My thoughts on all 32 NFL franchises ahead of the chaotic 2021 off-season conclude today with thoughts on the eight teams from NFC south and west divisions.
Blowout scores and some head-scratching results leave us wondering what’s really going on.
1. Seattle Seahawks (5-0)
Last week: 2
So, the 2020 season is down to only three remaining unbeaten sides. And the best way to not lose? Have a bye. For the second straight week, a team on a bye sits back and lets the team ahead of them fall, while quietly sliding into the DM’s of the number one spot. The Hawks are in a pretty good spot too, with no new injuries to report and winnable games coming up against the Cardinals and 49ers. Good to let Russ put his feet up for a week, I guess.
2. Tennessee Titans (5-0)
Last week: 3
Off with their heads! Decreed King Henry of Tennessee. Derrick Henry had himself a time against division rivals Houston – notching 212 rush yards and two touchdowns on just 22 carries. That’s a 9.6 yard average (for those playing along at home). He ran in a 96-yard highlight reel play and the match-winner in overtime. In between times, Ryan Tannehill was ballin’ out of control and led a game-tying drive in the final seconds of regulation. This was a real fun one in Nashville.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0)
Last week: 6
12-0. That’s Ben Roethlisberger’s home record against the Cleveland Browns. Now he may not exactly be lighting up the stat sheet anymore, be he is getting the ball to his offensive weapons and co-existing with a defence that is proving to be dominant – as they were once again in the 38-7 thrashing against the Browns. The win comes at a big cost though, with linebacker Devin Bush tearing his ACL, so his season is done.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1)
Last week: 4
Death by a thousand cuts. That was the bonus Monday Night Football game against the Bills. I gotta say that, I could get used to a double dose of football on Tuesdays, but I digress. The Chiefs just ran it all day and pitched in a couple of Mahomes garnishes, to really make this one seem like a safe result from early on. Next week they face the Broncos.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
Last week: 5
Funny sort of game for the Ravens. They had this thing in the bag from the first half, but ended up conceding 22 points in the fourth quarter, to end things with a mere two-point winning margin. I don’t know the Ravens personally, but I would say they’d be disappointed by that. Nearly as disappointed as I was seeing Carson Wentz more than double his fantasy points to cost me this week’s game. Not that I’m bitter.
6. Green Bay Packers (4-1)
Last week: 1
Talk about pop the balloon. Jumping out to a nice ten-point lead, things looked to be going swimmingly for Aaron and friends. But then Bucs defensive back Jamel Dean changed everything with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown. From there on, things descended quicker than a starving man’s lunch. That interception was also the first turnover of the entire season for Green Bay. It was all going so well too.
7. Chicago Bears (5-1)
Last week: 10
Huh? Not sure there’s a hotter team who no one believes in right now. Former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is not lighting up the stat sheet right now, nor is the rest of the offense, but these Bears just keep on winning. Their defence is a strangler though. Three turnovers, four sacks and generally bad intentions for other human beings has this defence winning games. Forgot to give proper admiration for Khalil Mack too last week – he threw a 300-pound offensive lineman with one arm against the Bucs. He is not to be trifled with.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2)
Last week: 12
Tom Brady got a little mad in this game at home against the Packers too. Fresh from a defeat and the indignity of trying to invent a fifth down, Tom laid into receiver Chris Godwin for blowing a route early on in this one. But it was all roses from there. The defence destroyed the Pack offense and Brady started to get the efficiency he was after, plus getting things going with old mate Gronk. Look out, folks.
9. Buffalo Bills (4-2)
Last week: 7
You know when you keep hearing that something is really good, even though you’re a bit sceptical? So, then you decide to give it a try and see what all the fuss about. Only to find – your scepticism was well founded. That’s me and the Buffalo Bills. No shame in getting beaten by the Chiefs, but I expected a bit better from Josh Allen who has some Tebow-esque qualities about him (mainly in that he waits until the game is seemingly gone, then gets going). That may be harsh, but it’s a cruel world. Next!
10. Los Angeles Rams (4-2)
Last week: 8
One pundit in the media was calling these guys “the class of the NFC”. That aged well. Giving up a 44-yard touchdown catch to the irrepresible Gorge Kittle didn’t help, neither did the endzone interception thrown by Jared Goff. The Rams did seem to have the better of the second half, but had put themselves in two much of a hole during the first. There is now real intrigue in the Monday Night Football clash against the grizzly Bears.
11. Cleveland Browns (4-2)
Last week: 9
And, we’re back. After four straight wins, the Browns marched into Pittsburgh with high hopes and ended up being sent home with a decent spanking. Baker Mayfield was back to being careless with the ball and the Steelers defence were ruthless in applying pressure and feasting on Cleveland errors. Up til now the Browns had insulated themselves from the Nick Chubb injury, but I guess it had to happen sometime. Worryingly this could highlight a problem that they have aganst top opposition, as in what seemed good match-ups against Baltimore and Pittsburgh ended up as blow out losses.
12. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
Last week: 11
Timely rebound by the horse-shoes. After losing to the Browns last week (back when they were good), Indy came out at home and spotted the young Bengals a 21-point head start. No probs though. Old man Rivers got things going with 371 yards and three touchdowns. Then the defence held tough in the closing stages to keep the Bungles from surging at the end. Nice way to go into a bye, followed by a tilt against Detroit.
13. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
Last week: 17
So, Kyler Murray makes his bright lights debut and didn’t seem overawed. But then again, taking on the Dallas defence isn’t exactly a huge task. However, winning in as comfortable fashion as they did, must be comforting to this young side. Next week they host the rested Seahawks.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)
Last week: 13
Bit of a bummer to get a bye week immediately after a good win over Kansas City. But, you know, maybe a chance to have a few recovery sessions and possibly play a few hands at the casinos. They’ve been dealt up a juicy game next week too as Tom Brady and the suddenly sizzling Buccaneers come to visit. Wait, I thought he’d already played the Raiders? No, that was the Patriots (I’m still having seperation issues).
15. New Orleans Saints (3-2)
Last week: 15
A nice little week off for the men from Louisiana. Good chance to get healthy for an interesting match-up against Carolina. Wide receiver Michael Thomas should be back for this game too – assuming no further injury setbacks and/or punching teammates faces. We’ll see.
16. Carolina Panthers (3-3)
Last week: 16
A stuttering loss against Chicago holds no shame this year, as it seems to happen to pretty much everyone so far this season. What will be of more concern is getting back on track for the division enemies New Orleans this week. They’ve also got to do that while placing offensive lineman Michael Schofield in the reserve/COVID-19 list. Michael Schofield? Wasn’t he on Prison Break?
17. Miami Dolphins (3-3)
Last week: 18
Lots of warm fuzzies here. Got to play at home and give the Jets a spanking, while keeping a clean sheet. Things were going so well, that they were given the luxury of introducing first round pick Tua Tagovailoa his first NFL game action. Now they can keep shaking things up for this season and still have a bevy of beautiful draft picks for next year too.
18. San Francisco 49ers (3-3)
Last week: 19
Kyle Shanahan has been getting a lot of credit so far this season, while dealing with a laundry list of injuries, but this win against a (so they say) good Rams team, was very, very good. Offering a healthy does of running game – led by Raheem Mostert, freed up Jimmy G enough to work from the play-action and get back making positive plays. Good to see George Kittle making big plays too.
19. New England Patriots (2-3)
Last week: 14
Probably wished their game against Denver had been postponed again. Struggled to get much of anything going against a very good Broncos defence, with Cam Newtin throwing two interceptions, while leading the team in rushing with 76 yards and a touchdown. Can imagine Bill will be smarting from that, as they welcome the 49ers to town next week.
20. Detroit Lions (2-3)
Last week: 28
After a brutal start to his NFL career, rookie running back D’Andre Swift had a breakout performance against the Jaguars. He broke the hundred-yard mark in just 14 rushing attempts, plus had a couple of touchdowns. With decent support from fellow runners Adrian Peterson (yes, he’s still playing) and Kerryon Johson, Detroit got into a nice groove on offense – pulling away to a 24-3 lead and remaining largely untroubled from there.
21. Denver Broncos (2-3)
Last week: 29
Vic Fangio out-coaches Belicheck? Surely not. But in this ugly spectacle, it seemed a bit like it. The Broncos defence made the Patriots seem constipated on offense, while backup running back Philip Lindsay subbed in and rushed for 101 yards. Starting to get reinforcements back too, with Drew Lock returning at quarterback (though he didn’t do much) and Melvin Gordon set to split reps with Lindsay from next week.
22. Dallas Cowboys (2-4)
Last week: 20
The Cowboys welcomed some fans into AT&T Stadium for their match against the Cardinals and they’ll be really wishing they hadn’t. Because, despite people turning up, their team certainly did not. Turnovers, poor defence, this game had it all for Dem Boys. And by it all, I really mean nothing. Always had a problem with Andy Dalton’s “Red Rifle” nickname too, as he’s more of an orange Nerf gun. Though this week, there were no bullets in the chamber.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1)
Last week: 21
One could say the Eagles showed some grit and came storming back. Others could say Baltimore clocked off and it was never in doubt. However you see it, Carson Wentz has got to get it together earlier on in proceedings. He’ll get that very chance this week too, as they host the Giants.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1)
Last week: 23
Allowing a 21-point comeback, then being oh so close to pulling off some late game heroics must sting for this young side. Veteran receiver AJ Green finally showed up with a season-high 96 yards on eight receptions. However Joe Exotic was unable to complete any throws for touchdown and threw an interception in crunch time to seal the loss.
25. Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
Last week: 22
U.G.L.Y. You ain’t got no alibi – you ugly! Which was a fitting description for this Vikings performance against the Falcons. Not sure if Kirk Cousins thought he’d have a nice, easy day aganst one of the legue’s worst defences, but he was way off – throwing three costly interceptions. The running game really missed Dalvin Cook and the defence got pushed around again. Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson is the real deal though – pilingup 166 yards and two touchdowns.
26. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4)
Last week: 24
Everybody needs a little time away, especially if you’ve come off four straight losses – including a heartbreaker in primetime. But the bye has helped the Bolts, with key defensive pieces – Melvin Ingram and Justin Jones being designated to return from injured reserve this week. Austin Ekeler is still a ways off from boosting the running game, but with a game against Jacksonville next week, they should hopefully be able to get back in the winners circle.
27. Houston Texans (1-5)
Last week: 25
Deshaun Watson’s reaction to the overtime coin toss has gone viral. And with good reason. Losing the coin toss meant that the ball was going to get put in Titans running back Derrick Henry’s hands. And that meant the Texans couldn’t stop him. Indeed they couldn’t. In fairness though, this was probably the best game of the week, as other highly fancied match-ups fell flat. Including the Packers, who Houston will face next week. Sleep easy.
28. Atlanta Falcons (1-5)
Last week: 30
So, just a quick recap… Last week, the Failcons drop 0-5, which sees their head coach and general manager get the boot. Then they go through the week with COVID issues plagueing the squad and everyone gets chirping about how the team should get rid of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. What happens next? They go out and throttle Minnesota with Matty Ice throwing four touchdowns and Julio grabbing two. I just don’t know anymore.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)
Last week: 26
When you go up against a side which has been giving up 170 rushing yards a game, yet can muster only 44 yards – that’s not a good sign. From sparkling positivity in the first fortnight of the season, the Jags are now heading towards the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Plus, they are giving up 30.2 points per game now, which suggests there’s a number of things for this team to look at.
30. Washington Football Team (1-5)
Last week: 27
Seeing Washington score a late touchdown and then go for a two point conversion to win it, rather than settling for the one-point conversion to tie, brought back memories. Weirdly, I admire “why not just try and win the damn game now?” attitude, as it’s the one I used to employ on Madden 2004. Of course, I was playing with the unstoppable Michael Vick at that time and succeeded. Washington had Kyle Allen and failed. Well, at least they showed some moxie.
31. New York Giants (1-5)
Last week: 32
WIN! Only by one point and against less-than-stellar opposition, but when you’re playing NFL football in New York, you take anything you can get. And I mean anything. Now, they face a short week to turn around and face the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. Two in a row? Don’t bet on it.
32. New York Jets (0-6)
Last week: 31
Good to see the back of Le’Veon Bell in New York. Because obviously he was the problem. Not sure how much longer Adam Gase can remain in charge of these Jets, when they go into what should’ve been a winnable game against Miami – and get held to a donut. Apparently defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams has defended his unit – saying it’s not all defensive when it comes to their problems, which is true. There’s a lot of things wrong here.