Put some respect on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through Week 7 of the 2020 NFL season, they are the only undefeated team. Last year, they lost their starting quarterback, finished with a .500 record and missed the playoffs. This year, Ben Roethlisberger is back, the defense is still dominant, and the team looks ready to compete for a championship. One of the numbers we'll feature this week is six, and you'll see why it's a very good one for Pittsburgh's Super Bowl chances.
Before we uncover that number, however, we've got a couple involving a suddenly murky AFC East. The New England Patriots' number this week is three, and unlike Pittsburgh's number, this one will inspire very little faith in New England's chances to run the table and hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Making matters worse for Patriots fans, there's a three-digit number coming at the end of this article. It has to do with Tom Brady and will only rub dirt in the slow-healing wound left behind from his exit.
All right, that's enough of a tease. Let's start this week with the lowest number possible, without going into negatives.
The Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets on Sunday, but it wasn't easy. They scored zero touchdowns in the 18-10 victory and also had zero punts. The Bills are the first team since 1941 to win a game without recording a touchdown or a punt. They won by attempting eight field goals, six of which kicker Tyler Bass booted through the uprights. It also helped that the Jets only mustered four yards of offense in the second half.
The Bills needed this game after dropping two in a row to the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs. While the win stops the bleeding, it does nothing to calm tensions in Buffalo. If the Bills want to contend for an AFC title, they should be blowing out a winless team like the Jets. They need to do better than 3-for-11 on third down and 0-for-5 in the red zone. The Miami Dolphins, who were on a bye in Week 7, are not too far in the rearview mirror at 3-3. Could Miami make a push with Tua Tagovailoa now at quarterback? The AFC East race is on.
It was a wild Week 7 Sunday and there's a lot to go over. John Breech and Ryan Wilson join Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break it all down; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
Elsewhere in the AFC East, the New England Patriots are in free fall. New England lost 33-6 to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, marking the franchise's first three-game losing streak since 2002. This was also Bill Belichick's largest home loss as Patriots head coach (27 points). Starting quarterback Cam Newton threw three interceptions before getting benched, and backup QB Jarrett Stidham threw a fourth pick in relief. Simply put, the currently 2-4 Patriots are unrecognizable without Tom Brady.
In fact, the Patriots are unrecognizable compared to just a few weeks ago. Remember, they were 2-1 after beating the Las Vegas Raiders by 16 points in Week 3, and their only loss at that point was a game against the Seattle Seahawks that went down to the wire. The last three weeks have seemingly sent the Patriots into a tailspin. That could change in a flash, though. New England's next two games are against the Bills and the Jets. Win those, and the Pats will be right back in the mix.
Six is a big number for the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl hopes. After Week 6, the Steelers and Titans were both 5-0. This was the 6th time in the Super Bowl era that two undefeated teams met this late in the season. The winner of the five previous occurrences went on to make the Super Bowl. The Steelers are now 6-0 for the first time since 1978, when they beat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. Will history repeat itself? Probably not for the Cowboys, but the Steelers look like legitimate title contenders.
That said, Sunday's 27-24 victory wasn't Pittsburgh's finest performance of the season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions, and the Steelers surrendered 17 unanswered points in the second half to make it a game. They got very lucky when Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski's 45-yard field goal attempt, which would have tied the game, sailed wide right in the final minute. Luck is part of the game, though, and winning plays aren't always pretty. A perfect example: Roethlisberger's back-handed flip to tight end Eric Ebron in the first quarter, saving what probably would have been a sack. At the end of the day, the Steelers defeated a quality opponent on the road and are now the NFL's last remaining undefeated team. They can solidify their place atop the AFC North with a win over the Baltimore Ravens next week.
The Dallas Cowboys are terrible on defense, particularly in the first half of games. They trailed the Washington Football Team 22-3 at halftime in Week 6 and have now allowed at least 20 first-half points in six straight games (an NFL record). Washington, which had been riding a five-game losing streak before Sunday, was able to cruise to a 25-3 victory. The NFC East is now a diluted mess where the first-place Philadelphia Eagles lead the division with a 2-4-1 record.
Losing starting quarterback Dak Prescott was a heartbreaker for the Cowboys, but he wouldn't be able to save this team on his own. In addition to the defensive struggles, the offensive line has been decimated by injuries and star running back Ezekiel Elliott is having a horrible season. Worst of all, head coach Mike McCarthy is starting to look far worse than Jason Garrett ever was. Garrett only had one losing record in nine seasons as Dallas' full-time head coach and was pushed away after an 8-8 finish in 2019. The Cowboys would be extremely lucky to finish 8-8 under McCarthy this season, as his tenure as head coach has started with a very large step in the wrong direction.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield did not get off to a hot start against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. His first pass attempt of the game was intercepted, and he did not get his first completion until the second quarter. Once Mayfield finally did connect with a receiver, though, he caught fire. He completed 21 consecutive passes, setting a new franchise record. His only incompletion after starting 0-for-5 was a spike to stop the clock. On the next play, he threw the game-winning touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones from 24 yards out.
For the first time all season, Mayfield picked his team up and won a game with his arm. He deserves some credit for throwing five touchdown passes, even though they came in a back-in-forth battle with the last-place Bengals. Cleveland will have to lean on him even more moving forward. Star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL while making the tackle on Mayfield's interception, and the team is still waiting for starting running back Nick Chubb to return from an MCL injury. The Browns are squarely behind the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, but Mayfield is giving them a decent shot as a wild-card contender at 5-2 on the season.
It's time for some Matthew Stafford appreciation. By connecting with tight end T.J. Hockenson on an 11-yard touchdown strike to beat the Atlanta Falcons 23-22 as time expired on Sunday, the Detroit Lions quarterback completed the 30th fourth-quarter comeback of his NFL career. That broke a three-way tie between him, Fran Tarkenton and Vinny Testaverde and now ties him with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for the eighth most since 1960. This particular comeback moved the Lions to 3-3 on the season and kept them alive in an NFC North race, where the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are both 5-1.
Stafford, who went first overall in the 2009 NFL draft, is too often overlooked in discussions about the great quarterbacks of the past 10 years. This is of course because he plays for the Lions and has only made three career playoff appearances, losing in the wild-card round all three times. Detroit is probably not destined for postseason success this year, but Stafford is doing all he can to save head coach Matt Patricia's job with two straight wins. After missing the second half of last season with a back injury, Stafford could play his way into the Comeback Player of the Year conversation.
The Kansas City Chiefs did not have their best offensive performance against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes only threw one touchdown pass. The Chiefs lost the yardage battle by 125 yards and lost the time-of-possession battle by nearly seven minutes. They also went 0-for-8 on third down. Despite all of this, Kansas City hung a season-high 43 points on Sunday.
How did the Chiefs pull this off? They got a 50-yard interception return-touchdown from Daniel Sorensen and a 102-yard kickoff-return touchdown from Byron Pringle. Kicker Harrison Butker made all three of his field-goal attempts, and backup quarterback Chad Henne had a one-yard touchdown run in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. This was a complete team victory, and that should scare the rest of the AFC. It proves that even when you limit Mahomes and Kansas City's overall offensive production, the Chiefs are a well-rounded team that can beat you several different ways.
While the Patriots struggle without him, Tom Brady is thriving with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He threw four touchdown passes in a 45-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, bringing his season total up to 18 (second most in the NFL behind Russell Wilson's 22). It also brought his career total up to 559, which surpasses Drew Brees' active total (558) for the most in NFL history. It's possible these two exchange this lead multiple times before the season — and their respective careers — is over.
Brady has now thrown for at least three touchdowns in three of his past five outings. He's also thrown just one interception during that span. He has connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown each of the past two weeks, and soon the Buccaneers will be adding wide receiver Antonio Brown to the mix. Brady has found his stride in Tampa Bay and will only pick up speed in the coming weeks.