NFL Week Seven

NFL Week Seven: Good, bad & ugly

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Water will always find its level. The same holds true for contenders and pretenders in the NFL. Here are my observations from Week Seven:

The Good

-When the Ravens faced off against the Seahawks in Seattle, we were treated to two of the most dynamic playmakers at the quarterback position in the league with Lamar Jackson facing off against Russell Wilson. While neither guy completed more than 50% of their passes, it was exciting to see them work. They are amazing to watch scramble around and make plays. Wilson is the better passer, while Jackson is the better runner. The Ravens won 30-16 thanks to their two turnover returns for touchdowns. Would love to see this matchup in a Super Bowl one day.

-The Patriots keep on rolling. They mashed the Jets 33-0 on Monday Night Football. While Tom Brady will get most of the credit, Bill Belichek and that defense deserves their fair share. They held the Jets to 154 total yards and even that is about 107 yards less than their season average. Brady is averaging almost 300 passing yards a game this year at age 42 and is showing no signs of slowing down.

-The San Francisco 49ers are 6-0 for the first time since 1990. They gained their sixth victory by way of an ugly 9-0 win over the Skins in what seemed to be played in the middle of a monsoon. To put that into perspective: the average rent was $465/month, gas was $1.34/gallon, a home was $123,000, and I was in 4th grade. Watch out for this team. They're legit on both sides of the ball.

The Bad

-Seahawks rookie receiver DK Metcalf committed a virtual non-contact fumble in crunch time. Down by 10 with about four minutes left, he caught a bubble screen, tried to make a move, and dropped the ball after minimal to no contact. The Ravens' corner Marlon Humphrey eventually picked it up and scored to put the game out of reach. Metcalf will be going through ball carrying drills this week.

-In a battle of the top two quarterbacks taken in the past draft, the Cardinals' Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones both committed boneheaded mistakes. Jones tried to lead block for Saquon Barkley and was laid out by Haason Reddick. Later on, Murray was scrambling while in field goal range and up 24-21 with just over two minutes left. Instead of sliding to take more time off the clock, he ran out of bounds. It didn't cost them the game, but it was a dumbass play nonetheless.

-Dolphins rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was ejected a couple weeks ago for suplexing Chargers' running back Austin Ekeler and said he "didn't know" he couldn't do that. This week, he was ejected for throwing a punch on the second play of the game

The Ugly

-Falcons running back Devonta Freeman got himself ejected in the 3rd quarter of their loss to the Rams for trying to fight Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald of all people! Donald, at one point, lifted Freeman off the ground as if he were a small child. It's bad enough the Falcons have fallen off a cliff since blowing the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. It was compounded when Freeman's backup Ito Smith left the game with a concussion.

-Dolphins safety Bobby McCain had an ugly encounter with Bills fans after their 31-21 loss. McCain got into a verbal sparring match with a 13 year old and allegedly spit in the face of another fan. While fans have every right to express themselves, they shouldn't overstep any boundaries. At the same time, players need to act accordingly, especially knowing fans affinity for trolling them into something.

-Several key players sustained injuries this past week. Vikings' receiver Adam Thielen went down with a hamstring injury in the 1st quarter. Lions' running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) and corner Darius Slay (hamstring) both went down. The Falcons also lost quarterback Matt Ryan with an ankle injury in the 4th quarter. Keep an eye on the injury report later this week, especially if any of these guys are on your fantasy football teams.

There's only two undefeated teams left now. One isn't a surprise at all (Patriots), the other is a complete surprise (49ers). I doubt either one stays undefeated due to the law of averages. New England will slip at some point to someone, and the 49ers will have a game in which their inexperience will catch up to them. Besides, there are too many good teams out there that can give either one of them a loss. There are nine other teams with either one or two losses that can be considered serious contenders right now. To say there are 11 teams in the league that have zero, one, or two lossess at this point in the season and all of them are a threat feeds into the parity narrative. Here's to the ride the rest of the way and hoping it has as much parity as the first seven weeks have had.

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One presumes the Chicken Littles have stopped clucking about the Astros’ season being a goner, or if not gone, on life support. It wasn’t when they were 7-19. It wasn’t when they were 12-24. It certainly isn’t now that they’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine. Another three or four weeks of inept play could have doomed them, but the worm has turned. A 20-25 record is no cause for celebration, but it has the Astros within four games of first place. Yes, getting to play the A’s four times this week helped. And?

I detailed the schedule issue on our Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast this week. The Astros were flat lousy for the season’s first six weeks. But… Starting the week the Astros had played a whopping 32 of their 40 games against teams with a winning record as of Monday. The Seattle Mariners had played 23 such games, the Texas Rangers only 16. The Philadelphia Phillies have been sensational so far and are fully legit. But… The Phillies entered the weekend having played three games vs. teams now sporting a winning record. Three! Out of 45 games. Going into this weekend's series only the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels had played more games against winning teams than had the Astros. It’s not mere coincidence that the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels are the three last place teams in the American League. The Astros were not up to the challenge of their first quarter schedule, but by no means did it render them dead, particularly in the thus far Mild, Mild, American League West.

A good Brewers team visits Minute Maid Park for three games this weekend. The Astros beat their best starter Friday night. Next the Astros get the pathetic Angels here for three before a three-game series at Oakland. Meanwhile the West leading Mariners start a ten-game road trip this weekend: three at the excellent Orioles, four at the excellent Yankees, three at the respectable Nationals. The Astros stand a good chance of overtaking the M’s by the end of this month if they can win the four-game series they open Memorial Day in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers snapped a five game losing streak Wednesday to eke back over .500 at 23-22. The reigning World Series champs hope to get somewhat well vs. the Angels in Arlington this weekend but dropped the series opener to drop back to .500. For their sake they better because the Rangers then hit the road for Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Naturally, many Astros fans are upset with Ronel Blanco serving a 10 game suspension for illegally using whatever substance on his glove and non-pitching hand. The suspension is basically automatic. The suspension is also not a big problem. Blanco has been fantastic since getting a starting rotation spot only because of Justin Verlander’s delayed start to his season. It’s said that all life owes us is opportunity. Man, did Blanco seize his. With just seven big league starts to his name before entering this season as a 30-year old, Blanco has made eight this season with a sparkling 2.09 earned run average. So, what’s that about the suspension is not a big problem?

Blanco will miss one start and have another pushed back a day or two. That’s just not a big deal. In fact it may be helpful in the bigger picture. With last year being the first time in his professional career that Blanco topped 100 innings pitched (125 1/3), the Astros need to be wary of Blanco’s workload which is on pace to blow past last year’s career-high innings total. J.P. France probably pitched over his head for a while last year, but went well past his prior career-high innings total and faded badly. Cristian Javier was tremendous in 2022 while pitching more than in any previous year, but he pitched even more in 2023 and faded badly.

Alex Bregman lives! After being nearly inconceivably inept through the first quarter of the season, the Alex awakening in the Oakland series was not shocking but most welcomed. Over his first 37 games Bregman had a paltry seven extra base hits. Even with a feeble .201 batting average and .534 OPS, that Bregman had scored just eight runs over those 37 games was hard to believe. Then Monday and Tuesday saw five extra base hits and four runs scored.

In a trade not commanding any headlines, Dana Brown Wednesday sent outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox for 20-year-old low minor league pitcher Luis Rodriguez. There is now no reason to call it a great Astros trade but Brown made a smart deal. Julks had no future here, hence he would have been released if no deal was struck. Taking a flyer on a young arm can’t hurt. Frankly, the White Sox are dumb to trade a young arm of any promise whatsoever for a 28-year-old outfielder with limited value. Julks was a nice story for parts of last season. The Clear Brook High School grad and UH product had a couple windows of production, highlighted by a sizzling nine game 17 for 34 stretch straddling June and July. Alas, not two weeks later Julks began what would become an 0 for 36 nightmare. He was sent to the minors for good in late-August.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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