You think you know something about the NFL, and then along comes a Sunday like Week 10. The league starts to make sense, and then it goes berserk. People too often call NFL weeks weird and wild, but Sunday was weird and wild.
How else to describe it? The New Orleans Saints didn’t score a touchdown at home, Patrick Mahomes lost a shootout to Ryan Tannehill, and the Miami Dolphins have a winning streak.
Usual winners swapped places with perpetual losers. The New England Patriots had a bye, but the other participants in last year’s conference title games — Kansas City, Los Angeles and New Orleans — all lost. Meanwhile, the Jets and Falcons joined the Dolphins in doubling their season win totals.
Here’s what to know from the 10th Sunday of the NFL season:
The Saints’ inexplicable loss was just one of those days — they hope. It is tempting, easy and probably accurate to dismiss New Orleans’s 26-9 loss to the Falcons and their atrocious defense as an aberration. Division game, opponent coming off a bye, all that. But they also have to make sure it is not the start of an offensive swoon, because that has happened before.
Sunday’s loss was strange in many ways. New Orleans has one of the league’s best offensive lines, but the Falcons dominated it. They sacked Drew Brees six times, which matches the most the Saints have allowed during the Sean Payton-Brees era.
For all the Saints’ firepower, they have now failed to score a touchdown three times this season. But against a Falcons defense that entered 1-7 while allowing 31 points on average? Hard to figure.
Lamar Jackson is Mr. Perfect. As the results in Tennessee and Atlanta proved, there is value in destroying bad teams. The Ravens’ 49-13 dismantling of the Bengals was particularly impressive. They were on the road in a division game, primed for a letdown after their statement victory over the New England Patriots. And they handled their business from the opening kick, scoring on their first two drives and never letting the Bengals up for air.
Baltimore validated what it showed last week: It is a legitimate threat to the Patriots in the AFC.
The driving force, of course, was Jackson. He registered his second perfect 158.3 quarterback rating this season, joining only Ben Roethlisberger among quarterbacks who have had two in one year. Jackson is already a leading candidate for MVP honors.
The Chiefs at full strength can be terrifying. But they’re also in for an AFC West fight.
But Kansas City botched the endgame Sunday and dropped to 6-4, oddly having lost Mahomes’ past three full games. The Raiders, at 5-4, are only a half-game out of first place.
Brian Flores might be really good. If there was ever a team that might quit, Miami was it. But the Dolphins did not, and the credit belongs to Flores. After their 16-12 victory in Indianapolis, the Dolphins have won two straight. Yes, they only beat the Jets and the Colts with backup Brian Hoyer. But given the player development, tactical and motivational abilities Flores has shown, it’s easy to have faith that the Dolphins have the right coach if their plan to tank for a better roster works.
The Rams could be headed for disaster. They stand 5-4 after a dispiriting 17-12 loss at Pittsburgh in which nine of their 12 points came from their defense. In the race for the two wild-card spots in the loaded NFC, they are looking up at the Seahawks and Vikings and tied with the Eagles and Panthers.
When a team trades two first-rounders, making it to only the second week of January would be a disappointment. Not making the playoffs would be a disaster. The Rams — who still have to play the Ravens, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks — could be headed for that fate.