NFL morning after: In the NFL, no one knows anything
When the Seahawks blew out the Packers in Week One, I knew Seattle was the best team in the NFL.
When the Chiefs got blown out by the Titans in Week One, I knew Kansas City wasn’t going anywhere this year.
When the Broncos beat the Colts in Week One, I knew Denver was still the class of the AFC.
And when the Rams got blown out by the Vikings in Week One, I knew the Rams were one of the worst teams in the league.
Welcome to the NFL, where no one knows anything.
It can be the most maddening thing about the NFL, but I also think it’s the best thing about the NFL: The sheer unpredictability of it all makes it impossible to say with any degree of certainty what’s going to happen on any given Sunday, and that keeps us tuning in every Sunday. On this particular Sunday, the Seahawks lost to the Chiefs and the Broncos lost to the Rams. If I’d told you that would happen after Week One, you’d have said I was crazy.
But it’s not just those two games. Not even close. What if I’d told you at the start of the season that the Cardinals would have the best record in the NFL in Week 11? You’d have said I was crazy. What if I’d told you after the Patriots’ ugly Monday night loss at Kansas City in September that they’d have the best record in the AFC by mid-November? You’d have said I was crazy. What if I’d told you when the Packers were losing 38-17 at New Orleans a few weeks ago that the Packers would win their next two games by scores of 55-14 and 53-20? What if I’d told you that 4-6 would be a good enough record for first place in the NFC South, while 6-4 would be last place in the AFC North? What if I’d told you that the 2-8 Buccaneers would be closer to first place in their division than the 6-4 Seahawks and 49ers?
It’s never as bad as it seems in the NFL. Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense were supposed to be a mess, and then Cutler threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and the Bears beat the Vikings. But it’s also never as good as it seems in the NFL. The Browns were supposed to be turning things around, finally -- and then they got blown out by the Texans.
It sure looks right now like the Cardinals are the best team in the NFC and the Patriots are the best team in the AFC. But we don’t know anything. Our opinions on that will surely change over the final six weeks of the season. Our opinions will probably change every week. All year long.
Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:
Chase Coffman should’ve been suspended. On Sunday Jay Glazer unearthed video from last week’s game showing Coffman, a Titans tight end, delivering a brutal cheap shot on a Ravens assistant coach on the sideline. The NFL has seen the video and fined Coffman only $30,000. That’s nowhere near enough. Coffman’s hit was every bit as bad as what Albert Haynesworth did to Andre Gurode, which resulted in a five-game suspension. It’s ridiculous that the NFL didn’t suspend Coffman at all.
Officials: Stop blowing plays dead prematurely. On Sunday in Chicago, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler clearly fumbled, but some official, for some reason, thought Cutler had thrown an incomplete pass and blew the play dead. The Vikings jumped on the ball, but by the time Minnesota recovered the officials had already blown the whistle, and so the ruling was that there was no recovery. This has actually happened with Cutler before, when he was in Denver, and he fumbled but referee Ed Hochuli ruled he had thrown an incompletion. That botched call handed the Broncos a win over the Chargers. When in doubt, the officials should always allow the play to keep going. It’s ridiculous that officials keep blowing plays dead instead of letting them go.
There’s no consistency from NFL referees. On Thursday night, Bills quarterback Kyle Orton was flagged for intentional grounding for a throwaway in the end zone, resulting in a safety. On Sunday, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had an almost identical throwaway in the end zone but wasn’t flagged. Intentional grounding in the end zone is a huge penalty. It’s frustrating that the NFL can’t get all the refs on the same page on such a big call.
Don’t sleep on the 49ers. I confess I was ready to write off San Francisco a couple weeks ago, when they were 4-4. But now they’re 6-4 after Sunday’s win at the Giants, and they can still go on a run to the NFC playoffs. If the 49ers are in it, they’re going to be a tough team to beat.
The NFC South is terrible. The Falcons are 0-6 this season against teams from outside their division, but because they’re 4-0 against teams in their division, they’re in first place in the NFC South. With the Falcons and Saints at 4-6, the Panthers at 3-7-1 and the Buccaneers at 2-8, it’s looking increasingly likely that the winner of this division will have a losing record -- maybe 7-9, or maybe even 6-10. A 7-9 team has won a division before, but if a 6-10 team gets a home playoff game, the NFL may need to consider revising the playoff format. A 6-10 team hosting in the playoffs is just wrong.
Happy anniversary, Raiders fans. The Raiders last won a game one year ago today, November 17, 2013, against the Texans. Oakland lost its last six games last year and is 0-10 this year, a perfect 0-16 stretch over the last calendar year.
Andy Dalton turned things around. Last Thursday night, Dalton had what may have been the worst game I’ve ever seen from an NFL quarterback, completing just 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards, with no touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 2.0. But Dalton turned things around in a big way on Sunday against the Saints: He completed 16 of 22 passes for 220 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. That doesn’t speak well for the Saints’ defense, but it does speak well for Dalton’s ability to shake off a bad game and get back to work.
J.J. Watt remains amazing. Watt caught a touchdown pass in the Texans’ win over the Browns on Sunday, his fourth touchdown of the season. (He previously had another touchdown catch and also has a touchdown on an interception return and a fumble return.) Watt has scored more touchdowns than LeSean McCoy, Julio Jones, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Le’Veon Bell or Frank Gore. And, of course, Watt does much more than score touchdowns. He also recovered a fumble and had a sack and three tackles for loss on Sunday. Watt is a strong candidate for MVP of the league.
Washington’s offense just isn’t working. There’s a lot of blame to go around, and Robert Griffin III doesn’t deserve all, or even most, of it. Griffin actually looked a little more mobile on Sunday, rushing for 41 yards on six carries, and his two interceptions weren’t entirely his fault, either. But the result -- a 27-7 loss to Tampa Bay -- was ugly. Whoever you want to blame, there are serious problems in Washington, where the offense hasn’t looked particularly good in any of the three games that Griffin has run it this season, and Washington has lost all three games. It was only a couple years ago like Griffin looked like one of the most talented young quarterbacks ever to enter the NFL, but it feels like ages ago. Things change quickly in the NFL.