Oh, there was a lot of yearning.
Here are the highlights and lowlights from the seventh week of the 2015 campaign, Schein Nine style:
1) Oakland Raiders
Oakland has a real football team. And it is pretty fantastic for Raider Nation and the NFL. I expected the Raiders to beat San Diego because they are the better team. That's a significant statement in isolation. Oakland crushed the Chargers, simply humiliated and humbled them. The 37-29 final score doesn't do it justice. It was 30-6 Oakland at the half.
Derek Carr is a young stud at quarterback. With three more touchdown passes against zero picks, the second-year pro now boasts an 11:3 TD-to-INT ratio on the season. Amari Cooper, of course, is a huge part of Carr's improvement. The rookie receiver posted his third 100-yard game of the season, providing another highlight-reel touchdown in the process (along with a spectacular high-pointing of the football on an additional 44-yard gain). Another helpful factor for the Raiders' young QB: Latavius Murray is emerging as a rock in the ground game. The third-year pro efficiently churned out 85 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries.
Back in August, I anticipated the Raiders would return to respectability; at 3-3, they certainly haven't disappointed. While I don't think this team is quite ready to make the playoffs, I see Oakland being in the mix all season. Jack Del Rio has changed the culture. The Raiders ooze young talent. It's fun to watch.
Next Sunday will be very interesting, as the Raiders host the Jets in a big-time showdown. The Black Hole will be in full throat, that's for sure.
2) Dan Campbell
I called for Joe Philbin's removal for two years, but who knew the impact of his ouster would be this pronounced?! Miami is now 2-0 under Campbell after thumping Houston 44-26. Oh, and just like in the Raiders-Chargers game, the final score doesn't do this beatdown justice: Miami was up 35-0 one minute into the second quarter! Ryan Tannehill, who completed 18 of his 19 passes on the day, threw four touchdown passes before halftime!!
Back in the preseason, I picked the Dolphins to make the playoffs because of their immense talent. After a slow start, they're living up to it. Credit the energy infusion from a needed coaching change.
3) New England Patriots
When I argue that Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time, this is the type of game I refer to.
Not to mention, division games are very tough in the NFL -- even for the reigning Super Bowl champs. The competitive balance of this league is a thing of beauty. And upsets happen every week.
The Jets were in the entire game with a chance to win. And, in the big picture, this says something about the staying power of Gang Green.
Belichick immediately recognized the dominance of New York's defensive front and simply abandoned the run. (New England backs logged a grand total of five carries.) Instead, Belichick put the game in the hands of No. 12. Never a bad idea. Tom Brady threaded the needle when it mattered most, as he typically does. Rob Gronkowski literally dragged and carried defenders en route to 108 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 11 catches.
Normal teams lose these kinds of games. With Brady, Gronk and Belichick, the Pats are beautifully abnormal, routinely rising above the haze of parity.
The Patriots' eye-popping success is obviously nothing new. But it should never be taken for granted.
4) Todd Gurley
The Rams' rookie running back plowed over Cleveland for his third-straight 100-yard game. In St. Louis' 24-6 win, Gurley gashed the Browns for 128 yards and two touchdowns -- on just 19 carries. Pretty impressive, considering there's no way he's at 100 percent. (Remember, Gurley tore his ACL less than a year ago.) Imagine what will happen when he's fully healthy.
Gurley didn't make his NFL debut until Week 3, due to his knee rehab. Yet, in four games -- and just 74 carries -- he has six rushes of 20-plus yards (and three of 40-plus). He's averaging an NFL-high 110.5 yards per game.
5) Rex Ryan
Many folks predicted the Bills would field the best defensive line in football this season, a unit that would terrorize opposing quarterbacks all year long. Well, through seven games, Buffalo has a grand total of 11 sacks -- tied for 24th in the league. The players, for what it's worth, have been pointing the finger at their new head man.
6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Having said that, Tampa blew a 24-0 lead against Cousins and the Redskins. Let's not lose sight of that. Prior to Sunday, Cousins hadn't thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game all year. Against the Bucs, he tossed three in the second half.
It should be noted that Bucs head coach Lovie Smith calls the defensive plays and has full autonomy over the roster. So directing blame -- on yet another awful Sunday for Tampa Bay -- is rather easy.
7) Houston Texans
One week after beating the Jaguars in Jacksonville, the Texans completely embarrassed themselves. Bill O'Brien reinstalled Brian Hoyer as the starting QB a few weeks back -- in an effort to give this position a smidgen of stability -- but the offense was inept on Sunday. Yes, Hoyer had three TD strikes, but that's completely misleading. Hoyer completed fewer than half of his 49 passes and averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt. Not good. And just to add injury to insult, Arian Foster is now out for the year. Oof.
8) San Diego Chargers
As mentioned above, I thought Oakland would beat the Chargers -- but not like this. San Diego didn't bother to put up a fight in the first half. The Raiders scored on their first seven possessions and led 37-6 after three quarters of play. That's unacceptable for the Chargers, especially in front of the home folks.
The lack of talent outside the quarterback position is rearing its ugly head in San Diego.
9) Indianapolis Colts
Don't be fooled by the final score of this one, either. Sure, Indy didn't quit. But this game was decided early. Indy was held to 0 -- ZERO -- points in the first half against coordinator Rob Ryan's defense. That's illegal in most states.
Andrew Luck threw two more interceptions -- his fourth multi-pick game in five outings this season. Meanwhile, the run game never got going, the offensive line continues to have issues and the defense was -- once again -- deplorable.
While the Indy players and coaches were adamant that they weren't still focusing on the horrendous fake-punt call against New England, they never stopped talking about it all week. Indy was ugly, again. Disharmony and dysfunction abound within this building -- with the latest incident being a reportedly heated conversation between general manager Ryan Grigson and owner Jim Irsay following Sunday's loss. You have to think all this drama up top -- don't forget about all the reported discontent between Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano -- is having a trickle-down effect on the team.
Still, the team's play is beyond ugly. And barring a MASSIVE turnaround, Indianapolis will be looking for a new coach at season's end.