Lamar Jackson vs Seahawks

NFL Monday Morning Madness: Lamar, Ravens best Wilson as Patriots await

With how this season was going, Sunday’s game in Seattle had all the makings of another stepping stone for Russell Wilson, the NFL’s new (possibly) best player. So much for that.

On this day, a younger, flashier breed at quarterback stole the show.

By juking and maneuvering his way around Century Link Field for 116 yards and a score, Lamar Jackson led the Ravens (5-2) to a surprising 30-16 victory over the Seahawks (5-2), putting Baltimore in a commanding lead in the AFC North.

After a four-game stretch in which Baltimore was lucky to come out of with a 2-2 mark, the Ravens reenergized themselves to win in perhaps the hardest venue to do so, over a team led by the aforementioned Wilson, the still-leader in the NFL MVP race.

In addition to Jackson, Baltimore’s defense made a statement.

Wilson entered the game with a 14-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio that was dented after he was victimized by the new-acquired Marcus Peters via a game-changing pick-six in his first game as a Raven. The play sucked the life out of a crowd that is known for it’s energy.

“Once it was in the air, I felt it,” Peters said of the play after the game.

Marcus Peters pick-six vs Seahawks
In his first game with the Ravens, Marcus Peters victimized Russell Wilson for a pick-six. (Screenshot: NFL on FOX)

Former Seahawk Earl Thomas had a front row seat to the type of victory this city has seen many times this decade. After a game in which Thomas forced Wilson complete less than 50 percent (20-for-41) of his passes, he embraced his former teammate with a hug and jersey swap after the game.

Still, it was Jackson and Baltimore’s 199 yards on the ground that made mince meat out of an improved defense in Seattle — compared to last season. The Ravens followed up a month of sloppy play offensively with a punishing running game featuring both old and new-school tactics, a formula that may be Baltimore’s best chance at a deep postseason run.

At this point in the season, the time for experimentation is waning. The Ravens know that, and in turn, have seemingly found what works.

After their upcoming bye week they’ll see if their current formula is good enough when they become the first in a line of teams with winning records to face the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (6-0) starting in the first week of November.

Can their best beat the best? In two Sundays, we’ll find out.


– Sunday’s games provided a clear line in the sand in two divisions — the AFC South and NFC East.

In Dallas, the Cowboys (4-3) hit the Eagles (3-4) in the mouth within minutes, jumping out to a 14-0 lead en route to a 37-10 whooping of their NFC East rival. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and puts Dallas virtually two games up on Philadelphia in the division. Sunday’s win was a back-to-basics game for a team that is pretty loaded in the running game and on defense. Despite collecting what seemed to be an influx of talent, the Eagles don’t seem to be meshing. Their secondary is porous and their rush defense joined the pity party in Dallas on Sunday. Then there’s Carson Wentz, who is a top-tier quarterback according to Pro Football Focus and just about everyone else. For the Eagles, the talent is there, but the production is not.

In Indianapolis, Jacoby Brissett (26-for-39, 326 yards, four touchdowns) showed the NFL world just how complete of a team the Colts are. Already loaded with a top-tier offensive line and a fast defense consisting of an up-and-coming secondary, Brissett exploited Houston in a way they probably didn’t see coming. After making quick work of the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Colts sat and watched the Texans do the same during their bye week, as everyone praised Watson as an MVP candidate. It was Brissett who outplayed Watson on Sunday, as the Colts (4-2) moved ahead of the Texans (4-3) in the AFC South. It’s clear that they’re at least slightly ahead of teams like the Ravens (5-2) and Chiefs (5-2) for bragging rights as the second-best team in the AFC, for now.

– When Kirk Cousins is on, the Vikings do well. One of the league’s most talented teams knows that their hopes for success rely on Cousins playing consistently well. After a tough 42-30 road win in Detroit on Sunday, Cousins has now flourished for two straight weeks in Minnesota victories — eight touchdowns, one interception and 333.5 passing yards per game. They have a home bout with Washington next week, and then travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, who will probably be without superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. These may be games where the Vikings rely more on Dalvin Cook, who is looking like a top-five running back this season. But it would be wise to throw enough to at least keep the momentum going with Cousins, who has a great chance to lead his club to a 7-2 mark after these next two weeks.

– The NFC is truly a loaded conference at the moment. Aaron Rodgers finally has some defensive help in Green Bay, as well as a new offense tailored to succeed in the colder months. San Francisco is struggling some on offense, but have implemented a  power-running game with Matt Brieda to go along with perhaps the league’s best pass rush. They have transformed over night. The Seahawks aren’t quite up to par with San Francisco in terms of overall talent, but they’re close. With additions such as Jadeveon Clowney and D.K. Metcalf, the Seahawks — despite their loss on Sunday — have improved their roster behind Russell Wilson, the NFL’s best QB at the moment. Having Wilson makes them forever dangerous in their division and conference.

Then there’s the Saints, whose defense looks better than ever during the Sean Payton era, complimenting an offense that mimics it’s secret weapon, Taysom Hill, as a unit that can do just about everything. With Alvin Kamara out, the offense’s other star, Michael Thomas, hauled in 131 yards on nine catches, while the bruising Latavius Murry rushed for 119 yards and two scores in Kaamra’s absence on a day in which he looked every bit like Adrian Peterson. And this has all been led by backup QB Teddy Bridgewater. When Drew Brees returns, there’s little doubt that the Saints hold the NFC’s most complete unit.


1. New England Patriots (6-0) (Last week: 1). The Patriots have issues — mostly due to injuries — at wide receiver and along the offensive line. Expect them to have problems tonight in New York against the Jets. Also, keep your eyes on the transaction wire from now until the trade deadline on October 29. New England will be looking to bring in a pass catcher such as: A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders, Mohamed Sanu or O.J. Howard.

2. New Orleans Saints (6-1) (Last week: 2). The Saints continue to win behind Teddy Bridgewater (5-0 as a starter in 2019) and their swarming defense. Sean Payton should consider sticking with Bridgewater versus the Cardinals next week, as their bye comes the week after that. Then, it’s Drew Brees time.

3. Green Bay Packers (6-1) (Last week: 3). The defense has been solid this year, and after a slow start, Aaron Rodgers — five touchdown passes, one rushing score, 158.3 passer rating on Sunday — has come alive in his first season under Matt LaFleur’s offensive system.

4. San Francisco 49ers (6-0) (Last week: 5). Jimmy Garoppolo is now 14-2 as a starter in the NFL, but the 49ers have got to this point by leaning on their suffocating defense. That was certainly the case in Sunday’s win over Washington in the slosh.

5. Indianapolis Colts (4-2) (Last week: 6). Most major media outlets had Indianapolis somewhere between No. 12 and 15 in their power rankings heading into this week. The Colts are criminally underrated. They are one of the NFL’s most complete teams, and they proved that this week.

6. Seattle Seahawks (5-2) (Last week: 4). The loss — and the pick-six — hurt, but Russell Wilson still leads the NFL MVP race.

7. Minnesota Vikings (5-2) (Last week: 8). Kirk Cousins has been awesome these past two weeks. When he looks like that, the Vikings are a contender. Will he keep this up? Minnesota could also have better performances out of their talented, but underachieving defense.

8. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) (Last week: 7). By most indications, it looks like Patrick Mahomes will return sometime after missing three to five weeks. It would be wise to keep him out through their bye week around Thanksgiving. Andy Reid has had success with backup quarterbacks such Koy Detmer, Doug Peterson, A.J. Feeley and Jeff Garcia in Philadelphia. They can survive with Matt Moore or Chad Henne. The latter should be returning from an injury soon.

9. Los Angeles Rams (4-3) (Last week: 10). Jalen Ramsey provided an immediate and noticeable spark to a team that desperately needed it.

10. Dallas Cowboys (4-3) (Last week: 13). Dallas took a commanding lead in the NFC East behind efficient play in virtually all areas of their win over the Eagles. They needed that.

11. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (Last week: 14). Just like that, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are back in the mix of contenders. That was an impressive win that I certainly didn’t see coming.

12. Buffalo Bills (5-1) (Last week: 12). They survived what would have been an inexplicable home loss to the Dolphins. They’re virtually a playoff lock with their schedule.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) (Last week: 9). They’ve got issues. If they are to make the playoffs, it’s going to be by passing Dallas to win the NFC East. They’re not off to a good start. But they have time to correct what they’ve done. Can they? Maybe.

14. Houston Texans (4-3) (Last week: 11). The Texans’ offensive line continues to be a major problem. It’s a legitimate achilles heel for a team led by a fearless and fantastic young passer in Deshaun Watson.

15. Carolina Panthers (4-2) (Last week: 16). The Panthers head to San Francisco this week in a game that is more important than we ever thought it would be.

16. Detroit Lions (2-3-1) (Last week: NR). They belong here over any other team not listed. It’s inexcusable that they’re not 5-1, but two of their three excruciating results (two losses, one tie) have been their fault. And of course, we know what happened last Monday night in Green Bay. This is an up-and-coming team with talent that needs to get out of its own way.

Next up: Chicago, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Cleveland

Justin Houston vs. Chiefs

NFL Monday Morning Madness: Colts stun Chiefs + Is McCaffrey NFL’s best RB?

Not many believed the Colts could do it. Not after an ugly home loss to the Raiders the week before.

But here we are.

The Colts laid claim as the AFC’s No. 3 team by picking up what owner Jim Irsay called “the biggest regular season win in franchise history,” 19-13 over Patrick Mahomes and the mighty Chiefs in Kansas City.

They did it with defense. They did it with a punishing ground attack. They did it with mauling offensive line play and a young quarterback with the mettle to move past his mistakes to deliver the next big throw.

In a game in which wunderkind Mahomes was playing, it was offensive guard Quenton Nelson who was the best player on the field.

The most fascinating was former Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston, who returned to Kansas City as a member of the Colts and made the game’s biggest play.

Houston stopped Chiefs rusher Damian Williams behind the line of scrimmage on a 4th-and-1 attempt late in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs deep in their own territory down six points.

“We came into their home when nobody expected us to beat their ass” Houston told his teammates after the game.

According to NFL Network’s James Palmer, Houston was very emotional returning to Kansas City. So emotional, that he had to get to Arrowhead Stadium extra early so he could take the field and get the emotions out of the way.

That emotion seemingly returned via feelings of overwhelming triumph, as Houston was jubilant and animated after what proved to be the game-winning stop.

Indianapolis became the first team to ever hold Mahomes’ Chiefs to under 26 points. They allowed just half that.

And they did it without two defensive stars, Malik Hooker and Darius Leonard — the latter was last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, and an All-Pro.

On offense, the Colts won in the trenches. They out-gained the Chiefs 180-to-36 in total rushing yardage. Nelson, who is already the NFL’s best offensive lineman, plowed over defenders the entire night. As a group, Indianapolis produced running lanes for much of the evening. And even when there wasn’t a lane, Marlon Mack exhibited Le’Veon Bell-like patience to find the right path.

A game-time decision due to injury, Mack tallied 132 yards on 29 carries, exposing a deep-rooted defensive flaw that many saw the Patriots take advantage of in last year’s AFC Championship Game in this same stadium.

After an ugly postseason loss at Arrowhead in January, Frank Reich said he was confident this week, because of how well the team practiced.

That confidence was on display in Jacoby Brissett, who shook off a terrible first-half interception in the red zone to calmly weather the storm en route to victory.

When Andrew Luck’s retirement during a Colts preseason game shocked the world, it shocked Brissett, too. It appeared he found out from Luck in real time on the sidelines. Now, Brissett is leading the Super Bowl-caliber roster that Luck left behind to victories over a team like Kansas City, an AFC finalist who pounded Luck in January in what looks to be his final NFL game.

General manager Chris Ballard has weathered the storm during the backing out of Josh McDaniels as head coach, the moving out by Andrew Luck at quarterback, with a 1-5 mark to start 2018 in between. Ballard has built a great roster with a lot of depth, and little flaws, in such little time.

With Luck, I had Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. Without him, they are still in the mix under Brissett.

“We a complete team,” T.Y. Hilton said after the game. “We got it all.”

The long game suggests that the AFC will still come down to New England and Kansas City. The Patriots are the Patriots, and Patrick Mahomes makes up for a lot of the glaring deficiencies that plague the Chiefs.

But don’t tell the Colts that.

“This is a really hard place to play,” Colts head coach Frank Reich admitted to his team after the game.

“But look at what we did.”


After the clock ran out in an entertaining 42-28, Panthers-over-Jaguars victory, the tweets came in.

Christian McCaffrey had stolen the show.

First off, any player who can play in the same game as Gardner Minshew and transcend him as the game’s top story, is special. Of course, we didn’t need Sunday’s performance to realize how special Christian McCaffrey is. But we got it anyway.

Three touchdowns. 237 yards from scrimmage. One huge put-the-team-on-his-back performance by perhaps the game’s best running back against a Jaguars defense that was considered the NFL’s best less than two years ago.

That’s right — the NFL’s best running back. 

Look, there are no tomorrow’s at this position, which is why the ‘best in the game’ belt is passed every so swiftly. One moment, Shaun Alexander is the NFL MVP after a record-setting season, gracing the Madden 07 cover. The next year he’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry and in his second-to-last full season as a starter. One moment Todd Gurley is an unstoppable MVP candidate, the next, he’s getting less than 10 touches a game buried in the running back power rankings. You just never know.

So with perhaps the NFL’s most talented running back ever, Saquon Barkley, currently nursing an injury, the belt should be McCaffrey’s. Even if this lasts just another week or two, McCaffrey has proved his worth.

With Cam Newton out, the do-it-all running back for Carolina has kept the team’s playoff aspirations afloat.

In comparison, McCaffrey is outperforming his closest counterpart — in terms of skill set — Alvin Kamara, and he’s a better all-around back than bell cow Ezekiel Elliott.

When healthy, the belt perhaps belongs to Barkley, but for now, it lies with the son of a Broncos possession-receiver who caught passes from John Elway in the 1990’s.

With Steve Smith in the house for his Panthers Hall of Honor induction speech, it was McCaffrey who proved he’s the most talented non-QB on offense that this franchise has ever seen.

The elusiveness, pass-catching skills, speedy burst and tenacity make the looming 2019 Offensive Player of the Year a perfect weapon at the perfect time in today’s spread-it-out display of offenses.

Even when you know he’s getting 30 touches, good luck stopping him.


– The Packers bullied the Cowboys on Sunday, winning 34-24 in a game in which the score was not indicative of the actual result. Dallas’ mad dash in semi-garbage time made the game’s final moments more interesting. But the Packers led 31-3 in Dallas in the third quarter, as Aaron Jones had already scampered for a franchise record-tying four touchdowns. Green Bay ran all over Dallas’ talented defense, and on offense the Cowboys were similarly out of answers. Dak Prescott threw three interceptions and the Packers dropped a few more. Although it’s still early, recent matchups for teams like the Cowboys, Packers and Eagles sort of sets the stage in the NFC. Now, Philadelphia has the upper hand in the NFC East after Dallas’ fast start has come to a halt. Both the Cowboys and Eagles should make the postseason, as should the Packers, whose QB situation vaults them ahead of the talented Bears and Vikings — as well as the underrated Lions —  in the NFC North. If Philadelphia can get their secondary straightened out versus better passing teams — they beat up on Luke Faulk and the lowly Jets on Sunday — then they are right with the Saints as the teams to beat in the NFC. The Packers, Seahawks, Rams, Cowboys, and possibly, the 49ers, rounds out a very-talented second-tier in the NFC early on. Of course, more of this will make sense to readers after indulging in my weekly power rankings section below.

– It was an under-the-radar game, and the Falcons defense is indeed, terrible, but Deshaun Watson put up an all-time performance in the Texans’ 53-32 stomping of Atlanta.

Most of Watson’s damage came via an aerial assault with WR2 Will Fuller, who brought in 217 yards and three touchdowns on 14 catches. It’s remarkable Watson’s stat line (see above) was as is, considering DeAndre Hopkins — arguably the NFL’s best receiver — contributed a scoreless performance with just 88 receiving yards. The Texans still have a subpar offensive line, and their defense is probably their worst in years, but their new era dawns with the best quarterback in the organization’s history. In a search for the AFC’s third best team — with is probably the Colts — the Texans are in the mix, even if they have more holes than any other candidate. That’s what we’ve learned — under Watson, Houston may always be in the mix.


1. New England Patriots (5-0) (Last week: 1). Ho hum, another ridiculously-good performance by the Patriots defense. “We’re the boogeymen,” Dont’a Hightower said of New England’s linebacking core after the game. They’ll face the two New York City teams in prime time these next two weeks, so we should see more of the same from them.

It was also cool to see both Adrian Peterson and Donald Penn ask Tom Brady for his jersey after the game.

2. New Orleans Saints (4-1) (Last week: 3).  The Saints continue to impress on both sides of the ball. Teddy Bridgewater’s leadership and poise during this run should be a bigger story.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) (Last week: 2). They’ve been outplayed two weeks in a row. They couldn’t escape this time. We know who they are. For them to win the Super Bowl, Mahomes has to play almost perfect. He makes up for a lot of issues with that defense. Getting Tyreek Hill back will help them outscore most.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) (Last week: 6). Sure, they were playing Luke Falk and the Jets, but Philadelphia racked up 10 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and two defensive touchdowns on Sunday. They have the talent, but will they find some consistency? It’s all on Carson Wentz’s play in big games and the defense’s ability to hold up. It’s a long season. We’ll see.

5. Green Bay Packers (4-1) (Last week: 7). Big bounce-back victory for Green Bay. Their defense is legit. And Aaron Jones is a budding star.

6. Seattle Seahawks (4-1) (Last week: 9). They’ve earned this spot. There’s more help for Russell Wilson this time around. It does seem like they may be missing one offensive playmaker. Regardless, Wilson can take them the distance. He’s that good.

7. Los Angeles Rams (3-2) (Last week: 4). They have a lot of issues, but they’ll figure them out and will go on a big run come November or December.

8. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) (Last week: 16). They earned the biggest win in the AFC so far. They have the make-up of a team that could beat anyone. They’re deep, talented and versatile. Now, they have a bye week to rest up. They’ll return to host four of their next five games. That’s huge.

9. Dallas Cowboys (3-2) (Last week: 5). Two ugly losses bring Dak Prescott and Dallas back to earth. They’re still a team that should make the postseason.

10. San Francisco 49ers (3-0) (Last week: 10). We’ll know more about the 49ers after tonight’s game. They’re in a weird place, having played two less games than most of the teams on this list.

11. Cleveland Browns (2-2) (Last week: 11). See above. Let’s see what the talented Browns do tonight.

12. Chicago Bears (3-2) (Last week: 8). They looked jet-lagged in London. Perhaps it was their odd decision to travel to England just 48 hours before the game? Still, their quarterback screwing things up is about what we’d expect. Bad mistake late by Chase Daniel.

13. Buffalo Bills (4-1) (Last week: 15). The Bills have one of the league’s best defenses, yet like the Bears, they have some big problems on offense. At least Josh Allen has come through in the clutch. All four of his wins this season have come via a game-winning drive.

14. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) (Last week: 12). They were lucky to win in Pittsburgh. Lamar Jackson’s breakout performances versus Miami and Arizona seem like eons ago. He needs to return to form. He will.

15. Detroit Lions (2-1-1) (Last week: 14). The Lions sit here during the bye. They’re a tough team with talent.

16. Minnesota Vikings (3-2) (Last week: NR). We know what we need to see from Kirk Cousins. He needs to beat winning teams. He has a shot when Philadelphia comes to town this week.

Next up: Oakland, Carolina, Houston, L.A. Chargers, Jacksonville