What a day it was yesterday to cap off one of the best Sports weekends of the year that included 3 World Series Games combined with some intense College and NFL action. According to my IPhone Health app, I recorded a whopping 12 steps from the time I woke up on Sunday until I went to bed in the early hours of Monday morning. Some may call that a “Lazy Sunday”, but I call it dedication to the game. I’m not just watching football, I’m studying and preparing for these Monday Football Thoughts.
9:30 is a cruel hour to be forced to wake up at on a Sunday of Halloweekend, but that is exactly what we did with the Vikings and Browns game kicking off in London. Sure, the Browns aren’t exactly appointment Television, but Minnesota came into this one at 5-2 and playing some really good ball. That didn’t play out in the first half as Cleveland managed to take a 13-12 lead into the break at Twickenham Stadium. Then, it seems as though Hue Jackson reminded his team that they were still the Cleveland Browns as they returned to their ways in the second half, scoring 3 points and making Case Keenum look like Brett Favre. Minny outscored Cleveland 21-3 after halftime, and rolled to a 33-16 win while handily covering the 10.5. Stephon Diggs was back on the field for the Vikes who are now 6-2 and in the drivers seat of an Aaron Rodgerless NFC North. They are on a bye next week, and will return to QB questions with the impending comeback of Teddy Bridgewater mixed with the stellar play of University of Houston legend Case Keenum. I know the Vikings drafted Bridgewater to be the guy, but you can’t pull Keenum in the midst of this run if you’re Mike Zimmer. That’s 4 straight for the Purple People eaters, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If Keenum returns to his normal below average quarterbacking self, then it will be nice to have Teddy Bridge ready to go, but for now they are looking like one of the two best teams in the NFC, so let it be.
The other best team in the NFC has clearly emerged as the Philadelphia Iggles. Many people were screaming trap game with the San Fran 49ers in town, but Wentz and his guys didn’t skip a beat as they bundled the niners for their 6th straight win. Carson wasn’t at his best in this one, but he was opposing C.J. Beathard so he didn’t need to be. Alshon Jeffrey finally found the End Zone for fantasy teams everywhere, and the Philly Defense added a score on a 37 yard pick 6 by Jalen Mills. San Francisco is racing the Browns towards the basement of the NFL and there is a very realistic chance we have two 0-16 teams for the first time ever. Philly on the other hand has a comfy 2.5 game lead in the NFC East, and bonafide MVP candidate under center.
If we’re talking MVP Candidates, then of course we have to bring up Touchdown Tom even though he only tossed for 1 score yesterday. The Pats took care of the Chargers in a relatively uninspiring football game in Foxboro as I detailed so thoroughly in my game recap. The loss drops Phil Rivers to 0-7 in his career against TB12. Brady and the Patriots need to do a better job of finishing drives with TD’s when they get in the Red Area, as they were forced to attempt 6 Field Goals on Sunday. That won’t fly against better competition then LA. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do this week, with the trade deadline being on Thursday. They are always the most active team in football at the deadline, and clearly have areas on the team that could be addressed. We were almost positive those needs were entirely on defense, but over the last 4 games, New England’s D has been among the best in the league allowing just 13 PPG. They still could probably use some depth at Linebacker or help up on the D-Line. I also would not be shocked to see them go after a #2 Tight End to help them in the Red Area and replace the completely useless Dwayne Allen. Up next for the Patriots, a well-timed and much needed Bye Week.
The Pats are alone in first in the AFC East per usual, but not far in front of the 5-2 Buffalo Bills. Bills Mafia trounced the Oakland Raiders yesterday in extremely impressive fashion. The Bills are rolling right now, especially at home where they are 4-0. Shady McCoy got back into the end zone and tacked on a buck fifty on the ground. The Bills and Patriots still have two games to play against each other, where we will find out how legit this Buffalo team is. For the Raiders, this was a bad loss following up a big win over KC last week. They turned the ball over 3 times, including 2 Derek Carr picks which makes it nearly impossible to beat a good team on the road. The turning point in this one came just before the Half, when Buffalo scooped up a Jalen Richard fumble and took it to the house to go up 14-7 at the break. Everyone’s preseason darling in the AFC is in serious danger of missing out on the postseason entirely, while Buffalo is looking like a real threat to get in since 1999. Yes, they are the only franchise in all of Pro Sports that has not made a postseason in the 21st Century. That could all change this year, but with two games to go vs NE, we can’t be sure. Luckily for Bills fans, they still have the Dolphins twice, and the Jets coming up on Thursday night in our annual Christmas color rush game for the color blind.
As for those Jets, they are back after their once promising 3-2 start to the season. They hosted the struggling Atlanta Falcons in a rainy slop-fest at MetLife. I know they play in a dome, but it literally looked like it was the first time the Falcons had seen rain before. Matt Ryan couldn’t hold on to a snap, and receivers were dropping passes all over the place. If not for the incompetency of the NYJ, this surely would have been another addition to the Super Bowl hangover. But, a couple of Chandler Catanzero misses and a Jeremy Kerley fumble on a punt return set the Falcons up to steal one in the Meadowlands. Big thanks to the NFL for giving us a Jets game in primetime this Thursday night, as we will see how high up in the draft this freefall can take them. Despite that, the most surprising statistic in the league this year is that Josh McCown has the 3rd highest completion percentage in the NFL.
Second in that category to no one’s surprise is Drew Brees, who is completing over 70% of his passes for the New Orleans Saints. Brees was 23 of 28 yesterday in a 20-12 victory over the hapless Chi town Bears. Mitchell was not great in his 3rd start, checking in with a QBR of 37 despite facing a bad Saints D. The Saints offense is what has carried them to a 5 straight W’s and a 5-2 mark, the best record they have had at this point this their Super Bowl year. They have done it behind Brees, as well as a two headed monster in the backfield of Mark Ingram and rookie, Alvin Kamera. The NFC South is tight and has turned into a 3 team race involving everyone except the Buccaneers.
The Panthers are a half game back in the division after waxing the Bucs in Tampa, 17-3. It was an all around terrible performance by the Bucs to muster up just 3 points in their 4th consecutive loss. Jameis Winston was bad again, throwing 2 Ints with a QBR in single digits. Luke Kuechly returned to the middle of the Carolina defense in a much needed way, because Cam Newton and that offense didn’t really do anything. Still, Carolina is 5-3 with a big upcoming matchup against Atlanta next week. It will be interesting to see if Cam Newton makes it until that game without making any headlines during his interviews with the media this week.
By far the best game of the day went down in the 4 oclock hour, with the Houston Texans visiting the Seattle Seahawks. It was a great football game and another great performance by Texans QB Deshaun Watson. The rookie threw for 402 Yards and 4 TDs, overcoming 3 Interceptions to put Houston in prime position to pull off the upset on the road. But, as he so often does, Russell Wilson dropped in a couple of pretty deep balls and led Seattle right down the field to score the go-ahead TD with 20 seconds on the clock. Russell wasn’t too bad himself, tossing for 450 yards and 4 TDs of his own. This game went back and forth, with the two Quarterbacks trading big plays throughout. Watson and Wilson are two of the best dual threat guys in the game, and are so good at extending plays outside of the pocket. The offensive gameplan by Bill O’Brien and execution by Watson on a top level defense was really impressive. After the game, the always outspoken Richard Sherman said that Watson played the best game that any quarterback has played against his defense. He must have done his best to forget what Brady did to them in Super Bowl 49 by now. That said, Watson is a complete stud and will only get better for Houston. This team might be the biggest threat to New England in the AFC, with weapons like Hopkins and Fuller burning DB’s and the mobility and arm strength combined with the poise of their rookie franchise QB. If not for late drive collapses by what was supposed to be the strength of this team, Houston would have road wins in Foxboro and Seattle. Instead, they find themselves 3-4 and in need of a strong 2nd half to win the weak AFC South.
The other afternoon game was an NFC East affair with the Cowboys visiting the R-Words in what could have been Zeke’s final game of 2017. If so, it was a nice way to go out with 150 yards and 2 scores. The Skins run game on the other hand is completely non-existent, getting no help from Tulane’s own Rob Kelley. Tyrell Pryor has also become irrelevant as a WR, with Chris Thompson (a running back) being the only reliable target for Kirk Cousins. At 3-4, Cousins will need some magic if they want to make a run at a Wild Card spot. We do not like that. Dallas is looking at controlling one of those Wild Card spots, and they have a huge matchup coming up next week with the KC Chiefs. I have no idea what is going on in the bananaland court system that the NFL is involved in, but the Zeke ruling will be huge and impact the entire NFC race. It is tough to see Dallas surviving without their star RB, and we should be finding out what happens before Week 9.
The final game Sunday Night was a good inter-conference matchup between the Steelers and the Lions. I am sure many missed this one due to the crazy World Series game going on at the same time, but all you missed was the Lions complete lack of ability to score a TD. 5 times the Lions were forced into Matt Prater FGs, including a 19 yarder on the drive immediately after a Pitt stuffed them on 4 plays from inside the 2. The Lions still had a chance to drive in for the GW TD, but once again could not convert in the Red Zone. Pittsburgh got a huge day from Rookie WR Juju- Smith Shuster, who caught 193 yards worth of balls, including a 97 yard TD. This was the worst case scenario for Martavis Bryant, who likely will be traded for a late round draft pick prior to Thursday’s deadline.
Thankfully, there is still one more game to go tonight, with the Denver Broncos visiting Kansas City. The Chiefs are looking to get back on track after 2 straight losses, and giving 7 points at home tonight. To me, the Denver offense is way to limited with Trevor Simien to keep up with Kansas City, and I like the Chiefs to blow them away at Arrowhead tonight.