In the NFL, few things are guaranteed.
Week 11 proved that once again, with Jeff Saturday’s Indianapolis Colts going within a point of upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles while the Dallas Cowboys cast serious doubts over the Minnesota Vikings’ status as genuine contenders.
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Of course, there are some things you can count on, like Patrick Mahomes making you regret keeping a few too many seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter of a game.
Mahomes made another MVP statement on the weekend while the quarterback drama at the Jets is far from over.
That and more features in this week’s edition of NFL Talking Points!
WILSON’S ‘MIND-BOGGLING’ ANSWER COMES BACK TO HAUNT HIM
Just earlier this month, Zach Wilson was throwing a go-ahead touchdown pass as the Jets stunned the high-flying Bills at MetLife Stadium.
Only the week before Wilson had thrown three interceptions in a 22-17 loss to the Patriots but now he even had Josh Allen admitting post-game that he had been “outplayed”.
Appearing on Kyle Brandt’s podcast a few days prior, Allen had urged Jets fans to be patience with Wilson — to give the second-year quarterback just a bit more time to develop.
“Sometimes it takes a little longer,” Allen said.
“It took me a while to kind of understand the nuances of this game and trying not to do too much. I think that’s what it comes down to, not trying to do too much and allowing you to trust your guys on the field with you.”
That trust, though, went up in smoke after New York’s latest loss, with Wilson losing his starting role — and not just because of what happened on the field
Wilson completed just nine of 22 passes in an ugly 10-3 defeat to the Patriots where the Jets put up just two yards of offence in the second half. All up they managed only 103 total yards.
That was the fourth-fewest in franchise history, with Jets coach Robert Saleh openly admitting post-game that the offensive showing from his team was “dogs***”.
That was not all on Wilson but at least some of it was and yet the second-year quarterback refused to even take a share of the responsibility in his post-game press conference.
“No,” Wilson simply replied — twice — when asked if he felt like the offence had let the defence down.
Rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson had far more to say.
“We out here looking sorry,” he said.
“We know we’re not sorry. That’s why it really hurts. We know that we’re better than that. That’s why it’s frustrating for me, because we can do more. Honestly, I feel like they’ve got to put more trust in the receiver room. I feel like we can go up and make plays, do things.”
Regardless of who is right and wrong, that is what fans want to hear — particularly ones that are growing impatient with Wilson’s inconsistent performances.
When asked post-game if he was considering benching Wilson, coach Saleh said it was “the furthest thing” from his mind.
That didn’t last long, though, with Saleh making the call to bench Wilson before the week was up.
“Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh told reporters. “I know that’s going to be the narrative and I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out, but that’s not even close to the case. The full intent is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field this season. When that is, I’ll make that decision. I’ll take it day-to-day.”
It’ll be Mike White under centre for the Jets, with Joe Flacco as the back-up, and Wilson inactive.
Earlier this week, Connor Hughes, who covers the Jets for SNY, wrote that Saleh was sending a message with that response — and that was before the benching.
“The Jets were coddling Zach Wilson. At least that’s been the feeling ever since New York drafted him last year… but those days are now over,” he wrote.
“The cold truth is that the Jets (6-4) have spent the majority of this season winning in spite of their young quarterback. That’s why this all has felt a bit like a ticking time bomb. The concerns with Wilson’s play were shared amongst many in the locker room, but few let them reach louder than a whisper because, despite Wilson’s struggles, the Jets were still winning.”
Hughes also went on to report that Wilson’s reluctance to take responsibility post-game “rubbed” some teammates “the wrong way” and added to a belief he was “above the team”.
Speaking on Pro Football Talk, league insider Mike Florio said that Wilson failed to deliver on the “number one rule” if he truly wants to be the franchise quarterback in New York.
“There are moments where you just have to suck it up and take it,” he said.
“You have to say it’s on me. You have to have the confidence to say it’s my fault, ‘Yes I share responsibility, yes my eyes are functioning, yes I have some degree of self-awareness, it’s on me. I am not a petulant brat who refuses to accept responsibility’, because that is how you come off.
“I’m not saying Zach Wilson is but that’s how you come off. You have to own part of it, even if you believe deep down you don’t. Just in that statement yesterday, that tells me he’s got a long way to go to get to where he needs to be.”
Adding to the discussion, NFL journalist Myles Simmons said Wilson’s answer was emblematic of a lack of maturity that could be holding him back.
“There’s a certain level of maturity you need to be a franchise quarterback,” he said.
“When somebody lobs you a question like that in the press conference, where it’s not even just you personally…. if you listen to that question — as an offence, do you feel like you let the defence down? The answer is, ‘Of course’.
“You scored three points and only allowed three points on defence. It’s such an easy answer. It’s mind-boggling that this quarterback who was 9-of-22 for 77 yards in a National Football League has the nerve to stand at the podium and say, ‘No, we didn’t let the defence done’. “Are you out of your mind? You can’t do that.”
Chiefs & Cowboys claim spectacular wins | 01:43
THE $30M WILDCARD THAT COULD SHAKE UP SUPER BOWL RACE
It is the one signature that could flip the post-season on its head.
Odell Beckham Jr., who tore his ACL in the second quarter of last season’s Super Bowl, remains the biggest-name free agent left in the NFL.
Beckham Jr. wants to play for a contender and according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the race is down to two — the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
With that in mind, it looks like the Cowboys would surely be the preferred landing spot, even if the Giants need him more than ever before after another weekend of injuries.
Most notably, New York lost dynamic rookie Wan’Dale Robinson to a season-ending ACL injury, leaving its already decimated receiving corps down another talented player.
Robinson joins Sterling Shepard and tight end Daniel Bellinger on the sidelines, leaving Darius Slayton, Kenny Golladay and Richie James among the top receiving options.
Of course, this offence has and will continue to run through Saquon Barkley but another weapon like Beckham Jr. could revive what looks to otherwise be a fairly one-dimensional offence.
With that being said though, are the Giants truly a genuine contender anymore, especially as the injuries continue to pile up and Barkley’s workload increases?
Dallas certainly looks to be a far better chance of going on a Super Bowl run, particularly with the defence performing like it is, led by star linebacker Micah Parsons.
The Cowboys made a statement on the weekend, demolishing the previously 8-1 Minnesota Vikings 40-3 on their home turf — and Beckham Jr. certainly took notice.
According to reports, Beckham Jr. wants a prorated contract based on an annual salary of $20 million ($A30 million).
Looking at the NFC, the 9-1 Eagles would be the strongest Super Bowl contenders at this point, with the Cowboys, 49ers, Vikings and potentially Buccaneers in the mix.
Tom Brady’s Bucs have looked a shadow of themselves this season but may have turned a corner in the past few weeks and are now also coming off a bye.
Minnesota, meanwhile, was just handed a reality check by Dallas while San Francisco is spoiled for weapons on both sides of the field but has struggled for consistency at times.
All this means is that there is a genuine chance the Cowboys make a serious playoffs charge and Beckham Jr. could be a difference-maker down the stretch.
‘MAGIC’ MAHOMES CONTINUES TO MAKE MVP STATEMENT
When the Los Angeles Chargers took a 27-23 lead with 90 seconds left on Monday afternoon, you just knew it was too much time. You just knew Patrick Mahomes would have the final say.
And he did, masterminding a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with Mahomes finding tight end Travis Kelce for the game-winning score.
Everyone knows that Kelce is going to get the ball, like he did on three separate occasions on Monday to end up in the end zone every single time.
There is just no way of stopping him and Mahomes, who threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns in the win. It has always seemed like we were destined for another Chiefs and Bills showdown in the post-season.
But with Josh Allen’s shoulder issue not going away and Mahomes dissecting defences with surgical precision, it looks like it is advantage Kansas City at this point.
While always capable of the big plays, Mahomes has continued to develop as a quarterback, patiently working his way down the field and only truly going for it when needed.
It may not always be as spectacular as his 2018 MVP season but Chris Simms said it is every bit as good on NBC Sport’s coverage of Monday’s game.
“Mahomes is playing every bit as good as he did in his second year in the NFL, his first year as a starter, when he threw 50 touchdown passes and was the MVP of football,” former NFL quarterback Simms said.
“Now he’s doing it with the right decisions. It doesn’t matter what you do on defence. You see teams are no longer playing those soft zones and going: ‘Wait, let’s just do that because he won’t be patient’. They’ve learned their lesson, he’ll be patient and pick you apart.”
The emergence of the hard-running Isiah Pacheco has also added an extra element to Kansas City’s already explosive offence and eased the reliance on Mahomes to always create.
“The run game gives them something else to lean on just to take the pressure off of Mahomes a little bit,” added Simms.
“That’s the biggest thing and it gives them some wiggle room when there are injuries at receiver to go we have something else we can go to and it’s going to help them close out some football games where we have seen them have issues over the years because they just want to throw the football.
“Mahomes is amazing. Mahomes right now to be right now is the MVP of football, he’s on fire and seems almost unstoppable.”
Former NFL safety Rodney Harrison, meanwhile, declared Mahomes is “no question the best player on the planet”, pointing towards how he has excelled in spite of a growing injury toll.
“He just works magic,” Harrison said.
“You think about guys rotating in. You don’t have JuJu, you don’t have Mecole Hardman but guys are continuing to make contributions.”
THE DAUNTING QUESTIONS FACING FALLEN CHAMPIONS
There is no doubting it at this point. The Rams will definitely miss the playoffs, becoming the first reigning Super Bowl champions to do so since the 2016 Denver Broncos.
It begs the question, what does the future hold for a franchise that looks much closer to a rebuild than contending for a title?
There is little hope of the Rams turning it around anytime soon, with wideout Cooper Kupp on injured reserve and quarterback Matthew Stafford once again entering concussion protocols.
The list of injuries in L.A. continues to grow and has certainly played a central role in the team’s results this season, with the offensive line in particular taking a hit.
That in turn has made it hard to get the running game going while Stafford has also struggled under the constant pressure of opposition defences that are getting through far too easily.
In what appears to be an admission of where the season is headed, the Rams waived running back Darrell Henderson Jr., as well as linebacker Justin Hollins on Wednesday.
Speaking on ‘The Athletic Football Show’, Mike Sando questioned whether the motivation is there anymore after going all the way to the top last season.
“They remind me a little bit of Tampa Bay because I think once you win it all, you’ve accomplished your goal and it changes things,” he said.
“It changes what you have to play for. I just think they’re in a really interesting place because they’ve been pushing so hard to reached the mountaintop and now they’ve got there. Now you’re having a really bad year, so what does that mean for everybody?
“To me, Aaron Donald has been year-to-year already. Matthew Stafford has got to the mountaintop. Where’s Bobby Wagner next year? How does Jalen Ramsey deal with losing? What does Sean McVay do? What are we doing?”
That is a whole lot of questions and ones that likely won’t be answered until the off-season, although former Eagles defensive end Chris Long suggested it could involve moving a few key pieces.
“At the end of the season… I don’t think it’s unreasonable to move a piece like Aaron Donald or Jalen Ramsey,” he said on ‘The Ryen Russillo Podcast’.