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens 40, Miami Dolphins 0

Offensive lineman James Hurst continued his 100% record on the season in terms of snaps played with the offense, helping block for an offense that out-gained their opponents by 296 yards to 195. The team shouldered the loss of starting quarterback Joe Flacco and shut out the Dolphins’ anemic offense.

Sunday: Minnesota Vikings 33, Cleveland Browns 16

This game took place in London, and no Heels participated. The Browns are now 0-8 for the second consecutive season, and it might not be too soon to start a campaign to free Bug Howard from the Browns’ practice squad. There are plenty of teams that need a receiver!

Sunday: Buffalo Bills 34, Oakland Raiders 14

We would have liked to see Elijah Hood get some action following Marshawn Lynch’s one-game suspension, now that he’s on the active roster. He did see a little bit of action, in the form of eight snaps on special teams. On the other side, the Bills’ Brandon Tate got a few snaps with the offense, hauling in a catch for 24 yards. The only other work he saw was also on special teams, taking back a pair of punts for 17 total yards.

Sunday: Cincinnati Bengals 24, Indianapolis Colts 23

Center Russell Bodine of the Bengals is another Tar Heels lineman who hasn’t missed a snap for his team this season. His team got the win, although the Bengals only mustered 58 rushing yards on 21 attempts. That, as well as the three sacks the Bengals allowed, will likely be the focus in the film room this week.

Sunday: Carolina Panthers 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3

A strip-sack of Jameis Winston by Julius Peppers was the 151st sack of his career, moving him past Chris Doleman into 4th on the all-time sack list in NFL history. Kevin Greene is within reach at 160, but the Carolina Reaper will be hard-pressed to match Reggie White’s 198 or Bruce Smith’s 200.

Sunday: Philadelphia Eagles 33, San Francisco 49ers 10

Wide receiver Mack Hollins didn’t have as big of a game this past Sunday as he did on Monday Night Football last week, but he still made an impact. Contributing on 20% of special teams snaps, he also ran out with the offense on 18 plays, hauling in two receptions for 30 yards.

Sunday: Atlanta Falcons 25, New York Jets 20

The Jets’ Bruce Carter again turned in a solid day on special teams. He recorded no tackles but was on the field for 21 special teams plays, good for fourth on the team. He only saw one play with the defense.

Sunday: New England Patriots 21, Los Angeles Chargers 13

Going against Tom Brady is always a tough ask, and Tre Boston and the Chargers’ pass defense had a long day as Brady threw for 333 yards and got the win. Boston started again at free safety, as he has done in every game this year for LA, and played every defensive snap but one, recording four solo tackles and one assist.

Sunday: New Orleans Saints 20, Chicago Bears 12

Mitchell Trubisky suffered his second loss as an NFL starting quarterback against the Saints. Although he recorded career highs in attempts (32), completions (14), passing yards (164), and rushing yards (53), he failed to throw or run for a touchdown and threw the second interception of his short career. His best throw of the day, a touchdown to his tight end Zach Miller, didn’t count. It was ruled a touchdown but overturned after replay allegedly showed that Miller did not complete the process of the catch on account of the fact that he suffered an injury so awful he was in danger of losing his leg.

Sunday: Seattle Seahawks 41, Houston Texans 38

Nose tackle Nazair Jones continues to play primarily a rotation role on the Seattle defensive line, as expected of a rookie joining an already strong position group. He played about a quarter of Seattle’s defensive snaps in what was likely the most exciting game played on Sunday afternoon. In that action, he recorded a tackle and two assists.

Sunday: Dallas Cowboys 33, Washington Redskins 19

This tilt between NFC East rivals saw the most action from former Tar Heels. Linebacker Zach Brown led the Redskins in tackles with eight, including three solo tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. For the Cowboys, guard Jonathan Cooper is continuing his career revival, being the third former Tar Heel lineman to play 100% of the offensive snaps for his team this week. Ryan Switzer continues to be a Swiss army knife for the ‘Boys, recording the second reception of his career (a 7-yarder), and fielding a kick return and a pair of punt returns.

Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Detroit Lions 15

The story here isn’t Eric Ebron’s performance on the field for the Lions, where he caught two of his six targets for 58 yards, including a 44-yarder. It’s that it is all but assured that Ebron is traded before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. A headline from reads: “Eric Ebron doesn't care if Detroit Lions trade him or not.” Here’s an amazing pull quote from Ebron himself:

"I mean, it is what it is," Ebron said, via the Detroit News. "They got till Tuesday. It's a business. If they feel like they want to cut ties with me, then they cut ties. If they feel like they can continue to use me and my skills and my abilities, then, [expletive], let's do it."

The writing does seem to be on the wall for Ebron: Darren Fells, the other tight end on the Lions’ roster, had more snaps than Ebron for the fourth consecutive game. Ebron is in his fourth year with the Lions, who drafted him 10th overall in 2014. He’s played in 47 games in Detroit, catching eight touchdowns and rushing for another. The Lions activated the fifth-year option of his rookie deal in May, so he won’t be a free agent after this season, and his $5 million salary next season becomes fully guaranteed in March. There does seem to be interest for him.

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, October 31st at 4 PM. Big names such as Duane Brown (Texans -> Seahawks) and Jimmy Garoppalo (Patriots -> 49ers) have already moved as of Monday night. Is Ebron next?

Monday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs 29, Denver Broncos 19

No Heels will be playing in this Monday night game, so instead here’s a few potential landing spots for Ebron:

  • Chicago Bears: The aforementioned injury to Zach Miller leaves the Bears without their #1 tight end (their backup is Deon Sims). Miller’s career may even be over. Even though this is a trade to a divisional rival, why not give him a chance to team up with Trubisky?
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are 4-3 and look to be the frontrunner in the AFC South race. But they have a massive hole at tight end. Mercedes Lewis is their leading pass catcher at the position, but he’s only caught 7 passes. And at 33, he’s not getting any younger.
  • Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen is eligible to return to practice this week, and will likely suit up for the team again by the end of November. His backup, Ed Dickson, has been below average in his absence, aside from his 175-yard explosion against none other than the Lions. Ebron would be a hell of a weapon for Cam Newton, even when Olsen is healthy again. Why not?