As we approach the halfway point in the NFL season, the playoff contenders are emerging while the bottom feeders begin to fade. Players from teams like the New England Patriots are gearing up for a postseason run. On the other hand, players from the Miami Dolphins are planning their offseason vacations. Here are my four takeaways from NFL Week 7.
NFL Week 7: Four Key Takeaways Around The League
The NFC West is the Best Division in Football
With the victory over the New York Giants, the Arizona Cardinals pulled themselves above the sub-.500 mark. The Cardinals have now won three consecutive games after beginning the season winless and the offense seems to be clicking. Kliff Kingsbury isn’t relying on rookie Kyler Murray to carry the team each week as Murray struggled against the Giants. Chase Edmonds rose to the occasion and led the offense with 126 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
Though it is rare, I wouldn’t be surprised to see three teams from this division make it to the playoffs.
Sean Payton Deserves Coach of the Year Consideration
What Sean Payton has done with this New Orleans Saints team is simply remarkable. Many people counted the Saints out when Drew Brees went down with the thumb injury. Instead, Payton and the coaches adjusted their gameplan to fit Teddy Bridgewater rather than forcing him to play like Brees. Bridgewater has stepped in and flourished leading the Saints to a 5-0 record with a 9:2 touchdown to interception ratio at a 68% completion rate. The Saints scored 36 points against the Chicago Bears‘ 5th ranked scoring defense. By the way, that was without Alvin Kamara.
I wouldn’t be giving Payton his full credit if I didn’t touch on the defense. This Saints defense has been overlooked this season as one of the better defenses in the NFL. With players like Eli Apple and Demario Davis, you figured the goal of the Saints would be to outscore opponents. That isn’t the case. The Saints defense is ranked 7th in the league in yards allowed per game, which they flexed on the Bears this past Sunday. The Bears’ offense was unable to reach the 100-yard mark until the fourth quarter when the Saints pretty much went on cruise control. Payton is leading a scary team and one can only imagine how spooky they can be once Brees is 100% healthy.
The Baltimore Ravens are Flying to the AFC North Title
Prior to the season, the Baltimore Ravens looked to be a “wait and see” team. The Ravens parted ways with Joe Flacco. We didn’t know how great Lamar Jackson would be this year or if Mark Ingram could carry the load by himself. The faces of the defense look different with the addition of Earl Thomas and the absence of Terrell Suggs. The Ravens didn’t go through a typical rebuild, just a facelift. Now, they are the darlings of the AFC North.
Jackson has led this team to a 5-2 record while being the second-highest scoring offense. Ingram and Jackson have the Ravens sitting atop the league in rushing yards per game and are wearing opposing defenses down. This Ravens defense is coming together as well. In the win over the Seattle Seahawks, Marlon Humphrey and newly-acquired Marcus Peters both scored defensive touchdowns. Those two touchdowns were pretty much the point difference in the game.
With half of their divisional games remaining, I don’t believe the Ravens will need to sweep to with the north. They’ll claim the title because they are easily the best team in the division.
The Los Angeles Chargers Must Plan for the Future
At 2-5, the number of disappointing losses for the Los Angeles Chargers continues to add up and it’s only a matter of time before playoffs are completely out of the picture. I understand the “not giving up on the season” attitude, but at what point does that just become talk? Losing to the Tennessee Titans with Ryan Tannehill playing quarterback should tell a team what it needs to know. The Titans have been inconsistent at best this season and have seemingly given up on Marcus Mariota, yet the Chargers couldn’t pull out a victory. I’m not into tanking, but it might be time for the front office to reevaluate who and what the Chargers are moving forward.
With the move to their new stadium coming up, the need for the Chargers to figure out what’s next is even more important. Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger and at age 37, Father Time is en route to escort Rivers to retirement. Ownership needs a team or a face at the least to energize a fan base that is otherwise listless. People will come for the amenities and the scene but will stay for the product on the field.
Last Words: Predictions
NFL Week 7 has me pretty confident that the NFC champion will come out of the NFC West. The 49ers or Seahawks will hoist the George Halas trophy on January 19 after defeating the Saints in a game for the ages. The Ravens will face the Patriots in the AFC title game and lose in a blowout. If Rivers is on the Chargers next season, it will be an Eli Manning–Daniel Jones situation.
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