If you had any faith in the Kansas City Chiefs heading into the season, you were fixated on what will take place Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Until Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are gone – and no doubt Brady goes first – any upstart AFC powerhouse will be measured against New England and eventually expected to beat it when it counts.
Jacksonville had its chance and succeeded. Miami had its chance and folded. And now, here come the Chiefs (5-0), one of the two unbeaten teams in the league.
Last week, Kansas City’s entertaining offense broke down Jacksonville’s iron-gate defense in its 30-14 win. But what makes Sunday’s game fundamentally different, and somewhat problematic for the Chiefs, is New England’s capability to fight back.
Here are the facts about the Chiefs defense: It has allowed the most yards in the NFL (461.8) and 25.8 points per game. The passing defense has allowed the second-most yards (343) per game and the run defense has allowed a league-worst 5.8 yards per carry.
Blake Bortles threw four interceptions and fumbled once against Kansas City. We think Brady can do better and likely will.
If there is an upside with the Chiefs it’s that they have six interceptions, have recovered two fumbles and sacked QBs 15 times. But the Patriots offense is finally rolling. It has scored 76 points in the last two weeks and now Brady has Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon to play catch with.
This might be worth passing up Red Sox-Astros on Sunday.
Browns Would Get A Charge Out Of A Win
You get the feeling the Cleveland Browns have finally turned it around. They aren’t a Super Bowl team. Let’s not get carried away. But they are now capable of concerning their opponent. And it’s been a long time since anyone has said that.
Two years ago, with Philip Rivers at QB, the Browns beat the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers for what turned out to be their only win in two seasons. On Sunday, they play again in Cleveland and the Browns have a chance to be over .500 for the first time since 2001 and just the second time since 1994, when Belichick was their coach.
Although the Browns defense is vastly improved – led by rookie corner Denzel Ward – the fact remains that Los Angeles has scored at least 20 points in each of their five games and Rivers, playing as well as he ever has, has thrown only two interceptions and 13 TD passes.
If the Browns contain the pass, then the attention will turn to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, who already have more than 1,000 rushing yard and nine TDs. But don’t underestimate Cleveland’s potential to cause havoc. It leads the league with 15 takeaways, two more than it had all last season.
If the Browns win, you can officially turn off the laugh track.
Time For The Bengals To Pounce
Much like the Chiefs, Sunday is the day the Cincinnati Bengals get the chance to show they are more contender than pretender. They play the Pittsburgh Steelers and that usually means big trouble for them. And it usually means a busy day for the officials. These guys detest each other.
Look at it this way, Ben Roethlisberger has won 14 of the 16 games the Steelers have played in Cincinnati in his career. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has only won five of the 23 games he’s coached against Mike Tomlin. The Bengals have lost six straight to the Steelers. This does not encourage confidence.
But imagine how great it would be for the Bengals if they won. It would open a big lead in the AFC North and put them in the proper mindset for next week’s game against the Chiefs.
The Steelers hit their stride last week by demolishing a Falcons’ defense suddenly without its talon. Big Ben has 11 TD passes and James Connor (342 yards) has allowed the Steelers to put Le’Veon Bell’s holdout out of their mind.
Before Connor came around, Jim Brown was the only halfback in league history to have multiple games with 100 yards rushing, 50 receiving and two rushing TDs in the first five games of season. Take a hike, Le’Veon!
But there is this guy on Cincinnati’s defensive line, Geno Atkins. He already has six sacks, tying him with the Watt brothers (J.J. and T.J.) for the league lead. And remember, it was the Bengals defense which scored the two TDs that turned last week’s win over the Miami Dolphins around.
The Bengals are averaging almost 31 points and Andy Dalton has never looked better with 1,445 yards and 12 TD passes. Halfback Joe Mixon is back from injury. A.J. Green has five TD receptions.
Is Mitchell Too Good To Be (Tru)Bisky
Fans of the Chicago Bears hope what they witnessed two weeks ago wasn’t an aberration, that Mitchell Trubisky may in fact be the best pitcher the city has seen since Ferguson Jenkins and Jake Arrieta.
Let’s face it, his 354-yard, six-TD outburst against Tampa Bay was something to behold. And what it did was give the organization a glimmer of hope that Trubisky can mean for it what Derek Carr has meant to Oakland.
On Sunday, the Bears play the Miami Dolphins, a team seemingly in the midst of a tailspin after following up a 3-0 start with consecutive losses to the Patriots and Bengals.
This season has already provided its share of unlikely events, like Buffalo’s wins over Minnesota and Tennessee, even Cleveland’s win over Baltimore. The Dolphins could shake things up, too.
What the Bears want to see is Trubisky’s continued progression. In his first three starts this season, he completed only four throws for 20 yards or longer. He had eight of those against the Bucs, six for over 30 yards.
But as bad as the Dolphins have looked, its defensive secondary had played very well until the last two weeks, during which it has allowed 522 passing yards, Still, with corner Xavien Howard and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, it leads the league with 10 interceptions.
If Trubisky has another good day, it should be more than enough for the Bears to win because its unlikely Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill’s beat up offensive will be able to deal with Khalil Mack (the NFL’s defensive player of September) and his boys who already have 18 sacks and eight forced fumbles.
Can Garrett Survive A Cowboy Meltdown?
Jason Garrett is a great guy. He is engaging and intelligent, a Princeton man. When he played for the New York Giants, he knew where all the great Italian restaurants were in New York City. He’s a bon vivant. We love Jason Garrett here at Tiebreaker.com.
But he coaches the Dallas Cowboys and that has not been a very rewarding gig. And after losing a Texas duel with Houston last week, the Cowboys dropped to 2-3 with the Jaguars coming up on Sunday.
Garrett has coached the Cowboys since 2010 when Jerry Jones dumped Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start. In 2015, he signed a five-year extension worth $30 million. All seemed well. But the Cowboys have played only two playoff games in his tenure, won more than 10 games only twice. Now there is concern for his future.
Look, the Jags are not happy about last week’s loss to Kansas City. It’s likely there feelings are hurt. Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey, a emotional guy, might even still be upset at Dallas for passing him up with their fourth pick in the 2016 draft for Ezekiel Elliott. The Jags took Ramsey one pick later.
Even though Zeke leads the league in rushing (480 yards), the Dallas passing attack has been substandard, B-list receivers the only option for QB Dak Prescott. He has thrown for over 200 yards in the last two weeks, which sounds better than it is.
Bortles is not a superstar QB, but Dallas did allow Deshaun Watson to chuck for 375 yards last week. And Bortles is due for a rebound.
Keep Garrett in your thoughts.