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Nothing much really happened in week ten of the NFL so maybe we should all just prepare ourselves for the upcoming Monday night matchup between the LA Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs? Not buying that… okay I guess there’s only one place to start for me so let’s do this.
The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t just get beat, they had a fifty burger put up on them by a rampant New Orleans Saints team. I told you I was scared about this game! There wasn’t just one thing but there never is in a game like this, it was a combination of factors that produced an absolute thumping. However, for about sixteen game minutes things were okay and looked vaguely competitive. Yes the Saints marched down the field and scored on their opening drive but the Bengals were able to start with a touchdown drive of their own and even pulled a Saints move with their backup quarterback Jeff Dreskel taking a snap with Andy Dalton lining up as a receiver. However, whilst the Saints continued the pattern that would dominate the game, i.e. moving the ball without any trouble and scoring on every drive bar the last on, the Bengals were unable to keep their offence moving consistently. There were flashes from Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd but the offence sputtered and were not able to match the Saints’ machine like efficiency. The Bengals having to punt on their second and third drives was one thing, but then when they did move the ball Andy Dalton threw an interception on a play that snapped with twenty-four seconds left in the half that was returned seventy-eight yards and just like that the Saints had time to squeeze in another touchdown to go into the half 35-7 up.
You could argue the second half was better as the Bengals only gave up sixteen further points and scored another touchdown with Jeff Driskel in the game after Dalton had been pulled, but clearly not. The Bengals have a lot of injuries in the back seven of the defence, but there has also been a lot of talk about grey areas in the new defence scheme and clearly there is something to it as defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been fired and Marvin Lewis is doing something he has always been reluctant to do, and that’s call the defence himself. How this is going to work I don’t know, but just to throw extra murk into the waters, or possibly improve the juggling of game day, Hue Jackson has been rehired – this time as special assistant to the head coach. The players have been saying it’s not time to panic as their destiny is still in their own hands, but if ten is the magic number of wins that nearly always gets you into the playoffs, then they would have to go 5-2 the rest of the way including two games against the Browns and visits to the Chargers, Steelers and next week the Ravens. I keep hearing that you know how good your team is by how they travel and the Bengals are 2-2 on the road but have had two bad losses already and three divisional road games coming up. I’m not calling them done just yet but I think it’s more likely than not that things don’t get much better.
Oh yeah, and the Saints right now are the best team in the league.
Can I stop now?
So, the fluid nature of teams and the small sample size continue to confuse those of us picking game but it does entertain us. The New England Patriots lost to a Tennessee Titans team who have had two solid wins after the bye and whilst it is too early to hit the panic button if you are a Patriots fan, they are outside of the top ten in DVOA in the second half of the season for the first time since 2005 with Tom Brady as the quarterback and since 2008 when Matt Cassel led the team (this has been taken from Aaron Schatz’s weekly update that you can read here). In the absence of time to watch coaching tape this week (life just keeps getting in the way) I may well try to just watch this game to get a better idea of how it happened.
Other notable results were the Buffalo Bills scoring forty-one points after Matt Barkley made his first start in two years and his first for the Bills, which has led to the release of poor Nathan Peterman and who knows if he will get another shot with a team. The Pittsburgh Steelers put up fifty points against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night whilst both the Chiefs and Rams won their games ahead of the matchup. Interestingly both teams has asked to play the Broncos in Denver before their Mexico city game but the league was smart enough to deny both teams and in a twist of fate with fears about the safety of the pitch in the Azteca stadium the game has been shifted back to LA. The Chicago Bears ran out easy winners against the Detroit Lions but the real test comes next week when they face the Minnesota Vikings coming off their bye.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to put up five hundred yards of offence and only come away with three points, which just should not be possible and is the kind of thing I deserve for picking them. Washington continues their improbable run atop the NFC East but their coaching staff should get credit for finding a way to win despite the raft of offensive line injuries. Things got even better for them when the Dallas Cowboys went into Philadelphia and beat the Eagles meaning that Washington are now two games ahead at the top of the division. However, not only did the Cowboys defence continue to look pretty good and have moved away from their reliance on Sean Lee, but there were signs of their offence evolving. It’s not as if they are suddenly the Saints, Rams, or Chiefs, but with more motion before the snap, the addition of Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott catching some balls out of the backfield to complement his one hundred and fifty yards on the ground there is a chance the Cowboys could make a nuisance of themselves.
The other contender for game I would still like to see is the Jacksonville Jaguars continuing their losing streak, this week to an Indianapolis Colts team who have dragged themselves to 4-5 record with Andrew Luck continuing to shake off the worries about his return to the game. We are a long way from him being subbed out for a Hail Mary play.
Finally, the Cleveland Browns separated themselves from the 49ers and the Giants with their third win of the season that also likely scuppered the Falcons unlikely recent playoff surge and the Oakland Raiders are officially the worst team in the league thanks to the Giants win over the 49ers on Monday night that leaves the Raiders as the only single win team. I’m sure the schedulers were thrilled about how these two once mighty franchises were faring going into this week’s prime time game, but at least it was competitive. Right now I’d take that from the Bengals…