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Neil Reynolds' Wraps Week 7

Once he had finished being manhandled by Ndamukong Suh in our Sky Sports NFL Week 7 preview show on Sunday night, Jason Bell settled down to watch a wild set of games unfold and, at one point, remarked that the unpredictability of the league is exactly why, as teams, you just want to get into the playoffs. Once you're there, anything can happen!

I couldn't agree more. This league is about as hard to predict as it ever has been and it feels like it's getting wilder with each passing Sunday. On and off the field.

How many of us woke on Sunday morning wondering if Bill Belichick might genuinely be on the hot seat in New England? By the time his 1-5 team took to the field to face the Buffalo Bills, news had broken that Belichick had signed a lucrative contract extension with the Patriots in the offseason, all but ending that particular conversation for now.

Or had it? I still went into Sunday's kickoffs wondering if a continued miserable run of form might see Belichick jettisoned by the season's end, regardless of the financial implications. But, of course, there was unpredictability in the Foxboro forecast and New England shocked the Bills with a 29-25 victory.

The manner of the win was as surprising as the result. For much of the game, New England held Josh Allen in check. But they caved at the end with Allen scoring on a one-yard sneak with 1:58 to play. The Patriots needed a field goal to tie, a touchdown to win and the man who was asked to march them down the field had been ice cold in the previous month – quarterback Mac Jones.

But march them he did, completing passes to Rhamondre Stevenson, Hunter Henry, DeVante Parker and Demario Douglas before hitting Mike Gesicki from one yard out for the game-winner with 12 seconds remaining.

Given Jones' recent form, I doubt even the most ardent of Patriots fans would have felt confident ahead of that final drive. It was just another reminder of how nothing can be taken for granted in the NFL.

That was not the only tense finish of the night. Cleveland beat Indianapolis with a Kareem Hunt touchdown run with 15 seconds remaining, Younghoe Koo kicked Atlanta to victory over Tampa Bay as time expired and the New York Giants made a late stand backed up near their own end zone to record a 14-7 win over the Washington Commanders.

Sunday night was exactly the kind of drama we sign up for as NFL fans as six of the 10 games played on the night were decided by one score. It's going to be that way for the remainder of the regular season and, quite likely, into the playoffs. So, you've just got to get there, then anything – literally anything – can happen!

Who's Hot…

The Baltimore Ravens… In what is shaping up to be a wide-open league, the Baltimore Ravens are coming together very nicely indeed. Their defense was excellent in their London win, recording six sacks against the Tennessee Titans and the only concern was their red zone inefficiency. The defense balled out again during Sunday's 38-6 thrashing of the Detroit Lions and the scoring woes were emphatically put to bed. Lamar Jackson led from the front, throwing for 357 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a score. The defense is a swarming, brooding unit perfect for Baltimore. On the day the great Terrell Suggs was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor, the Ravens recorded five more sacks in a defensive masterclass as they moved to 5-2. It was an emphatic win from a talented team. Why not them in a competitive AFC?

Myles Garrett… It wasn't a classic Cleveland Browns performance on the defensive side of the ball, allowing Gardner Minshew to put up 38 points one week after San Francisco could only muster 17 against the same defense. Go figure! But Myles Garrett had himself a difference-making day, as he usually does. He was everywhere, wrecking plays on defense and on special teams. Garrett became the first NFL player since at least 1991 to have two sacks, two forced fumbles (one was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown) and a blocked field goal in the same game. He also passed Hall of Famer Reggie White for the most sacks by a player before turning 28 years old with 82. It's a rather obscure stat, but any time you're passing a legend like White; you're doing something right.

Mahomes and Kelce… It has not been a vintage start to the season for the Kansas City Chiefs offense, but what we saw last night from Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce was everything we have come to expect from that dynamic partnership. Their connection is uncanny and so often made up on the fly. They get on the same page when plays break down and neither can explain quite how they did it afterwards. Mahomes was red hot in the first half and ended the game with 424 passing yards and four touchdowns. Kelce was, as is so often the case, his primary target; reeling in 12 for 179 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs have played well on defense all season long. If their offense is now revving into high gear, this team that has won six straight can make a fourth Super Bowl appearance in the last five years.

Who's Not…

The Detroit Lions… The Lions were the talk of the NFL heading into Baltimore in Week 7. They were owners of the best record in the league at 5-1, they were chasing a 6-1 start for the first time since 1956 and their offense was considered one of the best in the game. That said, there were just a few whispers about the fact that four wins in a row by at least 14 points (a first for Detroit since 1934) had come against Atlanta, Green Bay, Carolina and Tampa Bay – none of whom would be confused with an NFL powerhouse. The manner of Detroit's one-sided loss suggests that there is work to be done before they can be considered a true contender. There was little offensive balance, especially early on as the game got away from them, and Jared Goff really didn't handle the pressure very well as he skipped too many passes off the turf, threw one interception and posted a quarterback rating of 68.4. He had gone into the game as the third-highest passer in the league with a rating of 105.1 but he was mostly terrible. Back to the drawing board for the Lions.

The Miami Dolphins… Much like the Lions, the Miami Dolphins were creating headlines and a multitude of feel-good stories heading into Week 7. Their offense was operating at a higher level than any other unit in the league and a 5-1 start had Fins fans dreaming of the Super Bowl appearance for the first time since the 1984 season. But it had been noted that their wins came against teams with a combined record of 5-24 and their lone loss came against a good team in Buffalo. So, here came a significant test on the road against the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. Miami couldn't handle the physicality of the Eagles in a 31-17 loss. The Dolphins rushed for just 45 yards, Tua Tagovailoa was sacked three times and threw a pick and Tyreek Hill was held to 88 receiving yards on 11 catches – and one of those went for a 27-yard touchdown. Take out that one play and the other 10 Hill catches were good for just 61 yards. Back to the drawing board go the Dolphins.

The Fast Five…

  1. I don't quite know how they do it at times, but the Pittsburgh Steelers find ways to win more often than not. They are now an eyebrow-raising 4-2 following Sunday's 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Pittsburgh rushed for just 86 yards, Kenny Pickett did not throw a touchdown pass and the defense recorded just two sacks. But they found a way and, as usual, T.J. Watt came up big with a key interception to set up a second half touchdown.
  2. The Jacksonville Jaguars have put together quite a nice little run, securing a fourth straight victory when seeing off the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night. Importantly, the Jags have shown no ill effects from spending an extended period of time in London, backing up their two wins in the UK with back-to-back victories back in America. I think that will pave the way for more two-game adventures in London for the Jaguars in the coming years.
  3. The Indianapolis Colts fell to 3-4 with their 39-38 last-gasp loss to Cleveland on Sunday, but I still feel there is something about this team which points to a bright future. They play hard, even with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson gone for the year, and head coach Shane Steichen is playing a key role. I like a lot of what he dials up on offense and there is something intriguing about this first-year leader. He and his team have my attention, even if they are far from the finished product just yet.
  4. It's hard to make it all the way to the top of the football world and play the game's hardest position – quarterback in the NFL. It's even harder when you don't play college football in the SEC or at some other elite Division I school. So, Sunday night was special for Tyson Bagent – an undrafted rookie out of Shepherd University – as he led the Chicago Bears to a 30-12 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Quarterbacks from a Division II school in West Virginia where home crowds are around the 5,000 mark are not supposed to play on such a stage, but Bagent looked at home as he hit on 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and no picks. Nothing flashy, but nothing disastrous either. Who knows how long the spotlight will shine on Bagent. But he can always say, even if it's just for one game: "I was a starting quarterback in the NFL." Pretty special.
  5. Sunday's action saw Bagent at quarterback for the Bears instead of Justin Fields, Brian Hoyer under center for the Raiders, Josh Dobbs continuing to start in place of Kyler Murray in Arizona, P.J. Walker subbing for the injured Deshaun Watson for Cleveland, Gardner Minshew in for Richardson in Indianapolis and Tyrod Taylor filling in for Daniel Jones for the New York Giants. The next time you see penalties called that are designed to protect passers, remember this… quarterbacks are huge stars of the NFL and it does nobody any good if they are sidelined for extended periods of time.

Fact of the Week

With Sunday's victory over Buffalo, Bill Belichick became the third coach in NFL history to reach 300 regular season wins. He now trails just two legends of the game in Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318).

Finish That Sentence

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

From Finn Reynolds (@FinnReynolds2) If the Super Bowl were to be played tomorrow it would be between… the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. I think Miami can still be dangerous on their day, it's hard to write off Joe Burrow and the Bengals and the Ravens have the defense to stifle the Chiefs in a one-off showdown. But I would just back Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and Travise Kelce to figure it out. Pedigree and experience count large come playoff time and I think that would put KC in a strong position to get back to the big game. Even though they lost for the first time last week, I would still say San Francisco from the NFC. There are two powerhouses in that conference and I just trust the 49ers more than Philadelphia. The Eagles are still turning the ball over too often. Jalen Hurts has 10 turnovers already (eight interceptions and two fumbles) having committed just eight all of last season. Those mistakes can be devastating and season-ending in knockout games in January.

From John McLellan (@JohnMcLellan82) The team who have disappointed me so far is… the Buffalo Bills, because I think they have a chance to be a really good football team and they should have a better record than 4-3. Or should they? They could easily have lost to the New York Giants in Week 6 and that would see them sat at 3-4 right now. Either way, they're only marginally better than middle of the pack at the moment and need to up their game across the board. They are very frustrating because there is too much reliance on Josh Allen to serve up his magic at quarterback. And if he cannot produce at the highest of levels, there are not many who step up in his absence and pull off the win. There are very few Steelers-like victories in Buffalo. For the most part, they tend to be inspired by Allen or they just don't happen.

From Peter (@bdlpeter) The problem with the Los Angeles Chargers is…_ not just one thing. I would say there is pressure building on head coach Brandon Staley because at times this season he has made some bizarre decisions and a team that is not devoid of talent is 2-4 after Sunday's loss in Kansas City. Offensively, they cannot protect Justin Herbert – they just allow too much pressure on their quarterback. And a lot of that pressure in the second half at Arrowhead – 30 minutes of play in which the Chargers failed to score a single point – came without blitzing from the Chiefs. That is a worry and it's holding back a truly talented passer in Herbert. And the defense is still far too leaky, ranking 31st in the NFL in yards allowed. Again, that puts pressure on the offense to do the bailing out. This team should be better, but it's the same old story with the Chargers. Staley's seat is warming.

Final Thought…

One last note on the 'Any Given Sunday' theme that started the column today. Sunday saw the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and New York Giants fight to secure their second wins of the season. The media always talks about tanking for players like USC quarterback Caleb Williams. There were similar 'Tank for Tua' and 'Suck for Luck' campaigns. Frankly, they are insulting to the competitive players who take to NFL fields on Sundays. Even the lowest of teams can rise up and win every now and then and Sunday was the latest example of that.