Week Seven of the 2022-23 NFL season may have been the strangest of this incredibly odd season. Upsets, mistakes, and some great plays littered the landscape as the NFL is nearing the halfway point. It is time for Tayyib Abu and Marissa Myers to give their weekly look at who is trending up and which teams are circling the wagons.
NFC Stock Up:
The Seattle Seahawks soared atop the NFC West on Sunday as they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 37-24. Seattle’s young, energetic team had too much for a Chargers side bereft of ideas. Pete Carroll has his team playing turbocharged football right now, and the rookies are leading the charge for Seattle. Running back Kenneth Walker raced for 168 yards and two touchdowns against Los Angeles. The highlight play was a 74-yard touchdown run where Walker bounced outside, beat the edge-setting defender, and hit 22 miles per hour on the carry. Next Gen Stats recorded it as the fastest carry of the season.
Moreover, rookie tackles Abe Lucas and Charles Cross are excelling in the trenches. Defensively, rookie Tariq Woolen is emerging as a Rookie of the Year contender, and Coby Bryant is getting better each week. The Seahawks are getting headline contributions from their rookies. And lastly, veteran quarterback Geno Smith is playing out of his mind! Smith threw two touchdowns in this win and 200 yards. For the season, Smith is fourth in QBR, fifth in EPA per play, and top 10 in Next Gen Passer Score. The former New York Jet is playing with confidence, rhythm, and clarity. The Seahawks are flying, and fans are enjoying the ride.
New York Giants
It was not pretty, but Brian Daboll’s indomitable New York Giants got the road win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants edged out a 23-13 victory, and they withstood a late-game drive from the Jaguars to improve to 6-1. While the Giants are not the most talented team, they are maximizing every percent possible. Daniel Jones has the most game-winning drives of any quarterback in 2022. Saquon Barkley is rumbling in the backfield; the Penn State product rushed for 110 yards on Sunday. And Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense is as opportunistic as can be. Add that to the Giants’ limitation of self-inflicted mistakes, and they are winning these tight games. New York is 6-0 in one-score games this year. Brian Daboll’s Big Blue engine is gathering steam at the perfect time.
Darius Slayton wins the jump ball for six 😤#TogetherBlue
— TWSN (@TWSN___) October 23, 2022
Sunday morning started with news that the Carolina Panthers had rejected trade offers for star pass-rusher Brian Burns. Sunday afternoon ended with Burns headlining a stellar Panthers defensive performance. Burns feasted against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive line, tallying seven tackles, one sack, and one quarterback hit. Burns and the Panthers’ defense held Tom Brady’s offense to a mere three points. If someone is going to make a trade bid for Burns, they will need to cough up some serious capital.
NFC Stock Down:
Atlanta Falcons Defense
After the high of defeating the San Francisco 49ers, the Atlanta Falcons crashed down to Earth this week. The Cincinnati Bengals mauled the Falcons defense as Joe Burrow’s offense dropped 35 points on Atlanta. Cincinnati mauled and then dissected the Dirty Birds. Burrow threw for 481 yards in an awe-inspiring display. Football Outsiders now ranks Atlanta 32nd in defensive DVOA. A.J. Terrell’s hamstring injury, combined with Casey Heyward’s and Dee Alford’s injuries, left Atlanta’s secondary helpless.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have lost two consecutive games woefully. Drops, offensive errors, and a banged-up defense sunk San Francisco in Week Six. Bad decision-making, soft defense, and a penchant for coaching mistakes saw the 49ers lose to the Kansas City Chiefs 44-23. Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked five times and threw an ugly red-zone interception. Offensively, Kyle Shanahan called an ugly game, as none of his playmakers came to the fore. George Kittle led the pass catchers with 98 receiving yards, while Jeff Wilson led the rushing effort. Defensively, it was another bad week for the 49rs. Patrick Mahomes was at his clinical best, averaging 12.4 yards per attempt. DeMeco Ryans’ defense failed to contain the Chiefs’ quick-strike passing game. At 3-4, the 49ers have plenty of things to correct.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
They always say never to come back. Tom Brady used two decades’ worth of experience to ignore the doubters and return to the NFL. It looks like a terrible decision. Brady is 14th in QBR and 13th in EPA per play. The offensive line is an injury-riddled mess, ranked 28th in pass-block success. At the same time, the receivers make basic mistakes. Mix in an AWOL running game, and the Buccaneers’ offense is appalling. They mustered three paltry points against the Panthers. In the last four games, their offensive output has dropped in each game. This is a unit getting worse. Brady looked shell shocked at his post-game press conference. He looked lost. Tampa’s offense seems broken beyond repair. And the GOAT may be powerless to fix it.
AFC Stock Up:
So, the key to success for the Las Vegas Raiders is now evident. That key is Josh Jacobs. Over the first three games when Jacobs had less than 100 yards, the results were all losses. In three games where he has over 100 yards, the result is the Raiders winning two of the three, with the loss being by one point to the Kansas City Chiefs. In the game against the Houston Texans, he ended up with 143 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns. The personnel groupings the Raiders have been putting together on offense has helped open up lanes for Jacobs, and he is seeing the field much better. Combine those two things together, and Jacobs looks to be the key to the offense’s success.
So maybe Joe Burrow has something against the defenses of bird teams. Last year it was the Baltimore Ravens, this year it was the Atlanta Falcons. The success started early, as on the fourth play of the opening drive, Burrow found Tyler Boyd for a 60-yard touchdown. He would then go on to complete 34-of-42 passes for 481 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while also adding a rushing touchdown. This also marked his fifth 400-yard game in three years. It is safe to say Burrow and the Bengals have found their offensive identity again.
That was quick!
Burrow to Boyd for a 60 yard score 🚀#RuleTheJungle
— TWSN (@TWSN___) October 23, 2022
Let’s set this incredible play up. The Pittsburgh Steelers are at the Miami Dolphins 30-yard line, there is 3:06 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, it’s third-and-16 with the Steelers in range to either get a touchdown or kick a field goal to cut their 16-10 deficit. Pickett drops back to throw, finds Diontae Johnson, throws the ball his way and out of the middle of the field Jevon Holland jumps the route to secure the interception. The young captain on the team is stepping up on defense, and he sent a tidal wave crashing into the momentum the Steelers were trying to create.
Jevon Holland with a HUGE interception❗️#FinsUp
— TWSN (@TWSN___) October 24, 2022
AFC Stock Down:
It looked as if the Colts had figured out their offensive line issues by changing a few players around last week. A week when they allowed Matt Ryan to stay upright with no sacks. That was not the same story this week as Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and Jeffery Simmons all had sacks. Dupree even got pressure on Ryan twice that led to him throwing two interceptions. They even failed to open up any major rushing lanes, as the running backs averaged only 3.8 yards per carry. Jonathan Taylor did run for 58 yards, but the lanes were extremely small. The line hasn’t been great and Ryan hasn’t played well either, so with that and his shoulder injury, he has now been benched. The Colts will now hope Sam Ehlinger will be the quarterback to get the offense up and going out of the gate.
Los Angeles Chargers Run Defense
Despite all the offseason additions, the run defense is still the glaring weakness of this Chargers team, and the Seattle Seahawks continued to expose this. They had no answers for Kenneth Walker as he ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns over 23 carries. This is now the fourth game this season the Chargers have allowed over 130 rushing yards. It was an inconsistent effort from the defense, and they need to find ways to stop the run to give their offense more possessions. They have a bye week this upcoming week, so they can hope to charge up over that time and come out after the bye heavily improved.
Whatever type of offense Matt Canada is trying to run, it isn’t exactly working. With the abundance of short throws, it is clear Canada is trying to set it up to get the playmakers in space and have them generate yards after the catch. Yet, most of the routes for receivers go to the sidelines, leaving little space to generate those yards after the catch. With how the offense operates, against the Dolphins it led to Kenny Pickett averaging 5.8 yards on 32 completions, and the run game only averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Through four games, this scheme has led to Pickett averaging 3.9 adjusted air yards per attempt. The predictability allows defenses to just load up defenders near the line of scrimmage. The offense is bland, and it’s leading to a lack of production due to how Canada is calling the offense.