The Rams and Chiefs gave us a remarkable show. Rams team web site
What a week of football! We saw some great performances, and we saw some boneheaded decisions that could’ve cost teams playoff positioning. Here’s how I saw it play out:
-Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson led his team to a 24-21 win over the Bengals. But this isn’t your father’s NFL. While Jackson’s 13 of 19 for 150 yards passing was respectable, his 117 yards rushing on 27 carries was unreal! Welcome to the new NFL where your quarterback will pass 50-60 times, or run it damn near 30 times.
-Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley totaled 152 yards on 29 touches and three touchdowns in their 38-35 win over the Bucs. He’s an all-purpose threat that can win a game rushing or receiving. He did drop Eli Manning’s only incompletion though.
-The Rams and Chiefs played one hell of a game Monday night! The chess match between Sean McVey and Andy Reid was special. It looked more like a Big 12 matchup rather than an NFL game. The Rams pulled out the win 54-51 win. In one of the highest scoring games in NFL history!
-The Raiders own approximately 327 first round picks in the 2019 draft. They could’ve secured the No. 1 overall pick had they not won Sunday against the Cardinals. Trading two of your best players is a sign of tanking. So if you’re going to tank Chucky, tank properly.
-The Falcons and Jags are both in a free fall. Both teams were expected to be Super Bowl contenders but are 4-6 and 3-7 respectively. Injuries have hampered the Falcons, while chemistry issues, and injuries, have hurt the Jags. No matter, both teams should be much better than what their records show.
-The Chargers lost to the Broncos 23-22 on a field goal as time expired. Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers missed Keenan Allen on a third and seven and they decided to punt. This loss will hurt them in the tightly contested AFC. 7-3 puts them in 5th spot in AFC playoff standings when 8-2 could’ve left them with a shot a 1st.
-The Panthers were 6-3, second place in the NFC South, and looking like a contender. That sort of changed when they decided to go for a two point conversion and missed. Cam Newton missed an easy throw. Now they’re 6-4 and within a game of missing the playoffs.
-The Bucs’ quarterback situation has been like a bad game of musical chairs. They have bounced back and forth between Ryan Fitztragic and Jameis No-Winston. Hopefully for their fans, they can move on from both and draft one in the offseason.
-I know I hit on this in my Texans article Sunday, but since we’ve learned the true extent of Alex Smith’s injury. He had to have emergency surgery Sunday not long after the game to repair a broken tibia and fibula. Thoughts and prayers to him and a speedy recovery.
When I look back on football games, I look for certain triggers. Turnover battle, points off turnovers, rushing yards, and time of possession. When I look at playoff positioning, I look at teams that hit their stride late in the season that can remain healthy. Saints, Rams, Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears are the ones I see that are separating themselves right now. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this season has in store!
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.