Aaron Rodgers playing great despite Packers collapse

Nov 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) talks in the huddle during the first half against the Green Bay Packers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) talks in the huddle during the first half against the Green Bay Packers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers are playing some awful football, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers is back to looking like the All-Pro he is.

Many complain about the quality of the NFL product, but there were plenty of highly-competitive games on Sunday. It was a great slate of games with five of the seven early games going down to the wire, being decided by six points or less. The late games were even better with all three contests going to the very end with outstanding drama. What a phenomenal day of football. Here are a few takeaways…

Titans feeling good after blowout win

Although it was unsuccessful, the Titans opened the game at home with an onside kick attempt. Shortly after, DeMarco Murray broke off a long touchdown run where he was untouched and then followed that up by throwing a touchdown to Delanie Walker while rolling to his right.

Head coach Mike Mularkey wasn’t taking a conservative approach to this game whatsoever and his players followed suit. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is having an outstanding season, but was ejected very early in this contest. It didn’t matter. Marcus Mariota has been playing extremely well of late and started this game on fire completing his first 10 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Incredibly, 100 of those early yards went to Walker, who was an unstoppable force. This game was 35-16 at the half in utterly dominating fashion.

Mularkey has far more confidence in Mariota now. Mariota ended the day with nearly 300 passing yards and four touchdowns, doing his best work attacking the perimeter. Just as noteworthy was that he didn’t turn the ball over, which has been one of his biggest issues this season. Also, he has become exceptional at using his great feet in order to throw.

In the big picture, progress is clearly being made with the Titans organization and their young quarterback could soon be one of the best in the league.

Aaron Rodgers is still great, even if the Packers are not

While it can be easily overlooked of late, Aaron Rodgers is back to playing great football. The skill players in Green Bay simply have not been good enough this year. Well, with the exception of Davante Adams. Drops are a problem for him still and probably always will, but Adams is Green Bay’s most effective skill guy on offense right now. Adams’ production is not a fluke and he is producing week after week now that he is finally healthy.

Titans corner Perrish Cox was picked on heavily as Jordy Nelson also caught a dozen passes in this contest. The reality is that it wasn’t the Packers’ offense that failed them on this day, but Rodgers still needs more support. While Adams has been impressive and that is highly encouraging, the Packers skill players around Rodgers are among the slowest in the league and this offense is greatly lacking big-play ability, even though Rodgers let quite a few passes fly deep downfield in this losing effort.

Plus, Rodgers has little running game to lean on and every defense he faces knows it. The defense was far worse than Rodgers’ offense. Green Bay is playing very much like a less-than-.500 football team.

Eagles stay alive with win over Falcons

Every point was precious in Philadelphia. The combination of Ryan Mathews with some Wendell Smallwood sprinkled in on the ground, and Darren Sproles being used as an extension of the running game on short throws was very effective for the Eagles. They consistently moved the ball while keeping Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense off the field. Carson Wentz rarely went downfield, which was clearly by design, but made the plays asked of him and did some fine work outside the numbers. Mathews was especially impressive near the goal line. Fumbles have been a problem for him at key moments this year, but Mathews needs to be a focal point of Philadelphia’s offense.

The Eagles rushed for 208 yards and controlled the football for over 38 minutes. It was a very good showing overall by Philadelphia’s offensive line, although Vic Beasley did register another two sacks. This was an excellent game plan by the Eagles that complemented their defense and special teams.

With the exception of one huge play to Tyler Gabriel, it felt like Ryan had Julio Jones and really nothing else, which has been the polar opposite of Atlanta’s offense from the rest of the season. Plus, Ryan’s accuracy was a problem, his receivers dropped too many passes and Atlanta had a tough time getting Fletcher Cox blocked.

This strategy by the Eagles resulted in a huge win to stay in the race in the tough NFC East. Philadelphia’s schedule is very difficult the rest of the way, but this was an impressive win against top competition. Meanwhile, the Falcons were very fortunate that both Carolina and New Orleans lost in heartbreaking fashion.

Steelers, Cowboys put on epic clash

In another great game, the Steelers got up early, something Dallas certainly has not had to deal with often in 2016. The Steelers attempted four two-point conversions and didn’t convert one, and nearly got away with it. That tactic surely will be questioned going forward. Le’Veon Bell vs. Ezekiel Elliott was a battle of possibly the NFL’s top two running backs and extremely enjoyable to watch.

Bell detached near the goal line and caught first the Steelers first touchdown, while Elliott took a perfectly set up screen 83 yards for the Cowboys’ first score at the end of the first quarter. They weren’t close to finished. These two combined for 343 yards and five touchdowns although Elliott’s second touchdown likely was allowed on purpose to give Pittsburgh’s offense a chance with ample time on the clock to end the game.

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Dak Prescott showed that he could go toe to toe with one of the league’s top quarterbacks on the road. It was great to see Dez Bryant much more involved in Dallas’ offense and he had his way with the Steelers’ cornerbacks, especially Artie Burns. Antonio Brown wasn’t too shabby either.

The stars came out to play in this one. These two teams could make a lot of noise going forward and who knows, stranger things have happened, could meet again. That is, if Pittsburgh can even get into the postseason. The Cowboys have won nine in a row. None were more impressive than this one.