We still have two Monday night games and a Tuesday night game left on the schedule, so Power Rankings and Statistical Rankings will come on Wednesday. Here’s the recap of the most important Sunday action:
😤 Browns Get Biggest Win of Season
We have to start with the game of the day, Browns v. Titans. Most people expected the Titans to win, as they were 5.5 point favorites, but people were hoping to see the Browns just compete against a good team. They did more than compete: they absolutely hammered the Titans. Yes, the final score was 41-35, but that’s because Tennessee added a lot of garbage points. At halftime the game was 38-7, and at one point in the 4th quarter it was 41-21. Baker Mayfield had 4 TDs in the first half. He finished with an absolutely masterful statline of 25/33 for 334 yards, 4TDs vs. 0 INTs, was sacked 0 times, had a QBR of 87.7 and a QB Rating of 147.0. He should’ve had 5 TDs, too, except Donovan Peoples-Jones dropped a sure TD on the first drive and the Browns had to settle for a field goal. He played like the guy the Browns thought he could be when they took him #1 overall in 2018. Give him a ton of credit for coming up huge.
This was the biggest and most important game for the Cleveland Browns since their last playoff game in 2002. They needed this win not because of the playoff race (they still would have had a good shot to get in even with a loss), but because they needed to prove they belonged as one of the good teams in the league. And now after the big win, would be so crazy to believe this team can win a playoff game or two?
As for the Titans, their defense is a massive liability. I think they were out-coached, too. Coming into this game people expected nothing but runs from both teams, but Cleveland came out throwing the ball and finished with a very balanced offensive gameplan: 34 passing attempts vs. 36 rushing attempts. The Browns took full advantage of the Titans’ 28th-ranked pass defense, but give the Browns credit for stuffing the run. They held Derrick Henry to a near-season low of 60 rush yards (low was 57 against Buffalo) and even made him fumble in the first quarter. The game was 24-7 Cleveland early in the 2nd quarter, which forced the Titans to abandon the run. If you get a lead on the Titans, you take away their biggest strength–Henry–and that’s what Cleveland did.
Now the Titans are 8-4, same as the Colts, however the Titans still have the lead in the division due to the tiebreakers. The Titans also have a higher playoff seed (4) than the Browns (5) because Tennessee is leading its division while the Browns are in 2nd place. If the playoffs started next week, these two teams would play in Tennessee again. Luckily for the Titans they finish the season with a fairly easy schedule: at Jaguars, vs. Lions, at Packers, at Texans. They should be able to win 10 games, but they really need to beat the Packers if they’re going to get their mojo back and have any hope of making a playoff run.
😧 Raiders Stun Jets
When Vegas turned the ball over on downs on the Jets 9 yard line down 28-24 with 1:37 left in the game, it looked like it was all over. The Jets were going to get their first win of the season, the Raiders were going to fall to 6-6, and everyone was going to call the Raiders frauds after getting pasted by the Falcons and then losing to potentially the worst team in NFL history. But the Raiders were able to hold the Jets to a punt and got the ball back with 35 seconds to play. Somehow, with 6 seconds left in the game, Derek Carr was able to find Henry Ruggs for a 46 yard TD bomb to take the lead and win the game.
I don’t know why the Jets weren’t running a prevent defense as Ruggs–one of the fastest players in the league–was in single coverage and beat his man for the score. There was no other Jets defender anywhere close to him other than the guy who was attempting to cover him. I really don’t understand how that was able to happen.
For some reason, the Jets sent an all-out blitz on the play leaving all the Raiders WRs in man-to-man single coverage. I guess the Jets weren’t expecting the Raiders to take a shot at the end zone given that there was still 11 seconds left in the game, but it was still a horrible play call by the Jets. Literally all you have to do in that moment is not allow the play that happened to happen. Were the Jets coaches instructed to throw that game? Maybe, maybe not. I just don’t get it. Apparently, Carr audibled out of their original play and went to verticals as he recognized that the Jets were about to send an all-out blitz. Film study led him to believe such a playcall was to be expected from Jets D-coordinator Gregg Williams (who was apparently fired this morning).
I really don’t even know what to say about the Jets anymore. Look, I’m not saying they were trying to throw that game, but if they were trying to throw that game, would they have handled it any differently?
Check out what Adam Gase had to say about the end of that game and firing Gregg Williams:
What, he was just a helpless bystander?
He’s the head coach of the team! If he didn’t like the play call, he could have changed it. He is the final decision-maker. I know Gregg Williams is a scary, intimidating dude, so maybe Gase is afraid of him and just stood there. Is Gase admitting the’s not the alpha male on that coaching staff?
But seriously: Gase is the head coach of the Jets. And all he has to say is “I wish I would’ve called a timeout.” Does he understand that that is not even close to a valid excuse?
Just an unbelievable level of incompetence and dysfunction. Almost too unbelievable.
💪 Patriots Massacre Chargers
Anthony Lynn is going to be fired. At this point I can’t see how he keeps his job. Not after a loss like that to drop to 3-9. They lost 45-0. It was the most lopsided final score of the 2020 NFL season. That has got to be the final straw, right? We all know that Bill Belichick terrorizes rookie QBs, but this is not an excuse to lose that badly. The question for the Chargers to ask themselves about Anthony Lynn is this: “What would our division rivals prefer we do: keep him or let him go?” I think the Chiefs, Raiders and Broncos would all be happy if the Chargers kept him.
The Patriots, on the other hand, improve to 6-6, although they really needed both the Raiders to lose and Houston to make that comeback against the Colts and drop Indy to 7-5 in order to have any real hope at making the playoffs. The Patriots are now 2 games out of the playoffs with 4 games to play, and they’re starting to look pretty good. They’ve now won 4 of their last 5 games, although their final four games are not going to be easy: at Rams, at Dolphins, vs. Bills, vs. Jets.
🤔 Seahawks: WTF?
The NFC Least gets its first win over a team with a winning record. Yeah, the whole entire division. It felt like Russell Wilson got sacked on every other play, and it turned out he was sacked 5 times.
The Giants have now won 4 games in a row. And they beat the Seahawks with Colt McCoy as the starting QB, as Daniel Jones was out with a hamstring injury. They’re actually not all that bad: in the two games before their current 4-game winning streak, they lost by 2 points (to Tampa) and 1 point (to Philly). They’ve also got a 37-34 loss to Dallas (the game Dak got hurt), a 17-9 loss to the Rams, a 17-13 loss to the Bears in a game the Giants definitely had a shot at winning late, and a 26-16 loss to the Steelers in week 1 in a game the Giants were surprisingly competitive in. Their only real blowout loss was was 36-9 to the 49ers in week 3.
I’m not ready to say the Giants are totally legit, as their offensive numbers are abysmal. But their defense is pretty good. You get a lot of respect in my book holding the Seahawks to 12 points. The Giants rank #5 in run defense and #7 in defensive pressure percent and 10th in scoring defense. This is their biggest win of the season by far and definitely confirms them as a team nobody can take lightly anymore.
As for Seattle: man, what a terrible loss. It was at home, too. They were leading 5-0 at halftime, and if you look at the final game stats, they were better in just about everything: more total yards, 327-290; 21 first downs against the Giants’ 13; near-even time of possession, ran 70 plays to the Giants’ 50, only allowed 100 passing yards. But the Seahawks run defense imploded, allowing 190 yards. Normally Seattle’s pass defense is their huge liability and their run defense is solid (#3 in the league coming into this game). Seattle had 2 turnovers to the Giants’ 1, but that’s not insurmountable. In terms of penalties, Seattle had 6 for 41 yards while the Giants had 6 for 35.
Seattle just failed to capitalize and kept making mistakes. They lost a fumbled a snap in the second quarter that killed a promising drive (it was just inside Giants’ territory). They blocked a Giants punt in the second quarter that should’ve been recovered for a TD, but their player’s arm was out of bounds when he recovered it so it was just a safety. They really could’ve used those 5 points as that was the final margin of defeat in the game. After the safety and the Giants punt, Seattle got the ball back at the Giants 48 with 24 seconds to go and no timeouts. At that point you’d expect them to at least get a field goal, but no. Penalties on subsequent plays backed them up to their own 36 and they ended the first half with only 5 points.
The Giants had literally nothing going on offense until Wayne Gallman broke a 60 yard run at around the 9 minute mark in the 3rd quarter, and it led to a Giants TD which made the score 8-5 NYG after a successful 2-point conversion. The Giants stopped the Seahawks on 4th down around midfield on the subsequent drive, and then were able to get another TD on the short-field drive.
The Seahawks just couldn’t get anything going on offense. It felt like all the sacks they surrendered were coverage sacks. Nobody could really get open, it seemed like, and Russell Wilson was just back there holding on to the ball and scrambling around trying to extend plays, but the Giants were consistently able to contain very well.
Seattle is just a flawed team. They’re good, and they can beat good teams from time to time, but they’re just not good enough to be considered a serious Super Bowl contender.
🤦♂️ Bears Are a Joke
The Bears lost despite holding a 30-20 lead over the Lions with 2:30 left in the game. A Lions TD with 2:18 to play cut the lead to 30-27, and then with 1:47 to play on 3rd down at his own 17 yard line, Mitch Trubisky was strip sacked and lost a fumble to give the Lions the ball at the Bears’ 7. The Lions then scored the go-ahead TD and held on to win 34-30. The Bears are a joke. They’re now 5-7 after starting 5-1.
They’re probably going to lose to the Texans next week, then the Vikings on the road after that. They might beat the Jaguars in week 16, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jags won. The Jags have played the Browns and Vikings very tough the past two weeks, and both those teams are better than the Bears. And then in week 17 the Bears are going to lose to the Packers.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Matt Nagy will be fired after the season. Yes, he still has a winning record as Bears head coach, but the fact that last year was a disappointment and this year they’re on a 6 game losing streak after starting 5-1 is just unacceptable. It’s the trajectory this team has been on both this season and over the whole Nagy tenure: he went 12-4 in year 1 and would’ve won a playoff game had Cody Parkey not doinked the field goal. In year 2, he went 8-8. And now in year 3, he is 5-7 after losing 6 straight and it seems extremely unlikely they rally to make the playoffs, even though they’re only a game out of the 7th seed which is held by the Vikings, a team the Bears play in a couple of weeks.
Nagy was supposed to be this Offensive Genius™ coming from the Andy Reid system, but this year the Bears are probably the second-worst offense in the league and above only the Jets. It’s never a good sign when you’re hired because of your offensive mind and you have to relinquish playcalling duties mid-season. The offense is supposed to be “his baby,” yet it’s the most broken part of that team. ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson put it this way:
There have been plenty of successful NFL head coaches that don’t call plays; it is just hard to think of many that were hired mainly because of their perceived playcalling abilities, only to relinquish that duty down the road.
It’s not so much that Nagy is a terrible coach–though it sure looks like he is–but the fact that they’re about to have to go into a rebuild. Clearly Mitch Trubisky is a bust and is not the future for the team. Ryan Pace, the GM who both traded up to draft him over both Pat Mahomes and DeShaun Watson and staked his job on the Matt Nagy hire, might be a goner, too. Allen Robinson, the team’s best offensive player, is almost certain to leave in free agency. The Bears have completely wasted one of the best defensive rosters in the league over the past four years. They’ll probably have to trade Khalil Mack and get some return for him, and to just do the guy a solid by letting him play for a contender and not continue wasting his prime. If only they hadn’t started 5-1, then maybe they’d be able to land a good QB in the draft next year. But such is the nature of the Chicago Bears.
🔀 Eagles Finally Switching to Hurts?
The Packers beat the Eagles 30-16 to improve to 9-3, while the Eagles fall to 3-8-1. Carson Wentz was finally benched about mid-way through the 3rd quarter with the Eagles down 20-3. It looked like Jalen Hurts provided the team with a spark as they rattled off a few quick TDs after being held to only a field goal with Wentz at QB.
Hurts made a couple impressive throws: he had a deep ball to Jalen Reagor on his first drive, and a beautiful TD pass on 4th down to Greg Ward in the 4th quarter. He showed his running ability and the team just looked better with Hurts in the game. I was impressed by his accuracy and touch throwing the ball, which was a pleasant surprise because he was not known as an elite arm talent in college. But he made some throws yesterday that indicate he’s got a future as a starting NFL QB.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson refused to say if Hurts would get the start next week, but it seems like that’ll be the case. The Eagles offense just looked so much more functional and energized with him in the game.
🐏 Rams Drop Cardinals to 6-6
The Rams beat the Cardinals 38-28 in Phoenix to improve to 8-4 and drop the Cardinals to 6-6. That is now 4 losses in 5 weeks for Arizona, and the only win came on probably the most miraculous play of the whole NFL season to date (even more miraculous than the Raiders game-winner against the Jets). Kyler Murray was pretty pedestrian in the game. He did throw for 3 TDs, but overall he was 21/39 passing for just 173 yards with an INT and a 45.3 QBR. Running the ball he was basically completely bottled up by the Rams defense, with 5 attempts for just 15 yards with a long of 7. It’s the second mediocre game for him in a row.
The Rams outgained the Cardinals 463-232. Yikes. Time of possession was Rams 39 minutes to the Cardinals 21. Double yikes. The Cardinals only averaged 3.7 yards per play to the Rams’ 5.9. The Rams got an whopping 30 first downs to the Cardinals’ 18.
And the worst part: the Cardinals are now on the outside looking in with regards to the playoff hunt. The Vikings hold the tiebreaker over Arizona by virtue of winning percent against common opponents, and overtook the Cardinals for the 7th seed this weekend.
5 weeks ago, Kyler Murray was considered an MVP candidate. Remember that?
Now it seems like the Cardinals have been figured out, and they don’t know how to adjust and stay a step ahead of the competition. Look what Kyler Murray said after the game:
“We kind of hit a wall as far as offensively,” Murray said. “I think the first half of the season, it was kind of effortless. We were moving the ball, having fun, playing fast and stuff like that. When you face a little bit of adversity, how you react, how you adjust, which we ended up doing, but it was just a little too late.
Translation: they’ve been figured out. The rest of league now has the book on Arizona.
As for the Rams, they improve to 8-4 and are back in first place in the NFC West following the Seahawks loss. People might have been worried about the Rams after to the 49ers last week for the second time this season and 4th time in their past 4 matchups, but it seems like the 49ers just have the Rams’ number. The Rams are still a great team, and my statistical ranking system loves them because they’re elite on defense and above-average on offense.
Other than those games: The Colts beat the Texans to improve to 8-4, although Houston had a shot to win at the end. The Chiefs beat the Broncos 22-16 in a game that was a lot closer than most thought it would or should have been. The Dolphins beat the Bengals to improve to 8-4.