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.
- Dallas is so bad that they’re making bad look good
I know that it’s hard to wrap our heads around Dallas being flat out bad, because we’re conditioned to think of them as mediocre, at absolute worst. So, I’m going to do a little experiment.
QB1- 21/40, 180 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
QB2- 15/27, 123 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles
Which quarterback won the game? The guy with more yardage and no turnovers? Or the guy who got a few scores, but turned the ball over four times? Given the context, I think you all know where I’m headed here. QB1 is Cowboys third-stringer Ben DiNucci, who never in a million years thought that he’d see playing time with the divisional lead on the line, since he was previously mired behind Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton on the depth chart. Not a great day, but all things considered, not horrific for the young man. QB2 is Carson Wentz. Carson Wentz, who people thought might be an MVP-kinda dude in Philly. QB2 and the Eagles won this game 23-9, despite that absolute train wreck of a stat line. That’s no bueno for anyone involved. But Dallas is so bad that you can dominate them with that sort of performance at the game’s most crucial position.
- The Giants are just plain better against TB12
Two of TB12’s greatest nightmares, Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul, are now his teammates in Tampa. Michael Strahan is a daytime television personality, so you’d think that his goat-ness would be relaxed in a midseason game against a Giants team that came in at 1-6. Nope. The Giants live rent-free in in Brady’s head, and for good reason. Inexplicably, for the last two decades, the Giants are just much, much better against Brady than anyone else. It doesn’t hurt that these Giants are coached by former Patriots assistant Joe Judge. The Giants led 14-6 at halftime, and 17-15 after three quarters. It took a questionable picked-up pass interference flag on a two-point try to end the game. The Giants knocked on the doorstep and almost sent the thing to overtime, against the consensus best team in the NFC. That’s a herculean effort for a team that’s in last place in the worst division in all of football.
- The Jets are potentially all-time bad
I’ll keep this brief, because it’s not nice to kick people while they are down, and the Jets are way down, especially after being eviscerated by Patrick Mahomes for five touchdowns on Sunday. Following that performance, the Jets have a nightmare inducing -144 point differential in their eight straight losses. That puts them on pace (albeit barely) to break the NFL’s record for insane futility. The record for worst point differential in the history of the NFL is -287 by the winless 1976 Buccaneers. The Bucs were an expansion team that debuted in 76, and they managed to score only 8.9 points per game and were held scoreless five times. Yeesh. The Jets, to their credit are averaging over ten point per game but are allowing just a whisker less than thirty per contest. Want to hear the weirdest part of this? The Jets best chance to win a game this year and avoid going 0-16? The Patriots. The Jets will have to face five winning teams in their last eight contests (Raiders, Browns, Rams, Seahawks and Dolphins) plus the Chargers on the road, and two contests against the 2-5 Patriots. By my reckoning, that home game against New England next Monday night is probably the Jets single best chance to grab a win.
- Upsets are fun!
Raise your hand if you had the Dolphins beating the Rams. Me neither. It wasn’t a Tua Tagovailoa (12/22 93 yards 1 TD) highlight reel, either. The Dolphins capitalized on four first half turnovers by the Rams and an 88-yard punt return touchdown to earn their third straight win. Surprising to see an NFC West team lose, but not a shocker given the turnovers. What about Minnesota over Green Bay at Lambeau? Well, this one we might have seen coming. Dalvin Cook against that Packers rush defense is nightmare fodder. Lambeau isn’t the homefield advantage it once was. Hasn’t been for years. Bengals over Titans? OK. Now I’m intrigued. This one is a bit of a head scratcher, with Tennessee dropping their second straight game despite solid games from Derrick Henry (18 rushes for 112 yards and a touchdown) and Ryan Tannehill (233 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT). The Bengals had a great game plan to upend the AFC South leaders and it worked perfectly. When the Titans started their first two drives with an interception and a missed field goal, the Bengals got out to a 10-0 lead, and then just milked the clock. Despite earning two more yards per play, the Titans couldn’t play catchup, as Cincy held the ball for eleven more minutes over the course of the contest. Joe Burrow connected with seven different receivers while Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine combined for 96 yards on 25 carries to keep the chains moving. The eleven-point loss was the worst of the season for the Titans, who’ll need to get the offense rolling next week against a tough Bears front if they want to avoid a three-game losing streak. Upset week bonus points- Atlanta beat Carolina!!!
- Dalvin Cook is a bad, bad man
Every season there’s a Jekyll & Hyde team that confounds any sort of post-game analysis and any sense of consistency from week to week. This year, that team might be the 2-5 Minnesota Vikings. Last week, Minnesota got beat by seventeen points by the Falcons (albeit without Cook), and this week they punched their division leader in the nose on the road, riding their running back to a 28-22 win. Cook was unstoppable against the Packers lackluster defense, as he rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns on thirty carries and added two receptions for 63 yards and a receiving touchdown. It’s his third game of the season with over one hundred yards rushing as well as his third multi-touchdown performance. The Packers still look to be the class of the NFC North, but with the Bears nipping at their heels, I’m sure they’d love to have had that divisional home win in their pocket.
- Someone please explain to me why the Packers let Blake Martinez go
The more I think about this, the less it makes sense to me. Why did the Packers let their leading tackler walk away from an underperforming defense? From 2017-2019, Martinez averaged 140 tackles per year, providing consistency to a defense that was far from perfect. I understand that the Pack struggled against the run last season, but was jettisoning their top tackler at a crucial position the best way to move forward? Watching Martinez in the Giants uniform seems strange to me, but he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s on pace for 160 tackles this season and already has two sacks on the year. I think that the G-men got a steal at three years for $30 million while the Packers one sided roster will more than likely leave Aaron Rodgers in the cold after another too-short postseason.
- Don’t go grabbing people’s mouthpieces
Ok. First. Ewwwww.
Second, Covid. Helllooooo.
Third, you might get punched. Kinda. That’s what happened to Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson after did just that to Bears wideout Javon Wims. Early in the second half, after a relatively mundane one-yard run play, the two shared words, and almost as an afterthought, as he walked away, Gardner-Johnson grabbed Wims mouthpiece and threw it to the ground. After that, legends were born. The Bears receiver wanted to exact his revenge by yanking out his enemy’s mouthpiece and attempted to do so on the Bears next possession. He missed. So, instead of letting it go at that, he punched Gardner Johnson on the side of his helmet. With his hand. My knuckles are bleeding just thinking about it.
Anyway. Cautionary tale, folks.
Wash your hands.
Wear a mask.
Don’t grab people’s spit covered mouthguards.
- The Hoodie got honest
The NFL is abuzz after the normally tight-lipped Bill Belichick gave something that resembled brutal honesty in an interview with former coordinator Charlie Weis on Sirius XM’s Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show.
“I mean, look we paid Cam Newton a million dollars, I mean, it’s obvious that we didn’t have any money. It’s nobody’s fault. That’s what we did the last five years. We sold out and won three Super Bowls, played in a fourth and played in an AFC Championship Game. This year we had less to work with. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.”
What’s interesting here is that Belichick’s ability to control the purse strings has never been questioned by anyone who knows what the Patriots try to do every year. The roster might not shine with huge names every year, but the Hoodie hasn’t won six titles with scrubs. He’s been more successful than most at keeping a balanced roster year in and year out. So, if the end result is that they tried to squeeze out a few more titles before the end of their run with Brady, can you blame them? Brady’s continual restructuring gave the Pats millions of dollars in cap space on an annual basis, and that bill and others had to come due eventually. It’s a rare window into the decision-making process of the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen, and I’m ready for more late career Hoodie honesty!
- Patrick Mahomes would like to remind you that he’s a baller
Yes, it was the aforementioned Jets, who are, it should be noted, not especially good at defense. But Patrick Mahomes had himself a game that should remind everyone that it’s not a two-man race for the MVP between Russell Wilson and (can’t believe we’re saying this) Tom Brady. Mahomes eviscerated the Jets defense on 31/42 passing for 416 yards and five, yes, five passing touchdowns. Mahomes is currently enjoying a robust 21-1 TD/INT ratio for the defending champs as the Chiefs are somehow under the radar at 7-1. Make of that what you will.
- Let’s stop worrying about socks, shall we?
Like some Victorian era schoolmarm, whose delicate sensibilities have been offended by the merest whisper of skin and scandal, the NFL has handed down not one, but two five thousand dollar fines to Steelers players for not adhering to the league’s oddly specific uniform code. As we can see here, both James Conner and Juju Smith-Schuster’s socks failed to ascend all the way up to their pantaloons. It’s a scandalous ending to a week eight that saw the Steelers remain unbeaten. While the pair likely won’t face any suspensions or public humiliations, they’ll need to pony up the equivalent of ten years-worth of teacher’s salary, circa 1900.
For more NFL thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: Associated Press Images