We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications.
If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
- I am once again telling you that Derrick Henry is supernatural
Twenty-two carries for 212 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Two receptions for another 52 receiving yards. Two-hundred-sixty-four yards from scrimmage. That’s just a bonkers day. But here’s the really crazy bit. If you took away Henry’s insane 94-yard touchdown, he still had a tremendous day. Are you going to scoff at 118 rushing yards? Nope. And Henry did this in a see-saw game when Deshaun Watson and the Texans held a lead late. It’s not like the Titans were just running the ball every single snap to kill clock. The Titans went to Henry all game long. He’s the Titans best way to win, regardless of the scenario, or the down and distance. Don’t believe me? Cool. Check out the reaction to the overtime coin flip by Deshaun Watson. He knows that the game is over right there because Henry is a force of nature that simply can’t be stopped. All respect to Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, who also had a great game (364 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT), but if there’s a team that could play with their third-string QB and still compete with any team in the league, it’s Tennessee.
- The Packers are still massively flawed
It started so well for Green Bay, too. Up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looked like they were well on their way to a 5-0 record. But the Buccaneers defense, which has quietly morphed into a top-ten unit, had other ideas. First it was the heady 32-yard pick six by Jamel Dean that shook up the Packers offense and got the Buccaneers back in it. But it was the next possession when Mike Edwards really did the damage. Edwards snatched a pass intended for Davante Adams and ran it back 37-yards before being tackled at the two-yard line. Aaron Rodgers hadn’t thrown an interception yet this season until the Buccaneers picked him off on back to back possessions and came within two yards of both being pick-sixes. After that, the floodgates opened. Tom Brady (166 yards 2 TDs) wasn’t magical because he didn’t need to be. The Buccaneers, now sporting a 14-10 lead, would roll all over the Packers for 158 yards on the ground en route to a 38-10 beat down. I’ve accused the Packers of being somewhat complacent with Aaron Rodgers under center, and it’s never been clearer than this offseason that they consider him to be a “get out of jail free” card. Rodgers can make up for a lot of pitfalls on offense, but he can’t do everything himself. If he retires with only one Super Bowl win on his resume, he can blame Green Bay for not making the right moves to give him a legitimate chance.
- The Bears defense is elite
Despite that failing on the Green Bay defense, its almost a lock that they’ll repeat as NFC North champs. Chicago may have a slight lead in the division at the moment, sitting at 5-1 after that nice win over Carolina, but I’m not a believer, in the whole unit… yet. Chicago’s offense has been extremely inconsistent, even after the move to Nick Foles at quarterback. That Bears defense, however, has been tremendous, keeping them in games when they could easily get swamped. Against a Panthers team that has some teeth, the Bears blunted the air attack, holding Teddy Bridgewater to 216 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Add in a fumble and four sacks by the Bears defensive front and the Bears had enough offense to get the job done. I’m not sure that they’ll have the guns to outduel A-Rod and the Packers for the divisional title all season long, but they might make it interesting, just look what they did to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers back in week five.
- The Jets might not win a single game
In the last six decades of NFL football, only five teams have failed to win a single game. After week six, only the Jets remain winless. And after their 24-0 shellacking by the Dolphins the week after releasing Le’veon Bell, it’s readily apparent that 2020 will not be the turnaround that Jets fans were anticipating. Just because Tom Brady is gone doesn’t mean that the AFC East title goes through New York, guys. The Jets have scored the fewest points in the league (75) while allowing the fourth-most (185), earning them the worst point differential in the league at a whopping -110 after only six weeks. That’s almost twice as bad as the next worst team, the Jaguars, who sit at -56. With this much going wrong, you can almost see the logic of letting Le’veon Bell go. Great player, but he’s expensive, and it has become clear that A) the offensive line can’t spring him and B) whatever production you manage to get from him is a total waste. New York has been blown out almost every weekend, with their only single-digit loss (37-28) coming in week four against the Broncos who started Brett Rypien at quarterback and he won despite throwing three interceptions. The Jets still lost that game by over a touchdown. Think about that. I can’t sugar coat it. With the Giants pulling off that win over the Washington Football Team and Atlanta finally getting over the hump against the Vikings, it’s a one team race for the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft. It’s early yet, but how do we feel about “Play with abhorrence for Lawrence” as a tanking slogan? It won’t be hard to keep the losing streak going, either. In the next three weeks, the Jets will have to play the division-leading Bills, the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and a very angry and motivated New England team. Ouch.
- But maybe it’s not all bad for the Jets…
It’s been a few years, but the Jets have finally provided us with the derriere-themed sequel to the funniest play in NFL history, the butt fumble. While it came in that 24-0 wipeout by the Dolphins, it was actually the highlight of the game from a performance standpoint, as Marcus Maye dispossessed the Dolphins by intercepting a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass with his… I could not make this up…right cheek. See for yourself. It’s not only comedy gold, its also the craziest interception you’ll see all year, possibly ever. Hell of an athletic play. Too bad it will always be remembered for it’s hilarity.
- Tua Time?
Yes, Miami rolled the Jets and brought out Tua Tagavailoa in garbage time. The rookie went 2-2 for nine yards total. For some reason, Miami now thinks that THEY, not the Bills, have the lead in the AFC East and are pulling out the stops and bringing in the rookie signal caller as a starter next week. I hate this so much I can’t even stand it. This is a terrible, terrible idea by the Dolphins brass and coaching staff. I’m going to stop here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you/them.
- San Francisco has a pulse
I’ve mentioned a few times that the NFC West is the toughest division in the league. This weekend’s tilt between the Niners and the Rams just underscores that fact. The Niners got the win to get to 3-3, which makes the NFC West the only division in football with every team at .500 or better. The AFC North is the only other division that’s even close, with just the Bengals below the Mendoza line. The Niners looked a lot more like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year, with Jimmy G balling out for three TDs in the first half, hitting George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on scoring plays. After that the Rams defense locked in, holding the Niners to only a field goal in the second half, but it was too little too late. The NFC North might be tough, but it’s probably way too early to rule out the reigning NFC champs. With a few more wins against their divisional rivals, San Francisco can make noise again this year.
- As do the Giants. (really)
This might go without saying, but literally anyone can win the NFC East. Despite a blowout loss to the Cardinals on Monday Night football, the Cowboys still lead the division at 2-4. With that win over the Washington Football Team, the Giants separate themselves from the Jets as the worst New York football team and put themselves in a position to contend for the division. No, really. The Giants have allowed the fewest points in the division (152) and just beat the Football Team, who have been the second stingiest unit in the division and possess a particularly fearsome defensive front. The Giants O-line allowed only one sack in the win, and they ran the ball for 132 yards. This against the defense that beat Philly by sacking Carson Wentz eight times in a game. Eight sacks. In one game. Point is, the NFC East is a whole different universe, and the Giants, who didn’t win a game until week six, are very much alive. Weird times, folks. Weird times.
- A bye week and a facility closure are not the same
I think after that brutal performance by the New England offense, we can conclusively say that Covid-19 related facility bans do not serve the same purpose as scheduled bye-weeks. Denver was very vocal about having an unplanned bye week when they had already practiced, but it was the Patriots, who generally shine after a week off under Bill Belichick, who looked like they had a reason to grumble. The offensive line was more patchy patchwork than ever, and Cam Newton clearly struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. Denver looked prepared and ready to go in a game that they needed to win to have any hopes of contending in the crowded AFC West. It’s understandable that the league wants to manipulate pre-existing bye weeks to keep the season rolling when a team has one or more positive tests, but I think we’re seeing the flaw in the plan come to light. Things will only get weirder as the season wears on and teams have positive tests after their bye week, or after they’ve had a game bumped. Point is, let’s stop acting like a Covid closure is a bye week. They’re not the same thing. Let’s keep the language distinct, and let teams keep their scheduled bye weeks going forward.
- The Steelers are ready to stomp
Going into the week six clash between the Browns and Steelers, I wondered which team would emerge as a legitimate challenger to the Ravens for the AFC North title. I wasn’t expecting the Steelers to sound the bell quite that clearly. Pittsburgh positively dismantled the Browns in every possible way, winning the game 38-7 and getting Baker Mayfield benched in the process. The Browns have said that the benching was for health reasons related to the lingering rib injury and he remains the starter going forward… That’s cool, and maybe he was dinged up, but getting pulled in the third quarter of a high-stakes divisional matchup is never a good sign for job security. Back to the Steelers, who look better every single week. Big Ben threw for only 148 yards and a TD, while James Conner carried the load (101 yards) for a Steeler rushing attack that moved the ball almost at will. Defensively, the Steel Curtain was back, recording four sacks, two interceptions (one of which was a gorgeous Minkah Fitzpatrick pick-six) and a paltry 8% conversion rate on third downs. That’s only one conversion on twelve attempts. Not to mention the three fourth down attempts that the Steelers snuffed out. Prior to this beat down, the Browns had a four game string where they averaged almost forty points per game, but this game makes it clear that the Steelers and the Ravens are still the bullies in the rough and ready AFC North.
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Image Source: Associated Press Images