NFC North is heating up
25% of the regular season is finished and the NFC North pot is starting to heat up as we head into Autumn.
Kicking off the weekend in Green Bay, the Packers and the Eagles went toe to toe like Rocky and Apollo Creed. A win for the Pack would see them go into the colder weather with a 4-0 winning record while the Eagles tread onward after stuttering starts to the first few weeks. Aaron Rodgers had the Eagles on the ropes before Carson Wentz pummelled his way through the Packers defense with a 34-27 lead at 5 minutes left on the clock. There are few players you would want leading your team downfield more than Rodgers. When they found themselves at the 3-yard line, you thought you knew what was coming. With 4 bites at the cherry, Rodgers saw his final attempt into the endzone bounce off his receiver's arm and intercepted with just seconds left.
This meant the winner of a divisional showdown between the Bears and the Vikings would share the Packers 3-1 record. The Bears lost their quarterback, Mitch Trubisky early on to a shoulder injury. Their replacement, Chase Daniel, found Tarik Cohen for the first and only touchdown while the fearsome Bears defense and the boot of Eddy Pineiro finished the rest to win 16-6.
In seasons gone by, it would be easy to write this division off as a straight fight between the Packers and Bears from here on in however Minnesota will be back. In Detroit, the Lions have improved, coming within minutes of beating Kansas City. Of course, Patrick Mahomes took it to 34-30. Adding a competitive Lions team to this division means that this will be a division to keep an eye on.
What’s happening in L.A?
When you score 40 points in the NFL, you should expect to be winning. When you score 40 points against Tampa Bay, you should expect a win. To lose 55-40 as the Rams did this past Sunday suggests all is not clicking in Los Angeles this year.
Statistics can deceive in the NFL. Quarterback, Jared Goff threw for 517 yards on Sunday with 2 touchdowns, a completion rate of 66% and of course, his offense managed to score 40 points. Todd Gurley ran in 2 touchdowns. Sean McVey is still the head coach. Yet somehow, despite all of the positives, things don't appear the same on the field as they were last year. Something isn’t right. Gurley is having less influence, probably as a result of his many injuries. Goff is missing throws that he should have made. Despite 66% being a good hit rate, a look at the 33% being missed or thrown away signifies that things are not quite right at the Memorial Coliseum.
In a division with the Seahawks and the unbeaten 49ers, the road to the playoffs looks to be much bumpier than anybody would have predicted - especially for the Rams. The Bucs played well on Sunday but they should never have been in a position to put 55 points on the Rams. Things need to iron out in L.A. in the next quarter or the Rams may be left behind.
Turning Brown frowns upside down
They were the story of the summer. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, entering his second year, was all over the media. Trades were made for superstar receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. Jarvis Landry was there, Nick Chubb was there, Myles Garrett was there. The future was looking good for the Browns. Cleveland had a summery spring in their step and everyone tipped them for the playoffs at least. Then the season began.
Week One saw the Tennessee Titans hand the Browns a lesson in humility, bringing Cleveland back down to reality. Week Two saw a win against an increasingly imploding Jets team. Week Three promised a chance to get back on track in Los Angeles, however, the Rams beat them 20-13.
Lamar Jackson’s Ravens were up next and who would have predicted the Browns beating the Ravens on Sunday and stifling their offense for a 40-25 win? In the process, the Browns and the locals looked like they were having a good time. Mayfield threw for 342 yards and 1 touchdown, Chubb had a field day rushing for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns, and even Odell Beckham had a go on a trick play that came within inches of completing a 40+ yard pass.
To come out of such a rollercoaster ride with a 2-2 record after the first quarter of the season, having re-checked their expectations, might be the best thing for the Browns. They might just make the playoffs after all.
Plans going wrong for the Falcons
Drew Brees got injured and Cam Newton cleared the way early on while Tampa Bay gave the Atlanta Falcons a shot at reaching the top of the NFC South. At least, that was how it looked a couple of weeks ago.
So what has gone wrong for the Falcons? The Falcons have rooted themselves to the bottom of the division after a loss to the distinctly average Tennessee Titans. Their 1-3 record gives them a mountain to climb just to reach playoff contention, especially in a crowded NFC. So what now?
With quarterback changes ringing through the league in recent weeks, starter Matt Ryan can breathe easily. His offensive line is dropping around him yet he still puts up good numbers, throwing for 397 yards on Sunday. But numbers are no good if the scoreboard doesn’t reflect it and the Falcons are falling apart fast. The execution has been poor. Things are no better on the defensive side, with head coach Dan Quinn taking over the play-calling. Quinn walked off the field after the 24-10 loss to a chorus of boos.
A Class Act from Buffalo Bills' Frank Gore
Statistics can be spun this way and that to create a narrative within sports but sometimes numbers just don't lie. Buffalo’s Frank Gore possesses those undeniable numbers having joined the 15,000 rushing yards club during the Bills’ 16-10 loss to New England. In doing so, he became only the fourth player to do so and now sits less than 250 yards from Barry Sanders’ mark of 15,269. It’s hard to see anybody in the league right now who will ever manage to add their name to that list.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale