This week was so backwards that the New England Patriots were beaten 34-10 by the Tennessee Titans and we don’t even have time to talk about it. Nor do we have time to talk about how terrifyingly good the New Orleans Saints looked as they absolutely ravished the Cincinnati Bengals 14-51, or how Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz put up numbers normally only seen in Madden for a tight end at 14 receptions, two touchdowns, and 145 yards.
We do have time to talk about all of this, though.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb has a name which is tremendously fun to say, and luckily we all got to say it a lot on Sunday as he was the engine room for his team’s shock 28-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The rookie had 209 total yards (176 rushing, 33 receiving) and a two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air. Quarterback, and fellow rookie, Baker Mayfield helmed the ship well, throwing clean for 216 yards and three touchdowns, as the Browns picked up their most prestigious win since they beat the Steelers in October 2014.
The Browns have long been the butt of just about every NFL joke. Their last winning season was 2007, and their last playoff appearance was sixteen years ago in 2002; their last playoff appearance will sit their GCSEs and can drive a moped. The win, though, seems like a turning point.
This is a team who only won four games in the three years before 2018 rolled around, but already have three victories this year. Most importantly, it seems they might have finally found a backfield combination in Mayfield and Chubb who can drive them forward. Any new head coach who comes in will have to realise that those two are the team’s future, and while it’ll take a while longer for the Browns to get back on an even keel, this Falcons game was a good proof of concept.
With Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb running their offense, plus a staggering $80m estimated salary cap space to play with, perhaps there is finally a whimper of hope in Cleveland.
The New York Jets
The New York Jets are clearly upset that people haven’t really been talking about them and, like a snotty younger brother, are seeking negative attention. This week they jumped to the forefront of the NFL’s race to be the worst team by being blown out 10-41 by the Buffalo Bills.
What makes this loss all the more astounding is that the Bills have a quarterback injury crisis and are literally pulling starters in off the street. This week it was the turn of Matt Barkley, who hasn’t played a snap of professional football since he was dropped then by the Chicago Bears in 2016. Across his six games as starter there he threw 14 interceptions to only 8 touchdowns.
The Jets, though, took this as a challenge and allowed Barkley to throw for 232 yards and two touchdowns. They didn’t fancy defending the running game either, and allowed LeSean McCoy to pick up 113 yards and two touchdowns himself.
At no point did the Jets look close to being a competent football team and were utterly putrid on all fronts. They weren’t helped by starting quarterback, rookie Sam Darnold, missing the game, but Josh McCown ran away screaming from the opportunity presented to him. At 37, McCown is towards the end of his career and has largely been mentoring Darnold, but at least when he was starting last season he at least threw for 18 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions across his 13 games. It would have been a good chance for him to have a retirement party, but no; McCown threw for 135 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions as he looked more ready for the glue factory than to be put out to pasture.
This result has firmly put head coach Todd Bowles in the firing line. The fourth year man comes from a defensive background, but his team didn’t look like they could stop a kitten. More worrying is the way his team has regressed every season, from 10-6 in 2015 to their current 3-7 record.
It will take a herculean bit of management for Bowles to even be a head coach come Black Monday, let alone survive it. Who’d have thought that Big Rex and the Butt Fumbler would be the good old days for the Jets?
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big beautiful bouncing Benjamin Roethlisberger forgot what year it was and put in a vintage performance, throwing for five touchdowns over 328 yards as the Steelers blew out the Panthers 52-21. The performance earned him 35.8 fantasy points, just 0.2 behind overall leader Mitchell Trubisky.
I want to give a shout out to Dez Bryant, though. I drafted him with the last pick in my league figuring he’d eventually get a team, and he had more upside than the low calibre options still available. Well, this week dreams came true and he was signed to the New Orleans Saints dynamic offense. Smug mode was duly activated, and I spent the entire week gloating how Dez was going to be racking up points as he reeled in jump balls from Brees.
Bryant promptly tore his achilles tendon and is now on injured reserve. The lesson: God is dead and don’t believe in anything.
Aaron Donald, LA Rams
Technically, Aaron Donald was this week’s best defensive player. He picked up 2.5 sacks, three tackles, and was a constant thorn in the side of the Seattle Seahawks offensive line. He was instrumental in helping his team pick up a big win against tricky opposition and get their season back on track after the Pats game.
Towards the end of the game, though, Donald got into a shoving match with Seahawks centre Justin Britt after Britt threw a cheap shot on CB Nickell Robey-Coleman following an interception. This you can understand; at 5’8 and 180lbs Robey-Coleman needed a hand when squaring up to the 6’6 and 315lbs Britt. Where it went really downhill for Donald was after the game.
After the final whistle Donald put his helmet back on (despite taking his jersey and pads off) and strode into the mess of coaches, players, and media that congregate after a game. When he found Britt, the two got into each others faces and pulled at each other’s helmets until they were eventually separated.
On one hand, I fully respect Donald for having the forethought to put his helmet back on before confronting Britt. But on a much, much deeper level, Donald is an absolute idiot.
It was clearly premeditated that he wanted to fight Britt, and while the Seahawk started it on the field and fought back when Donald stormed over, this situation is entirely on the Rams defender. Not only does it show mental weakness to allow an opponent to get inside his head like that, but by searching out a fight on the field after the game ended he is just goading Roger Goodell to suspend him. Donald is the heartbeat of that Rams D, and with a huge game against fellow standouts, the Kansas City Chiefs, coming up, he needs to be on the field for them.
I’m sure this is just a blip for Donald, and I absolutely understand why he was standing up for his team and teammates, especially on home turf. I’ve done it; it’s what you do during a game. But sometimes discretion is the better part of valour, and Donald should have left what happened on the field, not stuck his helmet on and gone looking for a fight.
Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
The Mack is back, but, despite putting in a brave performance with two sacks and four tackles, he was outshone by Aaron Donald. Luckily, Aaron Donald is disqualified for acting like a certain other Donald in the aftermath of his team’s victory this week so Khalil Mack retains the Khalil Mack Award for Being Khalil Mack.
The only other player close to dethroning Mack was Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones, however he was playing against Arizona. Saying you had an award winning game against them is like saying you’ve 100%-ed a video game, but had it on easy and got your big brother to do that one fiddly bit.
Battle for the NFC North
The Minnesota Vikings head to Chicago for SNF next week in what is a battle for supremacy in the NFC North. Right now the Bears hold the hot hand, on a 3 game winning streak and sitting atop the mountain, but the Vikings are just a game behind (though things are complicated by their tie result).
We’re already running long here, so I’ll cut to the chase: whoever wins this game will get the momentum in the division, and whoever loses will have to fend off those pesky Packers as they try and mount a playoff push from their 4-4-1 start.
It’ll be close, with the Bears have the 4th best defense, and the Vikings the fifth. The Bears, though, have a slightly better offense, averaging 29.9 points per game to the Viking’s 24.6. About the only category where the Bears boss the Vikings is in turnovers, where they have a +13 to the Viking’s +1.
And we all know who that is down to. Yes, our lord and saviour Khalil Mack. If he can live up to the hype, and if young Mitchell Trubisky can navigate the Viking’s impressive defense, then the Bears might well show themselves to be the most legit they’ve been in years.