Welcome to the latest edition of The Sunday Recap, a weekly column dedicated to thoughts on the previous day’s NFL action! Here are my top takeaways from yesterday’s games.
Ranking the Three Craziest Things I Saw Yesterday
Donald Trump’s ignorant and mistaken claim during another one of his unwarranted Twitter rants that the NFL is “boring,” as well as last Thursday night’s surprisingly sensational game between the Rams and 49ers, proved to be harbingers of a wild Sunday to come. Yesterday was easily one of the craziest regular season afternoon’s I can recall, with hardly any of the matchups playing out like the public anticipated. I mean, who had Blake Bortles leading the Jaguars to a 44-7 win? Or the Jets destroying Miami?
Funny thing about those outcomes, though, is that they don’t even crack my list of the three craziest things I saw yesterday. Here they are, along with my take on the implications of these results.
Brady’s heroics in final minute help New England overcome the dynamic Deshaun Watson
You would think after watching Tom Brady orchestrate countless 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives over the years that I would have been cool and confident even as the Patriots were in the process of fumbling another late lead. But no, I wasn’t. “When are they going to get some pressure on Watson?” I said as the impressive rookie consistently dissected the Patriots’ defense. “What the hell happened to sneaking it on third-and-short?” I whined as the offense prematurely gave the ball back to Houston on consecutive possessions. “It’s the fucking Chiefs game all over again…” I mumbled as the Texans killed clock while preserving a late one-score lead.
Minutes later, of course, I was brought to life by a drive that, even among Brady’s previous 50 game-winning drives and 39 fourth-quarter comebacks, stands out as one of the more impressive. Just on distance alone–Brady passed for a remarkable 92 yards on the final drive–this ranks as one of his more masterful comebacks. And how about those two conversions on third-and-12 and third-and-18? What a way for Brady to cap-off an extraordinary five touchdown performance against one of the better defenses in the NFL.
However, the main takeaway from Sunday’s most entertaining affair doesn’t concern Brady, but, rather, Houston’s precocious rookie quarterback. Deshaun Watson is a playmaker, plain and simple. He simply has a knack for doing “Favre-ian” things out there. Watson has an ability to make ballsy, pin-point throws–like his back-shoulder touchdown pass to Ryan Griffin–as well as an improvisational tendency that makes you say “oh no, what is he doing!” before he fires, say, an off-balance throw across the field that somehow lands perfectly into a waiting receiver’s hands.
I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but Watson just looks like has has “it.” He’s dynamic and confident–that’s exactly the kind of quarterback you want in today’s NFL. And thanks entirely to his presence, the Texans gave a team that has routinely feasted on them a serious scare.
For the first time in their history, it’s clear the Texans have landed a franchise QB.
A game-winning 61-yard field goal, are you kidding me! It’s just one of those years for the struggling Giants…
Speaking of “it”–no, not the homicidal clown from that Stephen King movie, but that indescribable trait separating the contenders from the pretenders, the Giants…well, they’re sort of lacking in this area. After a listless 45 minutes, a terrific fourth quarter from Eli Manning (14-15, 3 touchdowns) revived New York’s chances. But then the Giants’ defense, the supposed strength of this team that some, like FS1’s Nick Wright, predicted would reach the Super Bowl, gave up not one, but two fourth quarter leads.
Losing on a 61-yard field goal must have made Giants fans even more miserable, particularly since this loss marks the end of their season. Since 1980, only 5 out of 164 teams that have started 0-3 have made the playoffs. Plus, it doesn’t help the G-Men that the NFC East is particularly strong this season. Philadelphia and Washington are both 2-1. Dallas, 1-1, could soon join them. All three of those teams are stronger than New York, who isn’t nearly as good as advertised.
In short, Eagles’ rookie kicker Jake Elliott put the final nail in the Giants’ coffin.
Chicago shocks Pittsburgh despite Marcus Cooper’s hilarious gaff
“Every NFL player should be required to watch Super Bowl highlights.” Amen, Trent Green. Marcus Cooper: you just got Lett’d, bro. Fortunately it didn’t end up costing Chicago the game, as the Bears ultimately prevailed over a superior Steelers team in arguably yesterday’s biggest upset.
What’s going on with Pittsburgh? Sure, the Steelers looked great against a Minnesota team that was forced to scrap Sam Bradford moments before kickoff. But they struggled to beat the lowly Browns in Week One, winning by a mere three points. And then yesterday they were bossed around by the Bears, who were 5-20 in their previous 25 games.
The Steelers, in recent years, have gone as far as their offense was capable of taking them. The problem so far in 2017, though, is that their offense has been average. Pittsburgh entered yesterday’s game averaging 5.1 yards per play (13th in the NFL). That figure will drop after its latest pedestrian performance, in which the Steelers averaged only 4.8 yards per play against one of the weaker pass-defenses in the NFL.
In terms of futures wagers, my top sportsbooks has reviewed some options for placing a wager on the Steelers at +700 to win the Super Bowl, placing them behind only the Patriots among AFC teams. That may soon change, however, because these offensive showings aren’t necessarily a fluke. Ben Roethlisberger, who thought about retirement this past offseason, could be on his last legs, and his continued struggles on the road–Roethlisberger has thrown 13 TD and 12 INT in his last twelve starts away from Heinz Field–don’t bode well for the Steelers moving forward.
Pittsburgh may still be the class of the AFC North, but its playoff prospects don’t look anywhere near as good as Kansas City or New England’s.
Monday Night Prediction
Dallas Cowboys (1-1) vs Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
Spread: DAL -3 Over/Under: 46.5
DVOA: DAL (10) > ARZ (23)
Public Betting: DAL 73%
It seems that the public believes Dallas will rebound from a blowout loss to Denver with a win over an Arizona team that barely beat Indianapolis last week. A part of me is skeptical that this will happen, however, if only because NFL games rarely go perfectly to plan. Nonetheless, I’m confident in the Cowboys because they take much better care of the football than the Cardinals. Dak Prescott’s two-interception performance last week was an anomaly. Dallas had the fifth-fewest turnovers in the NFL last season, thanks largely to Prescott’s efficient play. Arizona, on the other hand, had the 7th-most giveaways in football in 2016; and through this year’s first two weeks, Carson Palmer already has four interceptions.
Dallas will avoid another upset and move to 2-1.