Hey y’all. This is the first installment in a New Arena series called “Week In Rewind”. Each Tuesday, I’ll reflect on what went down that week and pick out some of the most important things we learned.
The NFL is unique because so much can change from game to game. And with only 16 games to prove itself, each team’s true talent and Super Bowl prospects can vary wildly from week to week. It’s all about separating the signal from the noise, and that’s what I’m here to do.
I’ll cover each week with some recurring segments (e.g. “Biggest Loser”, “Tank Watch”), but will pepper in some new segments each week. If you have ideas for any segments you’d like me to add, get at me on Twitter.
Biggest Winner(s) – Tennessee/Washington
I had to go with two winners here because they both had huge wins against very talented opponents. Jacksonville gets an honorable mention, but it’s hard to respect results from London games – there’s just too much wonkiness going on there. Much like Thursday Night Football.
Tennessee beat Seattle 33-27 in a very entertaining game Sunday. The Titans were actually favored by 2.5 points, which might say more about where Seattle has fallen to. But Mariota and the Titans showed patience and resilience, pounding the run for nearly 200 yards and taking shots when they had to. This was a big test, and Tennessee now finds themselves at 2-1, with a 1-0 division record that gives them a leg up in the AFC South.
Washington absolutely trounced the Raiders on Sunday Night Football, which was a shock to pretty much everyone involved. Cousins and the offense rolled all night long, proving that they don’t miss outside threats DeSean Jackson (now a Buc) and Pierre Garçon (now a Niner) as much as I thought they would. And though this might have been Chris Thompson’s coming out party, it’s the Washington defense that impressed even more. They throttled the Raiders attack, stifling Beastmode and continually pounding Oakland’s talented skill players, forcing incompletions and tossing Derek Carr to the turf with impunity.
Biggest Loser – New York Giants
The Giants get tagged with Biggest Loser this week after narrowly missing out on the Biggest Winner title. They entered the 4tth quarter down 14-0 to the Eagles, staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start. Then, their offense caught fire as Eli tossed three touchdowns in the space of eight minutes.
But then everything went to shit. The Eagles clapped back with a tuddie of their own, and though Big Blue briefly took a 24-21 lead at the three-minute mark, the Eagles tied up the game in the final minute. Then, they crushed the Giants’ souls with a walk-off 61-yard field goal as time expired.
So the Giants are 0-3 after all, but only after having their emotions toyed with to a cruel degree. They already have two division losses, and still haven’t played Washington, who looked exceptional beating the Raiders on SNF.
Sleeper Awakens – Chris Thompson
Well, there’s exactly zero others players I could have picked. Sure, Kareem Hunt had another monstrous game (183 total yards, TD), but he’s old news at this point. Heck, he’s leading the league in rushing by more than 100 yards.
But forget about Hunt, Thompson is the story here. He dazzled viewers with half a dozen athletic catches, that looked like they’d be difficult for most receivers to make. He totaled 150 yards receiving, gaining 74 of them on one long screen play. He flowed like water through the Oakland defense, juking defenders and picking up extra yards with ease. With Fat Rob Kelley suffering from a painful rib injury, we might get to see a lot more of Thompson in the coming weeks.
Dominating Performance – Stefon Diggs
Fantasy owners of Diggs grew concerned when Sam Bradford went down with his inevitable yearly injury. But it turns out, as long as you have a semblance of a professional QB under center, Diggs will put in work. The third year man out of Maryland put together an astonishing performance, catching eight balls for 173 yards and two TDs. That accounted for nearly half of Case Keenum’s passing yards on an afternoon when the Vikings walloped Tampa Bay 34-17. With rookie tailback Dalvin Cook looking like the real deal and slot man Adam Thielen snagging balls left and right, Minny has an enviable collection of playmakers on offense. If they can keep getting Diggs the ball, it might not matter who’s at quarterback.
Just kidding, it matters a lot.
Most Devastating Injury – Lavonte David
This injury sucks for the Bucs. David is the point-man for a young defense on the rise, so losing him means losing not only talent, but a leader on the field. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler who stuffs the stat sheet with tackles, sacks, and interceptions. He’s expected to miss more than a month with a high ankle sprain, but that’s an optimistic reading of a very tough injury to bounce back from. Plus, the Bucs have a tough stretch coming up: vs. Giants, vs. Patriots, @ Cardinals, @ Bills. For a team with aspirations of a divisional title or at least a Wild Card berth, this could be season altering.
It’s also worth mentioning one of the single worst plays that has ever occurred to a beloved player. Darren Sproles managed to break his arm and tear his ACL on the same freaking play. That is awful. But considering that the Eagles have more depth at that position, David gets the nod.
Well, the Jets managed to win a game thanks to the legendary incompetence of Jay Cutler and the Dolphins (yeah that still sounds weird). That leaves Cleveland and San Francisco as the only two winless teams who appear to be losing games on purpose. Both of these pits of despair got dangerously close to hurting their stock in the Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen sweepstakes, with the Niners almost pulling out a win in possibly the best Thursday Night Football game of all time. The dark horse here might be Cincinnati, who might be able to guarantee 0-16 by continuing to start Andy Dalton.
Image Sources: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports, Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports, Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports, Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports, Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports, Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports, David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports