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 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.  

Before you hit the panic button…

By: Isaiah Blakely 

The sports world tends to hit the “panic button” early on in the season, no matter the sport.

This year the Golden State Warriors were questioned early on when they were in third place almost 25 games into the season.

Super Bowl Champion New England was behind the Miami in the division going into Week 5 and there were questions being asked about they would fare this season.

Well the Warriors just clinched the one-seed in the NBA’s Western Conference again and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.

The new team to be questioned is the defending champion Boston Red Sox who are 5-9 are and near the bottom of the AL East. With a slow start comes immediate questions of what’s wrong with the team.

What if there’s nothing really wrong with the Red Sox, or the Patriots or the Warriors? Great teams figure it out. Sure the Red Sox have holes especially in their bullpen, but can we hold off on asking questions about what’s wrong with a team this early in the season?

On this date last year the Red Sox were having a hot start at 8-1. But there were some other teams that were playing great baseball in April as well. The Toronto Blue Jays (6-4), Los Angeles Angels (7-3), New York Mets (7-1), Pittsburgh Pirates (7-2) and Arizona Diamondbacks (7-2).

None of those teams made the playoffs and they all started with a .600 winning percentage or better. In the Pirates and Diamondbacks cases they were top of the division halfway through May and still missed the playoffs.

Today we live in a world of instant results because of technology. But when it comes to sports, people including myself, need to relax and let the process play out.

That’s what playing a professional sport is…. A long process starting in the offseason with a goal to win a championship.

People just ignore the process and are quick to tear down a player and or a team.

The Patriots are a prime example. Tom Brady has been “declining” according to several talking heads on networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports 1 for years. That declining quarterback has led the Patriots to the Super Bowl four of the last five years including winning three.

People are also too quick to crown teams.

This year’s Los Angeles Lakers for a lot of people including myself were an easy playoff team. Halfway through December they were a game out of third place. Then poor play and injuries derailed their season. In reality though, a team made up of guys not known for their defense or their ability to shoot the three very well should have never been considered a high seed. But we all bought into the LeBron James hype and were all very wrong as the Lakers didn’t even eclipse 40 wins this year.

Even in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres were top of league and on a 10-game win streak in late November. It appeared this was going to be the year the Sabres finally return to the playoffs. Instead the only thing that returned was dysfunction and poor play. That led the Sabres to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 76 points.

Early season performances aren’t completely pointless but it’s not always an indicator of a team’s future success. At this point it’s getting ridiculous. Media people are just making knee-jerk reactions to get the most views or clicks on an article.

If a surprise team is over-performing, you have to take a look at how its winning and decide whether you believe that’s a realistic and sustainable way to be successful.

It’s rare that a talented group, especially a defending champion, has such a big problem the next year that can’t be fixed over the course of a season. That’s what makes a team great, its ability to adjust and overcome adversity.

I’m not saying no more “hot takes”. I enjoy the “Monday Morning Quarterback” type takes just like everyone else. But before we hit the panic button on the Red Sox in April or question if the Patriots dynasty is over hold off another week and save the panicking for everyone else.

 

 

 

 

Intrepid Sports Super Bowl Picks

By The Intrepid sports staff

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and the Patriots and Seahawks are ready to face off! Our sports staff made their predictions for the big game:

Anthony Sambrotto: As much as this pains me as a diehard Bills fan, I feel like the Patriots are the stronger team in this year’s Super Bowl. Tom Brady knows this may be his final chance to win the big game, and he has the weapons surrounding him for a chance to pull off his elusive fourth Super Bowl win. For that to happen (LeGarrette) Blount needs to continue his amazing stretch and the Patriots need to stop (Marshawn) Lynch and force Seattle to throw the ball.​​

Trystan Rushia: The champs will be the Seattle Seahawks. Every sports news show has been all about the “deflategate” with the New England Patriots, but that has nothing to do with the Seahawks and their defense. The Seahawks defense is called the “Legion of Boom” for a reason. Sherman may be injured, but he is not the only part. Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas will step up their game for the injured Sherman. Chancellor is going to have another Superbowl interception, and the “Legion of Boom” and the “12th Man” are going to get to the Patriots and Tom Brady. Deflated balls won’t help Brady this time. Seattle takes the Lombardi back to Seattle by a score of 33-27.

Joshua Svetz: Both teams are solid, but what it comes down to is total defense and offensive turnovers. Going off of which defense is playing the best in the playoffs, it’s the Patriots. The Pats allowed 637 yards combined versus the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. Compare that to the Seahawks who gave up over 300 yards in each playoff game, totaling 668 total yards against in the playoffs. Offensively, the most telling stat is turnovers. The Patriots have only turned the ball over twice while the Seahawks have turned the ball over five times so far in the playoffs. For these reasons, I’m going with the Patriots to edge it out in a close one, 24-20.

Jeff Fasoldt: These two teams could not be any more opposite of each other. You have Belichick’s Patriots who’ve seen their dynasty become marred by constant accusations and evidence of cheating. Still, you cannot overlook the competitiveness and winning attitude of Tom Brady and this New England Team. The Seahawks are a team that thrives on their defense, especially their hard-hitting secondary. Their head coach, Pete Carroll, is known more for his off-field friendships with celebrities than what he’s done for this Seattle Seahawks team. However, the Seahawks will be back-to-back champions after it’s all said and done Sunday. This Seahawks defense is still the best in the league and Tom Brady doesn’t have the elusiveness to avoid the rush that (Seahawks coach Pete) Carroll will no doubt be sending. It’s going to be a close game throughout unlike last years super bowl, but the Seahawks win again, 34-24.

Jason Klaiber: My strongest premonitions tell me that the Patriots, with their deflated balls in stock, will snag the victory in this year’s Super Bowl. It’s hard to argue that this will be a matchup between two absolute powerhouses, and it’s easy to assume that it’ll be an enthralling game. Defeating two of the league’s most distinguished quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (and in consecutive years no less!) is a feat that seems unlikely to me. The Patriots’ defense isn’t far behind the Seahawks’ in my opinion, and to add on to that, New England’s offense exceeds that of Seattle. If Tom Brady and his boys can put on a show as dominating and exhilarating as their run through the AFC playoffs, particularly their dismantling of the Colts, and the defense can repress Marshawn Lynch, they’ll overpower the Seahawks in convincing fashion.

Chuckie Maggio: I’m going with the Seahawks. One of the key things that was lost in the Patriots’ two Super Bowl losses against the Giants was how much New England struggled against the dominant New York defense. Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora made Tom Brady feel extremely uncomfortable in the pocket, forcing plenty of sacks and rushed throws. This Seattle defense doesn’t have as big of a pass rush, but they are just as dominant. It will be a close contest, but the Patriots defense doesn’t have that big-play ability when the game is on the line. They’ll get a big stop when they need it the most, Russell Wilson will cap off a game-winning drive with a touchdown pass to Luke Willson and Seattle will repeat. 24-20 Seahawks