5 Takeaways From The NFL In Week 7

Observations of the league while the Steelers were on a bye

Matt Koll
October 22, 2019 - 10:58 am

It's crazy what more you notice on a Steelers bye week. The off week always provides an opportunity to look at the league as a whole and evaluate what is going on as it pertains to your team. Here are five things I took away from the week, most of which applying to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of their season. 

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5.  The Officiating Will Always Be A Story 

Every week there will be at least one or two instances of the officiating crews completely screwing something up, making the wrong calls after replay or flat out missing something egregious that impacts the outcome of a game or games. 

This week's featured a goal line sequence in the Chargers-Titans game. LA was trying to pound it in to take the lead on Tennessee with Melvin Gordon. Rivers hit Austin Ekeler out of the backfield for what looked like the go ahead touchdown, but replay said Ekeler's backside hit the ground before the ball crossed the goal line. That was the first.  Then a run by Melvin Gordon from the inches line was in but after replay, he was determined to have his knee down before he crossed the goal line. Another attempt from Gordon and he fumbled the ball to give the game away. 

Replay seemed to have gotten everything right here, but that doesn't mean people didn't complain about the use of it. In the Texans-Colts game, Deshaun Watson fought off multiple defenders to avoid being sacked and then threw a touchdown pass to top target DeAndre Hopkins. Except he didn't. He didn't because the play was blown dead as he was trying to keep the play alive and Houston was robbed a score. 

It doesn't matter the week or the matchup, there will always be a GIF or a 20 second video on Twitter depicting how an officiating crew botched a big play in a game. Maybe we just have more outlets to complain it, I don't know. But it sure seems like it's always an issue. The NFL might have to completely overhaul the way it utilizes replay in its intended purpose, its usage and the way officials interpret what they've seeing. A "sky judge" or official up in the press box to keep things in order wouldn't hurt either. 

4. The Saints Are The NFC's Best  

I know, I know. San Francisco is undefeated. But have you caught what New Orleans has done since Drew Brees went down? 

5-0. The defense has taken it to another level. They've beaten what figures to be two NFC playoff teams in Dallas and Seattle and one borderline one in Chicago. Teddy Bridgewater has been the best "game manager" New Orleans could ask for. 

This week, they were without Brees. Without top running back Alvin Kamara and without tight end Jared Cook. They were on the road against a Bears team that needed a win badly to keep up in the NFC North. Ho hum, Latavious Murray rushes for over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, Bridgewater made throws when he needed to, the offensive line dominated, and the defense forced two fumbles and allowed just 4 first downs through 3 quarters. 

This team is a team and they win no matter who is out there offensively. Once they get Brees back, look out. I expect them to be eyeing another NFC Championship Game at the very least, possibly avenging their gut-wrenching loss last year and getting into the Super Bowl.  

3. The Patriots Operate On A Different Planet 

And I hate it. I'm actually thoroughly annoyed at this point by the Patriots brilliance. Is that a salty take? Absolutely. But I don't care. I'm salty.

Seeing them go to work last night against the Jets was both amazing and sickening at the same time and showed just how much more polished they are than any other team in the league. Are the Jets world beaters? Certainly not. They may end up being one of the league's worst. But the Pats set the tone by constructing a demoralizing 16 play, 78 yard drive that took up almost 9 minutes of game action, capped off by a Sony Michel touchdown that just toyed with the Jets defense. 

Last night, 42 year old Tom Brady was carving the Jets defense up, dropping dimes to guys like Philip Dorsett, Brandon Bolden, Ben Watson (who's what 58 years old now??) and Jakobi Meyers. The defense forced 5 Sam Darnold turnovers and lead the league in fewest yards allowed per game, turnovers and points allowed. It might just be the best defense they've ever had in the Brady/Belichick era.

Oh, and the Tuesday morning, after they beat down an opponent 33-0 on Monday Night Football, they trade for WR Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons. They are frustratingly dominant and always one step ahead. They've got a couple big games left on their schedule, including playing the Ravens on the road and the Texans and Chiefs at home. But I could see this team going 16-0. It's entirely possible. 

Nauseated yet? 

Related: Dunlap: Are We Headed For Pats Inevitable?

2. The AFC Hierarchy Is Really No Clearer 

What is this conference right now? I learned very little about the state of the AFC other than there really aren't any teams you can count on to win a game outside New England. Who knows what Kansas City will do without Patrick Mahomes, long term injury or not. I think Matt Moore will do ok, but is ok good enough with that porous Chiefs defense to win games? 

The Bills moved to 5-1 after beating the Dolphins 31-21, but Buffalo was down 14-9 through 3 quarters and Josh Allen is a rollercoaster ride that I don't think can be trusted against better defenses. Tennessee and the Chargers...LA can't seem to get out of their own way and while they are talented on offense, they're now 2-5 and the Titans are starting Ryan Tannehill. End of discussion there. 

The Raiders had a winning record at 3-2 coming into this week but got trounced by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Derek Carr was benched by the end of the game. I didn't think they offered much anyway.

The somewhat surprise result was Indianapolis beating Houston, despite Deshaun Watson coming in red hot and making plays all over the field. Jacoby Brissett threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns and that defense becomes dynamic when Darius Leonard is in there. Are the Andrew Luck-less Colts really the best in that division? Who knows. Are they a playoff team? I guess they have as good a shot as anyone, heck, if you're above .500 in this conference you feel great about your chances. With Mahomes out, the #2 team behind New England may have emerged and as a Steelers fan...you hate to see it. It's my #1 takeaway...  

1. The Ravens May Have Won Themselves The AFC North 

That felt like a statement win for the Ravens. On the road. In a hostile environment. Against a 5-1 team that was rolling. Their quarterback (Lamar Jackson) outplayed Seattle's (Russell Wilson) who'd played really at an MVP level coming in. Jackson showed why he might be the league's MVP if he stays healhy (big if), racking up 116 rushing yards on 14 carries. 

What may have been the most impressive and the most scary for Pittsburgh, is that the Ravens defense showed up like defenses of old. Harassing the quarterback. Holding the opposing running back to less than 70 yards rushing. With Seattle driving and leading 10-6 in the 2nd quarter, brand new addition Marcus Peters jumped in front of a Russell Wilson pass and took it to the house for his 5th career interceptions return for a touchdown. 

The Baltimore secondary looked New England-esque, with Peters and Marlon Humphrey using their physicality to shut things down. At 5-2, the Ravens have created quite the gap between themselves and runners-up Cleveland and Pittsburgh at 2-4. 

Though the schedule is rather daunting with road games against the Rams, Bills and Browns and home games against the Patriots, Texans and 49ers...Baltimore would really have to trip up to allow this lead to vanish. 

The Steelers are staring at a wild card berth as possibly their only postseason hopes and Buffalo at 5-1 and Indianapolis and Houston battling it out for the AFC South presents a huge problem. ​

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