So much in the NFL can change in just one year. There is still plenty of ball left, but as it stands, if the season ended this second, neither of the Los Angeles teams would be in the playoffs, the Cowboys would miss out, and the AFC is so god-awful this year the #6th seed would be… the Raiders?!?!?!?
I do suspect that these teams should (mostly) resolve their issues, and that’s my theme with this week’s set of takeaways: issues specific NFL have or must solve. These areas of concern were put on display this weekend, so it makes sense to investigate them right now.
1. ARE THE TEXANS NEW ENGLAND’S BIGGEST THREAT RIGHT NOW?
In one of the most hyped-up matchups of the week, the Houston Texans went into Arrowhead Stadium In Kansas City and handed the Chiefs their second consecutive loss. Deshaun Watson had a good, not great game, but it was a running tandem of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson that combined for 184 total yards that put Houston over the top. The Texans are now the #2 seed in the AFC, while KC fell to #3.
Speaking of the Chiefs, what’s going on here? We knew their defense wasn’t going to be lockdown, but several other areas have arisen. First, their running game was non-existent, getting only 52 yards on the ground. Shady McCoy has definitely lost a step, and the Williams duo of Damien and Darrel just haven’t been able to take advantage of their opportunities (although Darrel had a sweet 52-yard sideline snag in this game). Second, they haven’t been able to pressure the opposing quarterbacks at all. I know Deshaun Watson is an elite quarterback, but his offensive line sans Laremy Tunsil is big bad, and they couldn’t even record one measly sack. Their offensive line has also struggled, as the injuries to Eric Fisher and Andrew Wylie have ruined the chemistry of this unit, and Mahomes is having to throw many of his passes off his back foot or running for his life.
The Texans hope to continue their hot-streak next week when they head to Indy to take on the other team that has beaten the Chiefs, and KC plays Thursday night against a Broncos team whose defense has been lights out. You read about this game later, but it’s not as much of a cupcake game as you might think.
2. WHERE DEM BOYZ AT?
Ahhhh, nothing unites our great country more than seeing the Dallas Cowboys get embarrassed by a lowly opponent. It truly is the greatest therapy.
Okay, maybe they didn’t get blown out, and maybe the Jets aren’t awful now that Darnold has returned, but man, I cannot believe they lost this game.
This game actually had many similarities to the Packers-Cowboys game last week, as both Green Bay and New York both shot out to huge leads, only to see them dwindle, but ultimately come through at the end. Dallas couldn’t maintain any consistency on their offense, and although Dak didn’t throw a pick and Zeke had over 100 yards and a TD rushing, they had zero rhythm all game. The Cowboys defense was very undisciplined also, committing stupid penalties that kept give Gang Green necessary yardage.
Speaking of the Jets, tip of the cap to Sam Darnold. Mono is no joke, and I doubt he’s actually 100% right now (I’d guess 90-95%). He put on a show for the fans at the Meadowlands and got his squad their first win of the season. Being 1-4 usually means your playoff chances are zilch, but in an awful AFC, never say never.
3. SUPER MARIOTA RUNNING OUT OF LIVES?
The Denver Broncos won their second straight game, whooping the Tennessee Titans 16-0 at Mile High. The Broncos defense was superb once again, but outside of New Orleans/Jacksonville this was the most boring game of the week. The main takeaway from this game was the Titans’ decision to bench Marcus Mariota and put former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill in the game. Mariota was absolutely abysmal before riding the pine, completing only seven passes and tossing two picks. Tannehill came in and dinked and dunked his way to a respectable stat line, but this Titans team is in trouble. The offensive line is awful, and they simply cannot find offensive consistency at all. Moving forward, what’s going to happen at quarterback?
I was a huge Marcus Mariota fan coming out of Oregon, and I still am honestly. He represents everything you want your face of the franchise to be. He’s a silent leader, he’s intelligent, and always puts the team before anything else, but since his elbow injury in 2016, he simply hasn’t been the same. What used to be a fearless quarterback who would scramble and fight for extra yardage is now terrified of running and is content with throwing passes 20 yards or less. The offense doesn’t do him any favors, but unfortunately, I think his time as Tennessee’s starter will surely end after this year, and maybe they start Tannehill from now on and look towards the draft where the QB options are plentiful.
He will certainly resurface, maybe in Chicago behind Trubisky as his college coach Mark Helfrich is the offensive coordinator there. I’m still rooting for Marcus, and I hope he can find success somewhere soon.
4. DUCK DODGES THE BOLTS
Some may have seen the Steelers starting a practice squad quarterback in Los Angeles as a nice get-well spot for the Chargers. No such luck, as the Steelers beat the Bolts 24-17 Sunday night and are in full-blown panic mode. Duck (also known as Delvin Hodges) put forth a respectable performance, and James Conner exploded for this team, scoring two touchdowns. The bigger question is what is going on with San Die – I mean, Los Angeles?
They have dealt with key injuries throughout their roster. It was nice to see Hunter Henry return and go bananas yesterday but they’re still missing one of the league’s best safeties and the leader of their defense Derwin James. Their offensive line is almost on par with Miami, and Philip Rivers hasn’t had any time to throw. Melvin Gordon is still getting back up to speed after his holdout, and their run defense is also a disaster.
I didn’t think the Chargers were going to be a playoff team before the year started, and I’m certainly feeling good about my prediction. Seeing how awful the AFC is, however, makes them an even bigger disappointment.
5. THE TANK ROLLS ON
Has there ever been a more blatant attempt to be horrible than the one the Dolphins have put on?
The Redskins, who are almost but not equally as horrific, beat them 17-16 Sunday and absolutely didn’t deserve it. Up 17-10 late in the #4th quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who subbed in for a benched Josh Rosen (after Brian Flores said Rosen would be the starter for the rest of the year earlier this week…) found Devante Parker to cut the lead to 17-16. Instead of playing it safe and kicking the XP, Flores decides to go for the win and proceeded to call a play that was so purposely bad, he probably would’ve cut the player if he scored and won. I mean, it was absolutely ridiculous. In Flores’ mind, he probably just wanted to see Fitzpatrick get the ball snapped to him and backpedal 90 some odd yards into his own end zone.
We all know Miami is shooting for the #1st pick in the draft, but come on. Try and win the freakin’ game!
TNF PICK: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (4-2) [-3.5] vs. DENVER BRONCOS (2-4)
As stated earlier, this is no cakewalk at all for Kansas City. The Broncos are a much better team than their record states, and they just pummeled Tennessee for seven sacks. Joe Flacco has also performed respectably, and the running game has a nice flow with Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. The key to this game will be protecting Mahomes and giving him enough time to throw. I think he’s going to have his most pass attempts in a game this season, and utilizing the speed of Tyreek Hill and the other receivers will be key. Expect not the prettiest game, but I do believe KC will bounce back on the road.
THE PICK: Chiefs (-3.5)