NFL Week 12 Thanksgiving Day Picks

The NFL postseason is inching closer to January, and more teams are competing for division leads and wildcard spots. Thanksgiving Day Football will feature two games (it was originally three, but the Baltimore Ravens- Pittsburgh Steelers game was moved because of multiple players testing positive for COVID-19) where at least one team has playoff hopes. Who will take the next step/s into locking up playoff births this Thursday?

Houston Texans (3-7) v. Detroit Lions (4-6)

Surprising Sunday for both these teams. Houston beat a desperate New England squad while Detroit was shutout by a second string offense. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s injured hand may be worse than we thought, but the offense as a whole needs to show improvement especially in the running game.

This is one of the last easy games Detroit has on their schedule. A team second to last running the ball shouldn’t win two games in one week. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is a great player but he can’t do it all…right?

Prediction: Lions win 24-20

Washington Football Team (3-7) v. Dallas Cowboys (3-7)

Washington crushed Dallas in the first meeting, winning by 22 and knocked out Andy Dalton close to a month with a concussion. The only change Washington has is at quarterback with Alex Smith, who’s playing better and faces the easiest defense he’s seen this season. Good thing Dallas beat the Vikings Sunday.

Prediction: Football Team wins 28-13

Week 11 Picks: 6-8

Overall Season Record: 106-52

NFL Week 11 Winners and Losers

Week eleven is almost finished and audiences have better ideas of which teams will head to the playoffs. Sunday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race before this coming Thursday and who’s ready for the offseason. Longer postseason runs or trading up for the draft are the main focuses around the league. It’s time to discuss who or what stood out, positively and negatively on the fourth Sunday of November.

Winners: Andy Dalton

Dalton’s last game against the Washington Football Team in late October was terrible. A month later, he returned to lead a Dallas team that scored two touchdowns in three games (that first Washington game included).

The Cowboys played the Minnesota Vikings at the right time; on the road, after a bye week, against an opponent who played last Monday night. They led 16-7 at halftime, and 16-14 after the third quarter. Dalton was a big reason why.

The backup quarterback threw for three touchdowns, 203 yards and an interception, but was sacked once. It’s encouraging for the offensive line after two quarterbacks were knocked out because of minimum protection.

Dallas plays an important divisional game Thursday against a nasty Washington defensive line. Even if they lose, Dalton’s performance yesterday keeps them in the NFC East race.

Gus Bradley

The Los Angeles Chargers won by six points, but the score doesn’t indicate how well they played. The special teams gifted the Jets six points with another punt blocked. The defense had to show up for a win especially in the second half. They got more than that.

Trailing 6-0, cornerback Tevaughn Campbell intercepted Joe Flacco and ran uncontested for a touchdown. Michael Badgley’s extra point gave the Chargers their first lead of the game, and they didn’t trail again. Although Joe Flacco was sacked once, he threw for just over 200 yards the whole game.

Bradley faces the most pressure on the Chargers coaching staff. His defense has given up multiple leads and is one of the reasons Los Angeles is last in the AFC West. Yesterday the Chargers shut down the Jets’s final possession. Unlike the Broncos, the Jets didn’t tie the game at the end and then win. That’s how Los Angeles should close games.

Indianapolis Colts

I said a few months ago the Colts would be an interesting team to watch in November. They’ve lived up to the hype, coming back from a 14 point deficit to steal a win from the Green Bay Packers in overtime. Philip Rivers’ health raises concerns, but the whole team is stepping up.

Matt Eberflus’ defense is top three in the league, anchored by a great front seven. The Colts’ running game looks solid, even without starter Marlon Mack. They have more half-time adjustments than last year, which contributes to quality wins over Green Bay and Tennessee.

Indianapolis can solidify their division lead against a Titans team with offensive line injuries and continuous, sloppy defense. The Colts exposed both their first meeting, and this time they have the home game. The AFC should take this team seriously.

Taysom Hill

The Saints defense stepped up when needed most, but Hill deserves credit for why the Saints offense looked good in that second half.

The numbers aren’t pretty, but Hill didn’t turn the ball over to a Falcons defense that’s improved since coach Dan Quinn was fired. The dynamic play-maker ran for two touchdowns and had some deep throws Saints fans and audiences hadn’t seen Drew Brees attempt in three years.

Coach Sean Payton knows Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston will succeed the injured Drew Brees after this season, and even if the former isn’t the solution (he is 30 years old), he bought more time to lead the Saints into December.

Losers: Whatever offense the Bengals assemble the rest of this season

Even in a dreadful NFC East, this team would be dead last without playmakers Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon on offense. They’re in the AFC North, a division where the other three teams might make the playoffs. They have games against two of those teams left on their schedule.

Everyone is fixated on the season ending injuries to first overall pick Joe Burrow. The Bengals won’t play nor look the same without him even next season. Lost in this news is runningback Joe Mixon was placed on injured reserve late Friday night. This definitely contributed to Burrow getting injured yesterday because there’s no formidable running game to ease pressure off the star QB. It’s possible Mixon doesn’t come back for the rest of the season knowing the Bengals have no playoff chances.

Backup quarterback Ryan Finley threw for 30 yards in a quarter and a half of play. Washington’s defense is a big reason why, but those kinds of numbers averaged through four quarters won’t get this team any wins the rest of the season especially with the number of playoff caliber teams left on their schedule. Good news is Cincinnati can use a top draft pick on an offensive lineman in next year’s draft.

Jake Luton and the Jaguars Offense

Might as well throw Jacksonville’s offense in here since they bottomed out against Pittsburgh. Luton, who didn’t tear any leg muscles, looked horrendous against an undefeated Steelers team.

Luton’s been a solid option for the Jaguars since Gardner Minshew II went out with a finger injury. Yesterday he was the reason Jacksonville lost. He threw four interceptions, and the Steelers turned those turnovers into points. You can’t win games scoring three points, and you won’t come close when you commit four turnovers.

Head coach Doug Marrone doesn’t know who will start next Sunday. It’s easy to understand after the offense put up under 300 yards. The Jaguars play wild-card contenders in Cleveland and Minnesota next. They better figure out something by Friday.

Philadelphia Eagles

The current division leader of the abhorrent NFC East took a painful loss to the Browns in Cleveland yesterday. Quarterback Carson Wentz struggles on simple completions, and the offensive line, which is at it’s healthiest, still can’t protect their quarterback.

Wentz was sacked five times and threw two interceptions, one of which was an uncontested return touchdown that broke a scoreless tie in the first half. The hits, pressure and sacks piled on the former second overall pick to the point where he’s struggling to read the field and overthrows open receivers. The offense is wasting one of the defense’s better years. That’s a shame considering how the Eagles could win their division before December.

Unlike the Eagles, the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys won yesterday, inching towards Philadelphia’s first place lead. Those teams play Thanksgiving and analytics say someone will win that game. If the Eagles can’t get back in first place, this game Sunday was the turning point.

Sam Ficken

Strange how two points can change the outcome of a game. Of the 32 starting kickers in the league, Ficken faces more pressure week-to-week because of how bad the New York Jets offense is. One mistake could add another loss for the only winless team in the league.

Ficken missed an extra point after the Jet’s scored a quick touchdown early in the first quarter. He missed another with 22 seconds left in the third quarter after Frank Gore’s one yard touchdown run. The Jets could’ve been down 10 instead of 12.

They could’ve been down by six instead of eight by their last offensive possession. The Jets are the worst team in recent memory for many reasons, but a six point deficit versus an eight point deficit are different. Offenses can do more down by six than by eight such as taking more time and finding better plays. That’s how Denver beat Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Jets quarterback Joe Flacco faced all out blitzes the final drive, throwing the ball away three out of four times. A couple of runs gaining critical yards would’ve helped ease pressure off of him.

Kickers face a lot of pressure, and a lot of it isn’t fair. Sometimes you need every point possible when the offense disappears.

NFL Week 10 Winners and Losers

Week ten is finished and audiences have better ideas of which teams will head to the playoffs. Sunday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race before Thanksgiving and who’s ready for the offseason. Longer postseason runs or trading up for the draft are the main focuses around the league. It’s time to discuss who or what stood out, positively and negatively on the third Sunday of November.

Winners: Los Angeles Rams

That loss to Miami will stand out for the rest of the season because of coaching, but the Rams were gifted during their bye week with Arizona and Seattle losing, setting up an important NFC West showdown in their home stadium against Seattle. The Rams used their bye week well, defensively having one of their best games of the season.

The Rams defense intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson twice (both were from Darius Williams) and sacked him six times. Wilson’s worst games are usually against the Rams defense, shown in previous years as Aaron Donald controls the line of scrimmage. The offense looked better than their loss to Miami. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for over 300 yards, but didn’t have to score when his runningbacks ran for all three touchdowns.

The Rams are tied with the Cardinals, a team they have yet to play, for first place in the NFC West. Four of the next five games will be hard for Los Angeles, which makes this first win in their division crucial to their playoff push.

David Gettleman, Joe Judge and Daniel Jones

NFL analysts and fans want the New York Giants to dump general manager David Gettleman for his strange draft selections, coaching hires and free agent signings. There are good reasons why he should go, but that probably won’t happen for another season.

We’re starting to see what Gettleman put together, and it’s not a bad product. In the Week 10 picks, I said Giants coach Joe Judge couldn’t close games out, because the Giants blew several leads this season. A recent example was their Thursday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field a few weeks ago. The Giants soundly beat the Eagles the second time around in the Meadowlands Sunday, winning 27-17. Philadelphia looked unprepared and Carson Wentz was sacked three times even with a healthier offensive line protecting him.

Daniel Jones rightfully faces questions about improvement his second year with star runningback Saquon Barkley out for the season. The two game winning streak and a half game out of first place in the awful NFC East is a great response.

The Giants will have a week off to rest and prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals. Their schedule still has three teams vying for division titles, but for the first time this season, the Giants organization can feel good with what they put together.

DeAndre Hopkins

The Hopkins trade from Houston to Arizona couldn’t have been better for both Arizona or Hopkins. Both are having seasons to remember and have advanced in every facet. He’s a big reason the Cardinals have a real shot at winning the NFC West.

Hopkins had another 100 yard performance against a confident Buffalo Bills defense. He had 7 catches for 127 yards, but what everyone will remember is his “Hail Murray” catch in the endzone triple covered to give the Cardinals a 32-30 win.

To show the audience how much of a bumbler former Houston Texans (more on them later) head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien is, here’s what he traded away this offseason. Through nine games, Hopkins has had:

  • 67 catches for over 860 yards, averaging almost 96 yards per game
  • an average of 42 yards-after-catch
  • an average 13 yards per catch
  • one touchdown and four first-downs per game

DeAndre Hopkins has a great chance to become the third wide receiver with 2,000 yards in a single season. He’s having a historic year.

Florida Franchise Records

If your favorite team is in the Sunshine State, you had some memorable moments on Sunday.

While the Jacksonville Jaguars lost a close game in Green Bay, Keelan Cole had a game to remember. His 91 yard punt return got Jacksonville their first touchdown of the game. He set a franchise record for longest touchdown return.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plastered the Panthers much of the second half after their embarrassing Sunday night loss. Ronald Jones’ 192 yard performance on 23 carries was everything they needed, including his franchise record 98 yard touchdown run. It’s not just the longest scoring run for the franchise, it’s the longest offensive play in Buccaneers history. He may be their most important player they need week-to-week not named Tom Brady.

Last but not least, the Miami Dolphins are 3-0 under Tua Tagovailoa, a rookie quarterback who has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions. When was the last time this happened for Miami? They finally have a quarterback to build an offense around.

Losers: The Houston Texans Offense

Without quarterback DeShaun Watson, the Texans offense would be a candidate for worst offense in the NFL, and that says a lot considering the New York Jets and Chicago Bears try to outdo each other every week to win that category. Their running game is second to last (88 yards/game), even though they traded for runningback David Johnson.

Sunday’s game in Cleveland was awful for both them and the Browns offense to move the ball, but Houston’s errors resulted in a loss. The Texans were the first team to get inside the five yard line and didn’t score a point. Randall Cobb dropped a would-be touchdown and Watson was stuffed on a 4th and goal run. The weather was bad, but easy points were there. Houston lost 10-7.

This is where the DeAndre Hopkins trade to Arizona cost Houston another win. Hopkins can play even through the worst weather scenarios and take pressure off Watson when he’s facing blitz packages. Randall Cobb, who dropped the touchdown in the first half, led the team with 41 yards receiving. It’ll be a long month and a half for interim coach Romeo Crennel.

Seattle Seahawks

November has been a nightmare to Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. We knew their schedule after the bye looked rough especially the first five games. Great teams find ways to work through it, and they look like a team overmatched by winning opponents.

There’s a lot of blame to go around the last two games. The Buffalo Bills punched them in the mouth early and didn’t let up the week before. Those games happen, and offensive errors are easy traps when you’re down double digit points. Sunday’s loss to the Rams was bad in every aspect. The two glaring mistakes were Russell Wilson’s first interception when he should have run for at least a first down and Pete Carroll’s head-scratching decision to punt on fourth and inches.

Seattle is now in a three-way tie for first place with the Rams and Cardinals in a stacked NFC West. Russell Wilson still is an MVP candidate, but the losses of Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde in the running game stand out. Wilson now leads that category by two yards over Carson. Plus, he’s been sacked 11 times and intercepted four times in two games.

There couldn’t be a more pivotal Thursday night home game for the Seahawks this week. While their defense has fresh players they didn’t have against the Cardinals their first game, the coaches and the offense have a lot to fix in order for Seattle to win the division.

Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine

If Seattle’s secondary is the joke of the passing game, Green Bay’s front seven is the joke of the running game. Analysts and fans expected Green Bay to blow out Jacksonville with not only the Packers offense, but also rookie quarterback Jake Luton and the Jaguars’ offense not being a factor in North Wisconsin. They were wrong.

Rookie runningback James Robinson had a great game for the Jaguars, running for 109 yards on 23 carries. Jacksonville led for a few minutes in the fourth quarter until Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown to Davante Adams to erase that.

Since Green Bay’s bye, they’ve given up three 100 yard rushing performances. The two games they didn’t were against a depleted 49ers offense and the second worst running game in the league with Houston. Teams combined have almost more rushing yards than the whole Packers team, and score more running the ball than Green Bay is.

This is a problem defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has no answer for. It’s a weakness teams like Tennessee and Philadelphia could exploit to control game tempo when December rolls around. The Packers are the top team in the NFC like Seattle was with their defensive errors and could face a similar situation.

Buffalo Bills fans

Buffalo had their highlight win of the season dominating a red-hot Seahawks offense and scored the most points on the Pete Carroll coached team in a decade. The Bills were the superior team against Arizona, and then lost the lead in the third quarter. Stefon Diggs scored a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game, giving the lead back to Buffalo.

The Bills also accomplished the near impossible, intercepting a pass All-Pro and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t catch. What happened after both of these?

Arizona scored both possessions after. DeAndre Hopkins had the game winning touchdown and the Cardinals are in a tie for first place, while Miami is a half game back of Buffalo in the AFC East. Another kick to the collective jewels for the Bills fanbase. Ouch.

NFL Week 10 Picks

The NFL postseason is inching closer to January, and more teams are competing for division leads and wildcard spots. Who will take the next step/s into locking up playoff births?

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) v. Tennessee Titans (6-2)

The first of two meetings in three weeks between these two teams, this will get physical and tense. Both teams want to win not just the series but the division. The Titans and Colts have good offensive lines, but Tennessee can control the tempo on offense better. Since both teams played Sunday, expect the running games to be the pivotal factor in who wins.

Prediction: Titans win 30-28

Houston Texans (2-6) v. Cleveland Browns (5-3)

Cleveland’s bye week came at the right time, and runningback Nick Chubb returning cancels the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. Expect quarterback Baker Mayfield to have a bounce-back performance.

Prediction: Browns win 28-14

Washington Football Team (2-6) v. Detroit Lions (3-5)

Kenny Golladay may not play again for Detroit, and Matthew Stafford looks doubtful. The Football Team’s offense is awful. They couldn’t score over 24 points against the Giants in either of their two meetings. Detroit’s offense can make plays and run the ball better.

Prediction: Lions win 20-13

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) v. Green Bay Packers (6-2)

One of the few games Green Bay could relax and coast through since the Jaguars are imploding and couldn’t beat the Texans in two tries. Despite the opponent and more than a week off, the Packers need to win in order to stay the number one seed in the NFC.

Prediction: Packers win 35-21

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) v. New York Giants (2-7)

The Eagles barely beat New York a few Thursday nights ago, but more of the offensive line is back and that helps Carson Wentz read the field longer. Giants coach Joe Judge can’t help his team close out games.

Prediction: Eagles win 24-21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) v. Carolina Panthers (3-6)

Another injury to runningback Christian McCaffrey again puts the load on Teddy Bridgewater, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing playing a Tampa defense that was embarrassed last Sunday night. Tom Brady took a personal loss to Drew Brees, so he might play some of his best football for the rest of the year.

Prediction: Buccaneers win 38-20

Denver Broncos (3-5) v. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

Denver has an awful second-half schedule and lost a winnable game in Atlanta last Sunday. Raiders can’t play close games with menial opponents, divisional or not.

Prediction: Raiders win 24-20

Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) v. Miami Dolphins (5-3)

Brian Flores’ Dolphins find ways to win while Anthony Lynn’s scrambling for wins that the Chargers keep giving away. Tua Tagovailoa may not need a stellar game, but Miami should capitalize on Charger mistakes.

Prediction: Dolphins win 27-24

Buffalo Bills (7-2) v. Arizona Cardinals (5-3)

It’s hard to get a read on both teams. Buffalo wins ugly, but had their best win last week against Seattle. Arizona should be 7-2, but took ugly losses to teams trying to stay alive for the playoffs. What tips the scales are the Cardinals matching up well against quality opponents, followed by better offensive depth.

Prediction: Cardinals win 37-33

Seattle Seahawks (6-2) v. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

A fun NFC West matchup will get gritty for both offensive and defensive lines, but the secondaries highlight who could win. The team who had a week off can pull off one of their best wins this season.

Upset Prediction of the Week: Rams win 40-34

San Francisco 49ers (4-5) v. New Orleans Saints (6-2)

The 49ers were gifted more than a week off after two blowout losses. They’re rewarded by traveling to New Orleans, playing a Saints team with Michael Thomas back at full health. Ouch.

Prediction: Saints win 28-17

Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) v. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)

The best defensive line in football against the worst offensive line in the AFC makes this a lock for Pittsburgh. Zac Taylor should pull quarterback Joe Burrow if this becomes a blowout to avoid injuries.

Prediction: Steelers win 35-20

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) v. New England Patriots (3-5)

The Patriots barely beat the Jets on a Monday night and face a deep running game featuring the reigning NFL MVP. This could get ugly early. NBC made a mistake not flexing this game.

Prediction: Ravens win 42-21

Minnesota Vikings (3-5) v. Chicago Bears (5-4)

The Vikings have two quality division wins and can pick up a third against an opponent who’s in ruins on offense. The Bears take a lot of unnecessary penalties and struggle with the running game on both ends of the ball. There’s more confidence Mike Zimmer can out-coach Matt Nagy.

Prediction: Vikings win 20-14

Week 9 Picks: 8-5

Overall record: 89-41

NFL Week 8 Winners and Losers

Week eight is nearly finished and audiences have a better collective picture of which teams will head to the playoffs. Most of yesterday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race for an additional month and who’s packing up and getting ready for the offseason. Half the league needs to use the trade deadline to their benefit and fill in some gaps to make longer postseason runs or trade up for the draft. Without further ado, it’s time to discuss who or what stood out yesterday, positively and negatively on the first week of November.

Winners: Offensive Rookie Debuts

There aren’t many rookies on offense making debuts half-way into the 2020 season, but the ones who did, made plays when needed and look to have expanded roles later in November and December.

Tua Tagovailoa and DeeJay Dallas contributed to important wins for their teams even if there weren’t breathtaking stats. Tagovailoa threw only 93 yards, but his first career throwing touchdown went to DeVante Parker to tie the Los Angeles Rams at seven. The Dolphins didn’t trail again, and the defense forced four turnovers from the Rams’ offense (more on them later).

DeeJay Dallas started his first NFL game since fellow runningbacks Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were out for Seattle. Dallas didn’t run for over 50 yards, but he scored twice. One was a run cementing Seattle’s double digit win over San Francisco, and the other on a critical third and goal throw from Russell Wilson.

You don’t need big numbers to have an impact. Both Dallas and Tagovailoa will be fun to watch years from now, but their teams got exactly what was needed in their debuts.

D.K. Metcalf

Calvin Johnson was considered to be the scariest wide receiver to suit up for an NFL team in the last 15 years. Johnson has nothing on the Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf, now in his second season. Last week Metcalf showed his hustle chasing down one of the best safeties in the modern NFL on an interception return. Arizona’s cornerbacks kept him quiet most of last Sunday, so he sent a message to San Francisco and the league yesterday, notching a career day with 12 catches for 161 yards. Russell Wilson had 100 yards thrown to receivers outside of Metcalf. Both the touchdowns he caught showed both his out-of-this-world athleticism and size advantages.

In the highlights, I took notice and appreciated Mark Schlereth breaking down Metcalf’s two yard touchdown grab as he played inside and not far out from the offensive line. Seattle finally figured how to not just give D.K. one-on-one matchups which favor him, but how to use their second year star in different formations. All the other receivers on the opposite end, especially Tyler Lockett, will press defenses harder and make scoring opportunities better for Seattle’s offense. This may cause a team like the Arizona Cardinals, who contained Metcalf most of the past three games to adjust for their next rivalry game in Seattle.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings appeared to be sellers during their bye week, shortly before playoff chances were eliminated. Of course, the NFL can change week to week. Minnesota picked up a needed and certainly unexpected win against the best team in their division.

Dalvin Cook scored 24 of the 28 points, and the defense contained Aaron Rodgers the second half in Lambeau field, a place where Rodgers typically excels later in games. Quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t turn the ball over, throwing for enough yards and one touchdown.

The coaches used the bye week how they should have especially since they did a horrible job planning against Atlanta the week prior. Chicago and Detroit lost to playoff caliber teams, so the Vikings aren’t done yet.

Drew Lock

It’s possible Lock needed to get some rhythm and didn’t have any the past two weeks. He also may not have fully recovered from his shoulder injury. Either way, he can play and when possible, elevate unknown receivers.

Runningback Phillip Lindsay got the Denver Broncos their first touchdown in the third quarter. The Los Angeles Chargers added nine points to their seven point lead after, trying to keep a comfortable lead against a division rival.

Lock came alive after the first touchdown. He threw three touchdowns after Lindsay scored, including the game winner to KJ Hamler with one second left. While he threw for 248 yards, Lock spread the ball to seven different receivers. Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam combined had four catches, but they had two of the three touchdowns. This is one of many reasons the Broncos want Drew Lock to be their starter for the next few years.

Losers: Sean McVay

There’s no way Los Angeles should’ve lost to Miami. Kenny Albert’s broadcasting team talked during pre-game about how McVay intended to beat the Dolphins running the ball on offense. Analysts knew it too, which is why many picked them to win in South Florida. The Rams pummeled an awful Bears team last Monday, so it made sense to give the offense an easier time Sunday running the ball, controlling the clock and tempo, and head home. That didn’t happen.

Turnovers, special teams and failing to hold a seven point lead was part of the unpleasant surprise. It happens to the best teams. Quarterback Jared Goff didn’t need to throw the ball 61 times. That contributed to four turnovers, three the Dolphins turned into touchdowns. The Rams didn’t score again until five minutes into the fourth quarter.

The runningbacks didn’t put up bad numbers either. Outside of receiver Robert Woods’ two runs, all runningbacks averaged a 3.9 yards per carry. Even when the Rams were down 28-10, they could’ve controlled tempo knowing Tua Tagovailoa didn’t crack 100 yards passing. That’s on coaching, especially since Seattle won and Arizona had a bye week. It’s harder making a playoff push when you’re in third place and not second.

Javon Wims

When Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson fought, that was personal for many reasons. Andre Johnson has a great reputation, but with a known agitator he faced twice a year, it made some sense especially seeing the plays before that fight.

Javon Wims was neither playing a divisional opponent nor was he well-known around the league. He’s known now but for all the wrong reasons.

It doesn’t matter what the reasons were for him punching C.J. Gardner-Johnson were–twice. Starting fights leads to ejections and costs teams needed players, especially playing teams vying for the playoffs.

Last Monday when the Rams and Bears faced off, play-by-play announcer Steve Levy talked on how the locker room voted wide receiver Anthony Miller for the Most Likely to be Late for a Meeting Award. Miller and Gardner-Johnson were going at it the possession before Wims started the fight. All the questions on play-calling and who to start at quarterback are valid, but so is self-discipline and accountability. These problems aren’t all football related but they must be fixed now.

Buffalo Bills

It’s safe to wonder if the Bills are a threat to anyone in the AFC when playoffs start in January (hopefully). The only game the Bills have won by double digit points was against the New York Jets the first week of the season. While they’re 2-2 in their last two games, they’ve looked awful and should be 0-4.

The New England Patriots played well in the second half in Buffalo, losing at the end because of a Cam Newton fumble deep in Bills territory. Buffalo shouldn’t have won by causing a turnover at the end. The Bills have weapons and somehow can’t run the ball to close out games. That’s a red flag and partially explains why they’re winning close games.

They’ve struggled the past two weeks against two teams in their division who lack talent on both offense and defense, putting up less than 45 points in those two combined games. The Titans and Chiefs were expected hurdles for the Bills, but struggling in your own depleted division is a problem. Those issues won’t go away with Seattle and Arizona next on their schedule.

That awful punting and onside kick plan the Dallas Cowboys had late in the fourth quarter.

At least Dan Orlovsky running out of bounds in his own end zone looked accidental. The fact this play was on purpose for a 50/50 chance to receive an onside kick (which Dallas didn’t recover) makes this a nomination for worst play of the month, year, decade and 21st century. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth threw shade. It is THAT bad.

NFL Week 7 Winners and Losers

Week seven is nearly finished and audiences have a better collective picture of who’s heading to the playoffs. Most of yesterday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race for an additional month and who will pack up and get ready for the offseason. Half the league needs to use the trade deadline to their benefit and fill in some gaps to make longer postseason runs or trade up for the draft. Without further ado, it’s time to discuss who or what stood out yesterday, positively and negatively on this final week of October.

Winners: Justin Herbert

Herbert looks to be the quintessential Chargers quarterback: puts up good numbers, looks great most of the game, can’t win when it matters in the fourth quarter. He’ll definitely be the franchise cornerstone for at least the next five years.

The one flaw was his donut in the win column. Los Angeles played one of their few complete games this season, picking up a needed win against Jacksonville. At 2-4, they are tied for third place in the AFC West. Herbert may have been nervous about that first NFL win, yet it comes at a time when the Chargers need to stay in the playoff race. He keeps them alive for a couple of weeks. Los Angeles has a chance to go .500 for the season with an easy schedule. At least they didn’t squander their bye week, unlike two of the other West Coast teams.

Matt Patricia

There are valid arguments for firing Matt Patricia after the Detroit Lions put up two miserable seasons with him on the sidelines. There’s still a lot of good Patricia has brought and anyone who’s watched Detroit the past two weeks can see there’s change.

Let’s consider who the Lions played yesterday. A rejuvenated Atlanta Falcons team with Raheem Morris providing a needed spark. The Falcons played like a winning team against Minnesota, and Patricia knew his defense had to find ways to slow down Matt Ryan and the offense. Detroit’s defense is still in re-build mode, but they can say they’re one of three teams to hold the Falcons offense under 25 points. That’s great to build on when Atlanta started Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst.

Patricia won a critical challenge after audiences thought Detroit would punt midfield on fourth and short. While kicker Matt Prater missed three points a few minutes later, that drive showed we’re seeing a different Lions team gradually. Two years ago, they wouldn’t have scored a game winning touchdown at the end of the 4th quarter. Yes, Atlanta blew another lead for Detroit to get that possession, but the Lions are 3-3 and have three losses because they couldn’t close out double digit leads. Their bye week looks like it came at the right time.

Detroit is in the easier part of the schedule. If Patricia leads his team to two or three more wins before the second matchup against Chicago, the conversation on his job security will change.

The Carolina Panthers once Christian McCaffery returns

We’re all in awe with head coach Matt Rhule turning the Panthers around after an awful 0-2 start. The worst team they’ve lost to is the Las Vegas Raiders, and that was Week 1.

You shouldn’t have to rely on a 65 yard field goal to tie the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. Teddy Bridgewater didn’t play his best when he had to near the end, and that’s what cost the Panthers a win. Still, there’s a lot to take away from the past two weeks for Carolina and the league. The Panthers are a good team, but star runningback Christian McCaffery is the X factor they’re missing. If McCaffery plays in both the Bears and Saints games, there’s no doubt Carolina is 4-2 and not 2-4.

Bridgewater’s return to form and emphasis on the offense to play well keeps Carolina in close games. Adding McCaffery back in the lineup once he’s healthy could give Carolina that edge to win close games. Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Detroit play Carolina after this upcoming Thursday, and McCaffery should be good to go when the team goes to Arrowhead. Keep an eye on this team in November.

NBC & the NFL flexing mid-week for Seattle-Arizona instead of Tampa Bay-Las Vegas

The big story going into week seven was the faceoff between Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders v. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gruden and co. had their bye week with focus and revenge on a quarterback who not only cost him his job and championship in Oakland, but admitted the Tuck Rule moment in 2002 was a fluke. This built up hype for a great Sunday night game.

Unfortunately, the Raiders’ offensive line had to quarantine because of COVID-19 scares. NBC and the NFL wanted and needed their ratings, deciding last Thursday to flex the game out for another NFC West rivalry game. This time, it was Seattle and Arizona, and that made for wonderful t.v.

Tampa Bay forced another Tuck Rule decision early in their game against Las Vegas. After that, Brady and the offense didn’t hold back. The Raiders blew a three point lead and lost by double digits. A Raider offensive lineman was ejected for an after-the-play personal foul. This game wouldn’t have been a hit on prime time.

Most U.S. sports fans know after Sunday night Arizona came back from multiple 10 point deficits and stunned Seattle late in overtime to hand the Seahawks their first loss of the season. Kyler Murray is one of two quarterbacks to defeat Russell Wilson when Wilson holds a 10 point lead. Hilariously, the other is Tom Brady, and both of those games came in Glendale, AZ. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Losers: Las Vegas Raiders

It isn’t Denver Broncos bye week bad, but it’s still awful considering the opponent they played after the bye. The Raiders didn’t look ready in a game Jon Gruden personally coveted. An offensive lineman was thrown out for an egregious personal foul penalty. Then there’s the offensive line dealing with COVID quarantines days before the game. That cost them a Sunday Night Football slot, which they may not be featured in for a few more months.

The worst part of their loss is what happened elsewhere in the division. Kansas City faced little resistance in snowy Denver, obliterating the Broncos without Patrick Mahomes II carrying the offense. The Chiefs are two games ahead of the Raiders and will likely win the West this year. The Raiders have a great win in Arrowhead, but sit in second at 3-3. Behind them are two teams with two wins each, and one has an easier schedule in the second half of the season.

In the Raiders’ defense, they’ve yet to play a bad team and came out with three wins after six difficult games. They’ll have two shots at Denver and Los Angeles, but they have to play like a playoff team the rest of the way. Given what we’ve seen so far, that could prove tricky.

Cam Newton

Mina Kimes and Doug Kyed brought out a wild stat for Newton’s past two games. Cam Newton throwing only three passes to his right side in two games is alarming, and it explains partially why New England’s offense plummeted in those two losses.

Bill Belichick has struggled in his coaching career to defeat San Francisco, so the sky isn’t falling in Boston yet. Plus, the 49ers are in the gauntlet of their schedule right now. Newton put up one of his worst performances in his career. When you complete nine of 15 passes for 98 yards, but half of the incompletions are interceptions by the defense, you’re not going to win games.

Newton’s going through the asymptomatic side with COVID-19, and it’s clear he hasn’t been the same since testing positive. We knew the talent outside of Julian Edelman was scarce, but Newton hasn’t made anyone show progress like Brady had in past years. In order for New England to not fall apart and get back into contention within their division, they need Cam to play much better.

The Dreadful NFC East

I personally watched both the 2010 NFC West and 2014 NFC South dumpster fires. The 2010 Seahawks started off well in Pete Carroll’s first year, but their depth issues and bad tackling held the team back. They got to the playoffs because a rookie Sam Bradford couldn’t play when it mattered most. The 2014 Panthers got hot near the end of the season after the other three teams decided they didn’t care enough to make the playoffs. Both teams won their wild-card playoff games.

The 2020 NFC East may be one of the worst divisions in the history of U.S. sports, and that’s saying something. None of these teams went on a tear to start the season. At this rate with injuries piling up, they won’t go on a tear to end the season. Forget winning a playoff game, who the hell is going to put up seven wins?

Five of the seven wins in this division were against each other. The Washington Football Team, which faces legal crises off the field, has two divisional wins and the best record against their divisional opponents. Their -32 point differential is the best in the division. The worst point differential in the rest of the NFC is Minnesota’s -37, and they’re last in the NFC North with one win.

Dallas’ defense couldn’t stop Kyle Allen and the Football Team’s near bottom offense. News today says Dallas is trying to shop free agent acquisition Everson Griffen, someone who’s played far worse than when he came in. Their defense got torn to pieces by Daniel Jones and Allen. Kyler Murray completed 9 passes against it and the Cardinals put up 35 points. Dallas lead the division before week seven, even with news the locker room was starting to quit on the coaching staff. Coach Mike McCarthy could start third string quarterback Ben DiNucci next Sunday against Philadelphia because of second string Andy Dalton suffering a head injury in yesterday’s blowout loss.

While the Giants are just inept and bad in every facet, the Eagles have injury issues, and that’s accelerating each game. It won’t be long before Carson Wentz goes down with an injury.

Two teams going to the playoffs off sub-.500 records are fine only if those teams win a postseason game. The NFL has to restructure the division at the end of the season if the winner gets smoked, right?

Kickers

Stephen Hauschka got blasted a few weeks ago rightfully over missing two critical kicks that deflated a Jacksonville Jaguars team in the second half. Kickers this week cost or nearly cost their teams wins. Jake Elliott, Zane Gonzalez, Matt Prater, Cody Parkey and Michael Badgley were fortunate they made kicks late or their opponents didn’t score again. The five teams these kickers are on all need to stay in the playoff race heading into December. They can’t screw up kicks in close scoring games. It’s worth keeping an eye on three of these for the next few weeks.

Stephen Gostkowski and Joey Slye both cost their teams a chance to go to/win in overtime, missing game tying field goals. Slye attempted a 65 yard kick because Carolina’s final drive was pushed backwards. That’s on the offense. Sadly, he’ll be the scapegoat because he didn’t score when it mattered. Gostkowski is up and down this season, but this time he cost the Titans a possible win. That affects seeding with Pittsburgh alone in first and the only undefeated team in the NFL.

NFL Week 6 Winners and Losers

Week six is almost finished, leaving audiences buzzing on who’s the real deal and who needs to improve before the playoffs. Continuing from last week, a lot of yesterday’s games were close at certain points. Additional teams are gaining ground and look close to complete on both sides of the ball, even with a handful distancing from the rest. Who stood out yesterday, positively and negatively in this third week of October?

Winners: Raheem Morris

Arthur Blank is bogus if he said Morris has to go 11-0 in order to secure an interview for the Falcons’ head coaching job. Blank’s probably picked candidates out mentally, but this is a great time for interim coach Raheem Morris to show he’s still one of the best coaches available.

A lot of analysts had Minnesota bouncing back after a crushing loss to Seattle last Sunday night with good reasons. The Vikings could’ve overlooked an 0-5 team that’s played dreadful on defense. In Morris’ first game coached since 2011, the Falcons played like they were 5-0, setting the tempo early in the game by intercepting quarterback Kirk Cousins on Minnesota’s first drive. The audience was right to wonder if Atlanta would blow another double digit lead when they were up by 26. That didn’t happen as the Falcons rolled on to an easy win.

Raheem Morris won’t go 11-0 as interim, but general managers will give him interviews at the end of the season, and it’s possible he’ll go to a team such as Cincinnati where he can lay a better foundation. If Morris can make a winless team look focused and competitive, then he should be hired over someone like Adam Gase.

The Perplexing Career of Vic Fangio

I personally don’t think there’s been any team in the National Football League who’s gone through more injury trouble than the Denver Broncos. They couldn’t even get a real bye week. They get rewarded by playing the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts later than expected, with Cam Newton coming back to start for the home team. Drew Lock returning for Denver was ok, but the team outside of quarterback played pretty well for the win.

Sometimes a coach has to settle in and get the locker room sold when there’s chaos, internal or external. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio looks to be the right hire despite general manager John Elway doing…whatever. 99% of the time, New England takes this game, especially if the opposing quarterback looks bad. This was a rare game both Newton and Lock were rusty. The game came down to which coach could top the other. Fangio won by a landslide, besting one of the game’s best ever coaches despite scoring 18 points.

Denver won’t be in the Winner’s section most of this season, and most of it isn’t because they lack talent. They should feel good about their head coach, who’s keeping the franchise from hitting New York Jets levels of bad. A win like this you savor long-term.

The Twin Franchises Established in 1976

Those two would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks (yes, in that order). Any of the readers familiar with these two teams know Sunday was one of their better days together in the league, and they both fed positives into each other.

Tampa Bay had one of their best recent games in franchise history, pummeling an undefeated Green Bay Packers team that sprinted to an early 10-0 lead. Head coach Bruce Arians and team captain Tom Brady took their last loss against the Chicago Bears personally, playing disciplined and precise against what was considered the best team in the NFC North and maybe the conference. The Buccaneers scored 38 straight points, harassed Aaron Rodgers on a level not seen since Ndamakung Suh’s heyday in Detroit (outside of the NFC West), and courtesy of FOX Sports, hadn’t committed a penalty in a game for the first time since playing Detroit in 1983.

Bruce Arians and Tom Brady may be polar opposites when it comes to how they play the game but there’s no denying they’re the reason the Bucs are better in almost every facet, the big one being team culture. The classic Buccaneers would’ve given up after falling behind by 10 especially after an ugly loss. Arians definitely called the locker room out and Tom Brady put in that extra work with the offensive line. The team as a whole played clean, aggressive football. We’ve learned over the years when Brady’s bitter in a bad loss, the team feels it and works better before next game. Thanks to these two, Tampa Bay is alone in first place in the NFC South.

Tampa’s win over Green Bay came when two playoff contenders were on bye weeks. New Orleans will have another go with them soon, so there isn’t much lost. Seattle though was on their bye week, and had to be pleased with what they watched.

Seattle is in direct control in the NFC, the last remaining undefeated team still standing. Russell Wilson is at the top of the MVP race as Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers were thrown around in their last games, affecting their teams performances. Players on defense should contribute and fix a porous unit by next Sunday. The biggest win for the Seahawks came within their division, as the San Francisco 49ers bullied a Los Angeles Rams team. First place is separated by two games, so Seattle can play loose some quarters in their next three games to see how much depth they have. Finally, the Seahawks play their first divisional game against a Cardinals team coming off of a Monday night game. This was the best week for the 1976 franchises in at least five years.

Joe Burrow…

What builds winners? Failure. Rookies have games where they learn what it takes to win. Easing up on an opponent who’s behind 21 points is an area even the best players have to methodically plan so they can leave no doubt who’s better.

Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis after roaring out to a 21-0 nothing lead in the first half is a learning lesson to this year’s number one overall pick. Every team gives up leads like this at some point, but it’s up to those teams to make the adjustments. Burrow put up good numbers facing a tough defense. For those who’ve watched him play in college, they can say his claim to fame at LSU was continual growth. The Bengals’ young star will keep this game tape with him a long time to break down do’s-and-don’ts in future matchups against playoff contenders.

The Bengals will struggle winning this season (more on them next), but maybe they needed this loss in order for Joe Burrow to take the next step. There’s no denying after Sunday they could be trouble for teams like the Miami Dolphins have.

Losers: …Zac Taylor’s Coaching

Here’s a candidate on the hot seat. Earlier in the week, star receiver A.J. Green addressed issues in Cincinnati. It’s clear he wants to go play for a contender. Any player would feel the same if all they had to show for their best seasons were playoff performances and no wins. Teams feed off those energies from star players. It’s safe to say the Bengals locker room isn’t in a good place.

Taylor made few second half adjustments on all sides of the ball. His team scored three points in the second half. The Bengals defense can hold to a point, but even expiration date Philip Rivers broke through. Head coach Zac Taylor is an offensive minded coach, and while the offensive line is an issue that precedes him, Taylor couldn’t find the right plays to keep the Colts defense on the field. It’s one thing for a rookie player to take this loss because it sparks growth and more want to win. In the case of a coach and his staff, it shows the play-callers have to go since they can’t play with double digit leads.

Gary Kubiak and Mike Zimmer

Last Sunday night took more of a toll on the Vikings collectively than we realized. They followed up that heartbreaker with one of the worst losses in Mike Zimmer’s coaching career, and the game wasn’t close to start.

Sometimes teams have games they overlook an opponent, particularly when the previous opponent is difficult to beat. The coaches botched this on every level. On a scoring drive in the first half near the Atlanta goal-line, starting runningback Alexander Mattison again missed a hole on the right side of the offensive line that could’ve resulted in not just a one yard gain, but a touchdown. For a coach who likes to run the ball, Gary Kubiak didn’t work hard or well enough with Mattison to not make the same mistake. The Vikings were shut out that first half 20-0.

For Zimmer, his message either fell flat or he trusts his starters too much. The cornerbacks Minnesota’s starting are pretty young, but that doesn’t excuse being overmatched against a receiving core dealing with injuries. They were burned for 137 yards alone from an hobbled Julio Jones. Quarterback Kirk Cousins should’ve been pulled when the score was 33-7 to see if there’s additional depth. The players had to show up and shake off last week’s loss, but failed because the coaches didn’t prepare them well enough for the next game.

Green Bay Packers

If Denver won’t be in the Winners section much this year, then Green Bay won’t be here much either. The 1976 twin franchises had a day to remember in the right ways Sunday. Green Bay though is in a few holes, and familiar questions will be raised.

Unfortunately for the Packers, the NFC will be ultra competitive throughout the year. Every loss teams take produce ripple effects. Green Bay losing to Tampa Bay produced these things heading into Week 7:

  • Seattle unanimously as the No. 1 team in the conference
  • Tampa Bay division leader in the NFC South
  • Division rival Chicago Bears jump up to first place via tie-breaker

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t going to look flawless this season. It doesn’t help his worst performance came in a nationally televised game versus Tom Brady. He made those mistakes Tampa created to grab control and dominate for the win. The Packers have an easy schedule until November 22nd, but the difference is they have to play perfect. It could take a toll heading into January.

Joe Flacco

If there was ever a fall from grace in the past decade of football, this is the prime example. Announcers Andrew Catalon and James Lofton went through the analysis of Flacco’s storied career. Here is a brief analysis of what they talked about.

Flacco’s first win in the playoffs came against Tony Sparano’s surprise 2008 Dolphins, making him the third rookie quarterback to win a playoff game. He was a quarterback deemed Tom Brady’s kryptonite. He’s won seven road playoff games, more than any quarterback in NFL history, and yes he has a historic championship run.

Flacco’s narrowly outside the top 20 of all-time passing yards, yet experienced a downturn unlike any other. Many fans and analysts knew after he won a Super Bowl with Baltimore his play would drop off a bit. It’s bottomed out. He’s a backup quarterback on a winless New York Jets team who took a 28 yard sack. Sunday was the first time he was shutout, on all games a nationally televised one.

Anyone could describe how bad the Jets offense is, with great reasons and accuracy. If there’s anything worse, how bad Joe Flacco’s played is up there. This is also a lesson to appreciate true greatness from quarterbacks whenever they win a championship.

NFL Week 5 Winners and Losers

Week five is almost finished, and we’re finding out who’s the real deal and who needs to improve before the playoffs. Unlike the first four weeks, a lot of yesterday’s games were close at certain points. More teams are finding their rhythms on both sides of the ball, even with a handful distancing from the rest. Who stood out yesterday, positively and negatively in this second week of October?

Winners: Wide Receivers in Pennsylvania

The Eagles-Steelers matchup was one of the better early afternoon games, and we have Travis Fulgham and Chase Claypool to thank for that. Fulgham, in his sophomore season and first with the Eagles, couldn’t be stopped. He gashed the Steelers for 152 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. Travis Fulgham became quarterback Carson Wentz’s go-to target on third downs, averaging just over 15 yards whenever he caught the ball. His touchdown put Philadelphia into a two point deficit and the undefeated Steelers on their toes the rest of the game. In order for the Eagles to win games against playoff contenders this fall, they need their new guys and depth to step up like Fulgham did yesterday in Pittsburgh.

Chase Claypool had the game of his life on the opposite end. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense found ways to bring new receiver depth non-stop last decade. Claypool could be another hit. He had 110 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches and ran the ball three times for six yards and an additional touchdown. That’s 24 of Pittsburgh’s 38 points. They may have found a new weapon to give defenses fits, which helps them as the season extends.

Nelson Agholor, Derek Carr and Jon Gruden

The Raiders were blown out most of the games they played against the Chiefs in the past five years, and a lot of analysts predicted that again yesterday. Not only was the game close, the Raiders took home a much needed and coveted win against their rival. The Raiders won’t be an easy mark for the Chiefs anytime soon.

A big part of the change starts with head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden was angered by previous results, and he knew in order to beat a team like the Chiefs, he needed a physical and gritty team. Las Vegas’ front four tore through Kansas City’s offensive line, with one lineman leaving the game (and done for the year) with multiple knee injuries. Gruden knew how he wanted to build this team, and it showed up for this crucial divisional win.

Josh Jacobs looks to be the real deal, but the two offensive players who stood out were Derek Carr and Nelson Agholor. Arrowhead Stadium is where Carr’s played his worst football for years. Without a crowd, he did surprisingly well, going 22 of 31 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Carr’s best pass went to new addition receiver Agholor, who shook off two defenders on one of his two catches on the day. Agholor was tired of Philadelphia’s culture and wanted out. The past two games, he’s scored three touchdowns with not a lot of drops. That’s the receiver a lot of viewers want to see.

The Raiders’ offense was shaky the previous two weeks, and their next two opponents will be tricky to stop, but going into the bye week, they have a lot to feel proud about.

Cleveland Browns

There was a lot to feel great about last week in Cleveland when the Browns set records against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington. True, it was against an awful defense where even Daniel Jones and the New York Giants (more on them later) put up 31. Could the Cleveland Browns do the same to the Indianapolis Colts?

The answer to that was mostly yes. They started slow in the first quarter trailing 7-3, but outscored Indianapolis 29-16 the rest of the game. The Colts needed a test, and while they weren’t successful, they have time to re-tool and get ready for their next few opponents. They could still take their division.

The Browns look to be in a great place. Their offense is a two-way threat even without starting runningback Nick Chubb. Kareem Hunt is a top three back in the league and Baker Mayfield is showing progress within head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system. Receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are a pain to cover for a full game. This team can win games in clutch-time, something we haven’t seen the Browns do in years.

Brian Flores’ Impact in Miami

It was impossible to ignore yesterday’s Miami-San Francisco score for anyone tuning into any of the late afternoon games. The Dolphins throttled the 49ers for 60 minutes and didn’t give an inch to the defending conference champions. Miami probably played their best game as a team in the past year, and that’s saying loads about how far they’ve come since head coach Brian Flores took over.

Commentator Chris Spielman noted why Flores was hired, “He’s a Bill Belichick disciple, but he’s his own person. He’s not a clone or like the others who were hired working for Bill. That’s what makes him stand out. He knows the physical parts of the game, but the mentality is his own.” The Dolphins may have the best coach from the Bill Belichick tree and can be a threat with him even after Belichick leaves New England. While Seattle beat Miami the previous week, Flores and his staff found ways for the defense to give Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf fits. This week they jumped on a creaky 49ers offense and torched the defense on the other end. The Dolphins should give teams fits for the rest of the season, and it starts with their coaching staff.

Losers: Stephen Hauschka

Anyone who follows the game closely can tell you kickers get the short end of the stick, especially in critical scoring opportunities. However, there are times when it’s fully deserved, and Hauschka’s timing fits right in.

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense stalled on multiple drives in the second quarter against a winless Houston team that had new life with interim head coach Romeo Crennel calling plays. It is hard to plan against a team with a new coach within a week, and it was in the first half. Hauschka had two attempts in the game and both came in the first half. One was a chip shot around 27 yards. How’d he fare?

His is the first name in the losers section here, so it isn’t a hard guess.

The Jaguars could’ve gone into half-time up 13-10 on the Texans. Instead they trailed by three, and were blown out 20-7 in the second half. Here’s where the six points come into play. Let’s say the Jaguars get a touchdown like they did a third of the way into the fourth quarter with those six points added on. Houston probably would’ve scored again with a field goal. But it’s still Jacksonville who controls the tempo. That’s the difference late in the game, and it’s why in this situation, both the kicker and special teams get a big part of the blame.

Whoever is an active quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers

It’s time to retract the Nick Mullens praise and cheerful thoughts about San Fran’s quarterback depth. It’s excusable to have a crap performance one week. It happens. Getting bludgeoned at home a second straight week is alarming. As mentioned here two weeks ago, the 49ers needed those wins against the Eagles and Dolphins before they started running their mid-season gauntlet against the Los Angeles Rams. Not only are they 0-2 in those games, their quarterbacks look horrendous.

Kyle Shanahan made the right move putting Jimmy Garoppolo in yesterday. He had to see action before playing a division rival. He lead San Francisco to one dominant scoring drive in the first half, but was awful the rest of his start. He threw for 77 yards and two interceptions while taking three sacks. Backup C.J. Beathard fared a bit better but faced limitations due to the Dolphins torching the defense.

It’s a fair point saying the team played down to their competition. That may be okay if they didn’t do that already the week prior. Mullens and Garoppolo were awful in those games, with Beathard seeing limited action in those losses. The conference champions are feeling everyone’s best games (outside of New Jersey) and aren’t passing the tests. This could be a mighty long season in the bay.

New York Giants

It has become a race to the bottom in not just the NFL but in the state in which the Giants play. The Giants and Jets are playing a game of How Low Can You Go?– with each other. The 2017 Browns and 2008 Lions weren’t this atrocious, and that’s saying a lot.

In their first game against the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants had this on their side:

  • a 17-3 lead
  • momentum swing after Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott broke his ankle
  • a three point lead at the final two minute warning
  • the second-to-last possession where they could take a lead.

These are reasons on why you get on the Losers list if you have all four of these going your way and still go 0-5, even with a garbage Dallas defense yielding over 30 points a game.

Kyle Allen

Allen is a nominee and resounding winner for Week 5 unluckiest player. Clearly coach Ron Rivera didn’t want Dwayne Haskins starting another game, so he let his former Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen get the start. Allen had the sobering misfortune to face the Los Angeles Rams’ front four. He scored a touchdown early in the game to give the Washington Football Team a one point lead. After that first quarter, it was all downhill.

Allen was sacked twice and left the game because of a concussion. That paved the way for Comeback Player of the Year nominee Alex Smith to make his first appearance under center since breaking his leg in 2018.

Alex Smith playing (poorly, but upright nonetheless) is what fans and pundits will focus on the remainder of this week, probably to the point where Smith gets the starting job with Allen in concussion protocol. None of that’s on Allen, it’s just cruel timing in a bad situation.

NFL Week 4 Winners and Losers

One fourth of the season is almost in the books, and it’s been worth it. We’re finding out more who are playoff qualifying teams and who’s done when November rolls around. Almost every game Sunday was competitive and worth tuning in for at least a quarter. So who stood out, positively and negatively for the first week of October in the regular season?

Winners: Tre’Quan Smith

No Michael Thomas? No problem. Saints quarterback Drew Brees knew Emmanuel Sanders was his top target with Thomas out. Inserting Tre’Quan Smith means more to the offense. The Lions targeted him in the second and third quarters after plays to intimidate him, but Smith got the last laugh with four catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns, the second gave New Orleans a 28-14 lead.

Those two touchdowns are his first of the year. His yards per game has doubled in four games than his previous high, which was 28.5 in 2018. Simply put, the Saints have a great third option receiver for Drew Brees to throw to. We know about Thomas and Sanders. Jared Cook is a decent tight end to work with, but New Orleans’ improvement means getting Smith involved, and it seems they’re starting to realize that. The Saints play the Chargers next on Monday night and head into a bye after. With Carolina and Chicago to close out October before their second game against Tampa Bay, New Orleans could have their offense clicking at the right time.

The Ageless Wonder of Tom Brady

Yesterday is a lesson to all you sportswriters to NOT publish pieces on what’s wrong with Tampa Bay at the quarterback position until the game is over, and to not judge Tom Brady until he’s done for good.

Brady did throw another interception for a touchdown, and Tampa was in a deep hole early against the Los Angeles Chargers. Tom Brady is the captain of the offense for many reasons, and he showed leadership driving down the field, connecting with Mike Evans for his second touchdown of the afternoon to close out the second quarter.

Brady threw five touchdowns to five different receivers on his team and wasn’t intercepted again. He broke Warren Moon’s record with this feat, making him the oldest quarterback to throw for five scores in a game. His 369 yards and 117.0 quarterback rating compliment his performance. Most importantly, head coach Bruce Arians put some praise on the team saying, “This is a game we wouldn’t have won last year.” Brady and the offense deserve the praise, but Tampa Bay’s defense played its part and made sure the Chargers stalled in the second half.

Dalvin Cook and Dalvin Cook only on Minnesota

It’s pretty safe to say the Minnesota Vikings will have a hard season. The Texans are a shipwreck thanks to Bill O’Brien. While the win was ugly, Dalvin Cook is a player to feel confident in moving forward.

Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak isn’t having a premier season, but making Dalvin Cook the focal point of the offense may be the best move the team has. The defense isn’t what it used to be with key players gone and 23 points a game averaged on them. Making the offense run centered takes some of the pressure off. After four games, Cook has career highs in rushing yards/game (106), yards per attempt (5.7), and his second highest number of touchdowns scored in a season (6). Minnesota’s fifth in the NFL running the ball too.

Even at 1-3, this is a game-plan to stick with. The Vikings have a good chance of going 1-1 before their bye week. After their second Green Bay game, Minnesota plays four opponents who struggle to stop the run. Here’s hoping Dalvin Cook continues his career year.

The Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are here for several reasons, and yes, that ugly win is a big reason why.

It’s a good theme to keep up with like Patrick Mahomes’ ugly win in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Not every game will be double digit win margins and pretty statistics. These kinds of games the coaches and players have to dig and grind out.

Yesterday’s win against the New York Giants was a game the Rams could’ve lost last year if Jared Goff threw for 200 yards and one touchdown. They didn’t need much from him, yet they held the lead and did enough. Seattle is undefeated at 4-0, but they were off a good part of their game against Miami (more on that later). The Rams are 3-1 and could remain at one loss until their Week 10 matchup against the Seahawks.

The Rams were gifted with second place yesterday as both the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers took shocking losses to teams with a combined record of 1-4-1. You don’t get that gift every Sunday, so the Rams must maintain the mindset of 1-0 every week.

Losers: Dak Prescott

If I told you that the Dallas Cowboys were number one in the NFL in passing yards and yards per game, what would you think their record is? Probably 2-2 at worst or possibly around 3-1 right? After all, quarterback Dak Prescott has been playing his best football and wants to get a massive contract. My, how wrong you’d be.

The Cowboys are 1-3, tied for second place in the worst division in professional football. We know given those offensive rankings, it’s because the defense plays like legendary bust linebacker John Bosa leads them. Awful coverage in the passing game, bad pass rush, can’t stop the run. That puts a lot on the offense to win high-scoring games. Even if Dallas was 2-2, those wins would be shocking, double-digit comebacks where their opponents couldn’t close out. This Browns team isn’t the Falcons, so 2-2 wasn’t happening.

Before Dak Prescott was picked off twice against Seattle the week prior, he hadn’t thrown an interception in close to a half dozen games. He’s had three in two weeks, two in the fourth quarter alone. The offensive line isn’t his best friend either. He was sacked three times, two of which he fumbled and lost the ball to an improved Browns defense led by former number one pick Myles Garrett. There’s only so much Dak can do and it doesn’t seem to be enough.

The Damning Play of Tre Flowers

Football fans were used to Seattle’s Legion of Boom throwing receivers and tight ends around for most of last decade. The hard hits, shutdown coverage, staying ahead of quarterbacks and route-runners on a scale we hadn’t seen since the 2000 Ravens. And then, there’s this incompetent spineless nut who somehow would make Pope John Paul II look All-Pro if he ever took the field.

Simply put, Tre Flowers might be the WORST cornerback you’ll lay eyes on in the 21st Century, and that’s saying something. It’s shocking how defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. not only made him starter last season, but has him playing major minutes this season. Part of that are injuries to Quinton Dunbar, Neiko Thorpe and half of Seattle’s safeties. Even then for some unknown reason, Norton likes to play Flowers, and opposing quarterbacks love when he’s in.

Last year in the playoffs, audiences wondered how Davante Adams put up a career playoff game against a corner one-on-one. What they should’ve been asking is, “How the hell is this corner in the league playing off of him every five yards?” Flowers’ stats give him 14 total tackles, nine unassisted, which is ok for a corner four games into the season. What the stats DON’T show is the blown coverages on almost all his tackles. In Seattle’s game against Dallas, audiences saw his blooper trying to pick off Dak Prescott, but since he can’t catch, Michael Gallup caught the ball and ran for a first down.

Coach Pete Carroll stated before the season he’d let the defense compete for the first four weeks to see who the best defenders are. Corners Ugo Amadi and secondary specialist Ryan Neal (who had two straight interceptions, the last Dallas possession and the first Miami possession) should be locks for the rest of the season with how well they’ve played. If the rest of the coaches have working eyes, Flowers won’t see another down.

The Jacksonville Jaguars

Every year there’s that stunning upset in the first week of the season. It looks like Jacksonville beating Indianapolis is that one. The Jaguars are 0-3 since and look worse every game.

It’s one thing for the winless Cincinnati Bengals, led by number one pick Joe Burrow and runningback Joe Mixon to beat you. It’s another for them to come out of the locker room after half-time and dominate play. The Bengals went on a 17 point tear in the 3rd quarter, going from a three point deficit to leading by 14. The Jaguars rallied in the fourth, but came up short in an eight point loss, giving Joe Burrow his first career win and the record of first rookie quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards in three straight games.

The Jaguars are in third place behind the team they beat, the Indianapolis Colts by two games. The Tennessee Titans are undefeated at 3-0. COVID-19 or not, that’ll get you the division lead. The Jaguars have four easy games in the next five weeks (that other week is their bye) and need to find a way to reach .500. If they can’t, then that’s a career year of long-term starting quarterback Gardner Minshew wasted and coach Doug Marrone’s job.

Anthony Lynn

A lot of praise and great analysis was put on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady for yesterday’s comeback win. What isn’t talked about is how horrendous the Los Angeles Chargers are at maintaining double-digit leads.

The Chargers are 1-3 after the first four weeks of the season. That one win was in the first week where Bengals kicker Randy Bullock missed a chip-shot field goal, preserving a three point win without having to go to overtime. The Chargers have lost three one possession games since. Two of those they dominated at least two and a half quarters of play.

This last loss, the Chargers scored once in the second half against Tampa Bay. Receiver Jalen Guyton caught a 71 yard catch-and-run touchdown from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert to close out the third quarter, and somehow was their leading receiver off that one catch alone. When Tampa made the game competitive, the Chargers didn’t show up.

Los Angeles had this problem last year. There aren’t fans in the stands to blame for miscommunication to players this time, and this isn’t a new problem. The Chargers are a top ten passing team, and there are worse defenses around than theirs. Losing games to teams like Carolina shouldn’t happen if you’re serious about winning. Anthony Lynn better find an answer quick or this could be his swan song.

NFL Week 3 Winners and Losers

The NFL’s third week of the season and the last full week of play for September was mouth-dropping. As we head into October, we’re finding out which teams could make the playoffs, which ones could pick early in the draft, and which ones should can their coaches early. Like the last two weeks, most of the games were close, fun and physical at least for three quarters. So who stood out, positively and negatively for the last week of September in the regular season?

Winners: Russell Wilson’s case for MVP and the Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson discovered this offseason that he hasn’t had a vote for Most Valuable Player, and he’s taken that personally. The Seahawks hosted the Dallas Cowboys in America’s Game of the Week. He did everything but disappoint. Wilson went 27 of 40 for 315 yards, five touchdowns and a 130.7 quarterback rating. He would’ve had a sixth had DK Metcalf not celebrated too early, letting Dallas defender Trevon Diggs punch the ball out for a touchback past Dallas’ endzone. Wilson is the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for five touchdowns in back-to-back games, and he’s the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to do this:

NBC’s Tony Dungy has a point when he says, “If Wilson stays unstoppable, averaging 35 points a game, it won’t matter how good the defense plays”. It’s good enough to be 3-0 for the first time since 2013, ending September as one of a handful of teams to be undefeated.

When a team gets in first place, 85% of the time it’s because they earned it. The other 15% comes with luck. No one expected the Detroit Lions to beat Arizona on a last second field goal, or for Kyler Murray to throw three interceptions and lay into coach Kliff Kingsbury, but it happened. The Buffalo Bills (more on them later) aren’t the classic losers we’ve expected, thanks to Josh Allen leading a great drive on their last scoring possession to give the Los Angeles Rams their first loss of the season. Knowing their injuries to Chris Carson, Damien Lewis and Jamal Adams aren’t season ending while sitting alone in first place, in the NFL’s best division, and undefeated feels great before they head to Miami this weekend.

Josh Allen

There’s a lot to unpack with that Ram-Bills game. The one player who stands out is Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who should be in the MVP race besides Mr. Wilson. Allen was 24 of 33 for 311 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 128.9 quarterback rating. Allen also ran for a touchdown in Buffalo’s second score of the game. The NFL Network put a neat stat out Sunday night: Josh Allen is the second quarterback in two years to go 3-0, throw for over 1,000 yards and 10 or more passing touchdowns in the first three weeks of regular season play (he’s the second in franchise history as Jim Kelly did this in 1991).

The Bills will go as far as Josh Allen takes them, which was pivotal on their last offensive possession of the game. The Los Angeles Rams are a scary good team in the second half, and Buffalo not only squandered a 25 point lead but came close to taking their first loss of the season. While Tyler Kroft’s touchdown will be controversial for a no-call on offensive pass interference, Allen led the Bills downfield when it mattered most, not because it was an easy game. Allen hit at least 4 different receivers that last drive, spreading the ball and showing audiences he won’t hammer it to just one play-maker every down.

Teams in the past had to prepare for Buffalo’s defense and ignored the offense. That can’t happen anymore as their quarterback can lead the offense to over 30 points a game.

Matt Eberflus and the Indianapolis Colts Defense

Audiences saw last October when the Colts defense bludgeoned the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football that they don’t play around. This year, they’ve taken a few steps forward, with the last two teams Indy’s played score a combined 18 points.

Give some credit to the Jets offense for putting up a fight that first half. Quarterback Sam Darnold had a couple of good drives before the Colts put a stop to that. Former Minnesota Viking Xavier Rhodes had two interceptions, and scored on his first one to give the Colts the lead. T.J. Carrie had Indianapolis’ third interception and added a second touchdown with it to cap off one of the best performances they’ve had in a while.

It’s been important for new addition quarterback Philip Rivers to adjust to Frank Reich’s playbook and scheme. Yesterday he didn’t have to do much, taking the field late in the first quarter. Some days offenses need that rest so they can save more and get into schemes better. Indianapolis has an easier schedule with the Bears, Browns and Bengals up next before their bye week. Keep an eye on this team when November rolls around.

The Return of Nick Mullens

Strange to have three quarterbacks in the Winners section, but they’re all deserving of it. Nick Mullens hadn’t started a game in over a year, but he didn’t play like it. Mullens went 25 of 36 for 343 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he didn’t have to do much because the New York Giants are dreadful on defense, especially against the running game, but that shouldn’t matter.

The 49ers are down half their starting offense. Thankfully they have a great quarterback behind Jimmy Garappolo. Mullens knows Kyle Shanahan’s system better than Jimmy does at this point. Mullens is trusted by Shanahan on how to utilize the runningbacks to win and play great to get San Francisco in position to score. The Philadelphia Eagles are depleted like the 49ers are, but they don’t have a safe quarterback option who knows how to win with half a starting roster. Like Seattle, San Francisco got a gift with both Arizona and Los Angeles taking their first losses of the season. It’s important to get as many wins as they can before their October 18th divisional matchup against Los Angeles. If somehow Jimmy G and company have some additional time off before then, their schedule between that date and their bye week won’t look or feel as hard, and they can credit that to Nick Mullens.

Losers: Todd Gurley and Arthur Blank

Everyone will jump on the Falcons and for good reasons, but let’s spread the blame wisely. What the team has done with double digit leads the past two weeks hasn’t been done in over 15 years with any NFL team. Coach Dan Quinn tried his best to rid the team of the mindset of squandering leads but that didn’t work. So this goes to the top.

Owner Arthur Blank is here for several reasons. First and foremost is his inability to fire his general manager and head coach in one swift move, probably because he again believes they can salvage something. After he got into an exchange with Quinn over the players knowing the onside kick rules, he should’ve fired his coach. Blank’s goal remains making the Falcons improved and in a better position to win. The problem remains decades later the Falcons find incredible ways to lose regardless of the coaches or the rosters. One has to start thinking that the team is cursed and move out of Georgia.

As for the players, you have to feel a bit for Todd Gurley. Gurley had 14 carries for 80 yards averaging over five yards a carry and scored once. He should’ve closed this game out for a second straight week and lay to rest any doubts the Los Angeles Rams had about him and his health. Not to mention the Falcons should be tied with Tampa Bay for the NFC South lead. Instead, the Falcons play-calling on offense made Matt Ryan throw the ball again with double digit leads, making Gurley a second option for…I don’t know what. The Rams have found a good running game with him gone and are, you guessed it, 2-1. That hurts.

The Bill Belichick and Tom Brady Haters

This stupid debate over who’s better between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has to end. Both are one in a million that won’t happen again or at least, a very long time. Yesterday proved it as both Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots are 2-1 in the standings.

Tom Brady didn’t have to do much against a Denver Broncos team that won’t win a game until Drew Lock returns. Brady still has the smarts and the will to win another championship, so the Buccaneers will be competitive in almost every game they play despite Brady’s interceptions or the quality of opponent. Bill Belichick out-coached a 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders team that came off an emotional Monday night home win. Even without each other, they’re dangerous and both could be threats in the playoffs. We know the Pats have a chance with Cam Newton, but outside of the NFC West and the state of Wisconsin, who else is going to step up?

The Chicago Bears

This might be the worst 3-0 team since the 2012 Arizona Cardinals. Let’s not kid ourselves on when we talk on records. Yes, you are what your record says you are, but sometimes, you suck and your record doesn’t show it. If that’s hard to believe, then please watch film on said Cardinals.

Let’s break down the Bears’ three wins. They beat the Lions when the Lions didn’t run the ball to close out the game. They beat a Giants team because Daniel Jones ran out of time on the last drive of the game, and they beat a Falcons team that doesn’t want to run the ball to close out games. This is absolutely not a winning formula, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Adam Gase 2.0 decided to pull starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky after he threw his first interception, putting backup Nick Foles in to play the rest of the game. Mitch was part of the problem, not the singular focus. Bill Lazor needs to be called out on why Chicago couldn’t finish their great drives in the first half in Atlanta. The defense was horrid and gave up at least a touchdown to Atlanta because of unnecessary penalties. Trubisky, who’s supposed to be a mobile threat, had only one run: a 45 yard sprint almost leading to six points.

After the game, it was national news the Bears were going to decide when they got back to Chicago who would be the starting quarterback long-term. If Matt Nagy and company wanted Nick Foles to start, why wasn’t the move made before the season started? Do they know how to work with Trubisky or did they always want a quarterback like Foles in the system?

The problem with naming Foles as starter is that he will get hurt at some point, and it will be sooner than later because the Bears offensive line is not meant to protect a pocket passer. Foles took a good number of shots from Atlanta’s front seven yesterday when he entered late in the game. The Bears face a fantastic Indianapolis Colts defense next Sunday and a better and mentally tougher Tampa Bay squad the following week. Let’s see if Nick Foles lasts to November 1.

Houston Texans Getting a High Playoff Seed

Barring injuries to Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger, you can count the Houston Texans out of home-field advantage for January. It’s ok to complain about three top-tier opponents the first three weeks of the season when there was no preseason. We all know with this team though, it’s not just that. Coach Bill O’Brien wants to make winning as hard as possible for his team, and he’s winning that fight so far.

Houston had a great chance to bury the Steelers in the second half. The Steelers put up 11 points total in the third and fourth quarters combined. Houston ranks 31st in rushing yards, and used their star runningback they traded for 13 times for 23 yards. They couldn’t find a way to run the ball in the second half (where have we heard this before?), and it cost them a win as DeShaun Watson again saddled the issues and had to dig out a win. Yes, his center field interception cost them a chance to score, but he shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place.

These are Houston’s next games before their bye week: a winless Minnesota Vikings team which may have found its replacement for Stefon Diggs, the Jaguars at home, on the road at undefeated Tennessee, and home against undefeated Green Bay. They may not have two wins heading into that bye.