Brees looks unstoppable; the Cowboys’ bold trade; Bill Belichick’s fashion statement: Just another week in the NFL. We’ll give you all the 2018 NFL news you can handle in under three minutes (Disclaimer: you can stay longer than three minutes. Time is relative). Here’s the best—or worst—of the NFL from Week 7.
Some Karmic Payback For Saints?
So who believes in cosmic karma, NFL-style? Or to put it another way: are the football gods looking out for the New Orleans Saints this season?
How else would anybody explain what happened to the Ravens' Justin Tucker last Sunday? The guy is only the most reliable PAT kicker in the history of the NFL, having never missed a point-after in 222 regular season tries, and yet somehow he pushed one wide right with a chance to tie it up and no time left in the fourth quarter.
Now, if you ask the Saints, even a gift like that doesn’t heal the wounds from last January, watching the Minnesota Vikings pull out a playoff miracle win against them, with Case Keenum hitting Stefon Diggs for a 61 yard TD on the game's final play.
But could it be an indication this is their year? In truth, their dazzling pass offense, led by the indefatigable Drew Brees, is the reason to believe anything is possible down Bourbon Street way this season. One week after the Ravens mauled Marcus Mariota, sacking him 11 times, the Saints threw up a fortress around Brees, allowing only one sack while the QB threw for 212 yards on a windy day in Baltimore, and rallied his team in the second half with his typical precision passing.
And talk about hard to explain: how is it that Brees, at age 39, might be on his way to the best season of his spectacular career? He’s the only starting quarterback who hasn’t thrown an interception this season while completing a league-high 77.3 percent of his passes to make him the top-rated signal-caller in the NFL.
A couple of weeks ago Brees passed Peyton Manning for the all-time record in passing yards, and on Sunday he threw his 500th career TD pass, joining Manning, Bret Favre, and Tom Brady as the only QBs to reach that milestone.
How far can Brees take his 5-1 Saints? Only the football gods really know. Oh, you don't believe in football gods? This is the face of a man staring directly into the eyes of the almighty gods of the gridiron...
Is Jerry Jones Sending A Message To His Coach?
Most NFL owners guard first-round draft choices more closely than they do their stock portfolios. Not Jerry Jones. The Dallas Cowboys’ owner, desperate to return to the franchise’s glory days of the 1990s, traded a first-rounder to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper, hoping to jump-start a stagnant offense after his team fell to 3-4.
The consensus opinion is that the Cowboys gave up too much for Cooper, who is owed $14 million next season in the final year of his contract. The rationale coming out of Dallas, meanwhile, is that giving Dak Prescott a No. 1 receiver will allow management to more fairly evaluate whether the third-year quarterback is worthy of being the Cowboys’ long-term answer, as he approaches free agency after next season.
Perhaps even more to the point, the move also ratchets up the heat on coach Jason Garrett, whose clock-management and play-calling decisions in the final minutes of Sunday’s loss to the Washington Redskins were head-scratching to say the least, and not for the first time. Jones has been firm in his support of Garrett in recent years, despite repeated media criticism of the coach. With the mediocre NFL East still there to be won, the bold trade for Cooper might just be the owner’s way of telling his coach, in that famous Jerry Jones southern drawl:
Last chance, son.
The Question Nobody Would Ask Belichick
If only someone had had the nerve to ask Bill Belichick about the tie. The one he was wearing, that is.
The world’s most notorious coaching curmudgeon showed up at his post-game press conference Sunday in his usual manner, offering the dullest, briefest, monotone answers to questions—even one about the breathtaking final play, as the Bears’ completed Hail Mary wound up one yard short of the end zone and a tie game.
But he also arrived to the podium in a tie that was reminiscent of a pattern a horse jockey would wear, featuring a red-and-white, diamond-shaped pattern that was very un-Belichick-ian, to say the least.
If you didn’t know better you’d have sworn the coach was playing his own private joke on the media, all but daring someone to ask him:
“Coach, really, did you lose a bet or something?”
Alas, nobody dared.
The Trade That Should Have Been
With all of Jacksonville screaming for the Jaguars to trade for someone to replace Blake Bortles, it’s worth remembering the Jets were auctioning off Teddy Bridgewater in pre-season after the quarterback proved he was capable of playing well again after missing two years due to a devastating knee injury.
So did the Jets act too quickly, dealing Bridgewater to the Saints for a third-round pick rather than wait for a desperate team willing to give up more? Or did the Jags miscalculate by not making an obvious move to insure themselves against Bortles’ history of inconsistency and untimely interceptions?
It’s Not All Eli’s Fault, But…
It’s not often a quarterback throws for 399 yards and still winds up being fingered as the primary culprit in a loss, but such is the state of Eli Manning and the stick-a-fork-in-‘em Giants these days.
In the wake of Monday night’s 23-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, two images lingered: coach Pat Shurmur caught on camera for the second time in three weeks mouthing words of criticism in regard to his quarterback:
“THROW IT TO ODELL,” Shurmur was seen pleading in real time as Manning, for some reason, chose not to hit an open Odell Beckham Jr. on 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line, instead opting to throw an incompletion into traffic.
And then later, in the final minute of the game, with the Giants at the one-yard line, trailing by 10 points with no timeouts, there was Manning, attempting two straight unsuccessful QB sneaks as some 40 seconds ticked off the clock, before finally completing a TD pass to Beckham…
With five seconds remaining in the game.
And so it goes for Eli, as the Giants fell to 1-6. It’s not all his fault, of course. The offensive line is such a disaster that ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, noting the failure to spring Saquon Barkley for a big play, said, “Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown combined couldn’t gain any yards behind that line.” But there’s also no escaping the fact that trying to patch together a contender around an aging Manning was a colossal mistake by new GM Dave Gettleman.
*Out-of-market games only. Select int'l games excluded.