I’m filling in for your usual writer, Jeff Berckes, as he galavants around the Pacific Northwest with questionable company.
So with that, here are Sam’s thoughts on the NFL this week.
1. No undefeated teams left
The Philadelphia Eagles were just upset on Monday Night Football by Tyler Heinicke and the Washington Commanders 32-21.
The Commanders controlled the game and the clock with a running game that was relentless, even if it wasn’t overpowering or dominant. They averaged a pedestrian 3.1 yards per carry but that translated to running 81 plays to Philadelphia’s 47, outgaining them 330 to 284 yards and a nearly-unbelievable 40:24 to 19:36 time of possession.
Three Eagles turnovers, two in the fourth, sunk the team and any chance of a comeback.
What does it mean for Washington? They might have a QB decision on their hands as Carson Wentz is expected to be healthy, but Heinicke has led them to win three of four. Two of those wins were over the Packers and now the previously-unbeaten Eagles.
2. Collapses abound
Of course, we all know that the Bears blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead against the Lions on their way to dropping their third straight game. But the Bills, Cowboys and Broncos also choked away late leads.
Through ten weeks, 31 games have had a team overcome a 10-point deficit, tied for the most with 2020 and 1987.
3. The Vikings are good (I’m pretty sure)
At some point we have to just accept it and we have to stop asking. The Minnesota Vikings are good.
They improved to 8-1 with a wild 33-30 win over the Buffalo Bills.
It’s not always pretty, but good teams find ways to win and Sunday was no exception for the Vikings. They had that insane Justin Jefferson catch, they got stone-walled at the one-yard line, twice.
Then, the miracle of miracles they needed happened. While trying to run a sneak to give the offense a little more breathing room, Josh Allen fumbled it and the Vikings recovered it for a go-ahead touchdown with 41 seconds left.
Allen led the tying field goal drive. In overtime, the Vikings drove down and got a field goal.
Once again, Buffalo moved the ball well, but Allen threw an ugly pick to Patrick Peterson to preserve the OT win for the Vikings.
Minnesota has lost only to the Eagles and has beat the Bills and Dolphins.
While it is crazy that they keep winning these close games, they are loaded with talent, and with the struggles of the Packers, appear to be primed to run away with the NFC North.
4. The Cowboys blew it, too
Staying on the epic collapses for a second, let’s talk about Dallas.
I thought for sure their defense would keep the Packers’ anemic offense at bay, but it just didn’t happen.
Green Bay seemed to finally find something that worked for them. Namely, running it. They ran the ball 37 times with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, while Aaron Rodgers dropped back 20 times.
Second round receiver Christian Watson seemed to come into his own, catching all three of Rodgers’ TD passes.
Nine penalties and two turnovers helped Green Bay stay in it, too.
5. Saturday wins on the sixth day on the job
Jeff Saturday was named the interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Monday. On Sunday, six days after he was hired, his team went out and beat the Las Vegas Raiders 25-20.
The Raiders are an absolute mess right now, but winning the NFL isn’t easy, especially for a coach who hasn’t been in the building every day.
So is this more of an indictment of Josh McDaniels or a positive sign for Saturday?
I tend to think it’s the former. McDaniels might just not be able to coach. We’ve heard for ages how much he had learned from his stint in Denver, how much better he was going to be this time and none of it is working.
We’ll see what the Colts can salvage down the stretch with old man Matt Ryan back under center.
6. The Rams season from hell
It’s hard to believe that this Rams squad were Super Bowl champions just nine months ago. There are likely Rams Super Bowl babies being born right now and their parents are wondering what the hell happened to that team.
In the battle of back ups between Colt McCoy (starting for the injured Kyler Murray) and John Wolford (in for Matt Stafford), the Cardinals managed to make a couple more plays.
The Rams’ record is the same as the Bears but the Bears offense is better and higher scoring than the Rams.
Imagine if I’d told you that on Monday, Feb. 14?
7. Justin Fields continues to shine
You didn’t think I was going to go through all 10 thoughts and not mention our beloved did you?
Fields continued his outstanding play on Sunday, even if it did come up short. His glaring error was an awful pick-six that he promised will never happen again.
That’s all well and good. But let’s look at some of the history he continues to make.
Fields became one of just five players with a rushing and passing TD in four straight games. He joins Kyler Murray (5 straight), Jim Hart, Ryan Tannehill and Michael Vick.
Now here’s an even deeper stat for you. Fields became just the fourth player with both a touchdown run and passing touchdown of 50+ yards in the same game. The others are Lamar Jackson, Cam Newtown, and a player I can guarantee almost none of have heard of, Ace Parker. Parker is a Hall of Famer, so that’s some great company.
Fields also became just the second QB to ever rush for 125+ yards in consecutive games. The last player to do it? Tobin Rote in 1951.
8. Bucs back on top
Don’t look now, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back atop the NFC South after winning the first-ever NFL game in Germany.
They get their bye and then face the Cleveland Browns the week before DeSean Watson returns, then the Saints and 49ers.
Tampa has struggled against the Saints, but did beat them earlier this year. The back end of their schedule isn’t easy. But with that division and still facing each of those NFC South opponents again, you have to think Tampa is in the driver’s seat.
9. Miami continues to roll
The Dolphins returned home, following their close win over the Bears, and dominated the Browns.
Thanks to the Bills’ two-game losing streak, the Dolphins now lead the AFC East. Their offense is incredible and Tua is putting to rest as many doubters as Fields is.
I have to say, after watching a full game of Tua against the Bears, I think he’s a special player. The fact that his coaching staff and front office believed in him enough, when other didn’t, to invest in players like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for him.
That gives me hope about what Ryan Poles can do for Fields.
10. Don’t forget about the Chiefs, though
I feel like the Chiefs are kind of quietly rolling along and almost getting lost in the mix of the NFL’s best teams.
Maybe it’s because they lost to Buffalo, barely squeezed by the Titans and then blew out the Jaguars, but don’t forget about the Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes is playing like Patrick Mahomes. He broke Dan Marino’s record for touchdowns in a player’s first 75 games. Mahomes hit 176 TD passes in 72 games, passing Marino’s 172 in 75 games.
The Chiefs’ next four games are at the Chargers, vs. the Rams, at the Bengals (AFC Championship Game rematch) and at Denver.
They also have the Texans, Denver again, the Seahawks and Raiders.
Just saying...don’t forget about the Chiefs.
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