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 5: Bills hit speed bump in Nashville; Jets release Bell; Falcons fire Quinn

photo: George Walker IV/The Tennesseean

By Nic Gelyon

The Buffalo Bills missed an opportunity on Tuesday night. 

It was difficult to watch a team like the Bills get bulldozed. They suffered a 42-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Bills seemed defeated as they trailed 28-16 in the third quarter, even with more than enough time to come back.  

However you want to spin it, the Bills, while missing Tre’Davious White, John Brown, Quinton Spain and others, were beat by a team that couldn’t even practice for the better part of two weeks. 

After the game, head coach Sean McDermott said that his team played unusually bad football, with “Uncharacteristically poor fundamentals, poor pre-snap discipline, turning the ball over.”

So, while doubt begins to seep into the mind of Bills fans, and the inferiority complex ignites, it’s fair to question who the Buffalo Bills really are, and who Josh Allen really is. 

I’m not sure the Bills know the answer yet. 

First of all: the Bills lost to a team that was simply healthier. I could rant for a long time on how much better it would’ve been for the Bills had this game been forfeited by the Titans. They lost one of their better linebackers and arguably the best cornerback in the league. So, as I digress, I give the Bills an automatic pass for a lot of what happened last night.  

Other than the injuries, there are a couple things the Bills and their coaching staff need to address to build their team identity: things that will be necessary to make a deep playoff run. 

First? The Buffalo defensive line is not physical enough. 

We know that the Bills’ front four doesn’t play with the physicality needed to contain a ground-and-pound running back. Darrell Henderson is an example. The Bills gave up 114 yards to Henderson against the Rams. 

And while the Bills were able to contain Derrick Henry yards-wise last night, he still managed to rush for two touchdowns. 

And although many of the breakdowns that happened last night can be attributed to misfortune rather than scheme – the Bills appeared to have solved something last week, holding Josh Jacobs to 48 yards. It’s still an issue that needs to improve if the Bills want to take themselves to the next level. 

Second? The Bills’ offense had issues last night that they don’t normally have. 

The Buffalo offense couldn’t take advantage of a Titans secondary that hadn’t had its share of luck against COVID-19 and the injury bug, missing LB Kamalei Correia and CB Kristian Fulton.  

And while Allen didn’t play a terrible game (263 yards, 2 TD’s and 2 unfortunate INT’s), his receivers didn’t help him in the first half. A significant number of Allen’s 16 incompletions were dropped passes.  

So, what does this loss ultimately come down to? The answer may fall on the back of McDermott and his staff.  

This is still a team in development. That includes each player and coach. Allen’s two interceptions, the dropped passes, the goal line defense that gave up six touchdowns … It comes down to not being prepared for the monster of the Titans. Not to mention, the Bills’ body language didn’t scream comeback, even when the game was still in reach. 

The Titans said they were angry at the world. They showed it last night, and the Bills didn’t. 

So, I think that everything that happened last night makes sense. I think it’s a loss the Bills probably needed early in the season, and it exposed some of the weaknesses Josh Allen has been able to mask the past few weeks.  

Last night was a missed opportunity to take advantage of a COVID-19 weakened team, but it may end up being a blessing in disguise. The Bills now have a better foundation to figure out who they truly are. 

I THINK WE ALL MISUNDERSTOOD – just a bit – exactly what Le’Veon Bell is capable of.  

Bell, known as the shifty running back who can do almost anything, was released by the Jets yesterday after they couldn’t find someone willing to trade for him.  

Bell can be mischievous in the middle of the field, juking defenders left and right. But that’s once he gets beyond the line of scrimmage. 

I can’t remember a time this season when I actually saw Bell beyond the line of scrimmage. 

That’s where the Jets’ coaching comes into play. Without a half-way decent offensive line, Bell is useless in any kind of play that requires him to run around the backfield and then turn up. 

He is a little bit more of a ground and pound back than we understand him to be. For that reason, I fully believe he will resurrect his career somewhere that knows how to use him. 

THE DALLAS COWBOYS RALLIED around Dak Prescott in their 37-34 comeback win against the New York Giants in Week Four. 

The Cowboys, now 1-4, lost starting QB Prescott to a gruesome ankle injury in the second quarter. As the game progressed from there, and Andy Dalton proceeded to rescue the Cowboys with a couple spectacular passes – and catches – you could see the anger and the hurt on the faces of the Cowboys.  

They weren’t about to get embarrassed by a winless Giants team.  

It speaks volumes to Prescott’s influence on a locker room that, without him, would be without a true and proven leader. It begs the question: Where do the Cowboys look to now for leadership? It might be time for Ezekiel Elliot to grow up. 

THE FALCONS FIRED Dan Quinn.

I never ‘root’, per se, for anybody to get fired. I think it’s wrong do to so. These coaches have families they have to support, families they have to uproot if they move to a different city.  

I also understand, from Quinn’s perspective, that the team’s lack of talent played a major role in the disappointment that has been the Falcons the last couple years. That’s why the Falcons also fired Thomas Dimitroff, their general manager. 

But Quinn’s teams recently have been unfocused, undetermined, and undisciplined. And while they’re young, it is no excuse for Quinn not to have made the best of what he was given to work with.  

A failure on multiple fronts, the Falcons are now forced to go back to the drawing board. 

NFL WEEK 4: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

By Anthony Goss

Week 4 of the NFL season presented major headlines before any players stepped foot on the field for the games, with the COVID-19 outbreak among Tennessee Titans players and staff.

After Tennessee’s game vs. Pittsburgh was postponed, news broke out that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive for the virus as well. Luckily, no other outbreaks occurred, and the NFL moved forward with most of its scheduled games.  

Three Good Things 

4-0 Records and Stellar QB play going hand in hand 

There are several undefeated teams left, but the Bills, Chiefs, Packers and Seahawks all sit at 4-0. 

The common denominator with all these teams? Excellent quarterback play.

Josh Allen has improved vastly this season and led a poised Bills team to a win in Vegas on Sunday afternoon. With the Patriots vs Chiefs game moved to Monday, the spotlight shifted to Allen and the Bills. Allen took care of the ball and threw for two touchdowns, adding one more on the ground as well. 

In a close defensive battle, the Chiefs outlasted the Patriots in a game where Patrick Mahomes was not his usual self. The reigning Super Bowl MVP performed under his standards, but has been great this season.

Aaron Rodgers has turned back the clock for the Packers through four games, after an offseason and draft highlighted by questions about his successor and ability to play at a high level. Rodgers continued to silence the doubters on Monday night, throwing for three touchdowns in the first half en route to a 30-16 win over the Falcons.

Finally, Russell Wilson continued his quest for his first MVP by leading the Seahawks to a 31-23 win against the Dolphins. Like Mahomes, this was not his best performance, but great players find ways to win football games, and that’s what these quarterbacks have done this season.  

Browns make a statement 

The defense in Dallas is atrocious, but Kevin Stefanski deserves credit for bringing change to a Cleveland Browns team with its first 3-1 record since 2001. 

Down early, losing running back Nick Chubb to a right MCL sprain, the Browns held their ground from a furious Dak Prescott comeback and made a statement in Jerry World on Sunday afternoon. 

The Cleveland defense, headlined by defensive end Myles Garrett, forced two crucial turnovers that led to great field position and touchdowns on both possessions. WR Odell Beckham Jr made plays all over the field, including a touchdown catch off a creative trick play thrown by his former LSU teammate and now fellow wideout, Jarvis Landry. 

QB Baker Mayfield was solid and did not try to force anything downfield or off his legs, something he was criticized for last season. When RB Nick Chubb went down with a knee injury, the rest of the running back committee stepped up and made solid runs to keep the Dallas defense on its heels throughout the game. In a loaded AFC North, the Browns sit at 3-1, but this team has found its identity on the ground and will be a formidable opponent going forward.  

Chargers have their guy 

Despite the loss to the Bucs on a gloomy Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay, the Chargers have found a bright side in rookie QB Justin Herbert.

In what was supposed to be a learning year on the bench for Herbert, he has stepped in for injured QB Tyrod Taylor and shown some moxie in his game. Yes, there are some mistakes to be fixed, but Herbert provides the Chargers with their best shot at winning football games.

Herbert has shown confidence since stepping in, especially on Sunday as he went toe-to-toe with future hall of fame QB Tom Brady. On Sunday, Herbert went 20 for 25 with three touchdowns, and one interception but a passer rating of 137.9. 

The Chargers and Herbert will continue to grow, but if he continues to make plays like he made on the 53-yard bomb to Tyron Johnson, a promising future lies ahead for the Chargers. 

Three Bad Things 

Dallas Defense in Disarray 

Just as I mentioned before, the defense in Dallas is atrocious. Granted, there are some other issues on this team, but man…. this group has been pathetic.

The Cowboys have given up 36.5 points per game through the first quarter of the season, with a run defense that has given up a league-high 172.5 yards per game (last in the NFC) and a passing defense giving up 258.0 yards per game. 

Dallas refused to spend money on its secondary in the offseason, and now is paying a hefty price. 

The departure of cornerback Byron Jones in free agency has hurt more than expected, leaving a depleted secondary that seems to be a few steps behind receivers on almost every throw. 

In the second year of his big contract extension, LB Jaylon Smith has had little to no impact on the field, and DE Tank Lawrence and the “Hot Boys” have been ice cold in the pass rush, doing very little to generate turnovers and stop the run.

Hopefully, the Cowboys defense can find some success when the Giants come into town next week, but after giving up 49 points to the Browns, nothing is guaranteed.  

Houston, We Have a Problem 

Bill O’Brien is out as head coach, but things do not look good for this team.

The Texans sit at 0-4 after falling 31-23 to the Vikings in a battle of winless teams. After finishing first in the AFC South the last two seasons, Houston looks like a team far from contention this season. 

The Texans have an NFL-worst run defense, which Dalvin Cook exposed this week with 130 yards and two touchdowns. Left with little to work with on offense since the departure of WR DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson posted his worst quarterback rating of the season (37.8), and the run game failed to break 100 yards.

The Texans do not have either a first or second round pick this season, thanks to Bill O’Brien, so tanking is not an option either. They will look to turn the page next week against the Jaguars, but their next two opponents have a combined record of 7-0. The road ahead for Houston is daunting, but hey, at least they didn’t draft Mitchell Trubisky. 

Cardinals Grounded in Carolina 

After two games into the season, many were high on the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray looked like a video game character as he led the Cardinals to two wins to start the season, but since then, they have struggled.

Last week against Detroit, Murray made some questionable throws that hurt the offense, and this week, the defense had issues as the Panthers pounced on a defense that had a hard time finding stops.

The Cardinals are a younger team, but in a season where they are competing with Seattle (4-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (3-1), they need to win games against the lesser teams of the NFC if they want to clinch their first playoff berth since 2015. 

Keep an eye on… 

Coronavirus measures moving forward 

The NFL was doomed for a COVID-19 outbreak from the start.

Just as the MLB demonstrated in its regular season, it is close to impossible to prevent the transmission of the virus without a bubble format.

Now that the Titans officially had an outbreak within the organization and the Patriots and Saints had outbreak scares, fans should prepare for the possibility of a pause in the season. The NFL was able to perform schedule gymnastics this past week and create byes for the teams affected, but this cannot become a continuous response to outbreaks if the league wants to carry out the rest of its season.

The NFL has already had issues coaches wearing their masks improperly on the sidelines, and going forward, they must find a way to keep all players, coaches, and staff safe and healthy.