When are we going to learn? We all do the same thing every season. We overreact to September football only to find out in October those overreactions are just that: overreactions. And Week 6 was where most of those went to die.
When the new CBA was signed in 2011, practice time was forever changed. The offseason program was shortened by at least a month and time restrictions were put in place. No more two-a-days in camp, with new mandatory days off and less padded practices during the season. This has led to September feeling and looking like the preseason at times, which leads to the wild reactions after the first month of the season. And we all do it, even myself.
Let’s go through all these overreactions, as well as that thrilling Sunday Night Football contest.
First, let’s start with the positive:
Five teams that turned out to be just fine, no surprise
New England Patriots: Order is restored in the AFC after the Patriots narrowly escaped against the Chiefs. When the Patriots went down the Jacksonville and lost, it raised an eyebrow. But we told ourselves: “This is the one September game they always lose.”
Then the Patriots went to Detroit and got their asses kicked again. Was this actually the time the Patriots are sliding backwards? Some people questioned it loudly. But ... nope. They beat Miami, 38-7. They dominated the Colts, 38-24, and beat the 5-0 Chiefs. The Patriots are what we thought: the frontrunner of the AFC.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Remember when Le’Veon Bell decided not to show up for Week 1 and the NFL world lost their minds when they saw the comments from the Steelers OL? Yep, feels like forever ago. The Steelers have had their issues, but they have turned in two straight solid outings and are 3-2-1. Big Ben is now 13-2 as a starter on the road in Cincinnati and the squad should get Bell back after their bye week. The Steelers will again contend in the AFC.
Minnesota Vikings: Remember that time they lost to the Bills? I wrote at the time that game was the Vikings’ stinker of the season. Since then, they lost a close Thursday night game to the Rams, beat the Super Bowl champions on the road, and then defeated a hapless Cardinals team. Kirk Cousins has been worth every penny he was paid. He’s completing 71 percent of passes for almost 2,000 yards already this season. The Vikings offensive line is a wreck and they need Everson Griffen back on defense, but they are contenders again.
Philadelphia Eagles: They are 3-3 now after a dominating performance against the awful Giants on Thursday Night Football. Carson Wentz has now started four games and he’s starting to get his sea legs back. The offensive line, which has weirdly struggled at times, is starting to clamp things back down. Their defense is super legit and the Eagles are on the way back to the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers: They are 4-2 with losses to the Rams and Chiefs. Otherwise, the Chargers have beaten down opponents. They look for real but must beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium to win the division. Philip Rivers is under-appreciated and as a former lineman, I love to watch him. He stands tall in the pocket and fires the ball over the field. They have a chance, especially with Joey Bosa coming back.
And now the negative:
Three teams coming back to Earth
Chicago Bears: Yikes. I didn’t buy the Bears quite as hard as others (I saw someone had them ranked in the top three heading into this weekend). Yes, their defense is legit but we have a first-time head coach playing with a young quarterback. They have a loaded roster of talent, but good teams don’t go into Miami and lose. Plain and simple.
Tennessee Titans: They were the talk of the NFL when they were 3-1 after wins against the Jaguars and Eagles. I might have even bought into the hype, but I’m glad I didn’t totally jump on the bandwagon. First, the Titans head up to Buffalo and lose 13-12. OK sure, one bad loss in Buffalo, makes sense. But Sunday was a whole new level of stink for their offense.
They allowed 11 sacks while only gaining seven offensive first downs. Marcus Mariota has never been the same player since his injury near the end of the 2016 season. What looked like a promising season is now exactly where the Titans probably should be, right at .500
Jacksonville Jaguars: Y’all know I’m not a fan of Blake Bortles. He’s too hot and cold for me to buy into Bortles being able to lead this team to the promised land. So while I haven’t been surprised to see the offense struggle at times, the defensive struggles are somewhat concerning. They allowed 30 (well, really 23) to the Chiefs and the Cowboys smoked them, 40-7.
I’ll say this: On defense, if you don’t believe in the offense, your play slips after a while. It’s not a conscious decision to make more errors and not tackle properly, but I think deep down it does affect the defense. Also, when your offense sucks, the defense is on the field too long and gets tried. A tired defense is lovely for the opposing offense — no pass rush, poor tackling, and miscommunication.
And somewhere in the middle:
Three teams good enough to make the playoffs, but won’t win the Super Bowl
Carolina Panthers: I’ve watched every snap of the Panthers’ season as I live in Charlotte, and no doubt they are solid. Cam Newton is playing well in Norv Turner’s offense and Christian McCaffrey has blossomed into an every-down back. The Panthers have won their three home games and lost their two road games. They head to Philadelphia next week followed by a visit from the Ravens. Then it’s home against Tampa and at Pittsburgh and Detroit.
That home-and-away trend could continue throughout the season. The Panthers should make the playoffs and if Cam becomes 2015 Cam, they have a chance.
Cincinnati Bengals: Their home game against the Steelers was a chance to show this Bengals team is different than the rest. Nope. Same old Bengals. They are good enough to make a playoff run, but not good enough to win multiple games in January.
Kansas City Chiefs: Even after the loss to the Patriots, the Chiefs are still legit contenders in the AFC. But they just don’t have the defense to go deep this season.
Two teams that are still a big question mark
Dallas Cowboys and Washington: These two NFC East teams have been counted out as dead, but here’s the thing: They both have the look of being an 8-8 team that could catch a few breaks and end up at 10-6 with a playoff spot. It’s possible, or not.
That’s the issue with 8-8 teams. We just don’t know which team is showing up week to week.
Game of the week: Patriots vs. Chiefs lived up to its billing
Wow! We expected a track meet in Foxborough, and we got that — and even more. The Patriots kicked a game-winning field goal to hold on for a 43-40 win after being up 24-9 at the half. Neither defense showed much of any life, but the Patriots did just enough in the red zone. The Chiefs had five trips into the red zone and came away with three first-half field goals and two touchdowns in the second half.
Tom Brady played like Tom Brady, no surprise there. All eyes were on Pat Mahomes in this one and early on, it was clear he was fired up. He sailed passes and looked rushed at times with pressure in his face. He threw a pick where — and credit New England here — the defense disguised a coverage. His second pick was the classic gunslinger turnover. Down 24-9, 10 seconds left in the first half, and he’s trying to make a play. This is the pressure put on Mahomes because the Chiefs defense can’t stop anyone.
The second half was a different story. Mahomes calmed down and made some ridiculous throws. Tyreek Hill might be the most fun player to watch in the league. This defense is going to cost the Chiefs a chance at the Super Bowl. It’s a shame, because I love watching them play.