The Many Things We Learned In Week 7 Of The 2017 NFL Season
1. Divisional races are wide open. The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings joined the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs as the only teams with an NFL-high five victories. The largest lead in any division right now is just two games.
2. The first teams to surpass their victory totals from last season are the Rams, who won four in 2016, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who won three.
3. For those wondering how the Green Bay Packers would look without injured QB Aaron Rodgers, the answer came on their first series Sunday: A whole lot of rookie RB Aaron Jones. He had 70 yards on four carries in the drive, including a 46-yard TD, while Rodgers’ replacement, Brett Hundley, threw a single pass.
4. In his first career start, Hundley didn’t have a completion in the first quarter. In 141 career starts, Rodgers failed to connect on a pass in the opening period just one time. Hundley finished the day with 12 completions (on 25 attempts) for 87 passing yards and an interception. He ran for a score, but it’s clear it’s going to take some time for him to settle in, even with coach Mike McCarthy adapting Green Bay’s offense to fit Hundley’s skill set.
5. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees threw two interceptions in first quarter for the third time in his career, but later posted his 500th career TD pass (including postseason). Impressive number, for sure. But give credit to New Orleans’ two-headed tailback tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, who combined for 217 yards from scrimmage against Green Bay.
6. First points of the day went to the New York Jets, on a 29-yard TD grab by Jermaine Kearse. New York also had gains of 31 and 13 yards in an opening drive in South Florida that took just 2:05.
7. That meant the Miami Dolphins, again, faced an early deficit. In fact, Miami has trailed in the first half of five of their six games.
8. But on the following drive, Jay Cutler found Jarvis Landry for a 4-yard TD. It marked the first Miami offensive touchdown in the first half this season. About time.
9. Cutler later left the game with a chest injury, but Miami’s in good hands with backup QB Matt Moore. Facing a 14-point deficit, the Dolphins scored 17 unanswered in the fourth quarter to notch the win. If Cutler is healthy, is there a quarterback controversy in Miami?
10. After being benched last week, Cleveland Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer completed his first six throws for 44 yards on mixed short-to-intermediate routes. But leave it to consecutive penalties and one questionable play call to derail his progress. The defining characteristic of this team: self-inflicted errors.
11. Kizer flashes potential but just cannot avoid fatal mistakes. Thanks to Mary Kay Cabot of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for this stat: Kizer has now thrown an NFL-worst 11 interceptions when driving to tie or go ahead in a game, with two more on Sunday. That was enough for Jackson, again, to yank Kizer, this time in favor of Cody Kessler.
12. It’s too early to know if Kizer can become a viable passer in the NFL. But benching a rookie quarterback twice before the midway point of the season is Mismanagement 101. Confidence and poise are vital for young passers, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Kizer has neither right now. If he wasn’t ready to play — many predicted as much after he left Notre Dame early — then there was no need to play him so soon.
13. More bad news for the Browns. For the first time since he was drafted in 2007, star left tackle Joe Thomas missed a snap. That ended his streak of 10,363 consecutive offensive plays. Cleveland quickly ruled Thomas out with a triceps injury, which could jeopardize his streak of 167 straight starts.
14. Living up to the standards of Kyle Shanahan’s top-scoring offense in 2016 was always going to be difficult, but the Atlanta Falcons look like they’re in crisis mode. Steve Sarkisian’s attack went more than 91 minutes without scoring and mustered just seven points against a Patriots defense that allowed its six previous opponents to eclipse 300 yards passing. So much for avoiding that Super Bowl hangover.
15. The Rams scored on their first drive, setting the tone for their 33-0 whitewash of the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams are now 5-0 this year when they score on their opening series (and 0-2 when they don’t).
16. Through the first 10:20 of their game in Chicago, the Carolina Panthers allowed QB Cam Newton to get sacked three times. Poor blocking to be sure, but Newton has to get rid of the ball quicker. He was sacked five times in total during Sunday’s loss.
17. Chicago Bears rookie Bears safety Eddie Jackson scored more touchdowns Sunday than the Panthers, Browns, Titans and Cardinals — combined.
18. Jackson, who returned both a fumble (75 yards) and an interception (76 yards) for touchdowns, has more TDs than Bears wide receivers have (1) in 2017.
19. One benefit from scoring a pair of early defensive TDs? Your quarterback doesn’t need to throw all that much. Bears rookie passer Mitchell Trubisky threw for 107 yards … on 4-for-7 passing Sunday. Per NFL research, among quarterbacks who didn’t leave a game early with an injury, Trubisky became the first passer since Tim Tebow in 2011 to win a game with fewer than five completions.
20. Good news: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have moved on from the kicking mess that’s plagued them since last year. Patrick Murray’s 50-yard field goal Sunday matched the Bucs’ total from their previous 23 games combined.
21. Gutsy performance of the day goes to Jameis Winston. The Bucs quarterback played with an AC joint sprain to his throwing shoulder. But despite the sore arm, he threw 44 passes, completing 32 for 384 yards and three scores. But it was wasted in a loss to the Buffalo Bills, who’d only allowed two TD passes all season prior to Sunday.
22. One cool note for the Bills. QB Tyrod Taylor found TE Logan Thomas for a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was the first career receiving score for Thomas, a converted quarterback. In fact, Thomas succeeded Taylor as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback in 2011.
23. Have to feel for the Baltimore Ravens. They entered Sunday without WRs Breshad Perriman and Jeremy Maclin, RB Terrance West and TE Maxx Williams. Minutes into their game at Minnesota, WR Mike Wallace was concussed. It’s easy to blame QB Joe Flacco for offensive woes, but tough to be competitive with so many key pieces missing.
24. The Jaguars sacked Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett 10 times. It was Jacksonville’s second game of the year with a double-digit sack total. That’s more in one game than the Buccaneers (7), have had all season.
25. The Jaguars beat the Colts 27-0, marking Indianapolis’ first shutout loss in 24 seasons.
26. And if you’re Colts QB Andrew Luck, who suffered a setback this week to his surgically repaired (but sore) throwing shoulder, there’s no way you’re rushing back to a 2-5 team that just let Brissett get pounded, right?
27. So about Adrian Peterson’s resurrection … 11 carries for 21 yards will temper such enthusiasm.
28. Have to take a moment to mention Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, who broke his left (non-throwing) arm and will have surgery that will keep him out eight weeks. He turns 38 in December, but had been playing well, is under contract, and most players don’t like to walk away from the game injured. It’s premature to say he’s done.
29. Detractors about the quality of Thursday games kept quiet after the Oakland Raiders’ thrilling comeback victory against the Chiefs. It’s not an overstatement to say that the Raiders saved their season after losing their previous four. QB Derek Carr returned to form after a back injury, and he also got WR Amari Cooper involved in a big way.
30. Oakland RB Marshawn Lynch was suspended one game for running onto the field and bumping into an official. Tough blow for the Raiders, who were already struggling to run the ball and next face a tough road matchup against a tough Bills defense.
31. Entering Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers had lost their previous five games by a combined 13 points. The Dallas Cowboys beat them by 30. This only confirmed that San Francisco, despite some gritty performances, has a long way to go.
32. Head coach Jason Garrett pulled Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and most of the Dallas starters in the middle of the fourth quarter. We would’ve sat them even earlier. It came against a weaker Niners defense, but three touchdowns and 219 yards from scrimmage on 27 touches (8.1 yards per touch) for Elliott is an encouraging sign for someone who entered Sunday averaging just 4.3 yards per touch.
33. We have to thank the NFL for unearthing this gem: Cowboys K Dan Bailey left Sunday’s game with a groin injury, so S Jeff Heath took over place kicking duties. Heath became the first player — other than kickers or punters — to make multiple extra points in a game since 1980, when Houston Oilers linebacker Ted Thompson went 4-for-4. Yes, that’s the same Ted Thompson who is now the Packer GM.
34. Nothing better encapsulates the tension the Seattle Seahawks seem to invite than an ugly scene when WR Doug Baldwin put his hands on O-line coach Tom Cable during a heated sideline exchange during their game against the New York Giants on Sunday. Within minutes, Baldwin and Cable had hashed things out and moved on … and the offense eventually got into gear, presumably cooling Baldwin’s temper.
35. QB Russell Wilson was the reason why the Seattle attack eventually got on track. He threw for 334 yards and three scores, spreading the ball to 11 different players. We’d love to know what Baldwin told Cable, but the lack of open running lanes are still a concern.
36. Any momentum the Giants built after coach Ben McAdoo ceded play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan fizzled with Sunday’s dud. The team gained just 177 yards. Most disappointing was just 46 on the ground against a Seahawks defense that had been gashed for 127.2 per game before Week 7.
37. Positive sign for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since Ben Roethlisberger tossed a career-high five interceptions two weeks ago, he has completed 63.3% of his passes for 476 yards, three touchdowns, and just one interception, which came last week. More importantly, Pittsburgh beat a pair of tough AFC opponents in the Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.
38. Normally, the Bengals-Steelers games would be appointment viewing given it’s one of the most physical rivalries in the league. But when Cincinnati gets shut out in the second half and allows 15 unanswered points to close the game, it saps juice from the matchup. One suggestion for the Bengals, it might be time to give rookie RB Joe Mixon more than seven carries.
39. The Denver Broncos hadn’t been shut out in nearly 25 years. Yes, they were extremely short-handed on offense because of injuries. But an inept rushing game, a leaky offensive line, and a passing game that kept everything too short exacerbated their problems. Three losses in four games makes that Week 2 win against the Cowboys feel like it came last season.
40. The Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) are on a three-game winning streak after finally notching their first home win and suddenly very much alive in the AFC West. The defense is carrying the unit, and second-year DE Joey Bosa is a budding star. He dominated Denver’s decimated O-line and now has 7 ½ sacks this season.
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