As the title suggests, this week was when we learned for sure if the Patriots were really a Super Bowl contender anymore. And yes, the Dr. Strangelove reference is warranted. The offense that looked incompetent through three weeks has become a set of nukes for Brady to unleashed at will. Also this week, the Giants keep losing, the Rams keep winning, nobody is safe in Oakland, and we’re down to one undefeated team.
Giants 13, Eagles 34
New York (1-5): It’s hard to believe the Giants are this bad when they have Saquon Barkley. The guy is like if someone created a player in Madden and set all his stats to 99. Barkley ran the ball 13 times for 130 yards and a touchdown and added another 99 receiving off of 9 catches. If Barkley had gotten 1 extra receiving yard, he would have had the first 100-100 game since Arian Foster in 2011. But with all that, the Giants still lost because Eli Manning (24-43, 281 yds, INT) is completely cooked. When not throwing to Barkley, Eli was just 13-31 for 182 yards and a pick. Maybe, despite all his faults, Ben McAdoo was right to bench him. I can’t believe I’d ever actually say those words.
Philadelphia (3-3): The defending champs got off to a really slow start, but a big win on Thursday Night Football is a good sign of things to come. Carson Wentz (26-36, 278 yds, 3 TD) looked much better this week than he has since coming back in week 3, and Alshon Jeffery was the main benefactor. 8 catches for 77 yards and 2 TDs made him a fantasy steal. The running game was also on point, totalling 108 yards on 31 carries meant the Giants defense was kept honest all night. It may just be the Giants, but divisional wins are always big.
Falcons 34, Buccaneers 29
Atlanta (2-4): Going up 21-6 late in the second quarter, this game looked to be over. Then the Falcons gave up a touchdown just before the half and the floodgates opened. Matt Ryan (31-41, 354 yds, 3 TD) lit up the Bucs defense all game long, but it was only barely enough. The defense gave up 28+ points for the 5th straight game and nearly gave another game away. Until the defense improves, Ryan won’t be able to carry the team.
Tampa Bay (2-3): You could see by the look on his face at the end of the game how angry DeSean Jackson was with himself. Jameis Winston (30-41, 395 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT) led the team all the way down the field to get one final play to win the game from the 21-yard line. The Bucs went with a QB-draw that set up multiple laterals, and after a bobbled pitch, Mike Evans found Jackson on the sideline with an open run to the endzone. He couldn’t hold on to the pitch, and the game was over. That play sums up Tampa’s season. So close, yet so far.
Bengals 21, Steelers 28
Cincinnati (4-2): It’s a rough way to lose, but at the end of the day the Bengals still played well. Andy Dalton (26-42, 229 yds, 2 TD) and Joe Mixon led the way on offense, grinding out yards and kept the Steelers defense on the field, but the defense just couldn’t quite make the final stop. A bright spot is the continued emergence of Tyler Boyd, who’s quickly becoming a prime target for many suiters, Cincinnati included. Perhaps he can even outgrow A.J. Green and actually help the Bengals win a playoff game.
Pittsburgh (3-2-1): He may have gotten off to a slower start than normal, but Antonio Brown has come back with a vengeance and burned the Bengals yet again. His game-winning 31-yard touchdown (questionable non-penalty call aside) capped off a great performance by the Steelers offense. Big Ben (32-46, 369 yds, TD) was incredibly accurate and picked apart Cincinnati for most of the game, using James Conner as a wrecking ball to score 2 touchdowns and control the clock down the stretch. A big division win is just what the doctor ordered.
Browns 14, Chargers 38
Cleveland (2-3-1): The Browns just found out how underrated the Chargers really are. Despite holding Philip Rivers to his lowest yardage total of the season so far, the Browns got demolished on both sides of the ball. Baker Mayfield (22-46, 238 yds, TD, 2 INT) was hounded into submission in the second half, and their turnover-heavy defense could only manage 1 interception. The flaws in Cleveland are still apparent, but the Browns of the last 2 years would’ve been blown out even worse. 24 points is a bad loss, but there’s still signs of improvement.
Los Angeles (4-2): Melvin Gordon is just a beast. 150 total yards and 3 touchdowns is one of the best days of the season, and the rest of the team played good enough to earn a blowout win. Philip Rivers (11-20, 207 yds, 2 TD, INT) had his worst game of the season, but the Chargers are built so that he doesn’t have to carry the load by himself and that virtue shined on Sunday. With their only losses being against the 6-0 Rams and the 5-1 Chiefs, the Chargers should be much higher on people’s lists than they already are.
Raiders 3, Seahawks 27
Oakland (1-5): I’m starting to think that Jon Gruden thinks he’s playing an old Madden franchise mode and is trying to cheese the computer into trading him a super team. Before their brutal home loss to the Seahawks, it was reported that the Raiders are actively looking to trade WR Amari Cooper and S Karl Joseph. While Joseph isn’t that big of a headline, Cooper certainly is. Though he’s having a down season, Cooper is still a solid receiver on a team who’s best pass catcher is the tight end. Derek Carr (23-31, 142 yds) is already having a tough time scoring enough points to make up for the defense without losing one of his top targets.
Seattle (3-3): This is easily the best the post-Legion of Boom Seahawks have looked, and the fans in London were treated to an American football clinic. Russell Wilson (17-23, 222 yds, 3 TD, INT) had plenty of time to pick apart the Raiders defense, the defense shut down a top-5 passing offense, and the running game managed over 150 yards. 3 fumble recoveries capped off a blowout that has to give the 12th man plenty of confidence going forward.
Dolphins 31, Bears 28, F/OT
Miami (4-2): You could see it on Kenyan Drake’s emotional breakdown as the winning kick sailed through the uprights how much of a roller coaster this game was for him. Drake fumbled on the 1-yard line in overtime, then watched the Bears march down the field to kick the winner. The Bears missed, and as time expired Jason Sanders made his own to win. Frank Gore also had 100 yards and Brock Osweiler (28-44 380 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT) picked apart the vaunted Bears defense as he filled in for the injured Ryan Tannehill. Tied atop the division, the Phins might just make it back to the playoffs this year.
Chicago (3-2): What happened to the defense that manhandled Russell Wilson on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago? Khalil Mack was shut down, and the rest of the defense couldn’t make up the difference. A defense that averaged 4.5 sacks and 16.25 points per game in their first 4 games couldn’t touch Osweiler as the Dolphins put up 31 points. Trubisky (22-31, 316 yds, 3 TD, INT) played well again, but without a defense the Bears fell short.
Vikings 27, Cardinals 17
Minnesota (3-2-1): The Vikings keep marching along through an up-and-down season with a win against the Cardinals. Kirk Cousins (24-34, 233, TD, INT, rushing TD) and Latavius Murray (24 carries, 155 yds, TD) led the offense up and down the field while the defense held rookie Josh Rosen in check. It’s still tough to tell if the Vikings are for real or not, but the NFC North is open for the taking.
Arizona (1-5): Back to the L column for the Cardinals. A tough Vikings defense kept Josh Rosen (21-31, 240 yds, INT) out of the endzone and held Arizona to just 10 points on offense. A 36-yard fumble return touchdown and a solid day for David Johnson kept things close, but it wasn’t enough to top the Vikings. Rosen will get plenty of help in the draft to build a future in Glendale, but for now he’ll have to suffer with the rest of the team in the basement this season.
Jets 42, Colts 34
New York (3-3): The Jets might be the most hit-and-miss team in the NFL. One week they’re inept on offense and a turnstile on defense, the next they pick off a veteran 5 times or put up 40 points. Sam Darnold (24-30, 280 yds, 2 TD, INT) took good care of the ball and was able to drive down the field time and time again. The bug day, however, belonged to kicker Jason Meyers, who set a Jets record by making SEVEN field goals in a single game, just one short of tying the NFL record. The defense may not have been stout, but the offense was able to put up the points to get New York back to .500.
Indianapolis (1-5): Andrew Luck (23-43, 301 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT) was very up and down against the Jets. He managed to tie his 2018 mark of 4 touchdowns, but also threw 3 interceptions for the first time since November of 2015. The defense held New York out of the endzone plenty of times, but it was death by a thousand cuts since the Colts couldn’t keep them out of field goal range. Indy may only be 2 games back in the division, but the lack of weapons for Luck to use and a lack of a competant secondary means it’s another lost season for the Colts.
Redskins 23, Panthers 17
Washington (3-2): The Redskins earned their first quality win of the season with a big win at home against the Panthers. Alex Smith (21-36, 163 yds, 2 TD) had a good start, but a quiet second half allowed Carolina to creep back into the game. Adrian Peterson continued his comeback season with a near-100 yard game that allowed Washington to control the clock and get away with a win. Next up is a big home game against the Cowboys that will determine who will lead the race in a competitive NFC East.
Carolina (3-2): They nearly completed a 17-point comeback, but Cam Newton (27-40, 275 yds, 2 TD, INT) and the Panthers fell just short. The running game was held in check all game, with the running backs combining for just 38 yards, and it turned Carolina into a one-dimensional offense that was easier to defend against. Next for the Panthers is a trip to The Link and a matchup with the defending champions, who will be fighting with everything they have to get back to their winning ways.
Texans 20, Bills 13
Houston (3-3): After starting the season 0-3 and looking completely out of sorts on defense, the Texans have come back strong with a third straight win thanks to a tough defense and a little dose of Peterman. Deshaun Watson (15-25, 177 yds, TD, 2 INT) was hounded by a tenacious Bills defense all game, getting sacked 7 times, but was able to hold on and let Houston’s star-studded defense win the game.
Buffalo (2-4): The Bills may not have the worst record, but they might just be the worst team after Sunday’s loss to the Texans. An already stagnant offense was thrown in reverse once Josh Allen (10-17, 84 yds) was knocked out of the game with an elbow injury. Nathan Peterman was brought back out, and yet again he squandered his opportunity. He threw 2 picks, including a game-losing pick-six, on his final 2 drives. Should Allen be forced to miss any games, there’s serious talks to start 3rd string QB Derek Anderson. Surely anything is better than Peterman. If this was literally his best game, then it’s a marvel that he still has a job.
Broncos 20, Rams 23
Denver (2-4): The first snowfall of the year wasn’t enough for the Broncos to overcome the Rams juggernaut, but they were able to make things close. Case Keenum (25-41, 322 yds, 2 TD, INT) was able to out-duel a red hot Jared Goff, but the lack of a consistent running game meant that Denver couldn’t keep the ball out of LA’s hands in the first half. A comeback was almost complete, but the Rams were just too much to stop late in the game. A cold day in the thin air is a high price to still come away empty handed.
Los Angeles (6-0): And then there was one. The ’72 Dolphins celebrated the Patriots win on Sunday night, leaving the Rams as the only unbeaten team left in the NFL. Jared Goff (14-28, 201 yds, INT) had his first mediocre game of the season, and in a place like Mile High, that’s usually enough for a loss. Enter Todd Gurley. 208 yards and 2 touchdowns propelled Gurley into the MVP conversation and earned LA their 6th straight win. The question now is how long can their winning streak last, and who can take them down. The Saints in week 9 and the Chiefs in week 11 look like the toughest matchups. If they survive to their Bye, the Rams might just be able to do it.
Cowboys 40, Jaguars 7
Dallas (3-3): Where did that come from? The Cowboys have been lackluster on offense for most of the season, but a few play-calling changes and an Ezekiel Elliot explosion nuked the Jags defense from orbit. Dak Prescott (17-27, 183 yds, 2 TD, 82 yds and TD rushing) looked like a real dual-threat QB as he ran and threw all over Jacksonville, and Ezekiel Elliot added 106 and a touchdown himself. Add a shutdown defense and the Cowboys looked as good as they were 2 years ago. The division is theirs if they want it.
Jacksonville (3-3): What happened to Sacksonville? The Jaguars are 18th in sacks and 27th in interceptions despite being 2nd in yards allowed and top-10 in points allowed. The offense has clearly regressed as well, with Blake Bortles (15-26, 149 yds, TD, INT) playing poorly much more often than he’s playing well. After their win against New England, the Jags are averaging 14.5 points per game. In their last 3, Jacksonville is giving up over 27 points per game. Things need to rebound fast, because right now the Jags look nothing like advertised.
Titans 0, Ravens 21
Tennessee (3-3): Talk about your all time bad days. The offense line couldn’t keep Marcus Mariota (10-15, 117 yds) on his feet at all Sunday, leading to him being sacked more times than any other game in his career. He actually led the team in rushing with 25 yds, with the team totalling just 55 on the ground and under 200 total yards for the game. The defense played well, but when you can’t get anything going on offense, even the best defenses can’t keep points of the board forever. Even after getting blanked, the Titans are still tied for first in a wide open AFC South.
Baltimore (4-2): The Ravens defense was out for blood and got plenty of it against the Titans. They managed to force more sacks (11) than allow completions (10), falling just 1 short of an NFL team record for sacks in a game. Za’Darius Smith led with 3, while 8 different players had at least 1 sack. Joe Flacco (25-37, 238 yds, TD, INT) only needed to be OK after that, and he was just that in an impressive team performance.
Patriots 43, Chiefs 40
New England (4-2): Like I said in the introduction, the Patriots offense has become a powerhouse driven by Tom Brady (24-35, 340 yds, TD, rushing TD) and his seemingly ageless right arm. Rookie Sony Michel ran for 100 yards yet again, punching in 2 touchdowns before Brady ran one in himself after a really bad missed sack by a Chiefs defender trying to avoid a penalty. The defense clearly needs help, but if the Pats keep putting up 38+ points per game, that won’t be a problem. I know we’re all a bit tired of seeing New England in the Super Bowl, but they’re good enough to do it again this year.
Kansas City (5-1): Patrick Mahomes (23-36, 352 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT) did everything he could in front of a hostile Foxboro crowd, but it just wasn’t enough to beat the Patriots machine. Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill lit up the Patriots all night long, including a 75-yard bomb to Hill to tie the game with 3:03 left on the clock. But that was just too much time to give Tom Brady. The Chiefs may have lost this round, but the seemingly inevitable rematch in January will be the true decider on whether Mahomes is ready to take the mantle from Brady and the Pats.
Packers 33, 49ers 30
Green Bay (3-2-1): It’s not the way they drew it up, but the Packers will take it as they win another game at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers (25-46, 425 yds, 2 TD) battled through a bad knee, a bloody elbow, and an unforgiving turf to overcome a 49ers team playing with everything they had. 2 final drives for the Packers went 58 and 81 yards for a game-tying touchdown to Davante Adams and a game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby, who was a perfect 7-7 a week after he missed 5 kicks and cost Green Bay the win. As long as Rodgers is on the field, the Packers will always have a shot, and he proved that again Monday night.
San Francisco (1-5): C.J. Beathard (16-23, 245 yds, 2 TD, INT) played well in the frigid Wisconsin air, but the defense completely failed him in the final minutes. Forced to give the ball back to Rodgers with 3 minutes left and holding just a 7 point lead, the Niners let Green Bay march right down the field and tie the game. Then, after getting amazing field position with a chance to set up a game-winning field goal, Beathard threw an easy pick and cost them the win. Then the defense evaporated as Rodgers darted up the field for 21 yards before going 3-3 for 46 yards to set up a chip shot to win. The 49ers gave everything they had and still lost. Such is the problem San Francisco finds themselves in.
Happy Bye Week to the Detroit Lions (2-3) and the New Orleans Saints (4-1). Matt Patricia will have to work up his team’s moral after a disappointing start, and that starts with fixing the league’s worst rush defense, which gives up over 145 yards per game. Drew Brees, on the other hand, can sit back and relax after setting the all-time career passing yards record. He may not have anything left to prove, but that doesn’t mean another Lombardi wouldn’t look nice on his mantle.
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