The NFL changes so fast. Think back eight weeks ago. The Saints were 0-2. Their defense had given up 341 pass yards in Week One to the Vikings, and 436 pass yards in Week Two to the Patriots. They looked headed toward their fourth consecutive 7-9 season, and they’d only manage seven wins because Drew Brees would lead them to some shootout wins.
Well, the Saints have seven wins alright. They’re now 7-2, and during their current seven-game winning streak they haven’t just won, they’ve dominated. Amazingly, they’re dominating games even without Brees doing anything special. In yesterday’s 47-10 win over the Bills, Brees threw for just 184 yards and didn’t have a touchdown pass.
Instead, the Saints are winning with their running game — Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both topped 100 yards in Buffalo and the Saints had an incredible six rushing touchdowns — and even more with their defense. That defense looked like it might have been the worst in the NFL in the first two weeks of the season, and it has looked like it might be the best in the NFL ever since.
On Sunday the Saints absolutely destroyed Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, holding him to just 56 yards on 9-of-18 passing, with no touchdowns and an interception. The Saints did allow Bills backup Nathan Peterman to make some plays in garbage time, but when the Saints’ defensive starters were on the field, they completely dominated.
In recent years NFL fans have grown accustomed to thinking of the Saints as Drew Brees and a bad defense, but there’s now a lot of young defensive talent in New Orleans. Sheldon Rankins, last year’s first-round pick, was dominant yesterday, with a sack, a tipped pass, an interception and two tackles for loss. And Marshon Lattimore, this year’s first-round pick, is already one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
During their current seven-game winning streak, the Saints have outscored their opponents by 229-100, or an average score of 33-14 each game. They’re not just winning, they’re destroying every team in their path. The Saints might just be the best team in the NFL right now.
Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:
The Rams can’t draw. There are two new teams in Los Angeles, the Rams and Chargers, and both of them have terrible attendance this season. For the Chargers, that’s understandable: They’re a bad team playing in a tiny stadium. But for the Rams, that has to be a concern. They play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where USC regularly draws crowds in the 90,000 range for college games. And yet the Rams regularly play in front of tens of thousands of empty seats. And that’s despite the fact that the Rams are one of the most exciting, high-scoring teams in the NFL this season. The league has a long, hard slog to make it work with two teams in Los Angeles.
Hue Jackson can’t coach. Jackson has had some success as an offensive coordinator. But as a head coach, he looks in over his head. He’s now 1-24 in his 25 games as the Browns’ head coach, and his team is showing no signs of getting better. Maybe all those draft picks the Browns are acquiring will eventually add up to a good football team, but it’s hard for me to believe that Jackson will be the coach of that team.
Jadeveon Clowney is a stud. Did you see the way Clowney threw Rams running back Todd Gurley to the ground on Sunday? Clowney tosses around huge men like they’re rag dolls. Clowney’s pro career got off to a slow start because of injuries, but he’s one of the best players in the league now.
The NFL needs to change the fumble/touchback rule. A fumble into the end zone that goes out of bounds should go back to the offense at the spot of the fumble. The fact that it goes to the defense at the 20-yard line is totally nonsensical. When offensive players dive for the end zone and stick the football out toward the goal line, it’s an exciting play. The NFL should want to reward players for taking a chance at an exciting play, not punish them if they drop the ball an inch short of the line and it rolls into the pylon.
Case Keenum has earned the Vikings’ starting job. Teddy Bridgewater‘s return is a great story, but Keenum is playing better football right now than Bridgewater has ever played. As long as Keenum is playing like this, the Vikings shouldn’t bench him. It’s incredible that Keenum was a free agent this offseason and the best offer he got was a one-year, $2 million deal to be the Vikings’ backup. How much do you think the Bears wish they had paid a couple million for Keenum instead of giving a three-year, $45 million deal to Mike Glennon?
The officials are looking for reasons to flag Vontaze Burfict, and he has no one to blame but himself. Burfict, the Bengals linebacker who was ejected yesterday for contact with an official, probably didn’t deserve to be ejected: He barely brushed against the official, doing something players routinely do without getting tossed from the game. Burfict seems to get some calls based on reputation, with the officials flagging him because he has a history of being a dirty player. But if that’s the case, Burfict has no one to blame but himself. He’s been a dirty player throughout his career, and even going back to college, where his history of penalties was one of the reasons he didn’t get drafted. If Burfict wonders why the officials have it out for him, he only needs to look at his own actions.