NFL Week 11: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

By Anthony Goss

The injury sustained by Bengals QB Joe Burrow was a gut punch to football fans all around the country.

After a historic collegiate season at LSU, Burrow was drafted by the Bengals, and his arrival injected enthusiasm and some swagger into the Cincinnati franchise. Make no mistake, the Bengals were not a good team even with him, but every week Burrow took the field, looking to get better and give his team at least a chance.

Sadly, an ACL tear against the Washington Football Team on Sunday will sideline him until at least next season. Burrow will be back, though, and when he gets a better offensive line and as he continues to develop, look out for the Bengals.  

Three Good Things 

Resilient Titans Walk Off in Baltimore 

The loss to the Bengals was confusing, and last week’s showing against Indianapolis spiraled out of control, but the Tennessee Titans picked themselves up and snagged a huge win against the Ravens. 

In the middle of the third quarter, the Titans faced a 21-10 deficit on the road against a Baltimore team desperate for a win itself. The Titans kicked a couple field goals early in the fourth, and after WR AJ Brown rumbled his way into the end zone, the Titans found themselves up 24-21. RB Derrick Henry had another big day, finishing with 133 yards and a walk-off touchdown in overtime to seal the game.

Tennesse moves to 7-3, keeping pace with the Colts in the AFC South and owning a tiebreaker over a possible wild card team. A win next week in their rematch with Indianapolis would vault the Titans into the third seed in the AFC playoff picture.

Mahomes Making a Case for MVP 

At the beginning of the year, it seemed like QB Russell Wilson would run away with the league’s Most Valuable Player award. QB Aaron Rodgers also made some noise recently, but at this point in the season, the defending Super Bowl MVP looks like the clear frontrunner for this year’s regular season MVP award.

Down 31-28 late in the fourth quarter, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II led a game-winning drive down the field with little resistance, capping it off with a touchdown throw to TE Travis Kelce. Mahomes finished with 348 yards two touchdowns and a rare interception against the Raiders, who are now too far back to challenge Kansas City for the AFC West crown. Mahomes has already surpassed his touchdown total from last season as well, and his incredible passing dazzles audiences every week.

Leading a 9-1 team trying to defend a championship, Mahomes likely has other goals in mind besides the MVP. However, another stellar performance next week when he matches up with future hall of fame quarterback Tom Brady could push the needle further in his direction for the award.

Another Week, Another Big Colts Victory 

Coming off a major win in Tennessee, it would have been easy for the Colts to ride high on their momentum and falter against QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

Down 28-14 at the half, this looked to be the case. Instead, the Colts rallied in the second half, led by QB Phillip Rivers, who finished with 288 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The Colts defense came up big, especially in the second half as they forced two fumbles and held the Packers to three points between half time and the end of overtime.

The Colts are not as flashy as some of the other contenders in the AFC, but when Rivers is solid leading the offense and the defense makes plays like they did on Sunday, it’s hard to argue that they cannot make a run deep in the playoffs. The Colts welcome the Titans into town next week for a matchup that may decide the winner of the AFC South.  

Three Bad Things 

Carson Wentz Struggles Continue 

It’s hard to imagine any team having a worse Sunday than the Philadelphia Eagles did. Both of their division rivals competing on Sunday won, and they suffered an ugly loss in Cleveland. There are a lot of issues with this club, whether it is coaching, injuries or other players underperforming. At a certain point though, the quarterback must be held accountable for continuous disappointment on offense.

The safety that they allowed was not ideal, and the weather certainly did not help, but the interception Wentz threw to Browns LB Sione Takitaki was a painful reminder of the turnovers plaguing Wentz this season. Wentz leads the league in interceptions and fumbles. In a division void of a quality team, it has been disappointing to see Wentz get in his own way when many thought the Eagles had the edge after the injury to Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. The road ahead does not get any easier for Philly, either. In their next three games, the Eagles will take on the three teams atop the NFC standings. 

Dolphins Take a Step Back in Mile High 

Last week, the Dolphins won another game to move to 6-3 with a manageable schedule and dreams of a playoff spot in mind. Unfortunately, the Dolphins faltered in a game they might have needed on Sunday afternoon.

The play of rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa has been good, but not great, through his first three starts, and this showed against a hungry Denver defense. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio brought the heat against the rookie, and his defense sacked Tua six times. Defense was also an issue, as the Dolphins struggled to stop the Denver run game and could not create any pressure on QB Drew Lock either.

Without any pressure from the Miami defense, the Broncos were able to control this game, although it remained close throughout. With still a couple of winnable games ahead, there is no reason to panic in Miami, but in a competitive race for a wild card spot, slip-ups like these can be costly.  

Patricia and the Lions Underwhelm Once Again 

Sunday’s game between the Panthers and the Lions was the dichotomy of two polarizing mindsets. For Carolina, there was a clear motivation to play hard and win for a coach that is changing the culture for the Panthers, and that the players respect.

On the other side, it was clear (and it has been clear for a while) that there is a rift between the players and head coach Matt Patricia. Patricia’s tenure in Detroit has been a disappointment, a 20-0 shutout to Carolina reflected this. QB Matthew Stafford’s inefficient performance totaled 178 yards and no touchdowns, and a porous offensive line allowed five sacks on Stafford. Former XFL star QB P.J. Walker had a solid NFL debut for the Panthers, and the Lions’ defensive scheme did not do much to disrupt him.

This season has been the culmination of the underwhelming seasons and disappointing finishes during the Matt Patricia tenure. The Lions will not be able to overcome their sixth loss this early in the season, and at this point, it looks like the team is ready for the season to be finished. 

Keep an Eye On… 

Thanksgiving Day Divisional Matchups 

On the biggest feasting day of the year, the Washington Football Team heads to Dallas to face the Cowboys in what should be the biggest game between 3-7 teams in recent memory. Thursday’s winner will take control of the NFC East for the time being.

On Thursday, the Steelers have an opportunity to start wrapping up the AFC North before Christmas comes around, but they will have to fend off a Baltimore squad that needs a momentum boost after consecutive weeks of disappointing finishes.  

NFL WEEK 9: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: USA Today Sports

By Anthony Goss

As the weather gets colder and the NFL playoff race heats up, I enjoy watching the teams at the middle of the pack or teams who started slow try to climb back into contention.

A perfect example of this climb is the Minnesota Vikings. After notching back-to-back wins within its division, Minnesota is inching its way into the wild card conversation. A record of 3-5 leaves the Vikings with a lot of ground to cover, but riding the coattails of RB Dalvin Cook has led to dominant performances in their last two games.

Cook has carried this offense in its last two games, totaling 369 yards and five touchdowns in victories against Green Bay and Detroit. Leading this resurgence, Cook has made his case as the best running back in the league.  

Three Good Things 

Drew Brees Orchestrates a Vintage Performance 

There has been a flagrant disregard for Saints QB Drew Brees this season.

His arm strength is fading, but he has navigated the season basically without his best receiver in WR Michael Thomas. Despite the doubt cast on Brees and the Saints leading up to their matchup against the Buccaneers, they rang the bell and beat down on Tampa Bay. Brees spread the ball to twelve different receivers and finished with 222 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 135.2. Sean Payton continued to use QB Taysom Hill as a wrinkle in an unstoppable Saints offense. The defense was on top of QB Tom Brady all night with nine hits and three sacks. 

This dominant victory puts the Saints back in the spotlight in the NFC going forward. Brees may not be the player he once was, but Sunday showed that he and the Saints are not quite ready to let go of a division they have owned the last three seasons.  

Bills Notch a Huge Win 

Questions surrounded the Bills after a streak of weak showings, mainly focusing on defense and QB Josh Allen. With a 44-34 victory over the Seahawks, the Bills silenced the critics and officially changed the trajectory of their franchise.

Allen was outstanding with 415 yards, three touchdowns, and no turnovers. The Buffalo defense also stepped up big, forcing four turnovers, generating five sacks, and kept QB Russell Wilson from finding his rhythm throughout the game. Keeping a lid on Wilson is a near impossible task, but Buffalo’s explosive offense picked apart a weak Seahawks secondary which made the difference. In what might be the best win for the franchise in decades, the Bills turned a corner on Sunday. 

In consecutive weeks, Buffalo has shown it can win games in a multitude of ways, a key to success in the NFL. The days of competing as an “exciting” or “up-and-coming” team are over; the Bills are a legit Super Bowl contender that can hang with the best teams in the league. 

Dolphins Steal One in the Desert 

After their rival secured a huge win against an NFC West opponent, the Miami Dolphins returned the favor by marching into Arizona and making a statement in the desert. 

First of all, the turnaround of this franchise led by head coach Brian Flores is nothing short of incredible. Through eight games, the Dolphins have already matched their win total from last season. Last week was an underwhelming debut for QB Tua Tagovailoa, but he was the difference this week and led the Dolphins to victory after going down ten early in the fourth quarter. Tua took a couple sacks, but showed a lot of poise for a rookie quarterback in his second start.

Another big difference in this game was the Miami defense, which scored a touchdown for the second consecutive game thanks to DE Shaq Lawson. The Dolphins might be a bit ahead of schedule, but continued performances like these will keep the Bills on their heels in what looks to be a two-team race in the AFC East.  

Three Bad Things 

Tampa Bay Blunder 

Going into Sunday night’s game, the thought of three quarterbacks out-performing Bucs QB Tom Brady was not on the mind of anyone. After a 38-3 drubbing courtesy of the Saints, that is exactly what happened.

In one of the worst performances of his career, Brady posted only 209 yards and three interceptions, one of which hung in the air for an eternity. This disastrous performance was not just his fault, but showed a general lack of preparedness in all facets of the game. The Bucs ran the ball only five times, one carry being a kneel at the end of the game. In addition to Brady’s poor passing, he as under duress the entire night without any help from his offensive line. The defense that looked so promising in weeks past had no answers for QB Drew Brees, and QB Taysom Hill also had his opportunities to expose their porous defense.

It would be an exaggeration to call this a devastating loss for the Bucs, but it does give the Saints the edge in the division going forward. 

Lions Coming Up Short 

After a disappointing outing last week against Indianapolis, the Lions had a chance to rebound and pick up a key divisional win. Instead, they were trounced by RB Dalvin Cook and the Vikings.

Inconsistency has plagued the Matt Patricia era and the Lions continue to struggle making themselves a true contender. Detroit has shown they can beat their lesser opponents, but against contenders or teams with playoff aspirations, the Lions have come up short. Sunday’s matchup followed this narrative. The inability to contain Cook was a problem, but even worse were the interceptions QB Matthew Stafford threw deep in Minnesota territory on consecutive drives (the second coming after a blocked punt). 

The schedule sets up well for the Lions in the coming weeks, but ends with several challenging games. If they cannot change course, Patricia might be on his way out.  

Winning Ugly v. Losing Ugly 

Earlier this season, Bears QB Nick Foles discussed how winning ugly is better than losing pretty. This sentiment is true, but now the Bears are losing ugly and streaking in the wrong direction.

For the third game in a row, the Bears have demonstrated an ineptitude on offense. Foles and the Bears admittedly moved the ball a bit on Sunday, but could never finish long drives. By the middle of the fourth quarter, the score was 24-3 and despite a couple late touchdowns, it never felt like Chicago had a chance to change the game. 

The defense did its part and held RB Derrick Henry in check, but without any response on offense, the game got out of reach. Chicago was able to mask its offensive woes early, but as its schedule become more challenging, points have been scarce. A win against division rival Minnesota on Monday night would be a major boost for a team desperate for momentum. 

Keep an Eye On… 

COVID Outbreak in Pittsburgh 

So far, the coronavirus is the only thing able to beat the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers. On Tuesday, QB Ben Roethlisberger and three others were ruled as close contacts with TE Vance McDonald who tested positive for COVID-19. They must isolate for five days and continually receive positive tests while participating in team meetings online. The Steelers face the Bengals on Sunday and, if they are without their quarterback, their undefeated streak might be in jeopardy. 

NFL WEEK 8: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

Sunday marked the midpoint of the strangest NFL season in history. 

The league has felt the impact of the Coronavirus and has moved games around to fit the needed changes. Despite the weekly outbreaks, most usually in small numbers, the NFL has arguably handled this situation well. While games and bye weeks fluctuate, no cancellations have occurred. 

Testing has been crucial, and contact tracing with it. In some states, fans have been able to attend games in pods. With another half of the season still to go, as well as the playoffs, the NFL has navigated this season as safely as possible without the benefits of a bubble.  

Three Good Things 

Steelers Stay Undefeated 

The victory was not pretty, but the Steelers managed to steal a big divisional game in Baltimore. The Ravens gashed Pittsburgh’s run defense for 265 yards and kept the Steelers offense out of the end zone in the first half. 

The second half told a different story, as the Steelers put together the pieces on offense, QB Ben Roethlisberger tossed two touchdowns and RB James Conner ran one in as well. Despite their inability to stop the Baltimore running game on Sunday, the defense continuously made big plays and kept the pressure on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. Pittsburgh’s defense finished the day with four sacks, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions, one of which LB Robert Spillane returned for a touchdown. 

One more stat that fell under the radar was the penalty yardage of each team: Pittsburgh tallied three penalties for thirty yards, but Baltimore finished with six penalties for 110 yards. In an ugly grudge match, the discipline instilled by head coach Mike Tomlin prevailed, but the Steelers (7-0) have lots of room to improve.  

DK Dominates the Niners 

Thinking back to the criticisms of WR DK Metcalf leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft, experts could not have been more wrong.

Metcalf showed flashes of talent in his rookie season, but this year he has asserted himself as a future star in the league. Besides a down game in Arizona last week, Metcalf has not finished a game this season with less than 90 receiving yards; Sunday’s matchup against San Francisco showcased all the talents of the star receiver. On a hitch route, Metcalf caught a pass and dashed across the field, running past the secondary for his first score. Metcalf scored again on a goal-to-go play with a defender draped over him, using his size and strength to seal the defender and secure the catch. 

His size combined with speed make him such a tough cover for defenses and the perfect weapon for QB Russell Wilson. For years, Wilson has managed to carry the Seattle offense with receivers ranging from average to good in skill level, but Metcalf stands out among the others. Metcalf should continue to put up high numbers next week as the Seahawks travel to Buffalo in what should be a high-scoring matchup.  

Colts Keep Winning 

The Indianapolis Colts are an underappreciated team that has shown the ability to do a lot of things well. In an impressive showing on Sunday, QB Philip Rivers led the Colts to a necessary win against the Detroit Lions. 

Despite the injury to WR TY Hilton, Rivers made plenty of plays in the passing game and completed passes to eleven different receivers. RB Jordan Wilkins stepped up in the run game as well, finishing with eighty-nine yards and one touchdown on twenty carries. The final score shows a twenty-point victory for the Colts, but with just under three minutes in the third quarter, LB Darius Leonard’s strip sack of Lions QB Matthew Stafford halted a Detroit drive and ultimately boosted the Colts to a 41-21 victory. 

Defense continues to be the calling card for this team, which gave up only twenty-nine rushing yards and returned an interception for a touchdown. Quietly, the Colts’ 5-2 record has them tied with Tennessee atop the AFC South and in prime position to secure a playoff spot. The Colts will be tested in the coming weeks though, as they will face Baltimore, Green Bay, and Tennessee twice within the next four weeks.  

Three Bad Things 

Titans Take Another Loss 

Following a tough home loss against Pittsburgh, the Tennessee Titans fell once again in Cincinatti. Through the last few weeks, many of the Titans’ issues have come on the defensive end. Hidden in their historic 5-0 start was the absurd number of points given to arguably bad teams in their winning efforts. Lately, these problems have really come to light and cost them two consecutive games. 

QB Joe Burrow shined for Cincinnati with 249 yards and two touchdowns, taking care of the ball, as well. RB Derrick Henry put in another solid one-hundred-yard performance, but it was not enough for the Titans in a 31-20 loss. The Bengals built a lead in the first half by controlling the time of possession and keeping the Titans defense on the field. Despite the problems Sunday’s matchup presented, the Titans should fare well going forward. Offense can still win games for the Titans. 

QB Ryan Tannehill has been good this season, and their run game, led by Henry, has been outstanding. The acquisition of Chargers DB Desmond King should provide a boost to the secondary once he passes COVID-19 protocols and takes the field. The Titans host the Bears on Sunday, but a big divisional matchup against the Colts on the following Thursday looms large.  

Bad Offense Bears 

After a solid 5-1 start, the Bears have had a rapid fall from grace. The offense has been abysmal, especially in the last two games and a noticeable disconnect between the players and coaches has appeared, mainly between QB Nick Foles and head coach Matt Nagy.

WR Allen Robinson also distanced himself on the sideline Sunday, appearing frustrated with the lack of passes thrown his way. On the field, Foles missed on many throws and struggled with the pressure from the Saints defense, making many throws off his back foot. The offensive scheme was inconsistent and fell apart as the game went on. The success of the Bears seems predicated on the play of the defense, but this plan fails without an offense that can score consistently and give the defense manageable field position.

Sitting at 5-3 is not the end of the world by any stretch, but Chicago needs to put together more complete offensive performances to stay in the playoff race. The question remains is if they have the right quarterback to do so. 

Cam Fumbles Away a Prime Opportunity 

After several weeks of poor performances, the Patriots found themselves in position to steal a crucial win in Buffalo on Sunday. Deep in Buffalo territory late in the fourth quarter, New England was looking to run the clock and score a game-winning touchdown, or at least send the game into overtime. On a designed quarterback run, QB Cam Newton fumbled the ball inside the red zone and handed the Bills the game. 

For the Bills, they finally exercised their demons against the Patriots. As for New England, it blew a prime opportunity in a must win game. Against Seattle, Denver, and Buffalo, the Patriots have had chances to win but have not been able to finish, resulting in a 2-5 record and one of the longest losing streaks in recent memory. 

Newton’s performance exceeded those from the previous two games, but the costly turnover against a division rival stings and could spell trouble for the Patriots playoff hopes and his future.  

Keep an Eye On…. 

Dolphins Sudden Success 

After the Dolphins throttled the Rams on Sunday, fans should keep an eye on Miami in the coming weeks. The decision to switch quarterbacks was a strange one, since QB Ryan Fitzpatrick provides more stability on offense.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins have held their own against some of the better teams in the NFL, and an upset win in Arizona next week could enhance their presence on the national stage.  

NFL WEEK 2 COLUMN: Allen leads Bills, Chargers can’t finish, league fines coaches for mask violations

photo: Eric Espada/Getty Images

By Nic Gelyon

Josh Allen now has two plays that Bills fans may never forget. 

T-shirt worthy plays, if you will. 

First, the game: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who completed 65% of his passes only three times in 2019, now has a 70.37 completion percentage through two games in 2020.

Allen threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns in Buffalo’s 31-28 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, a game in which the Bills were missing Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano: two of their key defensive players.

Now, the play. 

It was not an incredibly important time in the game. The Bills were up 17-7 with a minute and two seconds left in the first half. 

Facing a third down from their own 33-yard line, Allen dropped back to throw and proceeded to escape from the Miami defensive front to his left. 

Anyone who has ever seen Josh Allen run knows the Dolphins were now in trouble. Allen still looked to pass, though, and pump-faked before realizing he was out of options.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy barreled ahead at Allen, and after colliding head-on, they were both headed for the ground. Allen’s hands met Van Noy’s chest while Van Noy’s arms surrounded his shoulders. A perfect tackle in the making.

Allen’s down… But he’s not.

Van Noy loses his grip on Allen, who is still standing but almost on the ground himself. The perfect combination of flash and might, Allen proceeds to run right through Emmanuel Ogbah, and into the arms of several other Dolphins defenders.  

We don’t need to talk about the fact that Allen could have destroyed his throwing arm on this play, or that he almost fumbled the ball toward the end.  

Allen, if he continues to be a combination of physical dominance and passion for his team, showed Sunday afternoon that he may just be unstoppable. And he never showed it more than with one minute to play in the half, deep in his own zone, up by ten against a mediocre Dolphins team.  

That speaks volumes.

TO THE WEST, the Los Angeles Chargers – for the umpteenth year in a row – continue to suffer massive collapses at the end of games.  

They did it again on Sunday. The Chargers, up 17-0 against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, let KC score 17 unanswered points before allowing a last-minute Harrison Butker field goal to win it for the Chiefs in overtime.  

This was always an issue that fell on the lap of former Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, or Mike McCoy, or Marty Schottenheimer. Any one of the Chargers’ old guard. 

But they aren’t in Los Angeles – or San Diego – anymore.  

So, who is to blame for the Chargers’ misfortune? I personally tend to believe that teams have a personality. The Patriots are smarter than you. The Seahawks are tougher than you. The Rams are flashier than you.  

The Chargers cannot finish a close game. 

I RETWEETED ESPN’s Adam Schefter Sunday night, after he jokingly said that Seattle and New England were winning awards for ‘best drama’.  

He’s not lying though.  

“Sunday Night Football’ gets it right, it seems, every single weekend. And I understand that it’s the NFL who decides which primetime games go to which network, and that they seem to give the best games to NBC. 

But the NFL puts those games on Sunday night because of the effort NBC puts in to making their broadcast better than everyone else’s. 

By the way, Sunday Night Football has won 10 “Outstanding Live Sports Series” Emmys over the past 12 years. And, per Deadline, they beat the Emmys in the ratings by about 7 million viewers Sunday night. 

SUNDAY afternoon, the NFL, guns a-blazing, up and fined Kyle Shanahan, Vic Fangio, and Pete Carroll for not wearing masks during their respective games. 

All three wore neck gaiters, well, around their neck. All while continuing to prowl the sidelines. 

This raises a few questions: one, should the NFL ban the neck gaiter? Because it’s obviously become more of a scarf than a protection device for NFL coaches.  

Two: what’s the issue with the neck gaiter and the headset? Can you not communicate through a gaiter for some reason? I ask because I find I can hear and talk just fine through a gaiter. And you know, I can do the same through a regular mask, as well.  

A point I saw all over NFL Twitter on Sunday night was, that shouldn’t the NFL have called to teams during these games to get coaches to put their masks on?  

The answer, for me at least, is no. Because the NFL is allowing fans into stadiums, and lots of them. Because the NFL doesn’t – and never will – care about the optics of anything they do. Because the NFL is consistently late to the party on the issues that matter most, to their players and their fanbase.  

Because no matter how long we had to watch Pete Carroll’s gum-chewing, mask-less face parading the sidelines Sunday night, nothing was going to take the wider, general focus off the football game. And that is what makes the NFL indestructible.