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.
- The Jets are doing the weirdest tank job in history
While keeping Adam Gase on seems odd, at best, if the Jets are tanking, they sure had a funny way of showing it on Sunday. Teams that tank don’t scrap for fifty-nine minutes against a (probably) playoff-bound team like the Raiders. Teams that are tanking don’t put up 206 rushing yards. Teams that are tanking do not convert 55% of their third down opportunities. In short, the Jets did not throw the game against the Raiders. They made a questionable defensive call with the contest on the line, going cover zero and rushing eight dudes, leaving Henry Ruggs III in single coverage against a rookie cornerback. The result was a forty-six-yard streak to the end zone. Heck, the Jets even fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after the game, as if one bad call broke the camel’s back. You simply can’t do that if the team’s mandate was to lose in the first place. In Williams’ defense, there was plenty of wisdom in the blitz. Derek Carr has been squirrely, at best, under pressure since his injury-shortened 2016 campaign. I’d argue that a touchdown pass in that scenario, near midfield with time dwindling, was a pretty unlikely outcome. Carr easily could have gotten spooked by the unblocked pass rushers and thrown the ball away or heaved it indiscriminately. He didn’t because he and the Raiders are rounding into form, and that’s what happens. Good teams usually beat bad teams. It’s what’s supposed to happen. And while we’re at it, I’m not sure you can even blame the Jets defensive unit for that 0-12 start, really. The Lions and Cowboys have both allowed more points on defense, while the Jets horrific offense is in a league of its own, having scored forty-five fewer points than the next worst squad (Denver). Maybe tanking for Trevor isn’t the worst idea ever.
- My Cause My Cleats is more than cool kicks
Yes, they look cool as hell. But that’s only part of the point. My Cause My Cleats started in 2026 with a few pairs of unique game day footwear. Well, its 2020, and the game has given sneakerheads a whole new reason to consider the one-of-a-kind cleats as legitimate art. Check out this amazing slideshow from NFL.com featuring just some of the amazing and unique gear that players are auctioning off for charity. Find the right style or find the right cause. Doesn’t matter. Either way, you can bid on the game-worn styles here.
- Kyler Murray ain’t right
When Kyler Murray first hurt his shoulder, the Cardinals were right in the thick of a three-way battle for the NFC West title. It’s now week thirteen and Arizona has dropped to 6-6 after losing four of their last five contests. No, it’s not all on Kyler, nor should it be, but the nagging shoulder injury that he’s trying to play through has left him ineffective, and the team is looking at an outside shot of a wild card slot, at best. In the crucial matchup this weekend against the Rams, Murray only completed 53% of his passes for 173 yards in the loss. He also got sacked twice for 33 yards, threw an interception and fumbled twice. It wasn’t his worst outing of the year, that would be the week twelve tilt against the Patriots, when he threw for only 170 yards and was his only game all year without a passing or rushing touchdown. Murray looked pretty good in the hard-fought week nine loss to Miami, but since then, he’s been off his game and without him, the Cardinals are on a run to nowhere. Please Kliff Kingsbury: shut him down before you do any more damage.
- The Giants, yes, the Giants, are good-ish
So, a few weeks ago, I made the case that the G-Men were the class of the NFC East. I know, I know, it’s a whole lot of bad over there, with only the Washington Football Team coming close to scoring as many points as they’ve allowed. But the New York Football Giants are getting closer, having won five of their last seven contests. The G-Men’s two losses in that stretch were both tight…really tight, a one-point loss on the road against Philly and a two-point loss to the Buccaneers. Week thirteen, however was another thing entirely. Beating Seattle, on the road when the Seahawks have everything to play for is a feat. Doing it without your starting quarterback, in a close game and stopping Russell Wilson in the final minutes is simply astounding. When Wilson and company got the ball back just inside the two-minute warning, trailing by five, everyone, and I mean everyone thought they knew where it was headed. It looked like Wilson would do the trick again, moving the Seahawks past midfield in under thirty seconds. But then something happened. Wilson couldn’t connect with seldom used receiver Freddie Swain on his only target of the game, then missed trying to go to Tyler Lockett on second down. Then, the Giants did something that the entire division has struggled to do all year. They made one play when it was needed. Leonard Williams busted through the protection for a solo sack, leaving Seattle with fourth-and-eighteen to rest their hopes. A Hail Mary is a prayer shot, even from Russell Wilson, and the Giants preserved their best win of the year. They’ve also allowed under twenty points per contest over the past three games, so they have that going for them down the stretch.
- The wheels are off the wagon in Chicago, but it might not be all their fault
So, let’s get this straight. The Bears were 3-0 when Matt Nagy benched Trubisky. Then Nick Foles lost five of seven, and Trubisky finally got the gig back, after what is almost certainly a career-crushing self-esteem detonation. He’s since lost back-to-back divisional games to the Packers and Lions and somehow the Bears have gone from 5-1 to 5-7. That’s a pretty drastic turnaround, and not in the good way. Not much says “fire me” for a coach in the NFL like a swan dive from the division lead to the basement. But is it really so bad? The Bears have had an absolute (ahem) bear of a schedule. Of their seven losses, five are to current divisional leaders (Packers, Titans, Saints, Rams, Colts) and the only losing team to beat them was this week’s ugliness against the Lions, who are riding high on the thrill of a fired head coach. Look, I’m not saying that the Bears brass can take a six-game losing streak with a grain of salt. Nor am I saying that they should ignore the failed gamble of benching their young franchise quarterback. There’s some nuance here, but I think the important thing to note is that the Bears are headed very much in the wrong direction ever since that halcyon 2018 season that earned Matt Nagy a Coach of the Year nod.
- Stop playing rookie quarterbacks against Bill Belichick
Look, there’s not a lot that can happen that would result in Justin Herbert not winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. There’s a crowded field of receivers, so they’ll very likely cancel themselves out. Amongst them, Justin Jefferson should win, but he probably won’t because he’s not leading the group in TD receptions. Joe Burrow was pre-ordained for the award, but we all know what happened to him. Herbert is the clear choice, and he’s been quite frankly better than expected. But why do coaches insist on starting rookies against Belichick-led teams? Per ESPN’s Field Yates, Herbert had averaged 320 yards and 2.6 TDs per game going into week thirteen. Against New England, he could produce only 209 total yards and no TDs… plus those two interceptions. In short, if Herbert couldn’t do it and the result was a borderline insane 45-0 shellacking, the worst defeat in Chargers history, shouldn’t coaches start to realize that veteran backups might stand a better chance? The question for me is this: Is Brian Flores in Miami a good enough coach to prevent this from happening to Tua? Or, more to the point, is he clever enough to bench Tua for Fitzpatrick in week fifteen? He should be. Miami is scoring almost a touchdown more per game and earning over 100 yards of total offense more with Fitzpatrick under center. Belichick and company are 20-5 against rookie quarterbacks. Be smart, Coach Flores.
- Denver is a scrappy team that can and will improve, if given a chance
Denver upset New England and Miami. They also put a scare into both the Titans and Steelers early in the year. Then after being forced to play without a real quarterback in week twelve, they made Patrick Mahomes sweat as the Broncos had a chance late, trailing by only six. The Broncos have actually been especially good defending in the red zone all year, leading all teams with a 48% hold rate (preventing touchdowns) and they held Mahomes to a single passing touchdown for the second time this year. No other team has kept him from scoring twice. I say all of this to point out the following: The Broncos are in a tough division with the Chiefs, and now the Raiders on the come-up, but don’t be too quick to dismiss what’s happening there. Any team that forges ahead with a practice squad wideout under center against one of the top two teams in the NFL has heart. Yes, the offense needs a lot of work, and it can be brutal trying to rebuild slowly when there’s a juggernaut in the division but look at what’s happening in both Miami and Buffalo…it can happen.
- You’ve got to like the Rams direction
Yes, they are tied atop the NFC West with Seattle, but you’ve got to think after that solid week thirteen win over Arizona that Los Angeles is the favorite. Add in the fact that they won the first head-to-head matchup in November, and that the Giants (who are much improved) held off Seattle at Century Link, and maybe, just maybe, we’re starting to get a feeling of clarity in the NFC West. I like what the Rams are doing on offense, but its that defense that’s starting to really fell like a complete unit. The kind that can win on the road in the playoffs. The Rams have allowed the fifth-fewest point in the league thus far, despite having already played four teams that rank in the top ten in points scored. Yes, they are two and two in those games, having beaten Seattle and Arizona, but lost to Tampa Bay and Buffalo, but it shows the consistency on defense that even in the losses, they aren’t getting bruised. They might only draw the three seed when the playoffs are finalized, but I don’t think anyone is going to be excited to see these guys when the weather really turns cold.
- The Buccaneers really needed that bye week
Having lost three of their last four games and any real chance of winning the NFC South in the process, Tom Brady and Tampa Bay were more than ready for some time off. Yes, they lost to three good teams in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Kansas City during this tough stretch, but for Brady, and for the expectations put on them, that’s hardly relevant. On the plus side, Brady has looked decent, and only struggled badly in that 38-3 shellacking by New Orleans, throwing no TDs and three interceptions, but as a whole, the Buccaneers have looked uneven at best. In the last three games, Tampa Bay has allowed an average of 318 yards passing per game to opposing quarterbacks. Only the Jets, yes, the 0-12 Jets have allowed more. There’s no chance that Brady is going to equal Jameis Winston’s insane interception record from last season, but as I mentioned, before Brady took a single snap in a Buccaneers uniform, it’s not Brady that will determine the success or failure of Tampa Bay’s turnaround. Tom Brady might give them a better chance to win, but in the end, it’s the defense that will determine how far this team can go. Let’s hope they’re nice and rested for a week fourteen showdown with a better than their record Minnesota team.
- The ’72 Dolphins can rest easy again
It’s really, really hard to go undefeated in the NFL, and just this side of impossible to do it and then win the Super Bowl. What happened to Pittsburgh on Monday night, however, was a combination of a trap game and a head coach’s nightmare scenario. I said it was likely enough as a trap game because the Washington tilt was sandwiched between a tough divisional game with the Ravens and a road game against the division-leading Bills. That was before the Steelers-Ravens game was postponed multiple times, eventually moving from Thanksgiving to the following Wednesday, shortening the rest period before the Washington game by six days. That alone is brutal. Add in the fact that Washington is far more consistent with Alex Smith under center and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Or, from the Dolphins point of view, a recipe for a socially distanced party. Check out the legendary Larry Csonka getting his party on as the Washington Football Team closed the door on Pittsburgh Monday night. I wouldn’t panic too much just yet though, Steeler fans. James Conner missed this one with a Covid designation, but indications are that he might well be eligible for the Buffalo game next weekend. In the meantime Steelers, let Mercury Morris and the gang gloat. You’ve got bigger fish to fry. Pun very, very much intended.
For more NFL thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: Associated Press Images