The Green Bay Packers look like a title contender. The Chicago Bears are lost in the muck. The difference? Quarterback play, and the confidence in them.
The Soldier Field air raid siren plays before each defensive snap. Might be time for an SOS signal before each offensive one.
On Sunday, Mitch Trubisky only furthered the panic in Chicago. Through much of the third quarter, the Bears couldn’t muster 100 total yards with Trubisky averaging 3.4 yards per attempt. In garbage time of a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints — at home and off a bye, no less — Trubisky finish with 54 attempts for 251 yards. A paltry 4.6 yards per attempt.
Contrast the quarterback situation in Chicago with its chief rival, the Green Bay Packers. It’s not hard to see while the oldest rivals in pro football are trending sharply in opposite directions.
Rodgers entered the mainstream MVP conversation on Sunday, accounting for six touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders in a 42-24 bludgeoning. It was a tour de force by a future first-ballot Hall of Famers, finding five different receivers for scores while running one in himself. Rodgers did all this without Davante Adams, a top-10 receiver and Green Bay’s best weapon by a wide margin.
Even in a new offense, head coach Matt LaFleur is calling an aggressive game. It’s easy to trust a two-time MVP with a Super Bowl ring, but LaFleur deserves credit. He’s not micromanaging the offense. He’s allowing the players to take his ideas and paint on the canvas. The result is 6-1 and a one-game lead in the NFC North over the Minnesota Vikings.
For the Bears, belief in Trubisky is, and has been, non-existent. Head coach Matt Nagy has long been innovative but remains staunchly conservative. Turn on Chicago’s tape, and you will see a steady stream of short, one-read throws. Trubisky is being sheltered, and it’s resulting in the Bears facing stacked boxes, third-and-longs and booing fans.
This isn’t what the Bears believed was coming after a 12-4, division-winning season. Chicago was supposed to see an improved Trubisky in his second year under Nagy’s system. The defense was going to lead the way, but the former No. 2 overall pick wasn’t going to simply be a game-manager. He was going to make the offense more dynamic and multiple with his arm and athleticism.
It hasn’t happened. Trubisky has regressed mightily, and the Bears with him.
Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers. Chicago has a nightmare on its hands.
Top 10 tradable assets before deadline
1. Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
2. Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins
3. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos
4. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
5. William Jackson, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
6. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
7. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
8. Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets
9. Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta Falcons
“There’s 22 bodies standing around, and you have to have clear and obvious visual evidence that the ball is out. And then the other huge factor is there has to be a clear recovery. By the grace of God we had both of those on that play for it to be overturned.”
– Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel on their wild win over the Los Angeles Chargers
No ending in recent memory was wilder than the Titans and Chargers on Sunday evening. Replays. Touchdowns called back. Questionable coaching decisions. Then, a Melvin Gordon fumble inside the 1-yard line with the Chargers down three points in the waning seconds.
Tough to imagine a crazier win for the Titans. Equally tough to imagine a more soul-crushing defeat for the Chargers, who at 2-5 are finished as viable playoff contenders in the AFC.
Through six games played last year, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley had 623 rushing yards on 4.8 yards per carry. This season? 311 rushing yards on 3.8 YPC.
Through seven games, quarterback Jared Goff has thrown for 1,996 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions on 7.05 YPA. Last year? 2,130 yards with 14 TDs and five INTs on 9.77 YPA.
Beating the Falcons is fine, but the Rams are a fringe contender without Goff and Gurley playing like stars.
Info learned this week
1. Mahomes injury could be blessing for Chiefs’ chances
Patrick Mahomes’ right knee is proof of God to many in Kansas City.
After looking like all was lost, Mahomes is only expected to miss a few games. While sources tell FanSided any timetable is premature, it’s largely believed Mahomes will play plenty down the stretch. In the interim, veteran Matt Moore will step in, tasked with not crashing the Corvette.
With Mahomes sidelined, the Chiefs will be forced to play team football instead of relying on their quarterback’s magical gifts. They’ll need to clean up the penalties, run the ball and play defense consistently. In short, Kansas City must showcase the attributes it has so often lacked since Mahomes showed up, mostly because he was always able to bail them out.
The Chiefs might be without a first-round bye if Moore can’t win a few games. They might have to play on the road in the Divisional round and go to Foxborough for the AFC title game.
If they sharpen all other areas of their game, it’s a cost worth paying come January.
2. Eagles problems extend well beyond injuries
Losing 34-10 is always about more than one malady. The Philadelphia Eagles know it well.
In being pasted by the Dallas Cowboys on national television, the Eagles were exposed in myriad ways. Carson Wentz has rarely been right for complete games this season. The defense is helpless on the boundaries. Head coach Doug Pederson is clearly still searching for answers. The injuries, while never an excuse in the NFL, are mounting.
At 3-4, the Eagles are facing a crisis point. Philadelphia will travel for a date with the Buffalo Bills (more on them below) before coming home for a three-game swing. Those opponents? The Bears, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. No easy task.
Philadelphia has time to turn around its season. It still has a rematch with Dallas and is only game back in the NFC East. There’s reason for optimism. There’s also reason to realize this isn’t a quick fix.
3. Bills are a good team, but they’re painfully limited by Allen
The Bills are going to make the playoffs. They’ll also be hard-pressed to win there.
Buffalo has a terrific defense, competent ground game and smart coaching staff. It also has Josh Allen. Allen finished 16-of-26 for 202 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 win over the Miami Dolphins. At halftime, Miami led 14-9, and Allen was 6-of-15 for 90 yards.
In the third quarter, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a killer interception at the goal line, giving Buffalo new life. To Allen’s credit, he and the Bills took advantage. Still, Buffalo needed a horrific turnover against a historically bad team, at home, off a bye week, to get rolling.
Against good teams, Allen has been swallowed up throughout his career. In his only game against a quality opponent this year, Allen threw three interceptions against the Patriots in Buffalo’s lone defeat.
It’s the NFL in 2019. Teams can’t hide poor quarterback play. The Bills are getting by against the league’s worst for now. Against the best, Allen will be under the spotlight.
4. Panthers have significant decision looming with long-term ramifications
Cam Newton or Kyle Allen? Time for the Carolina Panthers to make their choice.
Newton has been sidelined since Week 2 with a foot injury. In his stead, Allen has been solid if not sublime, leading the Panthers to a 4-0 mark while totaling 901 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
With Newton expected to return for practice this week, what will head coach Ron Rivera do? Newton has been the main man in Carolina for a decade. He is the face of the franchise, the former MVP and still a dynamic, multi-faceted weapon. Newton is clearly more talented than Allen, and at 30 years old, should have good years ahead.
Credit to Allen for making this a real decision. He’s made plays and avoided the big mistakes, winning on two continents and putting Carolina in the playoff mix.
So who gets the nod? Tough to see Newton getting benched when healthy, but Rivera has the final call coming soon.
5. Colts coaching staff is a force deserving of acclaim
Who’s the biggest threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC? Frank Reich is high on the list.
The Indianapolis Colts handled the Houston Texans on Sunday, making this two consecutive games won largely by their head coach and his staff. Two weeks ago, Indianapolis was brilliant as a large underdog against the Chiefs. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus played man coverage more than 70 percent of the time despite never having played a majority of man in any prior game, flummoxing Kansas City in a 19-13 victory.
This weekend, it was Reich’s turn to shine against the Houston Texans. The offense was multiple and innovative, with route concepts confounding a division rival. It’s one thing to confuse a rare opponent. To do so against a team that sees you twice per year? Impressive. At one point, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson was lined up as a fullback.
After the game, tight end Jack Doyle shared his thoughts on the staff, per The Athletic.
“Credit our leaders, credit Frank, credit Jacoby, for keeping this thing together. They’re rare. They’re rare leaders. And Frank is the best coach I’ve ever been around in the way he puts confidence in his players.”
With the win, Houston falls to 3-15 all-time in Indianapolis. The Colts, meanwhile, are 5-2 and have a real chance to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC, even after losing Andrew Luck mere weeks before the season’s start.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the NFL in 1976. They promptly lost their first 26 games before defeating the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. Somehow, that’s not the longest streak in NFL history.
Incredibly, the Chicago Cardinals lost 29 straight from 1942-45, a stretch that included a 1944 merger with the Pittsburgh Steelers during World War II. The team’s name was simply Card-Pitt.
The Cleveland Browns took a big shot to their playoff chances, and they didn’t even play this weekend.
With the Baltimore Ravens pulling off the upset over the Seahawks, the lead in the AFC North swelled to 2.5 games. The good news for Cleveland? More than half the season remains, and it has a victory over the Ravens in Charm City. The bad news? The Ravens appear the superior team, and it has a significant lead after playing one of its toughest games.
For both Baltimore and Cleveland, their next games are against the Patriots (the Ravens are on the bye this week). A monumental move could be made by either with a surprise win. If neither can pull off the feat, you’re suddenly looking at the Browns likely having to win seven of their last nine games to have a realistic shot at the division crown, including a victory in the rematch.
Time is on the Browns’ side right now. But time is a fickle friend.