Week 10, and the unpredictability of the NFL continues: Cardinals reinforcements swim against Carolina, Buccaneers screw up the week off against Washington, and instead of a shootout between Wilson and Rodgers, there’s a defensive battle. SPOX-Editor-in-Chief Adrian Franke summarizes the NFL on Sunday.
Every game day can’t be spectacular, not even in the NFL; But this week 10 was the first game day of the season where I felt relatively consistent that no good football was being played. Or at least very little good football.
The Patriots were one of the few exceptions, more on that in a moment. Dallas convinced after the low blow the previous week. But in many places the supposed heavyweights – Green Bays Offense, Tampa Bay, Chargers, Ravens already on Thursday – didn’t just disappoint, games just weren’t good for long stretches.
Nowhere has it been more grotesque than in extra time between Pittsburgh and Detroit, that’s clear. But anyone who looked forward to a captivating duel between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson had to settle for Jordyn Brooks and De’Vondre Campbell.
Another positive exception was the Kansas City Chiefs, who not only moved to the top of the division with a win after an impressive second half after everything that was going on here this year – but of course the question literally jumps out. inside out: heads back now? More on that later.
It starts with the New England Patriots who, like their rookie quarterback, are doing better and better this season after a shaky start. And in a wide AFC, more than just playoff hopes are allowed.
1. Patriots play like a playoff team
Who knows how Mac Jones’ career will continue, how he will develop – and where his NFL ceiling will ultimately be. For my part, I can already say that my pre-project evaluation was wrong with him.
Not in all points; I remain skeptical about his skills as a playmaker and ultimately also whether he has what it takes to be an elite quarterback. This has always been a relatively obvious point of criticism for him, simply given his physical limitations.
But what I did not expect is that he is already so advanced in his favorite discipline, playing from his pocket. That he plays so calm, even under pressure, that he identifies his clashes so well that he can read the covers – and how well he places the ball in narrow windows. With his exit, with the anticipation, with the placement of the ball, he does more than fill his deficits, at least for the moment.
And not only that, we have already seen in this first half of the season how he is developing, how the game becomes more tangible for him, and how he attacks more aggressively. Kendrick Bourne’s touchdown pass against the Browns was perhaps Jones’ best rookie pitch to date. The placement of the ball is partly exceptional, he passed a pass to Hunter Henry in the second half, which not all NFL quarterbacks meet from afar.
Patriots: Jones’ development impressed
As Jones grows up, the potential of this Patriots team grows as well; And of course, it helps that the offensive line finds itself more and more – and has become healthier – and the defense stabilizes, especially against the pass.
I think this is also where some of Josh McDaniels’ criticism in the early weeks of the season was only partially justified. For now, it should be noted that the Pats have brought Mac Jones into the NFL at a rate that has still allowed him to grow at an impressive rate. And when you could see that Jones had more confidence – because it wasn’t just about McDaniels ‘play calls, but also the conservative implementation of Jones’ plays – the playbook was also opened. wider.
After Joe Burrow last year, Jones is now the next quarterback to give hope to the draft prospects who are clearly smugglers. That you can come and gain a foothold in the NFL that way as a young quarterback; although it’s always worth mentioning here that Jones has slipped into a very good ecosystem, a luxury that Burrow – like so many other highly prized quarterbacks – didn’t have last year.
The key point with the Patriots, however, is this: The Pats are currently playing as a playoff team, and although we are looking for run-ups in the AFC week after week – Tennessee being the current exception – the trend AFC may not be the same for any team as clearly visible as with Mac Jones and the Patriots. The defense is playing better, the offensive line is playing better, and the quarterback is continuously increasing.
New England are at least a very specific playoff contender, and if the Bills get weaker again, I see an absolutely realistic chance of winning the division title. With the two direct duels still in front of their chest, the Pats have their own destiny in their hands anyway.
What are we doing with the Browns now?
And the chestnuts? Cleveland was able to give its much needed answer last week with a clear victory over Cincinnati, a very important sign of life not only in its own division. Against the Patriots you’ve long looked like the much weaker team – and that straightforward duel could add some extra weight too, for example when it comes to wildcard tiebreakers.
It could be short here: Cleveland doesn’t have a quarterback who can currently support this team if they depended on it. And that’s a problem when we talk about playoff football – and how to get there in a completely open conference.
Cleveland had a great first practice, D’Ernest Johnson contributed 55 of 84 yards on the way to the opening touchdown – then had three bad practices as your own defense allowed too much, and suddenly you were 7:21 in back. It was 7:24 am in the middle of the third quarter, and then it’s getting harder and harder to play in the settings you want for your own offense.
If more Mayfield is to come then, Cleveland is currently massively limited. He didn’t make any of his seven attempts to pass eight yards or more against the Pats and threw a pick in the process.
Browns: The defense is good – but how good?
I generally like some of the developments in Cleveland. The defense has been playing better for weeks than the numbers suggest: According to the Early Down Success Rate – so only First and Second Down – they were in second place in the first nine weeks, Cleveland has had a few games this year over the course of the year. from which the defense on the third down, and with a few fairly long third downs, made some big critical plays, which shaped those plays considerably.
The same against the Patriots, of course. New England were absolutely frozen on third down in the first half, regardless of the distance to the first down. Big rooms in the air, screens, it all worked and it was a significant contributor to Cleveland falling into that hole in the first place.
Of course, those drops count too, as Cleveland clearly noticed on Sunday. But late blunders are more unstable than early consistency, and at least some of those errors can be traced to coordination issues and coverage breaks in young high school, which needed and arguably still needs to be found.
But I like what is created here. With a dominant pass-rush duo, good rotation in the defensive line, a real number 1 corner with depth behind, good safety, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was on course to become the favorite until his injury. Year of rise.
The Browns could make the jump to the top 5 defensive end in the second half of the season if they got a better handle on their inside defensive line. And the offense has solid ground without a doubt. But to be in a very large AFC with a different squad every week, Cleveland will need more Baker Mayfield.