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18-10-24 C Littleton

Image Credit: therams.com

It may not be the headline most people would go for, but it will do for me as we had three safeties over the weekend, taking the season total to five on an increase of 250% in one day and that has to be more interesting than the Bengals and Dolphins getting beat this weekend.

Okay fine, I’ll start with the Bengals running into the buzz saw that is the Kansas City Chiefs at home. The fact that the Chiefs offence was good is of no surprise to anyone, although it would have been nice if the talented Bengals pass rush was more effective and the tackling was better. No one seemed to be able to stop Kareem Hunt and I knew the Bengals were in trouble when Al Michaels announced that the Chiefs’ defence hadn’t forced a punt in seventeen drives and the Bengals opened with a three and out then punt. In fact they punted on the second drive as well and it wasn’t until the second quarter that they scored any points when CJ Uzomah caught the Bengals only touchdown. It’s easy enough to write of this game as a fan of the Bengals but the prime time stats are worrying and the game against the Buccaneers takes on huge significance if the Bengals are going to turn things around.

So the Chiefs are really good, as are the LA Rams who remain unbeaten with a comfortable 39-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers and to no one’s surprise it is late October and the Patriots have rounded into form and have a sole lead atop the AFC East after a win over the Chicago Bears.

We had a really competitive London game where the LA Chargers ran out 20-19 winners over the Tennessee Titans who couldn’t make a two point conversion after two attempts. I can understand the decision Mike Vrabel made to go for it and try to get the win, particularly with all the travel to London and it’s clear that at least a section of the new head coaches obviously believe in this aggressive approach as Frank Reich tried it earlier in the season and also lost. However, I’m not sure with Marcus Mariota’s movement skills why you wouldn’t have him move on one of those attempts. Another coach who might want to think about his late game tactics is Hue Jackson as the Cleveland Browns lost their fourth overtime game this season to a Tampa Bay field goal, which means they have already racked up half an extra game for their players despite the shortened overtime period introduced this season.

Moving on to one of the more surprising results of week seven, the Houston Texans went to Jacksonville and won 20-7 meaning the Jaguars have two divisional home losses already and Blake Bortles has very much not take a step this season. In assessments that should have the Giants worried, plenty of commentators are suggesting that perhaps investing the pick the Jaguars used on Leonard Fournette was not wise given that they could have had Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson with their fourth selection. In fact, of the quartet of high pick running backs we’ve had in recent years – Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and Todd Gurley, it is only Gurley who is in the conversation for MVP and he also happens to have a head coach who’s quickly establishing himself as one of the best in the league as well as a very good young quarterback in Jared Goff. Just to heap it on a little more, apart from the hamstring problems that have side-lined Fournette for most of this season, you could argue that Fournette wasn’t even the most effective running back in his draft class given that Alvin Kamara was offensive rookie of the league last year. Now it is early and we could be saying different things in a couple of years and certainly Sqauon Barkley is some talent, but effective running backs are found at all kinds of rounds in the draft and sometimes undrafted too where as it much rarer to find quarterbacks outside of the early rounds. There’s a reason everyone makes a fuss about Tom Brady going in the fourth round or Tony Romo having the career he did having been un-drafted. It is not that plenty of quarterbacks picked early don’t flame out, but the low picked ones that make it are much rarer than effective running backs taken outside of the first round.

Moving away from draft strategy, but sticking to team building we have several teams who clearly are in win now mode and one that is very evidently tearing things down. Not content with trading away Khalil Mack, Jon Gruden has sent Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a first round pick. There’s been plenty of criticism of the price the Cowboys paid given Cooper’s performance the last couple of seasons but they are belatedly trying to address the issues they have at receiver and the talk of the Raiders trading away Derek Carr is only increasing. Perhaps more intriguing is the New Orleans Saints move to acquire Eli Apple for a 2019 fourth round pick and a 2020 seventh round pick from the New York Giants. The Saints know they have a limited window given the age of Drew Brees but given that they have the second best record in the NFC already, you can see what they are doing in trading for a first round draft pick although given the recent moves to get up the draft (for defensive end Marcus Davenport) and in acquiring Teddy Bridgewater in pre-season. There are some thinner drafts coming, but with an ageing hall of fame quarterback you can see why they are trying to get him another ring now. I will assume that Dan, with his love of kicking, will cover the Saints winning thank to an unprecedented event or I will add it in myself if it is missed.

So finally, as I mentioned at the start of this post the #TWFSafties watch continues with the three we saw this week. Going through them in sort order from pro-football-reference.com we had a blocked punt that went through the back of the end-zone for a safety for the Ram against the 49ers. The fun stat about this play is that this is Cory Littleton’s fourth blocked punt since the start of last year, which is kind of incredible. I may have to dig into this a little more if I can find the stats to see how that compares historically. The second was pretty standard as Peyton Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was tackled before he could get out the end-zone as the Buccaneers were on their own one yard line. It was Trevon Coley’s only tackle in the game but he scored the Browns two points and a field goal and it’s just a shame that they couldn’t put them to better use. Finally, the Buffalo Bills lost 37-5 against the Indianapolis Colts and two of those points they had very little to do with as a high snap bounced off Andrew Luck’s hands and into the end-zone before squirting out the back as players pursued the ball. I usually like to see a quarterback safety but my favourite for this week has to be the Littleton’s fourth punt block.

I now I need to start worrying about next week’s picks (not going well) and the Bengals which aren’t faring much better!