ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It rained right here all morning, snowed as night time fell, and in between, the Patriots’ 2020 season turned to mud and slid into close by Lake Erie.
Sure, the Payments (6-2) beat the Patriots (2-5) on Sunday, which isn’t any small factor. They play twice a yr, and this was the primary time since 2016 that Buffalo received one of many video games. It was the primary time the Payments beat the Patriots below present head coach Sean McDermott. It was simply the sixth time in 41 video games — FORTY-ONE!!! — that Invoice Belichick misplaced to Buffalo as head coach of the Patriots.
It was nerve-wracking, as curse-busting video games should all the time be. No Payments fan over the age of 5 felt good about this factor till Cam Newton‘s fumble with 31 seconds left gave the ball again to Buffalo for good. However the first-place Payments did win, and they’re 3½ video games forward of the Patriots with a half-season left to play. And whereas their October wasn’t as brilliantly breezy as their September was — and their November appears to be like something however straightforward — the Payments exorcised a pesky demon. They’ve, in the intervening time, earned the fitting to name themselves the category of the AFC East.
The Patriots … not a lot. They’ve misplaced 4 in a row. Their Sunday landing whole (two) matched their whole from their earlier three video games mixed. Newton and the Damien Harris-led run recreation seemed higher than they’d shortly, however by too little, too late, and the story of the subsequent two days can be whether or not the Patriots are trade-deadline sellers about to surrender on a season for the primary time in twenty years.
These are two groups headed in reverse — and fairly uncommon — instructions. If we hadn’t been watching one dominate the opposite because the flip of the century, this outcome would not have raised an eyebrow. It might have simply been one first-place group sweeping one third-place group into the dustbin and transferring on into the second half of its season.
However as a substitute, it was Patriots-Payments, turned on its head, and so we should start this week’s overreaction column with …
The AFC East race is OVER
Look, at this level, the one purpose to consider the Patriots will win this factor is you could’t rely out Belichick till the maths says you possibly can. However there’s solely a lot one genius can do. The Patriots had 5 energetic extensive receivers on the roster Sunday. All 5 had been undrafted, three throughout the previous two years. Critically, take into consideration that the subsequent time you get on the Packers’ case for ready till the second spherical to draft receivers for Aaron Rodgers.
I am not saying Newton has been good — removed from it, and he admits as a lot. However this New England group is outmanned each week on at the least one aspect of the ball, and when cornerback Stephon Gilmore does not play (as he didn’t Sunday), it is each.
The remainder of the Patriots’ schedule does not look robust — apart from the Ravens recreation in two weeks — however let’s be actual. They do not appear like a troublesome spot on different groups’ schedules proper now. Buffalo does, and it has a 3.5-game lead with a head-to-head win in hand. The Pats are cooked. Nevertheless …
The decision: OVERREACTION. As a result of the Dolphins, you guys! Even when you’re prepared to concede that the Patriots cannot come again, you need to keep in mind that there is a group in between Buffalo and New England, and it is Miami, which simply embarrassed Jared Goff and the Rams on Sunday to enhance to 4-3 and keep inside a recreation and a half of the Payments.
Buffalo beat Miami in Week 2, however solely by a area purpose, and take a look at the remaining schedules. The Payments have Seattle and Arizona the subsequent two weeks, then an emotionally exhausting fourth-quarter comeback win towards the Chargers adopted by video games towards the 49ers and Steelers. The Dolphins have video games left towards the Chiefs and Raiders and Payments, however in addition they have an actual juicy Chargers/Broncos/Jets/Bengals stretch arising whereas the Payments take care of their gauntlet.
If rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can play — and he actually wasn’t examined Sunday, because the Dolphins’ protection simply saved turning over Goff — then Miami has an actual shot to make that Week 17 recreation in Buffalo a Sunday night time, prime-time division title recreation. Don’t rule out Brian Flores’ bunch.
The Rams are the league’s worst five-win group
The flip aspect of Miami’s win Sunday was the Rams’ loss, and an unpleasant one at that. Los Angeles outgained Miami 471 yards to 175, had a 36:29 time of possession and picked up 31 first downs to the Dolphins’ eight … and it wasn’t even within the recreation within the second half.
4 first-half turnovers by Goff sunk L.A. right into a 28-10 halftime gap, and Miami performs ok protection that the Rams weren’t going to come back again from that. Goff’s Total QBR for the sport was 12.9 — and keep in mind, that is on a scale of zero to 100. The Rams had been as unhealthy Sunday as any group within the league.
The decision: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Their solely competitors for this honor comes from the Browns and the Bears. Coincidentally, the Bears are the one non-NFC East group the Rams have crushed this season. They will not see the Browns except they each make the Tremendous Bowl, and I would not maintain my breath on that.
Sunday’s recreation could not have arrange higher for the Rams, particularly after Aaron Donald pressured a Tagovailoa fumble on the Dolphins’ second play and the Rams scored the sport’s first landing just a few performs later. However then Goff began turning it over, and the Dolphins ran again a punt for a landing. And the Rams watched the sport get away from them.
L.A. is in third place within the league’s hardest division, and the unhealthy information is it does not get any extra video games towards the NFC East. It will get the Seahawks, Buccaneers, 49ers and Cardinals over the subsequent 4 weeks. If we’re incorrect in regards to the Rams right here, they’ve an opportunity to show it. However they will must play quite a bit higher than they did in Miami.
Sorry, Steelers — the Chiefs are nonetheless the most effective group within the AFC
The Steelers held off reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday to enhance to 7-0. It’s the solely remaining unbeaten group within the league. Its victory, whereas removed from dominant, makes a good case to be thought-about extra spectacular than the Chiefs’ layup over the winless Jets, given the diploma of issue.
It comes one week after the Steelers beat the Titans, who had been undefeated previous to that recreation. There’s nothing in regards to the Steelers’ season to dislike, and voting the league’s solely undefeated group as the most effective within the league isn’t going to be a horrible concept.
Patrick Mahomes throws for 416 yards and connects with 4 gamers on 5 touchdowns, because the Chiefs rout the Jets, 35-9.
The decision: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Layups rely, too, and the Chiefs seemed nearly pristine in doing what they wanted to do towards the Jets. Pittsburgh’s protection is a dominant unit, however Ben Roethlisberger does not look practically as dominatingly sharp as Patrick Mahomes, who threw 5 landing passes Sunday. The Chiefs are just about doing calisthenics proper now, staying unfastened for January and a shot at a repeat title run. They’re on cruise management.
What Pittsburgh is doing is spectacular, and it’d properly be the most effective group. But it surely’s additionally doable we overthink these items, and the one purpose the Chiefs aren’t beating each group by 28 each week is that the common season does not have their full consideration. I am nonetheless taking Kansas Metropolis till I see a superb purpose to really feel in any other case.
The two-5 Vikings can nonetheless make the playoffs
The Vikings’ victory over the Packers was amongst Sunday’s weirdest. Operating again Dalvin Cook returned from harm with 226 total yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Minnesota fell behind Aaron Rodgers & Co. twice within the first half and simply saved coming again, utilizing Prepare dinner as a bludgeon towards a perpetually surprised Inexperienced Bay protection that seemed as if it had by no means seen him earlier than.
The Vikings are nonetheless in final place within the NFC North, however they’re the one group of their division that received this week, they usually beat the first-place group to do it. Inexperienced Bay has misplaced two of its previous three.
The decision: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The Vikings are merely one instance of why this issues, however their victory makes them a worthwhile one: For the primary time, seven groups from every convention will make the playoffs. Which means a 2-5 file will not be as discouraging because it was. If the season ended right this moment, the NFC wild-card groups can be the 5-2 Cardinals, the 5-2 Buccaneers and the 5-3 Rams, whose legitimacy we have already referred to as into query right here.
Mathematically, the Vikings usually are not impossibly behind the Rams, and the one group between them that at present has a successful file is the overrated Bears. Chicago, two weeks from now, is the one group the Vikings will play between now and Dec. 13 that at present has a successful file.
I do not know if they’ll get there. Heck, they only traded large offseason commerce acquisition Yannick Ngakoue and won’t even technically be “going for it” at this level. But it surely’s vital, because the second half of this season unfolds, that you simply be mindful the purpose in regards to the expanded playoffs. And “Whoa, the Vikings aren’t out of it but?” is pretty much as good a manner as any to maintain that in thoughts.
The 49ers want a quarterback
Seattle’s go protection is the worst within the NFL — by quite a bit. Coming into Sunday, the Seahawks had been permitting a mean of 57.3 extra passing yards per recreation than some other group. Of their first seven video games, the one group that did not throw for at the least 300 yards towards them was Minnesota in Week 5. The Seahawks got here in permitting 7.71 yards per try, and with out their finest security and finest cornerback.
And Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers could not throw it towards them. Garoppolo was 11-for-16 passing for 84 yards earlier than leaving in the second half with an ankle injury. Nick Mullens relieved him and went 18-for-25 for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
Yeah, the video games was roughly in hand by then. However the stark distinction between the difficulty Garoppolo had transferring the ball and the benefit with which Mullens moved it can’t be defined just by shrugging and saying, “Rubbish time.” One wonders if the Niners would have had a greater probability to win this recreation had Garoppolo not injured his ankle sooner.
The decision: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Garoppolo is ok, and clearly the Niners have received loads of video games with him — he is 22-8 because the starter within the common season. San Francisco’s harm state of affairs this season is unequalled league-wide, and it is likely to be unfair to evaluate anybody in consequence. However Garoppolo’s inconsistencies — be they of efficiency or availability — have turn out to be an excessive amount of for an in any other case regular group to disregard.
Do they go along with Mullens on Thursday towards Inexperienced Bay, whether or not Garoppolo’s ankle is ok or not? Do they give thought to making a change within the second half of the season? It feels inevitable that they at the least take into account options within the offseason, and the way in which Garoppolo’s contract is structured permits them to switch him fairly simply if that is what they resolve to do.
Once more, he is not their greatest downside. However they’ve given him sufficient of an opportunity to show he will be the steadying, constant presence they want on the place. That the jury has remained out this lengthy would possibly inform all of them they should know.