the-final-word:-are-brady’s-bucs-in-trouble?

The Final Word: Are Brady’s Bucs in trouble?

I give up! I have to make game predictions each week on the audio version of Inside the Huddle with Jeff Reinebold and our dubious choices get highlighted on this very website every seven days – it’s humiliating work!

Monday Night Football summed up the nightmare of trying to pick winners and losers in this most unpredictable of NFL seasons. The San Francisco 49ers were in trouble coming into the game, and the Los Angeles Rams were debuting new star receiver Odell Beckham Jr – this was only supposed to go only one way, and yet it was the 49ers who romped to a 31-10 win.

The best of the action from the clash between the Rams and 49ers from Monday Night Football.

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The best of the action from the clash between the Rams and 49ers from Monday Night Football.

The best of the action from the clash between the Rams and 49ers from Monday Night Football.

Nothing is normal in this campaign and I love it, apart from when I have to make my weekly picks!

Five Major Takeaways from Week 10

1) Are the defending champs in trouble?

Talk about another result we didn’t see coming! We expected Tom Brady to shred the NFL’s worst pass defense. Instead, the Washington Football Team intercepted him twice and recorded a well-deserved 29-19 win.

Tom Brady struggled in Tampa Bay's defeat to Washington on Sunday, throwing two interceptions

Tom Brady struggled in Tampa Bay’s defeat to Washington on Sunday, throwing two interceptions

Either side of their bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost to the New Orleans Saints and now Washington. And a pattern has emerged that should be of great concern to head coach Bruce Arians, who called his team “dumb” on Sunday.

The Bucs have turned the ball over five times (four Brady interceptions), rushed for an average of just 62 yards per game and have not been able to get off the field on defense. Trailing by four in the final period, Tampa needed a stop to give Brady one shot at the win. Instead, Washington marched 80 yards in 19 plays to score on an Antonio Gibson one-yard run. After Mike Evans scored with just under 11 minutes remaining to give the Bucs hope, Washington bled 10 and a half minutes off the clock on that one scoring march.

On the 19th play of a game-clinching drive, Antonio Gibson sealed the win for Washington over Tampa Bay with this touchdown run.

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On the 19th play of a game-clinching drive, Antonio Gibson sealed the win for Washington over Tampa Bay with this touchdown run.

On the 19th play of a game-clinching drive, Antonio Gibson sealed the win for Washington over Tampa Bay with this touchdown run.

2) The impact of ‘get-right’ games

A few teams we believed were contenders started to look more like themselves in Week 10.

Atlanta's Dustin Colquitt's punt is blocked by Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong who then scrambles for a touchdown.

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Atlanta’s Dustin Colquitt’s punt is blocked by Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong who then scrambles for a touchdown.

Atlanta’s Dustin Colquitt’s punt is blocked by Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong who then scrambles for a touchdown.

The Dallas Cowboys were coming off a miserable home loss to the Denver Broncos but dominated the Atlanta Falcons from start to finish in a 43-3 beatdown. Ezekiel Elliott and CeeDee Lamb both scored twice as the Cowboys racked up 431 total yards.

The Buffalo Bills scored just six points in a Week Nine loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but made amends during Sunday’s 45-17 victory over the New York Jets. Josh Allen threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns, Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis both topped 100 yards receiving as the Bills amassed 489 total.

Watch as Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis submitted an incredible toe-tap catch of year bid in their game against the Jets.

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Watch as Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis submitted an incredible toe-tap catch of year bid in their game against the Jets.

Watch as Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis submitted an incredible toe-tap catch of year bid in their game against the Jets.

And on Sunday Night Football, that was more like it from the Kansas City Chiefs as they racked up 516 yards in a 41-14 ‘palindroming’ of the Las Vegas Raiders. Patrick Mahomes looked to be having fun again as he threw for 406 yards and five scores. Now, can the Chiefs keep that going? Up next for them is the Cowboys.

3) The rise of Belichick

Bill Belichick has led the Patriots to four-straight wins and five in their last six

Bill Belichick has led the Patriots to four-straight wins and five in their last six

Like the Evil Empire in Star Wars, you cannot keep the New England Patriots down for long. And, just like the famous movie franchise, a hooded and menacing leader is overseeing galactic domination.

The Patriots are not quite back to their previous heights, but they are well on their as winners of four in a row and five of their last six. Sunday’s 45-7 embarrassment of the Cleveland Browns was one of the more stunning developments in Week 10.

The defense played well once again and continues to make every opposing quarterback look ordinary. The running game didn’t miss a beat, with Rhamondre Stevenson subbing for the injured Damien Harris as the Pats racked up a season-high 184 yards on the ground. But the continued growth of rookie quarterback Mac Jones is another major reason for the winning streak. In his first six NFL outings, he posted a rating of 89.6. In the last month, that has risen to 102.6.

New England rookie quarterback Mac Jones has impressed during their win streak

New England rookie quarterback Mac Jones has impressed during their win streak

New England traditionally play their way into form in seasons and 2021 looks like being no different, except for the fact we had all written them off as an ordinary outfit. This team is playing football that is far from ordinary and they are looking dangerous once more.

4) Packers deliver on defense

We spent a decent chunk of time on Sky Sports NFL on Sunday evening building up the matchup between quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. And rightly so. Both men have enjoyed great success in what will be Hall of Fame careers and both were returning to the starting lineup for their respective teams.

Green Bay running back A.J. Dillon scores his first rushing touchdown of the season on a three-yard run against Seattle.

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Green Bay running back A.J. Dillon scores his first rushing touchdown of the season on a three-yard run against Seattle.

Green Bay running back A.J. Dillon scores his first rushing touchdown of the season on a three-yard run against Seattle.

But neither was the big story in this game, at least not for the right reasons. Wilson was shut out by a Green Bay Packers defense that continues to shine in big moments… and not always with the biggest of stars.

Green Bay have faced Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and now Wilson in successive weeks and held the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City and Seattle Seahawks to a total of 34 points.

We need to monitor the fitness of edge rusher Rashan Gary who suffered a nasty-looking arm injury, but this unit is showing resilience and the ability to overcome adversity. That bodes well for the Packers in a wide-open NFC.

5) Teddy did the right thing

Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was getting slammed on Sunday night and Monday, including by his own head coach in Vic Fangio, for getting out of the way of Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Darius Slay as he returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay returns a fumble 82 yards for a stunning touchdown against the Broncos!

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Eagles cornerback Darius Slay returns a fumble 82 yards for a stunning touchdown against the Broncos!

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay returns a fumble 82 yards for a stunning touchdown against the Broncos!

I’m not blaming Bridgewater one little bit. It’s not his fault that Melvin Gordon fumbled on the play and it’s not his job to be making tackles. We’ve seen many quarterbacks get hurt trying to fly into tackles after interceptions, most recently Baker Mayfield of the Browns.

While it might satisfy the macho urge to ‘take one for the team’ it does nothing to help Denver if Bridgewater is lost for the season. They put a red shirt on these quarterbacks in practice for a reason – to keep them out of harm’s way!

And I’m giving Bridgewater a pass for personal reasons. He suffered such a devastating knee injury in training camp in 2016 that saw him almost lose his leg. He fronted up to the media on Monday and openly admitted: “Hey guys, I had a serious knee injury five years ago without contact. I’m not going through that again. If you don’t like it, I don’t know what else to tell you.”

I like it, Teddy.

Player of the Week: Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdown passes as the Chiefs offense rediscovered their best form in a 41-14 rout of the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.

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Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdown passes as the Chiefs offense rediscovered their best form in a 41-14 rout of the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.

Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdown passes as the Chiefs offense rediscovered their best form in a 41-14 rout of the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.

When it comes to Sunday’s performance from Mahomes, I’m going to paraphrase Cam Newton and shout: “He’s back… he’s back!”

Mahomes was surgical in KC’s one-sided win in Vegas as he hit on 35 of 50 passes for 406 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. There was still a lot of short stuff in the passing game, but also some Mahomes classics – a left-handed completion early in the contest and a hold-onto-your-hats extended-play touchdown pass to Darrel Williams.

Play of the Week

Welcome back, Cam!

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown with his first touch back for his former team.

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown with his first touch back for his former team.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown with his first touch back for his former team.

A week after he was sitting at home eating a bowl of cereal while watching the NFL games, Cam Newton was back in action for the Carolina Panthers and helping them kick-start a 34-10 win over Arizona with a two-yard touchdown run.

And it was a Cam Newton classic. He fielded a low snap at the seven-yard line and by the time he had edged towards the five, Markus Golden was bearing down on him from behind and Zaven Collins was square in front of him. Cam stiff-armed the rookie linebacker to the ground and got to the outside. By the time he met linebacker Isaiah Simmons at the goal-line there was only going to be one winner. Cam is back indeed.

He won’t be perfect but he could give the Panthers a real shot in the arm down the stretch.

Coach of the Week: Mike Vrabel

Mike Vrabel has led the Titans to six-straight victories, with five of those coming against playoff teams from a year ago

Mike Vrabel has led the Titans to six-straight victories, with five of those coming against playoff teams from a year ago

In an NFL world of massive inconsistencies, fluctuating form and key injuries, I have to give huge credit to Mike Vrabel, who has helped to guide his Tennessee Titans to six wins in a row.

Sunday’s 23-21 victory over the Saints has now given Tennessee five successive victories over playoff teams from the previous season, matching the achievements of the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles. Every week, these Titans find a way.

D’Onta Foreman has been the Titans’ leading rusher in their first two games since Derrick Henry went down, but he gained just 29 yards against the Rams and 30 against New Orleans. The Titans have found other ways to win, recording five sacks against L.A. and another four against the Saints.

The Ringer's Nora Princiotti joins NFL Overtime and praises the much-improved Titans defense, suggesting teams will want to avoid facing them in the playoffs.

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The Ringer’s Nora Princiotti joins NFL Overtime and praises the much-improved Titans defense, suggesting teams will want to avoid facing them in the playoffs.

The Ringer’s Nora Princiotti joins NFL Overtime and praises the much-improved Titans defense, suggesting teams will want to avoid facing them in the playoffs.

Vrabel is leading from the front and his team are 2-0 without Henry and they remain the top seed in the AFC with an 8-2 record. Given their resilience, why not the Titans in the wide-open AFC?

On my Radar

After suffering a shock defeat to the Miami Dolphins to begin Week 10, I’m very keen to see how Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens respond for what is one of the tougher stretch runs in the NFL.

Baltimore have what are always tough divisional games in the AFC North against Cleveland (twice), the Pittsburgh Steelers (twice) and the Cincinnati Bengals. They also have contests with the Packers and the Rams.

The best of the action from the clash between the Ravens and Dolphins from Week 10 in the NFL.

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The best of the action from the clash between the Ravens and Dolphins from Week 10 in the NFL.

The best of the action from the clash between the Ravens and Dolphins from Week 10 in the NFL.

How will Jackson bounce back? Did Miami, who blitzed with reckless abandon all night long in a 22-10 win, offer a blueprint for handling a quarterback who had been on course for an MVP tear? Lamar was held to just 238 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was also limited to just 39 rushing yards on nine carries.

A fightback will be necessary as Baltimore have fallen to 6-3, with the road ahead a tough one.

Join Neil Reynolds and guests for Inside The Huddle, every Tuesday from 9pm on Sky Sports NFL for a look back on the best of the weekend’s NFL action.