May 20, 2024

Cowl 7 | Sunday A each day NFL vacation spot that gives in-depth evaluation of soccer’s largest tales. Every Sunday, three of The Athletic’s NFL writers react to the largest information, performs and performances from the day’s video games.

What to make of the NFL’s first journey to Frankfurt, Germany?

The Kansas Metropolis Chiefs seemed like they have been again to their explosive selves with an opening-drive landing. After which … not a lot else. The offense had solely two different possessions wherein they produced multiple first down. Take away the wild Mike Edwards to Bryan Cook dinner fumble return for a landing and this might’ve been a a lot totally different sport.

However Kansas Metropolis shut out the Miami Dolphins’ league-leading offense within the first half and held off the Dolphins to enhance to 7-2 to kick off Sunday’s motion.

The Baltimore Ravens dominated one other first-place NFC staff with their 37-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks and C.J. Stroud continued his wildly spectacular rookie season by main the Houston Texans to a last-minute comeback over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Athletic NFL writers Mike Jones, Ted Nguyen and Dan Pompei share their ideas on the highest headlines from Sunday.

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The Chiefs offense seemed electrical on its opening drive in Frankfurt however scored solely seven factors the remainder of the way in which and was shut out within the second half. On the heels of scoring simply 9 final week, what’s going incorrect with Patrick Mahomes and firm?

Jones: There’s nothing incorrect with Mahomes. The issue is his extensive receivers. He wants guys to step up and play with some consistency. They miss JuJu Smith-Schuster (78 catches for 933 yards, three TDs final common season) greater than they in all probability anticipated. They’re hoping Rashee Rice can take over that lead extensive receiver function, however the rookie drops approach too many passes. The Chiefs actually may have used one other commerce deadline addition. They introduced again Mecole Hardman Jr., however they want extra from him as nicely. The dearth of consistency from the wideouts makes it simpler for defenses to key on Travis Kelce. So, if these younger wideouts can up their degree of play, life will likely be simpler for Mahomes, Kelce and coach Andy Reid.

Nguyen: They don’t have any constant threats outdoors of Kelce. The Dolphins did a superb job taking Kelce out of the sport with a number of defenders. Different receivers had numerous one-on-one protection and couldn’t take benefit. Drops have been a difficulty, too. Marquez Valdes-Scantling received open deep on a one-on-one and dropped what may have been a landing go. Rice is an electrical participant, however he’s extra of a catch-and-run risk and never a refined route runner. Their working sport additionally has been a disappointment. They’ll get environment friendly beneficial properties, nevertheless it’s been troublesome for them to create explosives, and that’s not supreme with all the sunshine packing containers that they see.

Pompei: It’s humorous the Chiefs didn’t miss Tyreek Hill final season, however they’re taking part in like they miss him this season. Their offense wants receivers that may complement Kelce by creating area from defenders — not dropping catchable passes — and gaining yards after the catch. Along with his fumble Sunday, Mahomes has turned the ball over 11 occasions this season. That will be OK if he had Hill to erase the errors, however the receivers on the Chiefs this 12 months haven’t carried out a lot erasing. The margin for error is smaller on this Chiefs offense, and there have been too many errors.

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Chiefs maintain off Dolphins in Germany

It was a formidable second-half comeback by the Dolphins after trailing the Chiefs 21-0 at halftime. However they’re now 0-3 in opposition to true Tremendous Bowl contenders (Payments, Eagles, Chiefs) and have but to exceed 20 factors in these losses. Are we shopping for Miami as an actual contender within the AFC?

Nguyen: Though they misplaced, I assumed the way in which their protection performed was encouraging. I consider Vic Fangio is beginning to get that unit into type and they’re getting more healthy, too. Offensively, they’ve been in a position to transfer the ball in opposition to good groups, however they’ve had hassle with penalties, turnovers and red-zone offense. They should discover a option to be extra constant after they aren’t routinely getting explosive performs.

One in every of their largest points has been their offensive line. That they had an above-average unit earlier than all of the accidents mounted, however now they’re fully overmatched in opposition to good groups. Mike McDaniel does an outstanding job of hiding them with scheme, nevertheless it’s laborious to try this play after play in opposition to gifted defenses that may make Tua Tagovailoa maintain the ball for that further half-second. Till they beat a staff with a successful report, you’ll be able to’t name them contenders simply but.


Mike McDaniel has laid a robust basis with the Dolphins, however they should begin beating contenders to be thought-about one. (Alex Grimm / Getty Photos)

Pompei: There isn’t a disgrace in dropping to the Chiefs. Or the Payments and Eagles, for that matter. If not for the out-of-character Hill fumble (his third misplaced fumble in eight seasons), we is perhaps answering a query about whether or not the Chiefs are an actual contender. The Dolphins are a gifted staff that may very well be taking part in at a better degree in a month than they’re now. They may/ought to win their subsequent 5 video games and go into the season-ending three-game stretch with 11 wins. Then, with video games in opposition to the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Payments, the Dolphins will inform us all who they are surely.

Jones: The Dolphins are a superb staff. They’re not elite. That’s clear. They’re 0-6 of their six video games in opposition to groups with data of .500 or higher, and final season and this season mixed, they’re 2-7 in opposition to playoff groups. McDaniel is laying a superb basis, however sadly, this staff simply isn’t able to contend. It simply goes to point out what a advantageous line there may be within the NFL between good and elite.

The Chiefs have a superb protection, and that unit proved opportunistic Sunday. However the Dolphins harm themselves quite a bit. Struggles on first and second downs led to third-and-long conditions, and while you repeatedly put your quarterback in third-and-long conditions, you’ve got little hope for sustained drives, whatever the explosive capabilities of your weapons. The Dolphins went 3-for-12 on third downs, and it wasn’t simply Sunday. They have been 4-for-11 on third downs in opposition to the Eagles and 3-for-10 on third downs in opposition to the Payments. You’ve received to do higher on the cash downs in opposition to the highest groups within the league, and Miami simply isn’t there but.

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Lamar Jackson improved to 18-1 in his profession vs. NFC groups and dominated a first-place NFC staff for the second time in three weeks. Are the Ravens the most effective staff within the AFC proper now? 

Pompei: The Ravens are taking part in in addition to any staff within the convention. And they’re constructed to play nicely late into the season, assuming they preserve good well being. The Ravens are balanced — they’ll win with protection on a day their offense struggles, and so they can win on offense if their protection falters. When all the things comes collectively prefer it did Sunday, they may very well be unbeatable.

Right here’s essentially the most superb factor about this staff — they misplaced their beginning working again earlier than the season and should have the most effective working sport within the league. They ran for 298 yards Sunday — fourth most in franchise historical past — in opposition to a protection that had been giving up a mean of 96.9 dashing yards, which was eighth finest within the league. The Ravens’ victory over the Seahawks was particularly spectacular as a result of the Seahawks have been a constant staff that carried out steadily in each sport besides for his or her opener in opposition to the Los Angeles Rams.

Jones: The argument actually might be made for the Ravens being the most effective staff within the AFC. They’ve a top-10 protection, an offense that entered this week simply outdoors the highest 10, and so they simply topped the 30-point mark for a 3rd straight sport. Jackson appears actually snug on this offense now, and he’s getting nice help within the run sport so he’s not having to do all of it. As an alternative, he’s selecting his spots along with his legs whereas carving defenses up along with his arm.

How do the Ravens stack up in opposition to a few of the different elite groups within the AFC? The Chiefs are powerful, as are the Payments. And the Cincinnati Bengals seem to have turned issues round. However Kansas Metropolis’s offense isn’t clicking like Baltimore’s is correct now. Buffalo is up and down. So, Baltimore has the sting on each of these two from a consistency standpoint. We’ll see how issues play out when Baltimore and Cincinnati sq. off in two weeks.

Nguyen: The Chiefs are nonetheless the most effective staff within the AFC, in my view, however the Ravens are shut. The Ravens have been constantly trending upward all season and so they have dominating wins in opposition to good groups. Jackson is taking part in the most effective ball of his profession underneath offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and Mike MacDonald is perhaps the most effective defensive coordinator within the league proper now. They’re a well-coached staff with expertise and depth at each place led by a MVP-worthy quarterback.

Nevertheless, it’s laborious to place them over the Chiefs. They’ve a authentic elite protection and Mahomes. The offense remains to be figuring issues out with out numerous expertise and expertise at extensive receiver, however so long as they’ve Mahomes, they’ll discover methods to attain when they should.

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Ravens safe fourth straight win

C.J. Stroud was electrical, throwing for 5 touchdowns and an NFL rookie-record 470 yards whereas main a game-winning drive within the remaining minute. No query, he’s been the most effective QB from this 12 months’s rookie class. However is he already a top-15 quarterback within the NFL? Larger?


C.J. Stroud set profession highs with 470 yards and 5 touchdowns. (Bob Levey / Getty Photos)

Jones: That’s so laborious to say. He is perhaps! Doing a fast rundown of all the quarterback conditions within the league, I see in all probability 12 to fifteen groups’ quarterback conditions that you can argue could be higher off if they’d Stroud as a substitute of their present starters. However on the similar time, there’s no assure Stroud could be thriving like this on these groups. I feel it is a excellent setup for him. He’s a quick learner/processor, throws with accuracy, performs with poise and reveals an incredible really feel for the sport. However he is also supported by an offensive coordinator who runs a system completely designed to capitalize on his strengths, to ease stress on the younger quarterback and place him for achievement.

So, whereas immensely impressed with what Stroud is doing, I’ll pump the brakes a bit and withhold “prime 15” reward simply because it’s so early and there are such a lot of components that issue right into a younger quarterback’s success.

Nguyen: I like taking a look at quarterbacks in tiers and I feel that’s truthful to place him in that 10 to fifteen tier. He’s so poised and much forward by way of soccer IQ. He by no means appears to be flustered and performs underneath management whereas taking possibilities downfield when they’re there. His accuracy is elite. All 5 of his landing passes needed to be on the cash and so they have been. He routinely hits his receivers in stride. If his day wasn’t spectacular sufficient already, he led the Texans to a game-winning landing drive with 46 seconds remaining. He’s elevating the staff round him, which truthfully is perhaps pushing him into the subsequent tier.

Pompei: There usually are not 15 quarterbacks you’ll take forward of him to win a sport proper now. And for those who have been beginning a franchise and will decide any quarterback to guide the staff for the subsequent decade, Stroud could be a top-five decide simply. Critics would possibly say he hasn’t performed sufficient to point out what he can’t do. However you can take the alternative method and say he hasn’t but come near reaching his potential.

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Texans’ C.J. Stroud dominates Buccaneers

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are two groups we count on to be there on the finish of the season. What did we study from Spherical 1 of this NFC East rivalry?

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Eagles beat Cowboys, Jalen Hurts data 3 TDs

Nguyen: This Eagles secondary is admittedly unhealthy. Possibly they’ll get higher as Kevin Byard, whom they traded for a few weeks in the past, turns into extra acclimated, however they only quit so many massive performs. It’s alarming for a staff that has Tremendous Bowl aspirations. Dak Prescott is taking part in at a really excessive degree. He couldn’t fairly full the comeback, however he made so many massive throws on this sport.

It appears like tight finish Jake Ferguson is creating into a superb No. 2 choice to enrich CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys will want the passing sport to maintain taking part in at this degree in the event that they’re going to compete for NFC supremacy.

Pompei: It’s shut. And it’s going to remain shut barring vital accidents. The Eagles, as suspected, have a slight edge. And now the Cowboys have to keep away from losses to remain shut. Earlier than the groups meet once more Dec. 10, it’s seemingly the Cowboys could have alternatives to achieve floor, because the Eagles play the Chiefs, Payments and San Francisco 49ers.

It wouldn’t be stunning to see the Cowboys win the rematch in Dallas, particularly if the Eagles don’t discover a higher option to cope with Lamb. It’s seemingly each the Eagles and Cowboys will make it to the postseason, and a 3rd assembly between the groups could be the last word.


Dak Prescott had alternatives to rally the Cowboys again — and almost did — however the Eagles held on within the first assembly of those NFC East rivals. (Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Photos)

Jones: I don’t really feel like we actually discovered something about both staff. Within the phrases of the late, nice Dennis Inexperienced, “They’re who we thought they have been.” The Cowboys are a strong staff with a superb defensive entrance that may give you issues and an offense that may problem you. However in high-pressure conditions, and in opposition to elite groups, they’re going to return up quick as a result of they battle to beat their deficiencies or miscues.

The Eagles, in the meantime, are clearly the extra vaunted foe. They’re not excellent, they harm themselves at occasions, however they’re constructed to face up to stress and climate storms. They’re deep and versatile sufficient to soak up blows and carry on swinging, and when you really want a play, whether or not offensive or defensive, they’re going to get it. That’s why they’re the most effective staff within the NFC, and that’s why the Cowboys are within the second tier of groups.

The Las Vegas Raiders seemed reenergized of their first sport with Antonio Pierce because the interim coach. One-week blip or is that this sustainable for a staff not fully out of it at 4-5?

Pompei: It’s not uncommon for a staff to reply to an in-season teaching change with a burst of vitality and enthusiasm. An identical situation performed out in 2021 when Wealthy Bisaccia took over for Jon Gruden in Week 6 and the Raiders responded with two convincing victories. They went 7-5 underneath Bisaccia, however these Raiders have been higher than these Raiders.

The 2023 Raiders had grow to be stale underneath the earlier regime and clearly have been taking part in beneath their skills. No staff at 4-5 is totally out of it, however the Raiders have a tough street forward to make the postseason. A ten-7 report in all probability would guarantee them a playoff spot. For the Raiders to get to 10 wins, they’d have to tug some upsets, seeing of their final eight video games, they’ve two left in opposition to the Chiefs, one in opposition to the Los Angeles Chargers and one other in opposition to the Dolphins.

Jones: Method too early to make any sort of ruling on whether or not or not that is sustainable. An in-season coach firing tends to ignite a staff for every week or two.

Nguyen: I feel it’s sustainable. I don’t suppose that signifies that they’re going to go on a win streak, however they’re going to play higher and more durable. Possibly they’ll rating greater than 20 factors constantly. The cloud McDaniels had over this staff turns into increasingly astonishing as extra is revealed. This staff is having enjoyable now. They’ll take pleasure in coming to work now. These issues make a distinction.

They’ll have their tough patches with a rookie quarterback and a scarcity of expertise in sure areas, however they’ve star gamers to be feisty and be a troublesome out. Aidan O’Connell will get defenders to again off which can assist the working sport along with his willingness to throw deep. Some followers might have delusions of a playoff run, however they need to be glad that this staff doesn’t should be depressing, and so they’ll see a lot better efforts than they’ve this season.

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(Prime picture of Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes:
Arne Dedert / image alliance through Getty Photos)


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