The NFL has reached the midway point, and the herd is beginning to thin.
Contenders are asserting themselves, while pretenders lose ground.
Here are a few of the top stories from this week of action.
In the most thrilling game of the day, The Seahawks, no strangers to high-wire finishes, outdueled the upstart Houston Texans 41-38. In a shootout between two mobile quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, the wily veteran Wilson bested the rookie phenom. Watson once again passed for 4 touchdowns, this time setting a career mark in passing yards with 402. The league has recently seen rookie sensations light it up only to fizzle as defensive coordinators learn their tendencies, but Watson’s poise and accuracy seems special. He has brighter days ahead, but the experienced Seahawks got the better of the young star today at home. This marks the second time Watson and the Texans have come up just short against a championship-level team and quarterback on the road; the Patriots needed a late touchdown to defeat Houston at Foxboro earlier this year.
Miami got shut out 40-0 in a sloppy Thursday night at Baltimore. The early turnaround causes injuries, or forces players to sit when they may have been available for a Sunday kickoff. The Dolphins had to play without quarterback Jay Cutler, and the offense could muster zilch in his absence. The loss puts the Dolphins behind the eightball in the AFC East, because two of their division opponents notched victories.
Speaking of the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills handled the Oakland Raiders’ potent offensive in an impressive 34-14 victory. West coast teams traveling to the east coast for an early kickoff is usually a recipe for disaster, and that maxim proved true again. The Raiders couldn’t muster much against the gritty Bills who are definitely a factor in the division race at 5-2. They still have to get past nemesis New England, but the Patriots have yet to click offensively. Tom Brady is on the wrong side of 40, so there’s no telling when he’ll lose that edge that always seems to allow him to eke out the close games.
Cincinnati got off to a horrendous 0-3 start, but are beginning to dig themselves out of the hole. With their 24-23 win over the Colts, the Bengals are now sitting at 3-4 with four straight winnable games on their slate. The Bengals have three road games against Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Denver, all of whom have struggled recently. If the Bengals get through that road trip, they return home to face off against the hopeless Cleveland Browns, which sets up a home showdown with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh appeared to be the runaway favorite in the division, but haven’t seized control as expected. Don’t count out the big cats.
Washington has now lost five of the last six games against their bitter rival, the Dallas Cowboys. Four of those losses have been with quarterback Kirk Cousins at the helm. These types of performances in big games are the reasons why the Redskins haven’t committed long-term to Cousins as their franchise quarterback. While his stats are strong and his results are good, Washington is concerned he doesn’t have “it.” That special sauce that separates the great from the good. The Redskins will have to do some soul-searching on whether Cousins is the answer, or if they prefer to start over. Cousins has thrown numerous interceptions late in fourth quarters with the game on the line. This week was no different.
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Kirk Cousins is a lot like young Tom Brady in that he manages to do enough to keep his team in the game until the final drive. But then, instead of winning it, he throws a devastating, game-sealing interception