The NFL is officially back. If the ratings didn’t spike this weekend, they surely will next Sunday. That’s because week 10 had it all, from great matchups, thrilling finishes, and unbelievable plays to epic beatdowns, heroic performances, and heartbreaking collapses. The Steelers and Cowboys epic featured a fake spike that worked and 5 two-point conversions that didn’t. There was a hook and ladder touchdown that capped off a 99-yard drive and a controversial game winning blocked extra point return. The NFL is full of surprises every week (as evidenced by the existence of this column), but the so-called “No Fun League” was straight bonkers on Sunday. Donald Trump is president; America needs football, now, more than ever.
The Saints losing another heartbreaker: This was no ordinary heartbreaking loss. Despite three turnovers from the hands of their rookie receiver, Michael Thomas, the Saints found a way to take the lead with just a minute remaining—or so it seemed. Denver’s block and return snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the Super Dome, with a little help from the sideline official. This could be the straw that breaks the Saint’s spirit, but the Falcon’s loss means they can still win the division. Come late December, though, this game might come back to haunt them.
The ending of that Dallas and Pittsburgh game: Ben Roethlisberger masterfully led the Steelers down the field in crunch time, capped off by a perfectly executed fake spike to Antonio Brown, only to be outdone (as so many have been this season) by a rookie 4th round pick. Dak Prescott makes playing quarterback look so easy. It helps that he’s handing the ball off to the best rookie running back since Adrian Peterson, who’s running behind the best offensive line in football. That’s exactly what they did in the final minute of Sunday’s thriller. Elliot capped off an incredible game, bursting up the middle straight to the endzone.
Houston had double digits in passing and rushing yards…and won: Of all the terrible performances the Jags have given their fans, this one deserves its own category. Blake Bortles was serving up pick sixes like they were Bacardi and Cokes on the upper deck swimming pool at Ever Bank field. How does any quarterback throw fewer than 100 yards in a game in this day and age of the NFL? Lamar Miller finished with 83 yards to make Houston’s offensive performance downright shameful. They only have one quarterback to thank, and he was wearing a two-tone helmet on Sunday.
Pick Six City FTW: Bortles service wasn’t the only quarterback handing out game balls to the opponent. Phillip Rivers threw 4 second-half interceptions, including a pick-six to Kiko Alonso that buried the Chargers. Last year’s MVP got in the action as well. Cam threw a jump ball to Eric Berry, which he promptly took the house. Kelvin Benjamin tried to make his QB feel better by fumbling the ball with less than a minute left, ostensibly ending the game.
Tennessee dropping the hammer on Green Bay: Two weeks ago, Tennessee laid the smackdown on Jacksonville. It was an impressive victory, but the Jaguars aren’t very good. Apparently, neither is Green Bay. A week after an embarrassing loss at Lambeau against the Colts, the Packers didn’t even show up to play on Sunday. The Titans are an impressive young team, but nobody expected them to put up 35 points in the first half against anyone—let alone a perennial playoff team. It’s hard to believe, but if Mike McCarthy doesn’t right the ship this year, it could be his last as Green Bay’s head coach.
Another touchdown-less win for the Rams: Jeff Fisher seems to take pride in such performances. Yet another week when Rams fans were left wondering how good Jared Goff would look under center. The Jets secondary has been abused all season, but they had no trouble keeping Case Keenum out of the endzone for four quarters. With such a stout defense, Fisher owes it to his team and the fans to play his best quarterback. If that’s Keenum, then Los Angeles has bigger problems.
Things that shouldn’t have surprised anyone
Pittsburgh going for 2 came back to haunt them: Moving the extra point line back has proved to be a much bigger deal than most expected, as it’s clearly not the chip shot it used to be. Still, coaches should be able to rely on their kickers to knock it through every time. Mike Tomlin’s decision to go for two, before he needed the points, ended up changing both team’s crunch time strategy. There’s no way to know how things would’ve played out if he chose to kick PAT’s, but the higher percentage play still seems to be the best option right now.
The Vikings miss Adrian Peterson: It’s hard to believe how well Sam Bradford is playing, given how poorly his supporting cast is performing. Prior to the trade, Bradford was looked at as a game manager with significant limitations, while the Vikings were seen as a team that had everything but a good quarterback (once Bridgewater went down). When Bradford starting dealing right off the bat, Minnesota suddenly looked like a Super Bowl contender. Now, their running game is non-existent, making them one-dimensional on offense, and their defense has taken a step back. Fortunately for the Vikings, the Packers are a mess, so Detroit is their primary competition.
Seattle and New England put on a show: Well, Seattle is officially back. The Patriots defense has been a concern all year, but their offense put up 24 points against an elite Seahawk defense. They might have scored 31 if they had learned from Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl blunder and handed the ball to their running back on the goal line. Given that these teams won’t meet again, unless it’s in the Super Bowl, New England shouldn’t be too worried about this loss. It’s a big win for the Seahawks, though, as it puts them firmly in the NFC west driver seat. Their offense is back on track and the defense will return to form once Michael Bennett returns.