Aaron Donald, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Alvin Kamara, Andrew Luck, Baltimore Ravens, Blake Bortles, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Clock Management, Colt McCoy, Dallas Cowboys, Deshaun Watson, Detroit Lions, Ezekiel Elliott, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Joe Theismann, Kansas City Chiefs, Kareem Hunt, LA Rams, Lamar Jackson, Leonard Fournette, Minnesota Vikings, Mitchell Trubisky, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFL, Patrick Mahomes, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Todd Gurley, Washington
The NFL got what it wanted on Monday night with a spectacular game that lived up to the hype. With a game that ends 51-54 you can understand all the talk being of the Rams win and the offences involved (to be fair there was over a thousand yards), but there are a couple of other things I wanted to mention from this game. Firstly, for all the talk of the yards gained and quarterbacks, perhaps the best player on the field Monday was Aaron Donald got two sack fumbles and caused enough pressure with his teammates that Patrick Mahomes threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball away twice. In fact, if I was the Chiefs I would not be overly worried by this loss as despite five turnovers and one hundred and thirty-five yards of penalties they only lost by a field goal. On a neutral field they will still fancy their chances but both teams could do with learning the lessons of the late game as they each manufactured chunk gains and neither seemed to worry about running out the clock and this could very well have lost either team the game. I’m not advocating for the old fashioned three yards and a cloud of dust runs, but a little manipulation of the clock could have definitely given one team an advantage.
So if Monday was a feast of offence that also featured multiple defensive touchdowns, the rest of the week showed that as much as anything, competitive games is what drives interest in the NFL. In fact the winning margin for eleven out of the thirteen week eleven games was five points or closer.
Other notable achievements included Lamar Jackson carrying the ball twenty-seven (yes 27) times against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Ravens’ 24-21 win. A double blow as the Ravens managed to beat the Bengals but not quite by enough for me to get my pick right. The Ravens only had Jackson throw nineteen times and the number of carries he had cannot be sustainable, but I will be interested to see how they develop the offence for him over the next few weeks. I do wonder how much of this game plan was about attacking the Bengals’ porous run defence and their inexperienced linebackers. The injury situation doesn’t look to be turning round quickly for the Bengals, but they were at least competitive in this game and if they can get AJ Green back they could have some success in a schedule that looks like it might lighten up a little in the coming weeks even if there are still visits to Pittsburgh and the LA Chargers left.
I picked the Colts to win but did not expect them to blow out the Tennessee Titans 38-10 and having heard Robert Mays wax lyrical about their offence and what they have done for Andrew Luck this season I will be taking a look at that for my coaching tape study this week. The other blow out this week was the New Orleans Saints rolling over the Philadelphia Eagles whose injury problems at corner as reached critical in terms of numbers, but the worst injury news is Washington’s who lost Alex Smith who broke both bones in his right leg in thirty-three years to the day since Joe Theismann had the same injury. With the advances in training and medicine it likely won’t be the career ender that it was for Theismann but Washington’s hopes for the season now rest on Colt McCoy. The Houston Texans managed to win out in this game though to maintain their two game lead on the Colts and Titans whilst stretching their win streak to seven.
The Pittsburgh Steelers got their revenge win in Jacksonville against a Jaguars team who have not got the memo about how modern offences should be run. They called a run play forty-one times with Leonard Fournette having twenty-eight carries and not making one hundred yards. Clearly they didn’t want to put the game in Blake Bortles’ hands but they might not of had to if they had selected say Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson who were both available in the 2017 draft when they picked Fournette. This is not a direct comparison of players so much as a comment on taking a running back that early and using them in this old fashioned way. You can still feature a running back, look at Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara or Kareem Hunt but they need space to work and the days of the workhorse back running up the middle have been well and truly superseded.
A team who are very much running such a modern offence are the Chicago Bears, who are getting enough production from a developing Mitchell Trubisky and a defence that ranks first in the league by DVOA and this got them a big divisional win against the Minnesota Vikings this weekend. However, one of the other NFC team of the tier below the Saints and Rams lost whilst going for two at the end of the game as the Carolina Panthers stumbled against the Detroit Lions. This only furthers my confusion at the Lions’ set of impressive teams beaten, but also asks the question of whether the last games the Panthers have lost is a blip or the start of a trend. As usual, only time will tell but with the Seattle Seahawks getting their win on Thursday night over the Green Bay Packers the Seahawks could still have a shot at the playoffs whilst the Packers have probably lost too many games already unless Aaron Rodgers really is a dragon.
The New York Giants recorded their second straight win, this time over the flailing Tampa Bay Buccaneers who look like they need a new plan in the offseason. It is too late for the Giants to pull themselves into the race for the NFC East even with Washinton’s problems at quarterback, and likely the same for the Eagles but with another win the Dallas Cowboys could get themselves back into the conversation, particularly as they host Washington this Thanksgiving. The Cowboys seem to have worked out how to feature Ezekiele Elliott more on offence and with a defence that I’m surprised is only ranked twenty-first by DVOA but has been good enough, they at least stand a chance of winning their remaining division games and getting themselves into the mix.
The LA Chargers run of only losing to really good teams fell to the Denver Broncos this week, which is the kind of divisional games that can cause such results but they hope this won’t be a return to the getting in their own way Chargers that started last season. The Oakland Raiders however, got their second win of the season against the Arizona Cardinals in a reminder that if you like the points, you should really take the points even if the team have been bad.
The teams at the bottom of the league all seem to be taking games off each other whilst the cream of the NFL really seems to be rising and it seems like the season is slipping away for all three of us at The Wrong Football. There’s still time for one of our teams to build their way into a winning record but I would be surprised if they all did and I’m not sure what it will take for the Bengals to win a playoff game. Maybe it really is the time for a fresh start in Cincinnati, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves as there’s plenty of football left to watch this season and a lot of it has been really good. Let’s hope we can keep this momentum.