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The Cincinnati Bengals are on the clock.
The Miami Dolphins will not be the third 0-16 team in NFL history. The Bengals are the only winless team left in this season after the Dolphins handled the New York Jets, 26-18. Given how bad the Dolphins were in their 0-7 start, it was surprising to see how much better they were than the Jets on Sunday.
There has been a lot of talk of tanking in Miami, and regardless of what term you want to use, it’s obvious the Dolphins didn’t put any effort into competing this season. Which is fine. They are in tear-it-down mode for a full rebuild and hope to come out better at the end of a grueling process.
But that’s the front office. The players don’t care if the Dolphins get the first pick. Brian Flores is in his first season as a head coach, and even if he understands exactly what the organization is doing, he didn’t want 0-16 on his record.
That’s all gone. Nobody remembers the 1-15 teams. The only time the 2019 Dolphins will come up anymore is when another team has a terrible start to the season and they’re compared to this Miami team. That’s why Flores got a Gatorade bath when it was over.
It was fair to wonder about 0-16 after the start the Dolphins had. They looked incompetent. They had a minus-137 point differential through four games, the worst of the Super Bowl era. All of it was bad. It’s no fun for players and coaches to lose week after week and get ridiculed like the Dolphins did.
Give Flores credit for a few things. The Dolphins have played hard since that awful start. They had nothing to play for but gave very good effort against the Redskins, Bills and Steelers. They just weren’t good enough to win. Miami had as much negativity surrounding it as any team, yet it stayed engaged. That looks good on the coach.
The Dolphins played hard Sunday and were good enough to beat a Jets team that should have some serious questions about the direction of the franchise under first-year coach Adam Gase. It looked bad for the Dolphins when the Jets went on an 11-play, 75-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead to start the game. Apparently the opening script contained all the good plays Gase had. Then the Dolphins basically dominated the rest of the game. When a shotgun snap sailed past Sam Darnold and into the end zone for a safety with less than seven minutes to go, that gave the Dolphins a 26-15 lead and it was clear then that the losing streak would end.
Flores looked indecisive when he said Josh Rosen would be the Dolphins’ starter and then went back to Ryan Fitzpatrick after one bad half from Rosen, but that move has made Miami a much more competitive team. While it would be easy to argue that the Dolphins organization doesn’t really want to be competitive, as it tries to land a franchise quarterback in the 2020 draft, the players and coaching staff didn’t want a winless season. Maybe the Dolphins would still be stuck on zero wins with Rosen at quarterback. It looked weird for a tanking team to go with a 36-year-old quarterback, but it was the right move.
The Dolphins will mostly fade off of our radar now, and that’s not a bad thing for them. Nobody wants the yearlong comparisons to the 2008 Lions and 2016 Browns. Now they’re just a run-of-the-mill terrible NFL team.
The only drawback would be if the win cost the Dolphins the top pick of the draft and a future star at quarterback. That might depend on the Bengals. Now they get to deal with the 0-16 burden, until they get a win.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 9 NFL action:
Derek Carr, and his future with the Raiders: Everyone gave up on Derek Carr about midway through last season, and haven’t noticed he has been pretty good since then.
Carr is having a solid season, and added to it with a 289-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception day on Sunday in a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions. Carr had a career-best 103.6 passer rating coming into Sunday’s game. He posted a 116.2 passer rating on Sunday.
Carr’s future with the Raiders, as they prepare to move to Las Vegas, has been a regular topic of conversation for a long time. Then he had a pretty good second half of last season, and that has carried over to this season. He might never be an MVP candidate again, like he was a few years ago, but he’s not the type of quarterback you get rid of. He has played pretty well for a while now, even if few have noticed.
Christian McCaffrey’s MVP chances: Likely, a quarterback will win MVP. That’s just how it goes.
But it’s going to be very hard to deny McCaffrey if he keeps up anything near his current pace.
McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to have more than 150 yards in six of his team’s first eight games, joining Jim Brown (1963) and Matt Forte (2011), according to Bill Voth of Panthers.com. McCaffrey’s 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against the Titans put that game away. He has been sensational all year.
McCaffrey was checked out for an injury after his long touchdown and was replaced, but the Panthers led 30-14 at that point. Carolina hopes McCaffrey is OK because he has been one of the best players in the NFL this season. He might be the best player in the entire league.
McCaffrey is carrying the Panthers, who have refused to fade after Cam Newton’s injury. They have won five of six since Newton got hurt. Kyle Allen has filled in well. The defense has had some big games. But McCaffrey’s unbelievable play is keeping Carolina in the playoff race. That seems MVP worthy.
Andy Reid: Because he hasn’t won a Super Bowl, Reid doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s one of the NFL’s best coaches and has been a while.
Not many coaches can lose an MVP quarterback and draw up a game plan to keep the team competitive with a journeyman backup. Matt Moore was put into the lineup when Patrick Mahomes hurt his knee and the Chiefs have played well around him. The Chiefs lost last week when Aaron Rodgers had a big day, but Kansas City got a big win on Sunday with Moore.
Harrison Butker hit a game-winning field goal as time expired to finish a 26-23 comeback win for the Chiefs. Moore had 275 yards and a touchdown and didn’t throw an interception. He played well enough.
Reid has done a good job in his time with the Chiefs. He probably didn’t get enough credit for Mahomes’ rapid development in his MVP season last year. He might not get a lot of credit for keeping the Chiefs afloat while Moore has started. But he’s one of the NFL’s best coaches, whether he eventually wins a ring or not.
The Buffalo Bills’ new playmaker: It was a matter of time before Devin Singletary became a big factor for the Bills’ offense.
The rookie running back has looked good in stretches, but injuries knocked him out for a while. Frank Gore was a good fill-in, but the Bills need dynamic playmakers and Singletary has that ability. He showed it on Sunday.
Singletary had 95 yards rushing, 45 yards receiving and a touchdown in the Bills’ 24-9 win over the Washington Redskins. It seemed clear that Singletary was the No. 1 option ahead of Gore, and that was bound to happen. Gore has had a great career, but Singletary provides far more big-play ability.
The Bills have been better on offense this season and are cruising toward a wild-card berth. They became more dangerous if Singletary keeps this up.
The Green Bay Packers’ offensive resurgence: About that hot streak Aaron Rodgers was on ...
It’s hard to explain what happened Sunday. With Davante Adams back in the lineup, the Packers were horrible on offense. It seemed like things were clicking in Matt LaFleur’s scheme the past couple weeks. Then they fell flat on Sunday in a 26-11 loss to the Chargers. The offensive line didn’t do a very good job protecting Rodgers, but that didn’t explain it all. Rodgers had just 35 yards and the Packers had no points at halftime. It stung even more because the Minnesota Vikings lost on Sunday. Green Bay couldn’t take advantage.
It was probably just a random bad game. It happens in the NFL, even to players as great as Rodgers. But it was a wasted opportunity and a miserable performance.
Matt Nagy: Matt Nagy doesn’t have any confidence, or answers for what’s going on with the Chicago Bears.
Regardless of Mitchell Trubisky’s struggles, which are plentiful, Nagy is hailed as an offensive guru and his team had 9 yards in the first half in a 22-14 loss against Philadelphia, a defense that has had trouble stopping opponents all season. He showed no confidence in his offense when he had it take a knee last week rather than get any closer for a field-goal attempt that missed as time expired against the Chargers. Nagy made other weird decisions Sunday, like having diminutive Tarik Cohen get a goal-line carry and a punt from the Eagles’ 44-yard line on fourth-and-6 late in the third quarter, trailing 19-7. That punt didn’t look great at the end of an eight-point loss.
It’s not like the Bears have no talent. Teams like the Chiefs and Colts have adjusted to losing their quarterbacks and fared better than Chicago. Nagy was NFL Coach of the Year last season, his first as Bears head coach, but Year 2 has been a struggle. That’s not all on the quarterback.
Sunday didn’t turn out as well. The Colts put themselves in position to take a 27-26 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers with a little more than a minute to go, and that would have been a tremendous win for a team that lost quarterback Jacoby Brissett to a leg injury in the first half. But Vinatieri missed badly on a 43-yard attempt to the left and the Colts lost. It looked like a bad hold on the kick. But it goes on Vinatieri’s record.
Vinatieri had a tough start to the season, then righted himself a bit. He missed a pair of kicks last week but redeemed himself with the game-winner. Sunday’s miss will linger for a while, especially with the Houston Texans winning earlier Sunday to tighten up the AFC South race.
But he’s still a rookie sixth-round pick, and there are going to be days like Sunday.
Facing a Houston Texans defense that didn’t have J.J. Watt and didn’t even create much pass rush, Minshew was miserable. He missed on many throws in an awful 26-3 loss. Minshew was 27-of-47 for 309 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost two fumbles and despite the 309 yards, didn’t make any meaningful plays.
Of course, every Minshew game leads back to the Nick Foles question. Foles will be eligible to come off injured reserve with a broken collarbone soon. The Jaguars have been up and down with Minshew. At 4-5, they’ll have to decide what’s better for the present and the future. On Sunday, it looked like turning back to Foles isn’t a bad option.
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