Every Wednesday, Dan Hanzus combs through the expert findings of the NFL Media Research Department to share nuggets (also known as "nugs") that fascinate, frighten or change him on a fundamental level. This is the Week 10 edition of High-Flying Adventures In The Research Notes.
THE RAMS ARE DOING THE UNTHINKABLE ON OFFENSE
There is a Secretariat-at-Belmont level gap in the race for NFL Coaching Staff Of The Year. Yes, I know this isn't an actual award that exists (though it should), but who has done a better job than the triumvirate of Rams head coach Sean McVay, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips?
Son of Bum is doing his thing (as expected) on D, but the sudden rise of the Rams' offense is arguably the biggest surprise of the NFL season. That 32.9 points per game average is actually the exact point total averaged by the 1999 St. Louis Rams -- a team colloquially known as The Greatest Show On Turf.
That was a historic offense -- a group believed by some to be the most explosive of all time. Is this version of the Rams led by Jared Goff and Todd Gurley the equal of that pre-Y2K outfit led by Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk? We won't go that far, but the Rams have proven they can score against anybody and -- as we saw last Sunday against the Giants -- they have the ability to embarrass lesser opponents that don't show up to the stadium with an appropriate gameplan.
The night and day difference when compared to last year is unprecedented. There are fun facts for days. The Rams have scored 30 points or more five times this season -- that matches the number of times they scored 30 in the previous three years combined. Jared Goff's season over season passer rating jump (63.6 to 97.9) is the fifth biggest improvement among any QB in NFL history. And then there's my personal favorite: The Rams scored more points against the Giants on Sunday (51) then they did in the entire month of November last season, across 4 games (50). Wonderful absurdity!
Who knows if this is sustainable, but it's great to see this franchise make a lightning-fast transition from the watching-paint-dry Jeff Fisher era. The Greatest Show On, um, Grass has arrived.
THE BRONCOS ARE TRAPPED IN THE UPSIDE DOWN
On Oct. 23, 2017, the Denver Broncos entered a Sunday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants with everything in front of them. On paper, it looked like one of the most lopsided matchups of the year. Denver was 3-1 at the time and coming off a bye week. The Giants were 0-4, had lost star wide receiver Odell Beckham to a season-ending ankle injury the prior week and had just suspended their top cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, for a team rules infraction.
When the Giants left town with a 23-10 win, it was a massive head-scratcher for the football cognoscenti. It's less so now, considering the Broncos haven't won a game in 39 days and counting. You have to wonder if the derailment of the #TeamTrev Express, combined with the fact that Brock Osweiler is still somehow a prominent figure for the team, has beaten down a very good defense.
And yes, Tom Brady has struggled historically against the Broncos. This would seem to be good news for Denver this weekend, but can't you just as easily see it go the other way? Brady steps out of his cryogenic chamber and drops 350 yards and four touchdowns on a vulnerable longtime nemesis. Headline: BRADY PUTS DOWN BRONCOS. Yeah, feels like this is definitely going to happen.
SEAHAWKS ARE RUNNING TO STAND STILL
You can't say the Seahawks haven't tried to find a solution in their backfield. Chris Carson, Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls have all made multiple starts this season. J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise have gotten looks. The team acquired All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown in a trade last week and immediately announced their plan to give Lacy a huge role against the Redskins. Naturally, Lacy got hurt midway through the game.
The Seahawks know they need to find someone who can carry the rock with some level of efficiency. Wilson is a wizard on the field and will always be capable of making plays with his legs. But he's simply too valuable to live outside the pocket. We saw how multiple injuries held Wilson -- and the Seahawks -- back last season. It feels they're playing Russian Roulette on offense right now.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE JAGUARS YET? DO YOU REALLY AND TRULY BELIEVE?
In retrospect, this dominant Jaguars defense shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. They were very good last season, though the stink of yet another double-digit loss season seemed to hide that fact. Jacksonville's defense leads the NFL in points per game allowed (14.6), passing yards per game allowed (156.4), sacks (35) and passer rating (63.5). That's pure dominance.
They have the defense of a Super Bowl champion. The problem is that they still have Blake Bortles, whose OK counting stats this season obscure that he's still one of the lesser starting quarterbacks in football. The Jaguars represent a fascinating case study in modern football. Can you really win on the strength of defense and the running game -- two pillars of the old school?
Seeing as "Sacksonville" is for real and Bortles is not, we're about to find out.
THE ELI SOAP OPERA ISN'T HAPPENING ... YET
I know it's a popular topic right now, but don't expect Eli to get benched this season. The Giants are easy to respect as an organization because they do things right. They aren't going to sit one of the most important players in franchise history so they can get a look at (pause for Google) Davis freaking Webb. Not gonna happen. Eli means too much to the Giants, he's done too much for the franchise, and besides, he's not the reason this season has gone so rancid.
To me, this is an offseason story, and a delicious one at that. The Giants will likely pick in the top 10 of the draft and -- if a recent report is true -- could look to make an aggressive move to the top of the board. What would that mean for Manning? And if Manning and the Giants decided a trade was best for both parties, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to reunite Manning with -- wait for it -- Tom Coughlin and those aforementioned Jacksonville Jaguars?
Oooh, that's good. Until next week ...