Two weeks is a very long time in the NFL. Heck, it’s one eighth of a season. If you’re playing well, it flies by. If you’re losing, it feels as if it takes forever.
In just two weeks, NFL storylines can turn completely upside down. They can go from “The Vikings are going nowhere with Kirk Cousins” to “Wow, Cousins looks locked in.” They can go from “The Cowboys are going to be just fine” to “The Cowboys were frauds.” From “The Browns have fixed their offense” to “Baker Mayfield is regressing.”
From “The Chiefs might not lose all season” to “What’s wrong with the Chiefs?” Which brings us to the first of our Week 6 Overreaction Monday topics.
The Chiefs’ defense will keep them out of the Super Bowl
After a 4-0 start, Kansas City lost two straight home games to AFC South teams it could very well play in the postseason. The Colts ran for 180 yards in last Sunday’s victory, and the Texans rolled up 192 rushing yards this week.
The Chiefs are giving up 24 points and 406 yards per game, have just a half-game lead on the Raiders in the AFC West, and there are four AFC teams with the same record or better.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The Chiefs made several coaching and personnel changes on defense this offseason, but they do not appear to have improved in any meaningful way.
The way the Patrick Mahomes-led offense performed last season, the Chiefs could give up 30-plus points in a game and still expect to win. But while he can still look as otherworldly brilliant as anyone at times, he hasn’t been consistently clicking the past two weeks. His 41 passing yards in the second half Sunday represented the lowest total of any half he has played as a pro.
If Mahomes is in whatever he calls a slump, the defense is going to have to do its part. And nothing that has happened so far indicates that side of the ball can handle that responsibility for the Chiefs. Come January, as they learned in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, that can cost you.
The Cowboys will miss the playoffs
Remember when the Cowboys were 3-0? That was three weeks ago. If two weeks is a long time in the NFL, three is a dadgum eternity. Dallas lost to the previously winless Jets on Sunday and has now lost its past three games to fall to .500 for the season.
The Cowboys’ defense, which looked so good against its early-September schedule, has been putting the team in big first-half holes, and Dak Prescott and the offense haven’t been able to climb out of them.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Folks, the Cowboys were 3-3 after six games last season. Heck, they were 3-5 after eight games and still recovered to finish 10-6 and claim the division title. I get that everything’s bigger in Texas, especially the panic over the Cowboys. But this is far from over, and just look at the division.
Jerry Jones says he was surprised by the Cowboys’ performance on both sides of the ball, then adds the team currently isn’t a top team.
The Cowboys are still in first place — tied for that honor with the 3-3 Eagles, whom they play next week in a suddenly huge midseason division game. The defense has to get on track. Dallas has to get its starting tackles back healthy. It has to hope that Amari Cooper — the midseason pickup that sparked last year’s turnaround — isn’t too seriously injured coming out of this latest game.
But the Cowboys have hope, and the experience that tells them they’re capable of recovering from a tough couple of weeks in October.
The 49ers are the NFC favorites
San Francisco smothered the Rams on Sunday to improve to 5-0. The 49ers and the Patriots are the only remaining undefeated teams.
The 49ers’ defense has given up a total of 10 points the past two weeks in games against the Browns and Rams. They hold a half-game lead on the Seahawks and a 2.5-game lead on the Rams in the NFC West. Their plus-83 point differential is the best in the conference. They run the heck out of the ball and have shown the ability to hold down some of the most star-studded offenses in the league. They are, quite clearly, for real.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. The Niners are for real, but it’s still too soon to call them favorites. The Saints are 5-1 and banking win after win with Drew Brees on the shelf. Those aforementioned Seahawks are right on their heels, led by a guy who’s playing quarterback better than anyone on the planet right now. The Packers are 4-1 heading into Monday night’s game against the Lions, and if I recall correctly, we asked this same question about them in this very space just one week ago.
The 49ers are absolutely part of a crowded field in contention for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But with the Packers, Panthers, Ravens, Saints and Seahawks (twice) still on the schedule, it’s not going to be easy for them to get there. They have a chance to prove it, but it’s too soon to crown them favorites just yet.
There’s no way the Vikings will trade Stefon Diggs now
Two weeks ago, Diggs was stomping around, skipping practices and expressing a great deal of displeasure inside the building about his contract and his role in the offense. This past week seemed at least a little bit quieter, and Diggs broke out in a big way Sunday, catching seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns in Minnesota’s big victory over the Eagles.
The Vikings’ passing game has sprung to life the past two weeks against the Giants’ and Eagles’ vulnerable secondaries, and it was all smiles in the locker room after the game.
Stefon Diggs breaks out of his slump in a big way with 7 receptions for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns vs. the Eagles.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. As fun as it would be to believe a day like this fixes all the problems in Minnesota, the conversations I’ve had with people around this team in the past few days indicate strongly that such is not the case.
The Vikings have been adamantly telling teams they won’t trade Diggs, and as long as they are winning, that stance will remain outwardly plausible. But we’re two weeks away from the trade deadline, and as we’ve already established, that’s a very long time in the NFL. A loss in Detroit next week would drop the Vikings to 0-3 in division play and could easily expose the ugliness again.
Dan Quinn will be the next coach to lose his job
This has been an absolute nightmare of a season so far for the Falcons, who fell to 1-5 with a 34-33 loss to Arizona. They fought back to nearly tie it in the final minutes but missed a potential tying extra point attempt because when it rains on a coach’s head it absolutely pours.
Quinn had the Falcons in the Super Bowl three seasons ago, but they’re 19-21 since that night — including the playoffs — and seem on track to miss the playoffs for the second season in a row.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Quinn has a great deal of control over things in Atlanta — more than a lot of people realize — but if the Falcons keep losing, it’s not hard to imagine ownership making a move.
Quinn’s background is on defense, but the Falcons have given up 87 points in their past two games and an average of 31 points for the season. Sometimes, when you want to make a case for a coach keeping his job until the end of the season, you can point out that there’s no obvious interim candidate. But Quinn has three coaches on his staff who have prior head-coaching experience. It’s not looking great for Quinn right now in Atlanta.