With the seventh edition of Monday Night Football ending in a 33-0 beatdown by the Patriots of the Jets, Week 7 of the NFL season is officially in the books and open for review. While we can’t get to everything — like Lamar Jackson’s continued development and Tom Brady’s controversial Netflix cameo — here are five of the top storylines to emerge from the football week that was, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: Jacoby Brissett was Tom Brady’s best backup
During Sunday’s huge division win over his team’s AFC South rival, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 26-of-39 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns.
Brissett, who became the starter for the Colts by default when Andrew Luck shocked the world and retired on the eve of the 2019-2020 season, is playing the best ball of his career through the first six weeks of the season and bears little resemblance to the guy who went 4-11 as a starter while filling in for an injured Luck in 2017.
Prior to the season, the Colts inked the 26-year-old QB to a two-year contract worth $30 million, and he’s earned every penny of it thus far while leading Indy to a 4-2 record.
A former backup to Tom Brady in New England, Brissett was never viewed in the same light as another Brady backup, Jimmy Garoppolo. But with both players now starting in the NFL (and Garoppolo being paid quite handsomely to do so), Brissett appears to have a little bit of an edge when you compare their stats.
In six games this season, Brissett has doubled up Jimmy G in touchdown passes (14 to 7) while throwing half as many interceptions (3 to 6).
Garoppolo does have the edge in the most important statistic — wins — with the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 6-0. But Brissett has been the better of Brady’s two backup-turned-starters so far this season.
Sell: The Bengals are better than the Miami Dolphins
By falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-17 at home on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals became the first team in the NFL to lose seven games this season.
The Bengals, to their credit, have been competitive in a number of their games, but have struggled on both sides of the ball and currently have one of the worst point-differential marks in the league.
In Sunday’s loss, quarterback Andy Dalton was downright awful and threw three picks in the span of five plays.
Given Dalton’s declining performance and where Cincinnati sits in the standings, it’s hard to make a case that the Bengals, despite their best efforts, are any better than the tanking Miami Dolphins and may ultimately find themselves in almost the same spot.
The Bengals do play five of their remaining nine games against teams with losing records (Browns, Dolphins, Steelers, Jets) but it’s nearly impossible to imagine the team winning more than one of those games, two at the most.
That means Cincinnati will likely finish the season at 1-15 or 2-14, a record which would likely net them the top pick in next year’s draft if the Dolphins weren’t as bad as they are.
At 0-7, it may be time for the Bengals to take a look at rookie quarterback Ryan Finley and find out a way to trade Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who has yet to play this season, for some assets they can use in the future.
The Bengals need to put themselves in play to have the opportunity to draft Tua Tagovailoa the same way the Dolphins are doing, because whether it’s intentional or not, Cincinnati is in the same spot as Miami.
Buy: The Chargers need to hit the reset button
Losers of three in a row and five out of their last six, the Los Angeles Chargers are now 2-5 on the season and occupy the basement of the AFC West.
As they have for years, the Chargers keep finding new ways to lose at the end of games. On Sunday, it was star running back Melvin Gordon fumbling into the end zone with L.A. trailing by three points and needing a TD to take the lead.
Including Gordon’s game-ending fumble, the Chargers have turned the ball over five times in goal-to-go situations this season, tied for the most goal-to-go turnovers by a team in the past 15 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The fumble is emblematic of a Charger offense that has somehow lost its way in the red zone under longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.
Last year, receiver Mike Williams totaled 11 touchdowns. He has yet to find the end zone in 2019. Williams is far from the only Charger who’s struggling to find paydirt, with the Chargers somehow tied for 23rd in the NFL in scoring (20 points per game) while ranking third in the league in passing yardage (at nearly 300 yards per game).
The team’s trouble with scoring touchdowns is just one big issue the Chargers, who haven’t advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs in more than a decade, have traditionally had with sealing the deal.
With the trade deadline just two weeks away, it may be time for the Chargers to give some serious thought to altering the nucleus of their team by dealing away Gordon or another core player.
Whether it’s dealing Gordon or another piece, the Chargers, who went 12-4 last year, clearly need to do something, because their current path seems to be leading nowhere. Unfortunately for LA, that’s familiar territory.
Buy: The Falcons never recovered from losing the Super Bowl
Since losing Super Bowl LI in historic fashion to the New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons have a combined record of 18-21. Now 1-6 this season following a 37-10 shellacking at the hands of a reeling Los Angeles Rams team that had lost three straight, the Falcons are all but done in the NFC South.
A squad that made the Super Bowl just three seasons ago will now likely miss the playoffs for the second straight year: only one team in the Super Bowl era, the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, started 1-6 and make the playoffs.
It’s quite a fall from grace for a team that largely comprises the same players who were on the roster when Atlanta waltzed through the NFC and led New England 28–3 midway through the third quarter of the Super Bowl in 2017.
Of course, the Patriots came back to win that game in overtime and, based on what has befallen the Falcons since then, it’s fair to wonder if New England crushed the franchise’s football soul in the process. This season, no team in the NFL has surrendered more points than the Falcons (223), and that’s in a league that includes the 0-6 Dolphins, 0-7 Bengals and 1-6 Redskins.
Defense is all about effort, and the Falcons, who’ve given up more than 30 points in three straight games, have clearly stopped giving any under head coach Dan Quinn. The roots of that can be traced back to what happened beginning in the third quarter at NRG Stadium in Houston on February 5, 2017.
Buy: Sam Darnold is fine, but not ready for prime time
Last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, Sam Darnold completed 23-of-32 passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one pick in the Jets’ upset win over the Cowboys.
In the win, Darnold looked good and seemed to revive offensive players who had gone dormant in his absence like Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder.
Expectations for what the 22-year-old would be able to do against New England’s shutdown defense on Monday Night Football last night were tempered, but there was some optimism he’d find success against the Patriots, since the Jets usually play their AFC East rivals tough at home.
Unfortunately for Darnold, the home game turned into a house of horrors for him and the entire New York offense as they managed only 166 yards of offense while he threw four interceptions, fumbled, was forced to take a safety and finished with a dismal 3.6 quarterback rating.
To make matters worse, Darnold was caught on camera saying he was “seeing ghosts” due to all the pressure the Patriots were putting on him.
In some ways, the ghosts comment should be even scarier for Jets fans than the awful turnover numbers, because it came in the first half and Darnold continued to play poorly after making it. That means Darnold and New York’s coaching staff were unable to figure out a way to solve what he revealed to a national audience as an obvious problem.
For the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft, it’s not a promising development. Maybe Darnold will get there, but it’s clear he isn’t ready to lead the Jets into relevancy quite yet.