1. Open Season on Russ
The Denver Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday in a battle for horse mascot supremacy 12-9. Yes, that’s seven field goals to get to that score and it took overtime to find our way to that result. What followed the game was what can only be described as the opening of hunting season on Russell Wilson. Former teammates piled on the former Seahawk, most notably and audibly Richard Sherman in the postgame recap. This continued to the morning shows the day after and oh, for the love of rocky mountain oysters, DO NOT open Twitter, Russ!
Wilson is, without much doubt, one of the corniest personalities the NFL has seen in a while. His public choices seem like they’re put together by a third-rate PR team, like we’re in an episode of Entourage where the fellas are hearing the same bad image pitch over and over again. It’s inauthentic. I think that’s what sits with people the wrong way, like a bite of peanut butter toast that sticks to the back of your throat.
As for everyone taking their shots, I find it entertaining to a degree – it’s fun to see the tea get spilled – but hopefully the pressure valve has been released and we can move on. At some point it moves from entertaining to sad.
2. Southern Hospitality
On the other side of this one, the Colts improved to 2-2-1 despite Matt Ryan taking six sacks, fumbling twice, and throwing two interceptions. The AFC South favorites entering the season have somehow survived the first month plus of the season and can reassert themselves over the next two weeks with divisional games. In fact, the Colts will have played all but one of their six divisional games by Week 7, so if they do want to compete in this division, now’s the time to right the ship.
I thought Ryan would immediately step in and stabilize this team and take a good-on-paper roster to the playoffs on the strength of a weak division. At this point, the whole division looks like it’s a crapshoot, with the real possibility of a sub-500 team taking the crown.
3. Short Rhule
The Carolina Panthers relieved Matt Rhule of head coaching duties after the team fell to 1-4 on the young season. This was the first head coach to be fired this season, which honestly was about the most obvious futures bet of the 2022 NFL season. Rhule came to the league with a lot of fanfare, and I guess the best thing that you could say about him is “well, at least he wasn’t Urban Meyer.”
If you’re someone who likes to give coaches the benefit of the doubt, the Panthers decision making at the quarterback position left a lot to be desired. Teddy Bridgewater, PJ Walker, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and now Baker Mayfield combined for a whole heap of disappointment. The counterargument to that is that David Tepper hired an offensive guru, who shouldn’t need premium ingredients to make a passable meal. Rhule’s offenses never rose above the bottom quartile of the league. Easy hook.
4. Shoving Cheese
The New York Football Giants, enemy of Bears fans just a week ago, became everyone’s favorite team early on Sunday morning as they knocked off the Green Bay Packers 27-22. Am I above schadenfreude? No, I am not. In fact, I enjoy it and think it’s an underrated feeling. In a year where the Bears are not built to compete for anything serious, I will enjoy each and every Packers loss as if it is a Bears win. Sorry, not sorry.
As for the Giants, it’s an ugly-ish 4-1 start and the Giants likely aren’t going to hang around forever in this division, but Giants fans will certainly take it. Brian Daboll’s tenure starts off strong and I think my biggest takeaway watching Giants games thus far is that he’s not afraid to find something that works and spam it until it the other team proves they can stop it. The only downside is that he may coach himself out of draft slot high enough to select a new QB.
5. Dying on this Hill
Taysom Hill accounted for four total TDs for the New Orleans Saints in their 39-32 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. I do not understand. My football sense is literally dying every time this dude does something like this.
Hill rushed the ball 9 times on Sunday for 112 yards and 3 scores, adding a fourth TD via a pass. He’s occasionally the most dominant weapon you’ve ever seen and then most of the time he’s completely worthless. He’s listed as a tight end but he has 21 carries against 1 catch on the year. I still think the idea to give him a sizable contract was insane, but at least he will flash games like this from time to time. This is probably the career that Tim Tebow could’ve had in a different universe.
6. Lions get Zappe’d
The Detroit Lions traveled to Foxborough to take on the wounded New England Patriots in what looked for all intents and purposes a get-right game and got smoked by Bailey Zappe. The top scoring offense in the league entering Week 5 got shut out. The feel-good story (read: fairytale) of the offseason for the team in Honolulu Blue has turned to a pumpkin before Halloween. The Lions are 1-4, sitting at the top of the mock draft boards staring at familiar territory.
I bought into the idea that the Lions could raise their level of play to mediocre. With their only win coming against the lowly Commanders, the Lions head into their bye week licking their wounds. When expectations sit in the gutter, no one cares. When you get a little bit of shine on you and stumble, it’s very difficult to survive. Dan Campbell might need to double that Starbucks order.
7. Jags forgot they’re good now…
The Jacksonville Jaguars took a 14-0 lead on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter of last week’s game… and stopped playing football. The Jags managed a late TD against the Eagles after giving up 29 unanswered points, flew home to take on the winless Texans and… failed to score a TD. The Texans have been playing tough defensive football in the early going but an absolutely unacceptable showing against a division rival for what looked like the early season success story of the NFL.
This, after so many victory laps around the yard on Trevor Lawrence, should remind all of us that football is hard and playing quarterback the biggest challenge of all. Lawrence managed only 286 yards on 25 of 47 throwing with two interceptions. Growth is not linear, particularly for young QBs. The Jags have a lot of young talent and the aforementioned AFC South is a wide open division. It’s worth keeping an eye on the Jags despite this week’s setback.
8. Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper
Okay, this Dallas defense is something else. The Cowboys defense has held all five of their opponents to under twenty points this season, something of a minor miracle in the modern NFL. The Cowboys offense last season got out to early leads, helping fuel high turnover games from an opportunistic defense. This year, with Dak Prescott injured and questions along the offensive line and pass catchers, the defense is carrying Cooper Rush to a 4-1 start to the year.
To Rush’s credit, he is taking care of the football and not losing them games. That’s exactly what the Cowboys promised would happen when Dak when out with an injury. The sky wasn’t falling in Big D after many, including myself, wrote them off. With the offense getting healthier, we now have to accept that the Cowboys will be a player in this NFC moving forward. A Sunday Night Football contest in Philly awaits them next, followed by playing the entire NFC North.
9. Eagles Survive the Desert
As the last undefeated team in the NFL, the spotlight is now on the Philadelphia Eagles. Road wins are hard to come by, I don’t care who the opponent is, and the Cardinals are such a high variance team that this one certainly could’ve come off the rails. However, Jalen Hurts continues his stellar play with a solid passing line of 26/36 for 239 yards with another 61 yards rushing and 2 scores. The truly balanced attack has so far been willing to shapeshift into what is needed to get the job done for the day.
Hurts’s stats are not exactly what you’d expect from the quarterback of an undefeated team in 2022. Through five games he’s only thrown four TD passes. He’s actually rushed for six TDs and while that number is likely reverse at some point in the year, it’s worth wondering when the last time a quarterback ran for more scores than threw for them for any significant stretch of the season. But it works and the Eagles have a chance to go on a bit of a run here. After the Cowboys at home, the Eagles will take their bye week to get ready for the Steelers, Texans, Commanders, and Colts. They’ve got a fair chance at 10-0.
10. Justin Fields
There we go. That’s a solid performance on the road for Fields. The first quarter of the season treated Justin Fields harshly, with plenty of miscues on his end, protection issues, and a lack of talent in the WR corps. It wasn’t a perfect performance in Minneapolis by any means – that would’ve netted the Bears an upset victory – but it was progress. And, in 2022, that’s what we’re looking for most.
Fields and the Bears should feel pretty good about this performance, even if the result was a loss. I know a lot of people will roll their eyes and want nothing but victories because wins are all that matters. Not this year. Progress is getting up off the mat when you’re dealt an early punch that knocks you down. Progress is having the ball in your hands late in the game with a chance to tie or go ahead. Progress is picking up a teammate making a critical error late in the game, demonstrating your leadership of this team in transition. In this gap year that is 2022, I’ll take all the progress I can get.
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