(Welcome to Footyballs. If you’re new here, this is how it works. First off, it’s all and only about the NFL, aka the Niffle. Every week I write a “Monday Wrap-Up” column, and a “Four-For-Friday” column in which I choose four upcoming games to analyze and predict. In between Monday and Friday I write an in-depth column or two on something else: a player, a current Niffle issue, an aspect of the game. My focus is on how narratives affect outcomes. And also, just to spread the joy of football, because football is super-rad and I love it. You can follow me on Twitter as well. Go Broncos.)
Okay, good job Jets. They went into Patriot-land and managed to take a 17–16 lead into the 4th quarter. After getting strip-sacked on the opening drive, leading to a New England field goal, Ryan Fitzpatrick settled down and played a really good game, picking up several key 3rd-downs and leading a couple of 80-plus yard td drives. And maybe if Brandon Marshall makes that catch — difficult, but it hit him in the hands — in the end-zone, score is 24–16 instead of 20–16, who knows what would’ve happened? But the thing with the Pats, is that Bill Belichick has a secret magic hoodie. I mean check it out, he looks like a character from Lord of the Rings, but with a headset, which is double secret magic-power. Billy Belichickey stole 3 points yesterday with a challenge flag that moved a ball-spot back one yard, negating a Jets first down and forcing a punt. New England takes the ball from their own 41 and drives 31 yards for a field goal to take a 13–10 lead into halftime. New England’s other scoring drives in the first half started from the Jets 19 and 47 yard-lines, which is excellent situational football; no one understands the true importance of opportunity-taking better than Belichick and the Pats. And no team is better-coached. Did you notice the way Patrick Chung knocked that ball out of that Jets tight-end’s hands in the end-zone in the first quarter? It was the exact same sneaky technique that Sterling Moore used to do the exact same thing to Lee Evans, against the Ravens in the AFC Championship game in 2012. It’s clearly a specific technique that’s been coached, and it took 4 points off the board for the Jets, turning a td into a field goal. Add 3 points (the Pats’ field goal following that challenge flag) and 4 points (the play by Chung) together, and you have 7 points. Which, in a game that the Patriots won 30–23, well, there you go. Meanwhile, a coaching blunder on the opposite side was key as well. Todd Bowles is new to the AFC East, and hasn’t played against Tom Brady very much, so Footyballs will cut him a little slack. But on 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter, you don’t rush just 4 players, sit in zone-coverage, and give Tom Brady time. Because if you do, he’ll beat you. Which he did. Darrelle Revis called that the play of the game, and he was right, it was the backbreaker. The Jets played a good game, though, were in it from start to almost-finish, and will see the Patriots again in a few weeks. Should be a barnburner.
That’s Stefon Diggs, henceforth known as Stefon Diggity, in the midst of eye-knifing the Lions. Footyballs is happy to toot my own horn and point out that I called this one, both the Vikings’ win and Mr. Diggity’s role. The catch above, which you probably saw on replays, was one of those holy-mackerel-no-he-didn’t-catch-that, oh-man-he-did type of uber-rad plays, and it gave the Vikings their first lead of the game at 22–17. Footyballs watched him a few weeks ago against the Broncos, and he was the main reason that game was as close as it was, had several big 3rd-down catches that extended drives. When teams get star-like contributions from rookie 5th-round draft picks, it’s a difference-maker. Minnesota has a tough schedule, with road games at the Raiders, Falcons, Cardinals and Packers in the back half, plus the Rams, Seahawks, Giants and Packers again at home. But they’re in good position at 4–2, they broke an 8-game division road-game losing streak — an important monkey to get off the back — and they’re a fun team finding their identity at the right time. Go Vikings go!
Meanwhile, the Lions are soooo bad. Footyballs never liked the Jim Caldwell hire, he just looks like that way too often, like he’s concerned but doesn’t know what to do about it, and then he claps his hands. Why are you clapping, Jim Caldwell. Nobody knows. Yeah, he took that Colts team to the S-Bowl, but that was prime unstoppable Pey-Pey era Colts, and he clearly got outcoached by Sean Payton, that was the difference in that game. The Lions are one of five teams, along with the Seahawks, Colts, Ravens and Cowboys, who were in the playoffs last year and have losing records this year. Which, is one of the things that makes the Niffle so sweet, that kind of year-to-year unpredictability.
E-Bear! This was the coolest thing that happened on Sunday. Eric Berry, a year after missing a season while undergoing chemo to treat Hodgkins disease, with this diving pick, his first since returning. That’s just so sweet. Footyballs saw his post-game celebration and didn’t get it, but now I do. He’s shooting an arrow, because he’s a Chief. Good job E-bear. And good job Chiefies, breaking a 5-game losing streak. They are probably still done, in a fairly stacked AFC, but hopefully at least can climb out of the Hole of Embarrassment. Which, at the bottom of that hole, are the Texans. Holy horribleness, Batman. How can they be so bad? The craziest thing about that game — a game in which they were down 41–0 at the half, and at one point had been outgained, in terms of yardage, 221–0, and that’s not a typo — is that they also had three fumbles, all of which they recovered. Point being, it could’ve been worse.
In other sad-teams news, the Bills had to rely on EJ Manuel, and lost to the Jaguars. The Browns managed to score a total of 6 points against the Rams. The Redskins managed to come back from down 24–0, at home against the Buccaneers, to win 31–30, which, is really sad for both teams, when you think about it. And the Chargers farted on themselves at home, losing to the Raiders 37–29 in a game that was 37–6 entering the 4th quarter. Without Antonio Gates, notably, who is the difference-maker player for this team; no Antonio means no chance for the Chargers, pretty much.
The best game of the day, outside of Jets-Patriots, was Panthers-Eagles. The Panthers have the formula they want, and are playing great team football, getting contributions from stars and less-heralded players on both sides of the ball. They look like the strongest team in the NFC to Footyballs. But the interesting team in this game was the Eaglets, honestly. All three picks that Cammity-Cam threw were just great plays by Philly, takeaways as opposed to turnovers, Eagles’ defense is quietly very good. Everyone talks about Byron Maxwell and his big contract, but he had one of those three picks last night. The player he replaced, Cary Williams, had a big mouth and also gave up a lot of big plays; Williams is currently in Seattle, starting opposite Richard Sherman, and is an obvious weak link on the Seahawks’ D. And the Eagles offense is starting to turn over. Cris Collinsworth called it out, and Footyballs agrees, Sam Bradford looked a lot better; like a player who has had two busted knees, but is starting to come out of his injury-shell. The photo above was an on-the-money td pass, Josh Norman just made a great play to break it up. Another td pass hit Eaglet receiver Josh Huff in the hands, and he didn’t catch it, one of several drops by Philly receivers. Collinsworth related the pre-game convo he and Al Michaels had with Chip Kelly, and in the process gave a great breakdown of the inside of Chip Kelly’s brain, which everyone thinks is such a mysterious place. But it’s not, all those offseason moves were all in regards to the salary cap, which is as important as anything for determining success in the modern Niffle. The Eagles’ plan is clear, and if Bradford stays healthy, Footyballs thinks they’ll go on a run and win the NFC East.
Anyways, it was another lovely football day. Footyballs hopes you have some pretty fall trees where you live, like we do here in Coloraddy. See y’all back here later this week.