The New York Yankees are eliminated from the MLB playoffs. That means New York can fully enjoy its football renaissance.
It has been a long time coming for the Giants and Jets to have any success. The Giants haven’t won a playoff game, with just one appearance, since Super Bowl XLVI. That was more than 10 years ago. The Jets haven’t been to the playoffs at all since the end of the 2010 season.
It’s totally fair to wonder if the Jets and Giants, with their combined 11-3 record, are legit. It’s also fair for their fans to tell you they aren’t listening to any of that nonsense.
Last season, the Jets and Giants combined for eight wins, and they’re already past that with 11 weeks to go this season. The question about the viability of these starts shouldn’t matter. A 6-1 or 5-2 record that’s fraudulent is a heck of a lot better than a well-earned 4-13 record.
Now that we’ve appeased the New York fans who should unapologetically celebrate the Giants or Jets, let’s be real. It’s hard to imagine either team keeping up this pace.
The Giants are on a heater of fourth-quarter comebacks. They have six wins, and trailed to start the fourth quarter in four of them. They were tied to start the fourth quarter in another. That’s unsustainable. But it’s fun. The Giants are getting solid play out of Daniel Jones, who is working with a skeleton crew at receiver, and timely plays from a defense that isn’t full of stars. Saquon Barkley is the one obvious star on the Giants, and he’s carrying the team. In another era, he’d be in the MVP conversation. There’s really not a ton of talent around him.
Perhaps the most important thing is the Giants believe. Confidence is hard to quantify, but the Giants clearly have it. They don’t flinch when they trail in the fourth quarter. Brian Daboll has totally changed the culture in his first season in New York. That’s why he’d be a near-unanimous pick for NFL Coach of the Year if the vote was held today.
Jets coach Robert Saleh might get any non-Daboll votes. After a rough first season and a slow start to this season, the Jets have come alive. They can depend on a defense that, with NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Sauce Gardner at cornerback, has grown up fast. The Jets were awful on defense last season. They’re probably top 10 this season. The Jets offense is far behind (and will get further behind with rookie Breece Hall out for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL), but they’re doing enough so far. A subpar passing offense will probably be the reason they go on a losing streak, unless second-year quarterback Zach Wilson starts to do a lot more. But the Jets have banked five wins as they try to figure out a passing game. Many teams wish they could say the same.
The Jets and Giants probably aren’t going to keep winning 78.6 percent of their games, and that’s OK. It’s has been a long dry spell for football fans in New York.
Here are the power rankings after Week 7 of the NFL season:
At 1-4-1 the Texans should be one of the prime sellers before the trade deadline. The team has resisted trading receiver Brandin Cooks before, but it might be time to move him to one of the many receiver-needy teams around the league.
The Lions were winning at the Vikings with 1:14 left in Week 3. They were 74 seconds from being 2-1, in a game they controlled, after an offseason of hope. They decided to try a long field goal, which coach Dan Campbell later said was a mistake, missed that field goal and the Vikings came back to win. Since the moment Campbell decided to try that field goal, the Lions have been outscored 108-51 (and 45 of those Lions points came in one game) and they went from being on the verge of 2-1 to 1-5. Campbell, who went 3-13-1 last season, might not be able to survive another three- or four-win season.
I give a lot of credit to interim coach Steve Wilks. He was put in an impossible position on a Panthers team that was bad and starting to look into trading away players. Then on Sunday, less than 72 hours after Christian McCaffrey was traded to San Francisco, Wilks got his team to believe it could beat the Buccaneers. The Panthers executed the game plan and pulled off maybe the biggest upset of the season. In a fair world, Wilks will get a fair shot over the rest of the season to prove to ownership he can be the permanent head coach. And his audition shouldn’t be judged just on wins and losses, because it’s not likely that the Panthers win too many more games.
The Steelers were in Sunday night’s game the entire second half, but it never seemed like they were going to win it. Part of starting a rookie first-round pick is living with his mistakes and the losses that might come along with it. Kenny Pickett threw two interceptions in Dolphins territory on Pittsburgh’s final two drives. It’s frustrating but that’s part of the learning process.
According to ESPN, tight end David Njoku will miss two-to-five weeks with an ankle injury. That’s a big blow to an offense that doesn’t have a lot of playmakers in the passing game. The Browns’ two wins are in the final minute over the Panthers and against the Steelers. They’re not good and it’s probably not getting much better before Deshaun Watson returns.
Broncos fans wanted Nathaniel Hackett fired in September. That seemed too reactionary. A month later, it doesn’t seem so crazy. Broncos fans were leaving in the fourth quarter of a 16-9 game. There’s a new ownership group in Denver that just paid $4.65 billion for the team, and they’re going to be asking tough questions after seeing fans leaving a one-score game. Apathy from football fans is even worse than anger. Things are getting worse in Denver, and it already was bad a month ago.
At least the Jaguars figured out that Travis Etienne is giving them the best chance on offense. He had 14 carries and James Robinson had none. Etienne had 119 total yards on Sunday and looked great. Then Robinson was traded to the Jets, opening a wide lane for Etienne to have a big season. The problem is that while Etienne is playing well, the Jaguars have forgotten how to win.
The Saints are in trouble. The saving grace is the NFC South is bad, but the Saints are part of that division being bad. If the Saints make a QB change back to Jameis Winston, who was healthy enough to be in uniform on Thursday night, that probably won’t fix everything. New Orleans probably needs its defense to be a top-10 group, and it hasn’t been close to that yet.
That was a nice performance by Justin Fields in Monday night’s upset over the Patriots. He has been thrown in the deep end with no help from the Bears front office over the offseason. Everything he does well reflects positively on his future, and Monday night was a nice step.
Will Taylor Heinicke keep starting when Carson Wentz is healthy? Maybe. But then why did the Commanders send a 2022 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick and a conditional 2023 third-round pick to the Colts (they did get back a second- and seventh-rounder) and pay all of the $28 million Wentz was owed this season? It’s not like they didn’t know Wentz’s flaws, or know what they had in Heinicke. Starting Heinicke when Wentz returns might be the right move, but it would also be an admission that the Wentz trade itself was every bit the fiasco everyone thought it was when it was made.
It’s hard to unpack the Matt Ryan benching, which happened after a tough loss to the Titans. Ryan has been turning it over at an alarming rate. But do the Colts really think Sam Ehlinger is better? We’ll find out. It really seems like a sacrifice by GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich, who have to be feeling some heat and now can blame their failures this season on Ryan.
The Cardinals didn’t ease DeAndre Hopkins in. He had 14 targets, which he turned into 10 catches and 103 yards. It’s not like that saved the Cardinals offense, which still wasn’t great in an important win over the Saints, but Hopkins definitely helps.
The Falcons trailed 28-7 in the second quarter and never got the lead down to single digits after that. Yet, they attempted 13 passes. They had 75 yards on one pass and 49 on the rest. Old-school football is great when it’s winning, but there are times when refusing to pass the ball to Drake London and Kyle Pitts (four catches, 18 yards combined) is not giving your team its best chance to win the game.
Well, Bailey Zappe might not be the savior after all. Whatever the Patriots decide to do at quarterback, it’s going to be an ongoing story all season. This isn’t good.
Oh no. The Steelers loss seemed like rock bottom for the Buccaneers, until they lost to the Panthers. That’s two losses in eight days to two of the worst teams in football. The Panthers and Steelers are 2-0 against the Buccaneers and 2-10 against the rest of the NFL. I don’t think Tom Brady is washed up. But he looks like an average quarterback. Let’s acknowledge it’s absolutely incredible that a 45-year-old can be an average QB in the NFL. Nobody has come close to doing that before. However, it’s a pretty big adjustment after Brady just missed out on another NFL MVP award last season. They have to learn how to win with Brady not being quite as great as he once was.
The Rams were trying to get running back Christian McCaffrey is pretty surprising. Yes, McCaffrey is good, but the Rams aren’t a running back away. There’s a point in which “forget them picks” becomes reckless. The Rams need to figure out how to block with a depleted line and what they can get out of Allen Robinson II long before worrying about sending away a lot of picks for a luxury running back.
Josh Jacobs was always a talented running back who never really hit big for the Raiders. That’s a reason he didn’t get a fifth-year option picked up. This season he has emerged as one of the best backs in football. He had 143 yards on Sunday, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He’ll get a nice contract, at least for a running back, next offseason.
The Packers and Buccaneers have many similarities. If I had to pick one of the two teams to turn things around and be a factor in the NFC playoffs this season, it might be the Packers. When the weather gets cold in a couple months, the Packers might be able to beat teams running the ball and playing defense. Maybe tweaks to the offense will make Aaron Rodgers happier. He shouldn’t be in a severe decline yet. But I’m also not sure we’ll see him at an MVP form again.
Cornerback J.C. Jackson, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal in the offseason, is done for the year with a knee injury. Receiver Mike Williams has a high ankle sprain, and those can linger all season. The Chargers’ injuries are probably going to derail their season.
The Seahawks are doing a little gloating, and who can blame them? Many thought they’d be in the running for worst team in the NFL, but they’re in first place of the NFC West instead. More than just being in first place, the Seahawks look the part.
“Seven weeks in, and look where we are,” coach Pete Carroll said, via NFL.com. “Who would have thunk it?”
Safety Ryan Neal had a stronger reaction.
“It feels great, because let’s just be honest, didn’t nobody think we’d be sh**,” Neal said, via John Boyle of the team’s site.
I’m not sure what to make of the 49ers. It’s impossible to deny the talent. It’s also impossible to deny they’re 3-4 and their last two games are a loss to an average-at-best Falcons team and a 21-point loss to the Chiefs at home. Are they good? I think so. But it doesn’t matter much if you’re under .500.
Zach Wilson has 231 yards and no touchdowns in his last two games combined. The folks who swear quarterback wins is a real stat will need to explain how Wilson is the king of the NFL because “he” is 4-0 this season. The Jets are playing really well around him. They’ll need newly acquired running back James Robinson to step in after exciting running back Breece Hall (knee) and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (triceps) both went down for the season. Those are big losses.
It feels like the entire league is using September and October to sort things out. Maybe that means the Bengals are right on schedule? They were awesome on Sunday, with Joe Burrow finally looking like what we thought he might be this season. He threw for 481 yards and probably could have come close to 600 if the Bengals wanted to run up the score. Still plenty of time for Cincinnati to be very good this season.
Mike Vrabel is a fantastic coach. Sunday’s 19-10 win over the Colts wasn’t pretty, but the Titans have the tiebreaker on a Colts team in disarray. Tennessee is going to win the division unless they fall apart. And Vrabel won’t let that happen.
Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t great in his return, but he was good early on and you could easily see the difference in the offense with him in it. The Dolphins are above .500 with their quarterback back, which isn’t that bad of a place for them to be.
Gus Edwards might make a big impact on the Ravens. He was activated off injured reserve and looked like his typical self, rushing for 66 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens need some punch in the running game, and J.K. Dobbins is injured. Edwards could be a big piece for them the rest of the season.
The Vikings had a great week. The Packers’ loss dropped them to 3-4, and suddenly the Vikings have a 2 1/2 game lead in the NFC North and also a win in hand on the Packers. Green Bay plays at Buffalo this week so if the Vikings handle business against the Cardinals at home, they could suddenly find themselves up 3 1/2 games before November.
Football Outsiders’ playoff odds put the Giants’ chances of making the playoffs at 77.7 percent, which seems a bit low given that they’re 6-1 in a bad NFC. It would take a big collapse for the Giants to miss the postseason, but there’s still work to do.
If you’re not in agreement that the Cowboys are the fourth-best team in football right now, it probably means you haven’t watched enough of their games or you hate Dallas. Since a bad Week 1 (and everyone in the NFL has had a bad week by now; you’re lucky if you’ve had just one) Dallas has won five of six and five of those games came with a backup quarterback. Dallas is really good. They are probably the second-best team in the NFC but also the second-best team in the NFC East (it really is possible the three best teams in the NFC are all in the East, which is wild).
Eight different receivers caught a pass for the Chiefs on Sunday, including three with 98 yards or more. When Patrick Mahomes is rolling, the Chiefs offense is a joy to watch. Kansas City absolutely embarrassed a good 49ers defense.
It really is wild that if the NFL season ended today, the Eagles would have a top-five pick thanks to the Saints’ trade for Chris Olave in the 2022 draft. The Eagles are set up really well for the next few years.
The Bills’ upcoming schedule isn’t easy. The Packers are a big underdog at the Bills in Week 8, but they’re not a pushover. They play at the Jets after that, and whatever you think of the Jets they are 5-2. Then they host the 5-1 Vikings before a couple of easier games (Browns, Lions). If they get to 8-1 after those three games that should be challenging but clearly winnable, there isn’t much stopping Buffalo.
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NFL Power Rankings: Jets and Giants probably can’t keep this up, but who cares?
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