Seattle and Green Bay met up in a high stakes Thursday Night Football match-up. Both teams are on the bubble when it comes to the NFC playoff picture and win would go a long way in keeping those hopes alive. The Packers started the game off extremely strong and were up 14-3 after the first quarter but that’s when the Seahawks came storming back. Russell Wilson was a big reason why he threw for 225 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions after a slow start. Chris Carson also struggled early on and he actually fumbled on the very first play (Green Bay recovered the loose ball). Carson rallied though and he finished the night with 83 yards and 1 touchdown. Doug Baldwin and Ed Dickson both caught touchdowns too so it was a total team effort from Pete Carroll’s group and now this franchise is right on the Minnesota Vikings’ heels for that last spot in the postseason. Green Bay on the other hand falls to 4-5-1 and they’re in a lot trouble. We’ve seen Aaron Rodgers put together miracle runs before but it’s apparent that he doesn’t have enough talent around him to make some magic happen this year. Rodgers finished the game with 332 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions but the Packers don’t do a good enough job blocking upfront to be a winning team (Rodgers was sacked 4 times). Aaron Jones had decent night with 103 totals yards and 2 touchdowns. Davante Adams was the best playmaker for either side. Adams hauled in 10 receptions for 166 yards. On the defensive side of things Frank Clark led the Seahawks with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL proving he’s an elite defender in the NFL. Bobby Wagner was also tough he put up 9 tackles and 1 TFL. Kyler Fackrell was outstanding for the Mike McCarthy’s squad. Fackrell had his best game as a pro with 6 tackles 3 sacks, and 4 TFLs. Jaire Alexander was the other standout for the green and yellow ball club. Alexander went for 6 tackles in the loss.
Not many people thought the Chargers would be 7-2 without Joey Bosa but Los Angeles is rolling and now they’re going to get their best defender back. Bosa has been sidelined with a foot injury and just returned to practice. Meaning he’s only three or four weeks away from getting back out on the field. The Bolts will probably only have Bosa for a couple of regular season games but this is huge for their playoff hopes. We’re talking about player who could get this team over the top when it comes to winning a Super Bowl. The only thing Los Angeles has to worry about is Bosa’s health. You don’t want to put him out there before he’s physically ready and have such a key player risk another injury. At the same time though they’re paying Joey Bosa to compete and he’s needed more than ever. Not many guys are able to produce 23 sacks in their first two years and that additional pass rush is going to be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. When Melvin Ingram and Bosa are both on the field this defense is elevated to another level. Imagine how many additional opportunities that’s going to create for Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense? Nobody is going to want to play this ball club in the postseason because they can beat anyone. With New England a little bit off their game it opens the door for a team like LA to come out of the AFC. Obviously the Chiefs are probably the best team in that conference right now but if Ingram and Bosa can rattle Patrick Mahomes they’ll be in good shape. Kansas City tends to struggle in those high stakes games too so Anthony Lynn’s squad is in very good shape. There’s just so much talent on this roster and everyone is getting healthy at the perfect time.
Last season the Minnesota Vikings were one of the best teams in all of football. Their defense was ranked number 1 in the league and Case Keenum put together an epic run when Sam Bradford got injured. Mike Zimmer was hoping to take the next step with the addition of Kirk Cousins but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. That acquisition did help Minnesota get better in the passing game but overall this franchise has taken a big step backwards. Their rushing attack went from being ranked 7th in 2017 to 28th this year. Defensively they’re now 5th in league so there’s been a big drop off in their ability to perform. Part of that is due to some Vikings players getting older and the other reason is because this team is allowing a lot more points. The Bills hammered them 27-6 back in September and that was definitely a red flag. Then this ball club lost to the Rams and Saints proving they can’t beat an elite opponent. Now Zimmer’s bunch is heading to Chicago for an NFC North showdown. The Bears lead this division and they’re playing great football at the moment. The match-up to keep an eye on is clearly Khalil Mack and that defense vs Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense. Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Leonard Floyd have the ability to pressure Cousins on every single snap. Minnesota has great receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefen Diggs but they’re irrelevant if Cousins doesn’t have time to throw the ball downfield. Obviously this creates a huge dilemma for the Purple People Eaters and it’s going take some serious game planning to counter the Bears pass rush. If Zimmer can’t win that chess match then it’s going to doom his side and the Vikings are going to be on the cusp of missing the postseason. So the stakes are high heading into this weekend and neither team can afford to stumble.
Charity of the day: Natural Resources Defense Council
Some people thought giving up a 1st round pick for Amari Cooper was a risky decision by the Dallas Cowboys. At the moment though this move seems to working out well for Jerry Jones. Earlier in the season the Cowboys were struggling to stretch the field vertically which ended up hurting Ezekiel Elliott. When there’s no deep ball threats then defenses can stack the box with 8 defenders. That isn’t the case anymore and Dak Prescott has thrown for over 200 yards in both games that Cooper has been in the Cowboys lineup. Remember Prescott was struggling to do that with just Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, and Cole Beasley out wide. Therefore Cooper’s impact is definitely adding another dynamic to this offense. The fact that the 24 year old receiver (Cooper) already has 1 touchdown and over 100 yards with the Cowboys is a good sign. Especially when you consider that he only had 1 touchdown when he was out in Oakland for his first six games. Jason Garrett deserves credit for putting Cooper right into the number 1 receiver role. Dallas didn’t wait around for their new acquisition to become familiar with the playbook. They knew time wasn’t on their side and plays had to be made. Cooper is also doing a great job of opening up running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke has rushed for 212 yards the last two weeks and it proves how interconnected each phase of this offensive system is. We know the receivers and running back are getting better now this team needs to address the quarterback position. Dak Prescott isn’t working out and it’s keeping this team grounded. Once Dallas finds a signal caller who can consistently throw for 300 yards a game then this group will really take off. Imagine how much Amari Cooper’s value will soar when that happens?
Charity of the day: Natural Resources Defense Council
New England has a 7-3 record and they’re far from a bad football team but the writing is on the wall. The Patriots aren’t what they’ve been in the past. All the dominant performances we’re accustomed to seeing are in the rear-view mirror. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can still win but they’re not going to be Super Bowl champions in 2018. To be brutally honest it’s unlikely they’ll be the runner-ups either. Tom Brady is a shell of his former self and he’s recorded 1 touchdown pass in his last three games. Part of that is because collectively this roster is lacking offensive weapons. Although Brady has to take some of the blame and obviously the aging process isn’t helping him at all. Rob Gronkowski is in the same exact situation. After nine seasons in the NFL Gronk’s body is starting to breakdown. He’s a 6’6” 265 pound guy and that’s a big target for defenders. Absorbing all of those blows has left Gronkowski feeling not only physically beat up but mentally fatigued as well. Which has led to a lot of speculation that this is going to be the veteran tight end’s final year. Brady might be on the way out too if he doesn’t start to pick it up a little bit. Can you imagine how bad things will get if this team is a one and done in the playoffs? Belichick would seriously consider parting ways with both Brady and Gronkowski if that were to happen. So even if those guys want to return next year they first have to prove that they can still compete at a high level. It’s tough to watch because we’ve seen New England dominate for almost two decades. However the reality is this team is finally regressing.
Last year in the preseason Mitchell Trubisky showed a lot of promise but then he followed that up with only 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions during his rookie campaign. That was largely due to the fact that Trubisky was so inexperienced but now we’re starting to see what a more polished version of him looks like. Fans in Chicago have to be upbeat about that because this is player who is very versatile. Most scouts knew Trubisky would be able to throw the ball effectively someday but the surprising twist is how good of a runner the former UNC alum has been. In fact Cam Newton (352 yards and 4 touchdowns) is the only quarterback in the league who’s rushed for more yards than Mitchell Trubisky (320 yards and 3 touchdowns). It’s the ability to escape which often gives the Bears additional opportunities on drives. Just last week against Detroit Trubisky broke free and moved the chains on a third and long situation. On that play he changed directions on a dime and then cutback across the grain. Not many quarterbacks in the league are athletic enough to make that happen. The other good thing about this kid how well he’s developed physically. Most QBs would risk an injury if they even tried to play like this but that isn’t the case in Chicago. Trubisky knows his body can hold up and that’s why he can play so fearlessly. He’s also been very good throwing the ball too and the 19 touchdowns prove it. We’re witnessing the next up and coming quarterback in the NFC North and Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Kirk Cousins are all getting older. It’s only a matter of time before they pass the torch to the Bears’ young gun. In a couple of years the 2017 first round pick (Trubisky) will be the one calling the shots in this division.
When the Washington Redskins signed Adrian Peterson they were just looking for a little bit of depth at the running back position. Peterson had other plans though he’s rushed for 672 yards and 4 touchdowns completely resurrecting his career. Believe it or not that’s been vital to Washington’s 6-3 record because Jay Gruden has been utilizing one of the oldest strategies in the sport. You pound the rock with a strong downhill runner like Peterson and that helps your team control the time of possession. By keeping their offense on the field for the majority of the game it allows the Redskins’ defense to be well rested in the 4th quarter. Now only that but there’s a lot of talent on their front seven. Jonathan Allen has 4 sacks and the rookie Da’Ron Payne has been impressive with 3 sacks. When you pair those two strong interior guys next to Ryan Kerrigan (5.5 sacks) it’s easy to see why that group is having so much success. They get penetration into the offensive backfield and rack up TFLs. Then on passing downs they pin their ears back and put pressure on the quarterback. Zach Brown is also a key piece right in the middle of everything and he’s helped this team become the 5th ranked run defense in the league. We’ve seen it week in and week out these players take away the football and then hand it to Peterson. Gruden is able to cut down on mistakes that way and it’ll probably take this franchise back to the postseason. Don’t expect anything to change. The coaching staff knows their methods have put them in a good position. Washington has a two game lead in the NFC East so the key is avoiding any letdowns. As long as they stick to the script everything should work out for them. They’re definitely surging.
All week NFL insiders wondered whether Nick Mullens had what it took to defeat Eli Manning and the New York Giants? We know now that the 2x Super Bowl champion (Manning) was too much for the 49ers and really that was the biggest difference in this game. Manning threw for 188 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions outplaying Mullens. Odell Beckham Jr. was on the receiving end of 2 of those touchdowns and he also contributed 73 receiving yards. The other touchdown came from Sterling Shepard and it was one of the better offensive performances by New York. If Pat Shurmur can keep coming up with creative plays calls maybe the Giants can revive their ball club? One area that was much better was the blocking upfront for Manning. Shurmur has done a good job shoring up the pass protection and that’s creating more big plays downfield. Which will obviously result in points in due time. Nick Mullens threw for 250 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions in the defeat. Mullens wasn’t bad by any means but the ball didn’t bounce his way like it did in his first start against the Raiders. Truthfully San Francisco could’ve won this contest but they fell apart late in the 4th quarter. Matt Breida rushed for 101 yards and had 2 touchdowns. George Kittle hauled in 83 yards but the story of the night was the 49ers defense collapsing as time was winding down. Richard Sherman tried to prevent that from happening with 3 tackles and 2 TFLs. Malcolm Smith had 5 tackles and 1 TFL but Sterling Shepard took down the scarlet and gold with a last minute TD. The Giants defense played pretty good and they were led by B.J Goodson who had 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 interceptions. Landon Collins was also very tough with 9 tackles and we’ll see if the Giants can begin to turn things around? This is only their second win of the season but maybe that good energy will carry over to their next match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Nick Chubb has been showing us glimpses of what he could be in the National Football League over the first half of the season but he finally put it all together against the Atlanta Falcons. Chubb rushed for 176 yards and 1 touchdown plus he caught another touchdown on a passing play. That offensive outburst really gave Cleveland the upper hand against the Falcons and it’s a huge step for a team who’s struggled to find their way. Maybe Gregg Williams has something going because he already put up 1/3 of the wins that Hue Jackson was able to accomplish. Therefore the change in leadership appears to be working out for the Browns. Baker Mayfield was the other standout in this win. Mayfield threw for 216 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Duke Johnson and Rishard Higgins both caught touchdowns too and then there was the Dog Pound’s defense. Atlanta couldn’t get much going and it’s hard to win in this league with only 16 points. Jamie Collins stopped the Falcons in their tracks with 9 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 fumble recovery. T.J Carrie had 6 tackles and 1 fumble recovery too so it was a great outing for all the guys on Cleveland’s defense. Matt Ryan threw for 330 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions which was actually a strong showing. The problem is they’re getting a little bit too pass heavy and tend to lack balance. This ball club definitely needed more out of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith if they wanted to compete. Julio Jones did play well though he went for 107 yards and another touchdown. Clearly the role players aren’t bringing enough to the table because Ryan and Jones are carrying this offense on their shoulders. Damontae Kazee was one of the Falcons’ best defenders with 3 tackles and 1 interception. De’Vondre Campbell tallied up 8 tackles as well but Dan Quinn’s squad would fall to 4-5 once Sunday was over. The Browns (3-6-1) on the other hand will take this win in stride and try to get another one when they take on the Bengals Thanksgiving weekend.
If anything is becoming more and more apparent each week it’s that the Cowboys have the best defense in the NFC East. The rookie Leighton Vander Esch had a terrific night recording 13 tackles and 1 interception. Vander Esch kept the high octane Eagles offense in check and ultimately that’s means Dallas’ hopes and dreams are still alive. Jaylon Smith was also tough as nails in this match-up. Smith was everywhere in the first half and made a crucial stop on 4th and short. He finished the contest with 4 tackles but those were in some big moments which helped inspire his teammates along the way. This group has a lot of talent with those two guys plus Byron Jones and Demarcus Lawrence. Jerry Jones must retain that nucleus of defenders because the future is definitely bright. On the other side of the ball Dak Prescott put together another strong performance with 270 yards and 1 touchdown. While Ezekiel Elliott had one of his best games of the entire season. Elliott rushed for 151 yards and 1 touchdown breaking free on several long runs. Elliott caught a receiving touchdown too so it was another heavy workload for the star tailback. Carson Wentz threw for 360 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception in the loss. Wentz wasn’t bad at all but the Eagles were constantly playing catch-up. Zach Ertz was excellent he recorded 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. Defensively Philadelphia was led by Brandon Graham who had 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 TFL. Michael Bennett had 2 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 TFLs too and he’s been playing really well the last month. When it came down to it though Dallas was just the better team on this night and now there’s a possibility that they get back in the hunt for the division. Washington currently has a two game lead over the Cowboys but there’s still seven games left. It’ll take a little bit of luck to close the gap on the Redskins but we’ve seen crazier thing happen in the past.