Some thoughts after Week 7 of the NFL season…
Las Vegas 33, Philadelphia 22
The Eagles defense just does not do anything. They are only rushing three or four guys on about 85 percent of passing plays, and they just seem broken at every level. You are certainly not seeing what you want to see from the coaching staff either, and I do not believe they have the talent on defense to do what they are trying to do. Every coach would love to be able to get pressure with just four guys, but when that is not working, you need to do something to mix up, and they have not. It is why they are getting shredded in the secondary and giving up a league-high 74.4% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. Coming into the season, everyone knew the Eagles were weak at linebacker and in the secondary, and the strength would have to be the defensive line. They are currently 26th in the NFL with just 11 sacks, and this is all a byproduct of why they are playing so poorly right now.
On offense, I do not think the situation is much better. I think they are in decent shape at receiver, led by Devonta Smith, but I still do not think Jalen Reagor looks very good. JJ Arcega-Whiteside is only playing on 12 percent of offensive snaps right now and has been a total waste of a second-round pick. Then they have guys like Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert who have looked alright, but were both high draft picks. I am hard-pressed to think of a team that has put that much draft capital into skill positions in such a short time frame. As a result, the offensive line has gotten weaker, especially when first-round pick Andre Dillard is struggling to stay on the field. The defensive side has also gotten older and weaker, even though Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave have been good additions.
The bottom line is, they are playing a really simple offense and an unbelievably simple defense. The question is; are they doing this because the coach is really conservative in how fast he wants to implement his scheme or is he a coach that believes in a simple scheme, in an attempt to get perfect execution. If it is the latter, they are in serious trouble. If it is the former, it may be too early to tell but there still are concerns. The good news for Philly is they are likely to have three first round draft picks, and two of them are almost already guaranteed to be very high picks. They are also set to gain some cap space, but for the most part, I think there are legitimate long-term concerns for the Eagles.
Tennessee 27, Kansas City 3
I think the Chiefs have a little bit of an injury problem, but I think a lot of their struggles permeate from their offensive and defensive lines. When you have weaker lines, it undermines everything, including the confidence of the players. I think we are seeing that with Mahomes, who leads the NFL with nine interceptions right now, even though he has never finished a season with more than 12. They have made some moves to try and address their offensive line, but they do not seem to be where they were when they won the Super Bowl.
I also think they have problems on defense. They are not being as aggressive as they have in the past, which is reflected in their 8 sacks. This is tied for the least amount in the NFL. They also have problems in the secondary. They are not getting great cornerback play after letting some guys go in free agency. Their safeties, Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorenson, are really struggling to control the middle of the field and they are allowing way too many open receivers in the back-end.
Even with all that, they are only 3-4 and I am not close to writing them off. I still think Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in football, even if he is not playing like that right now. So, while my confidence in them reaching the Super Bowl has diminished, there is a lot of talent there and they are really well coached.
Atlanta 30, Miami 28
I have talked about how big of a mistake it was to trade a future first round pick to move up to draft a receiver like Jaylen Waddle when you still had major uncertainties at quarterback. Even with that mistake and Tua Tagovailoa not playing great, it is still hard to believe they have regressed to one of the worst teams in the league. Since Brian Flores got there, even when they were really struggling, I thought they were playing about as hard as any team in the NFL. I am not seeing that right now. There seems to be some discouragement and that has translated over to their play.
The major question with Miami right now seems to be; will they trade for Deshaun Watson? Now, unlike through training camp and at the beginning of the season, I think Houston is ready to move him. I do not think they are ready to give him away, but I think they recognize he will never play for them again. Right now, the popular potential landing spots seem to be Miami, Carolina, and Denver, who I think are all real possibilities. I am just not sure how many teams are really interested. He still has dozens of outstanding accusations and you would not be certain he could even play this year. I think the risk, for me, is just too great right now to trade numerous high picks — even conditional ones — for that situation.
Other takeaways from Sunday’s action:
New England 54, New York Jets 13
I do not think they will be a contender this year, but the people that love to hate New England should be really worried. For what they like to do, Mac Jones is looking really good. They are gradually adding more and more, and you can see each week he is getting more comfortable and more confident in his abilities. They added a lot of players in the offseason, and I think a lot of the guys they brought in fit what they like to do. They have two really good tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, even if I think they overpaid for them. They also have a few running backs, led by Damien Harris, who fit what they like to do. Harris runs really hard, has really good vision, and does not make a lot of money. New England is shaping up to be a contender again for future years.
Cincinnati 41, Baltimore 17
I think a lot of people forgot about how good Joe Burrow was after he got injured last season. As good as he is, though, they are perpetually due to come up short unless they start to upgrade that offensive line. I think that is all that will hold them back from being perennial contenders in a really tough division. In spite of my reservations, they are still 5-2, so they are getting some things right. I just worry about their ability to protect Burrow over the course of this season, and really his career.
Tampa Bay 38, Chicago 3
Hats off to Tampa Bay. It is really hard to play this well after a Super Bowl victory and not have any let down. They are older too, and they still come out and play really hard on a weekly basis. I was critical of their plans of bringing everyone back, but they are not suffering any let down. With Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans really struggling, it is almost impossible to see how they do not come out of the NFC South and make a run at the first run bye.
Los Angeles Rams 28, Detroit 19
Even after acquiring Stafford, I was worried about any regression their defense would face after losing Brandon Staley. They seemed to have not fallen off too much with Raheem Morris as defensive coordinator, and an already good offense has gotten better with Stafford. Most of this team already has some Super Bowl experience, and the upgrade at quarterback could be what pushes them over the top.
Arizona 31, Houston 5
Arizona is much improved and they deserve a lot of credit, but I do not expect them to stay at this level the whole season. I could be wrong because if you watched them play the week before against Cleveland, they did not play great, and they controlled a good team. They also already have convincing wins against Tennessee and the Rams.
It is pretty shocking how well they are playing, and they deserve a lot of credit for some of the moves they have made. They were widely criticized for hiring Kliff Kingsbury, who did not have a winning record in college. Time will tell if it was a great hire, but that move was at least a good hire. There were also major questions about Kyler Murray coming into the NFL as the No. 1 pick. More recently, I think people really questioned their commitment to J.J Watt, who is playing really well for them.