GameDay Decrees – Seven Decrees of Separation

The GameDay Decrees are here this week to steal your bike…but we’ll bring it back because we know you have to go to work in the morning. You’re stuck with us for the next 5-8 minutes (depending on how quickly you read) to indulge in the NFL’s action from Week 7. Whatever you may deem normal in the NFL, we may have returned to it after “Separation Sunday” provided us a clearer idea of which teams plan to be around come Winter and which ones will jet out of our lives quicker than Black Dynamite’s daddy. We witnessed three shutouts on Sunday, as offense was at a premium. The number 7 was the story of Week 7 as there were seven teams that didn’t score an offensive TD (first time since 2001), seven running backs who eclipsed 100 yards on the ground, and seven teams in the AFC and the NFC that currently hold winning records. We hope the following storylines from this past weekend helps you separate the weak from the ob-so-lete…even though at the moment they’re starting to look like one in the same. Let’s get into it.

WESTERN CONTRACTION. The “Game of the Year” title that previously belonged to the Packers and Cowboys’ Week 5 matchup was SNATCHED when the Chiefs and Raiders faced off in an epic battle in the Bay (can you believe this happened during a Thursday night game, too?) The Chiefs were recovering from their first loss of the season vs. the Steelers, but it was the Raiders who were facing an absolute must-win game to save their season. They snapped their four-game losing streak in a bizarre shootout where Derek Carr and Alex Smith combined for 759 passing yards and six touchdowns (and no interceptions). We’ll skip past the flea-flicker, the Amari Cooper highlight reel (and the Amari Cooper drops), Tyreke Hill chuckin’ up the deuce, a tipped ball that finally, Finally, FINALLY!!! bounced the Chiefs’ way, Marshawn Lynch getting ejected, AND all the points that were scored through the first three quarters to get to the beginning of the 4th where the Chiefs held a nine point lead. A NINE. POINT. LEAD. They didn’t score another point in the next fifteen minutes. The young Don Derek Carr marched the Raiders offense downfield for kicker Giorgio Tavecchio’s only make to cut their deficit to 6. With just under three minutes left in the game the Chiefs faced a 3rd and 5 near their own 40. It was at this point in the game I looked over at Slug and said “Pop, if the Chiefs don’t convert this, they’re going to lose this game.” On God. And sure enough, Alex Smith dropped back, his pocket collapsed and Raiders’ Denico Autry and Khalil Mack brought Smith down for a sack, forcing the punt. And what happened next may be the wildest final drive to end a game we’ll see in a long time. Carr hung in the pocket and converted a 4th & 11 from midfield to his TE Jared Cook to keep the drive alive. He went back to Cook along the left sideline, who went up over triple coverage (quadruple coverage if you include Seth Roberts and the defender covering him) and came down with the football on the one yard line. I’m not even gonna spend time wondering why on a handful of occasions the Raiders receivers were running THE SAME ROUTES! I’m not. We ain’t eeeeeeee’n going there. With just 8 seconds on the clock, Carr dropped back and went to the most reliable hands on the team, Michael Crabtree. But Crab used those hands to push off the cornerback instead, and his TD catch was negated. With just three seconds left and backed up to the 11 yard line after the penalty, Carr stepped up in the pocket and threw to the sure-handed Cook, but unfortunately the ball bounced off his hands and out of bou—the Chiefs were flagged with defensive holding as the clock expired. The Raiders got a third chance at life and this time Carr looked to Cordarrelle Patterson (how many weapons does this offense have?) in the back of the endzone and although he made the catch, Patterson was pushed out the back of the endzone for an incomple—the holding ass Chiefs committed yet ANOTHER penalty in the secondary, giving the Raiders another chance to win the game despite the clock being at triple zeros. And the Raiders’ fourth shot at victory was the charm as Carr scrambled left out of the gun to go back where it all started. He darted a pass into Crabtree in the only location he could put it, and Crab held onto possession before sliding out of bounds to tie the game. Tavecchio came out and barely made the extra point but he snuck the ball just inside the upright to snap Oakland’s four game losing streak. The Chiefs on the other hand went from the darlings of the NFL to a team suffering a two-game losing streak, betrayed by a defense that can’t seem to hold onto anything but their opponent’s receivers.

Keeping it out West, the other two teams in this AFC division met in Los Angeles, but it was the Chargers who were the only team on that field who came to play. Sunday was the Travis Benjamin show as the 6th year receiver only needed three touches all day to make an imprint on the game. He took a punt return 65 yards to the crib in the first quarter to give the Chargers the early lead. Their defense was dominant as they held the Denver Broncos to just 69 team rushing yards. They flustered QB Trevor Siemian, sacking him five times, forcing an interception, and keeping Denver off of the scoreboard all afternoon. Nursing a 14-0 lead in the 4th, the Chargers went back to Benjamin as Philip Rivers found him open on a short slant across the middle and Benjamin turned on the burners, out-running the entire Broncos’ secondary for a 42 yard TD reception to officially skunk their divisional foes. Like the Chiefs, the Broncos have dropped two in a row and are slowly giving the Raiders belief that they can bounce back to win this division.

ANSWERING THE BELL. The VH1 reality show that is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room will NOT overshadow the fact they’ve flipped the proverbial switch when they get out on the field. Not on this platform, it won’t! They finally look like the AFC contender they were expected to be after a complete team win at home against Cincinnati. The Steelers continue to stick to the formula that works – calling on Le’Veon Bell again and again as he rushed for 134 yards on 35 carries. Their passing attack still hasn’t overwhelmed anyone just yet, especially if you ask Martavis Bryant, but they still present so many weapons for teams to prepare for that we know it’s just a matter of time before the offense gets clicking on all cylinders. But the Steelers’ game ball yet again goes to their defense, which pitched a second-half shut out of the Bengals after coming up with four sacks and forcing two turnovers. They also held the great A.J. Green to just three catches for 41 yards. Now at 5-2, the Steelers sit at 3-0 in their division and are the only team in the AFC North with a winning record. Pittsburgh has already beaten the Chiefs and are eyeing their matchup with New England later in the season to prove they are the class of the AFC…and they ain’t hiding from anybody!

THE REVENANT. The Chicago Bears remind me of that slow kid in class who happens to know karate. On the surface, it’s almost second nature to make fun of them – until it’s time to square up and throw dem hands. Heading into Week 7 Chicago only managed to pick up wins against AFC teams, but were winless (0-4) against their own conference. That losing streak ended when they invited Carolina to town and the Bears dragged them up and down the field until Leonardo DiCaprio begged them to stop. They relied on their strategy to run the football, then run it some more and then again, and play lockdown defense – a gameplan that worked well for them the week before. Chicago continues to protect rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky who threw just seven passes the entire game. But it’s hard to blame them; any time you can avoid putting the whole game on the shoulders of your quarterback – your rookie quarterback, who is stuck with a depleted receiving corps – you do it. Money Makin’ Mitch and the rest of the Bears’ offense can thank their teammate rookie DB Eddie Jackson for taking over scoring responsibilities on Sunday. He took two turnovers in for TDs, but it was the day on which Jackson accomplished this feat is what makes it even more remarkable. On October 22, 2016 Jackson broke his leg while playing in college at Alabama. He suffered a drop in his draft stock especially when juxtaposed with the other talent that was coming out of Nick Saban’s powerhouse. Jackson battled back to make in to the NFL, landing a roster spot as a 4th round pick in the already-talented Bears secondary. But Jackson’s determination, hard work, and refusal to give up on his dream paid dividends the afternoon of October 22, 2017, exactly one year after that injury put his football career in doubt when a botched option play by Carolina led to a fumble, and Jackson picked up the ball, hit the sideline and took it 75 yards for the defensive touchdown. And in the second quarter, Sunday truly became Jackson’s career game when a deflected pass went straight up in the air and Jackson ran right under it, intercepting the pass and taking it 76 yards for a pick-six, scoring the only two touchdowns in the game. Jackson’s historic performance helped the Bears secure their third win on the year, their second in a row.

QUARTERBACK QUANDARY. There are a handful of veteran quarterbacks around the league who not too long ago achieved success in the NFL (and were paid handsomely for it), but now find themselves at a career crossroad. Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck faces another setback after being shut down from practice. Shoulder soreness resulted in Luck receiving a cortisone shot and as soon as the news broke, many around the league, including the distinguished gentlemen on “32 Kings Road” wondered whether or not Luck would ever recover, and whether or not the organization should cut their losses and move on from the QB they wagered their future on. Next up is Arizona’s Carson Palmer, who suffered a broken arm Sunday and is assumed to be out for the season. Carson has struggled the last few seasons before being injured and the state the Cards’ organization is in now (David Johnson out, Bruce Arians one foot out the door) things don’t seem to be getting any better. It may be time for Carson to call it a career. We’ll move on to Mr. Jay Cutler, who told y’all over the summer he never wanted a part of any of this NFL shit to begin with. He was comfortable with his new broadcasting gig. But here came the Dolphins all desperate and shit, begging Cutler (but never calling Colin Kaepernick) to come out of retirement to fill in during Ryan Tannehill’s absence. It’s obvious Cutler knew coming back was a bad decision. But the Dolphins offered that man $10 million to ride the struggle bus for just one year, and you can bet your bottom dollar he responded to that offer with his best impersonation of Clay Davis. Sheeeiiiiiittt, I would come out the house right now for $10 and Kit-Kat! Unfortunately, Cutler was injured behind the same O-line that always got Tannehill hurt, and if Miami is able to find relative success with backup Matt Moore under center, I’m sure Jay will gladly take his check and stay at home with no hard feelings. Speaking of the Dolphins, we’ll go to the team they’ll face this Thursday night in Baltimore, whose quarterback just might give the franchise a smooth $10 mil back just to let him escape this ugly season while he’s still relatively healthy. Joe Flacco is having a nightmare season so far. He isn’t playing well – his numbers easily tell that story (5TDs, 8 INTs). But the story many people won’t read into is the lack of a supporting cast around him. Sure, injuries happen on every team and impact a roster every year. But this shit, right here? This shit?! RIGHT HERE?!?! Is inexplicable. Steve Smith Sr. retired in the offseason. RB Kenneth Dixon got suspended, then got injured for the season. Primary target and best friend Dennis Pitta got injured and retired from football. Free agent pickup Danny Woodhead got injured the first drive of the season. Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda got injured for the season. Starting RB Terrance West got injured. WR and first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman proved once and for all he is a bust, then he got injured. WR and free agent pickup Jeremy Maclin got injured. WR Mike Wallace got injured. Flacco is left with a 7th round, under-sized slot receiver and a journeyman wideout who just a week ago was not on an NFL roster as his remaining offensive weapons. Yeah, good luck playing up to your contract, Joe. Now just 45 minutes down I-95 is Skins’ QB Kirk Cousins, who continues to be disrespected by Washington’s front office with their refusal to sign him to a long-term deal, despite the fact the he kept the franchise above water after they infamously sold (and lost) their soul to RG3. They let Cousins’ two leading targets from last season walk in free agency, then expected Cousins to carry the Skins past the likes of the Eagles and Cowboys, who are as stacked on offense as any team can be. And Cousins’ lack of weapons on offense were obvious last week in Philadelphia, as his record on Monday Night Football reached an abysmal 0-5. And finally we have Superman Cam Newton, whose Panthers have lost two straight games. Their most recent loss was an embarrassing one at home to the Chicago Bears where the Panthers managed to score just one field goal. Newton is playing behind an offensive line that cannot protect him long enough for him to get the ball downfield to receivers who can’t get open. During their two game losing streak, Cam has committed six turnovers. The Panthers are losing their grip on the NFC South while their offense struggles to score points and the surprising New Orleans Saints keep stacking wins. Dressing like Rollo from Sanford and Son won’t help Cam Newton look like anything other than a washed up sucka!

LOST IN THE FOG. The biggest disappointment from last week’s action was the Atlanta Falcons who had a chance to right the ship in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl. Many believed the Falcons could finally get the bad taste of that epic meltdown out their mouths if they could go on the road and beat one of the best teams in one of the toughest environments. But it actually was the environment that played a role in this one as the opaque New England fog hovered over the field like white privilege. And the Falcons never had a chance. It was surprising to see their talented offense struggle against the Pats’ defense, which has been one of the worst units in the league up to this point. Of the seven QBs the Patriots have faced this season, Ryan became the first one that didn’t throw for over 300 yards against them. After falling behind early the Falcons, who have struggled since the Super Bowl in terms of second half point differential, could never mount a comeback. They had a multitude of breakdowns on defense but the glaring problem Atlanta faces is the inability to get anything going on offense. Matt Ryan is quickly regressing back to his former self. Don’t get me wrong – I know Ryan is one of the better QBs in this league. At least 28 teams would sell their souls to have him. But if you take out Ryan’s 2016 MVP season, you’re left with the career of a guy who gives you a lot of quantity in terms of his final numbers, but not a lot of quality in terms of WHEN he puts up those numbers. He often comes up small in big games despite the plethora of weapons surrounding him. And you can’t tell me the aforementioned QBs above wouldn’t sell their souls and their first born RIGHT NOW to be blessed with the embarrassment of riches that Ryan can’t seem to succeed with. One thing I can tell you is if Flacco, Cam, and even Eli Manning had at least Julio Jones to throw to, they would have managed to win a[nother] Super Bowl ring…

 

FINAL NOTES

  • The New Orleans Saints are over .500 for the first time since 2013. Who knew?
  • The Miami Dolphins have won twelve consecutive one-possession games. I’m praying they don’t pull out a close one on Thursday
  • Houston Texans’ Duane Brown finally ends his holdout, returns to team. This should help rookie QB DeShaun Watson down the stretch

Check us out next time as Week 8 kicks off Thursday night in Baltimore with two of the NFL’s worst offenses fighting for room in the dumpster, the Vikings and Browns get one last chance to embarrass the U.S. over in London, there are two games featuring black starting quarterbacks (Cam vs. Jameis and Watson vs. Wilson), and there are NO games this week between teams with winning records. Let me know what y’all think.