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7 things to watch in NFL’s Week 8: Get ready for Halloween celebrations

Which is scarier: facing the Seahawks defense or the thought of another DeShone Kizer start?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

You probably have THOUGHTS on Halloween. And dressing up. And pumpkin. And candy corn, candy apples, the best trick-or-treating candy, the song “Candy” by Mandy Moore.

We don’t care. We don’t care whether you love or loathe Halloween because either way, it’s coming. And some NFL players will celebrate it this weekend on the field. You may find that delightful or maybe it has you rolling your eyes in a way that would make even Cam Newton jealous.

We aren’t here to tell you if you’re right or wrong. We’re just here to speculate on some of the Halloween homages we’re expecting to see this weekend:

(And if any players need costume ideas, we’re here to help.)

We’re just putting these pregame cleat suggestions out there: Perhaps JuJu Smith-Schuster might wanna wear Boo Boo Smith-Schuster kicks with pictures of ghosts on them? And Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, Julio Jones, or anyone else who wears No. 11: Stranger Things cleats, plz (no spoilers).

  • Halloween-themed touchdown celebrations. Thriller is a little on the nose — and OBJ has been there, done that — but we won’t bash any players who choose to go with such an iconic dance. The Monster Mash, Werewolf Bar Mitzvah (spooky scary!), and a little David S. Pumpkins swivel (with two teammates acting as the skeletons) are other possibilities, but what if players don’t feel like dancin', dancin’?

As we’ve seen countless times this year, there’s plenty of room for creativity. They can pretend to go trick-or-treating, bob for apples, pantomime a Frankenstein walk, or tap into their more supernatural side and hold a seance.

Have at it, NFL. Don’t be afraid to run amok. Amok, amok, amok, amok, amok.

Will Carson Wentz be the new MVP front-runner after this week?

Carson Wentz, who could be playing quarterback for the Browns right now, is the leader of the NFL’s best team. At 6-1, the Eagles are making their case to take over the NFC East crown, and their second-year quarterback is a major reason why. Wentz’s 17 touchdown passes are already a career high, and that’s more than any other quarterback in the league through seven weeks. He’s been deadly efficient with his work, too — his average reception has traveled an NFL-high 13.0 yards.

Being the best player on the league’s best team has vaulted him to the upper tier of MVP candidates, but it’s still too early to anoint Wentz. 2016’s race featured several quarterbacks who surged into contention at points before dropping off — including young guns like Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. The Philadelphia passer can state his case — and try to stave off Alex Smith — by staying healthy and maintaining the pace that has the Eagles on pace for their first playoff berth since 2013.

The Texans bring the league’s hottest offense to the Legion of Boom

Houston has been on a roll ever since Deshaun Watson settled into the team’s starting quarterback job. Since Week 3, the Texans have averaged nearly 40 points per game. They’ll get an additional boost Sunday when former All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown returns from his unsuccessful contract holdout to help keep Watson upright.

He’ll get the biggest challenge of his budding career Sunday when he takes on the Seahawks’ top-ranked scoring defense at CenturyLinkField. History does not predict a Houston victory.

Seattle may not be as fierce as its reputation suggests. The club lost pass-rushing building block Cliff Avril for the season due to a neck injury. In his place, the newly signed Dwight Freeney will attempt to turn back time and prove he’s still a valuable member of an NFL defensive line rotation. The 37-year-old had three sacks in part-time duty with the Falcons last fall. The Seahawks are hoping he can bring some fire to what’s been a middling QB attack.

How long will DeShone Kizer keep the Browns’ starting QB job?

The starting quarterback role with the Browns is once again DeShone Kizer’s ... for now. How long will that last? It probably depends on if he turns the ball over in the red zone against the Vikings this week.

Last week, right after he regained the starting job, Kizer was yanked at halftime after throwing two picks. Still, Kizer remains the starter.

It makes sense for the Browns to just stick with Kizer at this point. They need to see what they have in the rookie before they decide whether they need to go back to the drawing board to try yet again to find a franchise quarterback.

But Kizer has been objectively bad. He has three touchdowns against 11 picks, and in case you’re not that great at math, I’ll just tell you that it’s a pretty bad ratio. Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler haven’t been better, which is why Hue Jackson keeps throwing Kizer back out there.

Jackson went so far as to say that they might keep switching quarterbacks in and out through the rest of the season. Heck, this team can’t even travel to London without switching up its mascot. So we’ll see if Kizer makes it through a full game this week.

How will the Patriots respond without the heart of their defense, Dont’a Hightower?

The Patriots’ biggest flaw in 2017 has been a defense that’s struggled to contain opponents who aren’t the Jets or Falcons. A big part of those early struggles was the absence of linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who was limited in the team’s season opener and didn’t play in Weeks 2 or 3 — forcing Tom Brady to win shootouts over the Saints and Texans.

With news breaking Thursday that Hightower’s season is over thanks to a torn pectoral muscle, it may be time for New England to get nervous. The veteran linebacker had handled duties ranging from covering tight ends to providing a pass rush along the edge as the Patriots struggled to make adjustments early in the season. Losing Hightower, a Swiss Army knife whose versatility was the foundation of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s setup, means every other defensive weakness will only stand out more.

A showdown with the Chargers may give New England some time to make adjustments. Philip Rivers hasn’t been especially efficient in his 14th season, leading Los Angeles to the middle of the pack when it comes to total offense. Even so, he’s got a litany of weapons at his disposal between Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Melvin Gordon, and that group should be able to test a revamped Patriot defense Sunday.

Can the Vikings’ run game continue to thrive without Dalvin Cook?

In 2016, running in relief of an injured Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in one of the league’s least efficient rushing offenses. In 2017, running in relief of an injured Dalvin Cook, McKinnon suddenly looks like one of the league’s top backs.

Minnesota has rushed for significantly more yards with Cook on injured reserve than it had with its dynamic rookie in the lineup:

That support has created the space to allow Case Keenum to put together one of the finest stretches of his career. Keenum, 4-5 as a starter last fall with the Rams, has cut his interception rate by two-thirds and posted a career-high completion rate to run out to 3-2 as a starter. With Aaron Rodgers sidelined for the Packers, Minnesota has a tremendous opportunity to reclaim the NFC North title.

They’ll be challenged by the league’s No. 6 rushing defense when they face the Browns in London. Cleveland held DeMarco Murray to just 59 yards last week; if they can play up to that standard Sunday, it will put Keenum’s newfound competence to the test.

Will Mitchell Trubisky’s pass attempts be in the single digits again?

The Bears finally started winning when Mitchell Trubisky took over as the starting quarterback. But it’s not because Trubisky’s slinging the ball around.

Trubisky had just 25 passing attempts in his first start for the Bears. He completed 12 of those for 128 yards against the Vikings. Each week, those numbers have gone down. The following week, Trubisky had 16 attempts against the Ravens. He connected on eight of those and finished with 113 yards and a touchdown, and the Bears won. The Bears won again last week despite the fact that Trubisky threw the ball only seven dang times. He completed four passes against the Panthers for 107 yards.

So if this trend continues, Trubisky should throw the ball, oh, about three times this week. But we’ve seen his completion percentage go up each week he’s started. So let’s say he’ll connect on two of them for an impressive completion percentage of 66.7 percent.

The Saints defense ranks No. 21 in the league against the pass, so Trubisky should get some opportunities. We’ll see if the team lets him take advantage.

And does it really matter if Trubisky’s attempts are in the single digits? Jordan Howard ranks fifth in the league right now for rushing yards, and fourth for rushing touchdowns. And more importantly, the Bears are winning games. Talk about scary, huh?