Ten Things We Learned in the NFL This Week

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.

Week 11 (Monday Night Football- Focused Edition)

1. Wow, I mean really, wow.

Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say that if that was our Super Bowl preview, ratings won’t be an issue. That was AMAZING. I’m going to take the next few “Things” to break it down a little, but as a whole, that game was insane. Highest scoring MNF game ever. Third highest scoring NFL game ever. This game featured more touchdowns than the Buffalo Bills entire season thus far. It was the only game in history when BOTH teams put fifty on the board. The commentators called it a “heavyweight title fight”, but that’s not right. It was more like a Rocky movie. Real boxing is never, and I mean NEVER that exciting. Also, for those of you who want to think that defense was non- existent on Monday, think again.

2. Jared Goff 1, Patrick Mahomes 0

Chiefs fans are going to hate me right now, but that’s cool. If I’m starting a team tomorrow and I need to pick one of those two dudes, I’m picking Goff. Why? Two reasons. Composure, and mechanics. Mahomes is doing some amazing stuff from weird angles, but there’s a reason he draws comparisons to Brett Favre. In a bad way. He frequently forces the ball downfield in bad situations, and the interception totals are starting to come up. If he throws even one less INT on Monday, the Chiefs probably win or force overtime. But the Chiefs last two drives both ended in the hands of the Rams defense. That shouldn’t happen. Both throws were hurried, to be sure, but you can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win. As for Goff, he looked like Brady, or Brees, or whatever Mt. Rushmore of QB’s guy you want to name as he took only 58 seconds to go seventy-five yards to score with just over two minutes on the clock. If anything, he was too efficient. End of the day, four TD’s, 413 yards, ZERO interceptions and the win. That’s the guy I want to build around.

3. Both of these teams need a little more polish in the secondary, but they played some defense

That’s clear. But some of that is about the quality of the offenses and the dynamic playmakers that were on the field. You just can’t stop Tyreek Hill when he catches the ball in space. This game featured an absurd sixteen plays from scrimmage that exceeded twenty yards. That’s wild. But here’s the thing. The defenses didn’t take the night off, even if the offensive stats made it look that way. Aaron Donald had two sacks, his eighth multi sack game since 2016. Rams LB Samson Ebukam had an INT return for a touchdown AND a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Oh, and the Chiefs. They sacked Jared Goff five times. Mahomes was sacked three times, but he was under near-constant assault from Donald and the Rams linemen. Last night was the perfect example of what the NFL is evolving into. It wasn’t a game of flag football, no matter what your uncle who used to play linebacker in high school says.

4. Kareem Hunt 1, Todd Gurley 0…but why?

Hunt clearly got the better of Gurley on Monday, gaining about a dozen more yards from scrimmage and finding the end zone on a pass play. But I’ll still take Gurley. Why? Because Sean McVay had a moment of hubris and didn’t go to his guy with the game on the line. There’s something to be said for catching the defense by surprise when they anticipate a run, but when you have the league’s leading rusher and need to kill the clock, you run the rock. The Rams final two drives featured only one running play, a Jared Goff keeper for one yard. Especially in the last drive, when time was more important than yardage, going away from Gurley seemed ridiculous to me. If Mahomes doesn’t throw a pressured, flat-footed INT there, the Chiefs probably force overtime, at least. If that happened, it’s shades of Marshawn Lynch all over again.

5. Aaron Rodgers is running out of time 

It’s hard to say that a week 11 game is for all the marbles, but the Seahawks can still entertain playoff hopes, while the Packers, not so much. Aaron Rodgers is still a special quarterback, but the window is closing on him. He needs at least another Super Bowl win to be in the “best quarterback ever” conversation. But he can’t seem to stay healthy or beat the best QB’s. Brady, Wilson, Stafford, Goff, and Alex Smith have all beaten him this season. He barely escaped Trubisky and C.J. Beathard for that matter. It’s a team sport, so it’s not all on him, but at the end of the day, it’s looking more and more like his career won’t be enough to include him in that Mt. Rushmore conversation.

6. Washington is toast 

With Alex Smith’s broken leg, it’s over for the only team in the NFC East that’s above .500. If they had managed to hang on and beat the Texans this week, they might have had a big enough lead to stay in front, but when you sign Mark Sanchez, things are NOT going well. I think we’re very likely looking at an 8-8 division winner here…maybe the Cowboys? Hell, it could even be the Giants, they’ve won two straight games. In any case, get ready for some ugly NFC East football the rest of the way.

7. When two equally-bad teams play, it can masquerade as a good game- part two 

You know it’s a weird one when Oakland comes out with a win, albeit a close win over an almost equally terrible team. The interaction between Derek Carr and Jon Gruden was something to see. Gruden likes to bark at his players. Carr…maybe not super into that type of motivation. Here’s the thing though. It was entertaining. The game was, too, with Oakland getting their second win over a flailing Cardinals team. Oakland really shouldn’t be this bad, and I feel like certain personnel decisions might have put them where they are. So, who’s at the bottom of the power rankings now? Tune in next week to see who’s in the cellar.

8. The Colts look…good?

Not division champs good. Maybe not even playoffs good. But they look a lot better than most people, yours truly included, predicted. They’ve won four straight games to get back to .500, and they boast the best point differential in the AFC South. Andrew Luck looks a lot like that fantastic neck-bearded guy we all know and love. He’s in the top five in completions with a respectable 67% completion rate. About what you’d expect if the shoulder is finally right again. Here’s a surprise though. He has more passing TDs than anyone but Patrick Mahomes. Hmmmmmmm. On the other side of the ball, Darius Leonard has an absolute stranglehold on the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. His 104 tackles lead the league by a baker’s dozen. That’s all defensive players. Not just rookies. Dude might be one of the biggest defensive draft steals of the decade.

9. Hue Jackson is staying in Ohio…and the AFC North 

I’m not sure why Cincinnati needed a special assistant to the head coach, being that what they need is a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. But that’s beside the point. The point is that Hue Jackson now works for the Bengals, where he’ll bring the legacy of his .088 winning percentage as head coach over from the Browns. The Bengals have lost two straight and have the worst point differential in the AFC North. Actually, this makes all the sense in the world. Jackson will fit right in.

10. Da’ Bears are pulling away 

With their 25-20 win over the Vikings, the Bears appear to have cemented their lead in the NFC North. They probably aren’t coming back to the field unless Trubisky breaks something. Their point differential (+99) is by far the best in the division (and trails only LA and New Orleans in the NFC), and that defense is in the top five by any metric you’d care to look at. Especially important, they’re the third best team in the league at getting off the field on third down, allowing a slim 35% conversion rate. That’s how you win games. They’re also sixth in offensive PPG, and they lead the league with a gaudy +13 turnover margin. If anyone is going to slow down the Rams or Saints, it might have to be these Bears. We’ll see what happens when the Rams head to Soldier Field in week 14.

Image Source: AP

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