Highs and Lows are back, and NFL Week Ten continued the trend of wholesale lunacy throughout the league. This continues to be the most confusing season I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s safe to say bold predictions are a rarity throughout the NFL media. We’ve got more upsets, bounce-back blowouts, and the Falcons are terrible again. As usual, there is plenty to discuss. I am simply here to narrow your focus a bit.
Chiefs are Back
I haven’t been right about a ton this year, but I did say that the Chiefs would be fine. Following their 41-14 victory in Las Vegas on Sunday Night Football the Kansas City Chiefs now are back on top of the AFC West, and they seem to be solving their offensive woes following a shaky start to the season. The Raiders lose their second straight, and their offense just doesn’t look the same without recently released receiver Henry Ruggs.
Patrick Mahomes was the best player on the field Sunday. The 2020 NFL MVP has struggled this season but on the road Mahomes delivered one of the best quarterback performances of the season as he threw for 406 yards, five touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 127.6. The Kansas City offense only punted once all night and both Travis Kelce and Damien William had over 100 yards receiving. The Chiefs look like themselves in a major divisional victory, and you better believe the NFL took notice.
Cam Newton is back in Carolina and has already made an impact for the Panthers. The former No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and 2015 NFL MVP was sitting at home just a week ago after being cut by the New England Patriots following the emergence of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Well, Cam is back where it all started, and in the same stadium where he made his NFL debut, Newton scored two touchdowns on his first two touches of the 2021 NFL year.
The Panthers won 34-10 against the injury riddled Arizona Cardinals, and while P.J. Walker did a decent job as Sam Darnold’s replacement, Newton grabbed all the headlines. As he was a mid-week signing it would have been unreasonable to expect Cam to start on Sunday without knowing Matt Rhule and Joe Brady’s offense, but it’s now being reported that Newton will take most of the first team reps this week as the team prepares for their game against the Washington Football team. All signs point to Cam starting in his return to Carolina, and the Panthers will make a Wild Card push with a familiar face once again.
Texas-Sized Bounce Back
A week after being blown out by the Denver Broncos the Dallas Cowboys responded in a major way, winning 43-3 against the Atlanta Falcons. It was their seventh win of the season, easily atop the dismal NFC East, and America’s Team looked like the juggernaut we’ve seen all season.
Dak Prescott was back to his MVP form at AT&T Stadium. Against the Broncos the Cowboys quarterback had his second-lowest completion percentage of his career. This week Prescott diced up the Atlanta defense, going 24-31 for 296 yards and 3 total touchdowns with no interceptions. He spread the ball around all day, with 10 different players catching at least one ball. CeeDee Lamb led all pass catchers with six receptions for 96 yards and two scores.
Defensively the Cowboys were an immovable object against the Falcons. Matt Ryan and Co. were coming off a big win on the road in New Orleans and found themselves incapable of getting anything going. The Falcons went just 1-13 on third and fourth down and turned the ball over three times. Ryan himself had a horrible day as he went 9-21 for 117 yards and two interceptions. The Cowboys dominated on Sunday and looked like themselves once again.
Need a Scapegoat?
After a dominant 41-16 divisional win against the Cincinnati Bengals which had Cleveland supporters and media pundits alike hailing the praises of post-Odell Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Browns laid an egg at Gillette Stadium as they were manhandled by the red-hot New England Patriots 45-7. For the Patriots it was their fourth straight win, whereas the Browns dropped their fourth game in the last six contests. At least they can’t blame Odell this time.
Cleveland was a no show against the Patriots. Baker Mayfield was 11/21 for a measly 73 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He didn’t even lead his team in passing yards, but his offense did go 3-15 on third and fourth down and averaged 3.7 yards per play. On the other side of the ball, Mac Jones tore up the Cleveland defense, going 19-23 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson had a breakout game as he had 100 rushing yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. The Browns were unable to do anything against New England, and they remain as inconsistent as always.
Shutout in the Snow
Seattle Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson returned from injury Sunday following the first missed games of his NFL career, and he looked like his finger was still injured. The Hawks were shut out against the Green Bay Packers 17-0 at Lambeau Field as they fell to 3-6, the worst start to a Seattle season since Wilson was drafted in 2012. This also marked the first time Russell Wilson has been shut out in a game.
Wilson and the Seahawks offense looked completely out of sorts against Green Bay. He was just 20/40 for 161 yards, no touchdowns, and two bad looking interceptions. Seattle only had 208 total yards, averaging 3.5 yards per play, and were nearly doubled in time of possession. They were outmatched by Green Bay in all aspects and Wilson needs to find some of his September magic if Seattle has any hope of salvaging this season.
La La Land (Emphasis on the L)
It is time to worry about the Los Angeles Rams. For the second straight game in a primetime spot, the Rams were dominated from start to finish. Last week it was a 28-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans at home on Sunday Night Football and this week on Monday Night Football the San Francisco 49ers led the Rams from start to finish in a 31-10 blowout in LA’s first game with splash additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller. This is the same 49ers team that couldn’t handle a Cardinal team without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, but it was the nature of both losses that should concern Los Angeles supporters.
The Rams were dominated in both games at the line of scrimmage. Turnovers were also an issue, Matt Stafford has five in his last two games, but those can be corrected. What can’t be so easily addressed is the manner in which they were dominated at the line of scrimmage. The Rams defense allowed 156 yards yesterday and were walked up and down the field against Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Their offensive line put Stafford under constant pressure for the second straight game, leading to some of those turnovers that have plagued the Rams’ offense. If you can’t play physically, you won’t win the NFC. The Rams need to figure it out.
That’s it for Highs and Lows this week. Hopefully, the NFL season will start to take shape and provide some consistency, but I seem to say that every week. Week 11 will see the Cowboys take on the newly revived Chiefs in what might be the game of the year, and an AFC matchup with major Wildcard implications.