Aaron Rodgers’ injury, the last unbeaten falls, and more as Five Hot Takes returns for the second week.
1. Rodgers’ injury changes playoff landscape
The Green Bay Packers’ season just got a whole lot tougher Sunday, after Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. It was revealed that he’ll need surgery and is in danger of missing the rest of the season. His backup Brett Hundley will take over starting duties for the foreseeable future.
Arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, Rodgers was still in top form to start the season and had his Packers sitting at 4-1 through five weeks. He had completed 66 percent of his passes, and had thrown 13 touchdowns to three interceptions.
In a highly contested NFC North, the Packers’ playoff hopes could be in trouble. They are currently tied with Minnesota for the division lead, and the Lions are only a game back in a three-way race for the division crown.
Brett Hundley didn’t exactly provide a spark in relief of Rodgers. Against Minnesota, the UCLA product completed 18 of his 33 passes (54.5 percent) for 154 yards, and a touchdown. He threw three interceptions and took four sacks. Despite being pegged as a dual-threat quarterback, he only ran once for a gain of three yards.
Honestly, not much is expected of Hundley. He’s never received significant in-game action, having thrown only 10 career passes before Week Six, and doesn’t have the luxury of relying on a solid ground game. The Packers currently rank 26th in the NFL in rushing yards, and are still starting converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery at running back.
Also, the offensive line is currently injury-riddled and not great to begin with. Rodgers has dealt with a shoddy offensive line for years now, and his high-level of performance is a testament to how great a player he is. He is constantly having to run and make plays from outside the pocket. Hundley lacks the experience and the elite pocket awareness that Rodgers has to consistently make those plays under duress. Packers coach Mike McCarthy must call quick-hitting pass plays, to ensure that Hundley doesn’t hold onto the ball too long and force throws under pressure.
It is reasonable to think that the Packers will hover around .500 the rest of the season and be in contention for a wildcard spot at best. With Rodgers injured and Vikings’ quarterback Sam Bradford still on the shelf, this could be the Detroit Lions’ season to take over the NFC North.
2. The Jets got screwed
Nothing was expected of the New York Jets this season. Many accused them of tanking for the first overall pick in the 2018 draft after getting rid of many of their top veterans during the offseason. Nonetheless, the Jets have been surprisingly good. They came into their Week Six matchup against the Patriots riding a three game winning streak and stayed with New England step-by-step in a 24-17 loss. However, this game should’ve been a whole lot tighter.
Down 24-14, the Jets were inside the 10-yard line with under nine minutes left in regulation. Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a Josh McCown pass near the sideline at the 5-yard line, and fought through two Patriot defenders on his way to the endzone. It was a touchdown, cutting the Patriot lead to just four. That is, until it wasn’t a touchdown.
Every NFL scoring play is reviewed. In this particular case, replays showed Seferian-Jenkins bobbling the football as he was tackled into the pylon. NFL rules state that a player must get two feet or one knee in bounds to reestablish the possession he had lost. The question then became: did Seferian-Jenkins regain control of the football before going out of bounds?
Remember, there has to be conclusive evidence for a call to be overturned. If there isn’t sufficient evidence, the call stands as it was called on the field.
None of the camera shots of the touchdown showed any clear evidence of when and where he had regained possession. It should’ve stayed a New York touchdown. Instead, it was overturned. It was ruled a fumble out of bounds, giving New England the ball at their own 20-yard line.
Frankly, the Jets got screwed. There was no conclusive evidence either way. The call should’ve stayed the way it was called on the field. If the call stood, the Jets would have only been down by four, with over eight minutes to go and momentum on their side.
Not saying they should’ve won, but it’s possible that the Jets would be leading the division right now if that call stood.
3. Le’Veon Bell tramples the last unbeaten
The Kansas City Chiefs came into Week Six as the NFL’s only unbeaten team. They left Arrowhead Stadium Sunday evening with a loss on their record.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was a big part of this, as he ran all over the Kansas City defense en route to a 19-13 Steelers’ win. He finished with 179 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, and was named AFC offensive player of the week for his performance.
Bell ran with his usual patience and burst, but there seemed to be a sheer lack of effort by the Chiefs’ defense. Their tackling was atrocious. On his longest rush of the day, Bell broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage, juked out another would-be tackler and dragged two more Chiefs for several yards before being taken down after a 27-yard gain. I’ve never seen so many defenders let the opposing running back sprint right by them. Per usual, Bell broke a lot of tackles, but there were many instances where Chiefs players were just standing around watching the action happen. Lack of effort is not something you like to see from a team that some have Super Bowl expectations for.
4. Adrian Peterson puts on a vintage performance in Cardinals debut
In his first game as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Adrian Peterson churned out 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in a 38-33 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He made his mark from the first drive — carrying five times for 54 yards, including a 27 yard touchdown.
He was voted NFC offensive player of the week for his efforts.
This was a throwback performance by the 32-year-old. He energized the previously stagnate Cardinal offense, and showed that he definitely still has some left in the tank.
Before his arrival, Arizona was ranked dead last in team rushing yards. Last week, I wrote that Peterson will change that, and I’m sticking with that prediction. He isn’t the player he once was and won’t be able to perform like this every week, but he showed that he can still turn back the clock if need be.
He’d also be a great fantasy waiver wire pickup, since he’s going to be the featured back in the desert.
5. Ageless wonder
Let’s all take a moment to admire the greatness of 44-year-old Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri.
A week after kicking a 51-yard game-winning field goal against the 49ers, Vinatieri had another great game against the Tennessee Titans. Vinatieri hit on all three of his field goal attempts, including a season-long 52-yarder.
He did miss one of his two extra points, but he’s still nine of 11 on the year on point afters. He didn’t miss a single one last year.
Even though he’ll turn 45 in December, Vinatieri is still one of the better kickers in the NFL. He’s made 12 of his 13 attempts so far this season, and proved that he still has outstanding leg strength with 50-plus yarders in back-to-back weeks.
It’ll be interesting to see when he finally decides to call it quits. If he continues to play at this level, he’s got at least a few years left. At this point, he looks immortal.