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. What happened in Miami wasn’t a miracle, it was bad coaching
Yeah, I said it. This loss is all on the Hooded One. A few uncharacteristically sloppy things happened, like Brady’s end of the second quarter sack and the missed kicks but playing for a field goal when the clock couldn’t be burnt was folly. Especially when the Pats would very likely have gone up by nine with under a minute to play if they tossed a pass to Gronk, Gordon or Edelman. Another better option might have been going for it on fourth down. The Dolphins would have been left with time for only one play and be buried around their own five-yard line at best. Admittedly, that five-point lead should have been fine, anyway. But the Hoodie out-thought himself, inserting Gronk as some sort of anti-Hail Mary horcrux. First, Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have the arm to throw the ball that far. Second, Josh Gordon would just as effective in a jump ball scenario, but much, much faster. He makes it to Kenyon Drake at the sideline to end the play. Third, why was Devin McCourty, the best open field tackler and one of the fastest players on the team standing on the sideline? Kudos to Miami for catching New England napping. As we’ve seen, the Patriots just aren’t great against teams that have the stones to play with that much desperation.
2. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady keep breaking records. Who knew?
I know, it’s getting a little tiresome, but Tom Brady broke another career passing record this week. On Sunday he connected for his 580 th career TD (including playoffs), breaking a tie with, who else, Peyton Manning. Goats gonna GOAT. If you’re a Patriot hater, that’s ok. I’ve got one for you, as well. Brady LOST a record on the same day, so it’s kind of a wash. Aaron Rodgers snatched away Brady’s 7-year-old mark for most consecutive passes without an interception with a touchdown dart to Randall Cobb in the Packers dusting of the Falcons.
3. Patrick Mahomes has eyes in the back of his head
The Chiefs may have needed OT to get the better of an ascendant Ravens team, but did y’all see that stuff? He threw a completion without looking at his target. Like, he was looking the wrong way. Many quarterbacks can look off a safety before snapping their head back to the intended target. That’s what Mahomes did, only he looked off the entire defense and never looked back. Just to recap. Mahomes has now thrown completions with his other hand, and without looking. If the NFL ever starts up a Globetrotters franchise, Mahomes will be the new Meadowlark Lemon.
4. Seattle is looking more than a little like the L.O.B. 2.0
Never mind that sketchy, should have been a penalty, blocked field goal. Seattle is hitting on all cylinders right now and they’ve all but secured a wild card slot. Why? Well, they can run the ball, and not just with Russell Wilson, but more importantly, they play defense. Good, solid, team defense. You might not know all the names like you did a few years back, but the Seattle defense is doing its job. They’re sixth in the league in points allowed and they’ve won four-straight. Only Dallas has a longer win streak going right now.
5. Oakland is more than a little sad about theRaiders leaving
How sad, you may ask? So sad that they’re taking legal action. The city itself is actually suing the NFL and the team over the departure of the Silver & Black. That’s the least “Black Hole” thing I think I’ve ever heard, but I love it. Check out Whitney’s Buzz Bulletin for more of the scoop, but sufficed to say, fans are less than excited about the impending move to Las Vegas.
6. The Ravens can play with the big boys, but not with Flacco
I know I’ve been harsh about Joe Flacco in the past. “Terrible judgement. Bloated contract. Certainly NOT elite.” It’s time for the purple-camo-wearing mafia to move on. These Ravens are a different (better) team with Lamar Jackson under center. They play a more balanced offense. They’re somehow tougher on defense. They almost took down the Chiefs IN ARROWHEAD. Jackson, per coach John Harbaugh, gives them the best chance to win right now. I agree. Officially, Flacco is healthy, but will serve as the backup after Jackson came within moments of pulling off a bigger upset than Miami over New England. But not bigger than Oakland over Pittsburgh, no one saw that weirdness happening.
7. The Bears are here to play
It was the kind of game that no one would blame the Bears for losing. A late season showdown against a probable Super Bowl contender. Sure, the Bears are en route to a divisional title of their own, but this was the Rams, the most complete team in football. Chicago didn’t look scared. AT ALL. The Bears have allowed the third-fewest yards and points per game this year, and Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson are BOTH in the top five in interceptions. It’s a rounded defense that does pretty much everything well. And what it did most successfully on Sunday was stifle Todd Gurley, who was held to 28 yards on 11 carries. With the run all but eliminated, the secondary keyed in on Jared Goff, deflecting or defending eleven pass attempts and intercepting him four times. It was by far Goff’s worst performance, and a window into how the playoffs might look in just a few weeks. Monsters of the Midway, anyone?
8. Dallas just needed Amari Cooper
I’m not saying that Jon Gruden doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he did send Khalil Mack to the Bears and possibly kick start a new NFC North dynasty, and now this. Dallas without Amari Cooper: 3-4. Dallas with Amari Cooper: 5-1. He’s played only six games in a Cowboys uniform and he’s their season- leader in receiving yards and has seven touchdowns in six games, including TD’s of 75 and 90 yards. He’s the perfect complement to Ezekiel Elliot, who was struggling against loaded boxes early in the season. With the addition of Cooper, Elliot has gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game, a feat he only accomplished three times in seven games earlier this season. Add in the fact that the Cowboys are closing in on an NFC East title, and Oakland’s loss was definitely Dallas’ gain.
9. Derrick Henry is a bad man
For this next bit, I need you to remember that despite being in the tank this season, the Jaguars still allow the sixth-fewest yards per game in the league, and they played in the AFC Championship game last year. O.K., Derrick Henry just mauled these cats. Mauled them. He carried the ball 17 times, for an average of 14 yards per carry. He scored four touchdowns including a 54- yard scamper that looked like he was running in (and winning) a track meet, and that insane 99-yard gain that featured the single best stiff-arm in the history of the planet. Dude totaled 238 yards…with no passes caught.
10. Josh Allen is the running man
Speaking of running. A lot of attention has been paid to Lamar Jackson’s performance in Baltimore, getting the birds off the mat and getting them in position for a wildcard run. But did you know he’s not even the league’s best rookie rushing quarterback? That would be Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, who’s been quietly gashing defenses to the tune of 7.5 yards per carry, that’s 2.5 yards per carry more than Jackson. He ranks sixth among the league’s top rookie runners in total yardage, ahead of a slew of notable rookie running backs, like Baltimore’s Gus Edwards, Denver’s Royce Freeman and Seattle’s Rashaad Penny. I know that the scouts were enamored with Allen’s arm strength, but it looks like he might have another weapon in his arsenal as Buffalo looks to rebuild.
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