Published 3:29 AM EDT Oct 21, 2019
The 32 things we learned from Week 7 of the 2019 NFL season:
1. I live in Washington, and Sunday was the first time I can recall having championship-caliber teams from all the major sports in town simultaneously: the World Series-bound Nationals, WNBA champion Mystics, the NHL’s Capitals … and NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, who improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1990 by coming to the nation’s capital to shut out the lowly Redskins in a downpour.
1a. Over the past three weeks, the Niners have allowed 10 points and 491 yards — total. By comparison, the Lions surrendered 503 yards and 42 points to the Vikings on Sunday.
1b. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan awarded Sunday’s game ball to his father, two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan. The Shanahans were fired by the Redskins following the 2013 season, and Kyle directed some major shade toward the organization during his pre-game remarks days before the trip back to D.C.
1c. Niners rookie DE Nick Bosa’s slip-and-slide celebration may have been the play of the game, though.
2. Welcome to the MVP race, Aaron Rodgers. The Packers star, who’s already won the award twice in his career, matched his career high by generating six touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing) against the Raiders. Prior to Sunday, Rodgers hadn’t been posting Rodgers-esque numbers while adapting to new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, but he might be ready to embark on one of his patented hot streaks. And with Green Bay tied for the league lead with six wins, you can’t discount the Leader of the Pack.
2a. Amazingly, Sunday was the first time Rodgers ever posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a game — the first time any Packers QB had done so — completing 25 of 31 throws for 429 yards and those five TDs despite operating with a banged-up wideout corps that didn’t include Davante Adams. Rodgers’ 103.2 career QB rating is the best in NFL history among qualified passers.
2b. Lastly, Rodgers become the ninth (and quickest in just 172 games) member of the 350-plus TD club for his career. He’s now at 351 and needs 13 more to pass Ben Roethlisberger (363) and Eli Manning (362) for seventh place on the all-time list.
3. And you thought the Democratic presidential field was large. Rodgers isn’t the only one we can add to a group of MVP candidates that seems likely to grow in the wake of Patrick Mahomes’ unfortunate injury and a bad game Sunday by Seattle’s Russell Wilson.
4. Start with second-year Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who had a major hand in Baltimore’s 30-16 upset win in Seattle. After running for 116 yards, he now has 576 this season — meaning he’s more than halfway to Michael Vick’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in one year (1,039 in 2006).
5. Along with Christian McCaffrey, who was off Sunday, let’s throw Vikings RB Dalvin Cook’s name into the mix, too. He scored twice Sunday while churning out 142 yards on the ground, giving him the league rushing lead (725).
5a. And though I’m not ready to elevate Cook’s teammate, QB Kirk Cousins, into the MVP stratosphere, give the dude credit. After a rough start that had his wideouts chirping at him publicly, Cousins has a 125.8 passer rating over his last five games (four of them wins), a figure that includes 1,383 yards, 11 TDs, one INT and a 74.8% completion rate.
6. Though he’s now 5-0 this season, Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater won’t be in the MVP running since Drew Brees could be back as soon as next weekend. But I’d be fine voting Bridgewater comeback player of the year even if it’s been a while since the unfortunate 2016 knee injury that sidetracked his career.
6a. After catching a TD from Bridgewater on Sunday in Chicago, Saints third-string QB Taysom Hill now has four career scores but still has yet to throw for one.
6b. But the star of this New Orleans (6-1) team continues to be its defense, which made the Bears look hapless in front of their home fans Sunday before giving up some garbage yards and points in the fourth quarter once the outcome was well in hand. The Saints may be the best team in the league — perhaps because they’re so formidable even when Brees and RB Alvin Kamara can’t play.
7. Trying to think of a more disastrous recent holdout than that of soon-to-be free agent Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, who managed 32 yards on 16 carries Sunday and failed twice to punch in what would have been a game-winning TD from the 1-yard line in the final minute against the Titans. Gordon also fumbled on his final attempt. Still not sure why the Bolts haven’t gone back to Austin Ekeler as their primary ball carrier.
8. Good to see Packers RB Aaron Jones come up with that 21-yard TD catch against Oakland six days after his horrendous drop of a gimme TD from Rodgers on Monday Night Football.
9. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett passed for 326 yards and four TDs on Sunday, thresholds he’d never reached in an NFL game, to power Indianapolis past Houston for first place in the AFC South.
9a. Brissett is now 4-0 all-time against the Texans.
9b. The Texans are now 3-15 all-time in Indianapolis.
9c. But what might have been if Houston QB Deshaun Watson’s brilliant second-quarter TD pass to WR DeAndre Hopkins hadn’t been blown dead by the officials …
10. Nice to see first-round Titans DL Jeffery Simmons on the field Sunday. He finished with four tackles, including a sack, in his debut — one many thought might not happen until 2020 given he tore an ACL in February while preparing for the draft.
10a. But sorry, Jeff … G Nate Davis has already locked up Titans rookie of the year. Unanimously … in my poll.
11. Some things never change: New Tennessee K Cody Parkey hit yet another upright during a PAT attempt Sunday. But bitter Bears fans were in no position to rip Parkey.
12. Chicago has now lost the first game following its bye in six consecutive seasons.
13. Guess Eagles coach Doug Pederson should get out of the prediction business?
14. Guess Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and his first-place team are back in business for a while longer after dismantling Pederson’s crew?
15. Back to Mahomes — really great news that his knee injury apparently isn’t season-ending. In the NFL’s 100th celebration season, which has been long on historic celebrations but short of compelling football on the field, good to know one of the league’s truly electrifying performers should be back — and perhaps prevent a Patriots cakewalk in the AFC.
15a. If backup Chiefs QB Matt Moore can go .500 or so (Moore’s career record as a starter is 15-15) against a lineup likely to include the Packers, Vikings, Titans and Chargers, Kansas City should be fine when Mahomes returns given the underwhelming state of the AFC.
15b. But one refresher (and perhaps a word of caution), Moore was out of the league in 2018 and was scouting Kyler Murray for the Dolphins in March.
15c. Since the start of the 2012 season, Moore has dropped four of six starts, including a playoff loss at Pittsburgh while with Miami.
16. Moore’s former Dolphins teammate, QB Ryan Tannehill, improved his all-time ledger to 43-46, winning his first start as a Titan while adding some needed spark to Tennessee’s offense.
17. Applause for the Kansas City defense, which stepped up dramatically in Mahomes’ absence. The Chiefs collected nine sacks in Denver — they had 11 total in the first six games — scored on a fumble recovery and limited the Broncos to six points and 205 yards, both season lows. K.C. will need more of the same from Frank Clark and Co. while Mahomes is shelved.
18. Speaking of the moribund AFC, the conference is a collective 47-56 heading into Monday night’s Jets-Patriots game.
19. Road teams are 58-46-1 this season.
20. The Rams’ Johnny Hekker — for my money, the greatest punter in NFL history (sorry, Ray Guy fans) — completed a 23-yard pass Sunday on a fake to give L.A. a fresh set of downs. The former high school quarterback is now 12-for-20 in his NFL career for 179 yards and a TD, his 106.0 passer rating the third best since 1970 among non-QBs with at least 20 attempts.
21. One would have to be foolish to pick the Falcons at this point, but the Rams — sporting new CB Jalen Ramsey for the first time — finally looked like a team that might do some damage in the playoffs. Ramsey helped limit Atlanta WR Julio Jones to fewer than 100 receiving yards, the offense was balanced (38 passes, 36 runs), and Aaron Donald threw RB Devonta Freeman out of the club. Courage points to diminutive Freeman for taking on the biggest guy in the room … but we’re docking sanity points, too.
21a. Speaking of fools, wish I’d known this before submitting my weekly picks: The Rams are 6-0 in the Eastern Time Zone under Sean McVay … the Super Bowl notwithstanding, of course.
22. Miami’s 21 points and 381 yards were both season highs. Didn’t stop them from dropping to 0-6.
23. Conversely, the Bills improved to 5-1, their five victories coming against teams with a combined record of 6-25.
24. Cincinnati RB Joe Mixon averaged about 7 inches per carry Sunday (2 yards on 10 rushes) and is generating just over 3 yards per run this season.
25. When are the Bengals (0-7) going to take a look at rookie QB Ryan Finley? Just asking because they’re fast working themselves into position for Tua Tagovailoa or whomever they might want atop the 2020 draft.
26. With Ramsey on the field, the Rams got one INT on Sunday (from LB Cory Littleton).
26a. Without Ramsey no longer on the roster, the Jaguars picked off three passes Sunday.
26b. And let’s not forget former Rams and current Ravens CB Marcus Peters, who duped Wilson into a 67-yard pick six (Wilson’s first INT of 2019) and became the first player of the Super Bowl era to pick off passes for different teams in consecutive weeks and first ever to take INTs to the house for separate teams in the same season.
26e. Think new Ravens and erstwhile Seahawks FS Earl Thomas loves him some Marcus Peters about now?
27. The Lions and Vikings combined to score nine TDs in nine red-zone trips Sunday.
28. Detroit WR Marvin Jones tied his career high with four TD grabs against Minnesota — making him just the fourth player ever to have multiple games with at least four scoring grabs. Might be a good time for fantasy owners to sell high on Jones. Might also be a good time for the Lions to sell high on Jones, who’s under contract through next season, given they suddenly look like a team that might not recover from that brutal Week 6 loss in Green Bay. The trade deadline is Oct. 29.
29. Lions QB Matthew Stafford also made a little history, becoming the fastest player (147 games) to pile up 40,000 yards. But it’s just a “little history” because you know that mark won’t stand for long.
30. The Cardinals-Giants game was billed as a battle of first-round rookie QBs Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones. But it turned into the Chase Edmonds show, the second-year Arizona RB rushing for 126 yards and three TDs — becoming just the fifth player with three rushing TDs of 20-plus yards in a single game.
30a. Maybe the Cardinals should trade David Johnson?
30b. The Cards have won three in a row for the first time since 2015.
30c. Coming off a six-game PED suspension, star Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson had seven tackles, a sack and forced fumble.
30d. With a career-high four sacks Sunday, Arizona OLB Chandler Jones now has 8½ this year, putting him a half-sack off the league lead.
31. But if the Giants can’t handle the Cards at home, we can stop talking about New York as an NFC East dark horse.
32. Maybe the Bears should trade for David Johnson.
32a. And Cam Newton. Just sayin’ …
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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