Goodbye, Arizona Cardinals… we hardly knew you! Seven days after being introduced back into top spot in these rankings, Kliff Kingsbury's men drop down to fourth spot in a league-wide situation that can best be described as "fluid." Powered by a defense that is in top form, the Green Bay Packers are back at number one but only just, holding off a mightily impressive Tennessee Titans squad.
In the past three games, Green Bay’s defense has faced Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson and allowed a grand total of 34 points. The NFC’s road to the Super Bowl currently runs through a frosty Green Bay and once Aaron Rodgers is back up to full speed, this team could make a serious run.
“We find ways to win.” Those were the words uttered by Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill after Sunday’s nail-biting victory over New Orleans. It is rarely perfect for Tennessee, but they have great spirit and a growing defense that has played increasingly-important roles in what is now a six-game winning streak.
The Cowboys got back on track last week with a 43-3 thrashing of Atlanta. Dallas boasts the best and deepest offense in the NFL, beating opponents a variety of ways. They can throw it all over the yard or run behind a powerful offensive line with two very good backs in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
It’s been hard to properly judge the Cardinals over the past couple of weeks without star quarterback Kyler Murray and his favourite target, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, in the lineup. But we are deep enough into the season to see the talent on this team and I’m confident they can bounce back soon.
Josh Allen and his receivers got back on the proverbial horse last week but let’s give some love to the other side of the ball for a moment. Buffalo’s defense ranks first in the NFL in six major categories, including yards allowed, points allowed, big plays allowed and turnovers.
The Bucs have now committed five turnovers in their past two games – both losses – prompting head coach Bruce Arians to label them “a dumb team” while quarterback Tom Brady talks about “self-inflicted wounds.” The Bucs were struck by this sort of mini-crisis in 2020 and bounced back just fine, by the way.
Ever since the Rams went “all in” for Von Miller, they have lost back-to-back contests to fall to 7-3. Matthew Stafford ranks fourth in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 106.1 but has thrown at least two interceptions in consecutive games. Not the ideal time to be heading into your bye week.
The Chiefs were another team to enjoy a ‘get right’ game in Week 10, scoring 41 points in a comfortable victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. Patrick Mahomes is not going to break his style of play for anyone, as evidenced by his seat-of-your-pants touchdown pass to Darrell Williams in Sin City.
The facts cannot be denied. The Patriots are playing their way into genuine Super Bowl contention as winners of four straight, out-scoring the opposition by 150 points to 50 in the past month. The ongoing development of Mac Jones further complements a strong run game, cagey defense and elite coaching.
The Ravens did not see that result coming down in Miami, much like they failed to see the Dolphins blitzes coming. This remains a competitive team with a magic maker in the backfield in Lamar Jackson. One game does not change the fact that he is a special kind of talent capable of turning contests on their head.
I came away from the Saints’ two-point loss in Nashville very impressed. They could have won that game but for a phantom roughing the passer call that wiped out an end zone interception and two missed extra points from Brian Johnson. Trevor Siemian played very well at quarterback and likely remains there.
There is so much pressure on Justin Herbert to perform at a high level week in and week out; and the truth is that he has cooled off in the past month after a hot start. But the Chargers’ offense is not helped out by a porous run defense that is the worst in the league and gets shoved around far too often.
My questions for the Bengals coming out of their bye week are these… Do you have the stomach for the fight? Can you handle being a true contender? I think they can with Joe Burrow at the helm, but they have to show me. Heading into Week 8, Cincy were the AFC’s top seed but quickly lost to the Jets and Browns.
The Colts have crept back into the playoff picture with four wins from five (it could well have been five from five but for Carson Wentz’s meltdown against Tennessee). Jonathan Taylor is legit and the defense is opportunistic, but I still have my worries about Wentz and he and this offense still stalls too often.
Who are the Cleveland Browns? In the most topsy-turvy seasons in living memory, this might be one of the most perplexing teams in the league. Cleveland looked great in 41-16 thrashing of Cincinnati in Week 9 but could not have put forth a more embarrassing effort in losing 45-7 to New England in Week 10.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin says he expects Mason Rudolph to “play winning football” if he has to continue subbing for the Covid-19-impacted Ben Roethlisberger. I wouldn’t be so sure on that, coach. Rudolph is not going to be the future in SteelTown when Big Ben retires. Aaron Rodgers, anybody?
The 49ers shocked me with their 31-10 win over the Rams on Monday Night Football. What didn’t surprise me was their desire to run the ball 44 times for 156 yards and one touchdown, while allowing Jimmy Garoppolo to throw just 19 passes. The trust in that quarterback has all but disappeared in San Francisco.
Fresh-faced tight end Tyler Conklin may have caught a couple of touchdown passes during Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers, but it was a victory built around some familiar faces with Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks playing key roles.
The Raiders are in a slide. Their offense hasn’t looked nearly as explosive for a couple of weeks now and the running game is non-existent. We are heading into Week 11 of the 2021 season and Josh Jacobs is the leading rusher on this team with just 296 yards. I see the Silver and Black continuing on this path.
‘Energy’ was a word being used a lot by the Carolina Panthers after Cam Newton rushed for a touchdown and threw for another on his return to his former team. He is by no means the perfect passer, but Cam is beloved in locker rooms and could prove to be just the tonic for the Panthers to make a playoff charge.
Denver blow hot and cold, but that kind of form could be enough to make the AFC playoffs this season. Vic Fangio will continue to rely on the backfield pairing of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams (both have topped 500 yards), solid play from Teddy Bridgewater and a defense allowing just 18 points per game.
After completely ignoring the ground attack in the first few weeks of the season, the Eagles have averaged 208.7 rushing yards per game since Week 8. Behind the running of Jalen Hurts, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott, Philadelphia now rank as the league’s third-best rushing attack, averaging 144.3 yards per game.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again… Russell Wilson wanted out of Seattle after the Seahawks lost four regular season games in a playoff-qualifying season. The ‘Hawks have already lost six games in 2021 and the playoffs are by no means guaranteed. Storm clouds are gathering in the Pacific Northwest.
If Cordarrelle Patterson is hobbled and sidelined through an ankle injury, there could be some troubling weeks ahead for the up-and-down Falcons. He has been one of the major offensive highlights in 2021 and one half of Matt Ryan’s aerial safety blanket alongside Kyle Pitts.
The Bears are on a four-game slide and while Justin Fields is taking baby steps in the right direction, the once-vaunted defense appears to be regressing. Fields is the most important player on this team the rest of the way and his development is key. He is the one most likely to unlock an exciting future in Chicago.
The biggest compliment I can pay Taylor Heinicke is that he plays like a young Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is popular with his teammates and willing to put his body on the line with some hold-your-breath scrambles. Heinicke may not be the long term answer, but he is winning over hearts and minds in Washington, D.C.
Giants fans are probably crying “foul” at being dropped four spots without playing a game. But everyone else in the NFC East won last Sunday, so that was not a good weekend off. I can only hope the Giants have been able to get healthy during their bye week. Their stars have been banged up all year long.
The Dolphins let it all hang out and risked it all during last Thursday’s win over the Ravens, blitzing more than 51 percent of the time. That might as well be the approach from Brian Flores for the rest of the season. The alternatives have not panned out this year and a strong finish might just save his job.
The Jaguars have so little around Trevor Lawrence that it is scary. I’m worried the young passer might get hurt and he needs to get to the offseason healthy and in a hurry. The most positive thing in Jacksonville right now is that the defense is showing signs of improvement and has played well for the past two weeks.
If you’re ever struggling to sleep, pop on the tape of last Sunday’s tie between the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers. You’ll be in The Land of Nod in no time at all. The Lions are so obviously playing around quarterback Jared Goff, who is coming to a clipboard-holding job near you in 2022.
In their past four games, the Jets have given up 54, 31, 45 and 45 points. No wonder former coach and defensive mind Rex Ryan has spoken out, suggesting his name should never be placed in the same sentence as Robert Saleh. That feels harsh, but the Jets really are a defensive mess at the moment.
What do you want me to say? I’ve got nothing. Move on, nothing to see here. Eight losses in a row is very soon going to become nine, ten and beyond.