NFL Week 7 – 7 Up, 7 Down: Seventh Circle of Heaven?

Credit: USA Today

A somewhat dross and quaint NFL Week 7 is in the books. What were the hottest topics for those in the inner sanctum within the league? Who were the headliners that made waves in the seventh week of the season? The Weekly Power Rankings have arrived and the question is: who made it to the seventh circle of heaven?

Up

1. Non QBs throwing touchdowns!

– We had a pair of non-quarterbacks to get the scoring fiesta started on Sunday within minutes of each other. 

First up, was MVP contender Derrick Henry throwing a perfectly timed pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt (on national tight end day, no less!)

Next was Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne doing the honors. 

2. Throwback uniforms for GB and SF

Two iconic legacy franchises sporting high-caliber throwback duds. Enough said. 

San Francisco’s clean 1994 throwbacks

3. Local meteorologists in the Bay Area

Every dog gets its day or so they say. Well, viewers of the Sunday Night Football broadcast heard the words, “atmospheric river” and “bomb cyclone” enter the sporting lexicon. Strange times indeed as the Niners and Colts did battle in a seemingly endless torrential monsoon. There was a crazy sequence in the first half where both teams couldn’t hold onto the slick ball, trading turnovers like baseball cards (they still do that, right?)

4. Joe Burrow to Chase is pretty pretty pretty good

– Yeah, you got the prohibitive favorite for offensive rookie of the year award catching passes from a young gun with the dawg in him. It appears that the lethality of 2019 LSU Burrow to Chase carried over to Ohio’s Queen City. Not much more to say than Larry David probably approves of the young emerging duo. This could be a weekly thing in the article. Is this the remake of the 1998 Vikings with Randy Moss?

5. Dan Campbell’s bravado and passion

– Campbell’s Lions are fighting every single week despite the stacked odds against them. Most 0-7 teams would have caved long ago and dissolved into internal dissension. You can see the tangible chemistry and passion that his players play for him. It’s too bad that Jared Goff isn’t the answer for a moribund Lions franchise. Campbell is part of an increasing trend of coaches laying it all on the line and going for it despite the odds of failing to convert first downs. May the Lions get their first win soon. 

6. Kyler Murray’s MVP candidacy

– Murray has to be the favorite for the MVP award at this point in the season, leading the Cardinals to a 7-0 record against a tough schedule. It’s not like the Cardinals are loading up on wins against the patsies of the league, either. They’ve had to deal with tough COVID issues knocking out their head coach for a game along with multiple key pieces. He’s one of the more dynamic playmakers in the league alongside the terrifying Lamar Jackson. He’s making plays like this seemingly every drive

7. Marshawn and the Legendary ManningCast 

– The affable, jovial, and loquacious Marshawn Lynch joined Monday Night Football’s ManningCast and he did not disappoint. In related news, the FCC could be just as happy that their coffers will be filled by ESPN’s banking department for Lynch’s glorious expletive-filled appearance. The only downside was Peyton “apologizing” for the fun. We need more Marshawn on prime-time TV! 

DOWN

1. Sam Darnold isn’t the present nor the future

– He has turned into a pumpkin after a solid start to life in Charlotte and 2021 will likely be his last as a starter in this league. Darnold was benched for PJ Walker on Sunday and it isn’t like Walker lit it up either. Perhaps the damage done to Darnold in New York is too much for him to rebound from. Carolina took a gamble passing on multiple rookie passers with their first-round selection. It hasn’t worked out but that’s life. The Panthers were on the periphery of the Deshaun Watson chase but now are firmly on the list of top-tier contenders for his services after the past few weeks. 

2. Brian Flores and Matt Nagy’s job security

– The expectations for either man to keep his current job beyond this season have to be slim to none. Flores has been a fun quote machine during press conferences and his Dolphins are on life support in the AFC East. Fortunately, Miami has long been the rumored destination for one Deshaun Watson. Nagy on the other hand, is a dead man walking as the Bears look lifeless, their star rookie passer running for his life, and the coach mostly ambivalent about the whole affair. It’s over for the Nagy regime in the Windy City. Flores’ rear end is firmly planted on the hot seat if he can’t turn it around. 

3. New York teams 

– Both New York teams are a colossally terrible combined 3-10 through seven weeks of this season. The Jets have a plan in place to build something at least despite the horrific decision not to have a veteran backup quarterback throughout the offseason to guide a now hurt Zach Wilson. Robert Saleh might be regretting his decision to go for this job as his defense has been something awful. Meanwhile, the Giants are just bad and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic under the embattled Dave Gettleman. Granted, they’ve suffered a ton of injuries but Daniel Jones is looking more and more not the long-term answer. Joe Judge still has some cache so there’s that. 

4. Mike Evans and historical landmarks

– On a more light-hearted note, Mike Evans wasn’t cognizant of the implications of Tom Brady’s 600th touchdown pass and gave the ball to a now-infamous fan in the stands. That said fan was the subject of immense ridicule for giving the ball up for such little return. Evans had a hilarious reaction after the fact and a member of the Buccaneers staff had to go and negotiate for the return during the game for all to see. It all worked for everyone involved as the fan won out relatively decently, Evans scored a couple more, and Brady got to roast everyone on national TV. 

5. Chiefs D is still bad 

– Yeah, it was bad and Patrick Mahomes couldn’t bail them out on Sunday after the woebegone Titans defense held the Chiefs to a field goal. It felt like the Titans were actively trying to sit on the lead during the second half. A silver lining could be that the horrendous Kansas City defense held the Titans’ offense in check after allowing a 27-0 deficit? It’s still a long way to go but it’s increasingly looking like a massive Achilles’ heel for the franchise. 

6. Homecomings

– Not the most enthralling of contests between the two quarterbacks traded for another in Los Angeles. Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff weren’t at their best in this one. At least Dan Campbell made it entertaining with his panache and derring-do? A game that left a lot more meat on the bone, that’s for sure. Maybe next time?

7. Kyle Shanahan 

 – Are we sure that the boy wonder can evolve instead of being all hype? When opposing defenders are openly deriding your offensive philosophy, it’s time to question certain things. We all know Jimmy Garoppolo is injured and limited as a passer when healthy but at least Frank Reich adjusted to his passer’s strengths in the eternal monsoon. Shanahan will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. Please get healthy, Trey Lance. I mean, the coach couldn’t figure out that this play was working exceedingly well for the opposition and couldn’t adopt the same tactics? 

Previous Editions

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Wk 2: Perceptive Repeats

Week 3: So Nice, Do It Thrice

Wk 4: Good Quads Like Saquon

Week 5: Thrive at Five

7 Up, 7 Down: A Perceptive Repeat?

Week 2 was full of intrigue as teams tried to shake the stark realities of Week 1 debuts or build upon progress. Which teams / players did the thing? Who needs some work as we look ahead to Week 3 of the young 2021 season?

Up

1. Micah Parsons is certified #good

– The former first round selection validated the Cowboys with a monster performance on Sunday. He was moved closer to the line due to injuries and showed well despite not playing EDGE since high school. PFF gave him an overall grade of 89.9, which was good for highest defensive rookie this week. He had eight pressures on the most promising young quarterbacks in the league. It looks like the pass rush moves he was working on with the legendary DeMarcus Ware on Hard Knocks paid off. The versatile linebacker was a freak athlete that played in a variety of roles while at Penn State. Certainly a good start to the young linebacker’s career. Could a permanent move to EDGE be in the cards after his initial performance? 

2. Late Game Window

– If the early slate was a bit of a dud (it wasn’t) but in comparison to the late slate, it was quaint. There was a period of a few minutes where multiple games came down to a game winning field goal attempt. Arizona survived the Vikings last dash attempt (in a candidate for game of the year) while Tennessee and Dallas made their field goals to sneak out road wins. Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein delivered after a litany of coaching errors and his own demons from last week.  All of which served as delicious appetizers to the big showdown on Sunday Night Football. 

3. Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh’s “GUTS”

– Speaking of Sunday night action, there was plenty of it as Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes put on a show. Jackson, especially put on a show during the fourth quarter leading the Ravens to an upset win over the Chiefs. He struggled early on, throwing multiple interceptions to Tyrann Mathieu, including a pick six. It was a shootout until the very end when the Chiefs inexplicably took the ball out of Mahomes’ hands on a crucial drive. 

Lamar then took the ball on a game icing drive, which led to the now famous do you want to go for it question asked by Harbaugh. A fantastic preview for a potential rematch in January?

4. Carolina D fences in the Saints

The Panthers defense held the explosive Saints offense to a mere seven points and harried Jameis Winston into two interceptions and just 111 yards passing. They also kept the electrifying Alvin Kamara to just 30 yards on 12 touches while getting four sacks and 11 hits on Winston. DC Phil Snow’s men have been dominant through the first two games, leading the league in numerous categories. They get to face a largely untested rookie leading a dysfunctional Houston Texans team on Thursday night. Undoubtedly for which they will be salivating for.

5. Explosive Teddy Bridgewater

– The amiable Teddy Bridgewater has appeared to revamp his game into a more high powered attack with Denver it seems. He has looked downright aggressive compared to his reputation of being “safe”. He’s in the top ten in passing yardage, touchdowns, QB rating, and true to form, has no interceptions. Bridgewater has seized the starting job over Drew Lock and it appears that the Broncos are going to ride with him despite their dalliances with Aaron Rodgers. I’m excited what the future weeks portend for him armed with a much better offense and a stout defense. He deserves all the flowers as a veteran QB who has more than his paid dues. 

6. Houston being competitive 

– Everyone wrote off the Texans as the worst team in the league and yes it appears that way talent wise. HC David Culley has them fighting and competing early on, even if the competitive level isn’t the best. That’s admirable. They’re even in first place in the AFC South. Well, we’ll see how much of that competitive spirit is retained as the opposing teams’ talent level ratchets up. They’re about to face a brutal six game gauntlet of the Panthers, @ Bills, Patriots, @ Colts, and @ Cardinals. All this without the hot start of injured Tyrod Taylor and managing the tricky Deshaun Watson situation. Let’s hope for Culley’s sake that his team can win at least two of these games. 

7. Kyler Murray is FUN

– Murray is one of the most fun quarterbacks in the league right now. It just wasn’t the Titans that were bamboozled and mystified on how to cover him. Mike Zimmer’s Vikings defense was similarly flummoxed as well on Sunday afternoon. He was unstoppable uncorking passes from seemingly improbable locations like a mini-Mahomes all game. The clip below probably wasn’t even his best HOW??? throw of the game. When the Cardinals offense is truly clicking, it’s really entertaining for fans everywhere. Now that he has AJ Green, rookie Rondale Moore, along with the erstwhile superstar DeAndre Hopkins to go along with a solid line, they will be a tough out for anyone. I would go as far as to say that the Murray led Cardinals are everyone’s second favorite team and a Red Zone darling.  

Down

1. The Dolphins OL

– Yeesh. That wasn’t the best effort in the world against the stingy #BillsMafia defense, getting shutout, 35-0. The biggest part, the unit was responsible for franchise QB Tua Tagovailoa getting injured by a virtually free oncoming pass rusher. It remains to be seen how long Tua will be out for due to this latest setback but it appears grim. The line gave up six sacks and 11 hits on the QB overall. The line needs major upgrades in the worst way possible. They need to get right in a hurry for Brian Flores’ men to compete for the playoffs. 

2. Taunting rules

Let the great Field Yates surmise everyone’s thoughts on this needlessly obtuse and useless rule:

Also, a compilation to further outline this outlandishly farcical rule that NO ONE wants:

3. Wentz is Cooked?

– Russ is cooking while Carson Wentz might be officially cooked as a starting level quarterback after Sunday’s tough minded performance that resulted in a spectacular shovel pass interception and an injury. The trade that brought him to Indianapolis may be a bust but it’s early yet. The Colts are currently projected to have a top five selection but they owe it to the Eagles should Wentz play 75% of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs. If their record gets worse in a downtrodden AFC South similar to last year’s NFC East, they might be inclined to sit Wentz to avoid paying the premium cost. 

4. The Chiefs defense merits banishment from the Kingdom 

The KC defense just has to be league average to complement an all world offense yet they are failing to do just that. By most metrics, they are in the bottom tier. It’s not like they are not chock full of talent, either. There is too much talent on the defense for it to be this bad. Patrick Mahomes can’t continually save the day even if he’s capable of it every game. It’s early but DC Steve Spagnuolo has proven to be capable of fixing defenses. #ChiefsKingdom surely expects the defense to be better, it has to be, right? 

5. Welcome to the League, Rook QBs

– Week 2 was a mixed bag for the much ballyhooed class of 2021 rookie quarterbacks as they have had several welcome to the big leagues moments between them. Zach Wilson in particular had a rough go against the wizard Bill Belichick, throwing for four interceptions and 0 scores. Trevor Lawrence is continuing to throw interceptions like the cookie monster devours cookies, throwing two against Denver. Trey Lance sat. Justin Fields got a lot of time after Andy Dalton was injured, throwing a hideous interception in a crucial moment against the Bengals and was just 6-13 and 60 yards. In more positive news, Mac Jones was effective, leading the aforementioned Patriots to a dominant win. Davis Mills of Houston will get the start on Thursday after subbing in for an injured Tyrod Taylor on Sunday. This was expected growing pains for a rookie class.

6. Injuries are the worst

– It was a brutal week for injuries as a litany of stars were hurt enough to get knocked out of the game or had to sit out a few plays. Most notably, Andy Dalton, Tua, Carson Wentz, Bradley Chubb, TJ Watt, and Tyrod Taylor left and did not return. Baker Mayfield was injured trying to make a tackle on the player who intercepted his pass, dislocating his shoulder. Speaking of Cleveland, Jarvis Landry exited the game and subsequently placed on IR. Big Ben and Eagles OL Brandon Brooks are dealing with pectoral injuries. Eagles EDGE rusher Brandon Graham has a reported torn Achilles. Chubb underwent ankle surgery and is expected to miss significant time and may have ended his time in Denver. It’s only week three of a long 17 game season and it’s going to be a slog with all these injuries to key players already.

7. Zac Taylor is not a good head coach nor OC

– Taylor has proven repeatedly that he isn’t ready for the big time yet. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t call the offense more aggressively than he has. An example that is none more glaring was Sunday when he refused to unleash Joe Burrow until it was too late. The Bengals don’t have the greatest talent along the offensive line, sure but the play calling has been way too conservative. He has to be more mindful that he has a franchise quarterback that needs to be let loose. The Bengals have drafted well over the years but I don’t think he’s that dude that can maximize the short window of contention that a rookie QB contract provides. Perhaps he isn’t ready for a head coaching job just yet and went too far ahead of his skis riding the McVay wave.

7 Up, 7 Down: Opening Overreactions

UP

1. Chandler Jones Has a Half a Season in ONE GAME

Cardinals EDGE rusher Chandler Jones had the denizens of Nashville crying out for an offensive tackle that could simply stand in front of him. Sadly for the Titans, no such man was coming on Sunday afternoon. Jones had a dominant day, putting up FIVE sacks which prompted NBA god LeBron James to tweet his support for Jones’ candidacy for DPOY. 

Jones was so dominant that the Titans’ star left tackle Taylor Lewan was beaten repeatedly into submission. Lewan later acknowledged his failure in stopping Jones and credited him for waking him up. 

2. Saints March In and Show Out

The Saints, briefly displaced by Hurricane Ida, put on a show in Jacksonville against fellow NFC contender Green Bay. The defense was all over the place, hounding Aaron Rodgers into two interceptions. Jameis Winston was efficient, throwing for 148 yards and a whopping FIVE touchdowns, including this beauty to get him over the century mark in yards for the day. He’s currently on pace for 2,500 yards and 85 touchdowns

Not to be outdone by his usual stellar play on the field, All-Pro CB Marshon Lattimore scored a well-deserved pay rise moments after the victory. The salary cap is a social construct built by mere mortals that can be exploited to profound and spectacular limitless bounds.

3. Dak Prescott IS Back!

Dak showed very little ill effects of the devastating ankle injury he suffered early last season and the recent shoulder issue he went through in training camp. He may not be back to being full force Dak but he’s well on his way to return to prior form. The Cowboys may not be an upper-tier contender but Prescott gives them a fighting chance in the much beleaguered NFC East where 9 wins might be enough to win the division. I’m glad that he’s back from such a bad injury. 

4. Sean McVay’s Football Mental Health

Sean McVay was voraciously giddy and gratuitously presumptuous when the Rams traded for former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in exchange for Jared Goff and multiple first-round selections. Well, after Stafford’s performance against the Bears on Sunday night, it appears his mental state of unabashed happiness hasn’t changed one iota. Goff, on the other hand, was valiant in trying to lead the moribund Lions to a stirring comeback victory. McVay has to be overjoyed by the fact that Stafford is more consistent and doesn’t need much of a guiding hand or protection from the Rams boss, unlike his predecessor. This frees him up to be more creatively intuitive in his play-calling ala new age Sean Payton, armed with a star-laden defense led by the indomitable Aaron Donald. 

5. Is Jalen Hurts that dude?

Yes, it was against the brutally hapless Falcons defense, but Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts began 2021 in a promising fashion, going for a combined 326 yards and three touchdowns. A game that included this beauty to former Alabama teammate and reigning Heisman winner Devonta Smith.

The Eagles quarterback is certainly showing signs of promise early on but he will need to turn in an outstanding season in order to avoid tempting the front office that has looked into the Deshaun Watson / Russell Wilson market in the past. Hurts looks spritely and in command of Nick Sirianni’s offense after one week. Philadelphia will face a much stiffer test this coming Sunday against the vaunted 49ers defense who just gave up 33 points to the woebegone Lions. For Hurts’ sake, let’s hope he has a great season for the City of Brotherly Love.

6. #LetRussCook

The Shane Waldron and Russell Wilson era got off to a flying start with the quarterback being an efficient 18/23, 254 yards and four touchdowns, including a beauty of a deep pass to Tyler Lockett. The signs of letting Russ cook full stop are there with Waldron seemingly calling the impact shots instead of the archaic Pete Carroll’s preferred ground control offense. Next up on the docket: a Titans team who got blown out by an explosive Cardinals offense in week 1. Let Russ Cook, indeed. 

7. Justin Herbert is FUN

The promising sophomore sensation led the Chargers to a win in a must-have game-icing situation when normally, Bolts teams of old would’ve found a way to blow the lead. Could it be a curse-killing win for the powder blue outfit or just a random win? Herbert has all the physical tools and is now challenging the tier of upper-crust quarterbacks. What kind of 2021 will he have?

DOWN

1. Matt Rhule in “Plus Territory”

Yes, the Panthers beat the rebuilding Jets but several decisions inside plus territory left Carolina fans wanting. A decision to punt while having the ball on the Jets’ 33 yard line is the most egregious of the issues. However, scoring only one touchdown against a hapless defense in four trips inside the 10 yard line is a giant cause for concern going forward. Especially so when one of the best dual threat running backs in football resides on the roster. Could this be a worrying trend for the Panthers? Is there anything left in Sam Darnold left to salvage? 

2. The Vikings have OL Issues

Kirk Cousins has his own warts but the offensive line was horrendous for the Vikings on Sunday. This was against a middling at best Bengals stop unit. It looks like they’re still in preseason mode and haven’t gelled together yet. Up next for the Vikings and their beleaguered line: the red hot Arizona Cardinals defense on the road. It will likely be another long day I suspect for Cousins and company.  

3. Jason Garrett is Not that Guy

Like the meme says, Garrett is not that guy. He hasn’t been handed the most ideal of circumstances such as Saquon Barkley returning from injury and a poor offensive line. Daniel Jones hasn’t developed and is quickly reaching Mitchell Trubisky territory. If this lack of production continues, Big Blue faithful will be up in arms calling for Joe Judge’s job. It’s certainly possible that Garrett is hamstrung by Jones but he isn’t helping him, either. One has to wonder if Garrett is the coach that Judge sacrifices to retain his own job security. 

4. Bad juju in Cheesehead Land

There’s some bad mojo in Green Bay, namely starting with the months-long diaspora of Aaron Rodgers dysfunction. It has carried over the season, it seems as Matt LaFleur’s men couldn’t get going Sunday. Would it be best for all parties for the Packer to end the charade of harmony and trade Rodgers? Love was inserted into the lost cause to mixed results. They will need to see what they have in their former first round pick before too long. However, one game does not make a season. It bears watching going forward though. 

5. Do the Chiefs have a good enough stop unit?

The Browns are well coached and talented but there’s no reason for the Chiefs defense not to be at least middle of the pack. They were dominated by Cleveland until they were forced to buck up in the fourth quarter. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the league armed with an impressive arsenal but even he can’t keep on rescuing the defense repeatedly. The defense will need to step up better than they showed on week one. 

6. Bears Post “Help Wanted” ad for Left Tackle

It’s been an arduous journey for the left tackle position for Chicago as rookie Teven Jenkins was already injured. His replacement, aging veteran Jason Peters was injured early Sunday. The replacement for Peters, Larry Borom, was injured during the same game. They are one snap away from having to play Germain Ifedi at left tackle. Chicago’s offense was already labeled as a struggling unit, with these injuries, it will be tough for either Andy Dalton or Justin Fields to get any traction. It might be a long year for Matt Nagy. 

7. It’s still Atlanta United’s stadium, Falcons!

The Falcons struggled mightily against a retooling Eagles team, failing to impress anyone. The poor offensive line was a sieve and allowed Matt Ryan to get hit repeatedly, resulting in one iconic image. Defensively, they weren’t any great shakes either save for a few performances from Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, and AJ Terrell. HC Arthur Smith’s team had a great opening drive or three but it all fell downhill afterwards. The losses may continue with the defending champion Buccaneers next on the docket. Coach Smith’s will and coaching ability is going to be seriously tested as the Dirty Birds escape from the last vestiges of the ill fated Dan Quinn era. It’s still Atlanta United’s stadium and the Falcons are paying rent for the right to play in it with a random Kanye cameo.