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

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.  

The Vikings must trade Adrian Peterson now

By Tanner Jubenville, @TMJubenville, Contributing Writer

Some actors never win an Oscar.

Some people exceed expectations whether it be at work, school or home, but never get rewarded.

Sometimes, the most valuable player in an entire league fails to win at the highest level.

Several records shattered.

Rookie of the Year.

Five-time Pro Bowler.

Five times voted All-Pro.

Continue reading “The Vikings must trade Adrian Peterson now”