Wow. That’s all there really is to say after a stunning Week 7. We had some many incredible finishes – Justin Tucker misses first career PAT to lose the game, Panthers come back from 17 down in the fourth quarter – and now it’s time to analyze the outcomes by picking some winners and losers from NFL Week 7.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings (Won 37-17 at NYJ))
It’s crazy to think that despite winning by 20 on the road, the Vikings didn’t even play to their full capacity. Unfortunately for the rest of the NFC North, (and the NFC for that matter) the Vikings proved once again that they are a top five team and are starting to get back into the groove of things. Kirk Cousins had another solid game with 241 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Latavius Murray averaged 4.6 yards per carry and had two touchdowns. Adam Thielen also had over 100 receiving yards again, so it’s safe to say him and Cousins are clicking on all cylinders. The scary part about this offensive performance is that for the most part, they struggled. They covered just 13% of third downs and could have easily won this game by much more if they would have taken advantage of their opportunities. However, we still have to remember they scored 37 points, and it’s also crucial that they were able to succeed in the running game for the second week in a row, giving them offensive balance. The defense is the major takeaway from this game however, as they allowed just 263 total yards, absolutely stuffed New York’s rushing attack, and forced four turnovers. They even held the Jets to a 15% third down conversion rate, thus cancelling out their offense’s issues of converting. The defense is finally back to its elite form from last season, and with Kirk Cousins and the offense still playing at an above average level, the Vikings are the best bet to win their division and to secure a first round bye along with the Rams. Next up, the Saints at home on Sunday Night Football.
Loser: Baltimore Ravens (Lost 24-23 vs NO)
When people think of this close affair between the Saints and the Ravens, many will think of Justin Tucker’s missed extra point with 20 seconds left with a chance to tie the game as the main reason they lost. That wasn’t the case, however, and the real reason for this loss has to concern Ravens fans: their defense is good, but it can’t hold down elite offenses for four quarters. The Ravens had New Orleans beat. Heading into the fourth quarter, they had a ten point lead at home and seemed to have all the momentum. What happened next was shoking and a complete collapse. Baltimore let the Saints score 17 unanswered, had no answer for Drew Brees, and the offense collapsed until they were practically given a free touchdown on the last drive due to extremely poor defense by the Saints. If the Ravens want to be a serious Super Bowl contender, they need to be able to close out good offenses and keep them contained. Joe Flacco isn’t going to win any shoot outs, as proven Sunday in the fourth quarter, so the defense realistically needs to allow twenty points or less in order for them to have a shot at winning. That was exposed Sunday, as well as their lack of defensive speed, and the Ravens went from Super Bowl Contender to playoff hopeful in one quarter, as at 4-3 they are currently on the fringe. What makes things even worse is that their next two matchups- at Carolina, versus Pittsburgh- are extremely tough, which means there is a good chance they’ll be 4-5 by Week 10. What a quick turnaround.
Winner: Detroit Lions (Won 32-21 at MIA)
The Lions were expected to go into Miami and beat the Brock Osweiler led Dolphins, but how they did it should make Lions fan optimistic for what the future holds. For the first time in practically for ever, the Detroit finally found offensive balance. They ran the ball for 248 yards, with rookie running back Kerryon Johnson averaging 8.3 yards per carry on his way to rushing for 158 yards. This allowed Matt Stafford to be super efficient – he completed 82% of his passes- which is when the Lions offense is at its best. The defense allowed 21 points, but they had four sacks and didn’t need to be spectacular with how the offense was playing. What we saw yesterday was how unstoppable the Lions offense can be with some sort of balance, and they’ll look to continue to do so with a winnable game at home against the Seahawks. A playoff berth doesn’t seem so far fetched now.
Loser: Cincinnati Bengals (Lost 45-10 at KC)
Against the high-powered Chiefs offense, the Bengals defense can be excused for their struggles on Sunday Night Football. What is inexcusable however, is how bad the offense played against arguably the worst defense in the NFL. Andy Dalton once again struggled in primetime, throwing for just 149 yards while throwing a pick six. What makes it even worse is that AJ Green had 117 of those yards and had practically all the targets, so Dalton still isn’t able to trust his other weapons in adversity. There isn’t much to get excited about. The Bengals were out gained by 312 yards, couldn’t get the Chiefs off the field while the offense couldn’t stay on the field, and they averaged just 4.4 yards per play. They got demolished, and it’s clear that the Bengals aren’t a true contender, but more of a pretender. Next week’s matchup at home against the Bucs is the type of winnable game that they’ll barely squeak by and start giving us false hopes of contending once again. We know the drill with Cincinnati by now to not fall for it once again, right?
Winner: Houston Texans (Won 20-7 at JAX)
Despite having the same record as the Jaguars at 3-3 heading into this divisional matchup, many believed the Texans would get destroyed again Jacksonville on the road. Instead, it was Houston that destroyed the Jaguars, and it’s time to start taking them seriously. The Texans finally didn’t rely on Deshaun Watson, as they rushed for 141 yards and only asked him to throw 24 times. In fact, the offense wasn’t that spectacular; it had just 272 total yards. The defense, however, is a different story. Houston held the Jaguars to 259 total yards, stuffed the run, had four sacks, and forced three turnovers. The defense finally looked healthy, and when healthy, they could cause major problems. They also were very physical, which is a good sign considering that was considered one of their weakness. With so much star power and an easy schedule, Houston now is in control of this division and may never look back. A Thursday Night affair with Dolphins gives them an excellent chance of keeping this streak going.
Loser: Philadelphia Eagles (Lost 21-17 vs CAR)
It looked like the defending champs were finally back. After an impressive 21 point road victory last week at the Giants, the Eagles led 17-0 heading into the fourth quarter in a home affair against the Panthers and look bound to be heading to 4-3 and in the thick of the playoff mix. Then, they allowed 21 unanswered points, as both their offense and defense collapsed. They ended up allowing nearly 400 yards of offense to Carolina, allowed Cam Newton to be extremely efficient in the fourth quarter, and couldn’t get them off the field. The offense also stalled, and despite Carson Wentz’s impressive stat line, weren’t as efficient as indicated. They were one dimensional towards the pass, which led to poor clock management and a failure to close out this game. If they can’t figure out ho to get the running game going along with how to stop allowing big plays, the defending champs will be watching the playoffs from home. Now seems like a good time to call the Cardinals (David Johnson, Patrick Peterson) or the Steelers (Le’Veon Bell).