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The Los Angeles Rams are rarely talked about as a Super Bowl contender, but they’re 6-3 and tied for first place in the NFC West after an impressive 23-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams have made some bold, sometimes reckless, moves, but it’s hard to argue with the results this season. Especially with their trade to get Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey might be the leader for NFL Defensive Player of the Year after Sunday (T.J. Watt, who also had a big Week 10, might disagree). Ramsey took Metcalf, one of the league’s best receivers, out of the game. Metcalf didn’t have a target deep into the third quarter as the Rams held a 23-13 lead. Metcalf finally got on the board, catching a short pass from Wilson with about a minute to go in the third quarter. Metcalf finished with two catches for 28 yards and was a non-factor. Not many corners in the NFL can do that to Metcalf.
Most teams don’t want to trade first-round picks. The Rams traded two of them to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Ramsey last year. Then they paid Ramsey a five-year, $105 million deal. He’s the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. When you see the impact Ramsey has on a game like Sunday, it’s understandable. New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, and Ramsey is having a similar season.
The Rams have done a fantastic job on defense, mostly because Ramsey and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are the two best defensive players in the league this season. It’s unusual to see Wilson struggle, but with Ramsey taking away his top receiver in Sunday’s game, the Rams’ job of defending him got a lot easier. Wilson had 248 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions and is quickly losing ground in the MVP race.
The NFC is wide open, and the Rams are as good as any other contender. Their three-man running back committee had an impact Sunday. Jared Goff, going against the Seahawks’ Swiss cheese secondary, found receivers open all day. The defense more than held up its end. Sean McVay has seemingly done a great job of self-evaluation and made adjustments after the Rams took a step back last season.
The Rams are in great position to win the NFC West. The victory over Seattle was their first game against the Seahawks or Arizona Cardinals, the other two main contenders in the division. The Rams have home games against the beat-up 49ers, Patriots and Jets upcoming, and those should be wins. Los Angeles could end up easily clearing double-digit wins.
After Sunday, the Rams aren’t going to be under the radar anymore.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 10 of the NFL season:
Cardinals front office: Unlike the trade for Jalen Ramsey and other trades, there really was no big cost for DeAndre Hopkins.
Yet, acquiring Hopkins was the biggest move of the offseason.
Bill O’Brien’s crazy trade keeps on helping the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins made the play of the season, a leaping touchdown catch on a Hail Mary to give the Cardinals a wild 32-30 win. There aren’t many receivers who could make a contested catch like the one Hopkins made.
The Cardinals are tied for first place in the NFC West. One of the big reasons is Hopkins. He was basically a giveaway by O’Brien, the fired Houston Texans head coach. The trade looks even worse now, and that didn’t seem possible.
New Orleans Saints: Last week’s win over the Buccaneers was a big game for the Saints, but Sunday was a big test, too.
The Saints haven’t been dominant for most of this season, outside of last week’s demolition of the Bucs. They’re seemingly happy to play down or up to the competition. They have a lot of wins that were much closer than they should have been.
It would have been easy for the Saints to have a letdown against the San Francisco 49ers, who have been crushed with injuries. The 49ers started with a 10-0 lead. Things got scary when Drew Brees came out of the game at halftime with an injury to his side.
But New Orleans took care of business. The defense took over after a slow start and shut down the 49ers in a 27-13 win. It was a good sign for the Saints to cruise to a win even after some adversity. Many have been touting the Saints as the best team in the NFC after last week’s win, and they didn’t do anything on Sunday to slow down that talk.
The undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers: Remember, there’s only one bye in each conference this season due to the expanded playoffs. That makes every win for the Steelers a big one.
Home-field advantage might matter less in 2020 than it ever has, but you still want it in January. And you really want wild-card weekend off to rest. The Steelers are 9-0 after cruising to a 36-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. They’re still a game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs for the top record in the AFC and at least two games clear of everyone else.
Many would pick the Chiefs as the best team in the NFL, but the Steelers could erase any gap that exists by getting the No. 1 seed. They just have to keep winning.
Tua Tagovailoa: Tagovailoa is always going to be compared to Justin Herbert. Tagovailoa went fifth in the draft and Herbert went one pick later. And Herbert looks really good.
Tagovailoa was on the hot seat before he even played a down for Miami, due to the immediate success of first overall pick Joe Burrow and Herbert. No quarterback ever wins a game on his own, but it helps Tagovailoa that his Dolphins beat Herbert’s Chargers in the first meeting of the two rookies.
Tagovailoa has been solid since taking over as Miami’s starter. He had 169 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. Herbert had 187 yards and was mostly held down by a good Dolphins defense.
The Dolphins are 3-0 since Tagovailoa became the Dolphins’ starter. Herbert might put up better numbers, but the Dolphins are the team in the playoff race.
Matt Patricia, for another week: The NFL isn’t always logical with its decisions. When Matt Prater hit a long field goal Sunday, which was made possible by a roughing the passer penalty by Chase Young, it might have kept the Detroit Lions from firing Matt Patricia.
The Lions’ embattled coach was watching another collapse by his team, something that has been too common in his three seasons. The Washington Football Team came back from a 24-3 deficit to tie the game 24-24. Alex Smith led the tying drive late to make it 27-27.
At that point, had the Lions lost in overtime, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Patricia was fired on Monday. His team is bad, his defense was getting carved up by Smith and that was all after a long Bleacher Report story came out over the weekend with many former Lions ripping him. Blowing a 24-3 lead at home against a bad Washington team could have been the final straw.
But you won’t often see a team fire a coach after a win. Young got the penalty, which helped get the Lions close enough to let Prater try a 59-yarder as time expired. He hit it and the Lions won 30-27.
It’s not like Patricia’s job security is much better because Prater hit that kick. But he probably won’t get fired this week.
Aaron Rodgers in bad weather: Green Bay had temperatures in the 30s and wind at more than 20 mph. It’s hard for offenses to function in weather like that.
Rodgers was unfazed. He completed 16 of 20 passes for 200 yards in the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars, including a long touchdown to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers sputtered in the second half and had to dodge an upset bid from the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Rodgers hit a winning touchdown to Davante Adams in the fourth quarter. Rodgers finished with 325 yards in the 24-20 win.
Rodgers is used to bad weather, and that’s good for the Packers. They are in the mix to get the NFC’s lone bye in the expanded playoffs. Even with no fans in the stands, there will be a home-field advantage for the Packers because they have the worst January weather among all NFL teams.
The Packers take pride in operating at a high level when it’s ugly outside. Sunday wasn’t their best performance, but it was still a win and Rodgers can still have a big day in bad conditions.
Drew Lock: Unless the Denver Broncos are trailing by a ton, Lock hasn’t been very good.
It would be nice for Lock to play decently early on so Denver isn’t down multiple scores when he gets hot. The Raiders were up 20-6 at the end of the third quarter and the Broncos hadn’t scored a touchdown. Lock had a rushing touchdown in the final seconds of the first half, but it was taken off the board due to a holding penalty on Noah Fant. The next play, Lock threw an interception. Another interception to start the fourth quarter took the Broncos out of the game. The Raiders blew the Broncos out 37-12.
Quarterbacks are developing faster than ever. The three top quarterbacks out of this year’s draft are all playing well. Lock had an opportunity to establish himself as the Broncos’ QB of the future in his second season, but the Broncos can’t be happy with his inconsistency and mistakes. They can’t wait forever for him to improve.
Cleveland weather: Wind off the lake has basically ruined two Cleveland Browns games.
Not that Houston Texans-Browns would have been a classic if it were a sunny day, but neither offense could do anything on Sunday in the strong winds. It was just like the ugly Las Vegas Raiders win over the Browns two weeks ago.
The game was 3-0 at halftime, the lowest-scoring first half in the NFL this season. The closest anyone came to scoring was when the Texans got inside the 5-yard line, but Randall Cobb dropped a potential touchdown and Deshaun Watson was stuffed for a loss by Myles Garrett and others on fourth down.
Finally, the Browns scored in the fourth quarter. After Houston missed a field goal, the Browns drove and Nick Chubb got in the end zone. It was the rare NFL game in which there were no touchdowns before the fourth quarter (and Chubb passed on an easy touchdown at the end, which probably upset some people).
Unlike the Raiders game, at least the Browns won this one 10-7.
Their offense is probably hoping that’s the last of the windstorms this season.
Buccaneers critics: To listen to NFL talk over the past week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were exposed as frauds last Sunday night and the New Orleans Saints were the class of the NFC.
The NFL’s popularity and a week to fill between games leads to overreactions. The Buccaneers are still a very good team, and they pounded the Carolina Panthers 46-23 on Sunday. That’s the same Panthers team that nearly beat the Kansas City Chiefs last week. The Buccaneers put up 544 yards. Ronald Jones had a 98-yard run. Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another score.
Maybe the Buccaneers don’t match up well against the Saints. Maybe they just had a bad night last week. But they’re not going anywhere.
Eagles coaching staff: The Philadelphia Eagles are a poorly coached team.
It seems weird to say that about a staff led by a coach with a Super Bowl ring, but it’s becoming pretty clear. In the middle of their third straight season of underachieving, the Eagles lost a bad one Sunday. The Giants were 2-7 coming in. But the Eagles looked like they’d never defended a read-option play before, as Daniel Jones ran for a couple touchdowns and had 64 yards on the ground. Philadelphia is starting to get some offensive players healthy, but still scored very little against a mediocre Giants defense. The Eagles lost 27-17.
Doug Pederson has no answers. The Eagles were outplayed by a 2-7 team. They looked unprepared again. Carson Wentz continued his strange slide, and you have to wonder how much coaching has played into his regression.
The Eagles are still in the mix for a division title because it’s the 2020 NFC East, but there is little doubt anymore: They are a bad team and it seems unlikely to get better. It’s not like the coaching staff is going to figure it out.
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