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.
NFL Week 10
1. Week 10 and We (still) know nothing
Sometimes, there’s a week (like week nine) that shakes the league up. But normally, the whole situation settles back down after a few upsets based on trap games, weird bounces, or just pure randomness. Other times, we need to start looking at some of our earliest assumptions and wondering if we’ve just been seeing the picture wrong from the start. Week ten is feeling like that. Raiders over Chargers? Surprising, but not crazy. Browns over Bills? More of a return to what we assumed in the preseason. Falcons over Saints in New Orleans??? Sorry. I got nothing. Steelers over Rams? (throws hands in air). And the piece de resistance: Titans over Chiefs…with Mahomes back??? WTAF?
2. Saquon doesn’t want to rest
ICYMI, Saquon Barkley is nursing a mildly sprained ankle, and it’s…effecting his performance. This week, Barkley ran the ball thirteen times against the Jets for…wait for it…one yard. The extremely obvious thing here in a two-win season is to shut down one of the league’s best offensive weapons to make sure that he’s healthy going forward. But since these are the Giants, that’s not what’s happening. Both Barkley and coach Pat Shurmur have indicated that Barkley will play, despite the Giants lack of anything resembling a competitive season. Barkley missed three weeks in the middle of the season, and looked decent enough against Detroit, gaining 143 yards from scrimmage, but most of that was on receptions. His average yards per carry have decreased precipitously since his return (4.0, 3.4, 2.0, .1). To put it simply, the guy isn’t right, but wants to stay on the field. Do the smart thing with a generational talent. Rest him.
3. The ‘72 Dolphins are safe
With Monday night’s instant classic NFC West showdown, the league’s last
undefeated team fell, as predicted. But man, was it exciting. Seattle took almost all of overtime to get over the previously unbeaten Niners in a game that had more twists and turns than a murder mystery game at a haunted mansion. But we learned what we already knew, as San Francisco trotted out an untested kicker who made the boot to send the game to overtime, then shanked an almost identical kick that would have won it. Winning every single weekend in the NFL is next to impossible. But go easy on the young pan, please. The kid was picked out of almost nowhere less than a week before the game, then went 3-4 on the night. Give Chase McLaughlin a break.
4. San Francisco is missing a few pieces
Aside from the obvious hole at kicker, which will be filled upon Robbie Gould’s return, the Niners have a few big holes. George Kittle is probably the biggest absence. He’s been the biggest offensive threat on San Francisco’s roster for the past two years. Kinda like a skinnier and slightly weirder Gronk for lack of a better term. Not a classic receiver, but hard as heck to defend. Add in the injuries to Emmanuel Sanders and the receiving corps starts to look perilously thin. Joe Staley is a huge factor in the Niners pass protection and running game, he’s got a broken finger, which might require surgery. Running back Matt Breida tweaked an ankle and might miss some time, and FB Kyle Juszczyk came back Monday, but wasn’t a factor in the game. In all, it’s a lot of Niners notables looking dinged up. They’ll need to rest some of these guys against Arizona this weekend to get right.
5. The Chiefs are…what are they?
Now bear with me. What if the Chiefs just aren’t really that good? What if defenses have started to sort out Andy Reid’s big play gambit? More importantly, what if they know that they can run all over that mediocre defense? Mahomes did Mahomes stuff: 446 yards. 3 TDs. K.C. controlled time of possession by a huge margin (38 mins to 22), was better on third down, sacked Tannehill four times…It didn’t matter. The Chiefs lost to a mediocre Titans team, with captain mediocrity, Ryan Tannehill (13/19, 181, 2TDs), under center. Why? Because Derrick Henry mauled K.C to the tune of 188 yards and two TDs. You can’t win that way down the stretch, and you can’t win that way in the playoffs.
6. The Raiders, that’s right, the Raiders are in the hunt
If the season ended today, the Raiders would be outside looking in…but not by much. They hold the same record as the second wildcard team (Pittsburgh) and trail the Chiefs by only one game in the win column. They’ll host the wayward Bengals on Sunday with a chance to take the divisional lead outright if the Chiefs don’t win the Monday nighter down in L.A. I know I haven’t been too kind to coach Gruden and these Raiders yet, but things could get really exciting in the AFC West down the stretch, but for completely different reasons than expected.
7. The Steelers Mike Tomlin is a COY candidate
There are two schools of thought here. 1) Bill Belichick is the Coach of the Year until he retires. Probably true, but boring. Or 2) The guy who overcomes the most porous roster to make the playoffs wins. Right now, that’s Mike Tomlin, and it isn’t even close. The Steelers lost two potential Hall of Famers in the offseason, then another to injury. The three B’s are no more. Then Pittsburgh’s new leading rusher James Conner went down. The man who was supposed to replace Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster is barely inside the league’s top forty receivers. And how have they weathered the storm? Like the proud franchise that they are. They’ve reeled off four straight wins to get to 5-4, good for second in the AFC North and into the number six seed, if the playoffs started today. They’ve done it by overperforming on defense, allowing the 10 th fewest points per game so far this season. Minkah Fitzpatrick looks like an absolute steal from Miami, he leads the league with five interceptions.
8. The Dolphins are on a (real) win streak
O.K. it’s two games. And yes, Colts QB Jacoby Brissett sat out with a tweaky
knee that was only at 80% or so, per coach Frank Reich. But that’s two weeks in a row that the Dolphins have notched one in the win column. So not only are they now two games ahead of Cincinnati, they’re ahead of Washington and tied with Atlanta and BOTH New York teams. Point being, Miami could legitimately end up out of the top five in next year’s draft. So, the inevitable question is: What in the world is Brian Flores doing in South Beach?
9. Signs of life in Chi-town
It’s too early to say that the Bears have turned a corner, but they will have a Sunday night stage to see if they can knock off the Rams again. In case you’ve forgotten, the Bears absolutely stifled the previously gaudy Rams offense last season, in a game that featured two NFC contenders and definitely gave Bill Belichick some ideas on how to make the Rams young QB uncomfortable. This season, both are on the outside looking in, and this game will probably tell us more about Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky than anything else. He’s looked more or less awful until week ten, when he finally showed some poise. He’s the forty-first ranked QB in the league by per game yardage, and thirty-second in completion percentage among QBs. That’s not good enough for the quarterback of a team that has Super Bowl aspirations. In week ten he was far more efficient, throwing for three of the seasons eight touchdowns.
10. Kaep’s (maybe) back
So, Saturday is going to be interesting. The league has organized a one-man pro day for Colin Kapernick in Atlanta this Saturday. Might it be a PR stunt? Maybe? A little pre-emptive jostling heading towards a new CBA? Possibly? Or, it could be because after three years out of the league, there’s some legitimate traction for a guy who never should have been unemployed. Rumors are that at least a half dozen teams are sending personnel to view the workout and interview the former 49ers quarterback. Kaepernick’s skill set has never looked more relevant in the NFL, and the argument that he doesn’t fit in has dried up. Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson are MVP front runners, Deshaun Watson isn’t far behind and Patrick Mahomes is, well Patrick Mahomes. The league has never been more ready for this. We’ll be watching.
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Image Source: AP Images