Sports | October 25, 2022 6:13 am

The Top Week 7 NFL Storylines: Aaron Rodgers, Breece Hall and Justin Herbert

Plus, the NFL appears to have an officiating scandal on its hands

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers sulks.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have lost three games in a row.
Mitchell Layton/Getty

With the final whistle blown on last evening’s edition of Monday Night Football, the seventh week of NFL action is wrapped up. While we can’t get to everything — like the lack of winning teams in the league this season — here are four of the top Week 7 NFL storylines and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em. (ICYMI, here’s what went down last week along with a slow-motion look at the only interesting moment from Thursday Night Football.)

Buy: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are in trouble

Whether it is Green Bay’s offensive line play, stinky performances on special teams or the lack of a quality supporting cast for four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers (3-4) have lost three games in a row and are falling out of contention for first place in the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings entrenched at the top at 5-1.

Held to 194 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-21 loss to the Commanders in Week 7, Rodgers has been sputtering for the majority of the season and has lost to bottom-tier quarterbacks Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, and Taylor Heinicke in consecutive weeks after falling to mediocre signal-caller Kirk Cousins in Week 1. The blame may not all fall on the shoulders of Rodgers, who remains without a 300-yard game this season and has put up more than 22 points just twice this season, but it also may not matter. Whether it’s Rodgers’s fault or not, there’s major cause for concern in Green Bay.

Of the teams remaining on Green Bay’s schedule, only two have a losing record and those are their divisional opponents the Lions and Bears. Four of the six other teams Green Bay has to play are currently in first place in their respective division (Eagles, Titans, Vikings and Bills) and the seventh club on the schedule for the Pack, the 3-3 Rams, are the defending Super Bowl champions.

Even if the Packers were playing well, their second-half slate would be daunting. Thing is, they aren’t even playing well and a primetime matchup in Buffalo against the Bills, who have yet to lose this month, is not a good get-right spot.

“I’m not worried about this squad,” Rodgers said on Sunday after losing in Washington. “In fact, this might be the best thing for us. This week, nobody’s going to give us a chance, going to Buffalo on Sunday Night Football with a chance to get exposed. Shoot, this might be the best thing for us.”

Doubt it — unless the best thing for Rodgers and the Packers if for their losing streak to hit four games.

Sell: Justin Herbert is an elite NFL quarterback

Hailed as the next big thing at quarterback heading into this season following a strong debut season and solid sophomore campaign, third-year player Justin Herbert has 12 touchdowns and more than 2,000 passing yards this season for the 4-3 Chargers.

Pretty good numbers on paper, but a bit misleading as Herbet tossed six of his touchdowns in Weeks 1-2 and has been held to six touchdowns over his last five games. After completing 37-of-57 passes for 238 scoreless yards and one pick in Week 6 in an improbable win over Denver, Herbet followed up that performance by completing 33-of-51 passes for 293 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as the Chargers were blown out 37-23 in Week 7. Already without a healthy Keenan Allen (hamstring) to throw to, Herber also lost wide receiver Mike Williams to an ankle injury and the status of both players for Week 9 when the Chargers return to play following their bye week is unclear.

What is clear is that Herbert, who was named Offensive Rookie of the Year for his play in the 2020 season, is not playing like the star quarterback he was projected to be before the ’22-’23 campaign kicked off.

In Herbert’s defense, the injuries to his receiving corps have hurt and head coach Brandon Staley has had a number of questionable play calls this season, but the 24-year-old appears to have taken a step back since his hot start to the season. And, compared with last year when he finished no lower than third among quarterbacks in pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns, appears to fallen off by quite a large margin. Operating a pass-heavy offense that has asked him to throw the ball more than 100 times combined over the past few weeks, Herbert has failed to live up to his top-tier billing

“The reality is that through seven games, we’ve had to fight really hard to be 4-3,” Staley said after Sunday’s loss. “We’ve endured a lot. Our season is in front of us, which is the truth. The reason why we’re 4-3, and not 5-2, is because we didn’t play good enough football today. What we need to do is get rested, take advantage of the bye and get rested, and then come back, as a team and really focus on playing the way that we’re capable of playing.”

At this point, it is still TBD what Herbert’s long-term capabilities truly are.

Buy: The Breece Hall injury is bad for the league

One of the three New York football teams that have combined to go 11-0 so far this month, the Jets (5-2) have been perhaps the biggest surprise of the NFL season through seven weeks and have seen their Super Bowl odds fall from 250/1 earlier this season to 60/1 following Sunday’s win in Denver over the Broncos.

Unfortunately for Gang Green, Sunday’s victory also came with a major loss as rookie running back suffered a torn ACL to go along with a minor meniscus injury and will need to undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season. An electric player who appeared to be emerging as one of the best young talents in the league, Hall ran for New York’s only touchdown of the game before leaving due to his injury. For Hall, who should be ready to start next season, it was his fourth straight game with a touchdown.

A devastating problem for the Jets, the loss of Hall is also a blow to the NFL overall as there is nothing the league would like more than to have New York City’s football teams, which have been mired in a shared playoff drought for more than half a decade, relevant when the postseason rolls around. The NFL, which has its corporate headquarters on Park Avenue, wants the No. 1 media market in the country to engage with its product as much and as long as possible and needs star players like Hall helping the Jets (and Giants) win for that to happen.

Losing Hall, who was probably the frontrunner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and led New York with 609 scrimmage yards and four total touchdowns prior to Week 7, doesn’t mean the season is over for the Jets, who also lost right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker to a season-ending injury, but it certainly won’t help an offense that is already a bit shaky under second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.

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Replacing Hall will also be nearly impossible as the Jets averaged 5.6 yards per rush with him on the field, the top mark in the league per ESPN Stats & Information research. With Hall off the field, the Jets have averaged only 3.6 yards per rush, good for 29th in the NFL.

The Jets, who are 4-0 on the road this season, host New England on Sunday. It’s a shame Hall won’t be there.

Sell: Jeff Lamberth and Tripp Sutter can keep their jobs

Anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to an NFL game this season is almost certainly aware that the NFL has embraced the legalization of sports gambling with open arms and has no problem advertising how easy it now is to place a wager on a pro football game.

That being the case and considering how much cash the league stands to make now and in the future as more states continue to legalize betting, the NFL has to make sure that everyone believes every single aspect of its product is on the level and that the fix is 100% not in. That’s why, even if side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter really were just looking for autographs from Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they’ve got to go.

In case you missed it, a video shot in the bowels of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday appears to show two NFL officials who have been identified as Lamberth and Sutter asking Evans for his signature. If the video is legit, what Lamberth and Sutter did is a clear violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association.

“Game Officials must even avoid the appearance of profiting or personally benefiting from their association with the NFL, other than from compensation provided under the NFLRA Collective Bargaining Agreement,” the CBA explains. “:Game Officials shall not . . . sell or trade NFL tickets for anything of greater value than the face value of the tickets; or . . .  sell or trade for anything of value NFL merchandise, autographs or memorabilia; or . . . ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.”

As that agreement makes clear, asking players for autographs is against the rules. Even if perfectly innocent in nature, an autograph request certainly gives “the appearance” that an official could be “profiting or personally benefiting from their association with the NFL” and that is a look the league cannot tolerate under any circumstances as fans are already skeptical enough about the way penalties are called by referees. Anything, even something harmless, that makes it appear as if officials may favor one team over another needs to be eliminated as the only thing that separates the NFL from WWE is the belief that the outcome of games is not predetermined.

Even though the Bucs were destroyed 21-3 in Carolina by the Panthers and it would be hard to make a case that the officials were favoring Tampa Bay, the league is examining their interaction with Evans in the tunnel, according to NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero.

If the league is smart, that investigation will lead to the termination of Lamberth and Sutter as NFL officials.