Week seven in the NFL featured new records, injuries to star players and blowout upsets. A new team is number one in the AFC and the Arizona Cardinals are undefeated this late for the first time since 1974. There were many winners and losers for week seven, so it’s time to break down who or what stood out.
Winners: Tennessee Titans
For the second time this month, a team winning a close Monday night game blew out an AFC West opponent the Sunday after. Tennessee did any and everything they wanted in a route against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs challenged Seattle’s 2012-15 record of having a lead in over 60 regular season games before Sunday. Tennessee shut down any chance of Kansas City gaining an upper-hand in either half. MVP candidate Derrick Henry threw a touchdown to MyCole Pruitt on Tennessee’s first drive. A couple of Randy Bullock field goals and Ryan Tannehill touchdowns (one thrown to A.J. Brown) cemented a 27 point deficit the Chiefs couldn’t challenge.
The Titans defense deserves as much credit if not more. Free agent acquisition Bud Dupree got his first sack of the season. The unit recovered two fumbles and intercepted quarterback Patrick Mahomes III. They followed up on how Buffalo’s secondary played Kansas City weeks prior: physical with zone coverage, something Mahomes cannot read.
When the Chiefs tried to close the gap near the end, Mahomes was dragged down throwing a pass and the knee of defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons hit his front helmet. Mahomes was pulled after in a fast finish.
Despite losses Kansas City’s had over the years, they weren’t dominated where they didn’t lead in a game since 2017. Tennessee’s won two impressive games against quality opponents in seven days. The AFC is on notice.
Damien Harris & J.J. Taylor
The New England Patriots steamrolled the New York Jets for their first home win of the season. The running game anchored by Damien Harris got the offense active early and often. Harris got the second touchdown of the game, giving the Patriots a 14-0 lead.
Harris and J.J. Taylor ran for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, adding 18 points to an impressive day. While Taylor ran for short distance situations, the duo ran for 127 yards on 23 carries.
Coach Bill Belichick caught flack in previous weeks for shouldering rookie quarterback Mac Jones with more responsibilities and throwing 40 passes (average) a game. Hopefully we see the tandem of Harris and Taylor for a few weeks so New England gets back to .500.
Rookie Pass Catchers
Last year Justin Jefferson was the talk of the rookie class making an impact week-by-week. This year’s draft of wide receivers and tight ends seem better in every aspect.
Ja’Marr Chase is and should win the Rookie of the Year with how he’s not just passed Anquan Boldin’s rookie record for most receiving yards the first seven games played, but how he’s scored in almost every game and is one of the best number one threats a team could have. If you haven’t watched highlights of Chase (outside of Sunday’s dominant road win in Baltimore), find time to this week.
Coach Arthur Smith finally found how to use rookie tight end Kyle Pitts in the passing game and how Matt Ryan can get the ball to him. While Pitts didn’t score Sunday, he caught seven passes for 163 yards on eight targets. That averages over 23 yards per catch. The Falcon offense looks fantastic with Pitts being the main star outside of Calvin Ridley.
On the opposite end, Jaylen Waddle also caught seven passes on eight targets. The second leading receiver for Miami had 83 yards and was critical in Miami’s offensive comeback. He’s growing into the leading receiving role quietly and should find ways to have break-out games before the regular season ends. Since the Dolphins have one win, his development will be under the radar.
We hear too much about quarterback play that’s simply been watered down. Receivers deserve a lot more credit for the numbers put up and it’s time they get it.
Mike Evans, Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Organization
Speaking of receivers, we’ll remember Buccaneer receiver Mike Evans for catching Tom Brady’s 600th touchdown pass. Evans however had a game most receivers could only dream. He caught three touchdowns in the first half of a blowout game against the Chicago Bears. Despite the debacle of getting the iconic gameball back to Tom Brady, Tampa’s offensive co-captain has seven touchdowns this year with under 500 yards receiving. He’s the number one wideout on a deep offense. Tampa can repeat a Super Bowl run as long as they stay healthy.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles showed why he landed a coveted job. Facing a rookie quarterback with no chance of winning, Bowles called aggressive plays and the Buccaneer defense obliterated Chicago’s pass game. The COVID-19 issue aside, the Bears benched a replacement right tackle by the fourth quarter. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles and was sacked four times, two from an injured Jason Pierre-Paul. The defense had fun and dominated playing prevent defense the second half. It’s been discussed Bowles could return as a head coach and that topic will trend by November.
Last but not least, coach Bruce Arians shows why he’s a great head coach and why the Bears made a franchise changing mistake in hiring Marc Trestman instead of him. Arians may be coaching one of the best rosters a collective audience has watched in a long time. The best part is everyone’s held accountable. Tampa Bay’s gone from laughingstock sports franchise to franchise best 6-1 and one of the best and funnest teams to watch. At the very least they’re not…
Losers: Chicago Bears coaching staff
…the worst coaching staff assembled in 2021. With Adam Gase shunned from the league, Matt Nagy and his offensive (both versions of the word can apply here) staff again made an embarrassment of the Bears organization.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields is Chicago’s most important asset (until their new stadium in Arlington Heights) and there’s nothing Nagy or the coaching staff can do to either develop or help him. Whenever an offensive series ends, Fields is alone on the bench. No coaches nor veterans come over to talk or help him understand what can be better by next possession. He’s expected to play under center instead of a shotgun formation, easily exposing him to more hits and cheap shots.
CBS analyst and former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason offered worrying analysis stating that, “Fields doesn’t seem to know how to read an NFL defensive scheme nor coverages.” That’s damning on a coaching staff that also can’t figure out how to fix the league-worst offensive line nor how to capitalize on an efficient running game.
Coach Matt Nagy said Sunday night he left Fields in, “for pride” down 35 points. No sane coach does or says either. Then Nagy announced early Monday he tested positive for COVID-19 in a press conference from the back of a van where wifi was faulty and the interview dropped after a scathing Mark Potash question. If McCaskey ownership can’t move on from this coaching staff at the end of the year, real problems will arise.
Miami Dolphins defense
Last year, coach Brian Flores had a top three defensive unit in the league. The Dolphins forced turnovers in almost every game and bullied opposing quarterbacks. This year it’s the second worst defense ahead of only the Washington Football Team. They’re allowing over 29 points and 410 yards a game.
Defense is where Flores shines. Miami’s marred by rumors of a DeShaun Watson trade but with how the defense plays, the focus is on the wrong side of the ball. They allowed a rookie tight end to have close to a 200 yard game. The Atlanta Falcons almost blew a double digit lead at the end but got the last offensive possession of the game. Younghoe Koo easily made the game winning field goal, and the Falcons aren’t a hard team to beat. Miami needs to fix their schemes fast before it gets worse.
The hiring of Rhule as head coach looks more of a bad hire for Carolina. The Panthers have lost four straight and while most will blame the inconsistent play of quarterback Sam Darnold, Rhule is the offensive minded coach working with him.
Everything went wrong for Carolina’s offense after their first possession ended in a three point lead. Sam Darnold threw just over 100 yards and was pulled for P.J. Walker late in the third quarter. The leading rusher averaged two yards a carry and the offensive line gave up six sacks. The New York Giants are one of the worst teams in the league and the Panthers on paper should’ve beat them. Given their schedule, it may be a while before Carolina wins another game. That’s disappointing after an undefeated start heading into October.
Philadelphia’s hiring of Nick Sirianni
It’s understandable former head coach Doug Pederson needed to go after what many viewed as throwing away a game and under-developing talent. The hiring of Nick Sirianni to replace Pederson made one failure worse.
Sirianni has no idea how to work the Eagles’ running game. Yes, Miles Sanders’ injury impacted the Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive gameplan, but the leading rusher is consistently quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts had over 200 yards passing because of a Raiders 30-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
The coaching staff is on the same road the Chicago Bears offense is on. The offensive line is poor, the receivers are average at best, and the play-calling hasn’t changed despite opponents catching on to the schemes. Tied for last with the New York Giants, one has to wonder if Nick Sirianni will be a one year coach. There doesn’t seem to be any improvement nor development for Jalen Hurts from last season.