We kick off another week of our NFL Power Rankings with more upsets. The San Francisco 49ers are a powerhouse that struggles if they fall behind, the Cleveland Browns continue their inconsistency, and even when they win, they need referee help.
The Indianapolis Colts can’t get past turnovers, and the Dallas Cowboys show how good they can be against lesser teams. Where has Titans QB Will Levis been? These are just a few storylines, not to mention the Minnesota Vikings and the loss of QB Kirk Cousins (Achilles).
While it’s every season, this one seems horrifically worse, but the referees strike again! For those who believe in conspiracies and never say never, some believe the referees tend to help specific teams. Obviously, social media does this, but so is the media! While the writer of the linked article isn’t a great writer, as he’s pretty raw, and I’m stretching it to label him media, he’s right on point. Never forget, the truth shall set you free!
Also, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the NFL admitted the officiating cost them the game against the Cleveland Browns. You think? That’s a big no-no for owners to state as that’s supposed to stay private and behind the scenes.
I sound like a broken record, Bye Weeks (weeks 5-14), but no teams were on a Bye this past week. Ironically, as a writer on a deadline, this is what we call a “bummer,” as that means more writing this week! I always rise to the challenge, so let’s get to it, my friends!
Note: Numbers in parentheses by team name note their ranking last week. the media
Philadelphia Eagles (2) Record: 7-1 (win vs. Washington Commanders 38-31) – well, it seems the Commanders match up well against the Eagles on the field. The coaching staff is another story, as the Commanders are inconsistent not only on the field but also with the play-calling and decision-making process. That’s where this game concluded. QB Jalen Hurts was a monster again, going 29 of 38 for 319 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. How long does Jack Del Rio last as the Commanders’ defensive coordinator? Back to Hurts, as he’s not 100 percent, and the team must hope he doesn’t start suffering the wear and tear mobile quarterbacks end up having to deal with. His health is tantamount to moving forward. You’ll hear about the new wide receiver signing of Julio Jones, but he’s done and is just “another guy.” This game was against a division rival, and the records don’t matter. In this scenario, we’ve seen the Commanders play the Eagles well. The Eagles got out of this game unscathed and proved resilient as they beat a team they should’ve beaten but that refused to go down. That resiliency week in and week out is why they’re now the best team in the league.
Kansas City Chiefs (1) Record: 6-2 (loss vs. Denver Broncos 24-9) – the Broncos came into the game with only two wins and a brutal 70-point beatdown by the Miami Dolphins, only to upset the best team in the league. To remind you, the Broncos and Chiefs are division rivals who know the nuances of one another, thus making a win more difficult regardless of records. You combine that with QB Patrick Mahomes (flu, hand) dealing with the flu and then getting hurt, and while not an excuse, it’s one reason the Broncos’ defense, ranked last in the league, was able to hold the Chiefs to three field goals. The Chiefs were a likely victim of a potential trap game, but injuries didn’t help either, and against a division rival, it proved too much to overcome. The race for home field advantage is always in play, and they’re battling three other 6-2 teams, so expect them to bounce back as they know the ramifications of this loss.
Baltimore Ravens (3) Record: 6-2 (win vs. Arizona Cardinals 31-24) – any given Sunday is what we say in this league, and while the Ravens were dominant against a rising elite team in the Detroit Lions, they almost fell apart against the lowly Cardinals. However, they won the turnover battle, converting two fumbles into touchdowns. While the Cardinals’ defense was playing solidly and kept QB Lamar Jackson in check with his arm and legs, it was RB Gus Edward’s show going 19-80-3 rushing and 2-14-0-2 receiving. You combine that with a defense that kept starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs in check and, more importantly, generated 14 points off his two interceptions, and you see the path the Ravens took to victory. The Ravens know they must maintain pace with the rest of the elite teams in the league for home field playoff advantage. Thus, every week is crucial in taking care of business, and with their continual improvements in learning a new playbook, the sky’s the limit, considering we’re only halfway through the season.
NFL Power Rankings: Elitism is on their Radar!
Miami Dolphins (5) Record: 6-2 (win vs. New England Patriots 31-17) – while some wanted to believe this game could be competitive, it went as most thought. The Patriots hung tough early on, only to see the better team eventually win. The Dolphins offense was in sync this week with QB Tua Tagovailoa, who went 30 of 45 for 324 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. However, the key is that he spread the ball around to 10 different players, with receivers Jaylen Waddle (7-121-1-12) and Tyreek Hill (8-112-1-13) dominating as usual. The rushing attack wasn’t much better than the previous week, with 78 yards, but they didn’t need it as much with the passing attack clicking. The Dolphins took care of business against a lesser team, and that’s all that matters this week. We should mention we did see the return of CB Jaylen Ramsey, but we don’t know where he stands after his knee surgery and missing the season up until this week. He’s been “average” against elite quarterbacks who’ve made him look the fool. However, he did have one pick and showed he is back, but let’s be honest, it was Mac Jones and the now 2-6 Patriots. To what level is the question? We’ll find out as the season progresses. Don’t forget some view him as elite – this analyst doesn’t, but then again, I don’t jump on the name-recognition bandwagon as most do.
San Francisco 49ers (4) Record: 5-3 (loss vs. Cincinnati Bengals 31-17) – there’s no doubt the Niners are in a slump and a bad one. They were seen as the cream of the crop but have lost three straight games. They lost against the Bengals on all fronts, offensively and defensively. They had no answer for QB Joe Burrows and the Bengals rushing attack. Critical errors proved costly, specifically another poor outing by QB Brock Purdy. Purdy went 22 of 31 for 365 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions while rushing for 6-57-0, with the turnovers being costly to the team as the Bengals took one in the red zone and converted another into seven points. Purdy’s thrown five interceptions over the past three weeks. This week, one of those interceptions came from a baffling decision by Purdy, as the play was a run play. He didn’t hand the ball off. The Purdy haters are already dumping on him and fantasizing about Trey Lance. The girl they could never take to the dance Lance never became, but eventually, if this continues, you’ll see the Sam Darnold fan club wake up and demand his opportunity in the starting lineup. The Niners have a much-needed Bye Week, and the team must get it together, get healthy with LT Trent Williams (ankle) and WR Deebo Samuels (shoulder), and get Purdy’s head straight. The worst is that the Niners, despite their elite status, are in second place in the division, one game behind the Seattle Seahawks.
Dallas Cowboys (8) Record: 5-2 (win vs. Los Angeles Rams 43-20) – what a win, but as the announcers stated, everything goes their way when the Cowboys begin to roll. That happened here against a competitive Rams team, but not very good overall. The game was over by the first half, with Dallas taking a commanding 33-9 lead. Whether the passing attack, rushing attack, or special teams, the Cowboys rolled. QB Dak Prescott had a monster game, going 25 of 31 for 304 touchdowns and one interception while also posting 4-19-0 rushing. The rushing attack individually isn’t impressive, but they accounted for 102 rushing yards between six players. It is serviceable, if not something to be aware of when facing better teams. In other words, they need a back that can consistently pound the ball for clock control when required. They have playmakers in their receiving slots, but Tony Pollard has yet to make a significant mark and currently ranks No. 12 in the league with a 3.29 rushing average. He’s underutilized as head coach Mike McCarthy is notorious for underusing his running backs. That’s a massive negative in a West Coast offense that may come back to burn the team. Regardless, they won big this week and instilled the confidence they had at the start of the season. It’s a solid outing, but don’t look too deeply into it, as the Rams are 3-5 for a reason – they’re not very good.
Detroit Lions (7) Record 6-2 (win vs. Las Vegas Raiders 26-14) – I wasn’t as impressed with the Lions this week because they should’ve stomped their opponent, the Raiders, on Monday night, showing the league they are for real. Let’s be honest: they are superior to them in every phase, yet they took until the fourth quarter to pull away. That said, they came back after a 32-point stomping last week. The defense came back to life this week, and while the focus is always on offensive firepower, defenses are what wins championships (for the most part), and this defense is elite. However, it’s obvious this team is still learning to play as a cohesive unit consistently, and they have to get over this if they want to challenge for a Super Bowl ring. That goes from play calling to decision-making and chemistry (timing). Look at the Chiefs and Eagles as two teams to emulate. That should be the Lions’ goal. Despite this, they play in the weak NFC North and have a two-game lead against the Vikings, who lost the heart and soul of what drives their offensive juggernaut, QB Kirk Cousins. This division is the Lions to lose.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6) Record: 6-2 (win vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 20-10) – another bad weather game provided some fun in watching the miscues. It wasn’t a pretty win for the Jaguars. Three turnovers and nine drives into Pittsburgh territory resulted in zero touchdowns. The truth is this team is growing into an elite team. They’re not there yet, but resiliency develops as a mindset between traveling, miscues, and learning to win in brutal and ugly ways. QB Trevor Lawrence still makes horrific mistakes but is a stable game manager with big play ability who is still growing into the role. Will he become elite? We’re unsure, but the team is now 6-2 with him as their field general. This team is still learning how to win, and cohesiveness (chemistry) continues to develop in many ways (see WR Calvin Ridley and Lawrence). While fantasy owners are happy, Travis Etienne had another solid outing, going 24-79-0 rushing but coming up big with a 3-70-1-6 receiving day. However, this team is built to be physical and will need an in-between-the-tackles runner, and we haven’t seen that ability consistently yet. Is Etienne another Austin Ekeler clone? He looks it. Thus, the Jaguars probably need a physical player like Derrick Henry of the Titans. Regardless, the Jaguars are improving and dominating now, as they’re only one of four teams with a 6-2 record. While we don’t see it happening, they’re hunting for a home-field advantage in the playoffs. Yes, it’s way too early to predict anything, but for this team to be where they’re at shouldn’t be surprising, yet it is.
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Better than Average but Still has Kinks to Work Out.
Cincinnati Bengals (11) Record: 4-3 (win vs. 49ers 31-17) – it’s no secret that QB Joe Burrows carries this team. If he’s hurt, they lose; if he’s healthy, they can compete against anyone. It’s fair to say he’s the healthiest he’s been since the preseason calf injury, going 28 of 32 for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He also chipped in 6-43-0 in rushing, which was too much for the Niners to overcome. With the Bye Week, the Bengals were able to prepare and take out a now-slumping 49ers squad. However, until the Bengals find balance in rushing and passing, they’ll likely fall against an elite team. That said, they did well this week and combined for 134 rushing yards and one touchdown using five players. However, the big key is RB Joe Mixon seeing touches with a 16-87-1 rushing performance while adding 3-23-0-3 receiving for 110 scrimmage yards. You take Burrows’ ability to scramble and move the ball, and this team is beginning to play as initially advertised. Let’s see how the rushing attack moves forward, but the Bengals are back in the hunt and only one game behind the Ravens in the AFC North. It’s a logjam with the rest of the division (three teams) at 4-3, but they’re likely the best.
Buffalo Bills (9) Record: 5-3 (win vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18) – this game is one the Bills had to have. The Bucs are competitive but, overall, less talented than this team. Josh Allen wasn’t 100 percent, but with the potential to fall behind the Dolphins and New York Jets, they played up to their level, well enough to defeat a solid, if inconsistent, Bucs team. Overall, this team is pretty much the Allen to WR Stefon Diggs show, and that will eventually be their doom come the playoffs. However, Allen went to six different players in the receiving game. That’s a positive sign to this win and getting over the slump. However, the distribution must continue, but will it create locker room adversity as Diggs always wants the ball? If it does, you have your answer in their lack of being viable contenders for a Super Bowl. This team needs veteran leadership to step up and preach team over individuals. The Bills are one team where that is a potential issue. Overall, they won a game they were supposed to with solid all-around play on both sides. Maybe this game gets them back on track.
Seattle Seahawks (12) Record: 5-2 (win vs. Browns 24-20) – this team always finds a way to pull off a win because they have a tenacious mentality, always playing physically and wearing their opponents down. They have a quarterback who can manage and make the big throw and a defense bringing the boom back to their name. They forced three turnovers and kept the team in the game to where the offense won against an elite defense. This formula will allow them to compete against any team in the league. That includes play calling that takes “calculated” risks for big plays. However, their offense must get consistent because if QB Geno Smith struggles, they can lose, as his play keeps the offense balanced and allows the savage rushing attack to wear the defense down. The one aspect they have to cut down on is sloppiness with penalties, but head coach Pete Carroll should get that under control as this team plays with discipline. You don’t want to face this team in the postseason because they play physically, understand the bigger picture, and can beat any elite team in the league. To top it off, they control their division with a one-game lead over the 49ers.
NFL Power Rankings: Pretenders or Contenders?
New York Jets (13) Record: 4-3 (win vs. New York Giants 13-10 OT) – what a game? It was pouring rain at times; thus, a low-score affair was not surprising! Give QB Zach Wilson credit for overcoming himself and taking the team from his 25-yard line to put them into position to tie the game and send it into overtime. Granted, it took an offsides penalty to stop the clock and set the Jets up with the time needed, but it was still impressive if you’re watching for signs of Wilson growing as a player. While some will knock Wilson’s less than 50 percent completion rate this week, be objective – it was a rain-filled day. However, the final drive to tie the game showed us what Wilson can do in tight situations. He has a way to go before ending his reputation as a bust, but he may be getting there. I’m not a believer in head coach Robert Saleh. Rephrase: I used to not believe in Saleh as a leader, but he has this team, never quitting. No matter what you can claim from leaders, never quitting is the trait that allows all the other good things to happen. The Jets, like other teams, are dealing with injuries along the offensive and defensive lines, including DL Al Woods (Achilles), whose season is over. That said, this team finds ways to win and is only one game back from the Dolphins in the AFC East. This team is fun to watch, if only to see if Zach Wilson can keep it together.
Cleveland Browns (10) Record: 4-3 (loss vs. Seattle Seahawks 24-20) – arguably no other team has been as lucky as the Browns this season. The season’s been going their way between referees, elite defense, and lucky bounces. However, they hit a roadblock this week. This defense is why the Browns are competitive because they can’t get any above-average play from the quarterback position. Backup P.J. Walker isn’t an elite quarterback, much less average. He’s what you call serviceable. Can he improve over time? Who knows, but the team needs him now with DeShaun Watson (shoulder) out. This week, Walker went 15 of 31 for 248 yards, one touchdown but two interceptions. He also lost a fumble, thus giving up three turnovers. It was too much for the Browns to overcome. You add questionable playcalling, and this team is lucky to be only 4-3. Can they compete? Yes, with their elite defense, but as their record shows, their offense will cost them or put the defense on its heels at inopportune times. We’re seeing horrific decisions from the general manager with offensive player signings and an elite defense wasting away because of an inconsistent offense. Watson’s the key to this team, and he can’t get on the field and, when on the field, is average at best right now. The fact Watson has a guaranteed contract is playing hell with acquiring quality depth, as we see with the backup quarterbacks. That said, they were in this game until the end. However, that’s more a testament to their defense than anything else.
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The Rest of the Best or Pretenders
Los Angeles Chargers (18) Record: 3-4 (win vs. Chicago Bears 30-13) – look, people, the Chargers came in and took care of business. They are the more talented team and faced a raw rookie in QB Tyson Bagent. Their passing offense is trash, ranked No. 30, but their rush defense is solid, ranked No. 5; thus, their job was to shut down the rushing attack and get the rookie to beat them. They won that battle, but again, this is a team in the Bears going nowhere, and the Chargers supposedly have Super Bowl ambitions. It took one of the worst teams in the league to get QB Justin Herbert back on track as he went 31 of 40 for 298 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. You’re also hearing the hype around RB Austin Ekeler’s performance, 15-29-0 rushing but 7-94-1-8 receiving. The issue here isn’t this week or next; it’s the postseason. You will have problems if your running back can’t rush between the tackles in the postseason. While fantasy football owners loved his performance against the Bears, who do have the No. 3 rush defense in the league, he faltered, thus, his dominance in the air. To give them credit, they saw the Bears’ weakness and used Ekeler to exploit it. That’s a smart move, but my comment holds. In the past three games, his stat line is only 43-101-0 rushing, which breaks down to a pathetic 2.35 yards per carry. They must learn how to control the tempo and game clock through their rushing attack to protect leads and for ball control. This team loses because they leave too much time on the clock. This win keeps them relevant in the playoff picture, but if history is any guide, it won’t matter come season’s end.
Pittsburgh Steelers (14) Record: 4-3 (loss vs. Jaguars 20-10) – the big story out of Steelers camp is QB Kenny Pickett (ribs) and when he’ll return. Exiting in the second half, look for him to be a game-time decision. They need him healthy, as his backup, Mitch Trubisky, had a terrible outing, going 15 of 27 for 138 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. With a rushing offense ranked 29th, they can’t win without a healthy Kenny Pickett. That statement alone embodies the Steelers’ season. Despite being 4-3, they’re doing it with smoke and mirrors at times, as this team is not elite in any phase of the game. How is Trubisky still in the league? The Chicago Bears stunted his development, and it shows, and at this point in his career, he is who he is. It’s a travesty, as he’s never lived up to the hype. Still, like most young quarterbacks who fail, you can usually follow their career to a team that did everything wrong in developing the player, including too many sacks and creating a quarterback with happy feet. Overall, the Steelers have the 30th-ranked offense and 18th-ranked defense. They’ll be competitive, but they’re not going anywhere this year, especially if Pickett is out for an extended period.
New Orleans Saints (18) Record: 4-4 (win vs. Indianapolis Colts 38-27) – what a win for the Saints. It was against the Colts, now 3-5, but it was an offensive output we’ve been waiting on from this team for the past two years. This team clicked with all cylinders as QB Derek Carr went 19 of 27 for 310 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The rushing attack led by QB Taysom Hill (9-63-2) and RB Alvin Kamara (17-58-1) rushed for 161 total rushing yards. This game was a complete offensive output by the team, with 511 total yards and potentially a turning point for the team. This game is a confidence and morale builder, but remember, it’s the Colts they beat. Let’s see how they fare against more formidable teams. They share the division lead with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, and if they can use this game to build on that offense, they should be the favorites to take the division – a timely win at a convenient moment.
NFL Power Rankings: The Get it Together or Else and Overachievers
Tennessee Titans (24) Record: 3-4 (win vs. Atlanta Falcons 28-23) – did the Titans resolve their quarterback issue? Rookie Will Levis went 19 of 29 for 238 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Earlier in the week, no one knew if he would start, Malik Willis, or a combination of the two. Remember, Ryan Tannehill (ankle) is out. Levis also went 7-11-0 rushing. What is impressive is how accurate Levis was. He didn’t have a great preseason and couldn’t beat out a project in Willis. However, Willis’s poor outing last week opened the door for Levis this week, and he responded. Now, Willis did come in for two plays, and the fans greeted him with boos. Look, fair or not; the young man struggles every time he’s on the field, thus the fans no longer have patience with him. Levis’s four-touchdown game doesn’t help Willis’ long-term prospects with the team now. Whether he’ll admit it or not, WR DeAndre Hopkins is likely a big Levis fan as his stat line read, 4-128-3-6 making the most out of his six targets! When the game is rolling Tennessee’s way, it also means RB Derrick Henry is moving, and he went 22-101-0 rushing but did chip in 4-21-0-4 receiving. The defense played well enough to force the Atlanta Falcons to bench inconsistent starting QB Desmond Ridder in a move that may prove long-lasting for the Falcons. Overall, this was a big and growth-building win for the Titans. However, it muddies the waters in determining if the Titans are a team looking to sell (see Henry) or compete. The fact they’re in the AFC South and only two games behind Jacksonville leaves the answer unclear this week. That’s because rumors had Henry moving last week. The Titans are an interesting team to watch because we don’t know what to expect.
Atlanta Falcons (15) Record: 4-4 (loss vs. Titans 28-23) – well, the couch potatoes fans have been out for QB Desmond Ridder, who has been inconsistent, but it’s his first season as the full-time starter. Supposedly, Ridder may have had a concussion despite being medically cleared, and head coach Arthur Smith alluded to that. That said, when Ridder went out, the team only had three points, and don’t forget, Ridder’s replacement, Taylor Heinicke, is a beast off the bench. Sadly, Ridder didn’t help himself, as he leads the league in turnovers with 12. Ridder was 8 of 12 for 70 yards, zero touchdowns, and interceptions but did fumble the ball away once, leading to a Titans touchdown. In his defense, Ridder was taken to the mat five times (sacks). However, Heinicke was a shot to the arm for the Falcons, making Smith’s job more challenging in deciding who to start. Why? The Falcons are still in first place in the NFC South. It’s not about rebuilding now but playing for the division crown. All roads point to Smith naming Ridder the starter this week. One caveat: Smith’s job isn’t safe with an 18-24 record as Falcons head coach. He must show growth and wins from this team this year. Finally, where is RB Bijan Robinson, who went 11-62-1 rushing yet came up with a goose egg in receiving despite five targets? The team must get Robinson more involved in designed plays that can put him in home run scenarios.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (20) Record: 3-4 (loss vs. Bills 24-18) – this team at 3-4 is becoming the team we thought we would see. The problem here starts with an average-to-terrible head coach, a streaky quarterback without a rushing attack, and WR Mike Evans as the only viable playmaker. However, you can say that Mayfield competes, going 25 of 42 for 237 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled, going 3-19-0 to keep the chains moving. However, it’s always an adventure when Mayfield drops back because of his accuracy and never quite knowing what to expect. He’s like a rich man’s Ryan Fitzpatrick (only better). Adding to the fact it’s Mayfield’s first season with the team and a new playbook, the Bucs should be happy they’re in the NFC South. Despite their record, they’re only a half-game behind the Saints and Atlanta Falcons. That may prove positive for the head coach, Todd Bowles, and Mayfield come the end of the season if they can win the division. They’ll only win the division by getting back to fundamentals in discipline (tackling and avoiding penalties), and they must improve in that critical area.
Washington Commanders (23) Record: 3-5 (loss vs. Eagles 38-31) – look for offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to be this team’s next head coach, and as it stands right now, the odds of this happening this season grow every week. Head coach Ron Rivera is rightfully seeing criticism for not challenging a replay he would’ve won and prevented a touchdown. The media and fans should challenge, ridicule, and mock him for making an excuse for an error he should admit he screwed up. The offense looks stunning at times, but QB Sam Howell can be his own worst enemy with some of his decision-making. That should improve with more playing time, learning the playbook thoroughly, and continuing chemistry with his teammates. Offensively, the future is bright for this team, but there are still too many missing pieces on defense and a coaching regime that seems inept at times. You can’t say this is a game they should have won, but you can say it’s one they were in a position to win and, once again, failed to rise to the challenge. This team needs to learn how to win, but this is likely not the coaching staff to take them to the next level.
Indianapolis Colts (17) Record: 3-5 (loss vs. Saints 38-27) – look, we all love the story of QB Gardner Minshew, but he’s regressing, and that’s natural as we see more film of him and the Colts. He went 23 of 41 for 213 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Look at that – 23 of 41 is only a 56 percent completion rate. He must do better than that. However, it’s not like the defense did any better, allowing 511 total yards to a Saints offense that – to be kind – has been inconsistent this year. They gave QB Derek Carr all day to throw and only got to him once. There was a running back sighting with Jonathan Taylor. He went 12-95-0 rushing, a whopping 7.92 yards per rush. The team needs him to take the load off Minshew, which could begin to happen. How effective it can be is another story, though. Then there’s the turnover issue: eight in two games. Since 2019, Minshew has had 27 fumbles – astronomical! The truth is, Minshew can and has played better in protecting the ball. He is learning a new playbook and developing chemistry with his players. Remember, he didn’t enter the season as the starter. Maybe they can pull off an upset or more than we believe, but it begins with taking care of the football. That must be No. 1 on this team’s agenda list moving forward.
Denver Broncos (26) Record: 3-5 (win vs. Chiefs 24-9) – so the big story we’re hearing is how the Broncos ended a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs. The real story is if they can repeat this formula of winning moving forward. This defense is horrific, entering the week ranked last and ending it near the bottom at No. 30. This is stunning what they did to hold Mahomes (flu, hand) to zero touchdowns, two interceptions, and a fumble. The play calling kept the Chiefs off the field, and the offense did just enough statistically for the win by scoring touchdowns versus settling for field goals. This game was not a pretty win, but regardless, it was a win to build on and build team morale and confidence moving forward. After all, if you can legitimately beat the Chiefs, you can beat anyone, or so the theory goes.
Los Angeles Rams (17) Record: 3-5 (loss vs. Cowboys 43-20) – the team lost QB Matthew Stafford (thumb), their secondary proved to be a sieve, and wide receivers Cooper Kupp (4-21-0-10) and Puka Nacua (3-43-0-7) are on milk boxes after disappearing this week. They had a combined 17 targets and only reeled in seven catches. In this offense, that’s a death knell. Stafford has a sprain of his right thumb (throwing hand), so look for the team to sign another quarterback, but there’s a chance Stafford could return next week. The Rams aren’t a good team and have lost five of their last seven. This team won a Super Bowl with mercenaries and the referees helping to gift them the win. Now, we’re seeing the realities of salary cap hell: players who are too old and have no quality depth. It’s affecting their offensive line as well as their defense. The NFL is a league of attrition, and without quality depth, a team has no hope in the long run. The Rams already know this and will be playing for pride the rest of the way. Even if Stafford returns, the odds of him getting hurt are high with his current offensive line, not to mention the guy can’t run to save anyone’s life, much less his.
Houston Texans (16) Record: 3-4 (loss vs. Panthers 15-13) – the Texans, like the Carolina Panthers, had a Bye Week and fell short in a low-scoring affair that saw the No. 1 Overall versus the No. 2 pick in quarterbacks Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. Young and the Panthers took the victory as Young did just enough for the win, whereas Stroud went 16 of 24 for only 140 yards and zero touchdowns and interceptions. The fact that the offensive attack couldn’t get going allowed the Panthers to win. Well, ten penalties for 70 yards don’t help either. Also, the team’s offensive output may have limits because of injuries to the offensive line. However, they only gave up two sacks, but the truth is that the league is catching up to Stroud, as he’s been struggling the past two games. One positive: entering the week, the Texans couldn’t sack anyone, with only nine sacks on the season. They got Young six times, and while we are talking about one of the worst teams in the league, in the Panthers, six sacks is something to build on. The Texans hit a bump on the road the past two games, and we’re not sure they can overcome it in wins, but they can keep growing as a team, rebuilding in all phases.
Minnesota Vikings (15) Record: 4-4 (win vs. Packers 24-10) – what a devastating win for the Vikings. The team is riding a three-game win streak, but it may all be for naught. QB Kirk Cousins (Achilles) suffered an Achilles tear and is out for the season. This analyst is not an old man and took up watching football before he was five in the 1970s. Never, ever in my lifetime have I seen the ravages of so many Achilles injuries in the past few years. The first obvious question is the material used to build these soft, artificial grass fields. That’s where you start, but regardless, the league must figure this out as players are going down at every position with the injury. It’s tough to come back from for running backs and older players. The Vikings won’t give up the farm but will look for potential trade deals, but they will find a veteran quarterback to come in. In the meantime, rookie QB Jaren Hall will take over. The Vikings’ season is likely over because Cousins is the heart and soul of this team when it comes to running the offense and keeping them in tight games. They were the No. 2 passing offense in the league behind only the Miami Dolphins, not by much. That’s over now. To top it off, look for WR Justin Jefferson (hamstring) to take his time in coming back, but it would give rookie WR Jordan Addison more room to grow into a starring role. Over the past three games, he’s 13-185-2-19 and appears to be the real deal. However, the team is likely in a deep funk with bad morale because of the loss of Cousins. Regardless, they still must suit up; thus, the immediate future will show us how good of a coaching staff head coach Kevin O’Connell is, along with answering questions surrounding his leadership abilities.
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What the Hell, We Have No Clue or Playing for Draft Positions
New England Patriots (25) Record: 2-6 (loss vs. Dolphins 31-17) – the Dolphins always play the Patriots tough, and I’m looking back at the Tom Brady years. Thus, this game went as expected, with the Dolphins using their superior talent and schemes for an easy victory. The Patriots’ offense had a great showing last week but faced a Dolphins team with the fastest players in the league, and they couldn’t keep up. QB Mac Jones made another blunder with an interception and could not sustain drives to keep the speedy Dolphins’ offense off the field. This game showed the Patriots squad reverting to their destructive ways, and even worse, they lost WR Kendrick Bourne (ACL) to a torn knee injury, and he’s gone for the season. As we saw in the victory over the Bills last week, he was making an impact this season. The season’s lost for the Patriots, so they need to begin looking toward the future, with the trade deadline, stockpiling draft picks, and determining if Mac Jones is their franchise quarterback. Next season will be a make-or-break season for head coach Bill Belichick.
New York Giants (27) Record: 2-6 (loss vs. Jets 13-10 OT) – what a fun game to watch in the rain, and we loved it because it created chaotic plays but also a low-scoring affair. However, this game is one the Jets came in and stole. The expectations for the Giants were always unrealistic, but it’s clear they’ve taken a step backward this year. Maybe they believed their headlines, but regardless, this defense doesn’t know how to put a team away even when it plays outstanding. The defense has been playing well the past couple of weeks, and this week took Jets QB Zach Wilson down four times with sacks. Yet, they lost again. This game is an ugly loss because the Giants allowed the Jets to tie it in the waning seconds after a missed field goal. This season is over in playoff expectations, as backup QB Tyrod Taylor (ribs) went out in the second quarter. Despite a gutsy performance by the No. 3 quarterback in rookie Tommy DeVito, this team lacks fundamentals from tackling to play calling to self-control on the sidelines this season. You add too many miscues, and you know why they’re 2-6 despite playing better football the past few weeks. The one question: why is PK Graham Gano (knee), who isn’t 100 percent not on injured reserve (IR) or released medically? The placekicker position is critical, as his miss proved. While RB Saquon Barkley went 36-128-0 rushing and saw three receptions on five targets, his average was only 3.56, and I’m not criticizing it. Instead, he was the focal point, as the quarterbacks only had 14 pass attempts. Pathetically, this was the game plan from head coach Brian Daboll – rush as much as possible. You still must throw the ball when needed! Daboll’s putting himself on the hot seat if this season’s collapse continues. Granted, the front office won’t fire him, but he’s losing the “golden boy” status the fans and city anointed him with last season.
Las Vegas Raiders (29) Record: 3-5 (loss vs. Lions 26-14) – it may finally be time to acknowledge head coach Josh McDaniels isn’t very good. Word on the street for decades is that he’s full of himself and believes the generation’s GOAT, Tom Brady, owes all his success to him. He’s arrogant with an ego the size of the Las Vegas Sphere. Last week, players came out and stated they wanted him as their head coach. Another loss and another potential losing season has some saying differently this week. Their defense did their all, maintaining pace with the Lions, but they’re ranked No. 24 at the moment, and it was only a matter of time before they would fade and fade as they did against the Lions. The defense is subpar, as is the offense and their No. 28 ranking. Granted, injuries at the quarterback position have hurt them this year, and this team is still learning to play together. What’s lacking is leadership. A veteran player or coach that can get to these players mentally. They all play and speak as individuals. Anyone in a leadership position knows that it falls on the steps of the head coach, who seems to be more bully than leader. The Davante Adams issue? When I first saw Adams’ play, I thought, this kid will be a star. I said that because of the offense, the quarterback, and how he was at the right place at the right time in Green Bay. He’s not there anymore, and everyone’s blaming the quarterback, head coach, and playcalling, which is a massive part of the problem. However, Adams has to look in the mirror at himself., He seems to salivate at the storyline, painting him the victim. I’m saying that his former quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, made him better than he is. It’s common and happens all the time in this league. Yet, no one wants to go down that road here. They should, because I’m right.
Green Bay Packers (30) Record: 2-5 (loss vs. Vikings 24-10) – we’re talking the Vikings here, so one would assume the Packers could come back. After all, they start games slowly, whereas the Vikings can’t win the close ones and play down to their opponents. However, the Packers, who are struggling, have lost their last four games and don’t appear to be making any positive improvements on offense. Jordan Love went 24 of 41 for 229 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Again, from previous weeks, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers struggled in their first seasons as starting quarterbacks. View this season as a rebuild or restock, but there’s no doubt patience is waning in today’s new world pushed by social media fanboys regarding Love’s future. Believe it or not, some teams are too stupid to understand development and make too many moves too quickly in replacing a player because of the media and fan’s wants. Give Love this season and see how he responds and how head coach Matt LaFleur’s tenure goes with the play calling. This analyst isn’t impressed with it (see playoff matchups), as well as the team’s discipline overall with penalties, some bad drops, play calling, and the execution of said plays. Our questions aren’t just with Love but with the coaching staff, too!
Carolina Panthers (32) Record: 1-6 (win vs. Texans 15-13) – the Panthers had the Bye Week to prepare for this game and almost lost it. This game pitted the No. 1 overall pick in Bryce Young, who has been a disappointment so far, with the No. 2 pick in C.J. Stroud, who has been the most impressive rookie this year. This game was tight, and Young played well enough to win, going 22 of 31 for 235 yards, a touchdown, and zero interceptions. The fact the team didn’t turn the ball over was critical in this win. Young’s solid day extended to veteran WR Adam Thielen, who went 8-72-0-11, and yes, that’s not a typo! Thielen saw 11 targets, fantasy football owners! He’s Young’s go-to-wideout and should be on someone’s roster. However, the offensive line is still a sieve, as the Texans took Young down six times! This season’s a learning year in the Panthers rebuild, but they finally got the win they need to move forward.
Arizona Cardinals (31) Record: 1-7 (loss vs. Ravens 31-24) – I sound like a broken record, but this team plays hard for its rookie head coach Jonathan Gannon. However, they’re limited in talent on offense, and QB Joshua Dobbs played slightly worse than better despite the fact he went 25-of-37 for 208 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions while rushing for 6-26-1. It’s the two interceptions that loom large because it cost the team. The Ravens turned them into 14 points. The team may not want to play QB Kyler Murray (ACL) for contractual reasons regarding the injury portion of his contract. Still, you do the math at the position, and the team likely believes Murray, who is now practicing, is the answer to turning some of these close losses into wins. Until then, this is the Cardinals’ season storyline. They are competitive but sad-sack losers. Look for Murray to see the starting lineup as soon as he’s able.
Chicago Bears (28) Record: 2-6 (loss vs. Chargers 30-13) – what a nightmare game for NBC and Sunday Night Football as only 12.5 million viewers tuned in to watch two losers in the Bears and Chargers (now 3-4). Last week’s matchup between the Dolphins and Eagles garnered 16.7 million viewers. That’s a 25 percent drop. The league allows for scheduling changes, and if any game demanded this, it was this one. The Bears got a reality check this week, facing a pathetic yet talented team. The Bears, for the most part, are pathetic with minimal talent. Rookie QB Tyson Bagent went 25 of 37 for 232 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Against a pass defense ranked 30th in the league, he left us scratching our heads. There’s no reason this Bears offense should’ve faltered offensively this week, but a deeper look shows the Chargers have the No. 5 ranked rush defense, which is the key to stopping the Bears with Bagent starting. He’s so raw the team emphasizes the rushing attack to take pressure off him. The Bears could only muster 73 total rushing yards; thus, the onus was on Bagent, and he couldn’t come through. That put too much pressure on the defense, and it crumbled. The Bears should use this game to learn and grow with their players and game planning. However, that has been the broken-record answer to this team for years. They need QB Justin Fields (thumb) to determine if he is their franchise quarterback as they’re in the hunt for the assumed No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, Caleb Williams.
There you have it! If you haven’t realized it yet, you can listen to our breakdown with added data and opinions every week in our Points on the Board Podcast. Here’s this week’s episode, and you can find more of our Points on the Board here.