– Bill Annechino
Arizona 33 San Francisco 21
The Cardinals had to win this game, and I don’t think there was any doubt in most people’s minds that they would. Drew Stanton filled in admirably for Carson Palmer, to the point that I would say there may be a little bit of a quarterback controversy brewing, except that’s not how things work. This game was all about David Johnson, though. Johnson had 157 yards on the ground, adding another 28 on 3 catches. He also scored twice, as did Larry Fitzgerald. Johnson looks to be every bit the star that he was projected to be this year. Fitzgerald, meanwhile, still looks like every bit the Hall of Famer we know he is.
San Francisco looked competent, yet was clearly the worse of the two teams. All you need to know about this year’s 49ers team is that their quarterback averaged twice as many yards per carry as their running back in this game. The fact Chip Kelly has this team putting up points at all is one of the most impressive achievements in the NFL this year, seeing as there’s almost zero NFL talent on their roster. Jeremy Kerley had 8 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets, whereas Torrey Smith had 0 catches on 1 target, so you can try to figure that out for yourself because I sure can’t. On defense, the loss of Navorro Bowman for the season robs them of their only real playmaker on that side of the ball. What a depressing team.
I don’t really see the 49ers future this year. They are just good enough to win their way out of a top 3 pick, but I still see them as a top-10 draft pick. Obviously, the higher the draft pick, the better. Their best option at this point is to probably tear it down and rebuild, which Chip Kelly presumably knew was coming when he signed with the 49ers. On the bright side for Chip, there are certainly worse places to be than San Francisco.
From here, the Cardinals have drawn within two games of first place in their division. I have said that I don’t think what the Rams are doing is sustainable, so if Arizona can keep winning, I see no reason why they can’t contend with Seattle for the NFC West. They have certainly gotten off to a rocky start this season, but an 11 game break followed by a home game against the Jets sounds like just what the doctor ordered for them to get back to .500. From there, they have 3 winnable games in a row, with the Seahawks at home, a road trip to Carolina followed by a home game against the 49ers after their bye week. If they can go 3-1 or 4-0 on this stretch, which isn’t inconceivable considering they have been a team of streaks the last couple years, they could roll into their week 11 showdown in Minnesota at 5-4 or even 6-3. There is a definitive path for them back to contention.
New England @ Cleveland (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: New England has the 20th ranked passing defense, the Browns are ranked 16. Cleveland’s rushing defense is ranked 24th; the Patriots are 15th. On offense, the Patriots are ranked 28th in the league in passing; the Browns are ranked 25th. The Browns are the best rushing offense in the league; New England is third.
Matchup to watch: Tom Brady vs. everyone.
Also of note: Seriously, Brady is back.
Hot take: Brady is the GOAT. You forgot this in 4 weeks?
Philadelphia @ Detroit (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: Philadelphia is ranked 6th in the league against the pass; Detroit is at 21. Detroit’s run defense is the 23rd ranked unit in the league; the Eagles are the third best. The Eagles passing attack is the 18th best in the league; the Lions are at 6. The Lions are the 22nd ranked rushing offense; the Eagles are ranked 9th.
Matchup to watch: Fletcher Cox against the Lions offensive line. There are some weak links on the Lions line, particularly left guard Laken Tomlinson. Cox is one of the best interior linemen in football; if you aren’t aware of his work, this would be a fine game to get acquainted.
Also of note: Will the Wentz Wagon (stupid name) keep rolling? He has been arguably the best quarterback in the NFL thus far, and Detroit has a defense that can be exploited through the air. I will also be keeping my eye on who gets most of the carries for Philadelphia. Ryan Matthews is allegedly healthy and poised to take back his starting role; it remains to be seen how coach Doug Pederson handles that. Additionally, Golden Tate got benched last week for running the wrong route on a play that became an interception. It will be interesting to see what his role is going forward.
Hot take: Golden Tate needs to get his head out of his ass.
Chicago @ Indianapolis (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: Chicago has the 8th best passing defense in the NFL; the Colts are ranked 24th. The Colts are ranked 18th against the run; the Bears are 26th. The Bears have the 15th ranked passing offense in the NFL; the Colts are ranked 13th. The Colts are ranked 24th at running the ball; the Bears are 26th.
Matchup to watch: For me, it’s Alshon Jeffery vs. Vontae Davis. Davis has not been playing up to his usual standard this year, but that’s where my eyes are going to be in a game that you’d be better off avoiding at all costs.
Also of note: Hoyer the Destroyer looked pretty good last week, certainly better than Jay Cutler has looked in a while. This is another exploitable matchup for Hoyer, who has a penchant for looking really good for stretches before cratering.
Hot take: I’m not sold on Andrew Luck as a “franchise quarterback”. He has shown major issues with ball security thus far and last week was no different.
Tennessee @ Miami (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: The Titans are ranked 12th in the league against the pass; the Dolphins are at 22. Miami’s rushing defense is 29th in the league; the Titans are 20th. The Titans passing offense is ranked 27th; the Dolphins are sitting at 16. The Dolphins have been towards the bottom of the league in rushing, ranking 29th; the Titans are 4th in the NFL.
Matchup to watch: I’m going with rookie tackle Jack Conklin vs. Cameron Wake. Wake is now old enough to qualify as a wily veteran. Meanwhile, Conklin has looked impressive in his debut season. This will be a good test for him.
Also of note: Miami is one of those teams that, if you stare at their roster long enough, you can almost talk yourself into them being decent. In reality, they’re terrible. Their players never look like they’re playing in sync with each other, and two players rarely have good games in the same game. If you like Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth” offense, this may be a good game for you as the Titans run game matches up very favorably with a terrible Miami rushing defense.
Hot take: Marcus Mariota is the worst quarterback in the NFL.
Houston @ Minnesota (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: In a battle of top-10 passing defenses, the Texans bring the league’s best pass defense into this game, the Vikings are ranked 9th. The Vikings run defense, meanwhile, is the 8th best in football; the Texans are 27th. The Texans have the league’s 25th ranked passing offense; the Vikings are 24th. The Vikings are dead last in the league in rushing offense; the Texans are 11th.
Matchup to watch: I’ll be watching Jonathan Joseph against Stefon Diggs, as well as Xavier Rhodes on Deandre Hopkins. Rhodes shut down Odell Beckham last week to the point that football is no longer fun for him. A second straight shutdown performance would solidify Rhodes in the upper echelon of cornerbacks, in my opinion. Joseph vs. Diggs is the classic crafty veteran vs. plucky upstart matchup that makes football fun. Game on.
Also of note: Sam Bradford has been shockingly efficient, and the Texans are the league’s best pass defense. Something has to give here, right?
Hot take: Due to not feeling an obligation to force running plays that end up going nowhere, the Vikings are actually better off without Adrian Peterson.
New York Jets @ Pittsburgh (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: The Jets are at 26th in the league against the pass; the Steelers are ranked 30th. The Steelers are bringing the 4th best run defense in the NFL into this game; the Jets are the second best. The Jets passing attack is the 19th ranked in the NFL; the Steelers are at 12. The Steelers are the 13th best team at running the ball; the Jets are ranked 11th (tied with the Texans).
Matchup of note: Antonio Brown vs. Darrelle Revis. I don’t think I need to say much more, Revis was at one point the best cornerback in football, Brown is currently the best receiver in football.
Also of note: Ryan Fitzpatrick is on a tear, trying to throw as many interceptions as humanly possible. Will this continue against a Steelers passing defense that has lacked teeth?
Hot take: I don’t owe you people a hot take for every game.
Washington @ Baltimore (1:00 EST)
Key Stats: The Redskins are ranked 25th against the pass; the Ravens are the 3rd best passing defense in the NFL. The Ravens run defense is the 5th best in the league; the Redskins are 30th. The Redskins are the 5th best in the league at throwing the ball; the Ravens are 16th. The Ravens have the 18th ranked running offense; the Redskins are 20th.
Matchup to watch: Can’t really think of one here. Maybe Kirk Cousins vs. his own locker room that he has recently regained.
Also of note: This game has like zero collective star power, right? Neither of these teams really move the needle for me.
Hot take: I like the Redskins name and I hope they never change it.
Atlanta @ Denver (4:05 EST)
Key Stats: The Falcons are the second worst passing defense in the league; Denver is the second best. The Broncos are ranked 22nd in the league against the run; the Falcons are at 16. The Falcons have the league’s best passing offense; the Broncos are ranked 23rd. The Broncos are ranked 14th in rushing; the Falcons are 6th.
Matchup of note: Julio Jones vs. whoever has the misfortune of covering him. I’m assuming it will be Aqib Talib, but depending on where he lines up, the Broncos may stick Chris Harris on him. Julio’s success may not have much of an impact on the overall game because the ground is the way to attack the Broncos.
Also of note: Speaking of the running game, Devonta Freeman out-carried Tevin Coleman last week 13-8, so he may have permanently established himself with a greater share of carries. I will also be keeping an eye on the quarterback situation. Paxton Lynch played well in relief of Trevor Siemian last week. Gary Kubiak is allegedly undecided as to who will start, so this may be the dreaded “game-time decision”.
Hot take: John Elway looks like he could be one of Donald Trump’s sons.
Cincinnati @ Dallas (4:25 EST)
Key Stats: The Bengals have the tenth-ranked pass defense; the Cowboys are ranked 19th. The Cowboys run defense is the 11th best in the league; the Bengals are ranked 14th. The Bengals are 3rd in the league throwing the ball; the Cowboys are 21st. The Cowboys are the 2nd best rushing attack in the NFL; the Bengals are 28th.
Matchup to watch: AJ Green vs Morris Claiborne (or whoever ends up guarding him, I’m just making the assumption that it’s Claiborne). Green had about a million yards in the first half of his last game, and I don’t see anyone on the Cowboys who is going to contain him. He is one of the most exciting players in the NFL to watch, and his talents should be on display again in this one.
Also of note: I will be watching to see whether or not Ezekiel Elliott continues to tear up the league. After a rocky start, he is now leading the league in rushing and showing few signs of slowing down. The Bengals’ run defense is middle-of-the-road, so the opportunity is there for another standout game from the rookie.
Hot take: Marvin Lewis should be on the hot seat for continually underperforming his expectations, but he won’t be.
San Diego @ Oakland (4:25 EST)
Key Stats: The Chargers are ranked 27th in the league against the pass; the Raiders are dead last. The Raiders have the second worst rushing defense in the game; the Chargers are surprisingly the 7th best. The Chargers are the 8th ranked passing attack in the NFL; the Raiders are 9th. The Raiders are ranked as the 5th best rushing offense; the Chargers are 17th.
Matchup to watch: Philip Rivers and Derek Carr against each other’s crappy pass defenses. Both of these quarterbacks have the talent to light up two of the worst passing defenses in the NFL.
Also of note: Derek Carr has quietly been having his breakout season, even though he has been on our radar since he came into the league. He has cut down his interceptions and is on pace to set a new career high in touchdowns (36) and low in interceptions (4). I’m not sure whether or not his 9:1 TD:INT ratio is sustainable, but it’s worth noting that he has raised his QBR almost 30 points from last year.
Hot take: I like Derek Carr a lot, but he looks like he crawled out of a trailer.
Buffalo @ Los Angeles (4:25 EST)
Key Stats: The Bills are the 17th ranked pass defense in the league; the Rams are bringing the 23rd ranked pass D. The Rams run defense is ranked 17 in the NFL; the Bills are at 13. The Bills passing attack ranks at 31st in the league; the Rams are 30th. The Rams have the 30th ranked rushing attack; the Bills are 7th.
Matchup of note: Aaron Donald vs. Bills’ interior linemen. Donald is rated as the best player in the NFL this year by Pro Football Focus, and it’s pretty clear why. Having played in the shadow of J.J. Watt for his entire career, this season is Donald’s chance to capture his first Defensive Player of the Year award, and he is looking pretty intent on doing that. He is an absolute wrecking ball, and your eyes should be on him at all times when he is on the field.
Also of note: This is Marcel Dareus’s first game back from suspension. He also came out and said that he did not end up going to rehab, like he originally said he was going to during his suspension. That isn’t exactly the blueprint for success.
Hot take: Marcel Dareus saying that he didn’t end up going to rehab was my favorite thing I read all week. Just a tour de force.
New York Giants @ Green Bay (Sunday Night Football)
Key Stats: The Giants rank 18th against the pass; the Packers are sitting at 29th. The Packers are the best team in the league against the run; the Giants are 9th. The Giants passing offense is the 4th best in the league; the Packers are 29th. The Packers have the 16th ranked rushing offense; the Giants are 19th.
Matchup to watch: Odell Beckham vs. kicking net? Odell Beckham vs. having fun? Odell Beckham vs. David Boston’s career legacy? You could sell me on any of these, given my comments on Beckham in this space before. If you want something to really watch, JPP and Olivier Vernon against the Packers tackles, Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, should be good in that it features two of the league’s better edge rushers against two of the league’s better tackles. Another good matchup is Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, as this game will be going head to head with another Presidential debate.
Also of note: Eli Manning needs to figure it out and get back to playing well. I give Beckham a lot of grief, but Eli has not been innocent in the Giants’ recent swoon. I called this a must-win game for the Giants on our podcast this week and for them to win, Eli is going to have to play well.
Hot take: I’m not going to address my favorite Odell Beckham rumor because I’m trying to maintain some shred of professionalism (I’m sure you know what it is), but this guy is the absolute worst.
Tampa Bay @ Carolina (Monday Night Football)
Key Stats: The Buccaneers have the 15th ranked pass defense; the Panthers are at 14. The Panthers run defense is the tenth best in football; the Buccaneers are ranked 12th. Tampa Bay is ranked as the 14th best passing offense in the game; the Panthers are at 10. The Panthers rushing offense is ranked 8th; the Buccaneers are 25th.
Matchup to watch: Madison Bumgarner against Kyle Hendricks, probably? Seriously, I don’t plan on watching much of this game, with playoff baseball going on, and you shouldn’t either.
Also of note: Cam Newton is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol and hasn’t practiced yet this week, so it would appear that he is trending towards not playing. If that is indeed the case (or if Cam is out there playing with an injured brain), this game becomes even more unwatchable.
Hot take: Please watch baseball instead of this game. If you’re reading this column, I like you. Picture me, putting my hand on your shoulder and giving you a comforting squeeze. Just watch baseball tonight.