Let’s run through the most polarizing ups and downs from Week 8 in the NFL.
Just Survive, Baby
The Oakland Raiders came into their Week 7 Thursday tilt versus Kansas City sporting a 2-4 record. Another loss and Oakland stood the chance of putting its playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. While it was far from aesthetically pleasing, the Raiders managed to eek out a victory on the game’s final play — actually the game’s third “final play”. With the Chiefs and Broncos both losing, Oakland finds itself right back in the thick of things in the AFC West.
Is anyone still questioning the legitimacy of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense? This unit has carried an underachieving offense for the majority of the season, thus far. Young, fast and dynamic, they did it again in Week 7, shutting down a Bengals’ offense that had been catching fire in recent weeks. With talent brimming on all three levels, you can throw a rock in the defensive huddle and you’re likely to hit a rising star. Names like Heyward, Shazier, Dupree, Watt, burns and Davis are carving out their own piece of Steel City lore.
Fast Eddie Jackson
Speaking of rising defensive stars in the NFL, Chicago Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson signed his name in the history books in Week 7. Jackson became the only player in NFL history to score 2 defensive touchdowns (1 interception, 1 fumble) from at least 75 yards out in the same game. The talented safety tumbled in the 2017 NFL Draft after missing his senior season at Alabama because of a broken leg. The Bears, in dire need of safety talent in recent years got a steal, as Jackson has been a starter from day one and has been increasingly impressive.
L.A. Love Stories
The Rams and Chargers have sparked excitement into the Los Angeles professional football scene — if such a scene exists. Sean Mcvay’s surprising Rams are 5-2, perched atop the NFC West standings. Meanwhile, it seems that Anthony Lynn and the Chargers have found ways to win and have run off with three consecutive victories. They are right there in the AFC West race. With USC and UCLA stumbling along in college football, the only real challenge for current sports’ supremacy in L.A. is the Dodgers. Everysure this isn’t 1988?
Brees-ing Into The Record Books
Salute to Drew Brees for becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to throw 500 touchdown passes!
Pats Do Defense
The New England Patriots’ defense is back setting a familiar tone…well, at least against a floundering Falcons’ offense (more on that later). The Pats shut down all facets of the Atlanta offense. The front seven was active and stout against the run and the defensive backs were disciplined and schematically-sound all night. It remains to be seen if the cracks in New England’s defensive armor have been fixed, but we saw what this group is capable of in Week 7, and they’ll need more of it moving forward.
Is That You, Zeke?
Cowboys recently-slumping star running back Ezekiel Elliott ran authoritatively throughout the entire game versus the 49ers. He slashed the Niners with 219 total yards and 3 touchdowns. Undoubtedly, his best game of the year, he fought for tough yards when the line wasn’t blowing open huge lanes through the defense. This is the Zeke the Cowboys need to show up week-in-and-week-out in order for Dallas to have a legit shot at being a deep playoff contender.
We might be nearing the end of an era in Baltimore. For years, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have been constants for the Ravens’ franchise. It’s obvious the troika are no longer finding that magical rhythm. Not saying they must all go — they’ve earned the right to turn this thing around — but at least one of them may be shown the exit after this season if things don’t get better. Granted, injuries have ravaged this team. But, at the end of the day, that’s not really an excuse in the NFL.
Race For The #1 Pick
The Browns and 49ers remain winless, while the Giants have just one victory. Cleveland and San Francisco are squandering opportunities to win close games (because that’s what bad teams do) and are realistically close to becoming the first pair of teams to go 0-16 in the same season. The Browns have Baltimore and Chicago left as games they can take, while San Fran has winnable tilts against Arizona and the Giants remaining.
Got ’em, Trevor!
Remember back in the day — Week 2 — when people were saying Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian was becoming a star. Yeah, that’s why we try to stay away from asking girls to marry us after a couple of dates. Chances are, she gets hurt, comes back, looks totally inept and produces zero points against a division rival. Oh…too far with the metaphor? But, you get the point. Siemian will likely never be a star. Solid…but never an upper-echelon starter in the NFL. And that’s not a bad thing.
Hey Jay, We Want Moore
The Jay Cutler experiment has gone sour. The Dolphins won because Cutler got hurt and Matt Moore replaced him, going on to lead Miami to 17 unanswered points in the final quarter. After a slow start, Moore hit stride on touchdown drives of 42 and 54 yards. Moore makes more sense as the guy behind center moving forward, and he’s likely to get at least one start. The Dolphins reportedly fear Cutler suffered cracked ribs and may miss Thursday’s game against Baltimore.
The Super Bowl rematch rhetoric drove the pregame and the early moments of Sunday Night Football. However, by halftime, it was abundantly clear that these are not the same Atlanta Falcons who played in the Super Bowl last February. New England dominated the Falcons in the first half on both sides of the ball and didn’t let up. The offense under Steve Sarkisian is far more predictable and much less explosive. At 3-3, the Falcons aren’t out of it by any means, but they don’t look like a team armed to make a major run either.
Say It Ain’t So, Joe
Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas had played more than 10,000 consecutive snaps — 10,363 to be precise. Thomas maintained the streak by, at times, turning to cryotherapy and Chinese medicine…by playing through three separate MCL sprains..two high-ankle sprains, and an LCL tear…by signaling a would-be replacement, Vinston Painter back to the sideline during a 2014 game. Thomas has blocked for over 20 different QBs during his streak, including DeShone Kizer, who was a fifth grader the last time someone other than Thomas played left tackle for the Browns. The future Hall of Famer saw the streak come to a bitter end in Week 7 as he suffered a torn triceps. Sad day in Cleveland, just when you thought things couldn’t get any lower.
More Costly Injuries
-Arizona Cardinals Carson Palmer suffered a broken left arm during Sunday’s loss to the Rams, ending his season. Could it also spell the end of his career.
-Ravens’ receiver Mike Wallace left the game against the Vikings with a concussion and didn’t return. He’s in concussion protocol.
-Jay Cutler is said to be week-to-week at this point, but may be out for the Dolphins’ Thursday night game against Baltimore.
-Colts’ rookie safety — and first round pick — Malik Hooker is out for the year with torn ligaments in his right knee.