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.  

NFL WEEK 3 COLUMN: Three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

Week 3 of the NFL season carried on some of the same dramatic flair seen in Week 2 (no, this is not just the Falcons blowing two 15-point leads in the fourth quarter). 

Ranging from last-second touchdowns to unfortunate mistakes, Sunday’s slew of games highlighted the success of a few great players, but also boiled the frustrations of the fanbases watching their teams continue to struggle, including the Vikings, Texans and Jets, just to name a few.

Week 3 also had a significant decrease in major injuries, which is a major plus after the notable amount of injuries sustained by big name players in Week 2. Here are three good things, three bad things and one thing to keep an eye on heading into Week 4.  

THREE GOOD THINGS 

Josh Allen Circles the Wagons 

This take may not be new to the fans in western New York, but after Sunday’s outing against the Rams, it is time for the rest of the league to take the Bills, and specifically quarterback Josh Allen, more seriously.

Give credit to the Rams for finding their way back from a 28-3 deficit to retake the lead, but this game was about Allen. In a marquee game, he delivered big time for the Bills, throwing for 311 yards and 4 TD, and running for one more. 

After the Rams took the lead with 4:30 left in the game, Allen marched down the field with a couple of huge throws to wide receiver Cole Beasley and capped off the 75-yard drive with a toss to tight end Tyler Kroft to seal the game.

Last week, the Bills found themselves down against the Miami Dolphins and Allen delivered. The Rams are a much better team than the Dolphins, but Allen’s poise has been mostly consistent against all opponents this year. If he can keep up this level of play, the Bills (3-0) can become real contenders in a loaded AFC.  

Russell Wilson is leading the MVP discussion 

There is not much else to say about Russell Wilson this season except that he has been stellar. Once again, Wilson showed he is operating on a different level, as he dissected and depleted a talent-lacking Cowboys defense to the tune of 315 yards, 5 TD and a passer rating of 130.7 in a 38-31 victory for the Seahawks.

Seattle’s offense has been electric this season with Wilson at the helm, posting over 30 points in each game. Somehow, Wilson has not received the MVP award in the past, despite his role in carrying the franchise successfully for many years, but that could change this season.

Wilson will need to keep posting similar numbers and playing at this level for the Seahawks to stay atop a daunting NFC West.  

49ers Complete Big Apple Sweep 

The 49ers arguably have been plagued the most by injuries early this season.

On Sunday, San Francisco took the field without Raheem Mostert, George Kittle or Jimmy Garoppolo, and still managed to hang 36 points on the New York Giants. The 49ers win on Sunday was an impressive response after an adverse week where several key players went down, including defensive end Joey Bosa, who may be gone for the rest of the season.

Squashing two of the worst teams back to back seems like a minor headline, but San Francisco will be glad to gather up wins like these to keep pace in the best division in pro football.  

THREE BAD THINGS 

Turn Up the Heat on the ATL Hot Seat 

If the NFL played three quarters, the Falcons would be sitting at 2-1 and tied for the lead in the NFC South. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and head coach Dan Quinn’s team has struggled mightily the last two weeks to finish football games.

After their debacle in Dallas, the Falcons headed home for what most thought would be a game for them to get back on track. Taking a 26-10 lead into the fourth quarter, it seemed like they were in a good spot.

Then, Nick Foles came in at quarterback for Mitchell Trubisky (which may be a permanent change). Foles rallied the Bears with three scores in the fourth, sending Twitter into another frenzy and the Falcons to a record of 0-3.

Granted, the team was without Pro Bowl wideout Julio Jones, but the defense struggled down the stretch and the offense could not make any winning plays to put the game out of reach. 

To make matters worse, Atlanta travels to Green Bay next Monday night to play a team averaging over 40 points per game. If Quinn fails to have his team ready, Aaron Rodgers and a potent Packers offense will not hesitate to send them to 0-4. 

NFC (L)EAST 

Once again, the NFC East is the worst division in football.

Starting at the top (surprisingly), the Washington Football Team is a young group not expected to do much, but quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the offense turned the ball over five times against the Browns. Defensive lineman Chase Young also went down with a groin injury, but it should not keep him out of action for a significant amount of time. 

Dallas has shown some good in the early stages of the Mike McCarthy era, but a lot more disappointment. Kellen Moore’s play calling has come into question on offense, but the defense has been nothing short of atrocious. Byron Jones’ departure has hurt the secondary, which has a myriad of injuries and inconsistent play from young players has resulted in Mike Nolan’s bunch giving up an average of 277 pass yards per game and 32.3 points per game.

Dak Prescott has played well for the most part, but a banged-up offensive line has underperformed expectations. There is time for the Cowboys to try and fix some of these issues, but this team has disappointed in the early stages of the season.

The Eagles disappointed once again, unable to beat Joe Burrow and the Bengals at home. Carson Wentz continued to struggle and turn the ball over, adding two more interceptions to his season total, but managed to run for a touchdown that ended up being the last score in a 23-23 tie.

The Eagles are a bad football team, but the Giants look even worse, sitting at 0-3. Losing running back Saquon Barkley has not helped, but their offense is extremely lacking so far, ranking near the bottom of the league in team offense and only averaging 272.3 yards on offense.

Despite this horrendous start for the division, Dallas still looks like the best team and should win the division, but whoever wins may not finish with a record over .500.  

Cooldown for Kyler 

The Lions shocking victory fell a little under the radar Sunday afternoon, as Matt Prater booted Detroit to its first win of the season.

More than anything, this game showed second-year quarterback Kyler Murray still has lots of room to grow. Murray threw for 270 and two touchdowns, but his three interceptions proved costly for the Cardinals.

Murray has been electric this season, and his touchdown run exemplified this explosiveness, but Sunday showed some flaws he has as a young quarterback.

Murray rushed some throws and made some poor reads, but these mistakes take very little away from him as a player. If anything, he will use this game as a lesson to grow. 

The Cardinals are still a very talented group, and Murray’s connection with newly aquired wideout Deandre Hopkins continues to demonstrate the incompetence of Texans coach Bill O’Brien (who infamously traded Hopkins away).

Regardless, Kliff Kingsbury’s team is an exciting storyline early in the season and should play a role in shaping the NFC playoff picture. Sitting at 2-1, the Cardinals now head out of the desert for a three-game road trip against teams all with losing records.  

Keep an Eye On: Status of Michael Thomas 

The New Orleans Saints sit at 1-2 after falling to the Packers on Sunday night. While a single WR should not be the deciding factor for a Drew Brees-led offense, Thomas’ presence has certainly been missed. 

Thomas, the NFL’s leading receiver a year ago, has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain.

Thomas presents a downfield threat for the Saints that other wideouts on the roster just can’t provide. The offense was better against Green Bay than it was against Vegas a week ago, but if the Saints are going to win the NFC South and an aging Drew Brees can be the best version of himself, Thomas needs to be on the field. 

The Saints have other issues besides the missing Thomas-Brees connection, but having him back will elevate Brees’ game and take the pressure off of running back Alvin Kamara to provide in the passing game. The Saints head to Detroit next week and will try to get back to .500 as Thomas’ injury status remains in question.