NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week’s set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
The Seahawks won’t be able to overcome their historically bad defense
Hard to believe that just three seasons ago, Seattle’s Legion of Boom (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor), easily one of the greatest defensive back units in NFL history, was terrorizing opposing QBs.
The members of that vaunted unit must be cringing at what’s become of the Seahawks’ secondary. On Sunday against Buffalo, Seattle allowed the most points in a single game (44) during the Pete Carroll era. Bills QB Josh Allen became the third player (joining Dak Prescott and Matt Ryan) to pass for more than 400 yards against the Seahawks this season. That substandard showing isn’t an anomaly, either, as six of the eight QBs the Seahawks have faced this year have thrown for at least 300 yards against them.
The Seahawks have allowed 2,897 passing yards on the year, the most by any team in its first eight games in the Super Bowl era. And by a very wide 308-yard margin. An even scarier thought? The Seahawks are on pace to shatter the Super Bowl-era record for most passing yards allowed per game (362.1). The current record (299.8) is held by the 2011 Packers, who were 15-1 and had the NFL MVP (Aaron Rodgers), but went one-and-done in the playoffs after the Giants carved them up behind 330 pass yards and 3 TDs in the Divisional Round.
Did Drew Brees rip the G.O.A.T title from Tom Brady?
Drew Brees (4 TDs, 0 INTs) completely outplayed Tom Brady (0 TDs, 3 INTs) in Sunday’s rout. It happens. But when it keeps happening, then we must address the trend.
Brees has won five of his seven head-to-head matchups against Brady. Among QBs who have faced Brady at least four times, Brees is the only one with a winning record. Brees also just became the first QB to defeat Brady twice in a regular season. Keep in mind, Brady has been a starting quarterback in the NFL for 20 seasons!
It’s not like Brees and the Saints squeaked by, either. Sunday’s 35-point thrashing was the worst loss of Brady’s career. In fact, two of Brady’s five biggest losses have come against Brees (the other being a 41-17 loss vs. the Chargers in Week 4 of the 2005 season).
And if moving past the Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South was not enough, the fleur-de-lis on top of it all is that Brees recaptured the all-time passing TD record, which Brady held briefly in Weeks 7 and 8.
Brian Flores is the Coach of the Year
The Dolphins woke up Monday boasting their best record through eight games since the 2014 season. Miami has strung together four straight wins, something the franchise hasn’t done since the 2016 season, tying the Chiefs for the third-longest active win streak in the NFL, behind only the Steelers (eight) and Saints (five).
Yet, the Brian Flores effect goes deeper than wins and losses. The second-year head coach made the controversial decision to insert No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa into the starting lineup when his team was a respectable 3-3, with the incumbent, Ryan Fitzpatrick, coming off back-to-back three-TD games. And what did Miami proceed to do? Earn wins against the Rams and Cardinals, who are both 5-3 and very much in playoff contention.
The Dolphins’ offense is averaging the second-most points per game (27.8) in franchise history, behind only the 1984 team, which was led by NFL MVP Dan Marino (32.1). That’s even more impressive when you consider the 2020 unit does not have a player ranked in the top 20 in rushing yards or the top 30 in receiving yards.
Flores, known for his defensive background, has his group playing stout ball in his second season at the helm, as its 20.1 points per game allowed is tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL. The unit also has a takeaway in 14 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
Flores has his team swimming in the right direction and currently entrenched in the playoff picture. And with a Week 17 game on the schedule against the first-placed Bills (7-2), the Dolphins still have an opportunity to take the AFC East.
The Falcons are about to make a run
You heard it here first! Yes, the Falcons face a remaining schedule that includes the Saints and Buccaneers twice, along with games against the Raiders, Chargers and reigning Super Bowl-champion Chiefs. My confidence in Atlanta is based on the premise that the Falcons have finally discovered how to hold on to a lead.
Consider that this team, which has led in all but one game this season, has won two straight games that it’s led by 15-plus points, including Sunday against the Broncos, reversing a trend established earlier in the year by the two such games Atlanta lost.
Matt Ryan is also heating up, posting a 72.8 completion percentage, 318.5 passing yards per game and a passer rating of 111.3 since Week 6. Compare those figures to his numbers between Weeks 1 and 5: a 63.2 completion percentage, 294.4 passing yards per game and a passer rating of 90.2.
The return to health of Ryan’s go-to receiver, Julio Jones, is already paying dividends, as the duo cashed in on its 59th career TD connection in Week 9. Only two pairs have more since 2011, when Jones first entered the NFL: Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown (74) and Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski (71).
The Falcons have struggled in the early part of the last two seasons, going just 3-13 in the first eight games. However, once game No. 9 hits, they’re a different team. The win Sunday boosts their record to 7-2 in the final eight games of the season since 2019. Only the Ravens (8-0) and Chiefs (8-1) have better records in that span.
The NFL has been warned.
The Steelers have already punched their ticket to the Super Bowl
The Steelers are 8-0 for the first time ever, which itself is an impressive feat for such a storied franchise. Beyond that, history tells us that, after their comeback victory over the Cowboys, the Steelers should start booking airfare to Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV.
The Steelers are the fifth team to enter a game with a record of 7-0 or better and overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win. The other four teams all made the Super Bowl that season: 1998 Broncos (won Super Bowl XXXIII), 2007 Patriots (lost Super Bowl XLII) and 2009 Colts and Saints (the Saints beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV).
Being the last undefeated team in the NFL also matters, as three of the previous five teams to hold that distinction all played for the Lombardi Trophy: the 2019 49ers, 2018 Rams and 2015 Panthers.
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