The resurgence of Chris Johnson continues. He's not CJ2K anymore; instead, he's been retrofitted as a power back, pushing his way through piles and around defenders. Johnson finished Arizona's 26-18 win over the Ravens on Monday night with 122 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, his third effort this season with 100 yards or more. The highlight of Johnson's night was a 5-yard run that turned into 62 yards when the Ravens failed to properly tackle him.
Johnson wasn't the only veteran slinging it for the Cardinals. Carson Palmer had another solid outing, completing 20 of 29 passes for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns and no picks.
What really separates the Cardinals from the competition this season so far is their secondary. That group had another big night on Monday. Tony Jefferson picked off Joe Flacco with 10 seconds left in the game to snuff out Baltimore's comeback attempt. Tyrann Mathieu had seven tackles and a sack. His most impressive play was deflecting a touchdown out of Chris Givens' hands.
The Ravens played their best game of the season, but still came up short. (They didn't get much help from the refs with calls like this one). Whatever hopes they still had for turning the season around and contending for a postseason spot are gone.
As for Arizona, they've got a nice two-game lead in the division and a date with the Cleveland Browns before their Week 9 bye. They'll need the rest because they're on the road to Seattle the week after that.
This week's Sunday slate was action packed, so let's just get right into it.
The Patriots put together a fourth quarter comeback against the Jets, then held off a late rally to stay perfect on the year. It was a big division win against a very good team. The most unusual thing about it was the way New England did it.
Tom Brady attempted 54 passes while the Patriots only tried running the football nine times, a crazy lack of balance that, for most teams, is only something seen in a losing effort. In fact, Brady led New England in rushing with four attempts for 15 yards. Weirdly enough, over the last decade, Brady and the Patriots are 4-0 when at least 80 percent of their plays are called passes, while every other team in the league has combined for an astonishingly bad 3-109 record.
That wasn't really the case in this game. New York never had more than a one-score lead throughout, but when the run game wasn't clicking (Dion Lewis was out this week with an abdominal injury), New England simply went to its passing attack. The Patriots simply replaced the run game with a quick, short passing game to a variety versatile weapons like Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Not many teams (read: no other teams) can really do this with the success that New England has had. Brady is just that good.
The Patriots move to a 6-0 start -- their third such start in the Brady/Belichick era -- and in those two previous seasons (2004 and 2007), they went to the Super Bowl. They're obviously the current favorites in the AFC to do that again this year.
Meanwhile, the Patriots may have a little more competition in their division if the Dolphins continue to play with the energy and swagger that they're playing with right now. Interim head coach Dan Campbell has breathed new life into a team that has talent but had failed to play up to expectations this year. They absolutely destroyed the Texans at home on Sunday, and at one point in the second quarter they were leading 35-0 while outgaining Houston 305 to negative-2 in yardage. Ryan Tannehill is dealing right now -- and after hitting his first 18 passes on Sunday, when combined with his seven straight completions to end last week -- he broke an NFL record for most consecutive completions (25).
SB Nation presents: The Dolphins totally embarrassed the Texans early on Sunday
And then, there's the AFC South.
Jacksonville got a much needed win. The Colts lost to the Saints at home. The Titans lost to the Falcons, and the Texans got steamrolled by Miami. Indy now leads the division at 3-4 but next have to play the Panthers, Broncos and Falcons, who have a combined record of 18-1. If the Colts don't get some things figured out quickly, the AFC South could be pretty damn interesting down the stretch, and not in the impressive way.
Along the same lines, the NFC East is shaping up to be an interesting race in the second half of the season. No one team has really separated themselves from the pack yet, but right now the Giants are out in front after knocking off Dallas at home. The Cowboys are a mess without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, the Eagles are very hit and miss, and I'm not sure we really know what Washington brings to the table quite yet.
This week, Kirk Cousins thumbed his nose at a deluge of criticism he received this past week (including from yours truly) and put together an amazing comeback against Tampa Bay. Washington was down 24 points at one point. Cousins' pass to Jordan Reed with 24 seconds left capped an amazing effort and display of resiliency. Cousins finished 33-of-40 passing for 317 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions. He lost one fumble but his ability to avoid throwing any picks hopefully represented a big step forward for him. We'll see if that carries into next week.
Win the water cooler
Arm yourself with a few interesting tidbits from Sunday's action so you can impress your coworkers around the water cooler.
Running back stars
Devonta Freeman's dominance in the run game has been an unexpected but pleasant surprise for Falcons fans this year. Despite the fact he didn't even start the first two games, he's on an historic pace. Freeman now has 621 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He joins an elite club of running backs younger than 23 to reach those milestones (600+ yards, 9+ TD) through a team's first seven games, joining Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Todd Gurley continues to make the Rams look smart for taking a chance on him (and his knee) in the first round of the draft this year. He became the first rookie in a decade (since Cadillac Williams in 2005) to rush for 125-plus yards in his first three career starts.
Playing without a knee brace for the first time this season, Gurley carried the ball 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns, a cool 6.7 yards per carry, while adding 35 yards on four catches. He finished the game with 97 yards after contact, the most of any player in any game so far this season. His 163 yards from scrimmage matched Nick Foles' passing yardage total, which really shows you how big of a deal the rookie running back is in this Rams offense.
SB Nation presents: Todd Gurley continues to destroy the NFL
In Tampa Bay, Doug Martin's big comeback season continued, and he rushed for 136 yards on 19 carries and became just the third player in Buccaneers' franchise history to put up three or more consecutive games with 100-plus yards rushing.
And a few receiver stars, as well
Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins are both quietly having ridiculous seasons. Allen, the San Diego Chargers' go-to guy, currently leads the NFL with 62 catches, which is an all-time NFL record through a team's first seven games. Hopkins, with 58 catches, would now be tied for second on that list. Both Allen and Hopkins are on pace to come up just short of the single-season receptions record set by Marvin Harrison in 2002.
Not to be outdone, Amari Cooper caught five more passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, and became the first rookie with three 100-yard receiving games his team's first six games since Mike Ditka did it all the way back in 1961 (via Elias). That's a pretty incredible stat and really puts into perspective just how well he's played for Derek Carr and the Raiders right off the bat. He was always thought to be one of the most polished receiving prospects coming out of the draft in several years, and I think those numbers certainly corroborate that scouting report.
Meanwhile, one more name to keep an eye on this year is Vikings rookie receiver Stefon Diggs. He's emerged as a favorite target for Teddy Bridgewater over the last few games and caught six passes for 108 yards and an incredible diving touchdown this week. Diggs is a former consensus five-star recruit that stayed close to home and went to Maryland for school, taking a different path to the pros than many blue chip high school players. He ended up falling to the fifth round of the draft, but that five-star talent is certainly showing up on the field in his first year as a pro.
Here are your scores from this week so far:
Seahawks 20, 49ers 3 (Thursday)
Jacksonville Jaguars 34, Buffalo Bills 31
Washington 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30
Minnesota Vikings 28, Detroit Lions 19
New Orleans Saints 27, Indianapolis Colts 21
Kansas City Chiefs 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 13
Miami Dolphins 44, Houston Texans 26
New England Patriots 30, New York Jets 23
St. Louis Rams 24, Cleveland Browns 6
Atlanta Falcons 10, Tennessee Titans 7
Oakland Raiders 37, San Diego Chargers 29
New York Giants 27, Dallas Cowboys 20
Carolina Panthers 27, Philadelphia Eagles 16
Three EJ Manuel turnovers in three minutes all led to touchdowns for the Jags.
Josh McCown hit the wall ... literally.
The Saints showed the Colts how to pull off a trick play.
Ryan Mallett missed the Texans' flight to Miami, but the entire team didn't show up in the first half against the Dolphins. At least Jadeveon Clowney got his first career sack.
Andrew Luck's hard-luck season continued, and Colts fans were not forgiving.
Eric Berry snagged his first interception since beating cancer.
Gronk took Marcus Gilchrist along for a ride.
Odell Beckham is now hauling in one-handed windmill catches.
Kirk Cousins wants to know if YOU LIKE THAT!?
Kicking someone in the chest is fine with the referees in the Raiders/Chargers game.
Amari Cooper's juking skills are absolutely ridiculous. RIDICULOUS!
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie began celebrating a pick-six at the 45-yard line. In other news, a referee got taken out pretty good on the play.
Dez Bryant and Greg Hardy got into an animated shouting match.
If the Cowboys want to look at one play and point to it as the reason for their loss, this fumbled punt is a pretty good candidate.
Johnny Manziel entered the game against the Rams when Josh McCown left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.
Vincent Jackson left the Washington game with a knee injury.
Arian Foster exited late in the fourth quarter with what doctors fear is a torn Achilles injury.
Eagles lineman Jason Peters left the Sunday night game with back trouble.