On a Week 4 where games got cancelled and postponed due to coronavirus finding its way into multiple NFL teams, big moments were still plentiful, writes Matthew Carolan.
Dallas continued to deliver exciting, high scoring games, while a forgotten receiver reminded everyone that he has still got it.
Odell reminded us of his qualities
The aforementioned Dallas game featured a player synonymous with highlight-reel moments involving the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. who had been averaging 52 receiving yards per game up until Week 4, reminded the league that he still has a lot to offer, even when his tenure in Cleveland to date would not illustrate that to be the case.
Beckham, who even the most fairweather NFL fan should know due to his now-famous catch in 2014, has not exactly hit the ground running in Cleveland. In 2018, the New York Giants traded him away and received much criticism, but the criticism of New York subsided due to a pretty unimpressive first season, by Odell’s standards at least.
Sure, he posted 1,035 yards, but with just four touchdowns and a losing record, there were question marks around the man who many considered to be one of the best in the league.
This season started off even worse. He had 11 receptions for 155 yards across three games and the Browns, in spite of being 2-1, did not look great.
Yet, here we are. A quarter of the season is now complete, the Browns are 3-1, and Beckham’s three touchdowns and 81 yards against Dallas mean that he is averaging a touchdown a game as the Browns boast the same record as their division leaders.
On the surface, Browns fans should be content. As for Odell, his game in Dallas reminded us of what he can be at his best. He can be the dynamic, electrifying playmaker whose route running and game-changing abilities made him a superstar in New York.
Thus far, Cleveland warrants blame for not giving us enough of this. It takes two to tango, but if Cleveland can give us this version of Odell more often, then maybe, just maybe, they can make the playoffs.
Josh Allen might be owed some apologies
It is not always easy to forecast how good a quarterback will or will not be. Carson Wentz promised to be one the best of his generation but now looks like a player in regression. Brady was taken in the sixth round and turned out to be the best ever. It is just a hard thing to gauge.
In 2018, the NFL draft was littered with alleged franchise quarterbacks. The chances of one draft possessing several franchise quarterbacks are slim. In 2004, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning were all selected, but that was an exception as opposed to the rule. So for the 2018 draft to deliver us a plethora of top tier quarterbacks was always unlikely.
But that did not stop us from having great expectations. In terms of ‘big name’ quarterbacks that went off the board, there was:
1 Baker Mayfield (Cleveland); 3 Sam Darnold (New York); 7 Josh Allen (Buffalo); 10 Josh Rosen (Arizona); 32 Lamar Jackson (Baltimore).
We have now had two-and-a-bit years to judge this list, and while Rosen has absolutely failed and Darnold has not exactly shone, there are varying degrees of success for the other three. Lamar Jackson made an astronomical leap from year one to year two, while Baker went the other direction. Still, it is at least one season each where they can say they have succeeded.
Then there is Josh Allen. Allen was poor in year one. It did not take long for questions to be asked. In year two, he had moments, but there was not enough. They made it to the playoffs, in large part, because of great coaching and an excellent defence, but not Josh Allen. Again, more questions were asked.
Here is how his stats have progressed over three seasons:
Year 1: 2,074 yards, 10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 67.9 quarterback rating.
Year 2: 3,089 yards, 20 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 85.3 quarterback rating.
Year 3 (projecting): 5,304 yards, 48 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 122.7 quarterback rating.
Granted, it is unlikely Allen will keep on track to meet those projected numbers, but even if he hits 75% of that, he will have improved incrementally again. Now, in year three, with Stephon Diggs as a perennial option to help him, Josh Allen is finally flourishing and if he can keep it up and perhaps win the AFC east, then he could look like the second-best quarterback from the once hyped 2018 draft class, and one of the best in the league.
Tate v. Ramsey brawl
One of the late kick-offs on Sunday saw the New York Giants play in SoFi stadium against the LA Rams. If you did not watch it, you did not miss much. It was a dull, low-scoring affair. At least it was close for most of the game, because to not predict the Rams to dominate by a large margin would have been met with scepticism beforehand.
That said, there was some excitement, even if it was after the game. When the clock ran down and the final whistle went, Golden Tate and Jalen Ramsey walked towards each other and immediately started swinging. The teams almost instantly intervened and separated the two, but ultimately it left a sour taste after an already rancid game.
The incident is said to have kicked off as a result of domestic issues Tate’s sister had with Jalen Ramsey dating back to the summer of 2019 when Ramsey and Tate’s sister had two children together. When that ended, Tate took umbrage with Ramsey and how things concluded, and this was their first on-field meeting since then. Ergo, chaos.
The madness is nothing new to New York, of course. This is a team that attracts carnage like no other, with players blowing their thumbs off with fireworks (Jason Pierre Paul) and shooting themselves in the leg (Plaxico Burress) in the past. While the Rams look to be on the right track this season, the Giants are heading the opposite direction. Even more so than before.
Watch the latest episode of The Snap, with Ger Gilroy and Cian Fahey:
The Cowboys and Browns game was a lot of fun
The Odell Beckham Jr. performance was merely the icing on the cake for the Browns’ trip to Dallas on Sunday, because it really was a very fun game to watch.
Going in, it felt like two volatile teams meeting and that just about anything could happen. Indeed, a lot did happen. It is not often that a quarterback will complete 41 of 58 passes for 502 yards and one touchdown… and also lose the game. But then again, that is what this Dallas team is, and while it may not be conducive to a winning record, it certainly is a lot of fun to watch.
With Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliot as weapons, Dak Prescott has little excuse to not put up big numbers, but that does not take away from the standard he is playing at. In stark contrast, the Cowboys’ defence is often hilariously bad. They made Baker Mayfield look like Joe Montana, so it will come as no surprise to find out that they are currently ranked 32nd in the league in terms of points per game conceded (and third last in yards per game).
Dallas sit at 1-3 and second place in the NFC East, and even though they are not first, they are probably the best team in that division, which says it all.
As for Cleveland, at 3-1 they are now playing with confidence. They will probably not win the AFC North. However much they improve this season, they are still a flawed team intrinsically linked with haphazard decisions and mistakes. They are certainly capable of playing an entertaining game like they did on Sunday, but it is easier against such defences.
They host the number one ranked defence in Week 5 - Indianapolis. That might give us a better idea as to how good Mayfield really is in year three.
Coronavirus is wreaking havoc in the NFL
This felt inevitable. When the news broke on Tuesday that three players and five staff members of the Tennessee Titans tested positive for COVID-19 (with an additional player testing positive on Wednesday), team facilities and operations had to shut down. Minnesota, who played Tennessee in Week 3, also had to shut down.
So, this meant that the Titans game with the Steelers had to be postponed. The Titans now sit with 18 players in total recovering from COVID-19. Eighteen positive tests over the course of six days showed just how quickly it can spread amongst the team. On Monday, they had no positive tests. So perhaps they are over the worst of it.
Nevertheless, we were still robbed of a very promising early kick-off on Sunday, which pales in comparison to the second game that got postponed.
Indeed, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive too, so the Patriots’ trip to Kansas City, which was due to be played at 9.25pm on Sunday, was also postponed... until Monday night. A strange decision? Perhaps. Nobody else tested positive for New England, but that does not mean that players might test positive tomorrow or the day after that. That is how the virus works - it can take time to show.
Of course, the NFL has to take this seriously, and postponing the game is the very least they should do. But it is hard to not feel robbed of a hugely promising set of games. Instead of Tennessee v. Pittsburgh and New England v. Kansas City on back-to-back, we were left to watch the hapless Bears show their true colours. It was a bit like being told you were heading to Disneyland only to wind up at Tayto Park.
Maybe Nick Foles is not that good either
Speaking of the Bears, the later slate of games saw Chicago play Indianapolis in a game which could be described as forgettable, which would be an insult to the word ‘forgettable’. It was so bad that it pushed through the boundaries of ‘forgettable’ and into the realm of ‘memorably bad’.
This was no ordinary Bears game, though. Oh no, this was the starting debut of none other than Nick Foles.
Foles, the man who bested the Patriots in a Super Bowl and got rewarded with the starting job in Jacksonville. Foles, the man who lost that same job in Jacksonville to a man whose style is based on White Goodman from Dodgeball. Foles, the man who kicked Mitch Trubisky to the side and was meant to solve all the Bears’ quarterback woes, apparently. So would this game live up to such grand expectations? Could the man, the myth, the legend live up to his name? Could this enigmatic man be the man to lead Chicago to greatness?!
They scored 11 points and lost.
Alright, so perhaps the NFL community overreacted to Foles’ comeback win in Atlanta. Maybe that was more indicative of Atlanta’s incompetence than Foles’ elite prowess. Maybe Chicago are doomed to quarterback mediocrity forever.