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The Week 7 Wrap

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  • By Neil Reynolds NFL International
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We billed Sunday night on Sky Sports as being all about the quarterbacks and two victorious signal callers reminded us there is still more than one way to skin the proverbial cat in today's NFL.

Let's start with Aaron Rodgers, who was perfect in Green Bay's 42-24 win over the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field. It seemed incredulous and deceiving that Rodgers came into this contest as the league's 20th-ranked passer in 2019.

Rodgers left the game reminding us why he has been in the conversation for the greatest pure passer in NFL history for the past decade. Number 12 hit on 25 of 31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. His passer rating of 158.3 is perfection and cannot be bettered. It was a sublime performance as Rodgers delivered inch-perfect passes all over the field to what can only be described as a bunch of 'guys'.

While Rodgers impressed while bringing out the best in an otherwise-ordinary group of skill position players, what was more notable was the growing partnership between quarterback and head coach, Matt LaFleur.

We have made much of their relationship in the opening weeks of 2019 as we tried to work out who was the alpha male and who had final say in how this offense would be run. All of that talk is going to be irrelevant if the 6-1 Packers keep playing like this - it was clear on Sunday that Rodgers and LaFleur are operating on the same page, they are continually evolving and they have a genuine Super Bowl shot this season.

While Rodgers lit up the sun-kissed skies above Green Bay, Lamar Jackson was slipping and sliding across a rain-soaked field in Seattle to the tune of 116 yards on 14 carries as the Baltimore Ravens recorded a mightily impressive 30-16 win over the hometown Seahawks.

Jackson only completed nine passes on the day but several of them came in crucial situations to help the Ravens to 5-2 on the season. The numbers alone shouldn't matter when it comes to this sensational sophomore. We should all get used to referring to Jackson as a football player and not a pure quarterback.

What the Ravens are doing is very clever at a time when teams are geared up to defend the pass more than ever, playing more defensive backs and lighter, more athletic linebackers. The Ravens are a 200-yards-per-game rushing machine and it's hard to work out how they can be stopped.

If you load up with big defenders, Jackson is just going to run around them and leave them eating dirt in his wake. But if you go nickel or dime and stack your defense with more athletic defensive backs, the ball will be handed to the punishing pairing of Mark Ingram or Gus Edwards. It really is a case of picking your poison when playing these Ravens.

We saw two distinctly differing styles at quarterback on Sunday night but I would offer that they were equally enjoyable and equally capable of being the driving forces behind serious playoff runs.

Who's Hot...

Kirk Cousins... The Minnesota Vikings are still relying heavily on NFL rushing leader Dalvin Cook but make no mistake, they are just as happy with Kirk Cousins slinging it all over the field and the red-hot passer has guided his team to three straight wins and a 5-2 record. Over the past three games, Cousins has completed 68 of 90 passes (75.6 percent) for 976 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one pick. Much of that success is coming off play action passes and Cousins struck time and again downfield in Sunday's 42-30 win over Detroit. The Vikings flipped between too much Cook and too much Cousins at various times this season. Now, they have realised a combination of the two is their best option and Kirk is in the groove.

Arizona Cardinals We've been getting excited about Kyler Murray's development at quarterback in recent weeks but there was much more to the Cardinals on Sunday as they recorded a third straight win with a 27-21 defeat of the New York Giants. Chase Edmonds will continue to eat into David Johnson's season-long workload if he plays like he did in Week 7. This fast-improving running back rushed for 126 yards and three scores. And a previously-moribund defense came up big with Chandler Jones recording four sacks. But let's double back to Murray and give him a nod. Sure, he only threw for 104 yards but he has now gone three straight games without throwing a pick.

Jacoby Brissett... The Indianapolis Colts were rightly shell-shocked when Andrew Luck retired two weeks before the start of the 2019 season. But they also talked a very good game about how the team was in safe hands with Jacoby Brissett at the helm. Luck himself even said as much in his farewell press conference. Brissett further proved his case in Sunday's 30-23 win over Houston that improved the Colts to 4-2 and took them top of the AFC South. Brissett threw four touchdown strikes and looked in total control. I was also struck by how much he gets helped out by play calling, once again proving the Colts are a total team and one that looks good for another playoff run.

Who's Not...

Chicago's offense... Don't be fooled by the Bears gaining 252 total yards (which is pretty terrible in its own right) during Sunday's 36-25 loss to New Orleans. Chicago were being hammered 36-10 with four minutes or so remaining and they only padded their statistics when the Saints took their foot off the gas. At one point early in the fourth quarter, the Bears had just 83 total yards and had called five running plays to 24 passes. Where is the offensive growth this season under Matt Nagy? What does the future hold for struggling starter Mitchell Trubisky? The Bears have still not topped 300 yards of total offense in any game this season. Sunday's numbers don't look quite that bad now, but rest assured this was arguably this unit's worst performance of 2019.

Atlanta Falcons... The season continues to spiral down the toilet for the 1-6 Falcons. And everything that could go wrong, did go wrong during Sunday's 37-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Quarterback Matt Ryan hobbled off with an ankle injury, running back Devonta Freeman had a bright idea to start a fight with Aaron Donald and ended up getting ejected; and Dan Quinn received the dreaded vote of confidence from team owner Arthur Blank. Atlanta's head honcho is not prone to knee-jerk reactions but it's hard to imagine Quinn being in charge of the Falcons by the time the calendar flips over to November.

Cincinnati Bengals... The Bengals are in a world of hurt at 0-7 and they just don';t have the horses to maintain a full 60-minute challenge on Sundays. They played Jacksonville tough for a while on Sunday and led 10-9. But that has been the case quite a few times this season and they simply run out of gas. The Jaguars stormed back for a 27-17 win as Andy Dalton tossed up three interceptions. But here is the most shocking statistic to come out of this weekend's game... Joe Mixon, who I felt could be one of the top backs in the league this year, carried 10 times behind a poor offensive line and gained a grand total of two yards. Ouch!

The Fast Five...

The Philadelphia Eagles get into too many deep holes to be a competitive team on a week to week basis. Looking to buck a trend of slow starts, Doug Pederson won the toss and took the ball against Dallas on Sunday night. The result? Two lost fumbles and a quick 14-0 lead for the Cowboys.

Jared Goff still has his doubters and that is fair given his hot and cold start to 2019. But you won't see a prettier pass this season than his 13-yard rainbow to Todd Gurley in Atlanta on Sunday.

Miami are flirting with danger when it comes to their 'Tank for Tua' adventure. They are far too competitive with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. The veteran quarterback has too much pride and spirit to roll over and have his tummy tickled every week. If Miami are serious about losing, they need to go back to Josh Rosen.

The horrendous weather in Washington contributed to this statistic, for sure. But what a two-week spell for the San Francisco pass defense. In back to back games against the Rams and Redskins, San Francisco have given up a grand total of 98 passing yards.

I maintain that the Oakland Raiders are not that far away and but for a series of unfortunate events either side of half time, they were going toe to toe with Green Bay on Sunday. They are a work in progress, but Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have this team on the right track.

Fact of the Week

Matthew Stafford became the fastest player in NFL history to 40,000 passing yards on a 36-yard completion to Danny Amendola on Sunday night. Detroit's passer reached that mark in 147 games, bettering the efforts of Matt Ryan (151), Drew Brees (152) and Dan Marino (153). Stafford continues to be a star for the Lions in a bounce-back season for him personally.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

From Otto Lidenbrock (@Snaeffels)... The wide receiver the San Francisco 49ers should trade for is... a true number one like A.J. Green, but there are injury concerns there. So maybe somebody who can play like a true one but also fill other spots on the offense. For me, that would be Emmanuel Sanders. 'E' can still play at a very high level, Denver could look to ship him and I would be fascinated to see what he does in a Kyle Shanahan offense. One final name to consider...Taylor Gabriel would be explosive and fun to watch if reunited with Shanahan as the pairing proved hugely successful in Atlanta, but are the Chicago Bears in selling mode? I don't think they are and they cannot afford to part company with any offensive playmakers.

From Mark Everitt @schimanski1)... Josh Rosen to Chicago would be a good idea because... everyone needs a good laugh! No, seriously... I'm not sure it would be a good idea. It has been hard to judge Rosen given the terrible teams in Arizona and Miami, but what do we learn from putting him in an offense that has failed to top 300 yards this season. I get the sentiment, though. The Bears appear to have whiffed big time on Mitchell Trubisky and it must pain the Chicago faithful to think they could have gone for Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson instead in the 2017 NFL Draft. I think Trubisky's backside is red hot. As for Rosen, I'm not sure he has what it takes to be a successful NFL starter either. So he is not the answer in the Windy City.

From Kush Ladani (@kushty86)... The San Francisco 49ers defense... races each other to the quarterback, benefits from aggressive and instinctive linebacker play from Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner and is very well marshalled on the back end by Richard Sherman. The 49ers are 6-0 and their defense is the biggest reason. And it should come as no surprise - they have a bunch of studs on that side of the ball now that Nick Bosa and Dee Ford have joined DeForest Buckner on the defensive line. The Niners are no frauds - they have the required backbone to go all the way.

From David Boyes (@guruhd1) Mitchell Trubisky is going to become... a Subway driver in Chicago, hiding underground for hours on end to avoid disappointing looks from the general public. Before he reaches that employment status, Mitchell will suck for a few more years; briefly re-appear in the XFL and, at this rate, take his head coach down the pan with him. In short, it's not been good. In fact, it's been terrible and would Chase Daniel really be a worse option at this stage of a disappointing season?

Final Thought...

Good teams find a way to win when defeat is staring them right in the face. It feels like the Los Angeles Chargers have been the reverse of that throughout Philip Rivers' Hall of Fame career. Oh, how this team has let him down. It was more of the same on Sunday night as the Chargers fell 23-20 to the Tennessee Titans. Rivers thought he had thrown the winning touchdown to Austin Ekeler but his running back was ruled down at the one-inch line. After a penalty moved them back, the Chargers moved to within inches of the goal line again but Melvin Gordon lost a fumble inside the final 30 seconds and it was another victory quickly turned to defeat for this frustrating team. It must be sickening to be a Chargers fan. LA have now lost more games (5) than they did all of last season and coming up short in big situations is a major reason for their 2019 failings.

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