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. Rueben Foster shouldn’t have a job…but he does
Another season, another domestic abuser getting yet ANOTHER chance in the league. While Foster is on the Commissioner’s exempt list pending the results of the criminal investigation into his behavior, Washington snatched up the former 49ers linebacker as soon as San Francisco cut him. Foster has been in and out of court his entire professional career for a range of violations including domestic battery, assault, illegal possession of firearms, threats and drug possession. The most recent allegations are the result of an altercation at the team’s hotel in Tampa, where his ex-girlfriend Elissa Ennis was observed to have scratches and signs of violence by the arresting officers. Ennis has accused Foster similarly in the past but recanted her statements. No word yet on what team or league-based punishment might be levied if Foster avoids jail time. In any case, it’s an even worse look for what is already the most tone-deaf team in the league.
2. Lamar Jackson is staking his claim in Baltimore, even if Michael Vick doesn’t like it
Lamar Jackson knows that he brings something special to the Ravens offense. Something that Joe Flacco simply isn’t capable of. Jackson has led the Ravens to two straight wins as the incumbent Flacco heals up a sore hip. In that time, Jackson has thrown for 328 yards and rushed for 190. It might not look like the same old Ravens, with Flacco heaving bombs down the sideline, but it’s working. Strangely, Michael Vick came out the woodwork to tell Jackson to “Proceed with caution”. Listen, I’m not saying that there’s anyone more qualified to talk about being a mobile quarterback in the NFL than Vick but telling a rookie QB trying to win a job to hit the brakes seems…odd. My guess is that Jackson and the Ravens will develop a plan that leverages his talents into a cohesive game plan when the time comes for him to supplant Flacco permanently. In the meantime, let the kid play.
3. Clearly, it’s time for Jarvis Landry to shut up
I’m not sure exactly why Landry thought it was a good idea to talk smack in the midst of a losing streak, but on Sunday, he decided to revive his claim that Bills quarterback Josh Allen is “trash”. It didn’t end well, with the Jags suffering their seventh-straight loss 24-21. In case you’re wondering, that is in fact the league’s worst losing streak. Add to that the fact that the Bills are the team that puts up the second-fewest points in all of football, and Ramsey doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, no matter how well he backpedals on the field and in interviews after the game.
4. Seattle looks like a wild card contender
Two weeks, two must-win games to keep their wildcard hopes alive. Seattle was up to the challenge both times. Russel Wilson has been his usual impressive self, but they’ve done it on the ground. Seattle has the league’s best rushing attack, averaging almost 150 YPG. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny have lightened the load on Wilson and kept games close by controlling the clock week in and week out. They’ll have two meetings with the woeful 49ers and one with the Cardinals left on the docket, so they’re in good position, but they’ll likely need to beat either Kansas City or Minnesota to get to ten wins, which is the likely bar for the wildcard in the NFC.
5. Tom Brady broke another record
All hail. The most career passing yards, regular season and playoffs, 79,416 yards and counting. Does it help that the Patriots make deep runs into the playoffs every year? Yup, sure does. Brady has over 10,000 career passing yards in the playoffs alone. Think about that. It’s absurd. I could name at least a dozen quarterbacks you’ve heard of that didn’t hit that number in their entire careers. Admittedly, they’re mostly journeymen, etc. but I will tell you this, Byron Leftwich threw for more than that in his ten-year career, but JUST BARELY.
6. Philip Rivers set a record, too.
There must have been something in the air, because Philip Rivers didn’t want to be left out. He connected on his first 25 passes of the game, breaking Derek Carr and Mark Brunell’s record of 22 completions to start a game. He didn’t exactly pack it in, either, he also set the record for highest completion percentage (96.55%) for a whole game in the 45-10 mopping of the Arizona Cardinals. What’s more impressive is that the Cardinals are actually one of the better passing defenses in the league, allowing the fourth fewest yards per game in the league.
7. The Giants can’t get out of their own way
They had them. They had the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles right where they wanted them. Up 19-11 at the half, all the Giants were moving the ball. All they had to do was continue to control the clock with Saquon Barkley and finish them. They would have been back in the race for the NFC East or at least dealt a blow to a hated rival. Instead, they controlled the ball for only five minutes in the third quarter, punting on all three possessions. Barkley touched the ball only five times in the entire second half, despite averaging just under nine yards per touch in the first half. Barkley ended with 142 yards from scrimmage and two TD’s, but that was pretty much all in the first half. I’m not sure that it’s just coaching, but given the talent level, these Giants should be far, far better than they are.
8. The Broncos are still dangerous
Just ask the Steelers, who left Mile High Stadium hanging their heads after a Ben Roethlisberger pick in the end zone scuttled their hopes of keeping pace in the AFC playoff standings. It was Big Ben’s second INT of the game, to add to the Steelers end zone fumble and a missed field goal. The Steelers had plenty of chances, controlling the ball for ten minutes more than the home- team Broncos, but despite Ben’s 462 yards in the air, they couldn’t keep pace with Case Keenum and Philip Lindsay on the scoreboard. Denver is in the toughest division in football, with both the Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC West. But the young core of this team is built to last, with Lindsay proving to be a revelation in his rookie year and Bradley Chubb balancing the d-line opposite Von Miller. I expect to see this team compete for a division title in the near future.
9. The Texans are the best they’ve ever been
Houston scuffled for three weeks to begin the season. Deshaun Watson looks scared and played scared. Then, somehow, in week four, a lightbulb went on, and they haven’t lost since. They’ve kept pace with the Patriots and now sit at 8-3 with five weeks to go. They’ll face only one team over .500 in that span, the 6-5 Colts who they beat in week four to kick start their winning streak. Only the Saints have a longer streak going. With Watson playing at a high level and DeAndre Hopkins making catches, they can score quickly. J.J. Watt leads a defense that’s top five in points allowed and allows under 100 yards rushing per game. That’s a recipe for a team that can contend in the playoffs. No Texans team has ever looked this formidable.
10. The Buccaneers should be better than this
I hate to put anyone on the hot seat the week after a win, but you can’t think that Dirk Koetter is going to keep his job for too long, can you? He’s choosing his quarterback by flipping a coin weekly, but somehow has one of the most explosive offenses in football. There’s zero defense. None. They allow more points than anyone but the Bengals. Mike Evans has had 1000 yards receiving in each of his first five seasons, but they’ve only been above .500 once in that time. They haven’t made the playoffs in over a decade. I know that the NFC South has been tough for the last couple of years with Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina all having high points, but the inability to put together a winner with the talent on that roster is depressing.
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