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. Kareem Hunt is likely done in the NFL
Some things, like drug use, get a nearly inexhaustible set of second chances in the National Football League. Thankfully, violence against women (that’s caught on video and publicized…) doesn’t seem to be one of them. The video from February that surfaced this week has likely killed the career of Kareem Hunt, the second-year Chiefs running back who has a few other violence- related dings on his resume since becoming a professional. It’s likely that Hunt will see the same treatment as former Ravens running back Ray Rice, whose infamous hotel elevator video made him persona non grata around the league long after his suspension had expired. The footage of Hunt is shocking, and I can’t say that Kansas City overreacted, especially given that Hunt lied to both the team and the league about the specifics of the incident, minimizing his own actions. What’s frustrating for me is that we need leaked video footage from a third party to get to the root of this situation. #believewomen
2. Mike McCarthy probably isn’t
I won’t make the argument that Mike McCarthy didn’t deserve to get fired. The Packers are underperforming wildly in a winnable division and the wheels came off the wagon in a week 13 loss to the simply dreadful Arizona Cardinals, who until Sunday hadn’t beaten anybody but the non-Jimmy G version of the Niners. Heck, Arizona even lost to Oakland. But as I mentioned a few weeks back, the window is closing on Aaron Rodgers, a fact that gets missed with Brady and Brees performing at such a high level late in their careers. Something needed to change in Green Bay before it’s too late. But here’s what Mike McCarthy’s next employer gets… A coach who has a career winning percentage of .613, who won the division in six out of eleven seasons and has missed the playoffs only three times since 2006. Oh, and he won the Super Bowl in 2010. Among current NFL head coaches with more than two seasons under their belt, McCarthy trails only Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin in winning percentage. How many front offices are already talking to McCarthy is anyone’s guess, but I’d assume it’s got to be at least a dozen?
3. Defense isn’t dead
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The game is evolving, and not necessarily slowly. But as always, teams adapt and evolve to give themselves the best chance to win. This week featured a few notable upsets, but none more shocking than the Cowboys giving Drew Brees fits and stealing a home win 13-10. Brees couldn’t do anything, and the Saints got shut out for the first half. Here’s a list of their possessions before halftime: Punt, Punt, Punt, Turnover on Downs. That’s all. This loss will shift homefield advantage in favor of the Rams, and that could be a HUGE deal come January. Perhaps more striking, though, was the woeful Jaguars defense showing some pride and shutting out Andrew Luck and the white-hot Colts. The key to both upset wins was clogging up running lanes and pressuring quarterbacks into uncharacteristically risky and off-balance throws. In other words…defense.
4. But Washington is
That being said, one of the best defensive teams in the league is a goner after losing their first AND second string QBs for the year. The exit of Colt McCoy on Sunday put Mark Sanchez, Mr. Butt-fumble himself, back into a starting job. When asked for comment, Washington coach Jay Gruden indicated that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t an option because they needed someone who could be ready to go quickly. So, Sanchez was the obvious choice, I guess??? They’ve dropped to 6-6 and show no signs of life in their last two divisional games, losses to Dallas and Philly. Stick a fork in them.
5. The Giants, somehow, have life
Speaking of the worst division in football, did you know that the Giants haven’t been eliminated yet? With their win over a Mitchell Trubisky-less Bears team, they live to fight another day and despite being 0-4 in the division, can still win the thing. The Rams have CLINCHED the NFC West, but a team that’s 4-8 in the NFC East is still in play. Go figure.
6. The Chargers are the most dangerous non-division leader in the league
But maybe not for long. With that impressive come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Chargers have planted their flag. Before roaring back, the Bolts trailed the Steelers 23-7 at the half and looked like goners. Instead, they rallied for 18 points in the final quarter, on the road, to send the Steelers to 7-4-1. They just got Joey Bosa back, who knocked off the rust and sacked Big Ben, but they beat one of the AFC’s best teams without star running back Melvin Gordon, who’s sidelined with a knee injury, but is likely to return in week 14 or 15. Did Pittsburgh choke? Maybe a little, but the Chargers are just that good when they get humming. While they’re simply terrifying as a wildcard prospect, they might not be for long. The AFC West will hang on a week 15 tilt at Kansas City that will more than likely decide the division.
7. The Saints aren’t out of it, but that loss did tell us something
I know, I know, I dropped them to second in my Power Rankings BEFORE the loss, but they actually aren’t likely to drop much further. The Cowboys came in with a great defensive plan, and handled business. That being said, they bullied the Saints offensive line in ways that most teams simply can’t duplicate. I can only think of a few. Los Angeles and Chicago might be able to reproduce what Dallas did. Oh, wait. That’s the guaranteed and almost-guaranteed other division winners in the NFC. Uh-oh.
8. Adam Thielen is chippy, or doesn’t respect old man strength
After the Patriots challenged an absurdly generous spot and first down conversion in a game that was quickly spiraling out of the Vikings control, Thielen got up in Bill Belichick’s face. His claim was that Patrick Chung had malingered to give the Pats time to consider the challenge. But both teams had started switching personnel over before the refs indicated the forward progress, so I’m not sure what Thielen was thinking, the Vikings weren’t going to get a quick play off anyway. And what would be the point of the quick play? To prevent an obvious challenge… so Thielen got loud and aggressive at the Pats sideline. But when old man Belichick rocks the Darth Sidious snarl and tells an opposing player to “Shut the —-up”, it’s likely game over. It was. No word on whether Thielen was force choked before leaving Foxboro, but the
Hoodie chucklingly referred to the (ahem) conversation as “exchanging holiday pleasantries”. Be afraid.
9. The Rams own the NFC West
It’s not often I find myself talking about clinched divisions with a quarter of the season left to play, but here we are. The Rams were my Super Bowl pick before the season, and now they have four weeks to fine tune their machine before the playoffs start. I’m not sure how Sean McVay will handle resting players, etc. with this much left to go, but it’s a good bet he’ll let some guys freshen up. They’ll face a tough Bears team next week, but then they have Philly, Arizona and SF to end out the year in style. It will be hard for them to lose the one seed with that schedule. New Orleans, on the other hand has to face a suddenly urgent Pittsburgh team and the wildcard fringe Carolina Panthers twice in the final few weeks.
10. The Chiefs have no room for error
They did the right thing when they saw the video, but with the loss of Kareem Hunt, this team got worse. No two ways about it. And that’s not even their biggest problem. That would be the underperforming defense that allows over twenty-seven points per game. That’s good for sixth worst in the league. To be specific, they beat Oakland this week, but the Raiders hung thirty-three on them. You can bet they want to maintain the top seed in the AFC, but it might be tricky if they stumble even a little bit. They’re a game up on New England and Houston for the top seed in the AFC, but both teams have beaten them. So, if it’s a three-way tie at the top at 13-3, they would slip (at best) down to the third seed based on the head to head rankings. That’s bad. But it’s particularly bad when you realize that New England and Houston have lost only one game at home between the two of them (strangely, Houston lost at home to the Giants in week 3). Even scarier than that is if a loss comes against the Chargers in week 15, they could lose the division entirely and end up as a wildcard. Simply put, even with boy wonder Patrick Mahomes making fantasy football owners giddy, the Chiefs sit on the razor’s edge.
Image Source: USA Today