The OCHO: Week 6
A Monday Morning Quarterback-esque column
C’mon you know the drill at this point. Four surprises, and four things that were expected. Let’s do this.
Surprise Number One: When Monday hits but you haven’t had coffee yet.
Let’s talk about the Seahawks defense. In the course of the last 5 years, this unit went from one of the best in the league to quite possibly the worst. How did that happen? Well, the players are bad now. The Seahawks were never using a complicated scheme. They had one of the simplest in the NFL, using a ton of zone, usually cover 3. But they had Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas covering 2 of those three zones and Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner hunting the middle of the field. The rest was sort of moot. Now, the only one left is Bobby Wagner. Jamal Adams is something of a Kam Chancellor clone, but the big hitting safety is an artifact of another era. They can’t cover well, and, as you can see, they don’t create INTs. It’s Earl Thomas they miss more, but that didn’t stop them from trading two first picks to solve the wrong problem (missing Kam Chancellor). Until they rebuild the secondary with coverage guys, teams will be rubbing it in their face.
Surprise Number Two: When you are about to walk down that aisle in the grocery store but you see someone you sort of know…
Listening to Cris Collinsworth try to come up with positive things to say about Ben Roethlisberger last night was pretty funny, but the funniest was him talking about how great Ben Roethlisberger’s pump faking ability was prior to this. Just let the man’s career die already. Serious statement here… could Cam Newton possibly be worse than Ben Roethlisberger? If I were the Steelers I would kick the tires. The Steelers have great players at the skill positions. If they could find a league average QB, they could make the playoffs.
Surprise Number Three: Are the Patriots bad at defense?
Ceedee Lamb said goodbye to the Patriots playoff hopes on Sunday, as the Dallas Cowboys rolled up nearly 600 yards on offense (the most Bill Belichick has EVER given up). Everyone knows the Patriots struggled on defense last year because of a bunch of opt outs and a lack of talent, but why are they bad now? They addressed that in the offseason, adding key pieces and getting back several players. What the hell? The answer can be found in two terrifying words. Matt Patricia. That’s right, one of the least likable, most overrated, and (most importantly) obtuse minds in defensive history has come back to the fold this season as a “defensive advisor”. Woof. This guy was the architect behind giving up 41 points to NICK FOLES in the Super Bowl, left to guide the Lions into the ditch and has returned like a Michael Myers reboot to finish the job he started in New England. Sorry Pats fans (not even remotely sorry).
Surprise Number Four: The Raiders aren’t done, and they might even get better thanks in large part to Maxx Crosby
The Raiders came out aggressive after the scandal involving their now former head coach. A lot of former players had interesting things to say in the wake of his dismissal, and it’s hard not to notice the pattern (and color) of players who viewed him as a fraud. More interesting than Gruden’s shortcomings, however, is how the Raiders have gotten better this year. The key cog in their defensive rejuvenation has been Maxx Crosby, who has played dynamic football off the edge this season. His turnaround on the field and off is incredible. Getting clean changed his life, and has given the Raiders life in the midst of a dark time for the franchise.
Expected Thing Number One: The Jaguars-Dolphins tilt was just as bad as you think it was (I assume you didn’t watch, why would you)
Last week I railed against the games being sent to London, and made fun of a kicker for celebrating a missed kick. Here, we combine these elements and see a defensive player celebrate a made kick in London. This game was terrible from beginning to end, with coaching blunders, tons of dumb penalties (the best of which was a taunting penalty on a Jaguar who had just given up a 15 yard completion for a first down). The fact that this kick, which absolutely should have been a miss, was the key play in the game says pretty much all you need to know. These teams are both awful, awfully coached (my how the turntables on Brian Flores), and fairly devoid of talent. If sending this putrescence across the pond ends up starting our third war with Britain, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Expected Thing Number Two: Aaron Rodgers stills owns the Bears
It’s been almost 15 years and not much has changed. Aaron Rodgers knows it, and the Bears fans know it. Someday this will change, as age will finally defeat Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers didn’t really blow the roof off of this game, with under 200 yards passing. His MVP campaign from just last year feels like 5 years ago already. He is playing this year an awful lot like he did the previous 5 years before last year. Which is to say, really good, but short of elite. Last year is starting to feel like a very angry outlier. The end is starting for Rodgers, so maybe someday will be the Bears day. Just know that if the Bears end up selling an ownership stake, Rodgers should legally be first in line.
Expected Thing Number Three: The Lions are in the darkest timeline
While things were bad over in London, the Lions have settled into a darkness that seems to be getting to them. After another bad loss to a recent member of the number one pick club, Dan Campbell demanded more from Jared Goff, forgetting that he is Jared Goff. The history of his head coaches getting frustrated with Goff is short, but it is at 100%, with Jeff Fisher getting fired after Goff had one of the worst seasons on record, Sean McVay giving up on him, and now Dan Campbell (a virtual paragon of positivity) growing disillusioned. Goff is a player who fools you into seeing what you want to see. It’s why he was a number one pick, why he got a massive extension, and why Detroit didn’t take a QB in the draft. Fool me once, shame on Goff, fool me thrice, shame on NFL. BTW, if you thought tanking was the quarterback answer, the player some thought might be the number one pick, Spencer Rattler, just lost his job in Oklahoma. Another possibility plays for Liberty. No, I’m not kidding.
Expected Thing Number Four: The Ravens excel because they can do it all
Poor Dan Marino has had a rough couple weeks, getting bumped down a number of lists (although it is a nice reminder of how truly transcendent he was to accomplish all of that before they turned QBs into a protected species, and before they stopped letting DBs tackle WRs before the ball was thrown). Lamar Jackson bumped Dan down another one Sunday. It’s worth remembering that Lamar Jackson didn’t even play his entire rookie season, unlike Marino. The Ravens excel despite Lamar’s limitations as a player (he still struggles at times to be accurate, read defenses and make smart decisions with the ball) because they can do whatever is needed to win a game. Make a clutch field goal? Justin Tucker will every time. Mix coverages to confuse a QB? The Ravens will try anything. Get a turnover? The Ravens defense can take it away. Stop the run? The Ravens will. Run the ball for 200 yards? No problem. Pass for 400? Lamar did it last week. No matter what their personnel, no matter who the opponent, the Ravens can almost always find the answer to get a win. John Harbaugh is a great coach because he is flexible to do whatever is needed on any given week. To me, Harbaugh has been a top 5 coach for a while.