B/R Staff NFL Week 10 Report Card: Carson Wentz's Play Creates QuestionsNovember 16, 2020
B/R Staff NFL Week 10 Report Card: Carson Wentz's Play Creates Questions
Sunday's NFL action featured numerous teams trying to close out leads and secure precious victories as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders built early advantages and found ways to finish.
Elsewhere, others weren't as fortunate.
Carson Wentz continues to underperform for the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, and the Los Angeles Chargers, led by rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, continually find ways to lose.
With each passing week, the playoff picture becomes clearer. Nine different AFC squads have already managed to win six or more games, whereas the NFC isn't quite as potent with six teams that have reached the same threshold. How those teams perform over the final seven weeks of the regular season will likely be determined by how each unit and specific individuals trend.
B/R's panel of NFL writers—Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Kalyn Kahler—assigned grades to the teams that finished and the ones that didn't fare as well.
Nick Chubb's 1st Game Back & Late-Game Decision
The Cleveland Browns are now 6-3 thanks to the team's running backs. On a wet and windy day off Lake Erie, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 230 rushing yards during the 10-7 victory over the Houston Texans.
Chubb managed 126 yards and the game's only touchdown on 19 carries despite missing Cleveland's previous four contests due to a sprained MCL. The Browns' lead back struggled a bit through the first three quarters, but he came up big when it mattered most with a 59-yard third-down run to secure the win.
Interestingly, Chubb stepped out of bounds at Houston's 1-yard line despite no defenders being around him because the Texans didn't have any remaining timeouts. The Browns kneeled twice to run out the rest of the clock.
"I wouldn't have been mad if he scored," head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters after the game. "But we gave him the code word 'no mas' before the third-down play. If you tell Nick to do something, he does it."
How should Chubb's performance and late-game decision be viewed?
Brad Gagnon: A
That last play probably didn't make a difference as the Browns weren't likely to blow a two-score lead in the final 56 seconds, but it was a nice cherry on top of a good return performance. Why mess around when you're as snakebitten as the Browns? And it showed his level of awareness.
Brent Sobleski: A
In the era of the "selfish athlete" (which is a misnomer unto itself, but I digress), Chubb made arguably the most selfless play of the year. He could have easily scored and not affected the outcome. But he didn't. He made the biggest play of the day while simultaneously putting the team first. Hunt deserves a lot of credit, too, for running as hard as he did. The Browns easily have the game's best pair of running backs.
Gary Davenport: B+
Chubb looked a little rusty. He was outplayed by Kareem Hunt most of the game, although his big run late boosted his stat line. Still, that's entirely understandable given his layoff. So far as that play and Chubb's decision to scoot out of bounds at the 1-yard line goes, it was great for the people who had Houston +3.5 in the game and terrible for folks who started Chubb in fantasy. I happen to be both. It's a pro's move to put the team ahead of his own stats, and you can't argue with that.
Kalyn Kahler: A
The only people unhappy with Chubb's decision to go out at the 1-yard-line and not score are fantasy managers who started Chubb. But from a football sense and a team standpoint, it was a smart decision, similar to the one Todd Gurley couldn't pull off against the Detroit Lions a few weeks ago that cost the Atlanta Falcons the game.
Antonio Brown's Performance Through Two Weeks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a chance on wide receiver Antonio Brown, and the seven-time Pro Bowl selection appears to have found a new home.
"I am super grateful," Brown told reporters of being a member of the Buccaneers. "I got the right perspective. … I am honored to be here around such a great group of guys. … I am extremely grateful."
In Brown's first appearance, he made little to no impact with three catches for 31 yards during Tampa Bay's 38-3 loss to the rival New Orleans Saints.
His second game with the team went much better. Brown led the Bucs with seven receptions and added 69 receiving yards.
So far, how has Brown acclimated and performed as part of Tampa Bay's offense?
Brad Gagnon: B
He's caught 10 of the 13 passes thrown his way, which is solid considering how rusty he certainly was after so much time away. He doesn't look like 29-year-old AB, but this is a good start.
Brent Sobleski: B
A midseason addition is never easy to absorb into a lineup and quickly acclimate to the scheme. In the Bucs' case, Brown didn't enter his current situation as a top option. He's merely another piece of the puzzle. As such, expectations aren't nearly as high as when he joined the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots last season. As long as he keeps his head down, does his job and adds something to an already loaded wide receiver room, he's going to be a good signing.
Gary Davenport: B
Given that Brown hadn't played football in a year, the folks who expected him to immediately be a difference-maker just weren't being realistic. A 7/69/0 stat line in just his second game back is nothing to sneeze at. And if Sunday's 46-point explosion is any indication, that Tampa offense is that much more formidable with Brown on the field.
Kalyn Kahler: B
In his first game, Brown had three catches for 31 yards, and he had seven for 69 yards in his second. He has yet to score a touchdown and has been targeted 13 times. He hasn't been that game-changing talent just yet, but after a year off, he's probably still acclimating to the routine of playing NFL football. And after a bad game against New Orleans, Tampa Bay's offense was back on fire Sunday, scoring 46 points on the Carolina Panthers. Brown will likely continue to get more action in this offense as the season goes on.
Carson Wentz's Long-Term Job Security in Philadelphia
No one wants to win the NFC East. Technically, the Philadelphia Eagles lead the way with a 3-5-1 record, but Sunday's 27-17 loss to the New York Giants, coupled with Carson Wentz's continued questionable play, makes their division lead tenuous at best.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz entered Sunday's action with a league-leading 23 turnover-worthy plays. The fifth-year quarterback fumbled twice against the Giants, though neither was lost.
Still, the Eagles need more from him if they're going to host a playoff game later this season.
"We're not where we want to be," the quarterback told reporters after the game.
At this point, how likely is Wentz to be Philadelphia's long-term answer behind center?
Brad Gagnon: B
Patience levels are low in this league, but he was a key member of the only Super Bowl champion in team history, and I think the Eagles front office will try to write this season off as an anomaly. Not that they have much of a choice as there's almost no way out of paying him more than $65 million over the course of the next two years.
Brent Sobleski: B
A perfect cycle of suck invaded the NFC East, but the Eagles' current standing is the most perplexing since they still have some of the pieces in place to win contests. Everything starts with Wentz because he's capable of carrying the offense yet often tries to do too much. Anyone who watches the Eagles has to start wondering about his status with the team, but his contract makes him nearly immovable for at least one more year. We can revisit this conversation then.
Gary Davenport: A-
I'm sure more than a few Eagles fans would like to kick Wentz to the curb after what has been a wholly unimpressive 2020 campaign so far. But it's not financially realistic until 2022 at the earliest, and even then, per Spotrac, the dead cap hit for releasing Wentz would still be over $22 million. Like it or not, he and the Eagles are joined at the hip for the foreseeable future.
Kalyn Kahler: B-
Before Sunday's action, PFF tweeted that Wentz has 23 turnover-worthy plays this season, and no other quarterback has more than 13. On Sunday, he only completed 56.8 percent of his passes, and he entered the contest at 58.4 percent on the season. Jalen Hurts is there for a reason, but I don't really see this team moving on from Wentz anytime this year.
Ben Roethlisberger's Odds at Winning the 2020 NFL MVP
Ask yourself what makes a player more valuable than anyone else.
Should that individual be the league's best overall player or just the most valuable player on the league's best team? The question doesn't have a correct answer because the MVP award is subjective.
Some years, the answer is blatantly obvious. This isn't one of those years.
A wide-open MVP race continues with an interesting possibility entering the conversation in recent weeks.
A year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished 8-8 after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury and the team couldn't muster much, if any, offense with its backup options. This year, they are the league's only undefeated team with a 9-0 record, and the quarterback has a 22-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
With all the options out there, what are the odds Big Ben can overtake everyone and become the 2020 NFL MVP?
Brad Gagnon: C
His numbers still clearly trail those of Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. But if the Steelers go 16-0, that might not matter. That's still unlikely, but it's far from impossible, so Big Ben is in the picture.
Brent Sobleski: B
The argument in Roethlisberger's favor can be seen in the swing between one season and the next. Normally, we have the same conversation, albeit in reverse, when a top talent gets hurt and his absence creates a significant difference. In this case, Roethlisberger showed how important he was when the Steelers didn't have him in 2019. Now, they're the best team in the NFL. Everyone knew the quarterback's health was the key to Pittsburgh's season, and that's certainly proved true so far.
Gary Davenport: D
Don't get me wrong. Roethlisberger is having a great year at the helm of the undefeated Steelers. There are just too many guys who have a better chance due to better numbers, whether it's Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay or Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Never mind that Kyler Murray's candidacy got a huge boost in Week 10, and like Mahomes and Lamar Jackson before him, he's an ascending young talent in his second season.
Kalyn Kahler: F
The Steelers are 9-0, but Roethlisberger's numbers aren't on the level of other quarterbacks like Rodgers, Mahomes and the youngest candidate, Murray, whose last-second improbable touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins catapulted his stock in the race. And the Steelers defense is so good that it takes away from Roethlisberger's impact.
Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert's Showdown
The Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers chose quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert with back-to-back top-10 selections in April's draft. Tagovailoa and Herbert heard their names called with the fifth and sixth picks, respectively.
The two met on the field of play for the first time Sunday with Tagovailoa's Dolphins claiming a 29-21 victory.
Tagovailoa completed 60 percent of his passes for 169 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses with no turnovers, while Herbert connected on 62.5 percent of his passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Herbert has lit the league on fire this season as the leading candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Miami, meanwhile, has played very well since Tagovailoa entered the starting lineup three weeks ago.
How did each perform while sharing the same field?
Brad Gagnon: Tua, B+; Herbert, C-
They both completed exactly two touchdown passes and two deep passes on about a handful of deep attempts, and neither made a difference with his legs. But it was a turnover-free day for Tua while Herbert threw a killer fourth-quarter pick in a Miami win.
Brent Sobleski: Tua, B; Herbert, B-
I'm not going to overthink this one simply because both played well in spurts, but neither played to what he's ultimately capable of achieving. It was definitely fun to see both on the field after they were drafted with back-to-back picks in April. The main takeaway is both franchises seem to be set after making significant investments in the game's most important position.
Gary Davenport: Tua, B; Herbert, C
Remember when we wondered whether it was wise for the Dolphins to start Tagovailoa coming out of the bye? Those were different times. He isn't posting huge numbers, but he isn't making mistakes with the ball, and the Dolphins are undefeated with him as the starter. The wins haven't been there for Herbert, and his numbers were down in Week 10. But I don't think either of these squads regrets the decisions it made in Round 1 of last year's draft.
Kalyn Kahler: Tua, B+; Herbert, B
Tua was the more efficient of the two rookies Sunday, going 15-of-25 for 169 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Herbert was sacked twice and threw an interception against Miami's talented defense. The Dolphins are an all-around strong team, and Tagovailoa is undefeated. Herbert, who has put up more impressive numbers with four 300-yard passing games, has just one win.
Las Vegas Raiders' Playoff Chances
The Las Vegas Raiders are on a roll with three wins over the last three weeks. Each victory has been more impressive than the last, culminating in Sunday's dominant 37-12 victory over the rival Denver Broncos.
"We put 37 points up and left 21 [points] out there," quarterback Derek Carr told reporters after the team's latest win. "... We're proving we can win any type of way, which is great. It's awesome."
The road won't get much easier in the coming weeks.
Next weekend's matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs should be a good litmus test. The Raiders also still have to face the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins with the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers thrown into the mix.
Considering how the Raiders are playing and what they still face, how likely are they to earn a postseason berth?
Brad Gagnon: D
They ain't winning that division. But there's an extra wild-card spot this year, and they'll be right there with Miami (or Buffalo), Tennessee (or Indianapolis), Baltimore and Cleveland. Still, it's a loaded field, and those teams are all more talented.
Brent Sobleski: C+
Due to the quality depth found within the AFC, it's almost a tossup trying to figure out which teams will emerge as playoff squads. An AFC West crown probably isn't in the cards for the Raiders, so it comes down to which of the remaining wild-card options falter down the stretch. A Week 16 matchup with the Dolphins could very well determine which of the two gets into the postseason.
Gary Davenport: B
Next week's rematch with the Chiefs isn't going to be easy (especially after the Raiders handed Kansas City its only loss of the season in Week 5. An AFC West title probably isn't happening. But that game against the Chiefs is one of just two contests the Raiders have the rest of the way against a team with a winning record. If they win the ones they are supposed to, they'll finish 11-5 and have a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Browns.
Kalyn Kahler: B
The Raiders are 3-0 in the division with the Chiefs up next, a team they have already beaten once this season. It'll be tough to beat the Chiefs twice, and so they likely won't win the AFC West, but this team is in the playoff picture.