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 5: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports

By Anthony Goss

Life as an NFL fan can be very rewarding, and other times hurt like hell.

There are the surprise road victories, enjoyed by Dolphin fans and Raider fans nationwide on Sunday. Contrast to the jubilation, there are tragic injuries that have the power to take the life out of stadiums as big as AT&T Stadium.

This season, these feelings have been given an extra catalyst as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the league’s schedule. Fans now need to prepare for double-headers on Monday nights, or Tuesday night football (maybe not the worst thing in the world). 

Nevertheless, the games are still played, and fans see the success, the failure, and ride the rollercoaster of emotions all the way through Super Bowl Sunday.  

Three Good Things 

Raiders-Chiefs Thriller 

On a Sunday lacking any real heavyweight matchups, the Raiders and Chiefs provided an entertaining battle in Arrowhead Stadium. After the first few weeks of the season, the Chiefs had dismantled the Baltimore Ravens, but struggled a bit against some of their lesser competition. 

QB Patrick Mahomes II made some incredible plays, as per usual, but the Raiders went toe-to-toe with the defending champs, making a statement in a 40-32 victory. QB Derek Carr played one of his best games in the silver and black, throwing for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a pair of lasers to WR Nelson Agholor and WR Henry Ruggs III. 

After an offensive flurry in the first half, the defense stepped up in the second half with crucial stops and an interception by DB Jeff Heath which helped seal the game. The Chiefs should win the AFC West, but with the new expanded playoffs, the Raiders are strong contenders for a playoff spot.  

Battle for the AFC North 

Besides the Cincinatti Bengals, the AFC North has been great through five weeks. In first place, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 4-0 and QB Ben Roethlisberger has found another weapon in a stellar offense with rookie WR Chase Claypool. The Steeler defense is a strong unit once again, although giving up 29 points to the Eagles is surprising.

The Baltimore Ravens, led by QB Lamar Jackson, have bounced back after the loss against the Chiefs with a 27-3 win over division rival Cincinatti. Cleveland is off to its best start since the Bill Belichick and Nick Saban days. Sunday against the Colts, the Browns offense had key contributions from several players and defensively, Myles Garrett is reminding everyone why he was taken first overall in 2017.

Each of these teams have an argument for the best in the division, but Cleveland’s matchup against the Steelers this week will be a chance for each team to make a big statement. 

Panthers Keep Pounding 

Going into the season, analysts and insiders raved about the battle for the division between Brady’s Bucs, Brees’ Saints, and Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

Forgotten were the Carolina Panthers, yet after Week 5 they are sitting at 3-2, tied with the Saints and Buccaneers atop the NFC South without their best player, RB Christian McCaffery. Head coach Matt Rhule deserves a lot of credit for the success in Carolina, but Teddy Bridgewater has been solid and built off his performance last week, throwing for 313 yards and 2 touchdowns.

RB Mike Davis has stepped in and become a fantasy football darling in place of McCafferey. With a game against the Saints looming ahead, as well as a rematch with the Falcons, the Panthers have an opportunity to assert themselves in the NFC South. 

Three Bad Things 

Dak Goes Down 

This was tough to watch.

QB Dak Prescott was off to a record start this season, until he suffered a gruesome injury on Sunday afternoon. Running for a first down, Prescott collided with Giants DB Logan Thomas, and his ankle buckled as he came to the ground. The image of Prescott sitting on the cart with tears cascading down his cheeks left fans of all teams stunned. 

Dallas lost the heart and soul of its franchise on Sunday, but hope is not lost (yet). QB Andy Dalton stepped in and marched the offense down the field, highlighted by two spectacular grabs by WR Michael Gallup, and K Greg Zuerlein buried a game-winning field goal.

Many issues remain with the Dallas Cowboys, but Dalton has proven to be a competent NFL quarterback, and the defense showed slight improvement, albeit against a lackluster Giants offense. In such a weak division, the Cowboys can still contend for a playoff spot, but one must wonder how feasible this is without Prescott.  

Falcons Take Fifth Loss 

After another disappointing loss, the Falcons have fired head coach Dan Quinn. After two consecutive blown leads, followed by losses to Green Bay and division rival Carolina, it was time for Quinn to go. The Falcons 0-5 start should not be all his fault since the defense has been poor, QB Matt Ryan has struggled, and WR Julio Jones has been dealing with a hamstring injury for several weeks. 

The onside hiccup in Dallas seems to have had a lasting impact on the Falcons, because they lack the confidence they should have with the talent on this roster. Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris will take over as interim head coach, but with the way the season has gone already, there is not much left to salvage. 

Vikings Blow a Prime Opportunity 

Very few, including myself, gave the Vikings a chance on Sunday night. Some might have watched the Lose Angeles Lakers win their 17th NBA championship, or tuned in to Game 1 of the ALCS.

While these games were played, the Vikings claimed a 13-3 lead at halftime, and hung with the Seahawks in the fourth quarter. Up 26-21 late in the fourth, the Vikings decided to go for a fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 6-yard line, instead of kicking a field goal to go up by eight. Minnesota failed to convert, and QB Russell Wilson made Vikings Head Coach, Mike Zimmer, pay for the poor decision.

A win against Seattle would have given Minnesota a 2-3 record with a prime opportunity to get back to .500 with a win against Atlanta next week, but instead they sit at 1-4. 

Keep an eye on… 

Justin Herbert’s Development 

It is very frustrating to watch the Chargers try to finish games this season, but very little of the blame can be attributed to rookie QB Justin Herbert.

Despite the 30-27 OT loss to the Saints, Herbert has stormed out of the gates this season and confidently competed against three of the best quarterbacks in the league. Herbert threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns, and three of those came in the first half. It seems like ages ago that head coach Anthony Lynn said he would not be the starter, but now the Chargers have their guy and look ready to move past the Philip Rivers years.

The Chargers will not contend this year, but with Herbert, they are certainly a fun team to watch.  

Football Hall of Fame Series: Charles Haley

By Josh Svetz

The game of football has had many polarizing figures in its history. However, sometimes the off-field reputation of a player can outweigh his greatness on the field, and former San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys great Charles Haley is the epitome of that

For thirteen seasons, Haley was a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. He was a five-time Super Bowl champion (the only player ever to win five) and a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He finished his career with over 100 sacks and 26 forced fumbles.

However, Haley’s on field achievements have been severely outweighed by stories of his locker room and off field behavior during his career.

Just a few highlights of Haley’s alleged bizarre behavior are the time he urinated on a teammates’ BMW, attempted to punch 49ers coach George Seifert and made lewd gestures during team meetings.

Of course, his past behavior can be explained by his diagnosis of bipolar disorder among other mental issues. Despite his challenges, through therapy and medication, Haley has been able to manage his mental state, becoming a genuinely changed man in the process.

Haley understands his past mistakes and hasn’t been shy about owning up to his baggage when asked about the occurrences, especially with the 49ers, who traded him to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 as a result of his behavior.

“There was a ton of bad blood from my stand point,” said Haley. “When I left (the 49ers) I didn’t talk to anybody there. I was just mad at the world and (at the time) I never looked at my side of the fence. I just pointed the finger at everyone who I felt like betrayed me.”

Since then, however, Haley has made amends with the 49ers, repairing his relationship with the organization enough to be able to work with players like Aldon Smith and be invited to talk to rookies during rookie minicamp.

Even with the relationship repaired, Haley couldn’t figure out why the 49ers were able to forgive him.

“(The organization) has opened their arms up to me, and I know some of my (past) actions and behavior would seem like it would close a lot of doors. I stopped asking myself why, I just started saying ‘thank you god for having all these people around me that care about me’,” said Haley.

“I tell kids that when I went to the NFL as a twenty-two year old athlete I had an eleven year old kid crying inside of me for help, but I refused to ask for it. I think the people that reached out to me were the people that saw me hurting and knew that I needed help, but knew I was too dumb or weak to ask for it.

“Regardless of why they did it, I’m very appreciative. I realize at this stage in my life that it’s better to mend bridges than burn them down, and all those people that helped me in my career, all I can tell them is thank you and I love you.”

Despite the people that helped Haley and the bridges he’s mended, he still recognizes that some of his former teammates and coaches have not forgiven him for his past indiscretions.

“I just let people watch the way I am now and try to be a friend”, said Haley.

“How many times can you tell someone that you’re sorry? The thing that people want to know is that you have changed and that’s what’s more important is that I have changed.”

Haley began to get a little emotional as he continued to explain his thoughts.

“I tell my (former) teammates, I tell everyone that ‘you know what, I’m not going to have one foot in the grave and one foot out,” he said. “I’m moving forward. (If) you want to move with me that’s fine; I’m just not going to turn around and let my mistakes get behind me and come back up.

“I’ve moved past that, when my teammates or whoever come around they know that I’ll go out of my way to be supportive in all the things that they do. If they don’t know they should know, (because) actions speak louder than words.”

Haley has indeed let those actions speak, as he has been involved with numerous charities and become a mentor to aspiring football players as well as current players like the aforementioned Smith. Haley reached out to Smith when the 25-year-old linebacker entered rehab, and has since helped him with his off field struggles.

In the end, despite the hurtful behavior Haley displayed during his early years in the NFL, he has made amends and moved forward. His story shows us that people can change for the better even if they make the bad decisions he did.

While Haley’s past reputation will always be mentioned, his present actions show that those shouldn’t represent him. His enshrinement into Canton will allow his legacy to be defined by his impact on the football field and the man he is today.

Opinion: NFL cares more about money than player safety

By Tanner Jubenville, @TMJubenville

The National Football League’s concerns with player safety and lust for profit remain incompatible.

The league continues to schedule Thursday night games which forces players to compete on less rest. Players who play on Thursday face a higher risk of injury than those who don’t.

Several players, both current and retired, have spoken out against Thursday games.

“Go get into a car accident and play two days later. That’s how it feels,” says former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson.

“It’s definitely an issue in terms of health and safety,” says Redskins linebacker London Fletcher.

Studies have shown players who play on three days of rest risk a higher chance of injury than players with six days rest.

Continue reading “Opinion: NFL cares more about money than player safety”