Teddy Bridgewater is going to make some QB-starved team very happy, where is OBJ and how Stefon Diggs is powering the Vikings' resurgence. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.
1. Teddy Bridgewater may be the NFL's most wanted man
If there was one thing Teddy Bridgewater demonstrated in going 5-0 in relief of Drew Brees this season, it was this: He is a franchise quarterback.
Bridgewater threw for 1,370 passing yards and nine touchdowns and completed 67.7 percent of his passes with Brees sidelined because of a thumb injury on his throwing hand. More important to his future, Bridgewater was one of the hottest quarterbacks in football.
So, what happens now that he has been relegated to the bench again?
Bridgewater signed a one-year deal last year worth $7.2 million, meaning he will be a free agent after the season. Several team officials believe that with the right team, Bridgewater could command a salary in the neighborhood of $20 million to $30 million a year.
What makes him so attractive? He's just 26 years old, is a terrific athlete and is extremely smart. His starting stint over the last few weeks showed how seamlessly he can take over an offense and keep it humming. He is, in many ways, the prototypical franchise quarterback candidate.
There will be a long line of teams waiting to get a crack at him. Where could Bridgewater end up? Let's assess the teams that will be looking for quarterbacks in the offseason.
Buccaneers: Bridgewater would instantly transform Tampa Bay's offense. The Bucs already have a top-five receiver in Mike Evans, and coach Bruce Arians knows how to take full advantage of skilled quarterbacks. Arians can't do that now because Jameis Winston isn't, well, skilled. Bridgewater would make the Buccaneers a team with double-digit wins.
Chances Bridgewater goes to Tampa: 20 percent
Patriots: Much of this obviously depends on what Tom Brady does. If Brady leaves or retires, the Patriots could make a run at Bridgewater. He's a Patriots type of player: smart, adaptable and unflappable. He'd be one of the best post-Brady options the Patriots could get. Brady has shown no obvious signs he's ready to leave, although there have been some not-so-obvious signs he is thinking about it, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Keep a watch on this one.
Chances: 20 percent
Bears: Mitchell Trubisky is one of the biggest things holding the Bears back from being a solid playoff team this season. Well, that and kickers. OK, definitely kickers. But they drafted Trubisky No. 2 overall and gave up future picks to do so. The Bears will probably give Trubisky one more shot next season.
Chances: 10 percent
Raiders: Is coach Jon Gruden happy with Derek Carr? Gruden publicly says yes. And, to be fair, Carr has been solid this season. He's thrown for 1,695 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions and has a passer rating of 103.6. Still, decoding what is truth and what is fiction from Gruden is a job the National Security Agency would find difficult. In other words, no one would be stunned if Gruden moved on from Carr.
Chances: 5 percent
Titans: Bridgewater would seem to be a good fit for a team in need of a new starting QB. So why isn't it likely to happen? Coach Mike Vrabel is to offensive football what Fred Flintstone is to space exploration. Bridgewater would be frustrated beyond belief there to go there, and he knows this.
Chances: 1 percent
Dolphins: They will need a quarterback, but it's unlikely they'd go after Bridgewater. Miami is focused on rebuilding through the draft. Also, Bridgewater isn't an idiot. The Dolphins are years away from legitimately contending. Also, the Dolphins made a run at Bridgewater last year, and he stayed in New Orleans.
Chances: 0.5 percent
Bengals: Owner Mike Brown doesn't dip heavily into free agency, and he likely wouldn't for Bridgewater.
Chances: 0 percent
Chargers: Philip Rivers is 37, but the team will probably still sign him to a long-term deal. The Chargers are going to stay with Rivers as long as they can.
Chances: 0 percent
Broncos: There's little chance general manager John Elway would move on from Joe Flacco after just trading for him and agreeing to pick up the three-year extension he signed with Baltimore in 2016 worth $66.4 million (including a $40 million signing bonus). While this season has been an utter disaster for Flacco and the Broncos, it's hard to believe Elway would bail on Flacco so soon.
Chances: 0 percent
Saints: This is the most interesting (and probable) scenario. Like the Patriots, the organization will stick with Drew Brees until Brees doesn't want to play any longer. They are dedicated to him and Brees to the Saints and the city of New Orleans.
As incredible as Brees is, he is 40. Father Time is undefeated.
Bridgewater could simply wait, sign another one-year contract and see what happens with Brees.
The risk for Bridgewater is obvious. He'd have to take lesser pay to stay. He'd be (temporarily) passing up a ton of money. There's also the possibility that Brees eats his spinach and plays longer than a season or two.
Bridgewater is practically a hero in New Orleans. He knows what it's like to play for Sean Payton, and there are tons of weapons on offense and defense. The team is young, vibrant and talented.
Leaving could be highly profitable, but staying could be more satisfying, and then eventually also highly profitable.
Chances: 43.5 percent
Clearly, Bridgewater has options.
Lots of them.
2. Cleveland's invisible man
Last year, through seven games, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had two scores. Through seven games this year, he has one.
That's not a huge difference, but this Browns offense was supposed to be explosive, or at least more explosive than the Giants offense of last season. That has been anything but the case.
Beckham has 34 catches for 488 yards this season for an offense that ranks 20th or lower in the NFL in total yards and scoring. Last year at this time he had 53 catches for 649 yards for a unit that ranked in the middle of the league in both categories.
It's not just the yards or the scores. It's the impact. Beckham was scary. He terrified defenses. He still does to some degree, but Baker Mayfield's transformation into a turnover factory—a factory of sadness (Warning: NSFW), if you will—has diminished Beckham's gleam. Overall, Mayfield has 30 turnovers in 21 career games.
Beckham's lack of production isn't all Mayfield's fault. Beckham has had some key drops and has been part of a Browns team that is one of the sloppiest in football.
Given Beckham's history, this Cleveland situation should be watched extremely closely. He's already started voicing concerns over the play-calling, and if he continues to be a non-factor, he may (again) voice his thoughts.
And that is probably the last thing a team needs when it can't figure out which way is up.
3. Creative thinking working wonders in Green Bay
One of the questions that emerged after now ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy was fired last season was this: Were the Packers' offensive struggles because Aaron Rodgers was faltering or because McCarthy's offense had gone stale?
We now know the answer.
Yes, the Packers defense has been remarkable, and the team has a cadre of emerging super-weapons on both sides of the football.
But perhaps the most noticeable change is the creativity the offense has shown under new coach Matt LaFleur.
This season, more than any in the past few years, the Packers have used imaginative formations to put players in the best positions to succeed. The best example is how Green Bay often splits a running back wide and isolates him on a linebacker. No linebacker in the NFL can cover the Packers' backs one-on-one, particularly when they have space to operate. Just employing that simple maneuver has made the Packers' backs deep threats.
Is this new? No. Is it really smart? Hell yes.
Moves like that by LaFleur (and there are many others) have opened up an entirely new universe to Rodgers. Add in his usual accuracy, and it's easy to understand why the Packers are 7-1.
It wasn't all McCarthy's fault, but the Packers look like a totally different team with him gone.
4. Can you Diggs it?
You may not have noticed because so many other teams are setting so many records, but Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs has been dazzling this season.
In his last two games, Diggs has 14 catches for 309 yards. Only Randy Moss and Sidney Rice had more yardage in a two-game span in team history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Diggs has forced teams to account for him, which, in turn, has opened things up for running back Dalvin Cook, who is running over defenses that can't afford to focus on him alone.
Diggs has also quieted the Kirk Cousins critics. The much-maligned Vikings QB has been elite in leading Minnesota to four straight wins. Not Joe Flacco-level elite. But elite.
If Diggs and Co. can keep playing like this, the Vikings will be a tough team to beat down the stretch into January.
5. A lack of mistakes make the man
Tom Brady has broken, or will break, almost every significant passing record in NFL history. But there is one that really fascinates the football nerd in me, even if it goes below the radar of most fans.
This past week Brady played in his 155th game without throwing an interception. That's just under 10 seasons' worth of regular-season games without throwing a pick.
Look at the first four names on that list: Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. It's not a coincidence that not throwing interceptions coincides with great careers.
Brady's greatness isn't solely about his accuracy (though that's obviously big) or his leadership (that's obviously big, too), but also about the fact that he rarely makes mistakes. Not throwing picks doesn't just make things better for the offense—it makes the defense better. It doesn't force the defense out on the field again so quickly or make the unit defend from a disadvantageous position.
It makes the entire team better. That's something Brady is really good at.
6. The Patriot (Quarterback) Way
One last thing on the Patriots. Look at this picture. That's Brady (duh), Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo after the Patriots won Super Bowl LI (at least I think it's that particular Super Bowl—they have so many).
Brissett and Garoppolo would be traded not long after this picture was snapped. Now, a few years later, the three are a combined 20-2 as starters for their respective franchises.
The fact all three were developed in the Patriots' program isn't happenstance. They were part of one of the best franchises in the history of sports, and Brissett and Garoppolo have taken those methodologies elsewhere.
The Patriot Way isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
7. Who will succeed Big Ben?
While the Steelers have muddled through the last few weeks to a 3-4 record, it seems apparent that the quarterback who will follow Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh isn't currently on the roster. Even against winless Miami on Monday, quarterback Mason Rudolph at times looked totally overmatched. Yes, it's just one game, but that game was against the lowly Dolphins.
It's also, to me, not Paxton Lynch. I don't think the Steelers would argue for either as a long-term replacement either.
That means the next Steelers franchise QB is still in college or on another NFL roster. There could be some bumpy seasons ahead.
8. Kudos to Tomlin
No, this year has not gone the way many have in Pittsburgh. If this team gets even close to 8-8, though, it will represent one of the best coaching jobs Mike Tomlin has ever done.
The Steelers defense is talented but young. The offense is average at best. It lacks explosiveness and consistency, which is understandable since it's missing Roethlisberger and this past offseason saw Antonio Brown traded to Oakland and Le'Veon Bell let go.
Yet Tomlin somehow has kept this group together through injuries, trades and the massive loss of talent. They've won the games they were supposed to win and kept close in most of those they didn't. There may not be a playoff berth waiting at the end of the season, but that wouldn't make it a failure by any means.
9. The Bell isn't ringing
Speaking of Le'Veon Bell...what the hell has happened to him?
In 2017, Bell had 1,291 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He added a staggering 85 catches for 655 yards and two scores. Those numbers went a long way toward convincing the Jets to give Bell a huge contract that included $27 million guaranteed.
This season, Bell is averaging 3.2 yards a carry and has just 349 rushing yards, only 32 catches and two touchdowns. Thus far, he has bombed as a Jet, which may be why his name popped up in trade rumors Tuesday.
Why? The answers are fairly easy. In Pittsburgh, he was part of a brilliant trifecta along with Brown and Roethlisberger. In New York, he's pretty much the only significant offensive threat, allowing defenses to focus on him. Those Steelers teams were also extremely talented on both sides of the ball. The Jets aren't.
The other problem is coach Adam Gase. As I've said before, Gase displayed little offensive ingenuity when coaching in Miami, and you're seeing that same lack of creativity in New York. Furthermore, Bell just isn't getting the ball as much. Last week against Jacksonville, he had a season-low 12 touches and 35 total yards. That Jaguars defense isn't exactly the 49ers.
People who know Bell believe it's only a matter of time before he speaks publicly about his lack of production, and they don't think he'll say he's the problem.
It's a dismal time to be a Jet, and it could be a lot worse if Bell notices that publicly.
10. Crisis mismanagement
It's not unfair to label what's happening with NFL officiating as a crisis, because it is. Officiating is absolutely putrid right now.
Every game there is at least one call that is a total clown show. The whole thing is a mess.
Take Monday night, when a review of a call in the Miami-Pittsburgh game lasted 10 damn minutes.
Nothing except an episode of Star Trek should last longer than 10 minutes.
It's only a matter of time before some fans start to rebel against the terrible officiating. It may not be enough to hurt the bottom line now, but wait until a call gets botched in a title game or the Super Bowl. Then you may have entire fanbases tune out.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.