Tuesday Afternoon Football: Week 10
While the matchups for Week 10 of the 2018-19 NFL season might not have been the most exciting this year, and they might have even felt like a letdown after last week’s great games, there was still plenty to discuss from what ended up being a very fun week of football. The matchups didn’t look great on paper, but as each game ended the playoff picture became clearer, important questions have to be asked, and some teams need to take a look at themselves in the mirror. With that being said, follow me, I’ll show you what I’m talking about.
NFC North up for grabs?
Of all the divisions in the NFL, the only division where there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite is the NFC North. The NFC has three divisions that appear to be set already, the Rams are alone atop the West, the Saints are running away with the South, and the Redskins are the only team above .500 in the East. In the North though, this thing is INTENSE.
The Minnesota Vikings came into this year with one of the most well-rounded rosters in professional football, and they added Kirk Cousins who is an undeniable upgrade over Case Keenum. They haven’t been as great as I thought they would be, but they still have a 5-3-1 record and appear to be heating up down the stretch here.
The team that is atop the division though, is one that I didn’t see coming. The Chicago Bears are currently 6-3, and have the third-best point differential in the NFC, and fourth-best in the NFL. They are only behind the Chiefs, Rams, and Saints. They appear to have arrived.
Now, heading into the season this was something I didn’t expect or prepare for. I thought Mitch Trubisky was an average quarterback at best and I thought their defense would be good, but I didn’t think they would be able to carry a mediocre/below-average offense.
That hasn’t been the case.
The Bears offense has been mediocre in terms of total yards and yards per game, but they are fifth in points per game. They have outperformed my expectations on offense, and a big part of that is Mitchell Trubisky, who has quietly had a great year. He has a 65.5% completion percentage, 2,305 yards, 19 touchdowns, and seven picks. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards four times, which is impressive given that many people had questions about his true throwing abilities.
Now only has their offense been better than expected though, their defense is absurd. Their defense is ridiculous. Their defense is impenetrable. Their defense is bulletproof. They are tied for fifth in the NFL with 30 sacks (all four teams above them are tied with 31 sacks), they lead the league in interceptions with 16 (three of which were pick-sixes, which also leads the league), and they are second in the league in forced fumbles with 16 of them.
The addition of Khalil Mack this offseason has proven to be the move of the year, as he has turned this defense into an immovable object, and they have yet to be tested against an unstoppable force.
The Vikings are still good, don’t get me wrong, their offense has better weapons and their defense isn’t that much worse. This division is going to be the best race of the year, and the best part is that these two teams haven’t faced off yet. They do that for the first time this week, and then they do it again in the last week of the year.
You also can’t forget about the Packers, who are 4-4-1 and have Aaron Rodgers, but this feels like a two horse race.
Over this past weekend the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions 34-22. Trubisky completed 23/30 passes for 355 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also ran in a score with his legs, so he accounted for four touchdowns on the day. They still have the dynamic rushing attack of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and Allen Robinson appears to have turned a corner.
The Vikings had a bye week this week, so they should be well-prepared for the Bears come Sunday.
The point is here, is that the Chicago Bears appear to be firing on all cylinders and the two matchups down the stretch with the Minnesota Vikings should be absolutely incredible.
Cowboys v. Eagles and what that means for the NFC East/Playoff Picture.
The Dallas Cowboys have been disappointing this season. Many analysts thought that Dak Prescott would return to his first-year self after last year’s dramatic season. That has not been the case, he has been mediocre, and he appears to be a quarterback that was deserving of a fourth-round pick. They were 3-5 heading into this week.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in the midst of one of the worst Super Bowl hangovers in recent memory. Despite adding pieces in the offseason and at the trading deadline, they still can’t seem to put it together, and were 4-4 heading into this week.
Both teams are looking up at the Washington Redskins in the NFC East standings despite the average age of Washington’s players being 55.
Dallas and Philadelphia were both playing a must-win game, but it really doesn’t feel like either team won. The game finished with the Cowboys on top, 27-20, but the implications from this game on both sides aren’t great for either team.
The Cowboys won the game in score, but they still showed some ineffectiveness in the red zone, Dak looked as good as he ever has, but only had 270 yards and one touchdown. The reality with this Cowboys team is that they go as Ezekiel Elliott goes, and he went on Sunday. He had 151 yards and a touchdown and he also had 36 yards and another touchdown through the air.
He was their offense, but the problem for Dallas is this: As long as Ezekiel Elliott keeps winning them games, the better he makes Dak look in the eyes of Jerry Jones, who for some reason has already committed to giving him a long-term extension. First of all, that’s not a great negotiating tactic. Secondly, Dak isn’t a top-tier quarterback in this league, he has been the beneficiary of the best offensive line in football during his first year, and he also has a top-five running back in the league.
Take last year for example, they had a first-place schedule, but without Ezekiel Elliott for much of the year and with injuries to the offensive line, Dak was bad. So with each win Dallas gets now, and as they appear to inch closer to a playoff spot (don’t worry they aren’t getting there) that just delays the inevitable need to draft a quarterback who isn’t reliant on his running back to make him look good.
The Eagles, they just went all-in with a trade for Golden Tate, who is one of the best yards-after-catch receivers in the NFL to add to an already potent offensive attack. They couldn’t beat the offensively challenged Cowboys though, and this Super Bowl hangover is officially a problem. This team is in serious danger of missing the playoffs all together. The NFC is loaded, and unless Alex Smith and the Redskins slow down there is no real chance for an NFC East team to secure a Wild Card spot.
I think that while this game was a do-or-die for both these teams, I think both these teams are still dead, regardless of the final outcome. The Eagles lost to the Cowboys who are bad, and have to play the Saints this week, who are great. The Cowboys won the game, but they still didn’t look great and are getting closer to handing Dak Prescott a $125 million contract.
We need to talk about Pittsburgh.
After starting the season with a 1-2-1 record many people wrote off the Pittsburgh Steelers, including me. I said and believed that the end had come for the Steelers and it was either going to be the Ravens or Browns taking the NFC North this year.
So, about that...the Steelers are now 6-2-1. They’ve won five straight games and have looked absolutely LETHAL while doing it. I thought Big Ben was done and clearly on the downswing, he now has a 66.1% completion percentage, 2,888 yards, 21 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Yeah, he’s still the same guy.
Their receiving duo of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are as deadly as ever. Brown has 690 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games, while JuJu has 762 yards and three touchdowns. While those two are great, they aren’t even the most surprising/impressive part of this offense, that label falls on their running back. No, not Le’Veon Bell, but James Conner.
Conner has had a better season so far than Le’Veon has had in any year of his career. He has now rushed for 771 yards and 10 touchdowns while also catching 39 passes for 387 yards and another touchdown. He has been really good, and makes the loss of Le’Veon Bell that much more tolerable.
That being said, it was confirmed on Tuesday that Bell did not report to the Steelers by the deadline today and is now ineligible to play for the rest of this season. He will likely be a free agent next year because franchise tagging him again would pay him like a feudal lord. Conner’s emergence has eased the pain of losing Le’Veon, and he certainly seems like an easier guy to deal with at this point.
Getting back to this week though, the Pittsburgh Steelers kept their win streak rolling by demolishing the Carolina Panthers (who I thought were quietly the hottest team in football). They did more than beat them, they just picked them apart, winning 52-21. Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 25 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns.
The Steelers are back, back like they never left. The rest of the teams in their division don’t even appear to be in the same atmosphere as them right now. This Steelers team looks like it could be the one to finally get them over the hump after years of disappointing finishes.
Update from the Jimmy G hype train:
CK Collusion QB of the Week: Josh McCown is the proud winner of this award this week after completing just 17/34 passes for 135 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. His team lost to the Buffalo Bills with a final score of 41-10. Also, Nathan Peterman was released by the Bills this week, that marked the end of an error (yes, you read that correctly).
Breakout Player of the Week: Corey Davis caught seven passes in the Titans’ big 34-10 win over the Patriots. He had 125 yards and a touchdown on those seven passes, and he is starting to look like the receiver I thought he would be when he came out of Western Michigan.
Loser of the Week: The New York Jets not only figured out how to lose to the Bills, but they figured out how to lose to them by 31 points. They aren’t just the losers of the week, they are the losers of the first 10 weeks for that spectacle on Sunday.
The Good, The Bad, and The Odd:
Good: Julio Jones became the fastest receiver to ever get 10,000 receiving yards on Sunday. He is 29 years old and only 12,000 yards behind Jerry Rice. Jerry played until he was 42, and that record is untouchable, but Julio Jones’ new record is impressive nonetheless.
Bad: The Oakland Raiders lost to the San Diego Chargers 20-6, they have scored less than 11 in four of their last five games. This thing is a total disaster. I almost feel bad for the Raiders but then I remember that they were dumb enough to give a head coach who was out of the game for a decade a 10-year $100 million deal.
Odd: Matt Barkley got his first NFL playing time since 2016 and somehow completed 60% of his passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. It was a stunningly good and odd performance who last played in a game during the same week Colin Kaepernick played his last game.