Monday Morning Digest: What to Make of the NFL's Most Mysterious Teams

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterOctober 15, 2018

Monday Morning Digest: What to Make of the NFL's Most Mysterious Teams

0 of 10

    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    How can the Cowboys drop 40 points on the Jaguars defense after barely moving the ball against the Texans? How have the Vikings rebounded from that ugly start? Are the Seahawks possibly a playoff team? Shouldn't the Texans either be much better or much worse than they are? What about the Titans? Who are the Titans? Why are the Titans?

    Digest unravels all of these mysteries this week, and that's just the warm-up for:

    • A long look at the NFL's best running back duo

    • A rundown of some of the league's worst statistical performers

    • Chiefs-Patriots goes from a laugher to everything you expected

    • More business as usual in the Bengals-Steelers rivalry

    • Brock Osweiler, Kelvin Benjamin and other people you didn't plan to think about on Sunday

    ...and much more!

          

The Teams No One Can Figure Out Through Week 6

1 of 10

    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    October is the time for mysteries, and the NFL is full of them this season.

    There are seven teams with 3-3 records after Sunday and four others somewhere between 2-3-1 and 3-2-1. There's nothing puzzling about many of these teams—the Jets are rebuilding, the Steelers consistently inconsistent, the Eagles coping with a mix of injuries and a Super Bowl hangover, and so on—but much of the NFL's middle class is shrouded in mystery. And some strange Sunday results did little to clear the fog.

    In an ongoing effort to make sense of the often senseless NFL, Digest is here to separate perception from reality and share some secrets of the NFL's hardest-to-solve mystery teams.

               

    Dallas Cowboys

    The perception: They're a Jerry Jones vanity project with a head coach who could lose a tic-tac-toe tournament.

    The reality: The Cowboys have a swarming, talented defense and an excellent running game. If you can sustain drives and force them to throw more than zero yards downfield, you can beat them. Get cute and sloppy on offense like the Jaguars did Sunday, and the Cowboys will rip a fabric in space-time, wear your defense out with about 39 minutes of ball control and make you look foolish in a 40-7 rout.

    The Redskins, Panthers and Seahawks are similar to the Cowboys in terms of general style and overall quality. The Seahawks and Panthers have already beaten the Cowboys, but next Sunday's trip to FedExField will matter more than those losses. An 9-7 record, with the right combination of tiebreakers, could win the NFC East. 

               

    Houston Texans

    The perception: They have J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins...these guys are going to the Super Bowl, right?

    The reality: After starting the season 0-3, the Texans have climbed to .500 with overtime victories against the Colts and Cowboys and Sunday's 20-13 averted disaster over the Bills. In other words: lots of bean dip.

    The Texans scored just one touchdown on four red-zone trips against the Bills after treating the end zone like it was full of rotating razor blades last Sunday night. Their offensive line is terrible, as are their offensive game plans, but their future schedule is full of foes like the Browns, Jets, Colts, Titans and Broncos, all of whom may tremble when Watt takes the field. It all adds up to Bill O'Brien working his magic once again by turning a star-studded roster into a 9-7 team.

             

    Jacksonville Jaguars

    The perception: Blake Bortles must be holding the Jaguars back.

    The reality: Blake Bortles is holding the Jaguars back. With the Jaguars offense playing poorly, their  defense has contracted a case of 2016-17 Broncos Syndrome: It is asked to do too much and ends up buckling after one or two mistakes. Next week's matchup with the Texans is the Jaguars' litmus test. If they win, they're back on track to seize the division. If they get lulled into an ugly Texans game, we can start talking about what a missed opportunity this Jaguars season has been.

             

    Minnesota Vikings

    The perception: A 1-2-1 start? This can only be Kirk Cousins' fault!

    The reality: The Vikings have a bad offensive line and got caught looking past the Bills in September. Cousins has played very well when not getting hammered the moment the snap arrives, and the defense, while not as dominant as hoped, has been effective against non-Rams opponents.

    The Vikings' biggest problem, aside from line play, is that they hoped to be where the Rams are right now instead of in a three-way dogfight for their division. They should be 5-3-1 entering their bye after an upcoming Jets-Saints-Lions slate. That's not what they wanted, but it's better than what looked like might happen after that Bills game.

                

    Seattle Seahawks

    The perception: They are nothing more than Russell Wilson and the NFL's most-affordable, least-controversial pre-rebuilding placeholders.

    The reality: Pete Carroll's happy-to-be-here temp agency trounced a disinterested Raiders team Sunday and has an early-season win over the Cardinals, who are basically Pac-12 also-rans.

    Like the Cowboys (the other team they beat), the Seahawks fly around the field on defense and play paint-by-numbers on offense. Unlike the Cowboys, the Seahawks still have Wilson and Doug Baldwin to provide passing oomph.

    The Seahawks will go .500 this season if they win their three remaining games against the Cardinals and what's left of the 49ers and find two other wins against tough out-of-division rivals. Unfortunately, .500 has zero chance of winning the NFC West or making much wild-card noise.

               

    Tennessee Titans

    The perception: No one has any perception whatsoever of the Titans. They even changed uniforms this season, and you probably haven't noticed yet.

    The reality: The Titans have a putrid offense and a pretty good defense; they're like the Bills, but less extreme in both directions. They beat the Texans with fake punts and Wildcats and the Eagles on a bunch of fourth-down conversions, masking their lack of offense on the stat sheets. The Ravens and Bills have now exposed them with back-to-back touchdown-less weeks.

    Feel free to keep ignoring the Titans; they aren't going anywhere.

             

    Miami Dolphins

    The perception: Wait...they're 4-2? They won a game with Brock Osweiler at quarterback? Maybe they're actually good?

    The reality: No! That can't be right. There's no plausible explanation on earth. Unless they faced the Titans in a tsunami. And a rookie quarterback. And Jon Gruden's counter-motivated geezers. And the Bipolar Bears. Oh, that's what happened? Phew.

More NFL Mysteries Solved!

2 of 10

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Andrew Luck threw three interceptions against the Jets. What's his problem?

    Two of the picks bounced off his receivers. Luck had at least four other catchable passes dropped by Digest's count. Luck is not the problem. Everything else about the Colts is the problem.

             

    Todd Gurley ran for 208 yards against the Broncos defense in a 23-20 Rams win. The Jets ran for 323 yards against the Broncos last week. What on earth happened to the Broncos defense?

    Short, snarky answer: Two-and-a-quarter years of trying to compensate for the Broncos offense broke them.

    More technical answer: The Broncos secondary is full of bad tacklers and bad angle-takers who also get wired to blocks too easily. The front seven isn't playing to its billing either, but 10-yard runs turn into 20-to-77-yarders every time one defensive back overruns the play, a second hits the dive button at Gurley's shoestrings and a third gets blocked by Jermaine Kearse or Robert Woods like they are Orlando Pace.

              

    The Ravens are 4-2. Are they any good?

    They are "Ravens good": really solid on defense, capable of driving 30 yards without needing two roughing-the-passer penalties to make it happen on offense. They're more of a toothache to watch than the usual blinding migraine.

    (Bonus sub-mystery: Are they getting Lamar Jackson involved at all?

    Jackson bulled his way to 22 yards on a Wildcat sweep to set up a touchdown on Sunday. Joe Flacco went Full Cutler on the play, standing like a living statue at wide receiver on the far side of the field.

    Keep in mind that Marty Mornhinweg previously used the Wildcat to disrupt his own team's offensive rhythm when coordinating the Jets: think Tim Tebow trotting onto the field after three straight Mark Sanchez completions to lose a yard and kill a drive. The Ravens rarely have any rhythm to disrupt.)

                 

    Another loss for the Buccaneers on Sunday. Is the answer Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston?

    They're the same guy: lots of big plays, some mobility, too many risks and mistakes.

    The Buccaneers will remain a tough out this season, but nothing more. What's frustrating is that they put so much effort into upgrading their running game (Ronald Jones) and pass rush (Jason Pierre-Paul and others) in the offseason but still can't run the ball or rush the passer with any consistency.

Game Spotlight: Patriots 43, Chiefs 40

3 of 10

    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    What happened

    It started out according to the boilerplate script: A hot team with a young quarterback comes to Foxborough, gets the turbo yips and starts making mistakes. An overthrow of an open receiver here, an interception there, defensive lapses everywhere.

    Tom Brady was pinpoint, Patrick Mahomes erratic. The Patriots were precise while the Chiefs pressed. The Patriots led 24-9 as Mahomes threw an interception at the end of the half, and they looked poised to put the Chiefs easily in their place.

    Then the Patriots offense stalled and started making mistakes while the Chiefs piled on big plays. The first of three Tyreek Hill touchdown catches cut the Patriots lead to 27-26, the second—Hill racing across the end zone to haul in what looked like an overthrow to Kareem Hunt—gave the Chiefs a 33-30 lead.

    By late in the fourth quarter, both teams went Super Saiyan. Tom Brady barreled through tacklers in Beast Mode to run for a touchdown. Hill answered with his third score, outracing the entire Patriots defense.

    But it's impossible to beat the Patriots in Foxborough after leaving so many early opportunities on the table. A deep Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski pass set up a game-ending field goal. And left us craving a playoff rematch.

              

    What it means

    If there is a playoff rematch, it has an increased chance of taking place in Foxborough thanks to this head-to-head win. That's a huge deal.

    The September "Patriots are finished" storyline failed to survive into October yet again. "Patriots are vulnerable" lives on to a degree, thanks to a slow-footed defense, but Julian Edelman's return and increasing contributions from Josh Gordon have had their intended effect.

    Mahomes was two bad decisions and three or four missed throws from dominating the Patriots. His potential remains uncanny, even in defeat.

                    

    What's next

    The Chiefs host the Bengals on Sunday night. The Patriots visit the Bears, who are like the Chiefs except not as good but twice as unpredictable.

Game Spotlight: Steelers 28, Bengals 21

4 of 10

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    What happened

    When it comes to big games, you can always count on not being able to count on the Bengals.

    The injury-depleted Bengals hung tough against the Steelers in a sloppy back-and-forth game, taking a 21-20 lead with 1:18 to play on a four-yard Joe Mixon touchdown run. But the Bengals left too much time on the clock, and a defensive holding penalty with 29 seconds left set up a pair of big plays for the Steelers: a 23-yard pass to wide-open JuJu Smith-Schuster to get into field-goal range and then a 31-yard catch-and-run "rub" play for a touchdown by Antonio Brown to take the game out of the kicker's hands. Or feet, or whatever.

             

    What it means

    You know what Steelers victories look like: Brown and Smith-Schuster make big plays (JuJu also ripped a bomb away from cornerback Darqueze Dennard to set up the Steelers' second touchdown), James Conner and Vance McDonald break a bunch of tackles, the defense records some timely sacks, and somehow all the fumbles, goal-line stuffs, Ben Roethlisberger passes that doink off defenders' chests and times when guys like Tyler Boyd are left uncovered in the end zone don't come back to haunt them.

    The Steelers formula won't work against elite teams, but there aren't many elite teams on their schedule, so look for them to continue walking this tightrope between excellence and catastrophe straight into the postseason.

    While the Steelers won despite some big mistakes, the Bengals killed themselves with little things: punting on 4th-and-1 in Steelers territory, getting sacked out of field-goal range, leaving too much time on the clock (they snapped with about 15 seconds left on the play clock and the game clock running near the goal line just before the Mixon touchdown) and other situational errors.

    The Bengals were playing without tight end Tyler Eifert, backup tight end Tyler Croft, running back Giovani Bernard, receiver John Ross and center Billy Price. Putting up 21 points and taking a division rival deep into the fourth quarter would almost be a moral victory if they hadn't been settling for moral victories in important games since 2011.

           

    What's next

    The Steelers Bye Week Le'Veon Bell Vigil, sponsored by all of your favorite headache remedies!

    Meanwhile, the Bengals are set to tumble back into irrelevance once and for all against the Chiefs at Arrowhead next Sunday night.

Player Spotlight: Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, RBs, Los Angeles Chargers

5 of 10

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    What happened

    Melvin Gordon rushed 18 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns, and Austin Ekeler added seven carries for 60 yards and some crucial work as a decoy. Sprinkle in some deep Philip Rivers bombs to Tyrell Williams, and the Chargers shredded the very talented Browns defense in a 35-14 romp.

                            

    What it means

    Gordon, a former first-round pick, now has 466 rushing yards at 5.1 yards per rush, 30 receptions for 279 yards and nine total touchdowns this season. Ekeler, an undrafted rookie from Western State (which sounds like the fictitious college the kids from Footloose hope to attend), has 263 rushing yards at 6.4 yards per rush, 19 receptions and three touchdowns on the year. They have been the league's most effective backfield tandem.

    After watching Saquon Barkley gain 229 total yards in a Giants blowout loss on Thursday night, it's easy to see the Moneyball wisdom of passing up Gordon-types for Ekelers. But instead of turning this into a meditation on the value of drafting a first-round running back, let's meditate on the value of depth and diversity at running back.

    Gordon scored two touchdowns Sunday with Ekeler motioning in the opposite direction from the slot. Both players line up at wide-receiver positions at times, creating mismatches and making misdirection plays more effective.

    Great running backs can still make a difference, as can pesky, versatile ones. Coaches just have to be creative about using them.

               

    What's next

    The Chargers are now 4-2, which is usually when everyone starts to believe in them, followed immediately by an injury or missed-field-goal spree. Maybe this is the year Gordon and Ekeler help them avoid that fate.

Sunday Morning Storyline Guy Digest

6 of 10

    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Some of the most interesting storylines of the week emerge Sunday mornings, when injury reports are finalized and television insiders dish the tastiest dirt. Here are some players who made news Sunday morning and then went on to make a little more news Sunday afternoon:

                         

    Brock Osweiler, quarterback, Dolphins

    The storyline: Ryan Tannehill's sudden appearance on the injury report caught the football world by surprise, because no one reads Dolphins injury reports unless professionally obligated to do so. And even then, most of us slack. Anyway, Tannehill's absence marked the start of Brocktober. 

    The result: Osweiler (28-of-44, 380 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions) played just well enough to beat the Bears in overtime thanks to three turnovers by the Dolphins defense, Albert Wilson turning a screen and a short checkdown into 43- and 75-yard touchdowns, and a missed field goal by Bears kicker Cody Parkey in overtime. This one-notch-above-mediocre performance will keep Osweiler in the league as a backup for six more years.

                    

    Adrian Peterson, running back, Redskins

    The storyline: Peterson played despite ankle, knee and shoulder injuries suffered on Monday night and earlier in the season.

    The result: Peterson rushed 19 times for 97 yards in a 23-17 victory over the Panthers, continuing his remarkable comeback season. But please don't make a big deal about being a warrior through multiple injuries. He pretends to hate that.

              

    Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Raiders

    The storyline: Jay Glazer reported on the Fox pregame show that the Raiders are actively shopping Cooper as part of their ongoing effort to replace the team's carefully constructed nucleus with guys who impressed Jon Gruden during 2015 Monday Night Football broadcasts.

    The result: Cooper was targeted just once before suffering a concussion in the 27-3 debacle of a loss to the Seahawks in London. "The big thing right now is I hope Amari is OK...he's a good kid," Gruden told reporters after the game. We'll just assume Gruden was sincerely concerned with Cooper's well-being and not thinking of him as a car that got in a fender bender just before the lease was up.

                    

    Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Bills

    The storyline: Bills reporter Jenna Cottrell tweeted before kickoff that Benjamin tersely declined an opportunity to work on his routes with rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The report went viral because the Bills offense is more reliably entertaining before games than after kickoff.

    The result: Benjamin caught two passes for 43 yards and had a deep reception nullified by a penalty. He was also the target of Nathan Peterman's game-crushing pick-six after Allen was knocked out of the game. So you see, working with Allen wouldn't have done a lick of good with Peterman out there. Benjamin was smart to conserve his energy!

Inside the Numbers: Bottom-Feeder Edition

7 of 10

    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    The folks at Football Outsiders use high-tech stats like DVOA and DYAR to go beyond raw numbers to determine the NFL's best players. And if you scroll to the bottom of their lists, you'll find that the analytics also help identify the league's worst players (or least effective players, if we are being kind).

    This week's Inside the Numbers focuses on the guys from the bottom of those Football Outsiders lists who were active Sunday. And boy howdy, some of them were really active.

            

    Josh Allen, NFL's least-effective quarterback

    Entering Sunday: Two touchdowns, five interceptions, 53.3 percent completion rate, 19 sacks (one for every 7.4 dropbacks), last in DYAR and DVOA. Allen did have three rushing touchdowns, making his weekly stat lines look very Tyrod Taylor-like, which is proof that the cosmos are trolling Bills fans.

    Sunday: Allen completed 10 of 17 passes for 84 yards before suffering an elbow injury and giving way to Nathan Peterman, who threw a go-ahead touchdown followed by two game-killing interceptions.

    Allen could still be good someday in the remote future. But Peterman has now thrown nine interceptions in 79 career attempts, giving him a stat line like one of those 1930s quarterbacks who also played safety, punted, returned punts and ran a tractor over the field before kickoff.

                

    Alex Collins, NFL's least-effective running back

    Entering Sunday: 3.8 yards per carry, two touchdowns, two fumbles lost, last in DVOA, second-to-last in DYAR. Other than the fumbles, Collins has not been terrible—just slightly below average on lots and lots of touches.

    Collins rushed 40 times for 166 yards on first downs entering Sunday but just 17 times on other downs. In other words, his job is to set up 2nd-and-6 and either block or give way to Buck Allen. Marty Mornhinweg must have stayed up all night coming up with the role.

    Sunday: Collins carried 19 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns. As for his role: On the series after taking a 21-0 lead in the third quarter, Collins ran on first down, and two incomplete passes followed. On the next series, he ran on first down for a team that should have been munching clock, and then came two passes, a run by backup Gus Edwards and another pass. That Mornhinweg's a situational genius! 

                 

    Antonio Callaway, NFL's least-effective wide receiver

    Entering Sunday: 13 receptions on 30 targets for 177 yards and one touchdown, last in DYAR, second-to-last in DVOA. Callaway dropped three passes in his first five games, and if 47- and 59-yard receptions are removed from the data, the Browns average just 2.5 yards every time they target Callaway. In fairness, the rookie has been playing through rib injuries.

    Sunday: Callaway caught two of nine targets for nine yards, dropping what should have been an easy touchdown early in the game. For those of you doing the math at home, he now averages 2.1 yards per target on all but his two big plays.

                      

    Ricky Seals-Jones, one of the NFL's least-effective tight ends*

    Entering Sunday: 10 catches on 25 targets for 123 yards and one TD, second-to-last in DYAR, third-to-last in DVOA. The Cardinals tight end and singer-songwriter of the 1970s AM Gold smash "Chuck E's in Love with the Summer Breeze" was targeted eight times on third or fourth down through five games but caught just one pass...for minus-five yards.

    Sunday: Seals-Jones caught five passes for 69 yards: a 40-yarder, an 18-yarder and three shorties. All five receptions came on first down. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were 0-of-10 on third downs. Maybe the problem isn't the tight end but the Pop Warner 80-Pounders Division game plans.

    *David Njoku ranked lower than Seals-Jones entering Sunday, but Browns fans have suffered enough.

Digest Sportsbook

8 of 10

    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Your weekly guide to smart plays, future spreads and deep regrets.

    Push points: If you took the Cardinals +10 against the Vikings, you had to love how that game ended. First David Johnson did both fantasy gamers and wagerers a favor with a one-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to cut the Vikings' lead to 27-17. Then the Vikings drove into field-goal range with the Cardinals out of timeouts...and took a knee to preserve the push. That's as good as it's gonna get when picking the Cardinals, folks.

    Lines on the move: News of Ryan Tannehill's shoulder injury made the Bears-Dolphins line go bonkers on Sunday morning, with the Dolphins plummeting from 3.5- to seven-point underdogs in the span of a few hours. The line bottomed out before reaching Digest's "Brock Osweiler can cover that spread" comfort zone of about +14.5. The Dolphins pulled off an overtime win, which only goes to show you never follow a quarterback injury down a point-spread rabbit hole, even if Osweiler is involved.

    Matt Bryant, cover hero: Bryant's 57-yard field goal gave the Falcons much-needed breathing room in the fourth quarter—the Buccaneers still nearly won on a last-second playground pitch—and it also secured a win for anyone who took the Falcons -3. Though really, you should consult both your psychologist and your cardiologist before betting on the Falcons.

    Overwatch, Part I: The Falcons and Buccaneers also cleared the over of 57 easily in the 34-29 final. Picking the Falcons is wild, but picking the Falcons and any opponent with a functioning offense to go over a number below 60 is a shrewd investment.

    Overwatch, Part II: Digest loved the over of 45 in the Jets-Colts game, and we would have been sitting pretty early in the third quarter of the 42-34 Jets win if we didn't parlay it with the Colts +2.5 (D'oh!). Look for the Colts to keep clearing overs in the 40s all year, as Andrew Luck throws both touchdown passes and pick-sixes that ricochet off his terrible receivers, giving you two-way bang for the buck.

    Undertale: The Rams-Broncos over/under never fell below 49.5, even with snow on the ground in Denver and temperatures in the 20s. Sure enough, cold temperatures cooled off the Rams' California-hot offense just enough for a 23-20 under. October is here, folks: Time to check the Weather Channel before every wager.

    Monday night action—San Francisco 49ers (+9.5) at Green Bay Packers: The Packers have been a more reliable home favorite since Aaron Rodgers took over at quarterback in 2008 (45-27-3 against the spread, 62.5 percent) than even the Patriots (54-37-3, 59.3 percent). The 49ers' injury situation on offense has gotten so bad that the no-names replacing the injured starters are listed as questionable. Unless you like the idea of C.J. Beathard, Kendrick Bourne and Cole Wick leading you to a late-night backdoor cover, take the Packers and hope Mason Crosby remembers that his job is to aim between the two big yellow sticks.

    Distant early warning: The Saints, who have a bye this week, are opening as 2.5- to three-point dogs on the road against the Ravens. Despite their dome-flower reputation, the Saints are 14-7-1 as road dogs since 2014, which means the public underestimates them. Also, they are very good team, while the Ravens specialize in stomping on opponents with zero offense.

    Odds via OddsShark. Historical trends via TeamRankings.com. 

Awards Digest

9 of 10

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Defender of the Week: Za'Darius Smith recorded three sacks and forced a fumble in the Ravens' 21-0 shutout of the Titans. The Ravens set a franchise record with 11 sacks, holding the Titans to just 51 net passing yards. It got so bad that the Ravens were running out of sack dances, as Smith and others repeated the Apache and the Antonio Brown before doing whatever the heck they are trying to do in that photo above.

    Offensive Line of the Week: The Browns defense is good enough that it takes some impressive line play to generate 246 rushing yards and hold it to one sack. So this week's award goes to the Chargers line: Russell Okung, Dan Feeney, Mike Pouncey, Michael Schofield and Sam Tevi.

    Special Teamer of the Week: Jets kicker Jason Myers hit field goals of (takes deep breath) 30, 48, 32, 37, 45, 37 and 45 yards. Oh, and three extra points for a total of 24 points. Oh yeah: and eight touchbacks on kickoffs.

    Mystery Touch of the Week: It takes a great player to win Mystery Touch on a Sunday when Ben Roethlisberger catches a batted self-pass. Well, Washington tackle Trent Williams is a great player, and he caught an Alex Smith strip-sack in the air and rumbled eight yards, dragging a defender much of the way. Officially, it was a fumble recovery, but Williams is credited with a reception in Digest's book.

    Regrettable Play Call of the Week: OK, listen up Chargers coaches: Keenan Allen is just not comfortable with the whole "wide receiver option pass" concept. A few weeks ago, he dropped back to pass on a trick play and displayed body language that made Jay Cutler look like a guy on an army recruiting poster. On Sunday, Allen took a pitch from Philip Rivers, then lasered the ball back to Rivers about 10 mph too hard and five yards off target. The Chargers recovered for a loss of 19. More two-back Melvin Gordon-Austin Ekeler concepts, less Allen throwing the ball. Got it? Thx.

    Stanford Band Play of the Week: The Buccaneers nearly beat the Falcons on a last-second touchdown when Jameis Winston ran a quarterback draw, pitching at the last second to Mike Evans, who lateraled to DeSean Jackson with room to run along the sideline. Unfortunately, Jackson couldn't haul in Evans' desperate pitch. Someday, a coach will actually design a last-second lateral play off a quarterback draw for a mobile passer and a playmaking receiver. But Sunday was not that day. And Dirk Koetter will never be that coach.

Point-Counterpoint

10 of 10

    David Banks/Associated Press

    NFL news never sleeps, and neither does the sweet embrace of debate. Your weekly roundup:

            

    Jay Gruden reportedly yanked headphones off Josh Norman's head during halftime of Monday Night Football.

    Point: Someone should have yanked Gruden's headset off on the sideline before halftime of that debacle.

    Counterpoint: The NFL is full of coaches who would get beaten up or fired after two weeks as junior high gym teachers.

    Bonus counter-counterpoint: On behalf of the mainstream media, Digest apologizes for previously missing this story about a mediocre coach treating a superstar like a third-grader because we were too busy bemoaning Odell Beckham Jr.'s lack of leadership and disrespect for authority.

                   

    49ers omit—then insert after public outcry—images of Colin Kaepernick's historic playoff performance from a list of all-time great 49ers-Packers highlights.

    Point: Protesters reacted to Kaepernick's inclusion on Friday by angrily canceling their 2012 season tickets.

    Counterpoint: There was nothing political about the Kaepernick omission. The team just didn't want fans to see Kaepernick and think, "Oh, yes, that guy was good, and is still better than our current quarterbacks, and available. So why aren't we signing him?" And there's nothing political about that, nosiree.

              

    Arkansas sheriff accused of having detainees wear Nike gear for their mugshots in an effort to mock Colin Kaepernick (sheriff denies the intent).

    Point: Sheesh, we were down for that Cool Hand Luke reboot before they went wild with the product placement and guerilla marketing.

    Counterpoint: Great, now some dude caught stealing cough medicine from a small-town pharmacy gets to rock Nike in his cell while all we can afford to wear is Reebuk, the Eastern European knockoff made from the wool of Latvernian itch llamas.

              

    Mitchell Trubisky plans to keep wearing the "lucky sleeve" that helped him throw six touchdowns in Week 4.

    Point: (Casts "identify" spell.) Oh, no, that's not a lucky sleeve: It's a cursed Sammy Sleeve! It brings incredible wealth but makes you completely ineffective at your job! Come to think of it, that's not much of a curse.

    Counterpoint: Let's hope it's not a Nike lucky sleeve. That could lead to the largest prison break in Arkansas history.