FOX Sports Betting Analyst
Week 7 in the NFL had a little bit of everything, but more than anything else, it was unpredictable. One of the many reasons for the popularity of this sport is its Any Given Sunday nature and how the league manages to humble those teams who are the flavor of the week. We saw that on Sunday.
Here is who is trending up and down in Week 7:
Kansas City Chiefs
Through seven weeks of the season, the Chiefs are already three games up in their division and are alone atop the AFC standings. This version of the Chiefs is different from previous years, which makes their impressive start even better. The Chiefs defense is outstanding, easily the best of Patrick Mahomes’ tenure in Kansas City. The defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, and after allowing 17 points to the Chargers in the first half on Sunday they shut out the Bolts in the second half. The D is filled with young talented players in their secondary mixed with veteran pass rushers and mobile linebackers. They do everything well, and they’ve been the anchor of the team so far.
The Chiefs offense came alive on Sunday after spending most of the season under their lofty expectations. Mahomes was 32 of 42 for 424 yards and four touchdowns against the Chargers. The best part of the Chiefs’ offensive production wasn’t Travis Kelce going for 179 yards … it was the rest of the receiving core finding a connection with Mahomes. Rashee Rice and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both had explosive receptions and touchdowns. These connections will continue to grow the Chiefs offense back into what we’ve become accustomed to. Kansas City is 6-1 with the arrow pointing up. It’s a great spot to be in.
In the middle of the second quarter against the Lions on Sunday, the Ravens went up 28-0. The Ravens had outgained the Lions 325 yards to 13. The Ravens ended up with over 500 yards after shutting down their offense with an eventual 35-point lead in the third quarter. Lamar Jackson finished 21 of 27 for 357 yards and three passing touchdowns. The Ravens offense played like the unit they envisioned with their offseason coordinator change. They blasted open rushing lanes, hit play-action passes with efficiency, and Jackson was supremely comfortable in the pocket. The Ravens embarrassed the Lions defense.
Equally as impressive was the Ravens defense, which smacked around a Lions offense that was operating at a high level entering Sunday. The Lions offensive line is big, physical and aggressive, and the Ravens defense was able to tame that unit. Lions quarterback Jared Goff was never comfortable, being sacked five times. The Lions were not able to establish any run game, only rushing for 84 yards with some of those yards coming in garbage time.
Big picture, this moves the Ravens into serious AFC title contention. It’s fair to assume their offense will continue to improve as they get more comfortable in Todd Monkin’s scheme. The receivers are catching the ball and the offensive line is healthier. On defense, the Ravens fly all over the field and hit the quarterback at a high rate. The Ravens are a legit contender to make a Super Bowl this season
The Eagles are a winner this weekend because they beat the previously 5-1 Miami Dolphins by controlling the line of scrimmage, as the Eagles normally do. It stood out all night that the Eagles defensive tackles were not going to allow the Dolphins’ interior offensive line to get any push in the run game. The Eagles pass rush was able to annoy Tue Tagovailoa enough just to throw him off at times, and that’s often all it takes to derail the Dolphins offense. Darius Slay was back in the lineup for Philadelphia and had an important interception to take away a Dolphins scoring opportunity.
The Eagles offense played okay, sort of trending water at times like we’ve seen all season. Jalen Hurts made some MVP-caliber plays but the turnover bug continues to haunt him. The most impressive drive of the night for the Eagles was the game-clinching drive — starting deep in their own territory and ending with an Eagles’ touchdown to go up 14 points. I think it’s fair to question some of the red-zone concerns and stagnation with their formations, but the Eagles’ high bar was cleared Sunday night with a win.
Who are these Bills? What is their identity after seven games? I have no idea, and that’s a problem. This Bills team previously beat the Dolphins 48-20 and have also lost two divisional games after leading late in the fourth quarter. The Bills fell to the New York Jets in Week 1 and now lost to the previously one-win Patriots on Sunday. These are not outcomes that serious AFC title game contenders typically have. One clunker, sure. But not only two clunker losses but also a subpar showing in a win against the New York Giants just last weekend. The Bills’ efficiency numbers are outstanding, but sometimes you have to throw those out for the eye test. Do you trust the Bills against the Chiefs? Do you even trust them next weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? The Bills are just not a trustworthy team right now.
Every season we have a division whose winner shouldn’t be hosting a playoff game. That division is the NFC South. It’s gross. The current NFC South leader is the Atlanta Falcons. The same Falcons team that entered this weekend 26th in DVOA, and after their ho-hum win against the Bucs on Sunday that number isn’t rising. The Falcons have defeated the winless Carolina Panthers. They beat the two-win Green Bay Packers by a single point, the three-win Houston Texans by two and the three-win Bucs by three. All four of their wins are against teams ranked in the bottom half of team efficiency. When the Falcons step up in opponent talent they get smoked, as we saw against the Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Younghoe Koo kicks 51-yard game-winning FG for Falcons
This team is currently in first place in the division because the Bucs aren’t good, but they aren’t supposed to be good this season. The New Orleans Saints have Derek Carr at quarterback and Dennis Allen as their head coach, a combination that doesn’t strike fear in anyone. Things are going so poorly in New Orleans that wide receiver Michael Thomas is publicly throwing Carr under the bus already. And then we have the Panthers, who are winless.
Where are my elite teams at? While every professional league claims to foster parody, the NFL is actually set up for it. A hard cap with a schedule that’s tougher if you win. And after seven weeks we generally have a good sense of which teams are elite or not. The Chiefs get an automatic entry into the elite tier. Are the 49ers elite without an injured Deebo Samuel and a beat-up Christian McCaffrey? I’d say yes. So that’s two teams. Who else… The Eagles are good but not playing as well as last season. The Cincinnati Bengals appear to be picking up steam. The Ravens blasted the Lions today, so maybe they belong in the elite tier. The Bills are out right now. Are the Dallas Cowboys in? I’d say no.
Micah Parsons takes issue with Cowboys being criticized more than Eagles, 49ers
The point is this season feels like a bunch of teams just stuck in the middle of the pack. Quarterback injuries, poor red-zone offense and the depth of pass rushers around the NFL paired with poor offensive line could all be reasons for this.
Geoff Schwartz is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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