NFL Week 7: Winners and Losers
By Max Saito. Follow Max on Twitter: @deefearer.
We take a weekly look around the league to see exactly who spent the weekend galloping through a field of flowers and who fell off the back of the cart in Week 7.
Neutral fans of the game
Fans were treated to another classic episode of Redzone this week, made even sweeter by being the annual 5pm kickoff week here in the UK.
Carson Wentz set the tone on Thursday with a late comeback, before the early window delivered last-gasp winners in Cincinnati and Atlanta, with further dramatic games in New Orleans and Tennessee. Even one-sided games delivered on interesting storylines for New England, Dallas, and Tampa Bay.
Sunday Night Football gave us the game of the season so far between two of the league’s most exciting quarterbacks culminating in the Cardinals triumphing in overtime over the previously unbeaten Seahawks.
The only truly underwhelming game was the lopsided primetime clash between the Rams and the Bears, although this has basically become an annual tradition at this point.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
If Stephen Gostkowski had hit a very makeable 45-yard field goal to force overtime, I would be confident that the Titans would have gone to win the game in overtime after the Steelers put up just 3 points in the second half.
However, you make your own luck in the NFL, and Pittsburgh earned their win by going 13-18 on third downs and holding the Titans to just 81 yards with less than 10 minutes of possession in the first half. To me, Tennessee is still a team to be taken seriously in the AFC, but Pittsburgh remains unbeaten in the race for the crucial bye week. Can’t you just see these two teams meeting again in January?
As an aside, one my favourite moments of the week was fill-in linebacker Robert Spillane absorbing an absolutely enormous collision from Derrick Henry on third-and-goal, with both men taking a six-yard run-up before smashing into each other at the 2. Spillane stopped Henry dead, which is a near-miraculous feat of determination, and was shaken up for his troubles.
There isn’t enough money in the world for someone to pay me to do that job.
Johnny Hekker’s already impeccable Hall of Fame resumé
They say people don’t fully appreciate art until the artist dies, but I’m here to appreciate the greatest visionary in the NFL. Johnny Hekker is a Weapon with a capital W, and has been a dynamic threat in the fake punt game throughout his 8 years in the league. But against the Bears on Monday Night Football, in a defensive game, Hekker delivered spectacularly. He punted five times, pinning the Bears inside their own 10 on every single punt. This included a 57-yarder which stopped dead and was downed at the 1, and a 63-yarder to the 6! What a game. What. A. Game.
Honorable mentions: Baker Mayfield, whichever NFL team drafts all-time Wisconsin legend Graham Mertz in 2023, Gronk, whoever's playing for the probable division-winner Eagles these days, Davante Adams, Geno Smith’s perfect 3-0 coin toss legacy in Seattle, Ron Rivera, Ron Rivera a second time.
In defence of the Patriots, their injuries and COVID opt-outs are enough to bring almost any team in the league to their knees, and they looked a decent outfit in games against Las Vegas and Seattle. But things have gone south in a hurry, with dismal showings against Denver and San Francisco in the last two weeks.
Cam has not been the same player since contracting COVID, and his struggles led to him being benched for Jarrett Stidham, who has hardly been an upgrade in limited playing time. What really puts the Patriots on this list, however, is that all of this has happened while Tom Brady has propelled the Bucs to Super Bowl contender status with dominant wins while the Patriots have gone the other way.
If that weren’t enough salt in the wound, his one-time heir apparent in New England, Jimmy Garoppolo, was the quarterback of the 49ers team who handed the Pats their worst home loss of the Belichick era in Week 7.
The value of scoring a touchdown
Scoring a touchdown is typically considered to be a good thing to do in American football as it allows your team to gain at least six points. Experts believe that this is beneficial, as the aim of the game is to compile more points than your opponent. Unfortunately for Todd Gurley, this was not the case on Sunday.
The Falcons trailed 16-14 with 1:12 left, but had a 1st and goal opportunity. They could have knelt twice, ran the clock to a few seconds, taken a timeout, and given Younghoe Koo a chance to kick a 27-yard chip-shot field goal for the win. But this is the Falcons we’re talking about. So, what happened was that Todd Gurley took a handoff, broke a half-hearted tackle attempt, got to the 1-yard line, realised the situation, then agonisingly fell over the goal line to score.
Although the Falcons had a 22-16 lead, what happened next felt completely inevitable as Matt Stafford marched the Lions down the field and hit TJ Hockenson for the game-tying score as the clock hit zeroes. Even a penalty which forced a 48-yard extra point couldn’t stop the Falcons from Falcon-ing, as Matt Prater drilled it home to give the Lions the win. This season is reaching previously unthinkable levels of agony for Atlanta.
The Bears entered Week 7 at 5-1 and tied for the division lead, and yet have received almost no respect from anyone in the business, despite recording a win against a powerhouse in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Monday they showed why, as they were badly beaten by the Rams.
The Bears have a definite top 3 defense, but their offense, who scored 3 points in that game, ranks in the bottom 5 in yards and points per game. And things are getting ugly, with Nick Foles accusing Matt Nagy of calling plays that are doomed from the start. The Bears defense is just about keeping them afloat this season, but it feels like deep malcontent is brewing in Chicago.
The Bears have given themselves a great chance to reach the postseason, but the operation feels like it is just days away from a crisis that could send them into a historic tailspin.
Honorable mentions: The reputation of the entire NFC East again, Drew Lock, Carlos Dunlap’s home value negotiation leverage, Trump supporters driving past Deandre Hopkins, the 4 yards who had the misfortune of being picked up by the Jets’ offence in the second half, putting capsaicin in your eye in the middle of a press conference.