The further the NFL gets away from the preseason, but the better the product gets.
Teams are starting to get their sea legs and play at a higher level.
Here are some of the top stories from this past weekend of action.
New York’s nightmare season continues. The winless Giants faced off against the winless Chargers, and the west-coast team is flying home with their first victory. The win also snap’s LA’s 12-game losing streak in one possessions-games. West-coast teams playing early games on the east coast almost always lose, but the Giants were very accommodating. While nursing a two-point lead late in the 4th quarter, the Giants fumbled the ball, and set up a short field for the Chargers to go ahead 27-22 and win. To make matters worse, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. left the game with a gruesome ankle injury. Barring a miracle, Beckham—and the Giants—are done for the year.
DEJA VU IN DALLAS
After a stellar 13-3 regular season, the Cowboys earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but ran into the buzzsaw known as Aaron Rodgers in the divisional round. Rodgers resorted to his freakishly routine heroics, and drove the Packers down the field late for a field goal to win 34-31. The revenge-minded Cowboys again had the Packers at home, and again watched Rodgers drive down the field late to claim victory. After the Cowboys took a 31-28 lead with 1:13 left, Rodgers needed only 62 seconds to guide Green Bay on a touchdown drive to win 35-31. At 2-3, the Cowboys have already matched last year’s loss total, and go into their bye week with a lot of questions to answer.
EAGLES SOAR ABOVE CARDINALS
The Battle of the Birds felt more like a passing of the torch, as old quarterback Carson Palmer struggles in the twilight of his career, while young upstart Carson Wentz is earning his wings. Wentz threw four touchdown passes en route to a 34-7 beat down of Arizona, who limped into the game after a home loss to Dallas, and a near-loss in overtime against the spiraling 49ers. The Eagles are perched atop the NFC East, and the Cowboys’ loss to Green Bay gives them an even better chance of claiming the division title.
CHIEFS CONQUER HOUSTON
Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson remained red-hot as he threw for five touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as Kansas City stayed undefeated with a 42-34 road win. The Chiefs are clicking on all cylinders, and will be incredibly tough to beat. The team’s Achilles heel has been the playoff of quarterback Alex Smith in big games. Smith is steady yet unspectacular, but currently he’s playing lights-out football. As for the Texans, even though they seem to have discovered a rising star in Watson, they lost superstar J.J. Watt for the season to injury. The onus now falls on Watson to carry the team, a burden Alex Smith isn’t facing; the Chiefs have a loaded roster and are poised to make a deep playoff run.
STEELERS MELT DOWN
In 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor suffered a meltdown in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Thirty-eight years later and a little over 200 miles away, Pittsburgh experienced a meltdown of their own. The Steelers came into the game as the current favorite to win the Super Bowl, but a 30-9 home loss to the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars raises serious doubts about the team. The offense, which arguably has the best quarterback/runningback/wide receiver combination in football, hasn’t kicked into high gear all year long, and imploded against the Jaguars. The Steelers could only muster three field goals, and star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). If they don’t get their act together fast, the Steelers could squander a great opportunity.