Week ten followed up last week’s wackiness and unpredictable results with another headline filled day and more inconsistency from teams heading towards playoff berths. It’s been a year since there was a tie. Combined with a shutout for Seattle/Russell Wilson, and the Cleveland Browns losing by 38, there were a lot of firsts. Time to break down the winners and losers.
Winners: Josh McDaniels and the New England Patriots offense
The Patriots spent over $100 million to rise in the standings and get back to the playoffs. Their plan is working well before Thanksgiving.
Quarterbacks Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer combined for four total touchdowns. New starting runningback Rhamondre Stevenson ran 20 times for 100 yards and two scores. Free agent addition Kendrick Bourne almost had 100 yards receiving to go with one touchdown.
The offense gets better every week and credit goes to coordinator Josh McDaniels. He’s not just calling the plays, he’s finding ways to acclimate players to improve gameplans and help everyone figure out better roles.
A great example was discussed Sunday night when Tim Hasselbeck told sports analyst Scott Van Pelt the main concern for the Patriots offense is perimeter play, or simply, wide receivers consistently beating cornerbacks when running routes. Bourne was the receiver who played best and scored one of the touchdowns Jones threw. Yet he struggled to get open and not drop passes in San Francisco. McDaniels and his staff are shaping players like Bourne and tight end Hunter Henry (who scored twice and is having a career year) into premier threats defenses have to take serious in coverage. Expect teams to attract Josh McDaniels next offseason for head coaching jobs with the work he’s done.
Is Heinecke the new kryptonite against Tom Brady? A week many thought (including yours truly) Tampa Bay would steamroll the Washington Football Team after a bye week, Heinecke played one of his best games of the season. While he threw for under 200 yards and one touchdown, only six passes were incomplete and his passer rating was 110.4. Three of these four categories were better than Brady’s.
The defense is the main reason Washington has three wins, but Heinecke is doing his best to keep them in the playoff race. He has the same number of wins Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garappolo and Daniel Jones do. He’s also played quality teams in the AFC North, NFC South and AFC East week after week. While the 28 year old isn’t the best quarterback in the NFC East, he isn’t bad. Remember that if the Football Team stays in the playoff race by December.
Cam Newton’s Return for Carolina
The Arizona Cardinals had little chance of winning against Carolina without De’Andre Hopkins and Kyler Murray. Yet no one knew how big the return of Newton for the Panthers was especially when he was cleared to play.
Newton scored the first 12 of 14 points for Carolina en route to their lopsided victory against the top team in the NFL. He completed three of four passes in a sample size of how he’ll ease back into play.
The Panthers need every bit of help possible. If they need the first ever player who went to a super bowl, went to other teams, came back and scored throwing and running the ball in NFL history to sneak into the playoffs, so be it. It’ll be a fun topic to follow.
Losers: Anyone stuck with the Detroit-Pittsburgh game
Any market stuck with the 16-16 tie at Heinz Field Sunday probably received complaints the last 24 hours. While ties are rare, they’re long games and show both teams can’t win despite glaring mistakes by the opposition.
Whatever we think of near retirement Ben Roethlisberger, he’s still better than backup Mason Rudolph. Rudolph showed he won’t be an NFL starter outside of Pittsburgh. Despite his inept play, turnovers on offense and the loss of star defender T.J. Watt, the winless Detroit Lions couldn’t take advantage. Quarterback Jared Goff played hurt and Dan Campbell’s play-calling of running the football instead of key passing situations doomed any effort for a win. Kicker Ryan Santoso missed an extra point and what could’ve been the game winning field goal.
Detroit doesn’t play many teams under .500 the rest of the season. They’ve lost to two of the remaining four (who are division rivals). Seattle and Atlanta are the remaining two who have credible offenses. If they play spoiler to a hopeful playoff team like Cleveland, they have a chance. On the other end, the Steelers wish for Roethlisberger’s return from COVID-19 couldn’t come faster.
All highlighted afternoon and evening games
Matter of fact, throw the prime time and supposed noteworthy afternoon games into this category. Most of the country was either stuck with Cleveland-New England or Atlanta-Dallas for the early afternoon games. The former was so bad CBS pulled it for the second half of “the Backup Bowl” between New Orleans and Tennessee. Dallas lead by 33 after two quarters. Few audiences would find that second half entertaining.
The hyped matchup between Seattle and Green Bay featured terrible quarterback play and a total of three points before the Packers decided to run the ball and scored two touchdowns. Seattle was shutout for the first time in over a decade. The highlights were snowfalls in Lambeau Field and receiver DK Metcalf punching a defender after taunting. Not the game people wanted nor expected.
Last but not least, the Kansas City Chiefs tore a hapless Las Vegas Raiders team apart. DeSean Jackson’s fumble and Maxx Crosby’s unnecessary roughness ended any chance the Raiders had at a win. When the fourth quarter started, fans probably tuned in to Chris Rose on the NFL Network before heading to bed early.
Saints backup quarterbacks
While New Orleans lost by a combined four points the last two games, those who’ve watched their offense know that’s misleading. A battered Titans team pulled ahead by double digits after quarterback Trevor Siemian hit the 100 yard passing mark.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was without two important players who can open the offense and put up similar numbers. He barely passed concussion protocol. Siemian has neither of these issues. Coach Sean Payton doesn’t trust Taysom Hill to start, even against an Atlanta Falcons team he won both games against last year.
Jameis Winston’s season ending injury means New Orleans is thinner on offense. They’re already second to last in passing yards. It could get worse with Buffalo coming into town Thanksgiving night.