Here are my key takeaways after Week 7:
1. What do the Browns do now?
With Odell Beckham Jr. out for the season, there are a few veteran receivers Cleveland might look to trade for. Some names that immediately come to mind are Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate and Kenny Stills. A.J. Green would be a big help, but don’t expect the Bengals to trade him in the division. OBJ’s contract is guaranteed for next year, so don’t expect him to go anywhere.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Baker Mayfield was so much more productive Sunday after OBJ went out. After the injury, Mayfield was 22 of 23 for 297 yards and 5 TDs. Baker was playing point guard – distributing the ball to his playmakers against a poor Cincinnati secondary. Without the pressure of trying to get the ball to OBJ, Baker was better able to use his other weapons.
2. Trade deadline approaches
While the trading deadline is still seven days away, look for some deals to get done sooner than later due to COVID protocols. With the extra time that’s needed before a player is eligible to join a team, don’t be surprised to see things heat up this week.
3. Pittsburgh’s “other” secret weapon
Rookie receiver Chase Claypool has garnered plenty of attention in Pittsburgh, but it’s second-year receiver Diontae Johnson who is quietly making the Steelers’ offense impossible to defend. Johnson caught two TD passes in Sunday’s win over the Titans. More importantly, having that third receiver be that productive makes Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster so much more productive. It limits who the opposition can double team, and it makes Pittsburgh very dangerous.
4. Bucs defense the difference-maker
I’ve made this point before but it bears repeating: Tom Brady the general manager correctly assessed the Tampa Bay defense and clearly that was one of the driving factors in his decision to sign with the Buccaneers. Now we can see why Brady was right. Anything can happen in a playoff game, but there is a separation between Tampa’s defense and Seattle’s defense.
What Brady might have noticed in the offseason was this: Tampa Bay had the top-ranked rushing defense last season, was fifth in turnovers forced and tied for seventh in yards allowed per play. And he might have realized that their overall defensive numbers were impacted by the bad field position they were often put in by Jameis Winston turnovers. Still, he saw they were a top defensive unit.
5. Patriots going in the wrong direction
In New England’s first two games this season, the Patriots scored a total of 51 points. In their last two games: 18. It doesn’t make sense for a New England team to start strong out of the gate and then get worse, but that’s what is happening. You’d also think the longer Cam Newton is there the better they would be, but we’re seeing the opposite. While that is troubling, there is one caveat: The AFC East is still very much up for grabs. It’s not as weak as the NFC East, but the division gives New England a chance to get back on track.