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.

QUICK-HITS 

– 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.

THE BETTER HALF

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

Patrick Mahomes vs Ravens

NFL Monday Morning Madness: Mahomes continues to prove he’s NFL’s best player

With each passing week of football, Patrick Mahomes continues to prove he’s the NFL’s best player.

Although a young star-in-the-making, Lamar Jackson is not in Mahomes’ class. Nobody is, outside of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. And even the GOAT can admire what he’s seen from Mahomes.

The Chiefs (3-0) raced out to a 30-13 lead, holding on for a 33-28 victory over the Ravens (2-1) — one of the AFC’s few contenders.

Mahomes — 27-for-37, 374 yards, three touchdowns — was brilliant in finding DeMarcus Robinson and newcomers Mecole Hardman and LeSean McCoy for highlight-reel scores that we’re accustomed to seeing each week from the young phenom.

At just 24 years old, Mahomes is playing quarterback at a level that we have not yet seen from anyone. A rocket-armed passer with a baseball background, Mahomes’ athleticism and ungodly football awareness are only half of what makes him great. The Chiefs’ franchise player has shown poise and leadership in his 21 career starts, which have led to a 17-5 record to begin his career.

Among the other ridiculous stats, Mahomes registered a 100.0 passer rating for the 16th time in 20 regular season starts, and has 60 touchdown passes in his lat 19 contests.

With the controversial Tyreek Hill slated to return later this season, the reigning NFL MVP will re-add perhaps the NFL’s best deep threat added to his arsenal.

Of course there is a hill Mahomes has yet to climb. In two meetings with the New England Patriots, Mahomes has struggled — scoring a combined seven points in both first halves — early before rallying his team late, only to come up short versus Brady and Bill Belichick.

The budding rivalry between the Chiefs and Patriots is starting to have a ‘can-you-get-over-the-hump?’ feel to it for Mahomes.

For Michael Jordan, it was the Detroit Pistons. For Peyton Manning it was the Patriots. And for LeBron James it was a mix between the Pistons, Celtics and Spurs. Many young superstars fall victim to a more-established championship-level team for multiple seasons before climbing the hill. With Mahomes, the Chiefs may be Super Bowl-bound in just his second season, which would be an accelerated path that the aforementioned sports legends failed to follow. Manning didn’t defeat the Patriots until eight season, and failed to win his first Super Bowl until his ninth campaign. Mahomes has a good chance to host a Lombardi Trophy before that, but nothing is given in this league, and the Chiefs have more work to do on defense.

Mahomes will see the Patriots in New England in a Week 14 matchup that should decide home field advantage throughout the conference.

They may even see Baltimore again in the postseason. New Raven Earl Thomas was adamant on the matter after the game.

‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to see them again. And when we see them down the line, we‚Äôre going to have it,” Thomas said.

Frankly, whichever team sees Mahomes and the Chiefs is going to have their hands full.

QUICK-HITS 

– In just three years as the Colts general manager, Chris Ballard has built one of the best rosters in the NFL in Indianapolis. And even with the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, the franchise’s new passer has kept the Colts’ (2-1) playoff dreams afloat. Jacoby Brissett completed his first 16 passes and added a few clutch throws downfield late, to stave off the Falcons (1-2). Brissett was thought to have had intangible qualities needed for his role, but many would agree that he had much to improve on in terms of being a NFL-quality passer. Brissett has answered the bell, and clearly looks like one of the better all-around quarterbacks in pro football through three weeks.

– Matt Patricia has taken his fare share of criticism since taking the Lions head coaching job. After a week 1 tie with the lowly Cardinals — in which Detroit blew a 24-6 lead — the inconsistent franchise looked like a team in for more of the same in 2019. But Detroit has since taken down two of the league’s most talented teams, the Chargers and Eagles, to move to 2-0-1. The Lions are moderately stout in several different areas — the line of scrimmage (offense and defense), secondary, running game — giving them a well-balanced attack on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford has improved mightily. One of his major criticisms was his inability to beat good teams on the road. Stafford helped Detroit do that on Sunday. The Lions host the Chiefs next week in the weekend’s most interesting showdown.

– The league’s quarterback carousel produced a litany of impressive performances on Sunday. Rookie Daniel Jones replaced Eli Manning and rallied the Giants (1-2) from an 18-point deficit to beat the Buccaneers (1-2) on the road in his first career start. Teddy Bridgewater filled in for Drew Brees and helped the Saints (2-1) beat the Seahawks (2-1), handing Russell Wilson his first career home loss in September. And Kyle Allen took Cam Newton’s spot and threw for four scores as the Panthers (1-2) downed the Cardinals (1-2) in Arizona. There were a few performances from this group that were left to be desired. Luke Faulk and the Jets were no match for the Patriots. Josh Rosen was given little help from his Dolphin teammates in Dallas. And despite some fourth-quarter heroics, Mason Rudolph and the Steelers were out-dueled by Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers (3-0) in San Francisco.

THE BETTER HALF 

1.¬†New England Patriots (3-0) (Last week: 1).¬† The Patriots allowed just 105 total yards versus the Jets on Sunday — their best effort in their 20 years under Bill Belichick. Is this their best defense ever?

2. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) (Last week: 2). Can anyone slow down Mahomes?

3. Los Angeles Rams (3-0) (Last week: 3). He threw a bad pick late, but¬†Jared Goff still exorcised some road demons in Cleveland. The Patriots, Chiefs and Rams are in a different class than the rest. They’re the true contenders at this point.

4. Dallas Cowboys (3-0)¬†(Last week: 4).¬†Dallas picked up the pace versus Miami after a sloppy start. A win in New Orleans next Sunday night — even with Teddy Bridgewater in for Drew Brees — would show the nation just how good America’s Team is, in 2019.

5. Green Bay Packers (3-0) (Last week: 7). The Packers are quietly building their case in the NFC. Their defense is much improved. Their offseason signings are paying off.

6. New Orleans Saints (2-1) (Last week: 9). The Saints rallied around Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday. If they hang around .500, that should be enough for them to win the NFC South with a returning Drew Brees. Bridgewater can do at least that, it seems. Maybe more.

7.¬†Baltimore Ravens (2-1)¬†(Last week: 5). Lamar Jackson rallied the troops late, but the Ravens were flat for almost the entire game in Arrowhead. They aren’t up to par with New England or Kansas City in the AFC just yet. But we knew that.

8. Minnesota Vikings (2-1) (Last week: 11). Dalvin Cook continues to fry defenses (smooth, I know).

9. Indianapolis Colts (2-1) (Last week: 12). The Colts are a damn good team, and Jacoby Brissett is a damn good quarterback.

10. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) (Last week: 8).¬† That was a rough loss at home. They aren’t quite a top-tier contender in the NFC, but they’re probably a postseason team, just like last season.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)¬†(Last week: 6).¬†They have some major problems on defense. And it’s time to really consider if Carson Wentz is stuck in Nick Foles’ shadow. I think he’ll eventually respond nicely, though.

12. Houston Texans (2-1) (Last week: 15). Deshaun Watson rallied the Texans on the road. They still have some issues, but they look like a playoff team in the AFC. Beating the Chargers may prove monumental if both teams are later in the wild card hunt.

13. Detroit Lions (2-0-1) (Last week: NR).¬†Are we still asking for Matt Patricia to be fired? Didn’t think so. Him and Matthew Stafford have been awesome so far this season.

14. Chicago Bears (1-1) (Last week: 10).¬†They play Washington tonight. If they’re a slam-dunk playoff team, they’ll win this.

15. Buffalo Bills (3-0) (Last week: NR). Their defense has been solid but Josh Allen has produced almost only in the clutch. Just how good is this team?

16. San Francisco 49ers (3-0) (Last week: NR).¬†Like the Bills, the 49ers are an undefeated team that has beaten up on lesser opponents, and are at this point — basically unproven.