The NFL's Most Valuable Player race is starting to heat up as we enter the second half of the season, and the hottest contender for the award may be Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. His second-year leap cannot be understated. After going 5-10-1 as the starter last season, his Cardinals are now sitting at 6-3 and are in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC West. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has ceded considerable ground to Murray in both the divisional race and the MVP race lately. It started with Arizona's overtime victory over the Seahawks a few weeks ago and may have culminated with Murray's Hail Mary to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 10. If Murray does go on to win the award, that play will likely be remembered as his MVP moment.
As great as that play was, this week's "numbers to know" will highlight one of Murray's most impressive rushing statistics this season. Also in this piece, we'll discuss a scoring streak that proves the Pittsburgh Steelers are more than just a defensive powerhouse. They can put up points on offense, too, and the recent play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a big reason why.
Before we jump into those stats, though, let's take a look around the NFL at some other numbers to know from Week 10.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a big problem, and it's their third-down offense. They faced nine third-down situations in their 27-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, and converted zero of them. Week 10 marked the first time they failed to convert a single third down since the 2004 season. They've converted just seven out of 30 third-down conversions over the past three games (23.3%). Philly also went for it on fourth down three times and converted just once against the Giants. Each of the Eagles' last two drives of the game ended with a turnover on downs.
Quarterback Carson Wentz didn't turn the ball over on Sunday, but he couldn't keep the chains moving on these crucial downs. He was 0-for-6 passing on third down and took two sacks. Wentz also failed to throw or run for a touchdown for the first time all season. He can't afford to be too cautious with the Eagles now at 3-5-1 on the season. They're still in first place in the NFC East, but they'll only hold onto that position if Wentz can be a playmaker for this shaky Philadelphia offense. That may require him to take some risks.
Protecting the football wasn't enough for the Eagles, but it's starting to look like a winning formula for the Giants. Quarterback Daniel Jones has now gone two straight games without turning the ball over. This is the first time all season that he's strung together multiple turnover-less games, and as a result, the Giants are 2-0 during this stretch. They're now 3-7 on the season and, somehow, have sole possession of second place in the NFC East.
Jones, unlike Wentz, found ways to be a playmaker on Sunday without taking unnecessary risks. While his passing was solid, Jones did a considerable amount of damage with his legs. He scored a 34-yard rushing touchdown on the opening drive of the game — redeeming himself for the infamous tripping incident from a few weeks ago — and ended up leading the team with 64 yards on nine carries. The Giants have yet to defeat a team from outside their horrible division this season, but New York is trending in the right direction and appears to be the biggest threat to Philadelphia for the NFC East lead.
The Drew Lock experiment is going south quickly. On Sunday, the second-year quarterback threw a career-high four interceptions in a 37-12 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders, before this game, only had three interceptions on the season. Lock has now thrown 10 interceptions in five games since returning from a shoulder injury. Unless he's still operating at less than full strength, these mistakes are starting to look like more than just growing pains.
The Broncos thought they finally had their quarterback situation figured out at the end of last year when Lock rattled off four wins in five starts. Now, it's tough to tell what the future holds for the former second-round draft pick. Denver is 3-6 on the season and 2-5 with Lock as the starter. If the Broncos wind up with a top-10 pick in next year's draft, there's very little stopping them from considering a quarterback at this point. Lock must slow his regression and turn things around in these last seven games to secure his job into the future.
Don't look now, but the Miami Dolphins are rolling. They've won five games in a row and are now just a half-game behind the Buffalo Bills for first place in the AFC East at 6-3. This is their longest winning streak since the 2016 season. Three of those wins, including a 29-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, have come with rookie Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. His performances have not been otherworldly, but he's thrown five touchdown passes and has yet to throw an interception.
The Dolphins have a strong defense and are playing complementary football, so they don't need Tagovailoa to be a world-beater with his arm. They're winning games while he learns the ropes and will only get better as he becomes more comfortable in Miami's offense. Tagovailoa was drafted to usher in a new era for this franchise, but who knew the transformation would come so quick? The Dolphins, who went 5-11 in 2019, have already surpassed their win total from last season. Tagovailoa is quickly gaining ground in the Rookie of the Year race, and head coach Brian Flores deserves some Coach of the Year consideration.
If you don't know the name J.C. Jackson yet, you will soon. The New England Patriots cornerback currently leads the NFL with six interceptions, after recording a pick in each of the past five games. His interception on Sunday night killed a Baltimore Ravens drive just before halftime and preserved New England's three-point lead going into the second half. That was the only statistic he recorded in the 23-17 decision, but it went a long way in securing the victory.
People were writing off the Patriots when they fell to 2-5 a few weeks ago, but they've won two gritty games in a row since then. New England's offense is not a potent force, so takeaways are huge for this team. The Patriots have 15 total takeaways on the season (11 interceptions and four fumble recoveries), which ranks tied for 4th in the NFL. If the Patriots find their way back into the playoff race, it'll probably be due to the opportunities created by Jackson and company on defense.
The Hail Mary that Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threw to beat the Buffalo Bills 32-30 on Sunday took home all the headlines, but Murray's rushing production is a huge reason why Arizona is currently sitting at 6-3. Murray now has 10 rushing touchdowns on the season, after finding the end zone twice on the ground versus the Bills. He is the first quarterback to score 10 rushing touchdowns in a single season since Cam Newton did it during his 2015 MVP campaign. He is also the first quarterback to score a rushing touchdown in five straight games since the dawn of the Super Bowl era.
Murray is the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL right now. He's turning out to be worth every bit of the first-overall pick in 2019. His efforts are the biggest reason why the Cardinals are in a three-way tie with the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams atop the NFC West. With Russell Wilson faltering and turning the ball over a lot the past few weeks, Murray is gaining ground in the MVP race. Patrick Mahomes, whose Kansas City Chiefs were on a bye in Week 10, also belongs in that conversation. Murray, however, is stealing Mahomes' spotlight as the NFL's most exciting young quarterback to watch.
When you think of the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, defense comes to mind. That said, their offense has been pretty consistent when it comes to putting up points this season. After destroying the Cincinnati Bengals 36-10 on Sunday, the Steelers have now scored at least 24 points in nine straight games (longest streak in franchise history). With an average of 30.1 points scored per game (5th in NFL) and 19.0 points allowed per game (3rd), Pittsburgh is the only team that ranks among the top five in both categories.
Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has fought through some shaky moments since returning from elbow surgery, but it's hard to argue with the results. He threw a season-high four touchdowns against the Bengals in Week 10 and didn't commit any turnovers. It was his 12th career game with at least four touchdown passes and zero interceptions, tying him with Hall of Famer Brett Favre for fifth-most in NFL history. Roethlisberger doesn't just lean on one pass catcher, either, as this week it was second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson going off for his first-ever 100-yard performance. With an assortment of weapons that also includes JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool, Big Ben is leading a pretty balanced passing attack.
A week after setting an NFL record for fewest rushing attempts in a game (5), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recommitted themselves to the run and reaped the rewards. They ran the ball 37 times in a 46-23 win over the Carolina Panthers, racking up a season-high 210 yards on the ground. Ronald Jones II provided 98 of those yards on a single touchdown run and finished the game with a career-high 192 yards. While Jones did most of the dirty work, Brady also pitched in with a one-yard touchdown on a fourth-quarter QB sneak.
The win over Carolina was a bounce-back game for Tampa Bay's offense as a whole, not just the running game. Brady, who threw zero touchdowns and three interceptions in a crushing loss to the New Orleans Saints a week before, reversed those stats with three touchdown passes and zero picks against the Panthers. Although Brady and the Bucs have suffered a few bad losses this season, they've rebounded each time with a vengeance. They seem to learn from their mistakes, and that's likely the result of sound leadership.
The Washington Football Team came up short in a 30-27 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, but we have to shout out Alex Smith for his performance. In his first start since coming back from a brutal leg injury, Smith threw for a career-high 390 yards. He also set new career highs for passing attempts (55) and completions (38) in the losing effort. All that was missing from this start was a come-from-behind victory, and Smith came close to capturing one.
After trailing 24-3 in the third quarter, Smith led three consecutive touchdown drives. Washington's final drive of the game ended with a field goal that tied the game at 27, and the Lions were able to respond with a game-winning field goal of their own. Smith isn't experiencing the same level of success as Ben Roethlisberger is with the Steelers, but he may still be the Comeback Player of the Year due to the nature of his injury and the amount of time he was sidelined by it.