There have always been bad teams in the NFL. But I am not sure there has been a time when the dregs of the league have been this far gone.
We aren’t even at the midpoint of the 2021 season – the first of the expanded 17 game schedule – and there appears to be no end of high-school style beatdowns that are over in many cases before halftime. Heck, it’s not even exclusive to bad teams; the Titans destroyed the Chiefs in Week 7 with a 27-0 scoreline at the half. And the Bengals gutted the Ravens, 41-17 … and the week before that the Ravens blasted the Chargers, 34-6, while the Rams plowed over the Giants, 38-11, in prime time.
It feels like there is a blowout problem arising. Sometimes when it’s quite predictable, and occasionally when it’s not (like some of the results above). But, most often, it is one of the usual suspects involved, and Vegas is going to have to continue pushing the point spread to new highs in many cases to account for the trend.
Consider the Houston Texans, for starters, who are embodying some of the most disturbing characteristics of this. Two weeks ago they lost, 31-3. Last week they had a quick start at Arizona then went on to lose, 31-5. On Sunday, the Rams were up 38-0 at one point before the Texans added garbage time bows and whistles in the final 10 minutes. For much of the season the Texans would at least start fairly strong, as they brought only a minus-10 first-half scoring differential into this game; of course they also had a staggering -96 second-half differential coming into this week, nearly twice as bad as anyone else (Atlanta was at -49 entering play Sunday).
But they aren’t alone.
The Lions went to 0-8 with an exclamation point, managing to lose, 44-6, to the previously spiraling Eagles. Yeah, this was 41-0 in the fourth quarter. But it doesn’t feel like such an anomaly anymore. Last week, the Patriots destroyed the Jets, 54-13. The Bucs were up 35-3 on the Bears at the half and won, 38-3.
We’ll see if this ends up being a blip. Or if these egregiously lopsided kind of affairs are something we can come to expect a few times in each expanded window. But the degree to which some of these teams are unable to put forth a fight for even a half feels a little bit like what MLB is going through.
Success of Jets’ White doesn’t look like a fluke
Zach Wilson is going to be out a few more weeks, no matter what. Mike White is going to get more time leading the Jets. And if he keeps this up, well, rookie head coach Robert Saleh will have some interesting decisions to make.
I like what I saw of White under extreme duress when he was thrust into that aforementioned 54-13 loss to New England a week ago. He played better than the second-overall pick, looked okay despite all going on around him, and he played absolutely out of his mind in New York’s shocking upset of the Bengals on Sunday. Yeah, maybe the Bengals fell into a trap game, and were looking ahead and feeling themselves after running over the Ravens in Baltimore last week.
But none of that should obscure White’s performance shredding a defense that guys like Lamar Jackson and Ben Roethlisberger could do very little against earlier this season. The Jets offense looked far more robust and dynamic and energetic and cohesive than it has under Wilson; the raw first-round pick has been a steady slide since an impressive Week 1 debut against Carolina, he never looked nearly as dangerous as White did for the duration of Sunday afternoon.
White took some huge hits – including a blindside shot in the second half that looked late to me and bent his head back awkwardly – and overcame some brutal breaks (two early picks that were both tipped and gave the Bengals an early lead despite being thoroughly outplayed).
He faced a Cincy defense that was suffocating opposing quarterbacks and showing few weaknesses at any level of play, but they had no answers for White and a group of skill guys who have done next to nothing all season. He threaded passes in the red zone to tight windows and caught a pass for a critical two-point conversion. White was 23-for-29 for 217 yards and a touchdown in the first half (along with the two unfortunate picks), and still managed to get better from there.
He finished the game 37-for-45 for 405 yards and three TDs and a QB rating of 107.9. He completed passes to a staggering 10 different Jets teammates. Four Jets had at least five catches. It didn’t look particularly fluky to me. And while expecting him to keep this up would be silly, seeing more of what White’s got if he comes close to looking remotely like this the next two weeks might be in the Jets best interests.
More insider notes from Week 8
- I guess Carson Wentz was due for a stinker, but man, what a time for it to come. He has struggled with his goal-line decision making this season – around his own end zone as well as the opposing one – with some crazy shovel passes and weird deliveries getting picked. The pick six from his own end zone Sunday was the worst yet, and he had no chance for success on the overtime interception as well. He continually underthrows deep balls. He gets bailed out with pass interference calls a fair amount, but it’s a dangerous way to live …
- The Titans are the AFC’s top seed by pure merit. They’ve just run a gauntlet of the Bills, Chiefs and Colts, and they put up at least 27 points in all three wins. They have scored 132 points in their past four games, and they have a stranglehold on the AFC South …
- For what it’s worth, the Chiefs first-half scoring margin is -52, third-worst in football, and that offensive attack is no long otherworldy enough to overcome something like that …
- The Steelers offense showed signs of life for the third straight game and they have clearly figured some things out in the run game. To do what they did on the road at Cleveland without the services of a kicker for much of the game is definitely something they can build on …
- A lot of people will kill the Bengals for losing that game. But that is a very young team on a steady climb out of the abyss. Even the best teams blow games they should easily win; hence “any given Sunday.” They’ll learn from this letdown, and will remain a factor in the AFC North.