Previewing NFL Week 8

Unbeaten New England seems to be a lock for the top seed in the AFC since only two other teams have fewer than three losses.

In the NFC, by contrast, the 49ers are unbeaten and the Packers and Saints only have one loss, so it is too early to anoint a favorite as the team head to the midway point of the season.

Game of the Week

Green Bay’s visit to Kansas City in prime time should have been a midseason primetime Sunday night classic.

Lots of tradition for the two teams that played in the first Super Bowl. And Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes in their first meeting would have been must-see TV.

But now that Mahomes is recovering from a dislocated ankle, the game lacks the drama it could have had. Even though Mahomes returned to practice earlier than expected this week, he’s been ruled out.

Game of the Weak

A pair of two win teams, Giants at 2-5 and Lions at 2-3-1, meet in Detroit. Rookie Daniel Jones is struggling at quarterback so the Lions should have the edge with Matthew Stafford.

The Lions think they are better than their record but have to prove it by going on a run to get in contention.

What to watch for this weekend

–Ryan Tannehill led the Titans to a victory over the Chargers in a game that had a wild finish last Sunday. Now he goes for his second win against the Bucs.

Tannehill is trying to show the Titans he can fill in for a year or two as they start searching for their quarterback of the future now that Marcus Mariota has been benched and doesn’t appear to have a future in Tennessee.

–The game pitting Philadelphia at Buffalo will feature two surprising teams. It is surprising the Eagles are 3-4 and just as surprising the Bills are 5-1 and fighting for an AFC wild card spot. The Eagles are the more desperate team. Another loss would drop them to 3-5 at the halfway mark and leave them two games behind the Cowboys, who have a bye, in the loss column.

–The New England Patriots are not only going for an 8-0 start against Cleveland but can become the first team to score at least 30 points a game and allow fewer than 10 for the first time since the 1962 Green Bay Packers. That may have been Vince Lombardi’s best team and suffered only one loss, a celebrated Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit which led to Lombardi pulling the Packers out of the Thanksgiving Day game.

–The league’s only other unbeaten team – San Francisco – also is strong on defense. They can become the sixth team to allow fewer than 200 total yards of net offense in four consecutive games since the 1970 merger when they host Carolina. The best mark since then is five in a row, which Pittsburgh did in both 1974 and 1975 when they won their first two Super Bowls. When the Steelers did it, it got no attention but decades later, no team has topped it.

–How good is Houston DeAndre Hopkins? If he gets 55 receiving yards against Oakland Sunday, he will be the third youngest player to reach 8,000 career receiving yards. Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald were slightly younger when they did it.

A look back at NFL Week 7

The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC looks like it will again go through Foxboro.

The Patriots boosted record to 7-0 by routing the Jets on Monday night and they will have three more division games left so that is 10 wins almost guaranteed.

They also have a game left with winless Cincinnati. That is 11. They do play at Baltimore, Houston and Kansas City and have home games with the Chiefs and Cowboys but it isn’t likely they will go any worse than 14-2 and get the first seed.

They are the sixth defending champion to start off 7-0. The last team to do it was the 2015 Patriots. They’ve also allowed just 48 points. The last time a team started out 7-0 and allowed fewer than 50 points was in 1934 with the Bears and Lions did it.


—Lamar Jackson had another big game for the Ravens against Seattle, rushing for 116 yards, the third time he has rushed for 100 yards. The question is can he survive the hits with all that running. It’s working for now. He also passed for 143 yards.

—The New Orleans Saints aren’t missing a beat without Drew Brees. They’re 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback after the victory in Chicago. They’re a dome team that won back to back games at Jacksonville and Chicago and now have five of the next seven at home.

—The Colts also aren’t missing a beat without Andrew Luck. After the victory over Houston, they lead the AFC South at 4-2and are just one of four AFC teams with two or fewer losses with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. And they have a good defense to back Brissett as they sacked Deshaun Watson three times and picked him off twice.

—Kirk Cousins has suddenly become the quarterback the Vikings thought they were getting. He has 10 touchdowns and one pick while leading Minnesota to victories in their last three games including the win Sunday over Detroit. He is the first quarterback in league history to throw for 300 yards and have a passer rating over 130 in three consecutive games. So, who is the real Kirk Cousins? The one who played lights out the last three games or the one who struggled early in the season? We’ll see.

—San Francisco remains the only unbeaten team in the NFC after the sloppy win over Washington in the rain. They play at New Orleans on Dec. 8; the same day the Chiefs go to New England. The Sunday night is Seattle at the Rams. Look for that game to be flexed. The 49ers also play Green Bay in another big game later this year. Saints, 49ers and Packers all are vying for the two spots in the NFC title game.


—The Chargers fell to the Titans to drop to 2-5. The Chargers scored two touchdowns in the last 40 seconds, but both were overturned and this time replay was right. And this time replay was right. Melvin Gordon then fumbled at the goal line in a scrum and replay showed he did. Looks like the Chargers will miss the playoffs.

—Did the Giants rush Daniel Jones into the lineup too soon? He looked lost in the loss to the Cardinals.–Sam Darnold also looked lost in the loss to New England but Bill Belichick does that to a lot of second year quarterbacks, especially one who was sidelined with mono.–It is now just a matter of time before Arthur Blank fires Atlanta coach Dan Quinn. They’re 1-6 and Matt Ryan is hurt.

—Cincinnati is back to being the Bungles. They actually led Jacksonville after three quarters and then Andy Dalton threw three picks to a team that had one turnover all season. They will play Miami later this year for what may be a battle for the top pick in the draft and could ruin Miami’s tanking plans. Was Zac Taylor hired too soon just because he worked for Sean McVay?

Previewing NFL Week 7

Pencil in the Patriots for the top seed in the AFC again this year.

The Patrick Mahomes injury means it is unlikely the Chiefs will beat them out for the top spot even if Mahomes is back and they beat the Patriots in December.

The Patriots haven’t been particularly impressive while playing a cake schedule but they’re 6-0 and every other team but the Bills has at least two losses. And the Bills’ only loss is to the Patriots.

In the NFC, it is still a wide-open race with the 49ers the only unbeaten team at 5-0 and the Saints, Packers and Seahawks all at 5-1.

Game of the Week

Philadelphia at Dallas. A game between two 3-3 teams is not usually considered a top matchup. But these rivals are tied for first place in the NFC East and the winner could get on a roll. Both teams have been hurt by injuries. Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson caused a stir by saying the Eagles would win. Meanwhile, Jason Garrett could be on the hot seat if the Cowboys lose. Urban Meyer has already said publicly he is interested in Garrett’s job. The teams meet again Dec. 22 in Philadelphia.

Game of the Weak

The 2-3-1 Cardinals go to the 2-4 Giants in a game that will feature two quarterbacks of the future who were drafted on the first round this year – Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones. The game is more important for the Giants, who can move into a second-place tie with the Eagles-Giants loser with a victory. Arizona is in the same division with the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams so they are destined for last place even if they win.

What to Watch

—The 2-4 Chargers and 2-4 Titans are two of the most disappointing teams in the league. What is notable about this game is that the Titans have benched Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, a move that probably spells the end for Mariota in Tennessee and will likely mean they will be in the quarterback market next year unless Tannehill shows he can be a short term answer after leaving the Dolphins.

—The Rams may be suffering a Super Bowl hangover after losing three consecutive games. But their real problem may be they don’t have a good offensive line to protect Jared Goff. The Rams made a big trade for Jalen Ramsey but their more pressing need is improving the line. They can’t afford to lose to the 1-5 Falcons, who are on their way to getting Dan Quinn fired.

—Russell Wilson of Seattle has had a passer rating of over 100 in his team’s first six games. He will try to make it seven in a row against the Ravens. Meanwhile, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 152 yards against the Bengals last week. It was the fourth most by a quarterback in NFL history. He also is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to rush for at least 115 yards in at least three games of his first two seasons.

—Will the trend of close games continue? This year 51 of 92 games have been decided by seven or few points including nine of 14 last week. That is a new record. In 2016, 50 were decided by seven or few points the first six weeks. The teams have also tied the record for most games decided by one point. There have been nine points decided by a point, tying the record set in 1972 and matched in 1997 and 2016.

—Teddy Bridgewater will try to get his fifth consecutive win while filling in for injured Drew Brees but he faces a tough test at Chicago. Bridgewater hasn’t been that effective, but he has a good team around him. The more wins Bridgewater piles before Brees returns, the better shape the Saints will be for Super Bowl win when he returns

Minshew still must show he isn’t a flash in the pan

In his first five starts, Gardner Minshew proved he can play in the NFL even though he wasn’t picked until the sixth round.

He proved he has a lot of charisma and has made Minshew Mania a thing, but the question is what kind of career will he have?

Is he destined to be a long term starter or is he another Ryan Fitzpatrick without the Harvard degree, a smart guy who can read defenses and lead the team, but lacks the physical tools to be an elite quarterback?

And can he keep Nick Foles on the bench when Foles is ready to play, presumably after the bye?

In the wake of the way he was handcuffed by the Saints defense Sunday, we will start getting those answers in the next three games before the bye.

They figure to beat winless Cincinnati Sunday, but facing the defenses of Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will be a challenge.

Both are veteran coaches who will take notice of what the Saints did Sunday.

What we don’t know is whether the Saints stopped him because they are so good on defense or whether they cracked the code with the right scheme to handcuff Minshew.

They double teamed DJ Chark and played two deep safeties to take away the outside and kept him bottled up in the pocket so he couldn’t escape and make plays on the run and took away his quick throws up the middle.

Sean Payton congratulated his troops by saying the Jaguars wouldn’t have scored a touchdown if they had played eight quarters, although it came across as gloating.

Coach Doug Marrone noted the Jaguars have to expect teams to do what the Saints did.

“When someone does have success against you, playing a coverage, you have to make sure you do a good job (of getting ready for it) because this is a league where is they see something successful against you, they’ll do it again.”

Can the Jaguars make the right adjustments to beat that coverage and can other teams do it without the Saints players?

Can Minshew adjust to his first bump in the road when he looked like a rookie quarterback?

A win over winless Cincinnati would boost their record to 3-4 then they host the Jets go to London to play Houston, which held Minshew to one touchdown in their first meeting. m

It was Minshew’s first start and the Texans didn’t have much tape on him to look at.

If Jaguars beat both the Jets and Texans to go to 5-4, the odds are that Minshew will keep the job after the bye. If they split them to go 4-5, they have a decision to make. If they lose both to fall to 3-6, there is no decision. It will be Foles time.

The next three games – especially the two against the Jets and Texans – will tell us a lot about Minshew and the Jaguars.

A look back at NFL Week 6

It wasn’t so long ago that Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Cam Newton were supposed to be the future of the NFL.

Winston and Mariota were the first two picks in the 2015 draft and Newton was the first pick in the 2011 draft.

It now looks as if they will never be the quarterbacks they were expected to be, although Newton may be the victim of the injuries he suffered from running too much.

Mariota was yanked in a shutout loss to Denver in the third quarter after throwing for just 63 yards with two picks and a 9.5 quarterback rating. Ryan Tannehill replaced him and will keep the job.

Winston threw five picks and lost a fumble in a loss to Carolina but finished the game and seems to be intent on ruining Bruce Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer. He will keep his job but his long-term future remains in limbo.

Newton is sidelined with injuries and Kyle Allen is 4-0 as his replacement. Newton was 0-8 in his last eight starts. Does he get the job back even if he is healthy at some point? There’s no guarantee he will be healthy this year or that he will get the job back if he is healthy and Allen keeps playing well.

Like Mariota, he could be looking for a new home next year.


—San Francisco’s defense is for real. The 49ers remained the only unbeaten NFC team as their defense didn’t allow the Rams to convert a third or fourth down. The last time they did that was in 1988 in Bill Walsh’s last year.–Sam Darnold showed what he means to the Jets when he came back from mono to lead the Jets to the victory over Dallas. The Browns passed up Darnold for Baker Mayfield. They may regret that decision.

—The Denver defense is back. After not getting a turnover in their first four games, they have seven sacks, five picks and a fumble recovery in their last two. That included the win over the Titans when Mariota was benched.

—Lamar Jackson of the Ravens had 388 yards from scrimmage in the victory over hapless Cincinnati, including 152 yards rushing. But is it hazardous to his health to keep running that much? See Newton, Cam.

—Much-maligned Kurt Cousins has finally found his touch. Things were so bad that former teammate Zach Brown, now with the Eagles, said he was the weakest part of the Vikings offense. Sunday after Cousins torched the Eagles for his second big game in a row, Brown said he wasn’t talking about Cousins, who has completed 44 of 56 for 639 yards, six touchdowns and one pick while beating the Giants and Eagles. At 4-2, the Vikings are back in the playoff hunt. The Eagles cut Brown Monday after Cousins passed for 333 yards against them.


—The Rams were 24-8 in the regular season their first two years under Sean McVay andh went to the Super Bowl last year. They then started out 3-0 before losing three in a row, including a 20-7 loss to the 49ers. Jared Goff seems lost and McVay has to figure out how to get the team back on track.

—Dallas also lost its third in a row after starting out 3-0 when they were beaten by the Jets. But the Cowboys are playing in the NFC East and tied for first with the Eagles, who also are 3-3. A .500 record could win this division.

—Kansas City started out 4-0 and has now lost two consecutive home games in the wake of the loss to the Texans. It is the first time Andy Reid has lost two straight home games since Reid’s first year with the Chiefs. The problem is that the Kansas City defense can’t keep opposing teams off the field. The teams that play the Chiefs that the best way to stop Patrick Mahomes is to keep him off the field.

—The Chargers were supposed to be a contender but fell to 2-4 with a 24-17 loss to the Steelers, who started third string quarterback Devlin Hodges. The Steelers took a 24-0 lead and held on to the win. The Chargers again showed they aren’t winning the hearts and minds of Los Angeles fans as their small stadium was filled with Steeler fans.

—The NFL has apparently decided the new pass interference rule was a mistake, which is was, so they have stopped overturning pass interference calls and non-calls on replay. Only one of 25 challenges have been won. The one-year rule will likely be thrown out at the end of the season, but it is a bad look for the rule to be ignored. Coaches should learn not to challenge pass interference calls because they won’t be overturned.

Another problem is that the number of penalties being called is up this year and there are too manycalls like the ones in the Monday night Green Bay-Detroit game. It is difficult to officiate today’s fast-paced game but the league needs to put more emphasis on improving officiating.