I continue to be impressed with this bunch. All season long they have hung around games and displayed considerable improvement under rookie coach Frank Reich. And finally, after suffering some bitter defeats to Philadelphia in Week 3 and then to Houston in overtime in Week 4, this young team seems to be learning how to close tight games in recent weeks. It required a last-minute forced fumble to put away Jacksonville on Sunday, effectively ending the Jaguars' season and the Blake Bortles era and perhaps triggering big changes to the coaching staff and front office as well. But the Colts made the play, and suddenly they are a tough out in the AFC.
The Colts have won three straight with almost no one noticing, and with the Titans and Dolphins coming to town the next few weeks, they have a legit shot to flip the script in the AFC wild-card race. The Colts (4-5) trail both of those teams by one game. They have found some self belief, some balance on offense, and finally, an offensive line. And most of all, Luck is playing at a superior level once again, and seems to have put his shoulder issues entirely behind him. They also can play just enough defense, just enough of the time, to stay in games and allow Luck a chance to pull off some late heroics.
On Sunday they beat and battered the Jags throughout the first half, with Jacksonville coming out of the bye as weak and tepid as it limped into it. The Jags flaunted their tendency for the dirty play too often, picked up some silly penalties and had no answers for the Indy passing attack. So much for that vaunted defense and airtight secondary. The Jaguars suffocated the run game, but Reich made a point to stay balanced, capitalizing on the explosive plays downfield and rushing 23 times, to 29 pass attempts.
Give Reich kudos for his work. Time after time the Jaguars defense looked confused and a step behind. The Colts' pass catchers ran wild, 10 yards or more from the nearest defender. Eric Ebron was a dominant threat, with the Jags unsure how to cover him. T.Y. Hilton, the only potential deep threat on the roster, was wide open, with the play design fooling everyone. It was something to behold, as Luck went 21 for 29 for 285 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
During their three-game win-streak, Luck has completed 60 of 83 passes (72 percent) for 680 yards (8.19 per attempt) with 10 touchdowns and just one interception for a rating of 131. This staff is prizing Luck's health above all else, wisely. Luck has not thrown the ball more than 31 times a game in the past three contests; in the first six games, 31 attempts was his fewest in any one contest. The health and emergence of Marlon Mack has given them a boost, and this team can't get by throwing 50 times a game.
If nothing else, the Colts have an opportunity to keep things interesting. The Jags, now 3-6 and 0-3 in the AFC South, may have difficulty merely keeping that already-splintered locker room together. A rematch with the Steelers, a team they managed to defeat in Pittsburgh in the postseason not that long ago, looms next week.
Outside the box for Giants
Had a wise, long-suffering Giants fan who may or may not be a CBS bigwig mention an interesting proposition to me Sunday. What about the G-men trading for Jacoby Brissett in 2019 to address the quarterback problem? Frankly, I love it.
The Giants passed on so many potential franchise quarterbacks in the last two drafts, which seem relatively loaded. So no sense reaching for one next year in a weaker crop (especially if Justin Herbert ). The Giants could use a bridge guy, while trying to give up a ton for Derek Carr could set you back years. Chasing an older QB doesn't make sense; after suffering through an aging Eli Manning, would they really go get a Josh McCown or someone like that for a year?
Brissett is young, athletic and a great guy who could handle New York. He has ample starting experience under duress, and was a favorite of none other than Giants legend Bill Parcells coming out of college. He was coached expertly by Josh McDaniels in New England and now, Reich in Indianapolis. I could get behind this idea, as there is abundant potential for this to be more than a stopgap. You could try to sign Teddy Bridgewater, but the other free agent options (Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, etc) don't have nearly the same upside or youth.
I'd go ahead and give up my high second-round pick, and maybe a little something else if I had to for Brissett, still on a rookie contract, and then see if I need to grab Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft. Perhaps, I wont have to.
Bengals can't stop anyone
The Bengals have big problems. The defense is a total and complete liability, their offense is utterly lost without A.J. Green, and they face an equally desperate Ravens team coming off their bye in Baltimore next week. The more I watch the Bengals try to tackle and defend, the more this looks like the perfect game for the Ravens to unleash Lamar Jackson as the starter and try to gash this defense with RPOs and play-action passes.
The Saints weren't even trying to score for much of the game, then called off the starters in the second half and still rolled to 51 points. The Bengals have given up 31 or more points in six of the last seven games. They have yielded an astounding 130 points in the past three games, and 158 points while losing three of their last four, an average of an astounding 39.5 points per game.
At 5-4 but possibly fading, expect to hear plenty about Marvin Lewis's job security soon enough, for like the fifth December in a row.
Changes coming in Tampa
The Bucs might as well go back to Jameis Winston. At 3-6, and with them unable to score against the Skins on Sunday, Fitzmagic is over. Playing a journeyman in his mid-30s doesn't make much sense. Sweeping changes are coming in Tampa, but when that all goes down, Dirk Koetter and his offensive staff should be in high demand as top head coaching candidates start to align themselves with potential assistants.
Bucs play caller Todd Monken has opened a lot of eyes this season, and might as well let them see what they can cull from Winston, if for nothing else than to try to create some trade value. Because I don't think too many new regimes there would want to hitch their wagons to him.
More on Week 10
- The Falcons left themselves no room for error with that 1-3 start, and Sunday's loss at Cleveland has killed their playoffs hopes in the loaded NFC. Matt Ryan, on the road and on grass, struggled as he has in that spot many times in the past, and the Browns defense overwhelmed the Falcons.
- Seems like these are the best back-to-back games Marcus Mariota has ever played. He is perfecting his touch passes to the sidelines (rainbow balls that drop right into the receiver's hands) and the helter-skelter Titans made a statement against New England Sunday. I did not see that coming.
- Gregg Williams is going to end up being a factor in the Browns' head coaching decision when it's all said and done. The Browns will win more games under him, and Baker Mayfield is getting better by the week. No team is getting more out of its rookie class with Mayfield, corner Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb all playing at a Pro Bowl-type level at times this season (of course, Cleveland also had the most high picks, but after years of wasting them the impact of this development cannot be overstated). Chubb was downright unstoppable Sunday.
- Hat tip to Matt Barkley who came out of nowhere to play a superb game against a Jets defense that had been very stingy lately. So, um, what does that say about Nathan Peterman if Barkley can do that for the Bills?