THE DALLAS DEFENSE DESERVES CREDIT
At 7-1, the Cowboys offense is getting the bulk of the credit, and it’s well-deserved: With a rookie QB and a rookie RB, they’re steamrolling teams thanks to the best offensive line in football.
Let me get this out of the way first – of course controlling the the ball (Dallas is 2nd in time of possession) prevents the opponents from getting rolling on offense. But at some point, the largely no-name defense deserves props. Remember all the concern about the front seven due to suspensions and attrition? They’re 15th in the league with 18 sacks.
The Dallas defense doesn’t overwhelm you with anything, but is solid in every aspect – they’ve created 10 turnovers, which is 14th in the league. On 3rd down? They’re only 24th, stopping the opponent 41% of the time.
The last team to not allow a 100-yard rusher or receiver? The 1980 Buffalo Bills. As impressive as the stat is, those 1980 Bills only went 11-5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Dan Fouts.
MOST OVERRATED … DENVER?
The Denver Broncos might be 6-3, and Trevor Siemian is getting props for game managing, and everyone is sweating the defense … but this is an overrated team. After getting beaten 30-20 at Oakland, the Broncos dropped to 1-2 against teams that have a winning record.
They’ve beaten Houston, and lost to the Raiders and the Falcons. Their other marquee wins all came against teams that just aren’t very good or very consistent this season – San Diego, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Carolina – and still haven’t faced New England yet.
The running game without CJ Anderson is non-existent. All this talk about, ‘the defense carried them last year, they can do it again with Siemian!’ is hogwash. If you force him to throw 35 or more times, the Broncos are in trouble.
OFF A BYE, STEELERS FALL FLAT
Don’t be fooled by Ravens 21, Steelers 14. It wasn’t that close, even though Pittsburgh was down to a (botched) onside kick to have a chance. Pittsburgh racked up many 4th quarter fantasy points, but through three quarters, this is what Pittsburgh had done:
– 2 first downs
– 11 penalties
– 0-for-9 on 3rd down
– 69 total yards
Reminder: The Steelers had a bye last week. Ben Roethlisberger did not look healthy. He’s 34, fresh off surgery. The Steelers are now 4-4.
Silver lining? The most anemic pass rush in the NFL did have two sacks. So there’s that.
TODD BOWLES IS IN TROUBLE
The Jets season is officially over after a 27-23 loss to the Dolphins. You can blame the special teams (gave up a 96-yard touchdown with five minutes left), the pathetic pass rush (one sack) or even Ryan Fitzpatrick (two more interceptions, one in the end zone). But how about this: The Jets were a woeful 1-for-5 in the red zone, and I checked this play-by-play and found something odd: matt forte (12 carries, 92 yards) didn’t get a single attempt in the red zone.
How does that happen?
The move going forward is simple: You’ve got to play young QBs Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg to see what they’ve got. Fitzpatrick won’t be back. Geno Smith is a goner. Let the rebuild begin!
DOUG PEDERSON: BAD COACH, OR ROOKIE COACH?
The Eagles were the NFL darlings after a 3-0 start, and Carson Wentz had the Vice President driving the Wentz Wagon. Since then? They’ve lost four of five games, all by one score.
They blew a late lead to the Lions on a fumble, and then Carson Wentz threw his first interception. They were dominated by the Redskins, but the defense and special teams kept it close. After a win over the Vikings, coach Doug Pederson is the reason the Eagles lost to the Cowboys and Giants. His decision-making has been very rookie-like: Ultra conservative with a 10-point 4th quarter lead; too aggressive against the Giants, going 1-for-4 on 4th down, and overall going 2-for-6 in the red zone.
In the 1st half alone, Pederson left nine points on the field – failing on 4th down twice and the Eagles had another kick blocked. Because he was overly aggressive in the 1st half, he needed a touchdown on the final series. Didn’t get it. Lost, 28-23.
AN UGLY NFL RECORD
For the first time in NFL history, a team has allowed a 100-yard rusher for seven straight games. Many had done it six times in a row, but the 49ers giving up 158 yards to Mark Ingram Sunday set the record. If you’ve been reading this column, you could see this one coming.
Next up: a rematch with David Johnson, who torched the 49ers for 157 yards in October.
Kansas City, for the second time in three weeks, has been pretty unimpressive. But they’re still winning games. Even though they were down their starting QB and running back, the numbers portend some potential ugliness in the future when they step up in competition.
The Chiefs only had 10 first downs and 231 yards against the woeful Jaguars. Kansas City averaged a meek 4.1 yards per play and were an amazingly bad 1-for-14 on 3rd down. With Spencer Ware out injured, they only rushed for 62 yards on 22 carries.
Thanks to four Jacksonville turnovers – including this questionable one in the end zone – the Chiefs held on, 19-14. Kansas City has been listless beating the Saints, then handled the Colts on the road on the strength of a monster effort from the front seven, and now squeaked by Jacksonville.
Four of KC’s next five games are against the Panthers, Broncos, Falcons and Raiders.