It was the best of times and the worst of times for quarterback play around the NFL last Sunday. We saw Cincinnati re-emerge as an AFC contender with an impressive win against San Francisco. Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins saw his season come to an end in Green Bay.
1. THE BENGALS ARE BACK…I THINK: Joe Burrow and the Bengals are back in form after a tremendous 31-17 win over the 49ers. Burrow, who has been trying to find his mojo from previous years after a calf injury dogged him over the past two months. The LSU product appeared to not have any residual effects of the calf injury while darting around a once stout 49ers defense. Burrow threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns while adding 43 yards on the ground. The win moved Cincy to 4-3 and into a second place tie with the Steelers, The only thing lingering for the Bengals is a very tricky schedule. They still have to play the Bills on Sunday, which will be followed by other tough outings against the Ravens, Steelers (twice), Jaguars, and Chiefs. Winning the division might be a chore for the Bengals but Burrow rounding back into form will make the Bengals a very tough out in January.
2. OUTSIDE OF THE EAGLES, NOTHING IS A SURE THING IN THE NFC: The Eagles overcame a double-digit deficit against Washington last Sunday to improve to 7-1 behind otherwordly play by AJ Brown. Elsewhere around the NFC, parity was in play yet again. The Bengals sent the 49ers to their third straight loss (and perhaps helped force a trade deadline deal for Commanders defensive end Chase Young); and the Cowboys steamrolled the Rams. The Lions allowed the Raiders to hang around on Monday night before eventually putting them away. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were essentially gifted a win from the Browns following some highly questionable clock management late in the fourth quarter. While the Eagles are still the kings of the NFC, much is in doubt after that thanks to San Francisco’s three-game losing streak. As we hit the season’s midway point, it appears the NFC is going to be a scramble after Philadelphia until the playoffs. Unless the 49ers get healthy, their lives could become pretty difficult in January. The question is, who is good enough to take advantage of their struggles in the NFC?
3. KIRK COUSINS AND THE VIKINGS WERE SET TO ROLL: Speaking of the NFC’s rollercoaster ride last weekend, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings seemed to be poised to make a run of sorts after a win against the 49ers and a road win over the Packers to reach .500. However, disaster struck when Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles, which will end his 2023 season. Business can be done in the NFC this season, especially if you’re getting competent quarterback play in a conference wildly lacking in that department. The Vikings acquired Josh Dobbs from Arizona to attempt to fill Cousins’ sizable shoes. Without Cousins and Jefferson (for now), the Vikings will be hard pressed to score points until Dobbs can get his feet wet in the Vikings offense.
4. THE CHIEFS STILL NEED WIDE RECEIVER HELP TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL: Patrick Mahomes is having the weirdest season of his career. Two Sundays ago against the Chargers, he looked like his normal self. Last Sunday versus the Broncos, Mahomes endured one of the worst games of his career. He was held without a touchdown pass, threw two interceptions, and fumbled in the loss to Denver. The peaks and valleys this season for the two-time Super Bowl MVP have been far more frequent. Why? It likely can be tied to the lack of a big play wide receiver. Yes, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl without Tyreek Hill last season. However, things are catching up to the Chiefs. Mahomes is averaging just 10.8 yards per completion, which would be a career-low. Tight end Travis Kelce leads the team in World Series appearances, receptions, and yards but the receivers simply aren’t making big plays. Rookie Rashee Rice leads all receivers with 30 receptions for a paltry 361 yards. Elsewhere, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, and the returning Mecole Hardman have hardly made a difference. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs getting away with this for a second straight Super Bowl run.
5. KANSAS CITY’S LOSS OPENS THE DOOR FOR A WILD AFC: As for what Kansas City’s loss means, it’s mixed messaging. The AFC West is still firmly in their control. The rest of the conference is a different story. Miami, Jacksonville, and Baltimore are each 6-2. Kansas City plays Miami on Sunday and have already beaten Jacksonville. However, even if the Chiefs win, they’ve still got some work to do. Games against the Eagles, Bills, and Bengals are still lurking on their schedule (but all of those will be in Kansas City). Outside of those contests, their toughest road game might be the season finale at the Chargers. It’s hard to imagine Kansas City running the table considering the way they’ve played offense this season. Finally, after five seasons, we might possibly see this Chiefs have to play a true road game in the playoffs during the Mahomes era.
MVP RACE POWER RANKINGS:
- TYREEK HILL
- AJ BROWN
- JALEN HURTS
- TUA TAGOVAILOA
- JOSH ALLEN
CALEB WILLIAMS (OR WHATEVER YOUR PLEASURE) POWER RANKINGS:
OVERREACTIONARY POWER RANKINGS:
NEXT WEEK’S MAIN EVENT(S): Week 9 features three of the best games of the season. Inexplicably, one of the AFC’s signature game will take place at 9:30am eastern when the Chiefs and Dolphins meeting in Germany. Then, the Cowboys face the Eagles for the first in a rare Jalen Hurts vs. Dak Prescott encounter at 4:25pm. Due to injury, neither played against each other since September 2021. The stakes are high with first place in the NFC East on the line. The nightcap next Sunday is Bills vs. Bengals in Cincinnati, which was the sight of one of the NFL’s biggest stories last season due to the Damar Hamlin medical emergency. Then, the two teams met again in Buffalo during the AFC Divisional Playoffs, which saw the Bengals turn back the Bills to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
It’s a triple main event that will further set the course of the season. Can’t wait!