NFL season, but what did we learn from last week's action? A..."/> NFL season, but what did we learn from last week's action? A..."/> NFL season, but what did we learn from last week's action? A..."/>

Week 8 observations you can steal to impress your friends

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 27: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) carries the ball in the fourth quarter of the football game between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans on October 27, 2019 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 27: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) carries the ball in the fourth quarter of the football game between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans on October 27, 2019 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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We’re halfway through the NFL season, but what did we learn from last week’s action?

A lot of stuff happened on Sunday, but there’s a decent chance you missed some of it. Don’t freak out, no one expects you to have seen everything. That’s our job, and we’ve got your back.

If you find yourself at the water cooler this week and in need of a smart football take to impress your co-workers, stick your hand into this grab bag of observations and thank us later.

San Francisco’s defense is why they’ll probably win the Super Bowl

Robert Saleh. Learn that name and learn it well, for it’s the chilling sound of your favorite team’s Super Bowl doom.

San Francisco’s defensive coordinator may not be the household name that Kyle Shanahan or Jimmy Garropolo are, but he’s perhaps the most important part of the Niners’ success this season.

Not up to speed on just how dangerous San Francisco’s defense is? Saleh’s brooding unit has allowed the second-fewest points in the league and nearly pitched a shutout on Sunday afternoon. The 49ers are tied for the second-most takeaways, have the second-fewest rushing yards allowed and the best passing defense in football.

We always tend to compare great defenses to the 1985 Chicago Bears, but this fast and physical Niners defense is much more comparable to the bulldozing Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in 2002. It should shock no one that the architect of the defense, John Lynch, played on that team and is now emulating a similar style. Nick Bosa is a monster off the edge and probably the a Rookie of the Year, Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford look like two of the best offseason pickups in football, and Richard Sherman has been resurrected.

How do you defend against this:

Or this:

Every level of the Niners defense is terrifying. The secondary destroyed Jameis Winston, allowed nothing more than a field goal to Baker Mayfield and the Browns, and burned the beloved Rams offense in effigy. There’s nothing meticulous about what Saleh is doing, it’s the brute force of controlled anarchy and the Niners are coming at the neck of your favorite team.

San Francisco is the birthplace of thrash and this defense is as heavy metal as it gets.

Let’s work through Chicago’s options at quarterback

You might have heard that Mitchell Trubisky isn’t very good at his job. This take is about as tasty as reheated cabbage, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

In the effort to not drive ourselves mad, let’s drift off into a fantasy world where the Bears decide to bench and go over some immediate and long-term solutions they could roll with:

  • Trade for Cam Newton, which was already unlikely and is even more so now after Kyle Allen’s performance against San Francisco
  • Sign Cam Newton assuming the Panthers cut him and save $20 million, which is unlikely if he takes over and looks like the old Cam.
  • Trade for Eli Manning, which might be affordable but is tremendously shortsighted.
  • Sign Eli Manning, which seems like an alright stop-gap but isn’t much of an upgrade.
  • Sign Teddy Bridgewater, who knows the NFC North and seems to be back to what he was before his knee injury
  • Roll the dice with Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, or Andy Dalton and use them as a stop-gap before drafting a replacement in 2021 when the Bears have a first-round pick again.
  • Sign Philip Rivers after he gets fed up with the Chargers and decides he wants a few good shots at winning a Super Bowl with a capable franchise before he retires.

An alternate option is that the Bears draft a guy in the middle rounds this year and try to develop him behind Trubisky. This could be the most likely outcome since it means the Bears could extend Trubisky and the front office would buy itself a few years to either see if he pans out or to find a solution that takes the blame of failure off them.

We should be pretty impressed with the Chiefs

Kansas City was playing with house money on Sunday night, without Patrick Mahomes and therefore without the expectation of beating the Green Bay Packers. Things turned out much better than anyone was probably expecting — the Chiefs, without their best player, looked like a complete team.

What makes the New Orleans Saints the best team in football is the fact that it can adjust on the fly and self-diagnose problems week-to-week. You know what the Saints are but you don’t always know what you’re going to get. The roster is lean and complete on all levels, which makes them impossible to truly gameplan for.

Kansas City showed elements of that depth on Sunday night, something we hadn’t really seen before. Without Mahomes (and a slew of other All-Pros like Frank Clark and Chris Jones), this game was supposed to be something that is only allowed to air on Cinemax at 2 a.m., but we saw a fight in the team that hasn’t totally been present this season.

Mahomes is a blessing and a curse, a cheat code that makes things so easy that the rest of the team getting lazy is an unintended consequence. Without him, everyone was forced to step up and the result was extremely positive.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1188619213537075200

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1188646157880381440

https://twitter.com/chiefsdaily15/status/1188637646135988229

The Chiefs, without most of their top starters, were a LeSean McCoy fumble and a few unbelievable Aaron Rodgers throws away from winning this game.  No one saw that coming and it’s tremendously encouraging.

Pay attention to the AFC South, because it’s fascinating

One of the most intriguing divisions in football should be one of its worst. However, the AFC South is a street race that no one saw coming.

Right now the Indianapolis Colts are leading the division with a 5-2 record, despite everyone throwing dirt on them before the season when Andrew Luck abruptly retired.

Houston lost J.J. Watt for the rest of the season, but this isn’t the same team that relies on his health the way it has. That’s because they have this guy now:

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1188594099516895232

Where losing Watt usually meant the bell tolled for Houston. But as we’ve seen on more than none occasion this season, as long as Deshaun Watson is involved the Texans aren’t out of anything.

If you told someone back in June that Gardner Minshew would be the Jaguars quarterback, the last thing that person would expect to hear would be that the team is two games out first. Actually, the last thing they’d expect to hear is that Minshew is the Rookie of the Year leader — both of those things are true.

Oh, and speaking of improbable truths we’re telling people from the past: Ryan Tannehill is 2-0 as the Titans starter and has the team (and it’s impressive defense) within striking distance of a Wild Card spot.

Buckle up and pay attention to the AFC South, because the ride is only getting started.