What a week of football! A showdown of the top two AFC teams in Frankfurt, Dobbs being a Viking for four days and playing, the Eagles and Cowboys game and C.J. Stroud just putting on another elite show!
Teams on Bye
Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, & San Francisco 49ers
Thursday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 – Tennessee Titans 16
668 days after his last touchdown (thrown by Roethlisberger), Donate Johnson caught a touchdown! The long drought is now over and the Steelers played their most complete looking (minus penalties) game of football this season. All phases of the team looked good against the Titans. Levis didn’t toast the Steelers secondary, Henry was held under 100 yards and Pickett did just enough to get the win. Pickens needs work on his toe tapping drills, it’s no longer college ball and TJ Watt can still sack you without a helmet!
Levis looked to continue his fiery career, after a four touchdown game last week, he looked to continue this rhythm with Hopkins but Joey Porter Jr would not allow the connection to occur. On a fourth down play just before the two minute warning, Levis missed a wide open Philips who burned Peterson, if that ball had been thrown it was a touchdown but Levis first career interception came as the Titans were driving to win, ending the comeback chances.
Sunday Early Window
Kansas City Chiefs 21 – Miami Dolphins 14
Frankfurt, Germany hosted the Chiefs vs Dolphins, the number one and two in the AFC facing off and the Dolphins thought they had the game planned, stop Travis Kelce and they did, holding him to a season low 14 yards but when you have Mahomes at quarterback you have to stop more than one man. The Dolphins couldn’t score in the first 40 minutes of the contest, providing their red hot offense, isn’t that anymore. While Tua led the team to a one possession game in the 4th, they could not overcome the slow start and a botched snap on 4th and 10 ended their comeback hopes. Miami has gone 0-3 against teams with a winning record.
Mahomes continues to show why he’s the best in the game currently. His favourite target was shut down, rather than trying to force the ball to Kelce, he spread the love.The opening drive alone saw him pass to five different receivers and it’s like the loss to the Broncos was a lifetime ago as he turned in a great performance overseas. The Chiefs international game came at the right time as they now have a bye week before their Super Bowl rematch against the Eagles.
Minnesota Vikings 31 – Atlanta Falcons 28
Joshua “Rocket Man” Dobbs!! The Vikings are cursed at quarterback, first losing Cousins for the season then Jaren Hall exits with a concussion forcing Dobbs under centre, FOUR DAYS after he became a Viking. While his first few possessions led to a strip sack and safety, a strip sack resulting in a field goal and a fumble on the first drive in the second half, he kept on going and eventually led the Vikings to the win. Throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for one, bringing the Vikings to 5-4 on the year has already proven the trade to acquire Dobbs was the right call.
Ridder or Heinicke, Heinicke or Ridder, the question Arthur Smith needs to address and answer as the Falcons offense did not look any better with Heinicke under centre against the Vikings. Bijan Robinson is having a tough time with the Falcons, finding himself now RB2 behind Tyler Allgeier who only has one more carry than him but Allgeier did not fumble. The biggest question in Atlanta is why Bijan isn’t being used more in the red zone, fumbles aside, he is the Falcons most productive back. There are many unanswered questions in Atlanta!
Baltimore Ravens 37 – Seattle Seahawks 3
The Ravens destroyed the division leading Lions a few weeks back and it seems it was the Seahawks turn this week, as they destroyed the NFC West division leader this week. The Ravens have a knack for finding running backs and Keaton Mitchell made his debut against the Seahawks, the undrafted rookie gashed them for 138 yards and a touchdown in his debut. The already dangerous Ravens add another piece to their multi-headed monster!
The Seahawks couldn’t handle the pressure, the pressure rate of 54.5% on Smith that is! Geno Smith was sacked four times and the Ravens forced two turnovers all while holding Kenneth Walker III to a shocking 1.8 yard per carry on nine attempts. Geno Smith looked lost against the Ravens defence and the Seahawks as a whole could not hang with the AFC North division leader, ending their two game winning streak and forcing them level with the 49ers.
Cleveland Browns 27 – Arizona Cardinals 0
Clayton Tune had to step up to helm the Cardinals this week as Dobbs was traded to the Vikings and Murray wasn’t ready to go. The Browns defence is not something a rookie should face on their debut. Clayton had no chance against the stingy Browns defence who welcomed him to the NFL with seven sacks and three turnovers and 58 total yards. Murray better come back with a bang this week or the Cardinals might be in the draft for a quarterback.
Deshawn Watson returned from injury and struggled at the start of the game, he played like he did not trust his offensive line would protect him and his accuracy was off early on. He eventually found his rhythm with Cooper and extended plays with his legs avoiding contact where possible. Kareem Hunt, along with Jerome Ford, is still helping to fill the void left by Chubb and Hunt recorded a touchdown to help the Browns pile the pressure on the Cardinals. If Watson can continue to play like he did later on in this game, then the Browns offense can and will be an issue for teams going forward.
Green Bay Packers 20 – Los Angeles Rams 3
The Packers ended a four game losing streak in an ugly fashion against the Rams. The Packers leaned on Aaron Jones to start the game and he scored a touchdown, opening the scoring which didn’t occur until the 2nd quarter! Love and his slow starts are the norm now in Green Bay and he didn’t really find rhythm until late in the game when he connected with rookie Musgrave for a 20-yard touchdown. The Packers will have to face the red hot Steelers defence next week and another quarterback who starts slow in Pickett. The best defence will win that one!
The Rams cannot rely on Brett Rypien as their quarterback, while it was only his fourth career start, Rypien couldn’t and struggled to move the ball against the Packers to allow the Rams to hang in the game. The Rams defence is the only reason the score wasn’t any higher!
Houston Texans 39 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37
C.J Stroud is a future superstar and the Texans look like a contender if they can make a run. If you don’t think Stroud is the future, watch this game, a five touchdown, 470 yard performance which will make most teams crave him as their starter. Stroud easily sliced up the Buccaneers normally stingy defensive unit all game and his number one connection, Tank Dell, racked up two touchdowns and 114 yards. Even without Ka’imi Fairbairn to kick, the Texans had running back Dare Ogunbowale kicking and he even converted a 29-yard field goal, making him the first running back to attempt and score a field goal since 1979. If the Texans defence can tighten up, there will be trouble in the AFC.
While the Buccaneers lost a close one, they found hope for their struggling running game with Rachaad White who racked up 73 yards and two touchdowns. This production by White allowed the Buccaneers to finally find a balanced offense.With White being responsible for over 40% of the Buccaneers yards by half time due to his ability to both run and catch, they need to make sure they build around him to take pressure off Baker Mayfield and allow the passing game to fully open up.
Washington Commanders 20 – New England Patriots 17
While Sam Howell and the Commanders didn’t play a perfect game or a pretty game of football, they did just enough to put away the Patriots on Sunday. While the Commanders started strong, sloppy mistakes allowed the Patriots to take a 17-10 lead in the 3rd. Without both Sweat and Young on their defence after being traded away, the Commanders defence looked shaky but stepped up with a late interception to seal the win.
Mac Jones is like a rollercoaster, but one you are disappointed in, while they showed life early when they took the 17-10 lead, that was it for the game. The offense struggled for the remainder of the game following that lead change. Mac Jones’ costly interception late in the game sees the Patriots drop to 2-7 their worst start since 2000.
New Orleans Saints 24 – Chicago Bears 17
The Saints overcame the Bears but they couldn’t capitalise on the five turnovers by the Bears, they should have scored more than 24 points. Despite this, it was a solid performance by the Saints and they didn’t turn the ball over this game, the first time since week 5! Taysom Hill packages give defensive coordinators headaches, and many Saints fans will question why they did not use Hill on the quarterback sneak and went with Carr instead. The win looked strong for a team that struggled early in the season.
Bagent might have started his final game as Justin Fields looked good to return from injury and an ugly final game it was, four turnovers including two picks in the 4th helped the Saints seal the win. While Bagent kept the Bears in it with his big arm, he couldn’t overcome the turnovers he generated. However don’t count Bagent out in the future, with more reps and time, he could become a dark horse starter in the future! The Bears defence kept the game close as well with the newest member of the Bears, Montez Sweat pouring the pressure on the Saints.
Sunday Late Window
Indianapolis Colts 27 – Carolina Panthers 13
Bryce Young continues to struggle during his rookie season, his consistent mistakes are costing the Panthers games and while this is just growing pains, Panthers fans can’t help but look at C.J. Stroud and wonder “What If?”. Young threw two costly pick-sixes against the Colts, joining Andrew Luck as only the second #1 draft pick to do so as a rookie in one game, and this created a hole the Panthers could never escape from.
The Colts defence won this match up for them, their offense wasn’t explosive and Minshew struggled the whole game, just barely averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. Jonathan Taylor was quiet as well, only gaining 47 yards, the Panthers defence could have won this game for them if not for the mistakes of their quarterback. The Colts head to Germany to face the Patriots, will Minshew Mania run wild in Frankfurt?
Las Vegas Raiders 30 – New York Giants 6
The Giants are competing for the number one pick, they have lost Daniel Jones for the season and at 2-7 they currently hold the 3rd overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Big Blue has their fans feeling blue as they watched Jones knee buckle not once but twice in this game before he was relieved by Tommy DeVito who once again struggled, finding himself picked on consecutive pass attempts. The Giants will have to figure out their next step, with Jones done for the year and Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve, they need another quarterback pronto!
Antonio Pierce, the Raiders new Head Coach made his debut with a bang against the Giants. Starting the rookie Aidan O’Connell who looked much better in his second start, while he didn’t throw a touchdown, he did not throw an interception which is much better than his debut! He also avoided being sacked and displayed some impressive accuracy leading the Raiders to a dominating win!
Philadelphia Eagles 28 – Dallas Cowboys 23
The NFC East battle between 1 and 2 took place on Sunday and the Eagles came out on top and remain the top team in the NFL based on their win/loss record. Hurts continues to play at a high level, maybe even an MVP level if you ask the Philly faithful. While the Dallas defence is a tough nut to crack at times, Hurt managed to find the endzone twice and throw for over 200 yards. The Eagles defence wasn’t a push over either and they kept the pressure on all night, eventually sacking Prescott in the final minute of the game, sealing the win.
Dak out played Hurts on the statsheet but it wasn’t enough to close out the divisional contest. If you just look at the stats and not the score, you’d have assumed the Cowboys won the match up as they beat the Eagles on paper but on the field it was a different story. Dak stepping out of bounds on a critical two point conversion put the Cowboys on the back foot and they failed to recover the fumble by D’Andre Swift which would have changed the momentum of the contest. Week 14 and the rematch cannot come quick enough!
Sunday Night Football
Cincinnati Bengals 24 – Buffalo Bills 18
If there were any doubts that Burrow is back to his old self, then look no further than this game. Another week of phenomenal play by Burrow is putting the calf injury concern well in the rear view mirror. Even suffering a blooded index finger on his throwing hand couldn’t stop him dismantling the Bills on Sunday Night Football. While the offense slowed down in the second half Burrow still managed the game and ran out the clock on the Bills, the Steelers, Browns and Ravens might need to check their rear view mirrors, the Bengals are hot on their heels!
The Bills started slow and never recovered, this seems to be a common theme across the NFL, the slow start means you’ve lost the game barring an incredible rally or collapse by the other team. Is Josh Allen a victim of the Madden Curse? He is having issues with consistency and accuracy and while he kept the chains moving by picking up 1st downs with his legs, the Bills are slumping as we enter the second half of the season. If they want to make the playoffs they need to rekindle fire behind their explosive offense!
Monday Night Football
Los Angeles Chargers 27 – New York Jets 6
A win is a win, even if it an ugly win, which the Chargers seem to be becoming experts in this season. At 4-4 they are currently in the bottom half of the AFC standings and will struggle to find the playoffs if they continue this trend. Herbert had a passer rating of 65.4 against the Jets and Ekelers two touchdowns helped the Chargers bring home the win even though the Chargers offensive line seemingly tried to get Herbert killed, allowing free rushes at him all game. This will need to be addressed if they are to challenge for a playoff spot!
How Zack Wilson wasn’t benched during this game is the ultimate question, the Jets fans have to be wondering what their season would have looked like if Aaron Rodgers didn’t go down injured. The entire Jets offense is built just for Rodgers which is questionable at best as what if he got hurt? Well he did and now Wilson is struggling in a system that was built around one man, while Wilson should shoulder the blame for the loss, the Jets front office need to shoulder the blame for the way the offense was built out.
As we now enter the back half of the season, every game becomes a must win for playoff hopefuls, every division match up becomes a fever pitched slobberknocker and we start to see the NFL Draft order develop!
Catch you all next week!