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Neil Reynolds' Week 7 Wrap Up

Late last week, I was combing through press conference transcripts from the Seattle Seahawks (What's wrong with that? How do you spend your Friday nights then?) ahead of their Sunday game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sky Sports NFL over the weekend.

What struck me when going back through several weeks'-worth of quotes was the fact that the Seahawks knew that any Geno Smith success in 2022 was likely going to be viewed as surprising… outside of their building, at least.

Head coach Pete Carroll has expressed on a few occasions that Geno's success has been one of the bigger storylines of this NFL season to date. But he has never said that he was surprised. He believed in Geno all through training camp and always had the veteran passer as the leader in the race for the job, ahead of Drew Lock who came over from Denver in the Russell Wilson trade.

Geno is making the absolute most of his first full time starting gig in the NFL in eight years. He had the occasional errant throw during Sunday's 37-23 win at SoFi Stadium, but Smith had a lot more good throws than bad. He finished the day going 20 of 27 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. You can win with those numbers.

Seattle have now won three of their last four and sit on top of the NFC West Division with a 4-3 record. Geno is a major reason for that and I believe Carroll is bringing out the best in a man who has always been able to throw the football but who has so often found himself in some less-than-desirable football situations over the years.

Carroll can hype Geno up when needed and – as we saw on Sunday in a wonderful moment of Zen – he can help his quarterback find inner peace in the heat of the battle when that approach is called upon.

We need to get the long-term prognosis for injured wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, but it appears that the Seahawks are ascending. Rookie running back Kenneth Walker is a stud. He carried 23 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns, delivering the knockout blow to the Chargers on a 74-yard scoring sprint.

The defense is also coming alive. Tariq Woolen is an arrived, not rising, star in the secondary and the pass rush is getting home now with nine sacks in the past two games; albeit against banged-up and struggling offensive lines in Arizona and the Chargers.

The Seahawks are a gritty and competitive team and that should not surprise us on Carroll's watch. But they also have more than enough game-breaking playmakers who can turn a game on its head. And one of them is Geno Smith.

Who in the world would have thought that moving on from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith would have been an upgrade for the Seattle Seahawks? But that is exactly what this is. Let's no longer be afraid to say it.

Who's Hot…

Joe Burrow… The Bengals have now won four of their last five games after an 0-2 start and quarterback Joe Burrow is back to superstar form. In those five contests, Burrow has thrown 12 touchdown passes, just one interception and has posted a passer rating of 117.2. In the opening two games of the year – both losses – his rating was 73.1. Burrow threw for 481 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's 35-17 win over Atlanta. The Falcons never stood a chance. This was over by halftime. In the first two quarters, Burrow compiled entire game-like numbers as he hit on 21 of 25 throws for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Boyd and Ja'Marr Chase both went over 100 yards receiving and both found the end zone. Burrow and the Bengals are back to remind Buffalo and Kansas City that the AFC will not be a two-horse race.

Patrick Mahomes… It would be wrong to say that Kansas City's quarterback doesn't miss Tyreek Hill because who wouldn't want to have the fastest wide receiver in the game on your books? But the Chiefs are certainly spreading the love on the offensive side of the ball and Mahomes was excellent in Sunday's 44-23 win over San Francisco. The former Super Bowl and NFL MVP threw for 423 yards and three touchdowns and got a lot of people involved in the passing game and on the ground. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman did both as he scored a hat-trick of touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving. As long as the Chiefs have Andy Reid calling the plays and Mahomes pulling the strings, they are going to be in this AFC fight until the very end.

Saquon Barkley… While he gave Jacksonville life by failing to stay in bounds and run down the clock on New York's final drive, Saquon Barkley will be forgiven just this once because he continues to be a driving force for the Giants, who protected their end zone by halting Christian Kirk six inches from a winning Jaguars touchdown to emerge as 23-17 victors. The Giants are now 6-1 and every one of their games has been like this. All of them have been one-score games going right down to the wire. Barkley was excellent once more, rushing for 110 yards and adding 25 through the air. He and Micah Parsons, of Dallas, are the leading non-quarterback NFL MVP candidates.

Who's Not…

Tampa Bay's Offense… Sometimes, you're better off just quitting when you're ahead. Tom Brady could have called time on an unmatched career after winning his seventh Super Bowl at the end of the 2020 season. If he had stayed retired this offseason, at least we would have remembered him leading the NFL with more than 5,300 yards and 43 touchdown passes in 2021 and going down slinging against the Los Angeles Rams. Instead, he came back and we're left to comprehend this mess. Brady was held without a touchdown pass in Sunday's 21-3 defeat to Carolina. That's now six games this season where Brady has been held to one touchdown strike or fewer. Stunning. And the running game is getting worse. The Bucs came in averaging a league-low 67.5 yards per game on the ground and all they could muster was 46 yards. Brady's interior offensive line is terrible and he must surely be regretting coming back for this?

Green Bay's Offense… It was only a few weeks ago that we were talking up arguably the two greatest quarterbacks of all time ahead of their showdown on Sky Sports NFL. But Aaron Rodgers can join Brady as another legendary 12 who is struggling in 2022. The Packers fell 23-21 to a Washington Commanders team led by backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke and have now dropped three in a row. Unless things change quickly, this is drifting towards a lost season. Rodgers has a losing record for the first time in his career through seven games and he just doesn't look right. He is so frustrated and given his lack of trust in his receivers, I don't see how they break out of this slump. Oh, and eight carries for Aaron Jones? He is better than that, Matt LaFleur.

The Denver Broncos… The Broncos won't arrive in London in the best of moods this week as they dropped to 2-5 with Sunday's 16-9 home defeat to the New York Jets. Denver couldn't get anything going with Brett Rypien subbing for the injured Russell Wilson at quarterback but that is hardly breaking news. Denver's offense has been stuck in mud for seven weeks now. Their defense has held the opponent to fewer than 20 points in six of the seven games played to date and yet the Broncos have only two wins to their name. The pressure is building on rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett. His team has to show up and produce more offensively in London this coming weekend. Way easier said than done, I know.

The Fast Five…

  1. I pointed out the play of Saquon Barkley earlier, but let's give some credit to Daniel Jones at quarterback for the Giants. He threw for 202 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions on Sunday and added 11 rushes for 107 yards and another score. Could he buy himself a contract extension with improved play the rest of the way?
  2. They don't get a lot of buzz in a crowded AFC playoff picture, but the Tennessee Titans are coming around with four straight wins after an 0-2 start. Sunday's 19-10 win gives them the sweep of the Indianapolis Colts, which could be huge in the AFC South. It's rarely pretty but Tennessee have a formula. Derrick Henry (130 yards on Sunday) on the ground and enough from Ryan Tannehill at QB. The defense – led by Bud Dupree - was good against the Colts, recording three sacks and grabbing two interceptions.
  3. There was much excitement around the San Francisco 49ers once they traded for Christian McCaffrey, but they have to start walking the walk in the coming weeks. The Niners are loaded with talent, but I still have concerns at the quarterback position. Can Jimmy Garoppolo be enough? They couldn't keep pace with the Chiefs on Sunday and they've had a mixed bag of results. A 3-4 record does not feel harsh on them through seven weeks.
  4. That was a nice and eventually easy welcome back for Dak Prescott. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback returned for his first action since Week 1 and America's Team pulled away from the Detroit Lions for a 24-6 win. Dak was solid as he threw for 207 yards and one touchdown, but this team continues to be powered by defense. Lions quarterback Jared Goff was overwhelmed as he was sacked five times and intercepted twice. Dallas' D also recovered four fumbles!
  5. The Las Vegas Raiders are going to continue to ride the hot hand in running back Josh Jacobs. He was instrumental in Sunday's 38-20 win over the Houston Texans. In the Silver and Black's second win of the season, Jacobs rushed for 143 yards and three scores. He has now topped 140 rushing yards and scored on the ground in each of the last three games. Keep feeding him the rock.

Fact of the Week

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have a combined record of 6-8 – their worst as a duo through seven weeks of a season. They have combined for 1.5 passing touchdowns per game – also the worst in their careers as a duo since Rodgers became the full-time starter in Green Bay in 2008. Rodgers is below .500 for the first time in his career after seven games and Brady for the first time since 2002.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we so often did on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go…

From Bob Halliwell (@bobexile) The problem with the Colts is… that their offense continues to mis-fire and while they want to throw the football and play up-temp on that side of the ball they are, once again, held back by inconsistent quarterback play. Since Andrew Luck retired, this team has desperately chased either veteran (Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan) or restoration (Carson Wentz) projects and none has really panned out. Ryan threw a pick six on one drive on Sunday and followed with another interception on the very next possession. He is not faring well under pressure and Jonathan Taylor not being fully healthy is not helping the attack. Indy need a brand new and fresh start at quarterback and here's a thought… aim for a passer under the age of 37.

From Welsh Vikings (@welshvikings) If Aaron Rodgers could pick a team to be at currently it would be… one with a strong offensive line and a trust-worthy receiving corps. I've seen a few comments on social media suggesting the Packers should cut their losses and trade Rodgers before the November 1 deadline. I cannot see that happening. But let's just play some fantasy football here for a second. Where would he go? Who would want him? He would love to play for Miami right now with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle running downfield, Terron Armstead at tackle and Mike McDaniel scheming things open, but they will stick with Tua Tagovailoa. The most obvious move is for San Francisco to make a play to bring Rodgers home to the Bay Area, but they are out of collateral. Both of those options would be fun to see unfold. I just cannot see him being anywhere else but Wisconsin this season.

From Liam (@lfdoom) The most surprising record so far this season is… the New York Giants being 6-1. I have to admit that I didn't expect much from this team in 2022 and I felt like Daniel Jones was on the way out. And even week to week, I keep waiting for the wheels to fall off. But they are a legit six-win team, even though they dice with danger every weekend. The quarterback is efficient, Saquon Barkley is a difference maker and the defense is for real. I am also surprised that four powerhouse teams in the NFC – the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers - don't have more than three wins. I didn't see them falling back to the pack quite so dramatically.

Final Thought…

NFL athletes are proud and competitive. If you write them off or disrespect them, they will try their level best to prove you wrong. I think that kind of mindset was at the forefront of the thinking of Chuba Hubbard and D'Onta Foreman on Sunday as they attempted to fill the shoes of the departed Christian McCaffrey in Carolina. All the Panthers talk was focused on the huge hole left on an already-struggling offense. And how the fire sale and the tanking had begun. Well, the Panthers romped to a 21-3 win over Tampa Bay and they rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown as a team in the process. Foreman (118 rushing yards) and Hubbard (63 rushing yards and a score) took it personally. And for at least one week – and it may only be one week – they had the Panthers faithful asking: "Christian who?" They were challenged and the Panthers – led by their running back duo – responded.