Often in life, and in football, the truly bold are rewarded. Each week that seems more the case, watching these games, and I couldn't help but be struck on Sunday by the considerable immediate returns some clubs have gained by making big trades.
The teams willing to take on big salary or part with a very high draft pick or add an individual who might be falling out of favor for whatever reason have reaped immediate rewards, and I suspect they will continue to do so. Even some trades that may not have seemed particularly major at the time are bearing fruit and, all the while, the truly stubborn lower class in the NFL, and those organizations that ignored trade requests or acted in a petty manner look worse than ever.
Call it trade karma, if you will. Whatever you dub it, it seems real.
How about Marcus Peters grabbing his second pick six for the Ravens since being acquired for a backup linebacker and late pick? Baltimore's secondary was getting gashed by injuries at the time, but now Jimmy Smith is back as well, Earl Thomas has settled into his ballhawking role and the Ravens' defensive backs just might be as good as some thought they'd be before the season.
Of course, Minkah Fitzpatrick has made an even bigger impact in the secondary, basically saving the Steelers' season since he was acquired for a first-round pick. He entered Sunday tied for third in the NFL with five takeaways, and then returned a fumble for a score at the end of the first half to give his team the lead over the Rams. Later, Fitzpatrick sealed the game for the Steelers with his fifth interception since joining the team. The Steelers' defense has leaped to second in the NFL in takeaways since he settled into a centerfield role, and they went from the on the cusp of falling apart with Big Ben out for the season to right in the thick of the AFC playoff chase.
A wild Week 10 is almost in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast. Listen to the full show below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
While I believe the Rams have greater issues than their secondary, they went big to deal Peters and land corner Jalen Ramsey before the deadline, and Ramsey's presence has solidified their defense and reversed some ugly trends that were developing on their defense as it allowed 105 points over three straight losses last month.
The Cardinals aren't going anywhere, but ran out of running backs a few weeks back and needed to add someone to get through a few weeks and give first-overall choice Kyler Murray a fighting chance. Well, in two games Kenyan Drake has 25 carries for 145 yards and a TD, as well as 10 receptions. Not bad for almost nothing in return.
Sunday night, the Cowboys sport a revamped defensive line with both Robert Quinn, who has been a vital edge presence after being plucked from Miami, and Michael Bennett, who played a big role in their victory last week and could prove to be a big addition from the Patriots. Oh, and Monday night, I bet you see a ton of Emmanuel Sanders, who was an instant game-changer in his debut with the 49ers and will feature throughout. And as much as Jadeveon Clowney might not be tearing it up from a sack standpoint, he has been a key piece of a Seahawks defense that has its share of issues; without him, it may have been worse for a team still in the thick of a hunt for the first overall seed in the NFC.
Even some teams that weren't playing in Week 10 still fit the bill in terms of getting a trade boost. Mohamed Sanu became Tom Brady's second-favorite target in his debut with the Pats after coming over from Atlanta, and he won't lack for targets down the stretch.
Where would the Houston Texans be without Laremy Tunsil and Duke Johnson? For the first time in his career Deshaun Watson is healthy in the second half and the sacks have dissipated as the season wore on. Oh yeah, and Carlos Hyde, whom the Texans took a flier on before the season when injuries struck their backfield? He's among league leaders with over 700 yards rushing.
Seems like a trend to me.
And, lest we forget, the Skins and Bengals pretended they didn't have huge problems and ample players who could fetch real returns in a trade. They sat it out, and continue to pay the price. Trent Williams will never play for Washington and A.J. Green might not for Cincy. Both situations were easily avoidable and neither team has any hope on either side of the ball.
The Skins managed to lose their bye week with Williams' story putting the team in, again, a uniquely negative light from a PR standpoint, and the Bengals were humiliated by the Ravens at home with no one watching as rookie QB Ryan Finley made his debut with Andy Dalton, who could have been dealt, looking on while earning $1M a week.
Not a good look.
Solution to Browns' identity crisis
Been talking about the Browns' identity crisis on offense for a while, and Sunday was more evidence this team should just embrace it's ability to run the ball above all else. It was another rough day for them in the red zone, especially at the goal line, and Baker Mayfield and the passing game was held in check by Buffalo almost all game. They won because of the run and the limitations of Bills quarterback Josh Allen, and with Kareem Hunt able to pick up 74 yards on 11 touches after not playing for a year, it's clear what they need to do.
Make it easy on Baker and that offensive line, and try to road grade. According to NextGen Stats, Hunt, who was suspended the first eight games of the season for striking a woman in 2018, was in the backfield with starting back Nick Chubb for 43 percent of Cleveland's snaps; Chubb gained 113 of his 116 rushing yards in that formation. It was another game where Odell Beckham didn't see much of the ball, but at least it was a win and I'd say force-feed Hunt and Chubb at this point over a receiver.
Will Freddie Kitchens, whose in-game decision making was quizzical at times again, go with a throwback approach? Seems obvious to me.
Bears win, but major problems remain
The Bears clung on for dear life against Jeff Driskell and the Lions, but it still wasn't pretty. Mitchell Trubisky had two great TD throws to give them the lead, but was brutal in the first quarter and the fourth quarter and Chicago was lucky Matthew Stafford was out. Here is the Bears first-half offense over the past five games:
That is a total of 444 yards (at a meager 3.4 yards per play), over the equivalent of 2.5 full games, for a total of 26 points. Major problems remain, with a weak Lions defense still managing to hold them under 21 points.
More insider notes from Week 10
- Lamar Jackson looked every bit of an MVP candidate again Sunday, and the Ravens continue to obliterate opponents on the ground and through the air with their three-tight-end attack. Jackson was 12-for-14 for 151 yards and 2 TDs when throwing to Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst, and it's been a common theme. He came into the game leading the NFL with 44 percent of his passes going to tight ends (Baltimore is still looking for a secondary wide receiver to emerge to compliment Hollywood Brown) and is completing 72 percent of his attempt to his three top tight ends this season. …
- The Bills' slide has been a concern in this spot for a while now, and the run defense was savaged yet again. That can't happen for a team with offensive limitations, but it is. It was a second straight week allowing over 100 yards in the first half alone. In the last three weeks the Bills have surrendered 592 yards on 90 carries, for a staggering 6.6 yards per carry. They'd best at least split against the Dolphins and Broncos the next two weeks before the schedule gets more difficult to end the season. …
- The biggest surprise of the week was the Saints getting pushed around at the point of attack on both sides of the ball at home coming off a bye – by the Falcons, of all teams. Bizarre turn of events with that powerful OL yielding six sacks and having Drew Brees under constant duress. Guessing it was a blip, for both teams.