Eventually, everyone looks like a rookie. Carson Wentz did for the first time at Washington, and the loss exposed a few issues that should concern the Eagles. The loss of stud right tackle Lane Johnson to a 10-game suspension was huge. Wentz was sacked five times, was almost ripped out of his jersey a time or two and was under more duress than he had had to deal with previously.
He struggled to complete half of his passes, and the utter inconsistency of his outside receivers would be enough to drive a veteran quarterback nuts. Jordan Matthews is simply hard to watch most of the time and catching the football does not come naturally to him. Couple that with the fact that Philadelphia's defense, so airtight through the first three weeks, looked vulnerable for the second straight week.
I'm not saying it's time to panic yet, and Wentz is the last thing anyone should worry about. He's the real deal. But Johnson isn't coming back any time soon, the lack of weapons is very real, and without a top five-ish defense, this team isn't going to contend for the postseason. Now, none of us really thought they were going to do that, anyway, back in August, and you have to keep that in mind. This is very much a rebuilding team. It's not getting easier anytime soon, either, with the vaunted Vikings defense ahead next week (including a reunion with former Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford) and then a Sunday night tilt with the Cowboys in Week 8.
Jimmy Smith had Odell on lock
That massive, 222-yard day for Odell Beckham featured three big plays and plenty of instances where he was running behind defenders, but this game changed, dramatically, after Ravens cover corner Jimmy Smith left due to a concussion in the second quarter. Smith contained and knocked around Beckham throughout the first half and did so without heavy safety help at times. This looked like it might be another one of those afternoons where a hands-on corner got the receiver off his game.
But after Smith went down, Beckham began taking turns exploiting whoever else lined up on him in the second half and Eli Manning began flinging the ball up for him. After racking up five catches, two touchdowns and 201 receiving yards in the second half, Beckham and the Giants had snapped their three-game losing slump.
More news and notes from around the NFL:
It was always going to be a tough gig for the Falcons to travel to Seattle with the Seahawks coming off the bye, but overall you had to be impressed with the fight and will Atlanta showed hanging in there and actually making the Seahawks look like the JV in the third quarter. This is not the same Falcons team that collapsed after a fast start a year ago. Not even close. If anything, the Falcons deserved at least a tie on Sunday and that non-PI call on Richard Sherman at the end could have playoff tiebreaker ramifications down the road. Atlanta has done a better job of unearthing talent in the draft and keep an eye on college scouting director Steve Sabo, one of several young executives in the NFL who could be on the rise.
The Bills reeling off four straight wins after firing their offensive coordinator amid turmoil in Week 2 has to be one of the biggest surprises of the season to me. They look better and more focused on offense without Sammy Watkins, and LeSean McCoy looks like the AFC's version of Ezekiel Elliott.
There are going to be a lot of pointed questions asked of Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman for the duration of the season. A lot.
The decision to walk away from Josh Norman has been nothing short of a disaster, as Drew Brees fired bomb after bomb on the Panthers defense Sunday. And after dropping a second straight division game in the span of six days, Carolina's season is in peril.
The defense -- so stout the past three years -- is in disarray with the roster now lacking any pass rush thrust and is way too short on defensive backs with coverage skills as well. Watching Cam Newton meet with the media after the game, he had the look of a defeated quarterback while toggling between, "We just have to find a way to win a football game," and "next question." It's clear Cam sees what has been impossible to miss after watching this team play for six weeks: This probably ain't the Panthers' year, and it's not even close.
For weeks Jerry Jones told everyone within the Cowboys organization, including those close to Tony Romo, that the veteran was his quarterback -- point blank, period, end of discussion -- whenever he came back from injury. And now with Romo on the cusp of returning after the bye and with Dak Prescott coming off another gem, this time at Lambeau Field, Jones has a massive decision to make. Will he stick with his loyalty and maintain his stance that it's Romo's team? Call me a contrarian, but I think it's a win/win. These are good problems to have and I still firmly believe Romo could open up the outside and downfield passing game even more.
A major tip of the cap to Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. He has Matthew Stafford playing the best football of his life and the Lions offense is dangerous and unpredictable, even with them losing like all of their running backs. The Lions have enough creativity and guile to stay in games despite the limitations on the other side of the ball. I loved Stafford taking a massive shot downfield on a free play due to a pending penalty that helped turn the game, and Stafford got a bit lucky, too, especially on a fourth-down jump ball into the end zone that ended up as a touchdown.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers threw his first touchdown in the second half of a game this season, on Sunday, in garbage time of a beatdown at the hands of the Cowboys. Going to reiterate what I wrote several weeks back -- this roster is not all of that, Green Bay is a pretty mundane team, Rodgers needs to be transcendent for them to prosper (and he hasn't been close to that) and I still wonder if Mike McCarthy should turn back the play-calling reigns. There seems to be a palpable tension between him and his quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs
If there is a better ball-hawking corner than the Chiefs' Marcus Peters at this very minute, please alert me to his presence. People need to stay the hell away from Peters' side of the field most of the time. It's not worth it.
How did the Steelers give up over 200 yards to the Dolphins on the ground? Add in Big Ben with a torn meniscus and it's Exhibit Z as to how this is such a watered-down season. Each week there seem to be fewer truly standout teams.
San Francisco 49ers
For as much time as he missed, and all the challenges Colin Kaepernick faced in his first game back with the 49ers after a tumultuous last year, I was impressed with what he did Sunday. The 49ers resembled a real NFL offense, which couldn't be said when Blaine Gabbert was under center. Kaepernick's athleticism carried him at times, and he even got receiver Torrey Smith some action. There will be plenty of detractors, but on a day in which sick Bills fans were selling t-shirts with Kaepernick in the crosshairs for his pregame protest of the national anthem, I thought Kaepernick battled and made some strides and gave the offense something of a jolt.
Don't look now but the Redskins are back in play in the NFC East and each week they seem to find a new offensive cog to get going. Running back Matt Jones was a physical force against the Eagles, they have been much improved at the point of attack on both sides of the ball the past three-to-four weeks and I bet they are a factor in that division until the very end.