How old am I? Old enough to know that rain is generally a good thing across the board. It means that I don’t have to get out the hose to water the small gaggle of slowly-dying perennials I bought from Lowe's. It means I don’t have to walk the dog as much because he refuses to go outside in conditions when he might potentially get his face wet. It also fills up a humorous ceramic frog in the garden who then, in turn, looks like he’s watering the plants I don’t want to water. Rain signals relaxation, a guarantee that I don’t have to do much today except fire up a warm cup of chamomile tea.
Funny how you throw that same weather condition in heavy doses over a handful of games on the east coast and *Joker voice* everyone loses their minds.
In Washington, droplets of water coat the network cameras, blurring the view of Kyle Shanahan fiddling with a Microsoft surface tablet and the goal-line handoffs to George Kittle, because, why not make a game that is almost impossible on a slippery tract more so?
In New Jersey, the rain blurs the view of blocked punts, strangely little action from Saquon Barkley and a rookie quarterback who apparently just turns back into Eli Manning when wet.
The rain brought chaos. For a moment, we had visions of a potentially wild day where the playing field was leveled enough to see the second-worst team in football upset the second-best. Unfortunately for Washington, the one weekend where their weekly game plan—handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson 65 times—was totally legitimate yet still somehow not enough to get it done.
It’s safe to say, not everyone likes the rain as much as I do.
Anyway, Gary is off this week, so I’ll be your guide through reactions and overreactions this NFL Sunday. Let’s get to it…
THINGS THAT MADE ME GIDDY
• Marcus Peters
The former Chiefs and Rams cornerback baited the best quarterback in football (right now) into a hideously bad interception. We rarely hear Peters praised for his headiness, but it’s impressive how his time in L.A. has shifted the narrative. Peters went from a valuable piece of a bad, porous defense to integral piece of two consecutive schemes that depended on him heavily. Baltimore defensive coordinator Wink Martindale felt comfortable bringing some zero blitz looks on Sunday despite Peters being with the team for less than a week. Look out, AFC North, if he’s growing into a more efficient player.
• The Kirk Cousins middle-finger tour continues
Credit to the Vikings’ organization, which dug into Cousins’s recent past to discover that all you need to do in order to get the best out of him is to make him feel totally unwanted and undervalued.
In a shootout win over the Detroit Lions, Cousins chucked four touchdown passes, bringing his three-week total to 10 touchdowns and one interception. Stefon Diggs has another monstrous week, and Mike Zimmer can still enjoy a post-game Kodiak with the knowledge that Minnesota put up more than 100 rushing yards. You can have it both ways!
In all seriousness, this performance against a solid Lions defense moves Minnesota’s offense into ‘considerable threat’ territory. They’re 5-2 and have the winless Washington football team and a Patrick Mahomes-less Kansas City Chiefs team coming down the pike. There’s a chance they head into their Week 12 bye week in ridiculously good shape.
• Giants coaches continue to puzzle
When you become head coach or offensive coordinator of the Giants, you get the latitude to make the strangest high-pressure play calls in the league. When you’re Ben McAdoo, you throw nine straight goal-line fades to your sub-six-foot receiver, analytics be damned. When you’re Pat Shurmur, facing a third-and-18 in your own territory, trailing by a field goal, you run a draw play to a recently-off-the-injury-report Saquon Barkley. Then, on a dead-on-arrival fourth-and-14, you get your quarterback pummeled from the blind side on an obvious blitzing situation. Sack, fumble, ballgame.
• Fake punt!
An absolutely punchless mid-day matchup between the Chargers and Titans grabbed my attention with a fake punt from Brett Kern to Kevin Byard that moved the chains. Finally, Tennessee is getting their best players involved on offense.
• Buying in on the Raiders
It took me seeing some things—like the world political order to be overturned in a matter of three years—before I realized that it’s also totally possible Jon Gruden is smartly building a juggernaut in Oakland. His game plan against the Bears in London two weeks ago was brilliant and also selfishly neutralized Khalil Mack with a bit of panache.
Then, Gruden marched into Green Bay and built a 10-7 lead. Makes sense, I thought. More of what we’re used to. That’s when the Packers kicked into high gear and scored 21 straight points. By the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers was flicking his sixth touchdown pass of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defense continues to quietly impress.
But don’t worry, help is on the way in Oakland. They may try and deal for a pass rusher.
• Immense sadness in Atlanta
One day we’ll understand what the hell happened here. It may have been easy to project the Rams’ bounce-back victory here but the final 37-10 score was stunning. Matt Ryan hobbled off the field in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, and while that’s worth monitoring, the game was well out of hand by then. Atlanta’s leading rusher had 19 yards and was ejected for throwing a punch. They barely possessed the ball for more than 20 minutes and turned the ball over three times.
I think Dan Quinn earns about as much respect as any of the top-tier coaches in the NFL, and I wrote last week that it wouldn’t make much sense to let him go in the middle of the season. But something cataclysmic needs to happen—and soon —for him to convince his bosses of that.
MOMENTS YOU’LL TELL YOUR GRANDKIDS ABOUT
• Marvin Jones’s four touchdowns
There is some helpless goof somewhere in America with only a middling knowledge of professional football, who rarely sets their starting lineup, that started an auto-drafted Marvin Jones in their fantasy football league this Sunday. That person derailed your season, and at work on Monday that person will have absolutely no idea that it happened.
• The Darius Leonard interception to end the game in Houston
It was a remarkable feat of aggressiveness and athleticism, not to mention having the wherewithal to essentially clamp your forearms together when you feel the football dropping to the turf.
Everything about the Colts is incredible right now, not to mention the fact that the AFC South is slowly starting to separate, and they’re floating in the right direction. Next up for Indy: Broncos, Steelers, Dolphins, Jaguars—they’ll take sole possession of first place around the same time Andrew Luck’s new deep interview show debuts on Noggin.
WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT THIS WEEK
• Talking about Lamar Jackson as a legitimate top-tier QB and not just a pleasant surprise
On the fourth-down, go-ahead score at the end of the third quarter against Seattle, Lamar Jackson saw a handful of bad drops and a communication mistake that pushed the offense back another five yards. In those moments, it was pretty easy to tell that he had the comfort and relationship with his offense to get everyone on the same page. He made one of the best on-the-run sideline throws I’ve seen all season, and then knifed his way through a good Seahawks defense on fourth-and-gotta-have-it.
We’re witnessing something special in Baltimore; a recognition of talent that may redefine the way coaches approach and value quarterbacks, as well as the way they implement their offenses to maximize talent.
• How we all kind of manufactured a controversy (but not really) in Green Bay
A friendly, Top Gun-style acknowledgement of mutual respect between Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers post game which, for the moment, leads us to believe any simmering preseason beef has been squashed. It’s easy for people now to say it was stupid to get excited about a relatively minor disagreement over audibles, but I do think there was something there.
Packers coaches in the past have told me that Rodgers does like to challenge the people giving him instructions. That could have been his challenge to LaFleur. Either way, the changes LaFleur has made in a difficult situation have paid dividends. The offense Rodgers is running makes him look more comfortable and less passive aggressive.
• The demise of the Bears
There was a second-and-eight at the end of the third quarter where Mitch Trubisky lofted an underthrown 50-50 ball—with time!—to a wide receiver in double coverage amid a cacophony of boos. It pretty much summed up where we’re headed in Chicago.
The rising sentiment that there is a real quarterback problem will dominate the local media there (or should, at least). Head coach Matt Nagy called the offense “ridiculous” at halftime, and we spent the waning moments of Sunday afternoon watching Cordarrelle Patterson swatting an errant Trubisky pass out of a defender’s hands. Matt Nagy doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who is worried about making a rash maneuver in order to legitimize the roster at this moment, but it will be the another significant test for him very early in his career.
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