NFL WEEK 7: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

This fall, the Tampa Bay Lighting won the Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the World Series, and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are blazing their own path to a divisional crown and potentially a Super Bowl appearance.

The latter might be far away, but the excitement is real for Tampa fans since QB Tom Brady has rejuvenated this Buccaneers franchise, and now they are one of the best teams in the NFL.

Many doubted the ability of the six-time champion, but Brady has played with a chip on his shoulder this season. His play has contributed to making Tampa Bay the new epicenter of the sports world.

Three Good Things 

Steelers Outlast Titans 

In a battle of undefeated teams, the Steelers outlasted a furious rally from the Tennessee Titans to move to 6-0 on the season. This game was a tale of two halves, as the Steelers raced out to a 24-7 lead, and in the second half the Titans stormed back and nearly sent the game to overtime. 

QB Ben Roethlisberger was not himself, but the Steelers defense had another strong performance led by LB Bud Dupree and DE TJ Watt. In the past weeks, the Steelers’ record was questioned because they had not beaten a quality team, but in the last two weeks they have shut down two of the best rushing attacks in the league and grabbed wins against quality AFC opponents.

The offense arguably has not reached its full potential yet, but almost every skill position player has the potential to breakout any given week: This week, RB James Conner led the rushing game with 20 carries for 82 yards and WR Juju Smith-Schuster took the opportunity to silence critics with 9 catches for 85 yards. The Steelers sit at first place in the AFC North and can strengthen their hold in the division with a pivotal game against Baltimore on Sunday.  

Brady and the Bucs look Dominant 

Despite a couple hiccups early in the season, the Buccaneers have been a force on both sides of the ball. QB Tom Brady looks motivated to silence the critics, and he followed up a quiet performance last week by gashing a weak Raiders defense with 369 yards and four touchdowns, which lifted him into the all-time for passing touchdowns.  

After his last year in New England with limited options on offense, Brady has a plethora of exceptional weapons this season. In a couple weeks, Tampa will be adding WR Antonio Brown to this offensive attack.

If they can keep his antics under control, this surging Buccaneers offense will really start to give opposing defenses headaches. Defensively, the Buccaneers held a solid Raiders run game to seventy-six yards and have yet to allow over a hundred rushing yards in any game this season. Through seven games, the Buccaneers have established the best run defense and become one of the best total defenses in football. 

Linebackers Lavonte David Devin White are anchoring a nasty Buccaneers defense. The obsession with winning and preparedness that has become a hallmark of Brady’s illustrious career seems has reflected on his teammates and turned Tampa Bay into one of the best teams in the NFC.  

Cardinals End Seahawks Undefeated Streak 

In a Sunday night shootout, the Cardinals handed Seattle its first loss of the season. A couple weeks ago, I mentioned some of the strange results from Arizona after bursting out to a 2-0 start, but QB Kyler Murray and company have regained their mojo with three straight wins.

Given the crowded situation in the NFC, winning divisional matchups and protecting home-field is vital, and the Cardinals did exactly that. QB Russell Wilson’s turnovers were out of character, but the Cardinals deserve credit for taking advantage and making the plays necessary to win. 

Murray’s dynamic performance resulted in 360 passing yards and sixty-seven rushing yards with four total touchdowns. His connection with WR DeAndre Hopkins grows stronger every week and points further to the potency of this offense. The loss of RB Kenyan Drake to an ankle injury hurts, but Arizona should be able to handle the loss. 

If Sunday night is any indication of what is to come in this division the next half of the season, the NFC West race will be one to keep an eye on until Wild Card Weekend.  

Three Bad Things 

Cam Newton Starting to Struggle  

After a decent start, the Cam Newton experiment at quarterback has gone sour in New England. Many attributed last week’s poor showing against Denver to the weird rescheduling consequences from a COVID-19 outbreak, but with Sunday’s loss, the Patriots have put themselves in unfamiliar territory. 

At 2-4, the Patriots are third in the AFC East with many holes on both sides, but quarterback play has been the main issue on this losing skid. Newton was deplorable with ninety-eight yards and three interceptions on Sunday.

Bill Belichick pulled Newton toward the end of the game and many were critical of Newton’s latest performances, including himself. The Patriots lack any speed or playmakers, and the defense has its own issues. However, Newton must elevate his game going forward to prove his worth as a starting quarterback. With a big game against Buffalo next week, there is no better time for Newton to right the wrongs and put the Patriots back into the race for the AFC East.  

Turmoil in Dallas 

Once again, the Dallas Cowboys took the field and embarrassed themselves. 

After a week of controversy with reports leaking out about discontent with the coaching staff among the players, Dallas continued to struggle against division rival Washington. The loss of QB Dak Prescott has had a severe effect on this offense, which mustered up only three points Sunday. 

The defense has been extremely poor this season and has given up a record amount of points. No moment captures the 2020 Cowboys better than the dirty hit by Washington LB Jon Bostic on QB Andy Dalton, a hit that was followed by absolutely no retaliation by any Dallas player. Beyond the major character issues spread throughout the team, the Cowboys simply lack the talent to compete with most teams.

Prescott’s presence was only able to mask those problems to an extent, but without him, one must question the front office and the decisions they have made. Letting CB Byron Jones leave was a horrible mistake, yet they paid players RB Ezekiel Elliot and LB Jaylon Smith who have contributed next to nothing this season. 

Head coach Mike McCarthy was supposed to turn the Cowboys from a good to a great team after a year off, but has only made things worse. There are some bad football teams in the NFL, but the Cowboys are a bad team without upside. 

Falcons Collapse…..Again 

When a team loses by accidentally scoring a touchdown, it is fair to say they have invented new ways to lose. Down by two, Atlanta put together a solid drive to run clock and potentially win the game in the final seconds. 

On a first-and-goal play, RB Todd Gurley rushed through the line and broke into the secondary but could not stop his momentum before the goal line and accidentally scored a touchdown with a little over a minute left to play. This gave QB Matthew Stafford plenty of time to march down the field and toss a game winning touchdown to TE TJ Hockenson. 

Sitting at 1-6, the Falcons add another gut-wrenching loss to their record. Last week was a fresh start with a win against Minnesota, but this loss is a major setback for any hopes of climbing back into contention. Strange things have happened this season, but the ways in which Atlanta has struggled to finish games is incredible.  

Keep an Eye On…. 

NFC West Race 

San Francisco’s win brought the 49ers back over .500, the Rams defeated the Bears on Monday night, and Arizona’s win over Seattle gave them their second divisional win. Each of the four teams in the NFC West have an argument for being the best team in the division. With a long way to go, this divisional race is becoming one of the exciting storylines in the NFL.  

NFL WEEK 4: Bills and Packers continue to roll; Herbert shows growth for Chargers; coaching dilemma in ATL

photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

By Nic Gelyon

The Buffalo Bills are setting themselves apart from the pack. 

The Bills are now one of only four teams in the NFL that remain undefeated through Week Four. Their style of play — a rare combination of physicality and finesse — is reminiscent of last year’s Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs. 

Sunday afternoon, in the Buffalo’s 30-23 win against the Las Vegas Raiders, Josh Allen threw for 288 yards, with leading receiver Stefon Diggs hauling in 115 of them. Running back Devin Singletary was also a force Sunday, touching the ball 23 times for 76 total yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

Both teams played well: There were only four punts combined all afternoon- meaning that this was a game that came down to pure skill. And in that department, the Bills delivered. 

That’s a tremendous sign if you’re a Bills fan, because this game officially told you that the Bills’ talent is a force to be reckoned with. You’re playing with fire when you play the Bills.  

The Raiders also have a solid, young-but-inexperienced core with players like Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. They also have a veteran spine, in guys like Derek Carr and Jason Witten. But the Bills proved Sunday that as a team trying to win now, they simply have a better foundation.  

From the beginning, the game never really seemed in doubt. However, the game was a lot closer than it seemed, both statistically and in the score. The Bills only held a 17-13 lead going into halftime. 

But was the game ever in doubt? The answer is no. 

It comes down to the fact that this Bills team is maturing. It seems like an obvious statement to make- a Bills team that has been steadily improving for three-to-four years now is finally growing up. But maturation in football is an underrated concept, in ways you might not expect. 

Right out of the gate, the Bills went down and scored on a 26-yard pass from Allen to rookie receiver Gabriel Davis. Less than five minutes into the first quarter, on the first drive of the game, Josh Allen passed six times. He made sure he went to weapons he trusted: Diggs, Singletary, Davis. The Bills let the Raiders beat themselves, as a Las Vegas penalty turned a Bills third-and-11 in to a third-and-six just over a minute into the game. 

The Bills — Sean McDermott included — have learned how glorious it feels to make this kind of statement early in a game. 

That first drive showed growing maturity in not only the Buffalo players, but also in McDermott. He knows that he doesn’t have a team that can afford to wait-and-see early in a game. McDermott practices the mind-game that is football. He knows that the statement his team made left a lasting impression on the Raiders. 

McDermott made us all believe that the game was over before it had even started. All at once, Bills Mafia felt a collective trust in the Buffalo Bills. When’s the last time you’ve felt that? 

My hot take for the day: these Bills can do what the Chiefs did last year. They can win the Super Bowl. 

Two words: Justin Herbert. 

Herbert, fresh out of college at Oregon, went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the Chargers’ 38-31 loss Sunday afternoon. Without much of a rushing attack to speak of, (46 yards for the Chargers compared the Buccaneers’ 115) Herbert managed to go touchdown to touchdown with Brady late in the game as the Chargers blew a 24-7 lead in the second half.  

Herbert alone kept the Chargers in that football game. 

Now, I’ve admittedly calmed down since Sunday. I’ve come to the realization that Herbert probably looked amazing the way Daniel Jones looked amazing against the Buccaneers last year. Tampa Bay has one of the worst secondaries in football. But he still showed laser accuracy while standing in the pocket. He looked poised in what was only his third NFL start. He had a chance to break records Sunday. 

One thing, though, is for sure: Tyrod Taylor is starting QB for the Chargers no more. 

We must stop worrying about the Green Bay Packers. 

First: for Packers fans angry that they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2011- well, the Bills haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1994. Argument over. 

Anyway, the team that went 13-3 and got to the NFC Conference Championship last year did what they were supposed to do against the Atlanta Falcons. They did what three other teams haven’t really been able to do this season. 

They took a sledgehammer to one of the worst teams in the NFL. They went into halftime with a 20-3 lead. They won the game 30-16, handing the 0-4 team their largest margin of loss yet Monday night. 

The Packers are a real football team. After all, they are 4-0. 

Oh, the Falcons. It seems I will never understand the Atlanta Falcons. 

Dan Quinn is confused. Dan Quinn is frustrated. These are actual quotes from – guess who – Dan Quinn. 

Jeff Schultz, Atlanta sportswriter for The Athletic, tweeted yesterday that “there’s no indication at this time that Falcons coach Dan Quinn is getting fired today”. 

Who did get fired yesterday? Bill O’Brien, who led the Texans to the playoffs four times in seven seasons as head coach, reaching the divisional round twice- including just last year, when they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

Quinn has only made the playoffs twice since becoming Falcons head coach in 2015. His record is only 43-40 after 4 additional losses this season. 

Quinn is quite literally the last one standing. It’s time for the Falcons to give up on this game. 

WEEK 3 NFL COLUMN: Allen’s immaturity could hurt Bills; Mahomes shines again; Foles picks up Trubisky’s slack

photo: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

By Nic Gelyon

The love affair between myself and Josh Allen has been a bumpy ride from the start. 

I’ll admit that I went into a fit of rage three years ago when the Buffalo Bills drafted Allen seventh overall. I’ll admit that I was discouraged, angry even, with Allen’s lack of progression the past couple seasons. 

And the Bills’ collapse in last year’s Wild Card game didn’t exactly boost my confidence. 

But here we are. We’re wrapping up what has been an amazing September for the Bills. 

Allen – and the Bills in general – are now the stereotypical “media darlings” in NFL circles. 

Allen is suddenly an MVP candidate. The ‘Bills-could-make-the-Super Bowl’ bandwagon is growing stronger by the minute. I should be elated, perhaps overcome, with joy: My team and my city are finally relevant. 

But I can’t believe the Bills will live up to that hype. Not until I see better from Josh Allen than I did on Sunday. 

Late in the Bills’ 35-32 tire-fire win against the 2-0 Los Angeles Rams, the immaturity I’ve witnessed for three years returned to haunt the Buffalo Bills.

Everything I’ve grown to love about Josh Allen turned into everything I can’t stand about him. 

The Bills built a 28-3 lead on the back of Allen’s steadiness. He stood in the pocket, welcomed pressure, and got the ball out quickly over the middle. Everything was clicking— until it all unraveled. 

 It all unraveled when a well-thrown Allen pass was caught by Tyler Kroft, and then wrestled out of his hands by Rams safety John Johnson. 

It was a controversial call, at best. Allen became visibly upset, like most Bills fans, when officials announced their ruling of an interception. It fired him up. Allen was ready for revenge. 

And I have no problem with Allen getting angry, I was ready to punch a hole in the TV myself. But the best-of-the-best know how to control their fire. They can single-handedly shift the team mentality to an urgent coolness. A calm confidence. 

But it’s apparent Allen has not yet learned to control his fire. Instead, he panicked.

He started overthrowing receivers. He took too long to read coverages. He started running away from Rams defenders who weren’t really there. 

He lost his cool. 

In moments of crisis, Allen has always seemed to lose focus. He plays with his heart and not his head. His fundamentals, which I can tell Allen worked on in the offseason, are lost in the heat of passion.  

And I’ll give credit where it’s due- no matter what penalty was called at the end of the game, Allen still threw the game-winning touchdown to – guess who – Tyler Kroft. Someone must have sat him down for a second, refocused him, shown him what good leadership looks like. He calmed down, and he came in clutch to get the Bills to 3-0. 

But it shouldn’t have come to that.

In year three, I wanted Allen’s immaturity to end. Whatever progress Allen made fundamentally in the offseason won’t matter if he can’t improve his mindset come crunch time.

We all saw prime erratic Josh Allen on Sunday. And that worries me come playoff time. 

PAT MAHOMES – sorry, Patrick Mahomes – was responsible for three passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, and 274 total yards in the first half of the Chiefs’ dominant 34-20 performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. 

The Ravens couldn’t contain the Chiefs’ passing game in the first half. But it had more to do with the Ravens’ defensive strategy than their players. 

The Ravens blitz a lot, and Monday night was no different. I call it the Wink Martindale special.

 But this week, the Ravens’ tunnel-vision blitzing allowed Chiefs receivers the room to get wide open, exploiting the resulting lack of coverage. Mahomes took full advantage. 

 The Ravens beat themselves in the first half. They shot themselves right in the foot. 

ROCHESTER, NEW YORK NATIVE and Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, after he was placed on the Falcons’ COVID-19 reserve Friday. 

It would have been an easy knee-jerk reaction for the NFL to shut down all activity between the Bears and Falcons on Sunday. Take as many precautions as humanly possible. Wrap them all in bubble-wrap. 

But the NFL was smart enough not to panic. 

Instead, the NFL quickly responded by contact-tracing Terrell. Their conclusion: the Falcons and Bears were able to safely play their game on Sunday, 

We’ll see in the coming days if any more COVID-19 cases arise from either of these teams. But as of now, it looks like the NFL made an educated, common-sense decision. Good for them. 

Speaking of the Bears… quarterback Mitch Trubisky probably would have been better off Sunday if the game had been canceled. Head coach Matt Nagy yanked Trubisky early in the third quarter during the Bears’ 30-26 comeback win against the Falcons. 

Who completed the comeback? None other than Nick Foles himself. The God. 

The benching of Trubisky is a move Chicago fans have anticipated – and welcomed – for the better part of three years. It’s become obvious that when the Bears win, it’s in spite of Trubisky, not because of him. 

But did the Bears even give Trubisky a chance on Sunday? His coaches’ actions say that they did. 

His coaches have overseen his progression. They’re the ones who knew whether Trubisky’s last pass of the game – an interception – was caused by a lack of whatever it is that makes a quarterback good. 

Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s decision to pull Trubisky means that they’re just not getting through to him. And if that’s the case, we’ve probably seen the last of Trubisky with the Bears. 

NFL WEEK 3 COLUMN: Three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

Week 3 of the NFL season carried on some of the same dramatic flair seen in Week 2 (no, this is not just the Falcons blowing two 15-point leads in the fourth quarter). 

Ranging from last-second touchdowns to unfortunate mistakes, Sunday’s slew of games highlighted the success of a few great players, but also boiled the frustrations of the fanbases watching their teams continue to struggle, including the Vikings, Texans and Jets, just to name a few.

Week 3 also had a significant decrease in major injuries, which is a major plus after the notable amount of injuries sustained by big name players in Week 2. Here are three good things, three bad things and one thing to keep an eye on heading into Week 4.  

THREE GOOD THINGS 

Josh Allen Circles the Wagons 

This take may not be new to the fans in western New York, but after Sunday’s outing against the Rams, it is time for the rest of the league to take the Bills, and specifically quarterback Josh Allen, more seriously.

Give credit to the Rams for finding their way back from a 28-3 deficit to retake the lead, but this game was about Allen. In a marquee game, he delivered big time for the Bills, throwing for 311 yards and 4 TD, and running for one more. 

After the Rams took the lead with 4:30 left in the game, Allen marched down the field with a couple of huge throws to wide receiver Cole Beasley and capped off the 75-yard drive with a toss to tight end Tyler Kroft to seal the game.

Last week, the Bills found themselves down against the Miami Dolphins and Allen delivered. The Rams are a much better team than the Dolphins, but Allen’s poise has been mostly consistent against all opponents this year. If he can keep up this level of play, the Bills (3-0) can become real contenders in a loaded AFC.  

Russell Wilson is leading the MVP discussion 

There is not much else to say about Russell Wilson this season except that he has been stellar. Once again, Wilson showed he is operating on a different level, as he dissected and depleted a talent-lacking Cowboys defense to the tune of 315 yards, 5 TD and a passer rating of 130.7 in a 38-31 victory for the Seahawks.

Seattle’s offense has been electric this season with Wilson at the helm, posting over 30 points in each game. Somehow, Wilson has not received the MVP award in the past, despite his role in carrying the franchise successfully for many years, but that could change this season.

Wilson will need to keep posting similar numbers and playing at this level for the Seahawks to stay atop a daunting NFC West.  

49ers Complete Big Apple Sweep 

The 49ers arguably have been plagued the most by injuries early this season.

On Sunday, San Francisco took the field without Raheem Mostert, George Kittle or Jimmy Garoppolo, and still managed to hang 36 points on the New York Giants. The 49ers win on Sunday was an impressive response after an adverse week where several key players went down, including defensive end Joey Bosa, who may be gone for the rest of the season.

Squashing two of the worst teams back to back seems like a minor headline, but San Francisco will be glad to gather up wins like these to keep pace in the best division in pro football.  

THREE BAD THINGS 

Turn Up the Heat on the ATL Hot Seat 

If the NFL played three quarters, the Falcons would be sitting at 2-1 and tied for the lead in the NFC South. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and head coach Dan Quinn’s team has struggled mightily the last two weeks to finish football games.

After their debacle in Dallas, the Falcons headed home for what most thought would be a game for them to get back on track. Taking a 26-10 lead into the fourth quarter, it seemed like they were in a good spot.

Then, Nick Foles came in at quarterback for Mitchell Trubisky (which may be a permanent change). Foles rallied the Bears with three scores in the fourth, sending Twitter into another frenzy and the Falcons to a record of 0-3.

Granted, the team was without Pro Bowl wideout Julio Jones, but the defense struggled down the stretch and the offense could not make any winning plays to put the game out of reach. 

To make matters worse, Atlanta travels to Green Bay next Monday night to play a team averaging over 40 points per game. If Quinn fails to have his team ready, Aaron Rodgers and a potent Packers offense will not hesitate to send them to 0-4. 

NFC (L)EAST 

Once again, the NFC East is the worst division in football.

Starting at the top (surprisingly), the Washington Football Team is a young group not expected to do much, but quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the offense turned the ball over five times against the Browns. Defensive lineman Chase Young also went down with a groin injury, but it should not keep him out of action for a significant amount of time. 

Dallas has shown some good in the early stages of the Mike McCarthy era, but a lot more disappointment. Kellen Moore’s play calling has come into question on offense, but the defense has been nothing short of atrocious. Byron Jones’ departure has hurt the secondary, which has a myriad of injuries and inconsistent play from young players has resulted in Mike Nolan’s bunch giving up an average of 277 pass yards per game and 32.3 points per game.

Dak Prescott has played well for the most part, but a banged-up offensive line has underperformed expectations. There is time for the Cowboys to try and fix some of these issues, but this team has disappointed in the early stages of the season.

The Eagles disappointed once again, unable to beat Joe Burrow and the Bengals at home. Carson Wentz continued to struggle and turn the ball over, adding two more interceptions to his season total, but managed to run for a touchdown that ended up being the last score in a 23-23 tie.

The Eagles are a bad football team, but the Giants look even worse, sitting at 0-3. Losing running back Saquon Barkley has not helped, but their offense is extremely lacking so far, ranking near the bottom of the league in team offense and only averaging 272.3 yards on offense.

Despite this horrendous start for the division, Dallas still looks like the best team and should win the division, but whoever wins may not finish with a record over .500.  

Cooldown for Kyler 

The Lions shocking victory fell a little under the radar Sunday afternoon, as Matt Prater booted Detroit to its first win of the season.

More than anything, this game showed second-year quarterback Kyler Murray still has lots of room to grow. Murray threw for 270 and two touchdowns, but his three interceptions proved costly for the Cardinals.

Murray has been electric this season, and his touchdown run exemplified this explosiveness, but Sunday showed some flaws he has as a young quarterback.

Murray rushed some throws and made some poor reads, but these mistakes take very little away from him as a player. If anything, he will use this game as a lesson to grow. 

The Cardinals are still a very talented group, and Murray’s connection with newly aquired wideout Deandre Hopkins continues to demonstrate the incompetence of Texans coach Bill O’Brien (who infamously traded Hopkins away).

Regardless, Kliff Kingsbury’s team is an exciting storyline early in the season and should play a role in shaping the NFC playoff picture. Sitting at 2-1, the Cardinals now head out of the desert for a three-game road trip against teams all with losing records.  

Keep an Eye On: Status of Michael Thomas 

The New Orleans Saints sit at 1-2 after falling to the Packers on Sunday night. While a single WR should not be the deciding factor for a Drew Brees-led offense, Thomas’ presence has certainly been missed. 

Thomas, the NFL’s leading receiver a year ago, has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain.

Thomas presents a downfield threat for the Saints that other wideouts on the roster just can’t provide. The offense was better against Green Bay than it was against Vegas a week ago, but if the Saints are going to win the NFC South and an aging Drew Brees can be the best version of himself, Thomas needs to be on the field. 

The Saints have other issues besides the missing Thomas-Brees connection, but having him back will elevate Brees’ game and take the pressure off of running back Alvin Kamara to provide in the passing game. The Saints head to Detroit next week and will try to get back to .500 as Thomas’ injury status remains in question.