Week 12’s Top NFL Storylines: Tyreek Hill, Cam Newton and Arians vs. Brady
The biggest stories to emerge from football this week, and whether we’re buying or selling them
With Monday Night Football wrapped up and the Steelers and Ravens now set to play each other in a rare Wednesday night game, Week 12 of the 2020 NFL season is nearing completion. While we can’t get to everything — like the Broncos being forced to play without a real quarterback — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from Week 12, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: Tyreek Hill is still the NFL’s best offensive weapon
During Sunday’s 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kanas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill became the fifth receiver ever to record at least 260 yards and three touchdowns in a single game.
Of the other four players to accomplish that feat (Jimmy Smith, Jerry Rice, Cloyce Box and Steve Largent), two are in the Hall of Fame (Rice and Largent) — a place Hill could very well be heading when all is said and done.
Hill, who finished with 269 yards on Sunday, now leads in the NFL with 1,021 receiving yards and also has 13 receiving scores on the year, also tops in the league. Already impressive, those numbers pop off the page even more when you consider Hill is just 11th in the NFL in receptions.
Now on pace for career highs in catches and yards and already with a career-best in touchdowns, Hill has emerged as the biggest scoring threat in the NFL and has a legit chance to find the end zone literally every time Patrick Mahomes is able to get him the ball.
One of the fastest players in the league, Hill has also developed some of the best hands in the NFL and has not lost a fumble since his rookie season. Now in his fifth season in the NFL, Hill is averaging 15 yards per catch and has scored in five straight games and nine of 11 overall.
A nightmare to cover one-on-one and more than capable of beating double coverage thanks to his speed, Hill was able to seal Kansas City’s win over Tampa Bay with a first-down reception to convert on third and-8 even though every player on the field knew the ball was heading his way.
“It feels good, but there’s still a lot of work for me to do,” Hill said following the win over the Bucs. “I’m always looking to get better.”
Just 26, Hill is doing just that — and the rest of the NFL should look out.
Sell: Cam Newton is still a starting-caliber QB
In a scrappy 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Cam Newton was unable to eclipse 100 yards passing and finished 9-of-18 for 84 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 23.6 passer rating.
Now 5-5 in 10 games as the immediate successor to Tom Brady in New England, Newton has nine interceptions, three fumbles and has taken 18 sacks. He’s also thrown just four touchdown passes this season — the same number of TDs that Aaron Rodgers tossed on Sunday for the Packers.
While Newton — who has carried the ball 92 times for 387 yards and nine touchdowns this season — is still a threat as a rusher, he has proven himself to be incapable as a passer in a high-scoring league that requires quarterbacks to make tough throws on a routine basis.
Whether due to lingering effects from a shoulder injury, confidence issues or a precipitous decline in ability, Newton can no longer make those throws, and as such, is no longer fit to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. For any other team in the NFL bar possibly the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears, he probably wouldn’t be, but the Patriots clearly don’t think they have a better option, or Newton would be on the bench or released.
That being the case, the Patriots have kept rolling Newton out there, but have reverted to using a run-first offense that more closely resembles what you’d see from a high school team than a former NFL powerhouse. Newton seems like a strong leader and a good teammate and he has said and done all of the right things since signing with the Patriots over the summer, but his intangibles and off-field qualities don’t negate the simple fact that, at this point in his career, he can’t throw the football accurately.
Given that is a prerequisite for being a starting quarterback, Newton should no longer be one.
Buy: Bruce Arians is using Tom Brady all wrong
When Tom Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March to play for Bruce Arians, there were some people that felt the 43-year-old quarterback was not a good fit for the 68-year-old coach’s offensive system. With the Bucs now 7-5 after losing three out of their last four, it certainly seems as if they were right about Brady and Arians being a bad match.
Following Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, Brady is averaging 39.5 pass attempts per game, the second-highest mark of his 21-year career. Throwing the ball more has not really been a recipe for success for Brady, as Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs was his fourth game of 2020 with multiple interceptions — he now has 11 on the season, the most through his first 12 games of a season since 2006.
Instead of dinking and dunking the ball down the field with precision passing the way he did for 20 years with the Patriots, Brady has resorted to taking deep shots down the field under Arians. Though Brady was 4-of-7 on deep throws (passes of 20-plus air yards) on Sunday, he ranks dead last among 31 quarterbacks in passer rating on deep balls (27.7) since Week 5.
While age could certainly be a factor in Brady’s lack of success throwing the deep ball in 2020, the reality is that going deep has never been one of his strong suits, and Arians would be wise to adjust his no-risk-it/no biscuit offensive philosophy to better suit his veteran quarterback’s skill set.
Brady has plenty of offensive weaponry at his disposal in Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and Antonio Brown, but if he’s uncomfortable with the way he’s being asked to use it, the results are not going to be good.
As a passer, Brady’s greatest asset has always been his mind, not his arm, and a short-to-intermediate passing game that allows him to get rid of the ball quickly is a way to capitalize on that. Having Brady sit in the pocket and chuck the ball deep is not.
If the Buccaneers are going to make any noise in the playoffs, Arians needs to realize that and adjust his system accordingly. As is, it is broken.
Sell: Matt Patricia will get another job as a head coach
After getting embarrassed 41-25 by Houston on Thanksgiving in front of a national audience, the Lions finally made a move that surprised no one and fired coach Matt Patricia in the midst of his third season in Detroit.
In a corresponding move, the organization also got rid of general manager Bob Quinn, Patricia’s boss. While Quinn may find work as a GM again someday, it seems unlikely Patricia will get another shot as a head coach in the NFL.
A former defensive coordinator who spent 14 seasons working under Bill Belichick with the Patriots, Patricia carried himself as if he was a clone of his former boss during much of his time in Detroit and rubbed both his players and local media members the wrong way.
But Patricia’s Belichick impression did not lead to lead to him having Patriots-like success, and he coached the Lions to a 13-29-1 record in two-plus seasons in Detroit. Even for a success-challenged team like the Lions, Patricia was a disappointment, and the 29 losses he amassed during his stint in Detroit are one more than the 28 his predecessor Jim Caldwell (who was fired despite going 9-7 in his last year with the Lions) posted in four years as head coach.
A loser on the field and a prickly persona off of it, Patricia presided over a team that lost 10 games where they held a lead in the fourth quarter and routinely allowed opponents to come back from double-digit deficits. Given how badly he coached his team and how poorly he handled the resulting criticism, it is hard to imagine another NFL team being willing to give Patricia another shot as a head coach — at least not anytime soon.
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