Arizona Cardinals, Baker Mayfield, Baltimore Ravens, Budda Baker, Carlos Dunlap, Carson Wentz, Chase Claypool, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Covid-19, Daniel Jones, Derek Henry, Devin Bush, DK Metcalf, Joe Burrow, New York Giants, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Trade Deadline, Tua Tagovailoa
The NFL season feels as if is nearing the turn. We are looking at the week eight games coming up, the trade deadline is next Tuesday when the US goes to the polls (although many have already voted) and after week nine all teams will have played half of their sixteen games. It might simply be because the clocks have just gone back in the UK, but it feels as like we are properly into the autumn now, but I don’t want to wish away the year so let’s take a look at what happened in the week seven games.
What I Saw
The week seven Thursday night game was a slightly odd spectacle that saw the New York Giants fall behind the Eagles as the team from Philadelphia marched on their opening drive of the game to score a touchdown, then work their way back to take a 21-10 lead with under ten minutes left on the clock, but the Giants ultimately lost 21-22. The big talking point out of this game was Daniel Jones running for eighty yards and tripping over with no one near him only eight yards from the end zone. However, it is perhaps the play of Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz that is the most significant for the rest of the season. As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles moved the ball smartly on their opening drive, but after this initial six and a half minutes or so, Wentz looked like he was broken, trying to do to much rather than throw the ball away as the offence really struggled. Now with the injuries on the offensive line and at the skills positions there are some valid reasons for this, but it’s the stark disparity between this bad football and then Wentz finding his way in the fourth quarter to lead his team back that is confusing. Wentz finished the game with three-hundred and fifty-nine passing yards and two touchdowns to go with his interception, but he needs to find a way to lessen the lows to give his team a better chance of winning each week. Even with all their injuries the Eagles probably look best placed to win an NFC East division where all the teams are struggling, but if they can beat the Cowboys in the Sunday night game then their week nine bye could be the very real moment where they can try to get some players back healthy. Meanwhile, for all the Giants’ struggles this season, they have kept the last three games close and beaten the Washington Football Team in the process, but this week’s game against the Buccaneers is going to be a very different level of test.
The pick of the games when I checked the schedule for week seven was the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the unbeaten Tennessee Titans and ultimately winning out 27-24. The Steelers built a commanding 24-7 lead in the first half and was able to hold on for the win despite a strong comeback from the Titans in the second half. That said, the Steelers continue to show great balance in all three phases of the game, and even if their offence did slip out of the top ten by DVOA this week, they have a number of good young receivers that meant that with the Titan’s focussing on rookie sensation Chase Claypool they still were able to amass two hundred and fifty yards of passing offence. The defence looks to have coped despite the loss of linebacker Devin Bush and whilst the loss doesn’t change my mind about the Titans, you can definitely see why the Steelers are the sole unbeaten team in the NFL right now, but their schedule doesn’t get any easier this week as they take on the rested Ravens.
The Cleveland Browns played and entertaining game with the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that was decided by who had the ball last as neither defences were able to consistently stop each other. It was Baker Mayfield who was able to drive the Browns seventy-five yards in under a minute to seal the game 37-34 with a touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow continues to impress for the Bengals and threw for over four hundred yards this week, but a promising set of receivers does not a winning offence make and with continued issues on the offensive line as well as the defense we know what the Bengals are this season. There are some who think that this is okay as another poor record will secure the Bengals another high draft pick to build the team with, but there have been problems on the o-line and defence for too long now for me to be certain that the current regime can succeed in that endeavour. The Browns continue to make me think that they are on the right track, and even if Baker Mayfield is not the long term at quarterback, a 5-2 record is not to be sneezed at and this is not your usual 2.0 version of the Browns that have only made the play-offs once in the twenty-two seasons since the franchise returned in 1999.
The final game I saw this weekend was the rip-roaring game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks that saw the Cardinals manage to kick the game winning field goal in overtime on the second attempt having handed the ball back to the Seahawks on second down the previous drive after their first game winning attempt was missed. For all that there were some questionable decisions late in the game, this was a highly entertaining matchup where the defensive play of the contest was made by Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf chased Cardinals Safety Budda Baker down after he intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and ran it the length of the field, expecting to get the touchdown when Metcalf not only made up the yards to catch Baker but then made a great tackle. It was a game turning play because even if the Seahawks ultimately lost, they stopped the Cardinals from scoring in the following drive and then marched the ball down the field to score themselves and in this close a contest that really mattered. However, the three interceptions Wilson threw meant his continued production was not enough for the Seahawks to win the game this time. The NFC West is a monster of a division in 2020, with all four teams having winning records and if this game is anything to go by, there will be plenty more great divisional games to come during the rest of the season.
What I Heard
There has been lots of discussion about the trade deadline next week, not least because the salary cap is going to come down significantly next season thanks to the revenue drop from not having full stadiums. Already we have had some players moving including a disgruntled Carlos Dunlap heading from the Bengals where he is their all time sack leader to a Seahawks team who desperately need some pass rush.
It feels like because of the complexities of football the possible upsides from such trades is unlikely to match the fan excitement, but I do wonder if we will see more action because of the effects of Covid-19 and we have all ready seen teams signing veterans to the practice squad so they can get a longer look at them and get the player acclimatise before they have to carry them on the roster. The best teams are always looking to make best use of the rules they can so we have to see if someone can make a material improvement to how their team looks.
What I Hope
With the Bengals are hosting the Titans this weeken,d I fear for our run defence against Derrek Henry so I mainly hope we can keep the game competitive and Burrow healthy.
What I am really excited about is the chance to watch Tua Tagovailoa make his first start for the Dolphins against the Rams, and I just hope the bold prediction Dan forced me to make on the pod doesn’t coincide with something bad happening to Tua.