Week 7 of the NFL was full of drama both on and off the field, so let’s get right to the biggest stories of this last weekend.
Raiders Win But Questions Remain: What should we make of this Raiders team? They beat the first place Chiefs 31-30 in a thrilling Thursday night showdown with their division rivals but this team remains as puzzling as ever. Coming off a 12-4 season and playoff berth, they were a sexy pick to clinch the AFC West and perhaps even challenge the Patriots for conference supremacy this season. With the offseason additions of Marshawn Lynch,tight end Jared Cook and gadget wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Oakland added even more weapons to their already potent offense.
However, all the buzz coming into this season seems to have been sucked into the Coliseum’s infamous Black Hole. The team is 3-4 and has yet to live up to their tremendous potential. The defense, already a weak point coming into the season, has been exceptionally mediocre and is ranked number 26 in the league, while the much heralded offense has been a major disappointment, registering at No. 22. Derek Carr has been solid but unspectacular, the receiving corps has had problems with drops and the offensive line has been inconsistent and goaded into fights with fans. Yet, the team’s biggest disappointment thus far has been fan favorite and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch.
After hearing news of the team’s plan to move to Las Vegas, the Cal alum came out of retirement to suit up for his hometown team before they left for good. To say the least, he was embraced by the franchise with opens arms. His eccentric personality and bruising running style suggested a perfect fit with the Raiders and his jersey quickly became one of the top selling items on NFL shop, as fans waited in excited anticipation for the return of Beast Mode.
As with the squad as a whole, Lynch too, hasn’t lived up to the hype. The former Pro Bowler has only accounted for two touchdowns and has yet to crack the 100 yard mark. With Lynch’s one game suspension for pushing a referee in their win against Kansas City, the honeymoon period seems to be over in The Town. That’s not to say he still isn’t massively popular with the fanbase, it is his city after all but Lynch will have to improve if this team is going to stand a chance going forward.
Thank the ghost of Al Davis they’ve got Khalil Mack.
A Rams Beatdown in London: Southern California’s fourth favorite football team—behind USC, UCLA and the LA Galaxy–annihilated the Arizona Cardinals and secured a 33-0 blowout victory in the homeland of our former colonial overlords. Cal alum Jared Goff threw for 235 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another. Todd Gurley ran for 100 yards for the fourth time in five games and the Rams defense played great, shutting down Adrian Peterson and the rest of the Arizona offense in convincing fashion.
The Rams are now 5-2 and atop the NFC West, looking very much like a playoff contender. First year head coach Sean McVay has turned this team around much more rapidly than expected and Goff is finally living up to his status of a top draft pick after a poor rookie campaign. Gurley is having a bounce back season as well, thanks Goff’s improved play, which has given him much more room to operate compared to last season when teams would simply load the box against him because they didn’t fear the Rams passing game. How much of the Rams success has to do with Sean McVay and how much it has to do with Jeff “7-9” Fisher being gone is still up for debate but what can’t be argued is that the Rams are miles ahead of where they were last season. Only time will tell whether the Rams are a true contender, and if anyone in LA will even care either way.
Meanwhile the Arizona Cardinals season unofficially ended with the news that starting quarterback Carson Palmer has a broken left arm and will be out for at least eight weeks. The prospects for this season already looked bleak when star tailback David Johnson went out with a wrist injury in Week 1 but Palmer’s injury is really the nail in the coffin.
The franchise is in win now mode but with how hopeless this season is shaking out to be for the Cardinals, the smart move would be for Arizona to tank and hope to land a top 5 draft pick-a quarterback of the future perhaps. Carson Palmer, while serviceable, is past his prime and a terrible quarterback in the postseason, so Arizona might want to look toward the future and explore their options at that position. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson are all exciting prospects who could interject some much needed energy into the listless Cardinals. Arizona has not one, but two, generational talents in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Patrick Peterson so it would behoove the franchise to take advantage of the rare opportunity they’ve been afforded by drafting a quarterback of the future who can lead them deep into the postseason.
Foxborough Fog: The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons played in a highly anticipated game this past Sunday night, the first meeting between the two since last year’s Super Bowl matchup. The Patriots beat the Falcons once again, albeit in much less dramatic fashion securing a convincing 23-7 victory over Atlanta. New England moved to 5-2 and the Falcons dropped to 3-3 but the real story here however was the low lying Massachusetts fog that enveloped the stadium and made for a very strange viewing experience.
The fog was like something straight out of The Mist, which made it impossible for NBC to employ the standard broadcast angle so they were forced to switch to employing the Skycam–and it was awesome! It was like the standard Madden camera angle had come to life! Simple run plays were suddenly much more intriguing as you could watch rushing lanes develop. Route running became fun to watch. We got a better feel for defensive schemes. It felt like we the viewers were in the pocket, surveying the defense with Matt Ryan or Tom Brady on every pass play. Even line play somehow became must see TV. Line play! Many an NFL fan stood up in his living room, put down his nachos and yelled to no one in particular “THIS IS THE FUTURE NBC–SWITCH TO THE SKYCAM! WE BEG YOU!”
Unfortunately NBC crushed all our dreams and announced that they wouldn’t be switching to the SkyCam. It’s because of all sorts of practical, boring reasons that you can read here if you’re a practical, well adjusted, boring person but luckily I’m not one of those people and I can assure you I’m irked. So irked in fact, that I’m going to personally send an email to NBC sports and Mr. Goodell expressing my supreme displeasure and communicate in the strongest possible terms how refusing to employ the Sky Cam is un-American and disrespectful to the Troops.
You’re welcome America.
Fly Eagles Fly: The Eagles beat the Washington Redskins 34-24 in convincing fashion on Monday Night football and improved to an NFL best 6-1 record. Sophomore QB Carson Wentz had another great game, throwing for 268 yards and 4 touchdowns, including a 64 yard bomb, in addition to leading the team in rushing with 63 yards on the ground. The Eagles defense pressured Kirk Cousins throughout the game and totaled 4 sacks, including 8 tackles for a loss. Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor both had solid performances and Mack Hollins hit the Backpack Kid.
Philadelphia looks to be in the driver’s seat in the NFC East and Wentz appears to be the real deal. In a season without any great teams, the Eagles look like the sharpest and most cohesive unit in the NFL and much of the credit should go to head coach Doug Pederson, who has this team playing with purpose and confidence. The Eagles haven’t had a lot go wrong this season but the football gods seemed to have got even on Philly with an injury to left tackle and nine time Pro Bowler Jason Peters. He suffered a knee injury after being rolled up on while he was pass blocking and was carted off the field under a rarely positive Philly crowd, who serenaded Peters with heartfelt chants. It was announced by Pederson that Peters tore both his MCL and ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. There’s no doubt that this injury will change the dynamics of the team and could have a profoundly negative effect on the Eagles’s chances of going far in the postseason. Philadelphia will probably slide right tackle Lane Johnson into Peter’s old domain and hope that the rest of the offensive line can hold it together going forward. This team is still dangerous but Jason Peters is a big loss for the Eagles and someone who won’t be easily replaced.
The Washington Redskins are now 3-3, joining the .500 club that the entire league seems to be apart of. More importantly Cousins fell to 0-6 on Monday Night Football as a starter. Washington’s three best offensive lineman–Trent Williams, Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff– all suffered leg injuries and struggling wideout Terrelle Pryor who had been benched to start to the game, was as Pacman Jones once said, “garbage”–with Pryor accounting for only two receptions for 14 yards along with a few drops. The Redskins secondary, which was already depleted with the absence of injured cornerback Josh Norman, fell victim to the Eagles passing attack Monday Night and the rest of the defense wasn’t much better.
The Redskins have a very tough schedule to navigate these next few weeks, with dates against the Cowboys, Vikings, Seahawks and Saints, all upcoming. The NFC East looks to be Philadelphia’s for the taking and elsewhere in the division the Cowboys look like a stronger Wild Card contender, which leaves Washington on the outside looking in for yet another season. The Redskins could pull it together and go on an unexpected run these next few weeks but the odds are certainly stacked against them and they look to be slated for an 8-8 season or even worse. This may be the last year the Redskins core of Coach Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins stay intact, famously impatient and ambitious Dan Snyder is likely to make some major changes if things don’t go well this season. The Redskins look to be just another average team in a season full of them.
Rory O’Toole writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].