KANSAS CITY—You come to write about Allen-Mahomes V, and to see if Josh Allen could bury the vivid, bitter memory of last January’s playoff debacle here and stake the Buffalo claim as the best team in football, and of course that’s the story of the day, of the week, of the month in the NFL.
But there’s something else that happened in the 3 hours and 10 minutes of this tight duel. Something significant. In the four previous meetings between these great quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and the Andy Reid offense averaged 32 points a game. In their 10 drives Sunday, everything Mahomes did was a struggle. Nothing was easy.
You realize it was a struggle because of the difference Von Miller made in his 46 snaps on the field. Miller wrecked Kansas City’s last three drives with play reminiscent of his Super Bowl MVP performance terrorizing Cam Newton seven years ago. First a tackle of a scrambling Mahomes from behind, then a third-down sack, and finally a pressure leading to the game-ending interception.
“Games like this one, this is why I came here,” said Miller, 33 going on 23, weary but happy, walking down the narrow hall to the Bills’ locker room after the game.
Buffalo is so much better on big stages because of a fearsome defensive front led by Miller. And because of his influence in cramped locker rooms like this one. “He’s my mentor,” defensive end Greg Rousseau said.
This from star linebacker Matt Milano: “Guys want to be like him. Von’s inspiring.”
Just about then, as the buzz in the Buffalo locker room began to die down, Miller had a moment with one of the heroes of the day. Cornerback Taron Johnson benefited from the Miller pressure on his game-sealing interception with 51 seconds left, and he was still beaming about it when Miller reminded him of one of his points of emphasis.
“Hey,” Miller, from the stool at his locker, said to Johnson, a few feet away. “Remember what I told you?”
“Don’t blink,” Johnson said
“That’s right,” Miller said. “We don’t blink.”
Buffalo 24, Kansas City 20, and it was closer than that.
“Millimeters,” Josh Allen said.
"Taron Johnson with the THEFT!!!"
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) October 16, 2022
Ten sentences to encapsulate week six in the NFL before we tell the story of millimeters and Josh Allen, and Von Miller making a ton of difference in the game of the week.
- The Jets and Giants are 9-3, combined, for the first time since mastodons (or maybe Joe Willie Namath) roamed the earth.
- If the playoffs were this week, Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson would quarterback the two 5 seeds, while Aaron Rodgers would pilot the 7 seed in the NFC.
- Bill Belichick tied George Halas with his 324th win (regular-season and playoffs) Sunday, a 38-15 victory at Cleveland, and that had to feel good for the 70-year-old former resident of northeast Ohio.
- Football as Poetry Dept.: Belichick can pass Halas next Monday by beating Chicago.
- The Eagles got to 6-0 for the first time since their Super season of 2004 by beating the Cowboys, because Dallas got mortal performances from Micah Parsons (no sacks) and Cooper Rush (three picks).
- Wasting Away in Mediocrityville: Minnesota (5-1) is the only team above .500 of the 12 in the NFC North, South and West.
- The Niners might be really good, but how can we find out if they’ve got 11 of their starters on IR and four other stalwart starters (including groin-addled Nick Bosa) sidelined with lesser injuries?
- After the Bucs fell to 3-3 with a loss to the (gasp) Steelers, Tampa coach Todd Bowles said, “Guys that are living off the Super Bowl are living in a fantasy land.”
- Miami has gone from 3-0 to 3-3, and from Tua to Teddy to Skylar to Teddy and likely back to Tua next Sunday against the Steelers.
- How on God’s green earth the Colts are 3-2-1, I don’t know, but they travel to Tennessee (do they play the Titans every other week, or is it my imagination?) next week with a chance to be all alone in first place in the forlorn AFC South.
Life’s not normal in the NFL after six weeks, but it rarely is.
These two teams just seem destined to meet again. Kansas City and Buffalo have met in October of three straight regular seasons, and in late January in two straight playoffs, and please, please, please, let there be a third straight playoff game this January.
“This is Josh and Pat’s league,” said Jordan Palmer, the offseason quarterback tutor for quarterbacks including Allen, and a major admirer of Mahomes. “They are established, bonafide superstars in the league, and neither is 28 yet. They’re becoming a rivalry like Brady and Manning was.”
I’d say they’re there. Allen, 26, started his 67th game Sunday. Mahomes, 27, started his 69th. Mahomes leads the rivalry 3-2. (Tom Brady won the head-to-head with Peyton Manning, 10-6.)
Game recognizes game. You know what the most interesting crowd reaction from the 73,586 in Arrowhead Stadium Sunday was? It came with 9:49 left in the fourth quarter. Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker booted a 44-yard field goal to give the home team a 20-17 lead. From the crowd came a noise that was, well … polite applause.
Seriously. This game had ping-ponged from 0-0 after one quarter to 3-0 to 7-3 to 10-7 to 10-10 to 17-10 to 17-17, and you’d think taking a lead in the fourth quarter in such a tight game would mean joy to a crowd that year after year leads the AFC in decibels. But no. I’ll guess why: The Kansas City fans respect Allen so much that they knew handing the ball to him with nine minutes left was a recipe for either danger or disaster.
Buffalo went four-and-out, though, on the ensuing series. Kansas City went three-and-out, capped by Miller’s second sack of the day. So Buffalo got it back at its 24- with 5:31 left. The Bills converted a fourth-and-one at their 33- when Allen burrowed for two. They converted a third-and-two when Allen hit the smooth Stefon Diggs on an out-route for 11, and worked the ball to the KC 14-yard line with 69 seconds left.
There’s a reason I wrote what I consider a “combo lede” in this column. If the Bills won, Allen had to be the story, right? And he was … partially. Von Miller forced his way into the story, though. Without this next play, this column would have been Miller, Miller and more Miller. But there was this throw from Allen that reduced the crowd to sounding funereal. Silent, like no time all day.
It was second-and-12 from the Kansas City 14-yard line with 1:09 left. Allen took a deep drop, to the 23, and he motioned with his left hand to tight end Dawson Knox to move to an open spot, but Knox didn’t see it and … could this be headed for disasterville?
Sitting on an equipment box and waiting for his turn in the press conference room post-game, Allen explained what he saw and what he was trying to do.
“They tried to double Stef [Diggs], and I think the DB just got a little confused because Stef started inside at the snap and went outside [shallow, just off the line],” Allen said. “I was just trying to point Dawson to go inside because there was nobody there. But he went outside and I just kinda took a split second …”
A wide-angle view of the play shows Knox, near the left side of the end zone, blanketed by safety Justin Reid, with safety Deon Bush in the sightline of Allen-to-Knox. And if you slow the replay, you can see Allen motion Knox to the right, like, Get out of the corner—you got space inside.
But what’s not apparent from the first replay is the presence of the safety in the sightline, which made the degree of difficulty of the throw absolutely ridiculous. Allen had a covered tight end in the end zone, with a 6-foot safety about eight yards in front of Knox. Knox didn’t shift inside—he stayed out. Allen threw it anyway. “Josh just threw a dime,” Knox said.
Welcome back Dawson Knox 🔥
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 16, 2022
“I did see the safety underneath,” Allen told me. “I just knew I had to get the ball up a little higher. Those are the ones where, I mean, it’s like, millimeters of distance of space that you have when you release the ball.”
Allen put his right hand in front of him, and put his thumb and index finger maybe a quarter-inch apart.
“Just millimeters,” he said.
“Inches,” Knox said.
Allen: “I trusted the throw. I saw how close it was to the DB. Dawson made a hell of a catch. Sometimes you get lucky.”
That’s not luck. That’s greatness.
As with Brady/Manning, Allen/Mahomes can engender the who’s better arguments. In the last 50 years, we’ve seen some good rivalries. But the vagaries of the schedule and the short intersection of great careers have combined to limit what could have been historic rivalries. Terry Bradshaw and Ken Stabler did have five playoff duels, but started against each other in Pittsburgh-Oakland games just twice more. Joe Montana never really had one great rival. Dan Marino and John Elway would have had a great rivalry, but they faced each other just once in the first 15 years of their careers.
Mahomes-Allen could grow to rival Brady-Manning. Brady was 25 and Manning 24 when they first played, in 2001. Their youth and long-term drive helped the rivalry last 15 seasons, till the 2015 playoffs.
Style of play, of course, is far, far different—but in some ways, the relative styles befit the eras of the game. Coaches and GMs a generation ago lusted for pocket quarterbacks. Manning and Brady were perfect stylistically in an age when passers were getting more protection from the league and weren’t sitting-duck targets as much as in the seventies and eighties. That has helped Brady last till 45 and it certainly helped Manning last till 39, when he won his second Super Bowl in his last game.
Mahomes and Allen both are mechanically very sound with plus arms. But as we’ve seen, they can both be circus performers. Peyton Manning never trucked safeties in the open field, as Allen does. “Tackling him is like tackling a defensive end,” KC linebacker Nick Bolton said. Manning never leapt over safeties, as Allen did Sunday on the game-winning drive. Tom Brady never rolled out and evaded four tacklers and threw a set-shot TD pass, as Mahomes can do.
JUKE! HURDLE! JOSH ALLEN IS RIDICULOUS!
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2022
One other thing these two teams have: excellent organizations to make sure Allen and Mahomes continue to be surrounded by cap-wise, scouting-smart teams. GMs Brandon Beane of the Bills and Brett Veach of Kansas City know how to keep the windows open around good quarterbacks. They know when to take shots—the way Beane and coach Sean McDermott did with Miller last spring.
The last time Buffalo played here, Kansas City scored 42 points, Mahomes threw for 378 yards and KC ran for 182. It was a defensive debacle. After that game, McDermott remembered something he learned as a young coach on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia: Make sure you’re comfortable with each line, offense and defense.
McDermott and Beane liked their young talent on the defensive front. But they both wanted a horse. “We felt like we needed a player, a marquee player, to help us a little bit there for games like this,” McDermott told me after the game. “Blitzing Patrick Mahomes, that’s been well-publicized is not very effective. So you gotta be able to win with your front four.”
Miller was going to be 33, and the Bills weren’t sure how many snaps per game they’d get out of him. But Beane went all-out. Miller was certain at the start of free-agency he’d stay with the Rams, but Buffalo offered a better guarantee package in its six-year, $120-million offer, and Miller took it. After the game Sunday, he admitted to having some serious buyer’s remorse right away. “So tough leaving LA,” he told me. “Not only L.A. but Aaron Donald, man. I could’ve just rushed with Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines and rode off into the sunset.
“But to come here and have success and win the way we are and have this type of impact on a group of young guys, this is what it’s about. I battled through training camp. I was homesick and L.A.’s not even my home. I was homesick all the way through training camp.”
The craziest thing helped turn the tide: toilet paper.
“Bills Mafia started to make me feel at home when I was battling all that homesickness,” Miller said of the intensely loyal fan group that follows the Bills. “I said something in the media about how we were staying in a dorm in training camp, and the toilet paper was not that great. And Bills Mafia sent me tons and tons and tons of toilet paper. Wipes too! So that made me feel good.”
Right away, he became influential with the young players. He told Greg Rousseau, the 2021 first-round defensive end, that the best way to be an impact defensive player is to play like you’re on offense. “Always be aggressive,” Miller told Rousseau. And Don’t blink became the defensive mantra. Don’t be scared—you’re better than they are. Miller says it every day, over and over.
As I’d expected, McDermott, in the minutes after the game, already had his players pooh-poohing a seminal victory. There was joy in the locker room, but nothing over-the-top.
“How big was this,” I asked Allen, “considering the heartache you went through here last January?”
“It was good,” he said evenly. “Just try to find a way to win a game. That’s all it was.”
In some ways, he’s absolutely right to play it down. The Bills had a very nice win, stamping themselves as the team to beat in the AFC. And they made a great move to making the AFC tournament go through Orchard Park in January. Ask New England how it felt to play a playoff game against the Bills machine in sub-zero wind chill. The home-field edge could be huge for the Bills in three months. But if they don’t make it out of the AFC tournament in January, this win won’t be much salve.
What was proven Sunday is Buffalo now has a difference-maker on defense to make life hard for Mahomes. Buffalo knew it had that guy on offense, and Allen proved it again with the amazing touchdown throw to Knox. But with Miller, Buffalo’s got to be the favorite to get to that elusive fifth Super Bowl. Winning it, we’ll see.
1. The NFL has a Daniel Snyder problem. Oh really! The ESPN report last week claiming Snyder has been investigating and gathering dirt on NFL power players like Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones—a charge Snyder, through his franchise, denied—was the latest in a long line of major problems he is making for the NFL. There’s little question that commissioner Roger Goodell and a majority of the owners want to see Snyder sell the Washington franchise, but they may need more ammo to make him sell than they currently have.
It’s amazing how the two-decade Snyder regime has deteriorated a once-mighty franchise and continues to do so. He’s having trouble finding a state or municipality who wants to go into business with him building a new stadium, and the thought that D.C.-area power players would turn their business backs on a franchise that was a top-five NFL gem 25 years ago is shocking enough. I was told over the weekend that the league’s investigation into Snyder’s personal conduct by former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White could be the tipping point that could force Snyder out—if her investigation finds more wrongdoing by Snyder than is currently known. As the ESPN story by Seth Wickersham, Don Van Natta Jr. and Tisha Thompson relates, the woman with whom Snyder settled a sex-harassment charge for $1.6 million in 2009 could be a key element in White’s investigation.
ESPN reported that Snyder’s attorneys tried to keep the woman from interviewing with any of those investigating the owner or the team by offering her another payment, and that she would not take the payment. Snyder’s attorneys denied such an offer was made. ESPN also reported the woman was interviewed by White as part of the league’s investigation, which one source said could be the turning point in White’s investigation and in the league trying to remove Snyder as owner.
The NFL’s annual fall meeting is Tuesday in Manhattan, and it’s unlikely the Snyder case will be discussed there. Nothing of substance is expected to happen until White releases her report. But if the report has teeth about personal misconduct from Snyder, that could finally be the smoking gun to force the league to confront the Snyder headache head-on.
2. The Packers are in trouble. What odds could you have gotten from a wise guy back in the summer if you wanted to bet the Pack would lose to the Giants and Jets in succession in October? And not only lose, but be certainly outplayed, particularly in Sunday’s 27-10 loss to the Jets at Lambeau Field. “We’re in a pretty bad predicament right now,” said coach Matt LaFleur. The Packers aren’t able with a young receiver corps to rely on anything offensively. After the game, Aaron Rodgers said he thinks the offense needs to be simplified for the time being. “All of it,” Rodgers said. “I don’t want to get too specific. I’m not attacking anything. I think based on how we’ve played the last two weeks it’s going to be in our best interest to simplify things for everybody … the line, the backs, the receivers … and maybe that will help us get back on track.” Maybe facing Washington next week will help just as much.
3. How does a league divvy up a $790-million pie? The Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, said he’d pick up the league’s legal bills over the move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. On Tuesday, the league will finalize the arrangements for who, exactly, will fund the huge settlement paid to end the St. Louis challenge of the move. It’s certain no one will be happy with how the 32 owners will have to divvy up the cost. Kroenke can claim he did the other 31 franchises a solid by revitalizing the L.A. market and building the league’s biggest gem of any stadium, so they should kick in the majority of the cost of the settlement. (The league has already gotten each owner to pay $7.5-million for it—and most owners don’t think they should have even paid that much.) I heard that the NFL may consider making the two teams that moved near the same time as the Rams—the Chargers and Raiders—pay more than the other 29 teams in the league. Stay tuned.
4. Robert Kraft had a fairly Hollywood wedding party. In July, when Kraft buddy Elton John was playing Gillette Stadium on his farewell tour, he asked Kraft, then engaged, when he was planning to get married. Up in the air, Kraft told him. “Well, I want to perform at it,” Sir Elton told Kraft. “That will be my wedding gift.” So Kraft, 81, and his 47-year-old ophthalmologist bride, Dr. Dana Blumberg of New York, planned a wedding to fit in with the rock star’s current tour at an event space in Manhattan crafted out of an 1860s-era bank. Elton would be on the West Coast for shows in the Bay Area, Seattle area and Vancouver this month, but he had a gap day on Friday night, Oct. 14, and flew in from California to play a 45-minute set, including “Circle of Life.” The invitees weren’t told it was a wedding and didn’t find out until a video recorded by Al Michaels introducing the newlyweds was played at the event. Quite a guest list (of about 260) for the wedding party: Tom Brady, Ed Sheeran (one of the last to leave), Meek Mill, Drew Bledsoe, Roger Goodell, Kenny Chesney, Randy Moss, Adam Silver, Jon Bon Jovi … and probably the only time ever that Ed Sheeran will play guitar for a live Meek Mill rap song.
FMIA has partnered with Next Gen Stats, the league’s new generation of advanced metrics and statistics, with data collected from 250 tracking devices per game on players, officials, pylons and footballs. I use NGS to help tell a deeper story about the game.
Today: How Artificial Intelligence is helping tell the story of defensive coverages—and how this new metric shows the precociousness of Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner.
Next Gen Stats created a model that allows AI to “watch” a play and immediately diagnose the coverage data—whether it’s man coverage, zone, or what kind of zone coverage. It can be done in real time, instead of with humans who’d want to run the tape back three or four times to ensure they had the correct type of coverage pre- and post-snap. This was the first weekend of games that Next Gen used the new model. I’ll be using data from it in the coming weeks.
A few choice items from week one of the AI model:
- The Eagles are getting lots of mileage out of new defensive backs James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is feeling more comfortable using more man coverage with those two plus Darius Slay because they’re all very good at it. (Gardner-Johnson, who played corner in New Orleans, has played safety 62 percent of his snaps, per Next Gen.) Last year, Gannon used man coverage on 21 percent of passing snaps; that’s up to 32 percent this year, a major increase. Last night, they used it 39 percent of the time and frustrated Dallas QB Cooper Rush (five-of-15, two interceptions against man) with it. Bradberry, who the Giants couldn’t afford to keep this year, has been a revelation for Philadelphia. He’s been targeted in man coverage 22 times but allowed only six catches for 44 yards. The Eagles have done a terrific job in acquiring versatile defensive backs over the last couple of seasons.
- Sauce Gardner is every bit as good as he looks early on in his NFL career. On Sunday, against Aaron Rodgers, Gardner played man coverage on 11 of 42 coverage snaps and allowed no completions in two targets. So far this year, he’s allowed one reception for six yards in 40 man coverage snaps, the best record in man coverage of any cornerback in the league.
- Without Tyreek Hill, Kansas City has faced man coverage on 46 percent of pass-drops, up from 30 percent last year. Patrick Mahomes threw both interceptions Sunday against zone.
Veteran Pro Football Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin wrote last week about the “true abyss” of qualified wide receivers, long since retired, who are long shots to ever make the Hall. It was so compelling to me that I asked him for a few words on the topic, just to educate people on 16 forgotten players who shouldn’t be.
Rick Gosselin on the bygone receivers who deserve better:
“There were eight Hall of Fame wide receivers who played in the 1971 NFL season. The only player who surpassed 1,000 yards in that 14-game season doesn’t have a bust in Canton, though. Otis Taylor of the Chiefs caught 57 passes for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns that year.
While worthy receivers are waiting on the doorstep of the Hall of Fame—the Torry Holts, Andre Johnsons and Reggie Waynes—there is another segment of receivers with credentials just as sterling as those modern-era candidates. Those 16 deserving candidates, including Otis Taylor, can be found in the senior pool. They have never been finalists and most likely never will become finalists. One was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team (Boyd Dowler). Two more were first-team all-decade (Lavvie Dilweg and Gary Collins). One led the league in receiving five times (Lionel Taylor) and two others won three receiving crowns apiece (Sterling Sharpe and Billy Wilson). Del Shofner was the only receiver to catch 1,000 yards in passes in 1958—in a 12-game season.
“Gary Collins, a 10-year Browns receiver from the sixties, caught 70 career touchdown passes. So did Andre Johnson. But Collins caught his in 127 games. Johnson caught his in 193 games. Collins averaged a touchdown every 4.7 receptions, while Johnson averaged a touchdown every 15.2 catches. Jerry Rice, who might be the greatest receiver of all time, averaged one TD per 7.9 catches.
“Collins should have been a finalist at some point. So should Del Shofner, Otis Taylor, Lionel Taylor and so many others. But all now must wait from the depths of the senior pool for a call from Canton that likely will never come.”
Offensive players of the week
Bailey Zappe, quarterback, New England. Another start, another win (38-15 at Cleveland) for the fourth-round rookie from Western Kentucky. In his three appearances for the Patriots, Zappe’s passer ratings: 107.4 at Green Bay, 100.0 against the Lions at home, and 118.4 at Cleveland. On Sunday, Zappe recorded his first 300-yard passing game, going 24-of-34 for 309 yards. The 23-year-old from Victoria, Texas, just might be threatening Mac Jones’ hold on the starting job.
Matt Ryan, quarterback, Indianapolis. Matt Ryan is buying his offensive line a drink today. In the Colts’ 34-27 win over the Jaguars, Ryan dropped back 58 times and wasn’t sacked once. That’s a first for Ryan and Indianapolis this season (the QB was sacked six times in Denver last week alone). The time allowed Ryan to throw for 389 yards, with three touchdowns and zero picks. Quietly, Ryan just passed Dan Marino for seventh place on the all-time passing-yardage list.
Joe Burrow, quarterback, and Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, Cincinnati. LSU’s dynamic duo did not disappoint in their return to Louisiana. In their first game at the Superdome since winning the 2019 National Championship game as Tigers, Burrow and Chase combined for two touchdowns in the Bengals’ win over the Saints, including the game-winner with just over two minutes remaining. Burrow threw for 300 yards and three TDs, while Chase had seven receptions for 132 yards. Burrow arrived before the game wearing Chase’s LSU jersey and said post-game: “I wanted to pay tribute to people in Louisiana. What better way than wear a Ja’Marr championship jersey?”
Defensive players of the week
Two top-five rookies, playing just miles apart in New Jersey, share the award this week with a seasoned veteran.
Sauce Gardner, cornerback, N.Y. Jets. What a win for the entire Jets organization, and what a statement game for the rookie cornerback. Even with his game-opening pick six of Aaron Rodgers reversed, his elite ballhawk capabilities were on full display. Gardner tallied two pass breakups, including interrupting a Rodgers deep throw intended for Allen Lazard.
Sauce Gardner has serious coverage skills.
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2022
Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge rusher, N.Y. Giants. After missing the start of his rookie season with a knee injury, it took until week six for Kayvon Thibodeaux to get the breakout moment fitting for his status as the number five overall pick. With the Giants holding a slim four-point lead and the Ravens driving late in the fourth, Thibodeaux strip-sacked Lamar Jackson, and Leonard Williams recovered to seal the win for the G-Men. The moment clearly meant a lot to Thibodeaux, whose Giants are now 5-1 and keeping pace in a red-hot NFC East.
KT a real one. Play of the game and then the emotion afterwards.
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) October 16, 2022
Von Miller, linebacker, Buffalo. Through six games, the 33-year-old has shown himself to be one of the smartest offseason acquisitions of 2022. He has six sacks on the season, including two of Patrick Mahomes in Buffalo’s 24-20 win over the Chiefs on Sunday. The linebacker put pressure on Mahomes all afternoon, perhaps most impactfully on Kansas City’s final series of the game, with the Chiefs down four and looking for the go-ahead score. Miller split through the Chiefs’ O-Line on the first play of the drive, forcing Mahomes out of the pocket and into a game-sealing pick caught by Taron Johnson. The interception won’t show on Miller’s stat line, but he was the powerhouse behind it, and he’s the powerhouse of a Bills defense laser-focused on the Super Bowl.
Special teams players of the week
Will Parks, safety, N.Y. Jets. Toward the end of the third quarter, the Jets held a 10-3 lead when a Quinnen Williams sack ended a Packers drive. Rookie Micheal Clemons powered through the Green Bay line to block Pat O’Donnell’s punt and Will Parks snagged it at the 20-, taking it in for the score to make it 17-3. Even though the Packers would get within seven again, that score went a long way to making the game feel out of reach. It was the first touchdown of Parks’ career and the Jets’ second block of the day.
Ryan Wright, punter, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings are 5-1 and Wright was a huge factor in the fifth win. Wright boomed a 73-yard punt in the first quarter (net 75 after Tyreek Hill went back two yards on the return), and Wright’s 10 punts went for a combined 441 yards, with six downed inside the 20.
Quinnen Williams, defensive lineman, N.Y. Jets. On a rainy day in Green Bay, when an early three points would be especially golden, he blocked Mason Crosby’s 47-yard field goal attempt, keeping the game tied at zero and notching the first of what would be two blocked kicks for the Jets. In addition to the block, Sunday’s stat line for Williams included two sacks, three QB hits and a forced fumble. Jets coach Robert Saleh described Williams as “playing at a different level. If he keeps doing this, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be Pro Bowl, All-Pro, all the different accolades you can get.”
Coaches of the week
Arthur Smith, head coach, Atlanta. After starting 0-2, the Falcons have now won three of their last four, including a 28-14 win over the 49ers this week. The Falcons held the 49ers scoreless in the second half and Marcus Mariota, Smith’s prize QB pupil, was the picture of efficiency, going 13-of-14 for 129 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. With $77 million in dead cap money, Smith is finding creative ways to win games.
Robert Saleh, head coach, N.Y. Jets. So much of New York’s 4-2 start comes back to the top. In his second season with the big job, Saleh has found a way to build a strong defense and to empower the offense to play his style, which will always include a strong run game. After the game, Saleh shared some of his halftime speech: “Just keep giving ‘em blow after body blow after body blow.” That’s what the Jets have been doing for six weeks now. Saleh has the receipts to prove it.
Goat of the week
Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Ravens. Lamar Jackson has shown himself to be more than capable of making magic this season. But in week six he showed himself capable of making truly terrible decisions. Up 20-17 in the fourth with a chance to put the game out of reach, Jackson bobbled the snap on third-and-five but retrieved it, launching a pass on the run intended for Patrick Ricard. It went right into the hands of Giants safety Julian Love, and Saquon Barkley leapt into the end zone on the ensuing drive to put the Giants up 24-20. The Ravens got the ball back for their final drive of the game and Jackson was strip-sacked on second-and-ten, sealing the win for the Giants. A show of force from New York defensive coordinator Wink Martindale against his former team, and a costly error from Jackson that the Ravens can’t afford, even in a middling AFC North.
Hidden person of the week
Justin Reid, safety, Kansas City. The quarterbacks are bound to get the vast majority of attention in a KC-Buffalo game. Rightfully so. But Reid saved the home team four points—very likely—with a play early in the second quarter in the red zone. Buffalo had third-and-nine at the KC 21-, and Josh Allen found Isaiah McKenzie with a sliver of space just past the first-down sticks. A completion and first down here, and Allen, who moved up and down the field with ease in the first 16 minutes, would have brought Buffalo to the doorstep of a 7-0 lead. CRUNCH! Reid drove through McKenzie with a legal hit that made the ball pop out. Incomplete. Field goal. Buffalo led 3-0, but it was a win for the KC defense because of Reid.
Chiefs safety Justin Reid lays a FIERCE hit on #Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie to force the incompletion on 3rd down. Tyler Bass' field goal is good. #Bills – 3#Chiefs – 0#ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/p407uTLOH2
— Devon Clements (@DevclemNFL) October 16, 2022
The Jason Jenkins Award
Antonio Hamilton, cornerback, Arizona. Hamilton had earned a starting job in training camp with the Cards when, the morning after the last preseason game, he suffered severe burns on his feet in a cooking accident at home. After being treated at the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix, Hamilton returned to play in week five against the Eagles. Then he brought four teammates with him and visited children at the Burn Center last Tuesday, per Howard Balzer of gophnx.com. Hamilton spent time with 10 burn victims and their families, taking his socks off to show them his burns and how he’s recovered. He wanted to remove the stigma of being a burn victim. “It’s just a blessing to able to come here and be with you all because we all share the same type of scars,” Hamilton told them, per Balzer. “Be proud of our scars. You are no different than anybody else. We just have a different story to tell.”
To me, this is not going to be a high-scoring type of game … This is going to be a 24-20 type of game.
–CBS analyst Tony Romo, 10 minutes into the Buffalo-Kansas City game, when it was scoreless. The final: Bills 24, KC 20.
Cool guys cry.
–Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux, after strip-sacking Lamar Jackson late in the Giants’ upset of the Ravens Sunday—and after he shed some tears because of his play.
He’s backed into a corner. He’s behaving like a mad dog cornered.
–An NFL owner granted anonymity in ESPN’s damning report on Washington owner Dan Snyder.
I have been unjustly smeared in the media. I have done nothing wrong.
–Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, in a statement to FOX News about his alleged role in the Mississippi welfare scandal. He has been connected to $8 million in spending, much of it for a volleyball center at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi.
The injuries are preliminarily thought to be non-life threatening.
–Kansas City police report on the incident after last Monday’s game, when Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams shoved photographer Ryan Zebley to the ground.
Might be the funniest line in police report history.
Good lord. I’m glad he’s okay, but does he even have a black-and-blue mark anywhere?
“Brady gets all the calls.”
Some things are said so often that they’re taken as gospel, like that last sentence. Is it gospel? Not when it comes to roughing the passer.
A site called NFLpenalties.com has broken down penalties by player, team, and category of flag since 2009. I totaled the number of times Tom Brady got a flag for being a victim of roughing the passer and ranked him against all other quarterbacks in the league. The data:
In the last five years (including the first five weeks this year), Brady is 17th in the NFL with 10 roughing calls on players against him. Matt Ryan is first with 28, Carson Wentz second with 25, Josh Allen third with 24. The retired Ryan Fitzpatrick was roughed nine more times than Brady over the past five seasons.
In the last 10 years (including the first five weeks this year), Brady is eighth in the league with 25 roughing calls on players against him.
Comparing apples versus apples, or comparing immobile older quarterbacks, Brady has gotten .17 roughing flags per game over the past decade. Matt Ryan has gotten .29 per game.
Just to keep track: The Raiders’ head coach is McDaniels (Josh), the Dolphins’ head coach is McDaniel (Mike), the Ravens’ defensive coordinator is Macdonald (Mike), the Texans’ pass-game coordinator is McDaniels (Ben, Josh’s brother), the Hall of Fame Vikings’ guard is McDaniel (Randall), the Eagles’ assistant secondary coach is McDonald (D.K.), and the Ravens’ director of R&D is McDonald (David).
There’ll be a quiz tomorrow.
KANSAS CITY—I just want you to see this picture. Sunday, mid-afternoon, Arrowhead Stadium, a glorious 62 degrees, light breeze across the field, every seat filled for a huge football game that lived up to its billing. There are gorgeous venues in the NFL (Lambeau is my favorite), but this place on a day like this was special. It’s not Wrigley, it’s not Fenway. But it’s a place with history and spirit. If you come, get here early, and take in the smells of the parking lot. October football on a perfect midwestern day. Can’t beat it.
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein
— marlonhumphrey.eth (@marlon_humphrey) October 16, 2022
The Baltimore cornerback, after the Ravens blew their third double-digit lead in six games to lose to the Giants.
Belichick: Skipped Kraft’s wedding and then beat the Browns as the underdog.
Brady: Attended Kraft’s wedding and then lost to the Steelers as the 10-point favorite.
— Lucy Burdge (@LucilleBurdge) October 16, 2022
Lucy Burdge works for Audacy Sports.
A 30 degree difference between sidelines is wild 😳 pic.twitter.com/i704bQE7CE
— PFF (@PFF) October 16, 2022
Pro Football Focus with a fairly wow screengrab from the Fox telecast of Minnesota-Miami, from south Florida.
#Packers G Jon Runyan was fined $5,215 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s loss to the #Giants. No flag was thrown, but Runyan still got a fine letter … from his dad, NFL VP Jon Runyan, who handles on-field discipline for the league.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 15, 2022
Ian Rapoport with the Fine Factoid of the Year right there.
We really have to do a better job with the discourse around analytics. No one seems to understand that analytics is merely information. They’re not a mandate. It’s a suggestion. There are lots of variables to consider that give that information context. Please remember this.
— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) October 11, 2022
Amen, Stephen Holder, who covers the Colts for ESPN.com.
They were 3-0 with that same table in the locker room https://t.co/TQo8JHojGP
— David Canter (@davidcanter) October 12, 2022
Canter, a south Florida-based agent, on one of the silliest stories of the year—that the Dolphins removed a ping pong table from the locker room, getting praise from coach Mike McDaniel.
Here is my stance. From Craig M, via Twitter: “Confused on your stance on concussion protocol. Isn’t the current system what you were screaming for? Now you’re saying it’s gone too far? Totally confused! Go back and listen to your comments from two weeks ago. You were adamant you wanted a system where someone would pull a player off the field. We have that now.”
I support the removal of players when they show unsteadiness or motor impairment on the field, for sure. My problem with the system is what happened in the Dolphins-Jets game eight days ago. No one saw anything, except apparently the spotter who has the authority to remove players he deems too injured to continue playing. The spotter directed Teddy Bridgewater to leave the game after a hard hit on Miami’s first offensive snap of the game. Bridgewater left the game and walked to the locker room to be checked for effects of head trauma. Dolphins officials did not see Bridgewater struggle to stand or walk. The network airing the game, CBS, did not show him struggling in any way. A Miami TV station that shot video of the play and the aftermath released its footage Monday and there was no sign of Bridgewater being impaired. It could be that the spotter saw something valid, something that showed Bridgewater struggling. But we never saw it, and the spotter didn’t speak publicly about it. My point is, it’s a good thing for the league to enforce a rule that mandates an impaired player to be benched. But there needs to be transparency so that we can understand, when we don’t see the impairment, why a player is removed from the game.
Good idea from Australia. From Simon Woinarski of Sydney, Australia: “I’m a long-term fan from a long way away. In Australia our two main football games (Australian Rules Football and Rugby League) are also wrestling with rule modifications to protect athletes from concussion, with varying success, but I think there is something from Australian Rules that the NFL should consider in sack situation. That is whether the QB’s head makes violent contact with the ground in a slinging type tackle—if that happens, it should be an automatic roughing-the-passer penalty but if not, then it’s play on.”
Definitely worth consideration, Simon. Thanks a lot.
I am ignoring Cooper Rush. From Mark Barillaro of Connecticut: “You write yet another part of your weekly article on Taysom Hill while ignoring an actual quarterback, Cooper Rush. You would think that Taysom is a member of your family with the amount of coverage he has been given in your column.”
No player in the league this season topped Hill’s performance last week, Mark. Four touchdowns—three rushing, one passing—in only 23 offensive snaps, plus a fumble recovered on special teams. He rushed for 112 yards, leaving him with more rushing yards than Najee Harris or Josh Allen after five weeks. Having said that, you’re right—Cooper Rush deserves more attention than I have given him. There’s room to do both.
Ummmmm. From Bob Norcott: “The Philadelphia Eagles are the only undefeated team in the NFL the last two weeks and never got a MENTION in your column? Is that because it’s not Dallas, Buffalo, KC or Tom Brady’s team that is 5-0?”
I wrote 1,850 words to lead the column after they beat Jacksonville two weeks ago, Bob.
1. I think the best three teams in football, in order, are Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Kansas City.
2. I think if I’m Carolina GM Scott Fitterer, I wouldn’t be just listening to offers for Christian McCaffrey. I’d be trying aggressively to move him. When healthy, McCaffrey, obviously, is a top-five back in the league. But he’s missed 23 games due to injury since opening day 2020. The good news is McCaffrey’s 26, but his value will be severely diminished because of his injury issues. Fitterer’s got two weeks until the deadline. Question is: Will a team give a second-round pick for him? Not sure I would, unless I had a mega-need and was a strong playoff contender.
3. I think Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano is the best player who gets the least credit in the NFL.
4. I think this succession of events told me everything I need to know about who Carolina wide receiver Robbie Anderson is:
a. When Matt Rhule was hired to coach Temple in 2013, he okayed the move of the 6-3 Anderson from the secondary to wide receiver. Anderson responded with 791 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
b. The program stuck with Anderson when he missed the 2014 season due to academic ineligibility. Rhule welcomed him back in 2015.
c. Anderson had 70 catches for 939 yards as a senior, and was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Jets. After averaging 52 catches a year in four seasons with the Jets, Anderson hit free-agency. The Jets were lukewarm about re-signing him.
d. In 2020, Rhule, the new coach of the Panthers, signed Anderson to a two-year, $20-million contract, with $12 million guaranteed.
e. Anderson caught 95 balls for the Panthers in 2020 and in 2021 Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer authorized a two-year extension for Anderson for $29.5 million.
f. Rhule was fired by owner David Tepper last Monday.
g. This was the reaction of Anderson to the firing of the man who coached him in college and who, when Anderson’s free-agency market was soft, signed him to one contract and then another a year later: little more than a shoulder shrug and “It is what it is.”
Robbie Anderson on the firing of Matt Rhule. pic.twitter.com/7iFiJQWCMb
— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) October 13, 2022
h. On Sunday, in the first post-Rhule game, Anderson was kicked off the sidelines in Los Angeles by interim coach Steve Wilks, apparently for mouthing off to an assistant coach. That should give you an understanding of soon-to-be former Panthers receiver Robbie Anderson.
5. I think it looks bad for the future of running back Cam Akers with the Rams. He was de-activated over the weekend and coach Sean McVay said ominously about the player’s fate, “We’re working through some things.” Akers was the Rams’ first pick in the 2020 draft, the 52nd pick overall, and the highest pick L.A. had in any draft from 2018 to 2021, and, of course, more valuable than a normal 52nd pick because the Rams won’t have a first-round pick between 2017 and 2023 and mid-round second-rounders are important. But in 25 games with the Rams, Akers has had two 100-yard games. He’s wilted under hard coaching.
6. I think Julian Edelman’s implication on “Inside the NFL” last week about how to sack a quarterback these days was downright weird. Commenting on the roughing-the-passer call on Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett against Tom Brady, Edelman said: “Yes, that was a terrible call, but you’ve got to know what you’re getting into when you’re playing against Tom Brady. We’ve seen these calls over and over again. What did [Maxx] Crosby do when he had the sack [on Patrick Mahomes] last night? He just held him up. You’ve got to play smart.” What was that? Good for Jarrett, who was on the show. “You can’t be serious in what you just said,” he said to Edelman.
7. I think this is the bottom line: If you’re going to suggest a defensive player should hold up a quarterback on a sack instead of tackling him to the ground, you’re suggesting the NFL play regular-season games the way it has played the Pro Bowl, or you’re suggesting the NFL play flag football.
8. I think that was unbecoming of Tom Brady, and that’s putting it mildly, to try to kick Jarrett after the perfectly legal sack. Brady deserved the NFL fine.
9. I think this is my question about the Chicago Bears, who wore orange socks, orange jerseys and orange helmets Thursday night against Washington: Are Bears orange?
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. RIP Angela
d. I meant it that way. Pat Summerall would have appreciated it.
e. What a life. What an incredible life. Nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar during World War II at age 18. Earned a Tony 65 years later on Broadway. Imagine being among the best at what you do for 65 years!
f. My daughter Mary Beth’s favorite TV show of all time—she still binges on it—was “Murder, She Wrote,” about a widow who rode her bicycle through a small town in Maine and was a mystery writer and amateur private investigator. Lansbury was perfect for the role, and she said the job fit her perfectly because she was basically playing herself on the show. But everyone between 20 and 65, kid or parent of one in 1991, remembers Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, the singing teakettle in Beauty and the Beast. A fantastic run.
“Run along into the cupboard Chip, time you were in bed” 😘
RIP Angela Lansbury pic.twitter.com/Vrjps5SnQJ
— Richard Angell 🇺🇦 (@RichardAngell) October 12, 2022
g. Obit of the Week: Alex Traub of The New York Times, on farmer and YouTube star Andy Detwiler, who lost both arms in an accident on a farm at age 2 but went on to an amazing farming life.
h. The incredible Detwiler packed a lot of farming lessons into his 52 years of life, and documented many on YouTube. Wrote Traub:
In his videos, Mr. Detwiler performs farm chores with striking resourcefulness and dexterity.
In one, of him feeding goats, he approaches a stack of feed bags and says, “I don’t advise this to anybody,” then bites one of the bags, lifts it upright, unties the string around the top with his teeth, spits the string out, cranes his neck so that his chin and shoulder surround the bag and grasps it, narrating his technique along the way. He carries the bag to a barrel, drops it inside, picks it up again with his teeth and smoothly pours the contents inside.
He then scoops up some feed with his right foot, raises his foot to the camera, creating a close-up, and lectures about the feed (“there’s oats in it, and cracked corn”), standing on one foot all the while.
i. Awesome. Just awesome.
j. Never thought I’d see Bruce Springsteen cover The Commodores, but I absolutely love Bruce doing “Nightshift.” Cool to see him honoring other artists and branching into different music.
k. Incredulous that the Warriors didn’t suspend Draymond Green for the vicious punch of teammate Jordan Poole. What, exactly, would constitute a suspendable offense? A fine? For a guy who’s made $155 million in his career, and who’s making $25.8 million? For an offense coach Steve Kerr called “the biggest crisis that we’ve ever had”? That’s some real justice right there.
l. Interesting to hear Bob Costas, on the Yanks-Cleveland playoff series, say this of Aaron Judge, who is headed for free-agency this off-season: “There will be some active bidding, including from the San Francisco Giants, the team he grew up rooting for.” Bob Costas, not a rumor-monger.
m. Baseball Story of the Week: Lindsey Adler of The Athletic with an insightful and blunt piece on Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
n. It’s odd to post a feature story in the middle of the playoffs on a player who you or may not have a shred of interest in. I did it because Adler, who obviously covers the Yankees beat well, got stuff out of Cole that an insightful writer, close to the team, gets. The story sucks you in. Reminds me in an odd way of an old story called “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” about a kid in England who turned to running to cope with emotional and physical distress in his life.
o. Adler on Cole, who passed on signing with his home-area Angels for the cauldron that is being a crucial piece for the New York Yankees in October:
Gerrit Cole spent 28 years working to own one of the most prestigious pieces of real estate in baseball: The ace of the New York Yankees. Here at the summit, though, loneliness pervades the luxury everyone else can see.
“I think it’s the hardest job in the league,” Cole says. “I don’t think there’s a harder place to be the ace. I think it’s the most hunted job in the league and I think it comes with the most weight. The division is a f—ing (gauntlet). Above all else, I’m paid to keep us in the game as long as I can and take the ball every single f—ing time that I can and charge straight into the fire.”
The home that greatness builds is one in isolation. Those who aspire to legacy spend their entire lives obsessed with the sensation of separating themselves from the pack. But when your position is unique, so is the experience. The demands are different. The interpretation of your performance is different.
“It’d be very nice to be living at home, playing with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani,” Cole said. “I could be spending today grilling burgers and drinking beer and gambling on football games. Instead, I’m here at Yankee Stadium throwing a bullpen at 10 f—ing 40 am, but we’ve got the LDS [league division series] coming up, and I’m pumped.”
p. Almost makes you want to root for Cole, regardless of your fandom.
q. Important Education Story of the Week: Eli Saslow of The Washington Post on the impossible situation of staffing the school system in an American town, Bullhead City, Arizona.
r. Saslow is a master at getting inside a vital story in America and illuminating it perfectly, no matter how ugly it is. And this story is downright ugly. Depressing and ugly. He goes to Bullhead City, a place desperate to find teachers to teach out-of-control students. The superintendent, Carolyn Stewart, 75, had just gotten a note from one of her principals, who wrote in desperation: “We are one teacher away from not being able to operate the school.”
s. So desperate is the superintendent to staff her schools that the superintendent finds some teachers in the Philippines, outstanding teachers, willing to take the jump for more money to teach in America. Rose Jean Obreque is the best one. Per Saslow, this is what Obreque finds in an early day in her English classroom in Fox Creek Junior High School:
Obreque was straining her vocal cords to shout over them. “I want you to listen!” she said. “We are not in the jungle. We are human beings, right? We cannot proceed with all this disruption.”
“We cannot proceed!” one of the students yelled out, as if declaring victory, and others started to laugh and yell, too. “Please, have some respect!” Obreque said, but only a few students seemed to hear her. “Five, four, three, two, one,” Obreque shouted, but they weren’t quieting down, and there was nothing but more humiliation waiting for her at zero. She decided to try a tactic she’d used a few times in the Philippines, planting herself quietly at the front of the room, modeling silence, looking from one student to the next and waiting for them to recognize their own bad behavior.
A boy was chewing on the collar of his shirt. A girl was taping pencils to each of her fingers and then pawing at the boy next to her. Two boys were playing a version of bumper cars with their desks. A girl was pouring water from a cup into another girl’s mouth, and that girl was spitting the water onto the student next to her. “Ugh, miss teacher lady? Can I go wash off this spit water?” the student asked. A boy was standing up and intentionally tripping over his friend’s legs. A girl was starting a game of hangman on the whiteboard. A boy was walking up to the front of the classroom, holding out a piece of paper rolled into the shape of a microphone, and pretending to interview Obreque. “So, what do you think of life at Fox Creek?” he asked.
t. There is nothing to say other than we’ve got a crisis in American education, and if you want to look the other way and say, It doesn’t affect me, so I don’t care, fine. But you will care when millions, and I mean millions, of uneducated people leave school incapable of contributing to society or unwilling to do so. We need to line up squarely behind teachers and public and private education and support the people and institutions.
u. Family History Story of the Week: Siri Chilukuri of The Wall Street Journal with a story on how you can preserve family history by a collection of well-placed emails.
v. This is behind a paywall, but I’ll try to get the point across in case you can’t read it, through Chilukuri’s words:
Ryan Jobson, 32 years old, was feeling frantic. His father, 62, had just started to recover from a heart attack in his home in Woodstock, N.Y. The pair had always intended to spend time getting the elder Mr. Jobson’s story in writing—with a particular focus on his years as a student protester in 1970s Jamaica. But now Ryan, a professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, was worried the time to put pen to paper would never come.
A former student introduced him to Storyworth. For $99, the company will send weekly prompts to an email address of your choice. Each email contains either a question you’ve written or chosen from the Storyworth library. (Sample queries: “Who are your favorite artists?”; “Do you have any regrets in life?”) The recipient types his or her responses, and has the option to attach related photos. After the year, it is all bound into a hardcover book.
Mr. Jobson gave it a shot. He expected to hear specific stories he already knew but was surprised to discover his father opened up more than he ever had before.
Entries to Storyworth can be accessed on your account page at any time, but those who have received their book say it can be a powerful tangible object. Mr. Jobson recalls that when his father saw the bound volume he said, “I don’t know how I did this.”
w. I know zero about college football, and I saw only the last quarter-plus of Tennessee 52, Alabama 49. But that was a special game, a special event. (And I do love the orange checkerboard end zone.) The way Tennessee played ‘Bama toe to toe reminded me of that Alabama-LSU game when Joe Burrow went wild in 2019. Good to see the Vols be prominent again—the game’s better when they’re contenders.
AND DOWN COME THE GOAL POSTS. pic.twitter.com/rvqD95itt9
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 15, 2022
x. We all had Phils-Padres in the NLCS, right? The teams that won 111, 101 and 101 games are out of the NL derby, and the teams that won 87 and 89 games march on.
y. I could listen to Dan Shulman and Eduardo Perez call a baseball game on the radio every day. They were great over the weekend doing Yanks-Guardians, and I caught maybe 90 minutes of them doing the series. Made me wish I was in a car, doing a four-hour drive just so I could have them as companions.
z. You reap what you sow, Alex Jones—hopefully every day for the rest of your life.
L.A. Chargers 30, Denver 16. So the Broncos have had their mini-bye, 11 days, after the disastrous Thursday night home loss to Indianapolis, and their beleaguered fans are hoping for something, anything to improve on being 30th in third-down conversion, 32nd in red-zone efficiency and 32nd in scoring. The Browns entered the weekend averaging 11.6 more points per game than Denver’s 15.0. The pressure on Russell Wilson entering this game is large. “I can handle it,’’ Wilson said during the week. “I’m built for it. I’m built for the good times and the tough times. Really, how you get out of it as a team … is we’re going to focus on today.” Whatever works.
Significant week for byes, with three division leaders off: Buffalo, Minnesota, Philadelphia, along with the Rams.
New Orleans at Arizona, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video. Call this the Surprisingly Teetering on the Brink of Irrelevance Bowl. Did you know this is the 52-week anniversary of the Cardinals’ last win at home? They’re 0-8 in Glendale since a week seven 2021 rout of the Texans. And did you know the Saints are 6-10 since last Nov. 1? A weirdly important game for both.
Kansas City at San Francisco, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. First meeting of the two teams since Super Bowl LIV three years ago, and first meeting of KC at Niners since Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick faced off in 2014. On that week five weekend in 2014, by the way, Patriots rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo mopped up in the “We’re on to Cincinnati” game for Bill Belichick, and it was the second game in the college career of Texas Tech freshman Patrick Mahomes. He came into a lost-cause game in the second half for starter Davis Webb at Kansas State. Star of that game for the Wildcats: wide receiver Tyler Lockett. What a long strange trip it’s been.
Pittsburgh at Miami, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. This looked like a compelling game back in May, when the schedule got announced, and it still may be. The Steelers came alive on defense Sunday to beat Tampa, and Tua Tagovailoa is likely to play after his 2.5-game absence with a concussion. Miami was an explosive 3-0 team with a healthy Tua, and now they’re a scarred 3-3. Can they rebound? Probably not if they can’t beat a flawed Pittsburgh team.
The league’s in good shape
with Mahomes, Allen starring.
Two guys who get it.