If you like action then the Los Angeles and Kansas City game did not disappoint. The contest took place at the LA Coliseum after Estadio Azteca’s turf was unfit to host the event (Mexico City). Honestly that ended up being a gift to football fans because this was hands down the game of the year. Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes showed why they’re two of the league’s brightest young stars. Each QB went back and forth exchanging touchdowns and the crowd was rocking for all four quarters. Goff eventually rallied the Rams to a game winning touchdown with only one minutes and fifty-six seconds left. Los Angeles’ quarterback also added 413 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions before the final whistle blew. Validating his team for selecting him number 1 overall back in the 2016 NFL Draft. Patrick Mahomes was no slouch either and his 478 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions proved that. Obviously the interceptions weren’t good and Mahomes also had 2 fumbles as well. Those five turnovers really cost his team but considering he threw for 6 TDs Kansas City should’ve found a way to pull out the win. This was also an ideal night for the receivers and seven different players caught a touchdown. Gerald Everett (2), Robert Woods (1), and Josh Reynolds (1) all found the end zone for Sean McVay’s offense. While Tyreek Hill (2), Chris Conley (2), Kareem Hunt (1), and Travis Kelce (1) were all making plays for the Chiefs. The other notable standout was clearly Samson Ebukam. Ebukam recovered a fumble and took it all the way for a score. Then Ebukam intercepted a pass and returned it to the house for a touchdown. Those two defensive plays really put a dent in Kansas City’s chances. All of that was followed by interceptions by Marcus Peters and Lamarcus Joyner which would seal the deal. There’s no denying that this was a quality win for Goff and company because this was a clash of the titans but somehow they found a way to prevail.
All week there was speculation about who would start at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens? Joe Flacco is sidelined with a hip injury and John Harbaugh decided to trot out Lamar Jackson. The Ravens selected Jackson with the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 draft. Everyone knows how athletic this guy is and he didn’t disappoint in the first of his start career. The former Heisman Trophy winner brings a whole other element to this team’s offense. Joe Flacco works exclusively from the pocket but Jackson can attack every of area of the field by running the football. It takes a lot of defensive game planning to keep that in check and clearly the Bengals had trouble. The Ravens would go on to win this contest 24-21 and Jackson ran for 117 yards. Whether it was multiple variations of the zone read, QB draws, or even the option. Baltimore drew up plays which took advantage of their 21 year old signal caller’s strengths and did their best to put him in a position to succeed. That wasn’t the only factor in the win though. Jackson’s raw ability allows him to juke, spin, and escape the pressure like Michael Vick used to do back with the Atlanta Falcons. However there is still some areas the rookie needs to improve in. Jackson didn’t throw the ball particularly well only finishing the night with 150 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. At times Dak Prescott has felt like a slight step above Tim Tebow and Jackson has to avoiding falling into that same category. The good news is Prescott is in his second year and still struggling and this was Jackson’s first game. Which means the Ravens will be patient and in time Jackson should become a much more polished passer. The bottom line though is the kid won and that’s definitely a good sign. Baltimore is currently the 6th seed (AFC) and that means they’d be in the playoffs if they started today.
Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
Scoring is up and the fans seem to like shootouts but seeing Khalil Mack dominate the Minnesota Vikings was just as entertaining. Mike Zimmer’s ball club is known for all of their offensive weapons. Guys like Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have all made a name for themselves by lighting up the scoreboard but not against the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack flat out overpowered Cousins and Minnesota’s offensive linemen. On one play Mack used one arm to drop Riley Reiff and that showcased how much physically superior he is than most of the other players in the league. Also because of advances in science and training methods the game is being played at a higher level than ever. Which means Mack is destroying people in ways that’s never been done before. Reggie White, and Bruce Smith are legends because of their production but Mack is bull rushing blockers and sending them into oblivion (watch the videos below). Oh and by the way the other defenders in that front seven aren’t that bad either. Akiem Hicks is a Pro Bowl caliber player and he had 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 TFLs. Roquan Smith had 7 tackles and he looks like he’s put on 20 pounds since his college days. Leonard Floyd had 5 tackles and 2 TFLs. It’s a total group effort by Chicago but Mack is the leader of everything and it’s certainly a collection of athletes who can strike fear into their opponents. Mitchell Trubisky and the offense still have to work out some kinks but if the Bears stay healthy and that defense plays up to their potential there’s not many teams that can beat them. In 2017 it was the Jaguars who were known for locking down their opponents and giving up very few points. This year though it’s been all about Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes throwing for touchdowns. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see the Bears get it done on the defensive side of the ball and it’s brought some balance back to the NFL.
Khalil Mack tosses Riley Reiff like he's a feather 😮
We have less than two months left of the regular season but the MVP finalists have already emerged. Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, and Todd Gurley are leading the pack by so much that it’s almost impossible for someone else to win this award. It would take seven of the best games we’ve ever seen for another player to beat out Mahomes, Brees, or Gurley and that’s very unlikely to happen. At the moment Mahomes has to be the front-runner of the bunch. Kansas City’s quarterback has thrown for 31 touchdowns and he’s a promising young talent who could help carry the NFL brand into the future. That has to compelling to the people at the league’s front office and with Brees’ time winding down Roger Goodell might be convinced that’s his best option. However there’s a good chance that Drew Brees’ record breaking year is too good to pass up. Everyone already knows who Brees is and by adding to his legacy it would be an exclamation point on an already great year (NFL ratings are soaring and there’s been very few arrests). Brees has complied 21 touchdowns and 1 interception which has been amazingly efficient. Then obviously there’s Todd Gurley who’s been lights out himself. Gurley has 1,390 total yards and he’s combined for 17 touchdowns. The Rams x-factor is a threat running or catching the ball but you know quarterbacks always get the glory. Right now it’s Mahomes vs Brees and then if both of those franchises (Chiefs and Saints) lose and the Rams win out, Gurley would have a chance. That’s the key in this whole situation. What squad is going to have the best record once all sixteen games are played? The MVP will be from whoever achieves that feat and it will be well earned. The competition has been stiff and all three of these individuals have played their hearts out.
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.