By Peter Santo
With the Patriots on a bye, Sunday was a good day to remind ourselves of just how mediocre the rest of the NFL is.
Ravens (4-4) 21, Steelers (4-4) 14
Does anyone want to win the AFC North? The Steelers were hoping to get a boost with Big Ben returning from a knee injury, but instead they took a tough loss to the lowly Ravens. With Roethlisberger at less than 100 percent, Pittsburgh needed star Running Back LeVeon Bell to step up, but he had just 32 yards on 14 carries.
Mike Wallace had himself a nice day for the Ravens with 124 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
The Ravens’ win means Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati are all within a half game of each other in the AFC North, setting up what should be a good battle down the stretch.
Cowboys (7-1) 35, Browns (0-7) 10
Not much to say here, the Cowboys are looking more and more like a true Super Bowl contender every week and are tied with the Patriots for the best record in football at 7-1.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Browns are unable to take advantage of the good vibes coming their way from the Indians and Cavs, as they fall to 0-7.
Chiefs (6-2) 19, Jaguars (2-6) 14
Former Auburn Linebacker Dee Ford is making a huge impact with the Chiefs
While all the talk in the AFC West has been about the battle between the Broncos and Raiders, the Chiefs have quietly kept themselves squarely in the mix.
Backup QB Nick Foles led the Chiefs to their fourth straight win, and with Alex Smith set to return next week, don’t sleep on Kansas City.
I know the Jags did okay last year, but changes need to be made. They’re wasting the talent of Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson. Gus Bradley needs to be fired yesterday.
Dolphins (4-4) 27, Jets (3-6) 23
The battle for second place in the AFC East is on, and just when you want to say the Dolphins are terrible, they miraculously come up with a win just to keep your hopes up. But come on, they barely beat a Jets team that’s on its third quarterback.
The Dolphins still believe in Ryan Tannehill, and he’s keeping them somewhat competitive at 4-4, but .500 isn’t good enough when Tom Brady is in your division, it might be time to move on. Then again, there isn’t exactly a better option out there.
The Jets have the makings of a good team, we saw that last season, but you’re not going to win with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, or Bryce Petty. Look for the Jets to go hard after Tony Romo or Jay Cutler, should they be available in a potential trade.
Giants (5-3) 28, Eagles (4-4) 23
In what turned into a battle of talent and potential vs experience, Eli Manning and the veteran New York Giants came out on top. Odell Beckham Jr. scored two more touchdowns, and Eli Manning did just enough to keep the Giants within reach of the Cowboys in the NFC East.
The Carson Wentz pandemonium was fun while it lasted, but let’s not forget he’s still a rookie quarterback fresh out of North Dakota State. He certainly has potential, but he’s been reliant on the Eagles’ excellent defense so far, and might just be a year or two away.
Lions (5-4) 22, Vikings (5-3) 16 (OT)
The Lions are the most confusing team in the NFL, one week Stafford looks like an MVP candidate, the next week they lose to a Houston that isn’t nearly as good as their 5-3 record suggests. But this was a big win for a team in a mediocre division.
While the Vikings hot start was fun while it lasted, Xavier Rhodes and Eric Kendricks had that defense flying off to a 5-1 start. But two straight losses to the Bears and Lions have reminded us that you can only go so far with Sam Bradford as your quarterback and with your all-pro running back out with a knee injury.
Much like the AFC North, the NFC North is proving to be a mediocre division. We thought the Vikings would run away with it, but two straight losses have put the North very much up for grabs.
Panthers (3-5) 13, Rams (3-5) 10
No team can start 1-5 and still make the playoffs right? After an abysmal start that saw Cam Newton get clobbered and a defense that looked nothing like last year’s NFC champions, the Panthers have begun to turn things around.
After a convincing win over the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Panthers found a way to win this week. This was the type of game you expect good times to grind out and win, and Carolina did that. With Cam Newton healthy, and Atlanta seemingly destined to fall apart, look out for Carolina down the stretch.
The Rams looked to have found their identity last year with powerful running back Todd Gurley turning in a huge rookie year and a bruising defense that drew comparisons to their counterparts in Seattle. But they’ve taken a step back this year. Lackluster quarterback play has fans booing Case Keenum and calling for Jared Goff, and Gurley’s steep decline proves that you can’t rely on a Running Back in today’s NFL.
Saints (4-4) 41, 49ers (1-7) 23
Drew Brees is well past his prime, but he’s still putting up huge numbers, and a solid running game and two young stud receivers in Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas is keeping the Saints competitive at 4-4.
Man how San Francisco has fallen since Harbaugh left, their quarterback gets more attention for his National Anthem protests than his play, and their coach is still answering to rumors about returning to coach Oregon. I told you they never should’ve traded Alex Smith.
Chargers (4-5) 43, Titans (4-5) 35
This game was a battle between two mediocre teams, but there was interesting young talent all over the field.
They lost a shootout yesterday, but Marcus Mariota is proving that he should be the Titans’ QB of the future, and with Demarco Murray returning to form and a solid defense, the Titans are very much in the AFC South race at 4-5.
While San Diego is well behind the other three teams in their division, Melvin Gordon has cemented himself as the top running back from the 2015 class, and future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers (that’s right, look at the numbers) is still putting up big numbers. Hopefully they can get themselves a defense before Rivers retires.
Colts (4-5) 31, Packers (4-4) 26
We all know how bad the Colts are, but sometimes a good quarterback is all you need, and when he’s protected, Andrew Luck is a once in a generation talent. Going into Lambeau is always an excellent win, and Luck got that done by himself. Luck is doing just enough to keep the Colts competitive in the AFC South.
I can’t quite place exactly what’s wrong with the Green Bay Packers. They have all the talent they need to compete for a Super Bowl berth, and with the Vikings missing players left and right this should be Green Bay’s division to lose.
But close losses to Atlanta last week and Indy this week have me thinking a little something is off in the land of the Cheeseheads.
Raiders (7-2) 30, Broncos (6-3) 20
Derek Carr is looking more like an MVP candidate by the week, and is setting himself up to make a lot of money was Oakland signs him to a contract extension.
With Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray as Carr’s primary weapons on offense, and Khalil Mack leading a solid defense, the Raiders are a forced to be reckoned with in the AFC. We knew the Raiders were a solid team this year, but a statement win over Denver on Sunday Night Football is the boost of confidence this team needed.
We know defense wins championships, and Denver has a historically good defense, but how long can they keep winning with Trevor Siemian is their quarterback. Is Siemian and that defense good enough to beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? I doubted them last year and I’m doubting them again, it’s time for Siemian to step up.