Nov
09
2020

Fuel Feature: Nov 9th

What an absolutely great week of football! Multiple games of the year candidates, some big upsets, and some impressive performances throughout. This is exactly the type of weekend we needed after an extremely stressful and uncertain week like we just had.

In our newest weekly column, we wanted to look at this weekend’s games and break them down in a fast, easy to digest format.

Chiefs 33 – Panthers 31

Christian Mccaffrey returns to the field missing six weeks with a high ankle sprain and looks like he did not miss a single beat. 151 yards from scrimmage and two trips to the endzone reminds fans that he is still the best in the league at doing what he does; meanwhile, the Chiefs’ offense continues to be absolutely amazing and Patrick Mahomes became the obvious frontrunner for MVP. Travis Kelce made the Panthers’ secondary look like a joke continuing his record-setting season, and Tyreek Hill continues to break football.

The Chiefs are proving every week that they are legitimately the best team in football and the only team that can beat them clean is themselves. Their linebackers continue to be questionable but that offense is just too good to be stopped. The Panthers are a legitimately talented team on both offense and defense, and with a good offseason, the Panthers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, let alone playoff contender.

Falcons 34 – Broncos 27

Remember this offseason when the Broncos were considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Yeah, now they are 3-5 and are not even a playoff contender anymore. For the second week in a row, the Broncos played like garbage in the first half, letting the Falcons of all teams go up big on them early. The Broncos were not even able to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter, which seems odd when the Atlanta Falcons have given up the fourth most points in the league.

For once, Atlanta did not choke a lead late in the game and held onto the lead to give them their third win of the season, all of which came after the firing of head coach Dan Quinn. The Falcons are on the path to a rebuild, but the skill players are working hard to try and keep their roster spots. Meanwhile, Vic Fangio and the Broncos continue to underperform, giving them their fifth loss of the season and slowing closing this season’s window of success. Drew Lock seriously needs to step up his play and step up as a team leader.

Bills 44 – Seahawks 34

Despite entering this game the odds on favorite to win the MVP award at the end of the season, and he left this game a long-shot underdog. This is largely thanks to his four turnovers and overall poor performance against the Bills this week. He entered this game with seven turnovers already but is leaving with 11 turnovers, putting him on pace for 22 turnovers on the season.

Josh Allen on the other hand helped push his name back into the MVP conversation with a three-touchdown, 415 yards performance. Sure the Seahawks defense is terrible, but numbers like those are always impressive no matter the team. He did get dragged down for seven sacks, but it is the first few stats that really matters in the MVP race.

The Seahawks take their second loss of the season in this game, dropping them to 6-2 and keeping their divisional lead within reach of the Arizona Cardinals. Both of the Seahawks losses have come as a result of Russ handing out more turnovers than a pastry chef and that should seriously scare the Seahawks as the harder opponents approach in the later parts of the season and the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Bills continue their dominance on top of the AFC East, keeping the Dolphins behind by a full game as they move towards the harder segment of their schedule. It was important for the Bills to get as many wins in the first 9 weeks as possible, and this game was a huge win for them.

Titans 24 – Bears 10

Are the Bears legit? Are the Bears pretenders? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

The Bears are a below .500 team with an above .500 record, capitalizing on their early season opportunities against easy opponents and struggling against almost every team they have played that is worth anything. This was another example of their inability to put anything together against a team even as mediocre as the Titans.

After a loss to the Bengals, the Titans needed a bounce-back victory and who better to bully than the Bears. However, it was not like they did anything impressive here. Ryan Tannehill went 10/21 for 158 yards, 101 of which went to AJ Brown, and Derrick Henry had 68 yards rushing. Despite running 13 drives, they only scored on three drives, and if it were not for the defense capitalizing on the Bears’ offensive ineptitude, this game would have been tied and possibly even a Bears victory.

The Bears seriously need to win these close games if they want to catch up with the leader of their division, the Packers, and to stay away from the suddenly scary and re-surging Vikings. The second half of their season is unbelievably difficult and if they want to make the playoffs, they have to get someone on offense to do something. It is almost like they maybe should have tried to reach out to a certain iconic receiver who was just recently claimed off the Ravens’ practice squad.

Meanwhile, the Titans have a serious opportunity next week when they play the current divisional leader, the Indianapolis Colts. A win would give them the tiebreaker over the Colts in case of a tie, although the one-game lead over a divisional leader may be enough.

Ravens 24 – Colts 10

That was not a catch in any way, shape, or form. For those who have not seen the clip, Marcus Peters nearly caught one of Phillip Rivers’ passes, dropping it to the turf as he hit the ground after bobbling it for a few steps. After a Jim Harbaugh challenge, the refs ruled that this was an interception with a fumble that was recovered by the defense.

The NFL refs have been bad this season, but they have been better than the last few seasons; however, this call is maybe the worst ruling I have seen in recent memory and serves as a great reminder that the NFL reffing and review process has been done better by the XFL. The Ravens came out of this game with a win and stay within a slightly distant reach of the Steelers for the lead of their division. If I am the Ravens, however, I am worried about my offense right now and trying to figure out how to fix it.

The Colts should know by now that Phillip Rivers is not it and is really holding the team back. With the defensive and offensive talent they have, they could be a championship contender with a decent quarterback under center. They need to keep their eyes open this offseason for Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton, or maybe Mitch Trubisky if the coaches think they can coach him better than they did in Chicago.

Vikings 34 – Lions 20

Between last week and this week, Dalvin Cook has 478 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns. Despite having played poorly the first few weeks, Dalvin Cook has decided to put the entire Minnesota team on his back and force the team to win against their will. Dalvin Cook is one of the best running backs in the league and he is starting to prove he is worth his money.

Meanwhile, the Lions continue to get no support from their skill players: Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, Chase Daniels threw another, De’Andre Swift only puts together 64 yards, while the Lions defensive starters put up little effort. Whether it is a player issue or a coaching issue is a different conversation for a different day.

The Vikings are surging after a slow and miserable start to the season, and any team left on their schedule best not overlook this team. Dalvin Cook is a man on a mission to destroy any defense in front of him and I would not want to be one of those defenses. Meanwhile, the Lions continue the life of mediocrity the franchise has become accustomed to, despite all of the talents to come in and out of the franchise. It is about time they figure out what the issue is and fix it before the team reaches the Cleveland Browns’ level of failure.

Giants 23 – Football Team 20

NFC East football is misery. Remember when Alex Smith was a west coast quarterback who rarely threw interceptions? He threw three in this game, including a game-sealing interception to ice the game. This and two lost fumbles from receivers and the Football Team had a total of five turnovers.

Speaking of turnover problems, Daniel Jones had two fumbles in this game, just enforcing stereotypes further. The difference between him and Alex Smith however is that he did not throw three interceptions. Neither of these teams is going anywhere positive anytime soon. If we are being real, but because of the garbage fire that is the NFC East, one of these teams could really make the playoffs. Their fate is an NFC West team, probably the Cardinals, that will absolutely destroy them.

Texans 27 – Jaguars 25

At least it is not NFC East football?

Deshaun Watson deserves better than the Houston Texans, but he tries his best to make the team succeed. 281 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, 50 yards rushing (making him the leading rusher), Watson did it all for the Texans this week. With more talent around him, Watson could be an MVP candidate.

On the other side of the ball, we have Jake Lutton making his NFL debut to take over for Gardner Minshew. He got his first NFL touchdown in this game and made DJ Chark look like an elite level receiver, giving him 146 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, James Robinson had 99 yards on the ground, highlighting the weak defensive line of the Texans.

The Texans are technically still in the race for the playoffs, but just barely. It is not beneficial for them to tank since they do not have a first-round draft pick, but it would take some unbelievably good luck. They need to build up some of their more replaceable assets to either take a prominent role and support Deshaun Watson or be traded away for draft picks. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are in tank mode yet again, trying to get a good draft picks as possible so they can inevitably trade away another young player that they mistreated. The Jaguars are in a perpetual state of misery, and it would take some serious rebuilding to get anywhere near good.

Raiders 31 – Chargers 26

The Chargers lost this game in the most Charger way possible. Down by only 5 points, the Chargers drove the field to the four-yard line, threw a touchdown pass with time expired, only for it to be overturned by the replay official. The heartbreak should have ended when Phillip Rivers went to Indy, but it is perpetually stuck to the franchise.

Call Jon Gruden what you want, but he has made smash-mouth football finally work. They pound the football better than any other team in the league, getting 160 yards rushing in this game, and only using the pass to set up the run. I guess that is one way to keep Derek Carr from throwing interceptions. The Chargers are now 2-6, with five of their six losses being decided by one score or less. They are underperforming severely, and it may be time to start having a serious conversation about a coaching change; technically, they are still in the playoff race, but with a quarterback who is currently 1-6, that is not happening.

The Raiders are 5-3 and fighting with the wildcard teams for a playoff spot. They are definitely still in contention for the divisional title, especially after upsetting the Chiefs earlier this season, but unless they can beat the surging champions after a bye week and then lose one less game than the champs, they are not taking the division.

Steelers 24 – Cowboys 19

The Cowboys actually put some pressure on the Steelers, despite starting their fourth-ranked quarterback, Garrett Gilbert. He did not look too bad either, throwing for 243 yards, a touchdown, and a single interception against a great defense. He also made some big plays on the ground, running for 28 yards.

The Steelers had more than the scoreboard to be worried about, especially after starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got rolled up by a defensive lineman and came up limping. Big Ben actually left the game for a few plays, leaving Mason Rudolph to lead the team for a bit. Ben did return to the game, where he made a huge impact with 306 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions and no sacks.

The Cowboys are part of that misery division called the NFC East, so lord knows what that means for their playoff chances. However, moving forward, this game demonstrated that they have some legitimate issues besides injuries, like not being able to run the ball effectively, or not calling effective run plays.

The Steelers escaped with a win and their undefeated record in tack. The fact that this offense was unable to score a ton of points against maybe the worst defense they have played all season. However, they remain the top seed in both the AFC and their division, where they hold a full two-game lead.

Dolphins 34 – Cardinals 31

Game of the year candidate, the second of the season for the Cardinals. The Arizona Cardinals are must-watch TV every time they play, and they make the NFL a better place. Kyler Murray is electric throwing and running the ball, stuffing the stat sheet with the phenomenal Deandre Hopkins and the underrated Christian Kirk. They lack a defense, so they typically have to keep playing high caliber offense to win games.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are proving themselves to be a great team. Tua Tagovailoa is getting some great learning experiences and is looking better every time he takes the field. However, it is the defense that is overperforming significantly and is delivering wins to the team.

The Cardinals are a playoff team, either as the winner of their division or the top wildcard seed, meaning they could be playing the NFC Least division champion for the first game of the playoffs. This also means this could make it to the divisional round with relative ease. They just have to figure something out with the defense because teams like the Packers will absolutely destroy them if they do not.

The Dolphins are a wildcard team right now, but they could be make a play at the divisional title if the Bills drop a few games. Their defense is playing good football and their offense is nothing to sneeze at, making them a real problem for anyone left on their schedule. Tua’s youth and lack of experience could be a problem against strong defenses, like last week’s game against the Rams, but that will become clear soon.

Saints 38 – Bucs 3

I have never seen Tom Brady be absolutely embarrassed like this; 209 yards and 3 interceptions, Tom Brady was doing his best to help the Saints win this game. The Bucs defense could not have stopped a child from scoring, giving up four touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. The Bucs ran a total of 5 times, which is an NFL record for the lowest number of rush attempts in a single game. The Bucs recovering a fumble on the Saints 21-yard line is probably the most positive thing to happen to them in this game, and even then, they squandered that away by failing to score four plays in a row from the Saints one-yard line.

The Saints meanwhile were absolutely unstoppable, only being forced to punt the ball once all game. Taysom Hill was the leading rusher with 54 yards while a returning Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 51 yards. Even Emmanuel Sanders got in on the action, grabbing 38 yards receiving and a touchdown.

With this loss, the Bucs lost the divisional lead and got swept by the biggest contender in their division. The rest of the Bucs schedule is concerning and could serve up the division title for the Saints. The Saints are now the divisional leaders, but that defense is so inconsistent that there is no way it will be reliable enough in the late season and playoffs. They may have some easier matchups coming up, but they are not yet sure in for the divisional crown.