$.01--Anytime the reigning MVP goes down with a potentially serious injury, on a Thursday night game with undivided attention no less, it’s the story that will dominate the NFL landscape for the weekend. That’s what happened in Denver, when Patrick Mahomes left the Chiefs’ easy win over the Broncos.
Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap while making a QB sneak. With Mahomes wincing in pain, the Chiefs medical staff relocated the kneecap back in place, but enough damage was done that he had to sit out the rest of the game. Last year’s MVP will miss at least three weeks, according to most reports and medical projections.
It’s a fortunate break the injury is not more serious. That’s a break for not just Chiefs fans, but NFL fans in general. Mahomes is one of the most exciting players to watch and the perfect field general for Andy Reid’s aggressive offense.
Now Matt Moore gets the keys to the Chiefs car, and he’s got a tough road ahead of him. Kansas City’s next three opponents are the 6-1 Packers, the 5-2 Vikings and a 3-4 Titans team that has not allowed more than 20 points in a game all season. If Moore can win even one of those games, the Chiefs are in complete cruise control to the AFC West crown. The second-place Raiders are 3-3, two games behind but with a loss to KC already. Even with an incredibly favorable schedule, it’s hard to see the Raiders catching up from that distance if Mahomes is back by Week 11.
$.02--Jalen Ramsey is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams thanks to a blockbuster trade this week. The Rams sent two first-round picks (in 2020 and 2021) and a fourth-rounder to Jacksonville for the Pro Bowl cornerback, who wanted out of Duval and away from Jaguars GM Tom Coughlin.
Ramsey got his wish. It’s a good deal for him, but for his new team? It’s an awful lot to give up to fill what is about the 5th or 6th-biggest hole on a top-heavy roster. It means the Rams will go five straight seasons without a first-round pick. It means the Rams will be on the hook to make him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history while they also have the highest-paid defensive lineman in NFL history and the highest-paid QB in NFL history. They’re paying a fading RB with arthritic knees above market value, too.
The first impression in L.A. is a good one for Ramsey. He made four tackles in his debut, a 37-10 spanking of the hapless Falcons to snap a 3-game losing streak. Granted Ramsey didn’t have the day the man he’s replacing on the team, Marcus Peters, had--a pick-6 of Russell Wilson in Baltimore’s romp in Seattle--but Ramsey has earned his status as one of the most impactful cover men over the last three years.
Acquiring him is an all-in move by GM Les Snead. It gave Ramsey all the leverage in contract negotiations for a team that will struggle to pay the full 53-man roster under the salary even if Ramsey takes the league minimum. Narrator: he’s not. The Rams are 4-3, behind two better teams in their own division and have far bigger needs along the offensive line and at wide receiver (and QB for that matter) than where Ramsey plays. I don’t think this will end well for Snead or the Rams, certainly not beyond 2019.
$.03--I only saw the last five minutes of the Titans win over the Chargers. Those five minutes of game time took over 20 minutes of real-time to play, thanks to reviews, missed calls, bad spots and more reviews.
Tennessee escaped with the win after Melvin Gordon fumbled--for the second play in a row--at the goal line instead of scoring. The officials botched the first call by signalling it a touchdown initially even though Gordon had a knee down just inside the Titans 1 and no ball in his hands. A quick review set the ball back to where Gordon fumbled, but it cost the Chargers a 10-second runoff because the officials erroneously called it a touchdown. More on that in a minute...
The second fumble was not seen by any of the officials on the field. Not one of them noticed Titans DT Jurell Casey running out of the end zone with the ball in his hand. Not one official made a call, touchdown or tackle or otherwise. A review that took nearly 7 minutes of real-time finally (and correctly) sorted out that Gordon did indeed fumble and Casey recovered in the end zone.
There were two other questionable spot calls in the final 2:40, including Austin Ekeler apparently scoring for the Chargers. That play was correctly reviewed and spotted short (which set up the Gordon fumbles/runs). However, because the call on the field was incorrect, the Chargers were penalized 10 seconds. Tennessee spared them by calling a timeout, but that’s beside the point.
The rule that penalizes teams 10 seconds in the final two minutes when the officials miss a call is unjustifiable. It’s one the NFL must remove immediately. It cost the Detroit Lions a playoff berth--and Jim Caldwell his job as head coach--in 2017 when the officials on the field ruled Golden Tate scored a TD, but review showed (inconclusively by the way) he was just short. The teams have nothing to do with why the runoff occurs, so why does it occur? It’s a terrible rule that has to go.
$.04--Something very odd and untoward is brewing between the New York Jets and their Pro Bowl guard, Kelechi Osemele.
Osemele has missed time with a shoulder injury, one which he claims is a torn labrum that requires season-ending surgery. His agent, Andrew Kessler, has confirmed the torn labrum being diagnosed by doctors. But the Jets claim otherwise, believing the left guard can play through the injury and that it does not require immediate surgery.
One report from Bleacher Report ups the ante even further. It claims “the Jets have been attempting to delay surgery by sending blank and incorrect MRI images to doctors...even going as far as refusing to release workers comp forms.”
A competing report from the New York Post claims differently. “Two doctors have cleared Kelechi Osemele to play, according to a source. They determined the injury existed prior to this season and is something he can play through,” per Brian Costello of the Post. The team fined Osemele for not practicing on Saturday, adding another wrinkle to the dispute. Osemele is expected to file a grievance, too.
I don’t know who is telling the truth here. Osemele has an odd habit of popping up in these sorts of issues, though. Last year the Raiders were fined for improperly designating him on the weekly injury report, for a different injury (two of them, actually). The eye test from early in the season clearly shows Osemele is not close to healthy.
Against the Browns and Bills in the early season, he looked like a guy who had no business being on the field. That’s a far cry from the Pro Bowl form he showed in Baltimore and Oakland and is getting paid a hefty sum to be in New York. The Jets shouldn’t have interest in playing Osemele in his dilapidated state. If the assertions against them are legit--and again I have no idea who is telling the truth here--the Jets organization needs to be heavily penalized. I’m talking millions in fines and multiple draft picks stripped. If it’s true...
$.05--Numbers never lie...except when they do. And they certainly did in Chicago, where the scoreboard and stat book makes the Saints 36-25 win over the Bears seem like a competitive football game.
It was not.
The Saints effectively won this game 36-10 before the Bears thrived in the final six minutes to rally behind stat-padder Mitchell Trubisky against a Saints team that was already headed to the airport in their minds.
Don’t just take my word for it. Trust my good friend Bryan Perez, who covers the Bears for NBC Sports:
If I told you Trubisky would complete 63% of his passes for 250+ yards and 2 TDs, you'd assume he's get an A, or close to it, for the game.
He was an absolute F today. Don't believe the box score.
Chicago managed just 81 yards of offense in the first half. Trubisky accrued 78 of those on 23 pass attempts. The Saints were no great shakes in the first half either, but the Bears were lifelessly abysmal. It was 12-10 Saints only because Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kick 102 yards for a TD. The third quarter was even worse: 7 plays, 4 total yards, zero first downs as the Saints raced away to a 26-10 lead.
The Bears gained 132 yards and scored two TDs on their final two possessions of the game. That’s over half their total yards and all of their offensive scoring success in the entire game. Before you look at the final numbers, look at the real numbers.
Trubisky’s return from his shoulder injury was supposed to spark life into the Bears. Instead, his wild inaccuracy, ponderous decisions and general lack of competence doomed Chicago at home.
$.06--Dallas dominated the visiting Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football to seize control of the NFL’s weakest division, the NFC East. Jason Garrett’s team pummeled Doug Pederson’s uninspired bunch, 37-10 in a game that was not really as close as that score would indicate.
The Cowboys needed a gut-check game after being humbled by the previously winless Jets in Week 6. Right from the first drive, the Dallas defense delivered. The Cowboys flustered, frustrated and figured out the Philly offense, forcing a fumble on each of the first two drives and then just 21 yards on three Eagles drives in the second quarter.
Philly was powerless to stop the Cowboys. Carson Wentz turned the ball over three times and did not play well. His offensive line did not play well, notably RT Lane Johnson having one of the worst games of his career. The secondary couldn’t cover, the pass rush couldn’t impact Dak Prescott. The Eagles laid an ostrich egg.
With the Giants now 2-5 after losing at home to the (quickly improving) Cardinals and Washington 1-6 after being blanked in a monsoon by San Francisco, it’s effectively a two-team race in the NFC Least. After Sunday night, the Cowboys are clearly the team to beat. If the Eagles don’t get better at a lot of things quickly--most of them on the defensive side of the ball--the Cowboys don’t have to worry about much except the Cowboys themselves.
$.07--As a Detroit Lions fan and someone who covers the team, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the Monday Night Football officiating disaster. Clete Blakeman and his crew directly decided the outcome of the game and sent the Lions from first place to last place in the NFC North with their gross ineptitude.
Instead of whining (more) about it, the pragmatist in me has been looking for solutions. I discussed some of them on a podcast this week (listen here), and the more I’ve thoughts about it and been asked about it, I have two implementations that must happen:
First, on-field officials should have no input whatsoever in reviews. It must be done from an off-site, neutral location. This is especially true of the pass interference reviews, which are so awful that Lions coach Matt Patricia didn’t throw the challenge flag on an obvious and critical foul because he couldn’t risk losing the timeout. It’s a lot easier for a field judge or umpire to get told they’re wrong by someone from outside the building rather than the referee they’re working with that game. Based on how quickly the likes of Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira can render correct decisions from the booth, this should also speed up the review process.
Second, help the on-field officials by giving them less to focus on during the play. The rule book has expanded exponentially, and the technical processes of plays now require such scrutiny that it’s asking too much of humans with only two eyes to possibly adjudicate and officiate everything they’re being asked to do on each snap. Because adding more officials to the field of play is logistically impossible, let the review process help them.
One or two off-field officials who can help watch plays in live-action is a needed change. Think about all that is asked of a down judge…
Proper alignment by offense
Make sure the down/distance are correct
All receivers on that side of the field for the first 7 yards of a play are his direct responsibility
WR/DB holding on both runs and passes
Must monitor every player on the sideline to make sure still inbounds
Making the spot on plays on that side of the field
What human being can be asked to do all of those--perfectly--between 110 and 150 times per game? Help them out. We beg of you, Mr. Goodell...
--The Bengals remain winless, getting pasted 27-17 by the Jaguars after leading 7-6 at halftime. Want to know one big reason why Cincinnati is 0-7 and bound for 0-14 before they play Miami? They have allowed at least 200 rushing yards in the last three games. When they fall behind, other teams can keep running and running and the Bengals can’t stop them...or the clock.
--The Dolphins actually held a lead into the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills, believe it or not. The pass-centric offense built around Ryan Fitzpatrick worked well enough that Miami led 14-9 into the 4th and had it back to 24-21 Bills late before the home team iced it by returning the onside kick attempt for a TD. Two weeks in a row the Dolphins have been within spitting distance late. Still hard to see them beating anyone except maybe the aforementioned Bengals, but they’re at least playing some interesting football of late.
--Congrats to Detroit WR Marvin Jones for joining elite company in the Lions’ 42-30 loss to the visiting Vikings. Jones caught 4 TD passes for the second time in his career. He’s the third person to ever accomplish that impressive feat. The others? Jerry Rice and Sterling Sharpe.
--Lamar Jackson thrust himself into the MVP conversation with a commanding performance in Baltimore’s 30-16 win in Seattle. His stats (9-of-20, 143 yards passing, 116 rushing yards and a TD) aren’t eye-popping, but they belie how effectively he and the Ravens offense controlled the game. He also lost four first downs to penalties. The 5-2 Ravens are firmly in the driver’s seat in the otherwise putrid AFC North.
--Didn’t see one snap of it, but nice win by the Colts over the Texans to take the lead in the tightly-packed AFC South. Had Houston won things would look a lot different in the only AFC division where every team has at least three wins. The fight for the division crown and likely Wild Card spot is going to be fierce over the second half of the season.
--There is very little doubt in my mind that LSU is the best team in the country and Heisman front-runner Joe Burrow is the primary reason. He set the school record for TD passes in a season in just the Tigers’ 7th game. He and his mates will face major challenges in their next two games, home for top-10 Auburn and at mighty Alabama. Win those and there will be zero doubt.
--There is also very little doubt in my mind that Burrow’s old school, Ohio State, is the second-best team in the country. The man who forced Burrow’s transfer--an amicable parting by the way--Justin Fields (after Dwayne Haskins) is the primary reason. Ohio State bombarded Northwestern on Friday night and have the speed and beef to beat anyone, anywhere.
--My hat is off to Lovie Smith. I’ve been a longtime critic of the Illinois head coach, dating back to his days with the Chicago Bears. Lovie pulled a rabbit out of his glorious grey beard with a stunning comeback upset over previously unbeaten Wisconsin. It’s the biggest upset of the college season and a desperately needed marquee win for the embattled coach. He handled it with forward-looking class, too.
--I intently watched Oregon’s exciting win over Washington, with focus on the QBs for draft purposes. Ducks QB Justin Herbert continues to flash brilliance but also too many bad throws and rushed decisions. A scouting friend compared him to Kirk Cousins as far as outcomes (i.e. not stylistically) and I can’t unsee it. Washington’s Jacob Eason made a lot of impressive anticipatory throws and flashed some arm strength I didn’t see from him in the Stanford or Cal games. My impression from those three games this year is that he’s going to be a backup QB for a long time and won’t kill a team if he has to start here and there. Lots of football left to play and watch before I can make any declarations, however.
--This is taking suck to a new level, Arkansas…
This fake punt from Arkansas might be one of the worst plays we've ever seen in college football.pic.twitter.com/VpKPOKJlQE— Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 19, 2019
--You want to see a sweet trick play on special teams? Check out my Ohio Bobcats!
OFF HIS HELMET?!?!— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 19, 2019
Ohio gets the ball back on one of the craziest kickoffs you'll ever see. pic.twitter.com/WPAWoSeHo5
Good win for Frank Solich and the Bobcats to improve to 3-4 but move into the driver’s seat in the MAC East. The MAC is horrible this year, by the way.
$.10--Frequent readers know this space is often reserved for music commentary. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in my hometown of Cleveland releases its annual nominees for induction, as they did this week, it’s a huge deal.
Some of the nominees for the class of 2020 are deserving of enshrinement, but overall it’s an embarrassing list compared to what it could (and should) look like. It’s a recurring issue for the Rock Hall, but this just might be the worst year yet.
Among the nominees: Whitney Houston, the Notorious B.I.G. and Chaka Khan. Those are all great artists in their respective genres. None of them are even remotely connected to the genre of rock-n-roll, unfortunately.
My musical tastes run much harder than what is heard on the radio, but I’ll accept the nominations of the Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode and even the Doobie Brothers. I can’t stand DMB but they at least play instruments and have a passionate fanbase; it’s nice to see a kind of “niche” band get some acknowledgement.
Soundgarden, Judas Priest and Motorhead are the representatives of the music I listen to, the music for millions who would rather bang their head than tap their toe. It’s a shame Chris Cornell and Lemmy aren’t still around to hear folks talk nicely about them. I suspect Soundgarden will earn the token spot for hard rock. Pat Benatar rocked too, and she belongs.
Judas Priest is an interesting choice ahead of Iron Maiden and Scorpions, both of whom have sold tens of millions more records and have far more mainstream appeal. That Scorpions are continually ignored despite monster hits like “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, “No One Like You” and one of the 15 biggest singles (in terms of sales) all-time, “Winds of Change”. They don’t get a sniff but Kraftwerk, a fellow German band of whom I cannot name a single song, is a repeat nominee.
Nine Inch Nails is a worthy choice for their innovative style and edginess they brought to rock radio. I’d argue Trent Reznor as an individual probably deserves it more than the entire band, but I won’t pick nits. In the battle of 70s rock bands, gimmie Thin Lizzy over T. Rex. But where is Maiden? Scorpions? The Pixies? Duran Duran? Alice in Chains?
Stop nominating hip-hop, soul, R&B and disco acts into the Rock Hall and maybe I’ll make a return visit the next time I’m in Cleveland.