Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
What a weird, weird week.
Nothing about this season feels right. Whether it’s the obvious postponed games due to Covid outbreaks, or more subtle weirdness like the Browns beating Dallas in a shoot out, there’s this lingering feeling that football itself knows games shouldn’t be happening, and is returning the favor with some of the weirdest results imaginable.
Before we dive in, shout out to the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles for proving the sweetest victories are the ones won by default. Leading the division with a 1-2-1 record is sublime, and feels utterly appropriate for 2020. Once the proudest division in the NFL, the NFC East is a laughing stock — and really puts the cherry on everything we see week in, week out.
Winner: Cleveland Browns.
It isn’t just that the Browns are 3-1 right now, and honestly competing for a playoff berth early in the season, it’s that beating the Cowboys, in an offensive slug fest, feels so counter to how this team plays that it still feels unbelievable.
Cleveland gave us not only one of the most herculean efforts of the weekend, but one of the funniest too — and it was so Browns it hurts. Only this team could score 49 points in a game where Baker Mayfield only throws for 165 yards, instead leaning on a run game that lost Nick Chubb, and had a major rushing contribution from Odell Beckham Jr.
ODELL BECKHAM JR.
: #CLEvsDAL on FOX
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/wvEEn0SFTV pic.twitter.com/A8P7Hx8E7H
— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2020
Now look, I’m aware the Browns have kind of back doored their way into their 3-1 record. Beating the Bengals and Football Team isn’t exactly the kind of stellar play that makes you believe, but sticking it to the Cowboys in Dallas and prompting a meltdown in the process is something special. Bask in the glory, Browns fans, you deserve it.
Loser: Arizona Cardinals.
Did the Cardinals miss the memo from everyone else that they’re supposed to be breaking out this season? All the pieces were supposedly in place. They have the quarterback, they traded for DeAndre Hopkins. We were all supposed to believe, dammit — and then they come out and lose to the Panthers, who didn’t even have Christian McCaffery.
Look, to Carolina’s credit the team is starting to gel and playing much better than anyone’s expectations, but this is the kind of game that will haunt the Cardinals for the rest of the year. The NFC West is far too tight, and way too compeditive to drop games like this one in Carolina and still reasonably believe they can make the post season.
Kyler Murray threw the ball 31 times for 133 yards, which is bad enough on its own, before we mention that Larry Fitzgerald was barely a factor against a bad Carolina pass defense. Mark my words: If it’s late December and the Cardinals miss the playoffs by one game, this is the one people will circle and say “How the hell did this happen?”
Winner: Justin Herbert
The plan wasn’t to have Herbert starting this soon, but fate found a way by accidentally plunging a needle into Tyrod Taylor’s lung — which I can’t believe is a sentence I’m typing, but here we are.
Herbert has made the most of the opportunity, and Sunday against the Buccaneers showed how far he’s come. Up against one of the most violence and intimidating defenses in the NFL, Herbert picked them apart for 290 yards, completing 80 percent of his passes and throwing three touchdowns in the process.
He did all this despite continuing to look like the star of a Disney Channel original movie about a high school quarterback who finds love in an unlikely place when he falls for the school nerd. She teaches him that there’s more to life that just sport, and he learns that the biggest plays in life don’t come on the field.
keep learning, keep growing. pic.twitter.com/obv38u81SL
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) October 4, 2020
Loser: Nick Foles.
Remember when Foles had everyone buying in to the Chicago Bears being for real and bringing this team back to prominence? Lol, that lasted a week. Foles was bad on Sunday against the Colts, so bad that this looked like a different team.
Chicago seem destined to have a weekly QB controversy, with Foles and Mitchell Trubisky duking it out to see who can out-fail each other at the position and let the entire city down. Thank god there’s Allen Robinson to bail out whoever is under center and at least make them look semi-normal, otherwise this would be one of the ugliest offenses in the NFL. Well, it’s still ugly.
Let’s give this another week or so to progress, but the QB problems for the Bears are going to be a thing all season long.
Winner: Joe Mixon.
Easily the best running performance of the week came from an semi-unexpected source. It’s not like Mixon isn’t great, in fact he’s one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL, which comes from playing in Cincinnati — but on Sunday he absolutely went off on the Jaguars.
Finishing with 181 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, Mixon was utterly unstoppable and the Jaguars were reeling from the jump. It’s clear they had no answers for the Bengals’ running back, and he ate them alive as a reward. Granted, it’s going to be much more difficult to put up big numbers next week against the Ravens, but for now he can bask in the glory of a game well played.
Loser: Everything about the New York Giants.
The Giants are just so, so sad. One of the league’s winless teams, the Giants can’t do anything right. To their credit they caught the Rams sleeping and put up a bit of a fight, but didn’t really deserve too, all things considered.
Talk of Dave Gettleman being a genius for selecting Daniel Jones when everyone had doubts is now silences. Jones has been beyond awful this season, and it’s going to make for some major drama should the Giants still be this bad at the end of the season and find themselves in a position to draft Trevor Lawrence. This is the timeline I kind of want to see. Both the Jets and Giants have spent early picks on quarterbacks in recent years, neither look like they are the real deal, leaving them to admit their mistakes on draft night and make the pick — or be stubborn and wallow in mediocrity for another decade.
Winner: Josh Allen.
He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Yes, here we are once again. Another week, another stunning Josh Allen performance that’s going to fly under the radar and not get noticed enough outside of Buffalo.
Part of this has to do with the fact that Allen still has his doubters on the national stage, but sooner or later people are going to wake up. The Raiders are a good football team. This wasn’t a gimme game, and yet he still put up numbers to keep him on course for 5,000 passing yards and over 50 touchdowns on the year.
I’ll keep noticing you, Josh Allen. I promise.