photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
By Anthony Goss
With several close games this weekend, the two-point conversion attempt became a major point of discussion for several teams.
The Houston Texans went for an aggressive two-point attempt, which cost them a victory. Philadelphia was close to completing a comeback against the Batltimore Ravens, but a failed attempt sealed their defeat. Such a seemingly easy setup, it is surprising that it has such a low success rate.
When teams convert, it is a stroke of genius, but failed attempts are hailed as unnecessary or aggressive. With that said, I enjoy watching a team play to win. It is certainly a gamble (maybe not even a smart one), but Washington head coach Ron Rivera put it best this weekend after his questionable two-point try against the Giants.
“The only way you learn to win is to play to win,” Rivera said.
Three Good Things
Steelers and Titans Race Out to 5-0
Sunday afternoon, the two undefeated teams left in the AFC won big divisional matchups. The Steelers absolutely throttled the Cleveland Browns in a 38-7 rout.
LB Bud Dupree and the Pittsburgh defense looked like a hungry pack of wolves going against a banged-up Browns offense that was not prepared for the pressure and physicality of Pittsburgh. Having QB Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup has made a huge difference, and this offense has not reached its full potential yet.
Tennessee survived a furious upset attempt by QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans. The Titans sent the game to overtime after a 7-yard touchdown catch by WR AJ Brown from QB Ryan Tannehill. RB Derrick Henry finished off the Texans with a 5-yard run to cap off a stellar performance with 212 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of which was a 94-yard run.
Tennessee has one of the most efficient offenses in the league, and while most will think of the monster in the backfield, Tannehill has been outstanding this season and his play has elevated the Titans passing attack. Off to historical starts, these two teams will meet next week for a must-see matchup on Sunday afternoon.
Chicago finishes strong against Carolina
It is time to give Chicago its due respect.
After a surprising win against the Buccaneers last week, the Bears pulled out a close win in an ugly game at Carolina.
“We’d rather win ugly than lose pretty,” said QB Nick Foles. The Bears defense was great in this game, totaling four sacks, and picked off QB Teddy Bridgewater twice, the second of which sealed the game. Sitting at 5-1, the Bears have picked up wins against some of the lesser teams in the league, but as the saying goes, “you play who is on your schedule.”
Speaking of schedules, the Bears have two huge NFC matchups coming up, including a Monday night tilt in Inglewood against the Rams next week. Winning those games could give this gritty Bears team an inside track to a playoff berth.
Chiefs Dominate on the Ground
Kansas City is famous for its barbecue, and the Chiefs absolutely smoked the Bills run defense on Monday afternoon. In another installment of rescheduled football due to COVID-19, the Chiefs controlled the Bills on their way to a 26-17 win.
Both teams struggled to throw the ball early in the game in ugly weather, but rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire carried the Kansas City offense with 161 rushing yards, running for 6.2 yards per carry. The Chiefs ran for 245 yards as a team, but this explosive run game is nothing new. The Chiefs have focused on improving their run-game this season and they have done so, ranking sixth in the league in rushing yards per game which is up sixteen spots from where they finished last season.
Head coach Andy Reid has added another explosive dimension to an offense that is already so lethal with QB Patrick Mahomes II at the helm. This goes without the fact that Kansas City just added RB Le’Veon Bell, who can provide some added production in a great system. Despite the loss last week, I find it hard to believe there is another team better than the Chiefs at this point in the season.
Three Bad Things
Packers Poor Effort
Coming out of a bye week, the Packers put up a very poor effort in Tampa Bay. This game was supposed to be a battle of all-time great quarterbacks, but a strong defensive performance by Tampa Bay made the difference on Sunday afternoon.
The Buccaneers defense bullied QB Aaron Rodgers, who threw two interceptions, including a pick-six that flipped the momentum of the game. Green Bay gave up 28 points in the second quarter and the game was basically over at halftime. In the second half, Rodgers looked completely disinterested at times, and this trickled down to the defense as well.
This was a surprising result from the Packers, who had looked outstanding in the games prior to Week 6. This should be only a minor setback for one of the NFL’s top teams, and they should regain momentum in the coming weeks with matchups against the struggling Texans and Vikings.
Vikings Disappoint Once Again
It has been a rough year for Minnesota and it only got worse after losing to the previously 0-5 Falcons at home. This Falcons team — infamous for blown leads this season, who just fired their head coach, and having one of the worst pass defenses in the league — shut out the Vikings in the first half.
Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins was nothing short of atrocious in the first two quarters with three interceptions, but connected with rookie WR Justin Jefferson for two scores in the second half.
WR Julio Jones had his best game of the season against the Vikings defense, putting up 8 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back from a hamstring injury. The absence of RB Dalvin Cook was noticed as well, shown by the frail 32-yard performance put up by his replacements. Cook should return after the bye week, but with the Vikings already in a 1-5 hole, it may not matter.
Another Bad Week in the NFC East
In case you forgot, one of the Cowboys, Eagles, Football Team, or Giants will be hosting a playoff game this season. The only win this division got this weekend was the Giants, grabbing a 20-19 win against Washington after an aggressive two-point conversion attempt by the Football Team failed.
Previously, I have held confidence in Dallas crawling to the finish line in first place, but after an embarrassing performance against Arizona on Monday Night Football, I now give the slight nod to the Eagles, who boast a record of 1-4-1.
The Eagles have been extremely unlucky with injuries this season, but QB Carson Wentz’s turnover bug has kept them from winning games. By no means are the Eagles true contenders, but with the state of the division right now, it is hard to imagine another team taking the NFC East crown besides them when they get some key pieces back from injury. The Eagles can start to right the ship with a win against the Giants on Thursday, and the following week they host the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Keep an Eye on….
Steelers vs. Titans Matchup
While COVID-19 has put a strange wrinkle in the 2020-21 season, most fans are probably happy that this game was moved to Week 7. After an arguably lackluster slate of games in Week 6, Week 7 presents a matchup of heavyweights in the AFC.
The Steelers and Titans are off to historic starts at 5-0, and Sunday’s game will pin strength against strength in Nashville, Tennessee. The vaunted Steeler defense, coming off a game where they shut down the league’s best rushing attack, will now be tasked with stopping a Titans offense coming off back-to-back 40-point performances.
This game has added importance because of the expanded playoff format instituted this season. There is only one first-round bye to play for, and with the Chiefs lurking at 5-1, staying undefeated and grabbing a head-to-head advantage could pay major dividends down the road.