, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I had a serene Sunday with the Bengals on a bye, although I have a creeping dread more worthy of the Halloween that just passed about the upcoming game as the New Orleans Saints are visiting Cincinnati and that bodes ill for the rested but injured Bengals team.

Still, before we get to the future outlook of the team there’s the minor matter of this week’s games to contemplate and the interesting results that occurred.

The obvious place to start would be the pretty amazing run of late games that I think entertained everyone. Although watching back later, I saw two games in sequence before circling back to the best game of the week once the UK Gamepass blackout had cleared. The first of these was the LA Chargers going into Seattle and demonstrating the faith I had placed in them was not misplaced with a relatively comfortable win against the Seahawks. It could have been even more comfortable had Caleb Sturgis not missed two extra points and a field goal, which also resulted in a missed two point conversion attempt by the Chargers trying to get back the original missed extra point back. Unsurprisingly the Chargers have moved on from Sturgis and reinstated Michael Badgley who was also on the roster, but that still means they have had seven kickers in the last three years! At this point surely some question are surely being asked about the special teams evaluation process of the front office as the Chargers have also had four people punt for them during this period.

Moving on from the special teams’ conundrum that is the Chargers, we saw this week’s contender for the best game of the season when the New Orleans Saints hosted the LA Rams and ran out 45-35 winners. The Saints built a big lead only to see the Rams close the gap back to 35 all in the fourth quarter before the Saints extended the lead once more for the win. It was an entertaining game, even if someone like me would have liked to see a little more defence, and that could be the Achilies heel of the Rams. It seemed like Marcus Peters was being picked on in the continuing absence of Aqib Talib who is seen as likely to return from IR in week thirteen. However, whilst the Rams defence has some very high profile names on it, including Dante Fowler who joined the team via trade on deadline day, doesn’t look to have quite gelled yet and are currently ranked only sixteenths by DVOA. The ranking against the run of twenty-fourth by DVOA showed up as Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram did the work on the ground whilst Drew Brees threw for four touchdowns and three hundred and forty-six passing yards. The Rams and Jared Goff were not quiet able to match this efficiency in the air whilst Todd Gurley finished with a modest sixty-eight yards on the ground and now the jockeying at the top of the NFC will get really interesting.

Finally, on Sunday night we had the battle of the 12s as the Green Bay Packers visited the New England Patriots but whilst keeping it relatively close for a lot of the game, the Packers were ultimately done for by the Patriots better consistency. The use of Cordarrelle Patterson as a makeshift running back in this game was effective enough that we might see more of it going forward even when Sony Michel comes back from injury whilst Josh Gordon caught five balls from ten targets to go over one hundred yards for the first time as a Patriot. What this game really showed however, is that so much of a quarterback’s success depends on the infrastructure around them and you get the feeling that there could be a coaching change in the works for Green Bay given the moves the newly installed GM is making.

Other notable things around the league include the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Browns convincingly and the Chiefs have one of the best offensive DVOA ratings ever. Conversely the Buffalo Bills have an historically bad offence, with their offensive DVOA of -53.9% putting them in the bottom ten of offences for the last thirty years. The Chicago Bears beat the Bills to stay atop the NFC North and now have two forty point blowout wins this season. The Carolina Panthers continue their quiet challenge for the playoffs with a big win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to take them to 6-2 whilst the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to do the double over the Ravens to stay atop the AFC North. The wheels came off for Washington when they lost both starting offensive guards to injury against the Atlanta Falcons and got beat badly. This could give Washington real problems going forward although they stay a game clear at the top of the NFC East whilst the Falcons have now won three straight and still have an outside shot of pulling themselves back into playoff contention. Speaking of streaks, the Houston Texans have now won six in a row while the Denver Broncos continue to struggle.

Finally, it is my mission to bring you every safety of the season and whilst we did not have any this week, we had three in week eight that I didn’t bring you because I was rushing off to London. That’s a total of eight so far this season and the 28th of October was second Sunday in a row where we had three safeties.

The first I’ll mention is a classic of joined up football where an LA Rams’ punt pins the Green Bay Packers up against their goal line and on their first down of the drive running back Aaron Jones gets met in the hole by Mark Barron and stopped for the safety. The second is combination of comedy of errors and situation awareness as on 3rd & 7 on the eight yard line, the Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Rosen starts in a shotgun formation and drops back to pass into the end zone, and whilst getting tackled tries to throw the ball away and gets called for intentional grounding, giving up the safety anyway. You can’t hold on to the ball in this situation and once again this is what happens to an offence when pinned against its own goal line by a punt. The final safety was again after a punt but this time it was a holding penalty called against Desmond Harrison of the Cleveland Browns in the end zone that results in the safety, and if you seek out the play from the week eight game against the Steelers you will see that it wasn’t exactly a marginal call.

Speaking of which, is it me or have the rule changes settled down over the last few weeks even if the defences to seem to be really struggling to contend. Anyway, I’m off to worry about this weekend’s game, the awful lines we’ve got this week, the trivia question I’m utterly stumped on, and to get on with this week’s newsletter.

Bring on Thursday night football, which looks to be a cracker of a matchup!