NFL

Week 9 observations you can steal to sound smart to your friends and co-workers

Lamar Jackson is taking over the NFL, and other observations you can steal to sound like an NFL expert.

Things are starting to pick up speed as we barrel through the second half of the NFL season. No one is expected to know everything, let alone a busy person such as yourself, so if you are feeling the anxiety of heading to the water cooler after this week of action and not having a fully formed take you feel proud of, we’ve got you covered.

Before we get ahead of ourselves and overthink what is happening in Week 10, stick your hand in our grab bag of observations and pull a few out to sound impressive around the watercooler on Monday.

It cannot be overstated how iconic Lamar Jackson is

I’ve often pondered what Michael Vick would look like in today’s quarterback-friendly NFL. Vick just missed existing in the perfect era, and we only barely got to glimpse what an Andy Reid system could have done for his career.

Lamar Jackson is the answer to that question.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1191198041413259264

Someone do that thing where Kobe is superimposed over Jordan, expect with Jackson and Vick. We’re not as far off from that as you may think, Jackson is what Vick would look like today and he’s only getting better.

Calling Jackson athletic is to tremendously undersell his ability. He cuts on a dime, slicing through defenses and creating plays in almost identical fashion to Patrick Mahomes. He’s improved as a passer — the biggest knock against him — but he’s also won the locker room. The Ravens are Lamar Jackson’s team, full stop. Mark Ingram spoke about Lamar as not only the MVP of the league but as a guy any member of the Ravens would run through a brick wall for, without hesitation. John Harbaugh, rather than try to force Jackson to be something he’s not, decided to construct the team around his strengths and has reinvented the Ravens once again.

Par for the course with Jackson, just about everyone assumed his magical ride this season would come to an end when he collided with the undefeated Patriots. There track record of any quarterback — let alone specifically young ones — against Bill Belichick is not great. But instead of buckling under the pressure, Jackson took Belichick, his schemes, and his lauded defense, and tossed it into an active volcano on national television.

Say it out loud: We all did Lamar Jackson dirty, and it’s never felt so good to have been wrong.

Eagles have a very realistic path to the playoffs

Not that long ago, it looked like the Philadelphia Eagles season was over. The Super Bowl hangover took an extra year to hit, but it had finally caught up to them this season.

But after starting 1-2, the Eagles have slowly begun to find their stride. Following Sunday’s win over the Bears, Philly now sits at 5-3 and just a game back of the Cowboys with a schedule that presents a very clear path to January.

Let’s run through the math quick:

  • Philly has the Patriots, Seahawks, and Cowboys still ahead on the schedule
  • Other than that, the Eagles play the Giants twice, plus the Redskins and Dolphins
  • Assuming Philly loses to the Patriots (which is no sure thing), there are four easy wins left
  • Losing to the Cowboys Week 16 is no sure thing if Philly can continue to heat up and stay in stride
  • The game against the Seahawks could end up being a valuable tiebreaker
  • There are really only two potential losses to point to left on the schedule (Patriots and Cowboys). Assuming the Eagles beat the bad teams they should beat, losing those two games gets Philly to 10-6 which could put them in a position to not only make the playoffs but win the NFC East.

Let’s pretend the Eagles lose to New England but win the other games, they’d head into a Week 16 matchup with the Cowboys that could help decide the NFC East. Dallas has potential losses to the Vikings, Patriots, and Rams between now and then, which would put them either at 9-5 or 8-6 heading into that matchup with the Eagles.

That’s huge.

This is a lot of conjecture, but the ‘tl:dr’ version of this is the Eagles need help from New England, Minnesota, and Los Angeles but mostly control their own destiny to winning the NFC East. There’s an extremely clear path to the playoffs for a team a lot of us had started to write off just a week ago.

Mike Tomlin is the Coach of the Year right now

If we can (rightfully) wax poetic about how Sean Payton is Genius Brain for being able to navigate Drew Brees-less waters with perfection, then Mike Tomlin is whatever the next level above that is.

Pittsburgh started 1-3 and lost Ben Roethlisberger for the entire season before September ended. If things weren’t already bad enough, the Steelers started October by losing Mason Rudolph — the backup to Roethlisberger — meaning the team was down to its third-stringer.

Despite this, the Steelers haven’t lost since October 6th and have rattled off three straight wins in one of the more miraculous runs of the season. This all goes back to a larger point that isn’t made more about the Steelers, specifically Tomlin. When Antonio Brown went to Oakland and also promptly off the reservation, it served as a testament to how well run the Steelers are from top to bottom. Brown didn’t just suddenly become a diva, but the fact that we started to see his true colors once the protection of the Tomlin-led locker room was lifted says all you need to know about how things operate in Pittsburgh. A lesser coach would have let the wheels fly off the clown car well before that point, Tomlin didn’t allow that to happen. That’s why the Steelers have been in the top-tier of teams for so long and it’s why they remain so even when Devlin Hodges is the quarterback.

Pittsburgh might not be Super Bowl contenders like the Saints are, but if Payton gets an award for winning against-the-odds with Teddy Bridgewater, Tomlin deserves to have the award named after him for going 4-2 with a backup and third-stringer under center.

Bears need to bench Mitchell Trubisky to save the locker room

Let’s spare the hyperbole: Chicago’s season is over. At 3-5, the Bears are on life support at best and need to start thinking about the future now.

A future that doesn’t include Mitchell Trubisky.

Let’s not reheat another lukewarm take about how bad Trubisky is at his job. The longer he’s allowed to burp up all over himself, the more people are going to question the jobs of people around him. Trubisky obviously not going to change, and we’re reaching the point where his poor play — and the tolerance of it — is going start poisoning the future.

Benching Trubisky right now has nothing to do with saving the Bears season. At some point, the locker room is going to start questioning Matt Nagy’s leadership if he continues to allow whatever it is Trubisky is doing to go unpunished.

We’ve seen bad quarterbacks stifle the potential of great defenses before. Look no further than the Jacksonville Jaguars smothering defense a few years ago that was a Blake Bortles away from making it to the Super Bowl. Bears fans don’t even need to look further back than the 2006 Chicago defense that carried Rex Grossman to a Super Bowl only to then realize that its quarterback was — well, Rex Grossman.

The comparison to the Jaguars is troubling because once the team realized that Bortles was the anchor weighing them down, the locker room began to turn. Chicago hasn’t yet reached that point but it’s a warning to heed when thinking about what long-term damage enabling Trubisky can have.

 

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