We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications. If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
1. The NFL is just straight-up firing refs now. That’s a bad thing
I’m not saying that I’ve never screamed at a television that a certain ref was blind. I have. We all have. But the NFL has a carefully considered three-
tier system for reviewing referee performance. It’s a long-standing policy to prevent snap judgements. Only bottom-tier refs are eligible for dismissal, and even then, none have been let go during the season. All that changed with the dismissal of Hugo Cruz, who famously missed Russel Okung’s blatant false start in week six. The play led to a Chargers touchdown, but the unmade call couldn’t be corrected. I’m all for getting calls right, and I believe that EVERYTHING should be reviewable. It’s well known that Cruz was a bottom-tier official, but the league shouldn’t be breaking protocol to send a bad ref packing. If there’s some other reason why Cruz needed to be removed, that’s fine, but so far there has been no indication that this is the case.
2. Mitchell Trubisky has a cannon for an arm
Anyone else want to see Mitchell Trubisky and Aaron Rodgers have a Hail Mary contest? That would be freaking sweet, right? Let’s get that on the docket for the Pro Bowl weekend.
3. The Browns are better at almost everything, but apparently, they are still the Browns
Fun fact. The Browns have played more games that ended in overtime than regulation thus far this season. Let that sink in for a second. The only game that was decided by more than four points was the week six loss to the Chargers. They could easily be sitting on top of the AFC North right now with just a few better bounces. I mean, in week seven’s overtime alone, they intercepted Jameis Winston, then forced a punt on the Buccaneers possession after that. Then, because they are the Browns, they fumbled the punt return. But they’re better, so they got nineteen yards worth of sacks to drag Tampa Bay out of field goal range. Absurd. They then surrendered a fourteen-yard reception at the sideline, and Tampa Bay converted a 59 yard field goal to win the thing. I mean COME ON.
4. Adam Thielen is a Rockstar…but you knew that already
Last season I had him as one to watch. This year, I find myself looking at defensive coordinators with a perplexed look on my face, thinking: “It’s all on the tape, guys.” As we lead up to week eight, Thielen has yet to be held to under a hundred yards receiving. He currently leads the league in receiving yards, and the only guy who’s close is Julio Jones. He’s also found the end zone in five of seven games as well. Julio Jones…somehow still hasn’t. My fantasy football buyer beware from last year is officially removed.
5. Blake Bortles is exactly who we thought he was
I really hate repeating myself here, but just for the record Tedy Bridgewater is twiddling his thumbs down in New Orleans. The Jaguars had lighting in a bottle last year. It’s an empty vessel at this point. Without that electric running game, Bortles looks like he’s terrified under center. That’s because he is. The Jags had to bench him last week as they got mopped up 20-7 by the Texans, who have now won four games straight. I’m not sure what the Jaguars did on the sideline with Bortles, but I’m guessing it was probably a sports psychiatrist. Or a hypnotist.
6. If you think for some reason that the Rams are going away, it’s going to be a long season for you
I know it’s been trendy in football media to pick other teams over the Rams recently. I have no clue why. I mean, undefeated teams are pretty fun, and this Rams team might be the most exciting thing since the Greatest Show on Turf. But I don’t want to talk to you about that loaded offense. We all know that they put up over thirty-three points per game. We know that Todd Gurley is the league’s leading rusher, and that they’re top three in any offensive category you’d like to discuss. What I’d like to point out, since people have somehow forgotten, is that they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest PPG on defense, and that Aaron Donald guy…yeah, he’s leading the league in sacks. They’re dinged up in the secondary, with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters sidelined, but it hasn’t mattered. They’re still a top-ten passing defense. I’m not saying that these guys are going to up and run the table, but if they do, I won’t be surprised in the least.
7. The Florida Three have fallen by the wayside
Remember when FitzMagic held the world in its sway, the Jags looked like the 2017 Jags and Miami was leading the AFC East? None of the three teams based in Florida had lost yet, and it looked like all three could be contenders? We can all laugh now. But, I told y’all the Buccaneers had no defense and that Miami still played in the AFC East. All that has resolved itself, as these things tend to do. The state of Florida is 3-8 since week three. None of these teams is still leading their division, and guess who has an equal or better scoring differential than all three of the Florida teams… The Browns…at -26. Ouch.
8. I’m pretty sure that this trade deadline is going to be a doozy
Why? Because the number of teams that are in the mix leading up to week seven is still high. There probably won’t be many sellers, and there will be buyers galore. Make a note, many teams that are “buyers” will end up missing the playoffs anyway. Easy early schedules can prop a team up, and late injuries can drag a team down. We get that, I just mean that there are 3-4 teams out there that are going to trade away valuable draft picks for a second- tier linebacker, or receiver in hopes of flipping the script. It’s doubtful. Want to know who’s one piece away? Teams like the Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Vikings. Teams that are really good but chasing the Rams. You get the drift. Middle of the pack teams at or below .500 should probably pump their breaks. Exception: The Jaguars should probably mortgage their next three first-round draft picks to get a quarterback.
9. The Titans will be regretting going for two for the next two months, at least
I like the NFL’s new ethos of being aggressive with offensive play calling. I really do. But the Titans are in the mix in a muddled AFC South, and to say that they shot themselves in the foot trying to win with a two-point conversion late would not be an exaggeration. Yes, the Chargers have been good this year. Yes, Philip Rivers was passing the ball well. But you’ve got to kick that extra point there. You just have to have that point. I think of it like a baseball team that’s down by three runs in the ninth trying to steal a base. If it works perfectly, that’s great. But most of the time, it’s the wrong choice.
10. Go easy on Justin Tucker, please
I know that this hasn’t been a great year for kickers. I know that missing extra points is tough to swallow. But sometimes, a random shank job is just that. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had successfully connected on two-hundred- twenty-two consecutive extra point tries. That’s out of a career total of two- hundred-twenty-two attempts. He literally just missed his first one ever. He’s one of the league’s most accurate kickers…of all time. Yes, the miss did seal the Ravens fate against a tough Saints team but cut the guy some slack. One mistake in eight years on the job is a pretty solid career.
Also: Take a look back at previous Ten Things We Learned in the NFL This Week here
Image Source: USA Today