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Ten Thoughts on the NFL

Check out our 10 Thoughts on the NFL this week, and be sure to drop a few thoughts of your own in the comment section.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Washington Football Team Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

1) Washington back up quarterback Alex Smith played in an NFL game for the first time since November 11, 2018.

That in and of itself should get him the comeback player of the year award.

In that game nearly two years ago, Smith suffered a horrific injury to his right leg with multiple fractures that nearly led to him having his leg amputated. But seventeen surgeries later, and countless hours of rehab, and Smith was deemed able to play football again, but actually seeing him trot out onto the field was still remarkable.

But then seeing him sacked 6 times by the Los Angeles Rams, including 3 by All-Pro and devourer of quarterbacks Aaron Donald, yet still getting up for more was incredible.

2) The Cleveland Browns are for real.

They beat the Indianapolis Colts 32 to 23 and they did it on offense, with 385 yards against Indy’s top rated defense, on defense, with a Ronnie Harrison 47 yard interception return for a TD, and on special teams, with kicker Cody Parkey making all 3 extra points and all 3 field goals. In fact, Parkey hasn’t missed a kick all year long.

This is the Browns first 4-1 start since 1994 when head coach Bill Belichick led them to an 11-5 record.

3) Also for real, the Las Vegas Raiders.

Sure knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs 40 to 32 is a big deal, but head coach John Gruden has them playing winning football behind a powerful running game and a quarterback in Derek Carr that is starting to stretch the field. There are still questions on their defense, but with an extra wild card team added this year the Raiders should be in the mix all season long.

4) That was a horrible injury to Dak Prescott’s ankle on Sunday. The compound fracture was so severe that he had surgery on Sunday night, but so far the expectation is that he’ll be able to eventually make a full recovery.

With Prescott out the Dallas Cowboys turned to Andy Dalton, and he was an efficient 9 of 11 for 111 yards in helping them to a 37 to 34 victory against the still winless New York Giants.

Prescott was in the midst of a record breaking year, and even with him only throwing for 166 yards on Sunday, his 2020 season ends with him averaging 371.2 yards per game in his 5 games. For some perspective, the all the leader in passing yards for a season, Peyton Manning in 2013, averaged 342.3 yards per game that year.

5) Speaking of prolific passers, the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees threw for 325 yards in their 30 to 27 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, but I have to wonder how much he likes getting pulled for Taysom Hill a handful of plays each game.

Sure, Hill had a 9 yard TD run late in the 4th quarter, but more often than not he seems to kill their momentum.

The 41-year old Brees may be nearing the end, but I can’t see the benefit of taking a 13 time Pro Bowler, and the leagues all time leading passer, out of the game for a gadget player.

6) The Miami Dolphins rocked the San Francisco 49ers 43 to 17, and they did it behind Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 22 of 28 passing, for 350 yards, 3 TYDs, and a passer rating of 154.5, but it was the QB play on the other side of the field that grabbed headlines when ‘Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan benched Jimmy Garoppolo.

He was playing poorly, and there was a lingering ankle injury to use as the reason why, but that hasn’t stopped some from speculating the team is angling to move on from him. Garoppolo has no more guaranteed money on his contract after this year, so a trade isn’t out of the question.

7) At 3-2, the surprising Carolina Panthers are in the mix in the NFC South, and they’ve won three straight since Christian McCaffrey went down with an injury in week 2. Filling in has been journeyman (and former Bear) Mike Davis who has rushed for 220 yards on 46 carries (4.8 ypc), and 30 receptions for 206 yards.

With as convoluted as the Bears running scheme was a year ago, it’s no wonder Davis flamed out in Chicago.

8) The strangeness of 2020 continues tonight as the Buffalo Bills travel to face the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday Night Football on CBS. The game will kickoff at 6:00 p.m. Central, and it will feature 2 of the last 5 undefeated teams remaining this year.

The NFL has to be intrigued at the silver lining on getting another week night to test their ratings prowess.

9) The Atlanta Falcons cleaned house in firing head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after their team dropped to 0-5, and now the hottest coaching seat in the league belongs to the Adam Gase of the New York Jets. Gase, who spent a year as offensive coordinator in Chicago, has reached the bargaining point in his 0-5 season where he’s contemplating giving up play calling. His offensive coordinator is another ex-Bears coach, Dowell Loggains, so that could be a fun story to keep an eye on.

In looking over the Jets schedule, I think there’s a real chance this team ends up 0-16.

10) Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide out Chase Claypool had a heck of a game on Sunday with 4 touchdowns, but that feat allowed me to Tweet about one of the All-Time great Chicago Bears receivers.

10a) Before the draft the super athletic Claypool (6’4”, 238 pounds) was being talked about as a guy that could play the move tight end spot for some teams. While at Notre Dame last year he led the Fighting Irish with 66 receptions for 1,037 yards and 13 TDs.

Any guesses to the player that was second on their team in all those categories?