1) Derrick Henry's injury buries the Titans' Super Bowl hopes
Man, what an awful way to start the week -- not just for Titans supporters, but football fans everywhere. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday morning that Henry suffered a foot injury that will cost him significant time. Gutting news. Henry has become a true face of the league, with an extraordinary blend of size and speed that's typically reserved for superhero flicks. Aiming to become the NFL's first back-to-back 2,000-yard rusher, "King Henry" is one of the most watchable athletes in sports today. But now the show's on hiatus. Will this prevent the Titans from achieving their ultimate goal?
It pains me to say it, but the above statement is true. This is just not an injury Tennessee can overcome. Yes, the Titans hold the AFC's No. 1 overall seed following an overtime win in Indianapolis. And yes, the offense has other capable players, including QB Ryan Tannehill and WR A.J. Brown. But Henry is clearly the straw that stirs the drink. He's the player who makes these Titans go. He is Tennessee's identity. While Rapoport reports that Henry could be back by the end of the season, you can't just remove this car's engine for the stretch run and then expect it to immediately run smoothly upon reinsertion.
Now, nearly halfway through the season, the Titans own a three-game lead in the moribund AFC South, having just completed a season sweep over the only other mildly competitive team in the division. So Mike Vrabel can still steer Tennessee to a second straight South title. But I just can't believe the Titans will be a serious contender in January. Not when their MVP-caliber beast is going under the knife with no timetable for return.
2) The Jets should stick with Mike White
Well, yeah. It's true? I'm Ron Burgundy?
What a story. I've crushed Jets GM Joe Douglas for keeping some inexperienced, anonymous backup behind second overall pick Zach Wilson. Upon seeing the Western Kentucky product's warmup Sunday morning, I quipped on CBS Sports Network, "They tell me that's Mike White, but do we really know for sure?" Prior to Sunday, you couldn't pick him out of a lineup. And then, with Wilson sidelined by a PCL sprain, White went out and became the first quarterback since at least 1950 to pass for 400 yards and three touchdowns in his first NFL start. Oh, and he led the Jets to a pulsating comeback win over the hyped Bengals, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the final five minutes of the game. I still think Cincinnati is for real -- don't get me started on the horrific Mike Hilton penalty that essentially ended the game -- so I have to give White all the credit in the world.
Now, it wasn't a perfect outing, as White had two first-half picks, but the former fifth-round pick of the Cowboys showed more than we've seen from the Jets' rookie starter. Wilson did not look good in his first six NFL starts, so there's no reason to rush him back from injury now. Let him fully heal, physically and mentally. White gave the Jets a little juice. First-year head coach Robert Saleh needed this. Chances are the 26-year-old journeyman will turn back into a pumpkin. But until then, I say roll with it!
3) That was a BAD loss for the Bucs
Noooooo. False. I know Jameis Winston got knocked out early in the second quarter, suddenly pitting Trevor Siemian against the G.O.A.T. himself. But winning a division game on the road is never easy -- especially in New Orleans, where the home fans create nightmares for the opposition even when it isn't Halloween. Give immense credit to Sean Payton, who just adds another marquee win to his Hall of Fame résumé. Laud the Dennis Allen-led defense, which continues to routinely terrorize Tom Brady. Even with injuries, New Orleans is still talented and incredibly well-coached. Praise the Saints; don't kill the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay wasn't going to finish the regular season at 16-1. Everything's just fine. Near the midway point, the Bucs sit in first place at 6-2 -- the same record they owned through eight games one year ago. How'd that season end again?
4) The Vikings can't win big with Kirk Cousins
This is true. Cousins was having a terrific year, too. However, there's always a "Yeah, but ..." when it comes to the big picture with No. 8. Following Sunday night's 20-16 loss to the Dak Prescott-less Cowboys, Cousins is now 8-17 in prime-time games. While he was dinking and dunking his way to 184 yards at a measly 5.3 yards per attempt, first-time starter Cooper Rush was shredding Minnesota to the tune of 325 yards passing and two touchdowns (against one pick). Shoot, even Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson threw the ball downfield better than Cousins.
Dallas understandably played it safe with Dak's balky calf, giving the QB the night off. The Cowboys have the look of a potential Super Bowl team; they're playing the long game here. But this decision gave the home Vikings a significant advantage on a spotlight stage. Perfect chance for Minnesota to get back above .500 and head into a difficult three-game stretch (at Ravens, at Chargers, vs. Packers) with some momentum. But no, following a game-opening touchdown drive, Cousins and Co. never reached the end zone again, repeatedly settling for field goals thanks in part to a pitiful 1-for-13 conversion rate on third down.
This is the kind of result that leads many to believe Minnesota just needs to start over at the two more important spots for an NFL franchise: head coach and quarterback.
5) Jimmy Garoppolo is off the hot seat
That's false, even after a 322-yard performance in a road win. First of all, Chicago's defense was horrible, clearly missing injured star Khalil Mack. Secondly, how many of those 322 yards came courtesy of Deebo Samuel creating magic after the catch? And lastly, Garoppolo might not have even been the best quarterback on Soldier Field yesterday, with Bears rookie Justin Fields turning heads in his best effort yet.
The 49ers, of course, could've taken Fields with the No. 3 overall pick, but I'm not second-guessing them there. No, I first-guessed that the team should have nabbed Mac Jones, who could have immediately flourished in Kyle Shanahan's system. But enough about the past -- let's look toward the future. With the Niners under .500 and 3.5 games behind the Rams and Cardinals, do we really think Shanahan's fully committed to Garoppolo? Trey Lance is raw, no doubt, but when he returns to full health, the spark potential will be too great to ignore.
6) The Bills are the best team in the AFC
As I mentioned above, Tennessee currently holds the AFC's No. 1 seed. And the Titans beat the Bills back in Week 6. But as I also mentioned above, the Titans aren't the Titans without Derrick Henry. They'll fade as the Bills keep rising. Of Buffalo's 10 remaining regular-season opponents, only two currently hold a winning record: New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The Bills are the cream of the AFC crop, and they'll show it in the coming months. The above statement is true.
I know Buffalo's offense was seemingly stuck in quicksand during the first three quarters on Sunday against the lowly Dolphins. But the defense held up its end of the bargain, and the offense finished the game with four straight scoring drives, including three touchdowns. Josh Allen, my preseason MVP pick, eventually overwhelmed Miami with his arm and legs. And the Bills, my preseason Super Bowl pick, finished the day with a 15-point win.
Buffalo is the most well-rounded -- and yes, best -- team in the AFC.
7) Dan Campbell's Lions just hit a new low
It's true. And it's awful. Losing 44-6? At home? To a first-year coach who's using flower pictures as motivational props? The Eagles are terrible, yet Detroit had them resting starters for the bulk of the fourth quarter. No Miles Sanders? No problem! The Lions made Jalen Hurts look like peak Randall Cunningham.
I picked the Lions to win this game. Shame on me. But I also said that a Lions loss would have Detroit staring at 0-17 in the face. What a way for Dan Campbell's squad to stumble into the bye week. WOOF!
8) The Panthers are back!
Eh. Not yet. It's false. Now rules dictate that some team has to claim the seventh seed in the NFC. There's a lot of football to be played, but at the moment, six NFC playoff slots seem spoken for. The Packers (7-1), Cardinals (7-1), Rams (7-1), Cowboys (6-1), Buccaneers (6-2) and Saints (5-2) feel like they're in -- the only question is the order. But that last bid remains totally up for grabs.
The 4-4 Panthers would be playoff-bound at the moment, but do you trust this team? Sam Darnold was benched in Week 7 and concussed in Week 8. To me, Sunday's 19-13 result in Atlanta wasn't an inspiring win for the Panthers, but rather, an unacceptable home loss for the Falcons, who had a golden opportunity to get to 4-3.
9) The Patriots' win over the Chargers is a huge deal
True! To go across the country and convincingly beat a talented Chargers team -- forget the final score, which is misleading -- is a big deal. The Patriots played a complete game, complementary football in all phases. In a matchup against reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert, the moment was not too big for Mac Jones, who has been the most impressive rookie quarterback this season.
And just like that, Bill Belichick's Patriots are 4-4. The defense is beginning to round into form, while the offense is striking a balance between Damien Harris' legs and Jones' arm. Lesson learned for anyone who left New England for dead at 1-3.