Every week I will bring the NFL fan my reflections, scrutiny, assessment, and hopefully some perceptiveness from the day around the league. Bear in mind that this is being written after 9 hours of football, countless buffalo wings, and a serious lack of sleep. Without further ado, my quick hits on the integral story lines for Week 8:

Eli Manning may have been ridiculed for saying he was an elite quarterback and in Tom Brady's class during the summer, but he's backing it up. His QB rating is third in the NFL behind only Rodgers and Brady. He has played nearly flawless in the fourth quarter, carried a team that can't run the ball or stop the run, and navigated an offense that asks him to as much or more than any other player in the league. He'll never be what his brother was, but his 2011 season has been quite a try at it...This Cincinnati Bengal team has be taken seriously as an AFC playoff contender. They are 5-2, play great defense, and have a quarterback-wide receiver combination in Dalton and Green that are a force. Sunday's win in Seattle was over a bad team, but it was a character win. Good teams go to Quest and struggle. Dalton and Co. got their first win on the left coast since 2003. While all the attention will be on Pittsburgh-Baltimore on Sunday night, keep an eye on the other 5-2 in that division...It's clear that the St. Louis Rams have not quit on Steve Spagnuolo...Losing Andre Johnson for a few weeks might have been the best thing to happen to Houston. They have learned to grind out wins in the trenches for the first time in their franchise history. Their no name offensive line is playing at an elite level. The AFC South is clearly their division to lose...A team coached by Mike Shanahan was shutout for the first time in his 24-year career as an offensive coordinator or head man...With a nod to Rex Ryan's playoff game plan last January, Dick LeBeau may have uncovered the key to stopping the Patriots offense. Jamming their wide receivers at the line and using five and six defensive backs seems to take the rhythm and timing away from Tom Brady. Not having a big, deep threat could eventually be their downfall...Credit needs to go to Detroit for a big bounce back win on the road after consecutive home losses to San Fran and Atlanta. Detroit has quietly become an excellent road team (4-0), which will serve them well as a potential Wild Card team in the postseason...Tebow supporters needed to go slow when talking about his comeback in Miami two weeks ago. His detractors, including the Denver Post calling him the worst quarterback in the NFL, need to do the same now. Let's have his season play itself out...The NFC West might be over on November 1st. Since the league realigned in 2002, no team has blown a 3.5 or more game lead after Week 7. San Fran might clinch this thing by Thanksgiving...The AFC North might be the best division in football...Kevin Kolb needs to be better than this in Arizona. He showed toughness in playing through a toe injury, but it's about production in the NFL. His team pulls off a huge upset if he can just make a play in the second half...I really believe Torrey Smith's speed might be the x-factor in the AFC playoffs...Victor Cruz just keep's producing for Tom Coughlin...Osi Umenyiora has a sack in every game since returning from injury...New England has never recovered an onside kick under Bill Belichick. Something about that is mind boggling...Calvin Johnson (11 touchdown in 8 games) ties Randy Moss in '07 for the most prolific start to a season ever by a wideout...Ryan Fitzpatrick (21-27, 262, 116.4) certainly looked like he deserved the money...Marcel Dareus looked like a force at the nose tackle spot...Buffalo's defense recorded nine sacks of Redskins quarterbacks...Ndamukong Suh showed a ton of leadership in requesting to meet with Commissioner Goodell to go over his reputation as a dirty player and what he can do to prove he isn't...No one in the league averages more yards per game than Fred Jackson...For all those fan bases who clamor for Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden: Never has a former Super Bowl winning coach won another championship with a new team. Twelve men have tried, twelve have failed...Frank Gore suddenly looks like he's 26 years old again...Explain to me again the big difference between Phil Rivers and Tony Romo...