3 Big Things And 3 Smaller Things From The NFL Season So Far

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 03: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

It’s official; it’s time to put the last nail in the coffin for the Seattle Seahawks’ postseason hopes. After another dispiriting loss, Pete Carroll and crew can probably start looking to plans past this season. That is if this particular cast is still around for future seasons to come. This brings us to our first big thing…

  1. Russell Wilson looks checked out. 

Which is bad on multiple fronts. It’s terrible for the coaching staff, especially for Shane Waldron, who was supposed to bring in a new and fresh system that made the most of Seattle’s personnel. It’s bad for Wilson, whose resume as an all-time great will undoubtedly take a hit this season, especially after failing to pull through in multiple games when the game was on the line. Most importantly, it’s bad for the future of the franchise.

Change of some sort seems on the horizon, what that change is to be determined. Most likely, a new coach will be at the reins. The more prescient question, though, is whether or not it’s enough to persuade Wilson to stay in town. Also up for debate is whether or not John Schneider will be the one choosing this new path and making the pitch to his star QB.

In the meantime, the defense is playing much-improved ball. As long as that happens, Pete Carroll will keep his job in season. The question is how much more time Waldron will be given to fix the flaws in his scheme to actually string together successful drives. Another run like Seattle has had the past three games (3 touchdowns in 31 offensive possessions) – don’t be surprised if Seattle goes back to its ground and pound roots.

  1. The Las Vegas Raiders are probably done.

You can never say never, especially in a weak AFC – but even at 6-5, it’s time to start wondering what the Raiders’ next era will look like. After a couple of valiant wins headlined by interim coach Rich Bisaccia, their ship seems to have finally sunk from an increasing amount of dramatic ocean water breaching its hull. 

Outside of their valiant win against the Cowboys, the Raiders have been outscored by 54 points. Quarterback Derek Carr had come down to earth since the departure of his top wideout, tossing an even four touchdowns and four interceptions during their three-game losing streak. What looked to be an improving defense has fallen apart as teams have been able to mitigate the damage that defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby can cause, allowing a flawed secondary to become picked apart. As a unit, they’ve given up 32.0 points per game – impossible for even a not-struggling Derek Carr to overcome.

The most concerning trend is that the Raiders’ inability to capitalize on fast starts the last couple of seasons, letting things midseason. People attributed that to former Head Coach Jon Gruden, but those troubles have remained with this team even after his dismissal. 

  1. A lack of dominant teams indicates a wild postseason

Here is a look at the teams that have eight or more wins in the NFL:

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Tennessee Titans
  4. Arizona Cardinals
  5. Green Bay Packers
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The best record of the bunch is 9-3, held by the Packers – a team that is quarterbacked by a Covid-denier who demanded to leave the team less than six months ago. The Titans and Cardinals are both dealing with injuries to their respective top players (Derrick Henry, Kyler Murray) and have looked particularly vulnerable against anyone they play. The Ravens have no excuse but are constantly forced to pull games out of their buttocks as they have struggled against the likes of the Lions, Dolphins, and Bears. The Buccaneers and Patriots look like the safest bets – not surprising considering both franchises are led by dynasty-defining figureheads. Yet, Tom Brady increasingly looks his age more and more every week, while the Bucs once stout defense has proven to be a lot more flammable than previously believed. On the other hand, the Pats look the most balanced on offense and defense – but are led by a rookie QB who has been good but not great.

All this makes for many unknowns, especially when it comes to projecting the postseason. Previously moribund franchises like the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, and even playoff hopefuls like the Washington Football Team and Los Angeles Chargers are staring at a genuine possibility of a deep playoff run. The NFC, in particular, looks vulnerable, as the 2nd class teams like the Rams and Cowboys have fallen off a cliff these past few weeks. Don’t be surprised if, come January, we’re looking at a Washington vs. Packers championship game.

3 Smaller Things:

  1. Mac Jones looks like the real deal, but is he ready for the big moment?

This looks to be the only real question about this version of the New England Patriots. After a 2-4 start, New England has ridden a suffocating defense and dominant ground game to a six-game winning streak. During this run, their quarterback has performed admirably by disarming reeling defenses with pinpoint accurate passes that has kept the chains moving for New England when they have needed it. Off the field, he has gained the trust of his coach, the frumpy Bill Belichick, and has been embraced as an offensive leader. He has passed every test on his rookie midterms. 

But the latter part of the season is different and could highlight the inefficiencies in his game. While he has been very accurate in the pocket and generally times his throws well, Mac tends to throw a ball or two up for grabs. In games against the horrible Atlanta Falcons or the New York Jets, or even an injured Titans team, that’s not a problem. But against teams like the Bills, Chiefs, or Ravens – who can keep the game close and put both physical and mental pressure on the young QB – it will be interesting to see how he can adapt and whether or not he can resist the urge to throw a vulnerable pass in the most significant moments.

  1. Tua is proving the haters wrong.

Right up until the official NFL trade deadline, Tua Tagovailoa was rumored to be swapped – along with THREE first-round picks – for the former pro bowler and alleged sexual assaulter Deshaun Watson. This was an insane story, but concerns about Tua’s overall health and arm strength had swayed the court of public opinion enough that he was no longer seen as a surefire franchise-starter any longer.

Well… since the trade deadline, Tua has led the Phins to a 3-0 record since his return to health. Over that stretch, he has blitzed opposing defenses to the tune of 8.6 yards per pass attempt, four touchdowns, and just one turnover. Combined with a resurgent defense, Miami has resurrected a lost season and is now, somehow, in the AFC playoff hunt. Questions remain about Tua’s viability as a star, but this last stretch has shown he can play in this league.

  1. Dang, this season feels long…

As the league finally enters its stretch run, it’s wild how prolonged things have felt even though the NFL only decided to tack on one additional game this season. It feels like this for a number of reasons. The large amount of poor football being played by teams still in “contention” (looking at you, Eagles, Broncos, and Washington). The fact bye weeks are STILL happening and are going to continue until week 14. The rash of injuries that have particularly plagued star running backs this season – Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Clyde Edwards-Helare, Chris Carson, to name a few – has put a damper on some exciting teams. 

The NFL has always been a war of attrition, this year more than any other though really has highlighted this. Don’t be surprised if teams like the Patriots or the Packers make it out of their conferences purely because they dodged injuries to their key players – while teams like the Titans and Ravens bow out because they simply run out of depth. The difference between this season and others is that fans can really feel it this year as we enter the winter months; we’ll see who has enough bodies even to make it to January.

About Evan Peper 58 Articles
Seattle born and raised. I wear my fandom on my sleeve, as I bleed Seahawks blue and green and am Sounders’ Til I Die. To fill the basketball-shaped hole in my heart from when the Sonics were taken away from the city of Seattle, I have adopted the Portland Trail Blazers and rep Rip City. I aim to bring an analytical view on the sports world and hope to impart a deeper understanding of the game to my readers.