We’re not doing a long winded intro this week because I’m so mad about so many things, we need to get there ASAP.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was upset that Hue Jackson, his former head coach who was sacked a few weeks ago, immediately took a job with division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals. Being the nice young man which Mayfield is, he decided that rather then tee off in the media he’d flex on Jackson by having an outstanding game then not give him the time of day.
Mayfield threw for 258 yards and 4 TDs as the Cleveland Browns finally broke their record setting 26 game losing streak on the road. Afterwards, Jackson came up to Mayfield on the field and looked to hug the young quarterback he brought into the league and made a star, but Baker was having none of it. Instead, he offered a quick handshake and moved on.
From his play to the way he carried himself, Mayfield looked like a million bucks this week. Most incredibly, despite the Browns sitting 4th in their division with a 4-6-1 record, there are rumblings of a playoff run. If it doesn’t come this year, you have to think that it might next because – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – the Browns are playing well.
It has taken a lot of work from a lot of people to coax the Browns out of the 9th Circle of Hell which they decided to take a decade long vacation in, but finally they have a leader to rally behind and his name is Baker Mayfield.
The Atlanta Falcons
Heading towards the end of the game and needing a few scores to keep their season alive, you’d think the Falcons would speed things up and run a no huddle offense. You’d think they’d play with speed and passion as they tried to rally. You’d think they’d maybe keep their best players on the field. Unfortunately, the Falcons showed the intelligence and determination of a taxidermied cabbage and did none of those things, shoving them down to a 4-7 record and all but eliminating them from postseason contention.
What was the most frustrating was that inside the two minute warning and with the game already lost, they actually did run a proper no huddle offense and charged down the field to score with ease, making you wonder just what they could have done if they’d have bothered to try earlier.
The Saints D played well, showing huge improvement from their first meeting, but make no mistake about it: the Falcons totally mismanaged this game and got themselves eliminated from playoff contention for their trouble.
The Falcons have had their injury problems, but there is absolutely no injury crisis so extreme which should see them have the second worst running game in the league and not be able to feed Julio Jones in the end zone.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
First things first, I want to give a hat tip to LeGarrette Blount. I had a minor injury crisis this week, and plucked a new RB from the wafer thin waiver wire my 12 team league has. I picked Blount, and the badman casually picked up two touchdowns and over 100 yards from scrimmage in the Lions’ losing Thanksgiving effort. I still got whooped, but by less than I could have.
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is hands down the player of the week, though. It could have gone to Amari Cooper, who went on a few worldies for the Cowboys in their Thursday evening victory, but for sheer production McCaffrey gets it.
His output 125 yards on the ground, 112 through the air, and a touchdown each way, was enough to qualify for a small business loan, and probably enough to say to Cam Newton “anything you can do, I can do better.”
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
It’s not what Jackson did that makes me want to plonk him here, it’s how he did it. I’m not mad, just disappointed.
For reasons known only to themselves, the Ravens are hell bent on forcing out Joe Flacco, their quarterback of ten years who won them a Super Bowl, for Lamar Jackson. I understand Flacco throws a few too many interceptions, and he isn’t on the list of quarterbacks you’d want to lead a game winning drive, but you know what you’re getting. He’s a sensible bangers and mash dinner, but one where you buy microwavable mash to save the faff.
Unfortunately, he’s been out injured and so Jackson – whom the Ravens have been teasing onto the field alongside Flacco on trick plays – has taken the helm. He’s picked up two wins, but hasn’t done it with his arm (1TD to 3 INTs across his two starts) rather his legs. As a rusher, Jackson has 190 yards and a TD, and it is by far his preferred way of moving the ball.
But you look at him and just know that if he keeps on going about it like this, he’s doomed to a very short career indeed. Whether it’s by concussion or his knees exploding a la RGIII, Jackson’s habit of rushing head first into trouble and big hits will get him hurt and is simply not sustainable.
Look at Cam Newton, arguably the best rushing QB of all time: he can throw the ball as well as anyone, protects himself running, and wears enough body armour to survive a trip down Niagra Falls. He plays the style with the skill and understanding which grants him longevity. If Jackson doesn’t start taking notes, I worry for both his career and, most importantly, his health.
Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
Matt Judon, stand up and take a bow. You gave it a real good try this week as your Ravens beat up the Oakland Raiders.
Judon managed three sacks, three tackles, and a forced fumble as the linebacker ran riot in the Raiders’ backfield. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to win the award this week for a few reasons.
First, to win this award you have to play a proper team and, as we’ve long established, the Oakland Raiders are not a real football team. Second, Mack had to play on Thanksgiving and so he was no doubt sleepy from too much turkey. Simply being able to play through that amount of tryptophan is herculean enough to retain.
Chargers Coming Out Party
The LA Chargers are this year’s most under the radar team. This is mainly because nobody goes to see them anymore; they can barely fill their 25,000 seater temporary home, and most of their fans abandoned them after their bitter divorce from San Diego a few years ago.
They are quietly playing well, though. Philip Rivers is having a renaissance, and young running back Melvin Gordon is putting up yardage which is tracking with the league leaders. Most importantly, with such poor home support they aren’t getting rattled on the road; the only away game they’ve lost this year was across the road at the Rams.
As a note of caution, Gordon is questionable with a knee injury but, for such a big game, it’d take an amputation to keep him out.
Across the field, the Steelers have blown hot and cold all year. James Conner has cooled off, and they’re relying on Big Ben Roethlisberger to try and force a passing game. If the Chargers can limit the big gains which Brown, Smith-Schuster, et al seem to find, then they’ll go from under the radar to firmly in the discussion to be major contenders come January.