- Plus, the Rams defense is thriving, Joe Flacco is struggling, and the Broncos biggest problem isn’t QB, it’s O-line
1. Eagles QB Carson Wentz hasn’t just looked good of late. As the staff sees it, beyond the spectacularly athletic plays he’s made, he’s also doing the routine more efficiently because he’s seeing the field and reading defenses better. One example I got: Wentz’s 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mack Hollins on Monday came because the quarterback saw Washington safety D.J. Swearinger settle his feet, a cue for him to uncork it deep because it would give Hollins the step he needed to beat the coverage.
2. The Rams offense has gotten plenty of attention, but it’s actually been Wade Phillips’ defense carrying the day of late. Aaron Donald and crew have allowed just 39 points and only three touchdowns in their last 14 quarters, and just three points in their last six quarters. A key? One that was pointed out to me was rookie safety John Johnson becoming a starter and Michael Brockers moving from the nose to a 5-technique end spot three weeks ago.
3. The Ravens have had health issues on the line and trouble filling spots at receiver, but is it time to start worrying about Joe Flacco? Since losing Gary Kubiak after 2014, Flacco has thrown 39 touchdown passes against 35 interceptions, and his 81.1 rating over the stretch ranks 32nd among qualifying quarterbacks. Case Keenum is 31st. Blake Bortles is 30th.
4. Baltimore’s opponent tonight, Miami, has quarterback issues of its own, and the expectation internally had been that Jay Cutler would miss a couple games with cracked ribs—he actually pushed to play tonight, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him a week from Sunday against Oakland. He’ll at least miss the Ravens game, and my understanding is the Dolphins won’t have to change much for Matt Moore. That explains why some staffers believe there’s not much drop-off from starter to backup in this case.
5. We’re again focusing on the quarterback situation in Denver when we should be focusing on the offensive line. The team’s brass viewed the latter as the biggest problem on the roster last year, then spent cash (Menelik Watson, Ronald Leary) and draft capital (Garett Bolles) to fix it in a year where there wasn’t a lot of O-line strength in either market. So it shouldn’t be a shocker that the issue remains.
6 Give Anthony Lynn credit: The Chargers dealt with a sideways offseason, have been playing home games in an environment that’s neutral at best, and suffered three heart-breaking losses during an 0-4 start. And now he has L.A.’s second team heading to Foxboro at 3-4. Couldn’t have been easy to keep the team locked in.
7. I’d be the last person to criticize a 21-year-old for having a good time on a Friday night, but hopefully DeShone Kizer learned a larger lesson last weekend: The rules are different for quarterbacks. It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not. That’s just reality. If that’s Solomon Thomas out in San Francisco or Leonard Fournette out in Jacksonville no one cares. Because Kizer is a quarterback, people in Cleveland did.
8. Give Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen credit for rebuilding what’s been a hopeless unit for years. The mental mistakes a young group made in Weeks 1 and 2 are gone, and those players are locked in and improving by the week. In particular, the staff is impressed with the way CB Marshon Lattimore is covering and safety Marcus Williams is directing traffic, which is especially encouraging. The team knew it needed those two rookies to play major roles right away.
9. Signing Dwight Freeney might help a little, but losing Cliff Avril is such a huge blow for Seattle’s talented front. Want an example of how much Avril means to the Seahawks? Go back to Super Bowl XLIX. Seattle was in the process of throwing final haymakers to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the third quarter, up 24-14. Then, Avril went down with a concussion, and that limited the team’s ability to move Michael Bennett around, and Brady absolutely tore the defense to shreds in a near-perfect fourth quarter. If Avril doesn’t get hurt that game would’ve been different. And this season is different for Seattle now.
10. The difference for the Raiders in snapping their four game losing streak against Kansas City? An offensive line that was one of the NFL’s best in 2016 played to its ability again. We’ll see if they can keep it up in Buffalo on Sunday.