Week 7 left me with a lot of great impressions, as well as huge disappointments. A couple of teams have resurrected their seasons while others have sunk back down to the bubble. We’re almost halfway done. Who’s destined to be in, and who needs to find their footing? Let’s take a look at what happened this past weekend.
Raiders finish Chiefs 31-30
Thursday night’s game was so good that I contemplated doing a surprise article on Friday for this game alone. Where do I start? Marshawn Lynch was ejected early after picking up just 9 yards leaving Oakland in a heap of trouble, but Derek Carr was incredible by throwing for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns against a very stingy Chiefs defense. Alex Smith had a phenomenal game too, as he threw for 342 yards and 3 scores. Nobody deserved to lose this game.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they drew the short end of the stick when, after a few penalties to extend the game, Michael Crabtree sealed the game with 0:00 on the clock in a truly thrilling finish. With that, the NFL’s ex-best team is now on a two game losing streak, and the Raiders snapped their 4-game skid to get right back in the AFC West title picture. Both of these teams have a ton of momentum going into next week.
Bills survive Buccaneers 30-27
After a hot start by the Bills, the Bucs mounted another 4th quarter comeback, but their efforts were thwarted when Stephen Hauschka nailed a chip-shot field goal to win it with 14 seconds remaining. That puts yours truly on a remarkably ineffective 4-game losing streak when choosing for or against the Bills.
Next week, the Buccaneers must recoup after falling short on two straight comebacks and beat their division rival Panthers to keep their season alive. The Bills remain in a strong position as they welcome the Raiders, and with LeSean McCoy finally showing up with 122 total yards and 2 touchdowns, I know better than anyone that anything is possible for Buffalo.
Bears shut down Panthers 17-3
Eddie Jackson-12, Panthers-3. The Bears offense was just as atrocious as Carolina’s on Sunday, but thanks to Jackson’s defensive heroics with two 75 yard turnovers for touchdowns, Chicago came out on top. Cam Newton’s ugly 211 yards and 3 turnovers were matched by Mitch Trubisky’s lame 107 yards. That’s it.
I don’t think the defenses were that stingy; it was just a lot of miscues and failures with the ball. Newton is also a prolific rusher, but as I’m accustomed to saying, his 50 yards led the team and results in an L every time. Let your running backs run the ball. It’s their job. Luckily for the Panthers, no one wants to take control of the NFC South, so they stay within a 1/2 game of 1st place.
Titans out kick Browns 12-9
It was the Browns’ closest battle yet as they got into a field goal war with Tennessee. It was a pretty ugly game as DeShone Kizer got pulled again after throwing for only 114 yards and picking up 2 interceptions. He had no business starting this game, and it’s clear that Hue Jackson has lost all confidence in the rookie. Cody Kessler came in and did marginally better with 121 yards and 1 INT. I bet he’ll be the starter next week because the Browns mustered two field goals on his watch as opposed to Kizer’s one. I’m hoping Kevin Hogan gets another chance soon.
The Titans weren’t much better. Marcus Mariota’s offense only fared 283 total yards against a weak Cleveland defense. They do have a strong defensive line which bothered Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, but Mariota is 100% healthy, and there is no reason he shouldn’t have torn up the Browns on Sunday. In any case, the Titans hung on to win it in overtime and they can breathe a sigh of relief over their bye week.
Saints beat Packers 26-17
I think the Packers did better than most expected without Aaron Rodgers, and I still see them as a playoff contender. Rodgers is tentatively scheduled to return in December, so Green Bay just needs to be within 3 games of the Wild Card spot by that point to have a fighting chance.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees and the Saints have won 4 straight as they lead the NFC South. While there are still some questions on defense, the offense is finding its rhythm. Mark Ingram surpassed 100 yards, and Brees threw for 331. The game was probably closer than New Orleans would have liked, but Brees stretched just enough to seal the win and hang on to first place.
Jaguars blank Colts 27-0
This dominating win doesn’t prove anything in and of itself, but it solidifies the Jaguars as a legitimate playoff contender. At 4-3, the Jags have now beaten the Steelers, the Ravens, and the Texans leading me to believe that they are capable of competing against anyone. On Sunday, in addition to having one of the best defenses in the NFL, Blake Bortles came to play with 330 yards and a touchdown in Leonard Fournette’s absence.
Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board for the Colts as they might want to consider cutting their losses and shutting down Andrew Luck. It’s getting to the point where his return will be in the presence of an insurmountable hole. Even with a win against the Bengals next week, they have a very tough schedule in the second half of the season, so it might be best to compete for a top draft pick rather than for a playoff spot.
Rams dismantle Cardinals 33-0
The Rams and the Eagles are the best teams in the NFC. I know it’s weird, but as of today, nobody has played as completely as Los Angeles and Philly. In a game for which the Cardinals came into L.A. Colosseum hot on the heels of a revival victory, the Rams completely shut them down in every aspect of the game. Todd Gurley surpassed 100 yards again and added another touchdown to his MVP resume, the defense picked off Carson Palmer a couple of times, and Jared Goff? Well, he was just okay.
Yeah, I’m still not on the hype train with Goff. Just because the Rams are dominating does not mean it’s a direct result of quarterback performance. He averages under 250 yards per game, and his season high is 306 yards. He also averages 1.28 touchdowns and 0.6 INTs per game. Excuse me if I’m not impressed. I will say that he does belong in the NFL as a 23 year old, and that’s definitely saying something. Goff has a bright future ahead of him, but he’s not there yet.
Dolphins dodge Jets 31-28
The Jets are the Jets again. Up by 14 with 11:30 remaining, there was no way they could lose, right? Well, despite Josh McCown’s 4-touchdown performance, the Jets did just that. Matt Moore replaced an injured Jay Cutler and led the Dolphins to a dramatic fourth quarter comeback and an unexpected 4-2 record. With Matt Moore at the helm, Miami hopes to quell the shaky laughter about the Dolphins being any good, because it’s not far from the truth.
After a promising start for New York, they now have a losing record and are probably out of both the race for a top draft pick and the playoffs. Nice job. I assume they’ll end up floating around this middle ground for the rest of the season and thus never find their true identity. Next, they welcome the Falcons before a crucial clash with the Bills on Thursday night football. With their luck, I’m sure they’ll split the two games.
Vikings control Ravens 24-16
If not for a buzzer beating touchdown by the Ravens, this score would’ve appeared appropriately a little uglier. After an interception on the first play, the Vikings scored on 7 of their 9 drives in a torching of a good Ravens defense. Most of the work was from an old favorite, Latavius Murray, who channeled his Oakland days in a 113-yard game with a touchdown. Hopefully, this will lead to Minnesota giving him the touches he has deserved.
The Ravens are in some trouble now. Two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North, Baltimore cannot seem to give their defense any help. They only surrendered an average of 21 points per game, and yet they find themselves at 3-4. Well, with 208 yards of total offense Sunday, the “elite” Joe Flacco still isn’t living up to his self-given moniker. More performances like that, and it’s just going to get embarrassing… if it isn’t already.
Cowboys crush 49ers 40-10
Have a day, Ezekiel Elliott! In a 500-yard day for the Cowboys, Elliott accrued 219 total yards and 3 touchdowns. So if you thought he couldn’t beat his 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against the 49ers from last year, you were mistaken. Now back to .500, Dallas looks to knock off their arch-rival Redskins and get back in the division race.
And for the Niners, at least this one wasn’t close, right? At 0-7 and stuck in the basement of the otherwise best conference in the NFC, San Francisco should be in tank mode. Luck or not, 0-7 is a tough place to be. They need to work on getting experience and figuring out what works and what doesn’t and try again next year. C.J. Beathard has been a nice replacement as a signal-caller, but he’ll need to hang on to the ball more as two fumbles is two too many for a quarterback.
Seahawks humble Giants 24-7
The Giants found their season’s first win two weeks ago against the Broncos on Sunday night, but were promptly returned to their losing ways against an athletic Seahawks defense. Eli Manning was held to just 134 yards, and the running game couldn’t muster 50. New York can look for more answers over their bye week this week.
Russell Wilson can be as good or as bad as any quarterback in the league. He was amazing again on Sunday by going for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns. This, after a disappointing game against the Rams. So who is this guy? I would rather a Goff who I know will throw for a below average 250 yards consistently, than a Wilson who only plays half of the games. It’s really hard to be a threat when you don’t know who you have behind the center.
Chargers buck Broncos 21-0
The Broncos are in some serious trouble. After their defense made them a heavy favorite to contend with the Chiefs for the division title, they now have two incredibly disappointing losses…to the Giants and to the Chargers. The offense continues to be the focal point as they only managed 251 total yards and a big goose egg in the score column. Luckily, the Chiefs have also lost two straight, so it’s not over yet, but they meet on Monday night in what will be the biggest game of their seasons to date.
On the other hand, the Chargers have resurrected their season with 3 straight victories as they prepare for a trip to Foxborough. With the way the Broncos and Chiefs have struggled recently, anything is possible for Los Angeles. However, Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon will have to play better than they did last Sunday. I’ll cut them some slack because Denver’s defense is still pretty good.
Steelers decimate Bengals 29-14
Things got a little chippy as usual in this one, but when it came to football, the Steelers were all over the Bengals. Interesting Fact of the Day: Le’Veon Bell picked up 192 total yards on the game while all of the Bengals combined for 179. Bell basically beat the Bengals by himself. While they still didn’t eclipse the 30 point bar, this is the kind of offense the Steelers want to run this season. They’ll try again on Sunday night against the Lions.
The Bengals have now lost 8 of their last 9 meetings against Pittsburgh, and this one hurts because it drops them to 2-4 on the season. It’s not time to panic yet, but a loss against the Colts next week will really scare some people in Cincinnati. At the very least, they should be able to get more yards than the opposing running back this time…
Patriots deflate Falcons 23-7 (That’s right I’m still not over it)
The Patriots won the rematch in convincing fashion during a fog-filled edition of Sunday Night Football. I probably should have known better than to have gone against Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium as he was in firm control of the game from start to finish. Furthermore, the defense came through by holding one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL to just 7 points. Anyone who thought that the Patriots aren’t the same team that they have been in recent years will have to think again.
On that note, those who thought the Falcons would run roughshod through the NFL got a reality check. Matt Ryan is certainly not the MVP he was last year, and Julio Jones was held without a touchdown until his 1-yard grab in garbage time on Sunday night. A great way to snap a 3-game losing skid is to play the Jets, so Atlanta can get some momentum back this weekend.
Eagles edge Redskins 34-24
I was a little afraid of “Monday Night Massacre 2.0”, but it stayed the game I expected. In fact, my 31-21 score prediction was pretty close. Carson Wentz stayed hot by adding 4 touchdowns to his league-leading 17. LeGarrette Blount really struggled though, as he only averaged 2.1 yards per carry. In any case, they’ll take another W and move on to face their arch rival Giants.
This wasn’t a bad loss for the Redskins, but it was definitely a missed opportunity. They are now tied with the Cowboys at 2.5 GB from the Eagles ahead of their clash this weekend. I’m really excited to see how these division races end up, and another big matchup will be this classic Boys-Skins game. It should be fun. I’ll see you on Thursday with some more predictions.