Overreactions abound as Bills and Cowboys sag, Steelers eke out W
With the second half of the NFL season in full swing, some teams are starting to separate from the pack, while others fall behind. Yet with so many games remaining, drawing conclusions about the postseason picture at this point can be a fool’s errand.
Here are four overreactions from Week 10 that we’re pushing back on:
Bills no longer playoff contenders after dropping two straight
As bad as the defeats have been – and it doesn’t get much worse than the 47-10 thrashing the Saints put on Buffalo – the Bills (5-4) are still holding down the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
The book on Buffalo is pretty straightforward. The Bills stay competitive by winning the turnover battle, running effectively and stopping opponents’ rushing game.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor can effectively manage a game, but only if that threat of a consistent rushing attack is there. Without it, Taylor is susceptible to the kind of dud performance (9 for 18, 56 yards, one interception) that he posted against New Orleans.
Buffalo still leads the NFL in turnover differential at +11. In victories, the number is +12. In losses, it’s -1.
The Bills have taken significant steps in what initially appeared to be a long rebuild. But they’ve also proven they’re not talented enough to grind out games if their formula falls apart.
The saving grace is a top-heavy AFC. Despite its shortcomings, Buffalo still has a path to sneak in as a wild card and snap a 17-year playoff drought.
Cowboys are finished without banned Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas suffered a 20-point loss while its star running back served the first of his six-game suspension.
Elliott’s absence wasn’t the primary issue. It was that of all-pro left tackle Tyron Smith, who missed the game because of back and groin injuries. Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn victimized backup Chaz Green and set a single-game franchise record with six sacks.
In NFL history, only one player – late Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas – had more in one game with seven.
Atlanta sacked Dak Prescott eight times and hit him 10 times.
The offensive couldn’t create creases in the rushing game, either, as he Falcons collected nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage. More and more, not re-signing left guard Ronald Leary this offseason and replacing him with the inconsistent Jonathan Cooper is looking like a critical mistake.
Still, the Cowboys combined for a respectable 107 rushing yards, on 21 carries for an average of just more than five yards per attempt.
The Cowboys’ offense is obviously better with Elliott in it. But at 5-4 and still in the thick of a wide-open NFC playoff field, they can stay afloat without him, so long as the line returns to setting the tone.
49ers won, so Jimmy Garoppolo should continue to sit
Rookie coach Kyle Shanahan claimed his first victory with San Francisco in a 31-21 win against a reeling Giants team.
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard turned in his best performance of the season, accounting for three total touchdowns and completing 19 of 25 passes for 288 yards. He had completions of 83 and 47 yards, both of which went for scores.
So does that mean the Niners can keep Jimmy Garoppolo on the shelf?
Not quite. San Francisco traded for Garoppolo on October 30, and he has served as Beathard’s backup the past two games.
With the 49ers set to enter their bye in Week 11, this is the perfect opportunity for the former Patriots backup to immerse himself in the playbook, absorb the language and concepts Shanahan wants to run and emerge in Week 12 as the team’s starter against the Seahawks.
The 49ers have said they would like Garoppolo to eventually become their franchise quarterback. The second half of the season offers the perfect chance to see if that’s feasible.
Holding the No. 1 seed, Steelers are AFC’s top team
Pittsburgh has a bad habit of playing down to its level of competition at times, and that tendency resurfaced against the Colts.
The Steelers needed a last-second field goal from Chris Boswell to notch a 20-17 win. Indianapolis is a team in shambles, and Pittsburgh has far superior talent on its roster.
And this was a Steelers team coming off its bye.
The chief concern is an offense that has underwhelmed after entering the year as one of the league’s most touted units. Pittsburgh (7-2) has yet to crack 30 points in a game. Against the Colts, the Steelers gained a season-low 92 yards in the first half and faced a 10-3 deficit.
A team that boasts Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell shouldn’t rank 18th in scoring (20.8 points a game). Turnovers have been one of the primary problems, as Pittsburgh has given the ball away 13 times.
The Steelers’ schedule sets up favorably, with the exception of their Week 15 showdown against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Even though it currently sits behind Pittsburgh because of tiebreakers, New England looks far more balanced, and far more dangerous.
Newton, Panthers maul Dolphins
Meanwhile, on Monday night, Cam Newton threw four touchdown passes and the Carolina Panthers pounded the Miami Dolphins in a 45-21 home victory.
The Panthers (7-3) scored 21 points in just more than eight minutes spanning both halves. That helped Carolina to a season-high point total against the NFL’s lowest-scoring team.
Newton was 21-of-35 for 254 yards. He also rushed for 95 yards on five carries, including a 69-yard burst in the third quarter.
Carolina’s 548 total yards marked a franchise record.
Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey scored on a run and a reception and wide receiver Devin Funchess caught two touchdown passes, the last a 32-yarder from Newton with 8:20 remaining.
Running back Jonathan Stewart picked up a season-high 110 rushing yards on 17 attempts. Carolina racked up more than 200 rushing yards for the second game in a row, a first-time achievement for the franchise. The Dolphins (4-5) lost their third game in a row.
Miami quarterback Jay Cutler completed 22-of-37 passes for 213 yards. He threw for two touchdowns, including a 9-yard strike to Jarvis Landry with 4:05 to play.
Cutler was coming off his careerbest game in terms of completion percentage (81 percent on 34-of-42 vs Oakland), but he had that many incompletions by late in the second quarter at 8-of-16.
The Panthers led 17-7 at halftime and went up 24-7 on the first possession of the second half when Funchess scored on a 28-yard screen pass from Newton en route to a comfortable triumph.
CAROLINA PANTHERS quarterback Cam Newton slides for a first down in the first quarter of the Panthers’ 45-21 triumph on Monday night against the visiting Miami Dolphins. The result brought Carolina to 7-3 on the season and put it in the driver’s seat for the playoff, while dropping Miami to 4-5 with its third straight defeat.