Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Welcome to the New High-Scoring NFL

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 17, 2018

FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 14: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts before a game with the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Chiefs and Patriots provide a glimpse into the NFL's future. Aaron Rodgers makes NFL history. And Todd Gurley and the Rams show that they're the NFL's present. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. Chiefs-Pats is everything the NFL wants football to be

In the NFL's wildest of dreams, in its greatest of hopes, in its most sophisticated of laboratories, it never saw this era of football it has long desired arriving this quickly or with the glorious, excessive bloat that we saw in Sunday night's 43-40 Patriots win over the Chiefs.

That game is the epitome of what the NFL wants in its football. Scores in the 40s. Star receivers going from zero to 60 untouched. Star quarterbacks in protective force fields that allow them to play at previously unimaginable ages and levels of reckless abandon

This is the game the league has long wanted, even if it has been too terrified of media and public reaction to admit it. The NFL didn't want people saying it has become more like Arena or the CFL. And yet here we are, thanks to the offense-favoring rules the league has put in place.

When you see a game featuring 41-year-old Tom Brady dominating on one side and Tyreek Hill running around basically untouched on the other, this is what the NFL has long desired.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

In many ways, what we saw in that wild game was the arrival of the future of the NFL.

That Sunday night game is the new benchmark of what football is supposed to be.

Yes, there have been plenty of high-scoring games in recent history, but this is the next step. There have already been three games this season in which both teams scored at least 40 points. The previous four seasons, there were only two.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The Patriots took down the undefeated Chiefs, 43-40 on a Gostkowski game-winning field goal. This season, there have been 3 games where both teams scored 40 or more points. From 2014 to 2017, there were only 2. https://t.co/7JXImeuaiz

Again, the league office won't say this is what it wants. It will present the rule changes that got us here as advocacy for player safety. 

But speaking to people around the league, there is a divide between teams and the league office on this. Coaches and players see the league office pushing through rules designed only to protect offensive players and increase scoring. Especially defensive coaches and players, and you can understand their concern. The Buccaneers this week fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith; firing a defensive coordinator in this era is like blaming global warming on the melting ice caps.

It is true that some of what we saw in that game stems from other issues. You'll also hear outrage from coaches and players over the lack of fundamentals in defensive play.

Louis Riddick @LRiddickESPN

So disgusted by defenses in the league I can’t stand it.

But those are structural issues, and they take a huge backseat to the rule changes. There is simply nothing a defender can do when you have what happened in the Miami-Chicago game Sunday. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was barely touched and the Bears were called for roughing the passer. It was one of the most ridiculous calls this season, and that's saying something.

I had a Pro Bowl receiver text me that my premise was wrong. Football hasn't changed so drastically except for one thing.

"The only difference is that a DB might not take a malicious shot out of fear of being fined," he said. "The DBs still hold lol."

Now that is definitely true.

At the end of the Patriots game, Brady approached tight end Rob Gronkowski and said something telling to him.

"We're playing forever," Brady told Gronkowski, "you know that."

Thanks to this new NFL, Brady may be right. And the league, whatever it says, couldn't be happier about it.


2. More on offensive explosion

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk assembled the cache of stats showing just how ridiculous all of the scoring has become. It's stunning. The number of points scored (4,489), touchdowns scored (504) and touchdown passes (328) through six weeks are all league records.

The NFL is exploding offensively in every possible way.


3. How long until we see a 600-yard passer?

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 14: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers looks to pass in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One thing I picked up in speaking to people in the sport about the new offensive era is how many think it's only a matter of time before we see a passer throw for 600 yards in a game.

Indeed, some went further, thinking a quarterback will throw for 650 yards or even more soon.

The current single-game passing record is 554, by Norm Van Brocklin, set in 1951. Matt Schaub threw for 527 in 2012.

It's actually a shock Van Brocklin's record hasn't been broken, but it will be soon.

In an era when you can't touch quarterbacks or receivers, it's only a matter of time. Especially since dump-off passes can go for 80 yards easier than ever before, thanks to the athleticism on offense and lack of fundamentals on defense. Those yards count, too.

How close are we to 600 yards passing in a single game? Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said after their season opener against the Chiefs he should have thrown for 600 yards then.

"Ultimately it's about scoring," Rivers said. "We left too many out there. It's crazy to say you left a lot out there when you have 500 and however many yards of offense you had. Really today, we should have thrown for 600, which is crazy to say, but we should have thrown for 600 yards in an NFL game."

It's only a matter of time before Rivers, or some other quarterback, does.


4. What happens in Miami?

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 14:  Brock Osweiler #8 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates as he walks off of the field after the Dolphins defeated the Bears 31 to 28 of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Ima
Mark Brown/Getty Images

With Brock Osweiler shocking the football world by beating the Bears, what does this mean for Ryan Tannehill?

Overall, not much. He's still the guy in Miami.

But if Osweiler, who generally stinks, can beat the Bears, what does it say about Tannehill?

I know some in the league believe Tannehill will be gone from Miami after this season. I'm not so sure, but contractually it is interesting to note that Tannehill counts for $8.7 million against the cap now, per Spotrac.

Next year, that number increases to $26.6 million.

That's, well, a lot.


5. The power of football

Just a quick note to say what we all know but need to be reminded of sometimes: The NFL remains a ratings giant.

The Patriots-Chiefs game drew a rating 13.1 higher than the ALCS game between the Red Sox and Astros on Sunday.

Mike Reiss @MikeReiss

TV ratings scoreboard from last night: Patriots-Chiefs: 33.7 rating Red Sox-Astros: 20.6 rating

That the Patriots generated a bigger number than the Red Sox isn't a shock. That they generated a number that much bigger over a playoff Red Sox team is.

Despite its foolish handling of almost every major issue for years, the NFL is still king. It's amazing, really, the power the league still wields.


6. Ban Vontaze Burfict

Gary Landers/Associated Press

Once again, we are talking about another Vontaze Burfict dirty play.

It was a hit on Antonio Brown. It was dirty and extremely dangerous.

I'm told by a league source that the NFL is reviewing a total of three plays from that game: the Brown hit and two other plays involving helmet-to-helmet blows.

It's not a shock Burfict did any of this. He does this all the time. His record as a dirty player is well-established.

What I don't get is why the NFL doesn't take a harsher stand. There is enough evidence to conclude Burfict is attempting to injure players. He deserves to be suspended for the remainder of the season. Actually, he deserves to be kicked out of football.

The collective bargaining agreement likely prevents Roger Goodell from wholesale banning of Burfict, but something has got to change. Not just a fine; there needs to be at least a lengthy suspension.

Burfict's story is getting old and repetitive. It's got to change.


7. The greatest football player of our generation

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 15:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers participates in warmups prior to a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field on October 15, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It's Aaron Rodgers, and I'm not sure it's even close any longer.

Notice that I said football player. Tom Brady is maybe the best quarterback. But Rodgers does everything that I think a football player does: not just his job but something more. It's not just throwing the football. It's putting his team on his back and carrying it back from behind on a gimpy leg with a bulky brace against the 49ers.

Brady does everything you'd want in a quarterback. But Rodgers meets the definition of football player better than anyone I've ever covered, with the exception of Jerry Rice.

The two best football players in history are Jim Brown and Rice. I think Rodgers is beginning to pass even them.


8. Lastly on Aaron Rodgers

There's a stat that I thought deserved special attention and was kind of remarkable.

Rodgers threw for 425 yards against San Francisco. That followed 442 yards against Detroit the week before and made him the first Packers QB to throw for 400-plus yards in consecutive games and the first quarterback ever to throw for 400 in consecutive games without an interception.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

While carrying the Packers to a victory, Aaron Rodgers set some records along the way. He is the first Packers player to throw for 400 yards in consecutive games. He is also the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 yards and no interceptions in consecutive games. https://t.co/j5LyWrULWD

That level of precision, while carrying so much of the offensive load for his team, is almost supernatural.


9. The scariness of the Rams

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 14:  Running back Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams scores a second quarter rushing touchdown as linebacker Todd Davis #51 of the Denver Broncos attempts to tackle him during a game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on October 14,
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

One thing I heard a lot in speaking to people around the league this week is how, to them, the Rams have become even scarier despite their passing game slowing.

Quarterback Jared Goff threw for just 201 yards with zero touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 58.8 against the Broncos. It was his worst game this year.

The Rams still won, 23-20, because they went to the workhorse, a guy named Todd Gurley.

Gurley rushed for 208 yards and two scores. He was unstoppable.

This is what scares other teams. If Goff has a bad day, they can go to Gurley. If the defense is off, they can go to Gurley. If Gurley is off, most of the time, they can go to that passing game. If all elements of the Rams are on, they might be almost impossible to beat.

They are the most diversified team in football and also have one of the most devastating weapons in Gurley to save their butts if all else goes wrong.

10. IsGrudenGoneYet.com

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 07:  Head coach Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders walks off the field after a game against the Los Angeles Chargers  at StubHub Center on October 7, 2018 in Carson, California.  THe Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Oakland Raiders 26
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Someone decided to fire up a website that counts how much money Raiders coach Jon Gruden is being paid.

It's so wonderful. It's the most brilliant thing on the internet since cat memes.



Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL