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.
Two unbeaten teams fall, crazy finishes and some flat-out bizarre events this week. But how did the teams stack up?
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0)
Last week: 3
You didn’t need to be a lip-reader to see what Big Ben was thinking as the Titans field goal attempt to tie the game, missed.
Imagine there would’ve been no shortage of relief after he had thrown an interception in the Titans’ endzone moments earlier. The Steelers had done all the heavy lifting in the first half to gain a decent lead and looked largely in control of things. Next week is a huge match up with Baltimore. Get excited.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)
Last week: 4
Good to see the first hint of snow for the season. Was always fun playing in the snow on Madden and cool to watch on TV, though I’m guessing it might not be as fun to actually play in it.
Regardless, KC took care of business handily in Denver with an interception and kick off returned for touchdown, while running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire continued his good work. Meaning a quiet week for Mr Pat Mahomes ahead of a meeting with the hapless Jets next week.
3. Seattle Seahawks (5-1)
Last week: 3
For as great as he has been, Chef Russ burnt this meal. Sure, by land or air he was largely electric, but after building what should’ve been a match-winning buffer, he started to get a bit lost against a worthy Arizona defence. Throwing three interceptions, including one in overtime, he definitely won’t be happy.
Hell of a night for wide receiver Tyler Lockett with 200 yards and three touchdowns, plus DK Metcalf is all effort – as shown by his touchdown saving chase on Budda Baker.
4. Tennessee Titans (5-1)
Last week: 2
Took a while to get in to their contest with their fellow undefeated Steelers, but Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry did eventually get rolling against a dominant defence.
In fact, Tennessee had the momentum in the home stretch before “Clutchy McClutchface” kicker – Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal which would have forced overtime. But as we all know – almost doesn’t count.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
Last week: 5
You can always trust Baltimore to be ahead of the curve when it comes to recruitment.
With the looming bye week, they’ve traded for Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue – picking him up from the Vikings for an undisclosed draft pick. He should be set to go against bitter rivals Pittsburgh next week. Can’t wait.
6. Green Bay Packers (5-1)
Last week: 6
A nice, cushy way for the Packers to get back on track against a listless Texans side.
Missing star running back Aaron Jones proved to be no issue, as Jamaal Williams filled in well, while the other Aaron (Rodgers) found favourite receiver Davante Adams all day long. They head back to Lambeau to welcome the struggling Vikings next week.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2)
Last week: 12
Former Bucs running back DeAngelo Williams accused Tom Brady of being Nick Fury and assembling the Avengers. Adding wild receiver Antonio Brown to the mix is further strengthening such a claim.
Brady connected again with old mate Gronkowski too, as they took care of business against the Raiders. I’d imagine the rest of the league is getting a tad worried by now.
8. Buffalo Bills (5-2)
Last week: 9
A week after being less-than-convincing against the Chiefs, Buffalo got back into the winner’s circle. Tight end Tyler Kroft somewhat saved the day for the Bills, as a number of their top tight ends were ruled out due to COVID.
It was only being at the birth of Kroft’s daughter that meant he was able to avoid being stood down himself. He caught four receptions for 64 yards and would’ve had a touchdown had he not fallen over his own feet (‘Daniel Jones style’).
9. Los Angeles Rams (4-2)
Last week: 8
One thing I noticed about the Rams is that they play fast. In the first quarter against the Bears I was struggling to keep up with them using the 15-second fast forward on Kayo.
Ordinarily a play can finish, I can hit fast forward once and still have time for the next play. But the up-tempo style caused me headaches as a viewer and the Bears defence too. This was a good bounce back from last week.
10. Chicago Bears (5-2)
Last week: 7
Having huge issues with the statement “you are what your record says you are”. These Bears are so good on defence and so limited on offense it’s not even funny.
Sure, they’ve got injuries on the offensive line, but there’s some serious shortcomings on this team and everyone can see it. On the upside, some reasonable improvement on offense will help the Bears stay in games, so that’s what the focus will be as New Orleans comes to town next week.
11. Cleveland Browns (5-2)
Last week: 11
Unfortunately for the Browns, their bounce back win against the Bengals came at a cost – losing O.B.J. to I.R. for an A.C.L. injury. Though, T.B.H. Baker Mayfield was still able to rally the troops and threw a beauty of a clutch touchdown (clutchdown?) to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (D.P.H.) to steal victory.
12. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
Last week: 12
Look, I’ll be straight with you – the Colts are on a bye and there’s nothing interesting going on with them. The most noteworthy thing came last week in their game against the Bengals, as Fox did a quarterback comparison between Joe Burrow and Philip Rivers – including the number of children each player has (Rivers is ahead 9-0).
13. Arizona Cardinals (5-2)
Last week: 13
Holy ham sandwich, Batman – what a game! The Cardinals trailed for 69 minutes, only to go on and win it. If you were looking for a game with all sorts twists and turns – this was it.
Seattle jumped out early and were piling on points, then they seemed to either fall asleep or the Cards defence figured out what Russell Wilson was doing and slowly clawed their way back into the game. Then they blew it with a missed field goal.
Then won it with a made one. It was a wild ride and a great win, as they head into the bye.
14. New Orleans Saints (4-3)
Last week: 15
Good win against the Panthers for New Orleans. Heading into the game without both top wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders proved no issue, as Drew Brees piloted the side to a hard-fought win.
Brees threw for 287 yards, with three touchdowns on an efficient display and even ran (or jumped) one in for good measure. They’ll be keen to get the big boys back though, as they travel to Chicago.
15. San Francisco 49ers (4-3)
Last week: 18
San RANcisco did just that – ran, ran and ran. Running in four touchdowns against Billy B and the Pats. Jeff Wilson Jr filled in well for Raheem Mostert – piling up three touchdowns, while Kyle “ten-points-if-you-can-spell-his-name-right” Juszczyk rammed one in too. The defence also played great enough to cover over any questions marks about Jimmy G. For now.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (3-3)
Last week: 14
The game against Kansas City is starting to seem like a bit of an aberration. They were able to actually get pressure on Patrick Mahomes and cause the all-conquering offense some issues.
However, after being lit up by the Bucs, Gruden’s men are sitting dead last in terms of points allowed and rank 30th in sacks with just seven on the season. They better get it right and fast as they travel to Cleveland next week.
17. Miami Dolphins (3-3)
Last week: 17
And for his final trick, ‘FitzMagic’ has disappeared… Yes folks, start the clock from this coming Monday, as “Tua Time” has arrived.
Fifth overall draft pick Tua Tagovailoa has been named the starting quarterback for their home game against the LA Rams. Fighting back from a hip injury that ended his collegiate career, Tagovailoa has been sitting and watching the success of Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, so now we get our first glimpse at what this new quarterback can do.
18. Detroit Lions (3-3)
Last week: 20
Good win on the road for the Lions. In fact, all three wins this season have come on the road. This one was a scratchy, buzzer-beater over the Failcons. Vision of Lions defenders celebrating an Atlanta touchdown with 1.04 remaining in the game tells you that it was also a little bizarre.
Todd Gurley’s touchdown meant that the Lions would get the ball back, for Matt Stafford to lead a drive upfield and hit tight end TJ Hockenson as time expired. Simply amazing.
19. Carolina Panthers (3-4)
Last week: 16
Managed to give the Saints a good shake in the dome, but ultimately couldn’t get over the line. This offense is actually quite exciting though – currently lead by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who showed once again, he can ably carry this offense until the return of Christian McCaffrey from a high ankle sprain.
Throwing for 254 yards on 23 of 28 completions, he almost got them into field goal range. Kicker Joey Slye fell one agonising yard short of a 65-yarder to win it.
20. New England Patriots (2-4)
Last week: 19
Could this be a new New England Patriots? One that isn’t very good? The Pats have dropped to 2-4 for the first time since 2002. That’s a long time of not sucking, but the questions are being fired thick and fast at the moment.
Mostly Cam Newton is feeling the heat after throwing three touchdowns and getting benched. It doesn’t get any easier too – as they head to Buffalo to take on the Bills.
21. Denver Broncos (2-4)
Last week: 21
Drew Lock and the Broncos offense look like they got caught a bit cold – literally and figuratively. Costly turnovers, special team meltdowns and Philip Lindsay’s early exit left the horsies tied up in their own stable.
With the Chargers coming to visit next week, Denver will be hoping that they can get back on track with a dominant running game and hope Lock can start benefiting with touchdowns of his own.
22. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)
Last week: 22
Any neutral observer will be happy for the Chargers to finally get another win. Having played well enough to win a few games, this one was greatly needed to give young quarterback Justin Herbert his first NFL win and the confidence that goes with it. Not sure he needs any more though – this kid can play.
Another 347 passing yards with three touchdowns, plus 66 yards on the ground and a rushing score – he’s got a lot more wins in him yet.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)
Last week: 23
It was almost as if the Eagles looked at the Giants and said – “Are you trying to embarrass me on TV?!” Facing a 21-10 deficit in the fourth quarter, Philly decided they’d had enough and came home strong.
Carson Wentz threw a delicious 18-yard score to Boston Scott to sneak home 22-21. As far as a dreadful Thursday Night Football match-up goes, it was kinda enthralling.
24. Washington Football Team (2-5)
Last week: 30
Head coach Ron Rivera rang the bell at his local hospital to signify the end of his chemotherapy treatment and his football team went out and rang the Cowboys bell too.
Most seem to be steaming mad about linebacker John Bostic’s hit on the Cowboys Andy Dalton, but I’ll swim against the tide here and say he was a bit unlucky. The play developed quite quickly and he made a snap judgement that was wrong. He hasn’t been suspended following being sent off, which is interesting.
25. Dallas Cowboys (2-5)
Last week: 22
Things are getting pretty bad in Dallas. After having quarterback Andy Dalton carted off with a concussion, the Cowboys turned the keys over to Ben DiNucci – you might have heard of him?
Nah, me neither. Anyways, there’s a number of things going wrong in Dallas at the moment, but maybe DiNucci the third quarterback can come on and be the real-life Willie Beamen? Can’t see it, but it’d be cool.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (1-5-1)
Last week: 24
Another week, another heartbreaker. The NFL has been brutal on rookie quarterbacks this year, in terms of incredibly close losses.
Joe Burrow had put the Bengals in front with 1.06 left on the clock, with a three-yard pass to running back Gio Bernard. Unfortunately, the Cincy defence couldn’t stop the Browns marching into field goal range and then stealing the lead with a touchdown of their own. Like I said, brutal.
27. Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
Last week: 25
Nice rest week to try and get Dalvin Cook healthy. Cook is not expected back for a couple of weeks, but the sooner the better for this side. With the trade deadline looming, there are rumours surrounding safety Harrison Smith and tackle Reilly Rieff, which could be worth keeping an eye on, as the Vikes start trying to rebuild early.
28. Houston Texans (1-6)
Last week: 27
The tough schedule is the gift that just keeps on giving for Houston. Facing a fairly disgruntled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a game they desperately wanted to rebound in, the Texans duly obliged by letting them have their way with them.
Not sure if anyone had told the secondary, but Davante Adams is Rodgers’ favourite target.
Maybe remember that for next time.
29. Atlanta Falcons (1-6)
Last week: 28
Atlanta are being praised for finding amazing new ways to lose a game. This week was by scoring a touchdown. Apparently, Todd Gurley was unhappy with running into the endzone, but fair enough, really.
He bolted through the defensive line ten yards out from the Lions goal-line, only for tacklers to let go of him, yet he took a split second to figure it out and crashed in for the score, which gave Detroit the ball back.
Oh and the defence also deserves credit for folding too. Jeez.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Last week: 27
So, Jacksonville wanted to get running back James Robinson more opportunities, after having fallen too far behind in previous games.
Against the Chargers they did fall behind, but also kept Robinson in the game with 119 yards rushing, 18 yards receiving and two touchdowns. So, in that aspect they succeeded. Now they just need to address everything else and I need to learn not to bench Robinson (26.7 points) in my fantasy team.
31. New York Giants (1-6)
Last week: 31
Hands up if you thought the Giants were about to win back-to-back games and shoot up the rankings? Yep, I got fooled too. They were oh so close with an undermanned side, but I guess it all counts for nought.
That Daniel Jones run though. An 80-yard scamper before tripping over himself with no one on him, blew up across the sporting world. He was clocked at 21.2miles per hour, which was probably a couple of clicks too fast for his own legs.
32. New York Jets (0-7)
Last week: 32
In Cleveland a couple of years back, one die-hard fan sought approval to hold a parade for the Browns “perfect season”.
He wanted to celebrate the team going all season without conceding a single win. A perfect 0-16. I, for one, applaud this type of attitude and would encourage Jets fans to get in touch with them for some pointers, cos, well, you could be heading in that direction.