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.