Thursday, February 9 2023

Another wild and wacky football weekend is in the books with upsets and surprising performances doting the headlines. The so-called heavyweights in this league (Ravens, Titans and Buccaneers) suffered through dismal performances while a set of upstarts (Dolphins and Jets) made statements with resounding victories. 

After reviewing the tape and examining the box scores, here are my thoughts on an interesting weekend of ball.

Three things I liked

1. Mike White is the Jets’ QB1 

Credit Robert Saleh and the Jets’ front office for sitting down former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson in favor of a longtime backup with swagger and moxie. Mike White not only upgraded the performance of the offense with his efficiency from the pocket, but he found a way to incorporate the Jets’ young playmakers (Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore) into the game plan to add some juice to a unit that has struggled to move the ball consistently. 

Should Jets continue to start Mike White over Zach Wilson?

Mike White started after Zack Wilson was benched and finished 22-of-28 for 315 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-10 win over the Bears. Colin Cowherd explains why the Jets must continue to start White.

With White at the controls against the Bears, the Jets rolled up 466 yards of total offense, including a 315-yard effort through the air on 22 of 28 attempts with three scores. The efficiency and effectiveness of the passing game unlocked the potential of an offense that perfectly complemented a stingy defense that dominated the action.

As the Jets inch closer to a playoff berth, the decision to hand the ball to a backup quarterback with the intangibles and tools to win over the locker room could pay huge dividends down the stretch. 

2. Josh Jacobs puts on a show

The Raiders might regret nixing Jacobs’ fifth-year option after watching him put on a show against the Seattle Seahawks. The fourth-year running back totaled 300-plus scrimmage yards and two touchdowns, including an 86-yard walk-off score to seal the win. 

The impressive effort not only showcased Jacobs’ skills as a runner but gave the football world a reminder of his potential to deliver splash plays as a pass-catcher on the perimeter. With 74 receiving yards on six catches, Jacobs provided Derek Carr with an explosive option to target on check-downs and underneath routes. 

As a rugged runner with a little “shake and bake,” the veteran is the total package at the position. Moreover, he is a versatile workhorse with big-play potential as a runner or receiver. Considering how Jacobs has reemerged as an elite playmaker, he is unquestionably the straw that stirs the Raiders’ drink. 

3. It is Jordan Love time 

It is hard to pull the plug on a quarterback with four MVP trophies on the mantle, but the Packers needed to find a way to get their QB of the future reps to see if he is ready to take over the position in 2023 or 2024. Despite serving a three-year apprenticeship behind Aaron Rodgers, the jury was still out on whether Love possessed the talent and skill to play winning football. 

After catching a glimpse of Love against the Eagles, the young passer certainly looks like he is ready to take on the job. The third-year pro completed 6 of 9 passes for 113 yards with a touchdown on a 63-yard catch-and-run toss to Christian Watson. Although the late-game action is a small sample size, it is apparent that Love is more confident and comfortable directing the offense. 

Aaron Rodgers replaced by Jordan Love in loss to Eagles

Aaron Rodgers left Sunday’s game with a rib injury. Jordan Love came on in relief and immediately led the Packers on a scoring drive. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe talk about the future of both QBs.

From his improved decisiveness to his pinpoint accuracy, Love looks new and improved as a playmaker from the pocket. He looks ready for his opportunity to lead the offense, and the team should give him plenty of reps as Green Bay closes out the 2022 campaign building a foundation for the future. 

Three things I did not like

1. What’s up with the Ravens? 

The Ravens have the talent to make it to the AFC title game, but I never know which version of this team is going show up each week. Despite John Harbaugh’s masterful coaching and motivational tactics, the Ravens routinely play up or down to their level of competition. 

Although an NFL regular season is routinely full of ups and downs due to the length of the campaign, the Ravens’ inconsistent performance and production, particularly against bad teams, is a major concern. The team’s red-zone woes, in particular, suggest that the offense lacks the playmakers or schematics to get it done without Lamar Jackson performing magic tricks with the ball. The former MVP seemingly has to make all of the plays for this team to put points on the board, and the over-reliance on Jackson makes it easier for opponents to suffocate the Ravens offense in key moments. 

Against the Jaguars, the Ravens’ repeated failures in the red zone ultimately cost the team a winnable game on the road. The Ravens converted just two of five red-zone attempts and the field-goal fest enabled the Jaguars to hang around despite being outplayed for most of the game. Considering that the failures are part of a season-long trend in which the Ravens have squeaked out close wins or suffered surprising losses to inferior opponents, Harbaugh must quickly figure out the personality of his squad or watch it suffer a quick exit in the postseason. 

2. Russell Wilson‘s slump continues 

Despite being regarded as a top-five quarterback for most of his career, Wilson is no longer an elite playmaker at the position. He is completing just 58.9% of his passes with an 8-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio through 10 games. Moreover, the Broncos‘ marquee acquisition has failed to spark an offense that was expected to light up scoreboards around the league. 

Against the lowly Panthers, Wilson’s slump continued as he completed just 19 of 35 pass attempts for 142 yards with a touchdown. The lack of production from the star quarterback seemingly drew the ire of his teammates, as evidenced by his sideline spat with Mike Purcell. After watching Wilson struggle for the entire season in spite of multiple playcallers and schematic tweaks, the honeymoon period is over in Denver. 

3. Tom Brady cannot save the Bucs

The “GOAT” is the ultimate winner in NFL history, but Tom Brady will not transform this version of the Buccaneers into a title contender. He might reel off a few wins down the stretch, but this team lacks the explosive components on each side of the ball to win it all. 

That’s not a slight or dismissal of Todd Bowles’ coaching efforts or the magic that TB12 has worked in the past, but there is not enough time for the Buccaneers to reverse their fortunes. This team lacks a clear offensive direction, and the defense has failed to play up to the lofty standards needed to claim a title. While most observers are scared to cast away the Buccaneers, the team has struggled for most of the season and there is not a magic wand that Brady can wave to fix the woes that plague this team. 

From the mismatched parts on offense that do not fit the scheme that works best for Brady to the question marks in the lineup on defense, the Bucs lack the manpower to get it done in a very competitive NFC. We will see if they can prove me wrong, but based on their recent performance, there is little chance that this team will get it done. 

My top 10 teams

1. Philadelphia Eagles: As the first team to 10 wins, the Eagles have the inside track on securing the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage. With Jalen Hurts leading a run-centric offense that perplexes defenders with power runs, triple options and RPOs, the Eagles are the team that no one to face in the postseason.

2. Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid’s squad keeps chalking up wins as the team finds different ways to win each week. Although the offense was not humming this week, the Chiefs’ opportunistic defense makes enough plays to win.

Patrick Mahomes on Chiefs’ ugly win over Rams

FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews chats with Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes about K.C. pulling out a win despite the offense not clicking on all cylinders. “It’s a team game,” he said.

3. Minnesota Vikings: After an embarrassing loss in Week 11, the Vikings bounced back with a strong performance against the Patriots that showcased the team’s talent and potential as an offensive juggernaut. 

4. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are riding a five-game winning streak behind the sizzling play of an MVP candidate. Tua Tagovailoa torched the Texans in a spectacular first half that enabled the Dolphins to cruise to an easy win. 

5. Dallas Cowboys: As the Cowboys lean into a blue-collar approach that prioritizes the running game and defense, they continue to climb the charts as a title contender. With Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott playing like the best RB tandem in football and the defense wreaking havoc behind Micah Parsons & Co., the Cowboys certainly have the pieces in place to make a title run. 

6. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen single-handedly keeps the Bills in the title hunt with his spectacular feats from the pocket. The star quarterback dropped dime after dime in the clutch against the Lions to put the Bills in the win column this week. 

7. Cincinnati Bengals: Zac Taylor has pushed the right buttons to help the Bengals climb back into the hunt as a title contender. Despite missing injured RB1 Joe Mixon and WR1 Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals still have enough firepower to get it done against top teams. 

8. Tennessee Titans: The ultra-physical Titans make up for their talent deficiency with effort and toughness. Although their gritty playing style gives them a chance against the league’s heavyweights, the lack of five-star playmakers also makes them susceptible to knockouts from lightweights. 

9. New York Jets: Robert Saleh might have found his long-term solution at quarterback in Mike White. The gunslinger sparked the Jets’ dormant offense and pumped some life into the team’s playoff hopes. 

10. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have the perfect mix of offense and defense to make a deep postseason run. Although Kyle Shanahan is still experimenting with the offensive pieces, the mere thought of defending a unit that features Christian McCaffrey, Deebo SamuelGeorge Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk will keep the defensive coordinators up at night. 

Week 12 Game Balls

Most Valuable Player of the Week: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Hurts is evolving into the ultimate dual-threat playmaker at the position, with his arm talent and running skills creating problems for opponents. Against the Packers, the third-year pro amassed 157 rushing yards on 17 carries while putting up another 150-plus yards through the air. With Hurts scoring twice, the Eagles’ QB1 put his stamp on a primetime performance that should thrust him squarely into the MVP conversation. 

Offensive Player of the Week: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence showcased the spectacular skills that made him the easy choice as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft. The second-year pro posted a 300-yard game on a series of jaw-dropping throws to Zay Jones, Marvin JonesChristian Kirk and JaMycal Hasty that confirmed his exceptional arm talent. Moreover, the sensational throws in the clutch validated the Jaguars’ belief in their QB1 as a star in the making. 

Defensive Player of the Week: Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

Burns sparked the Panthers’ win over the Broncos with a two-sack effort that also included a forced fumble. The speedy edge defender wreaked havoc on Denver’s frontline and forced Russell Wilson into a disappointing day from the pocket. 

Unsung Hero of the Week: Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders 

It is appropriate that Robinson was spotted in the locker room wearing the “big hat” during Washington’s postgame celebration. The rookie running back carried to Commanders to their sixth win in their past seven games with 125 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. As a big-bodied runner with an old-school game, Robinson has added some much-needed physicality and toughness to a Commanders offense that’s embracing a blue-collar identity. 

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Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He regularly appears on “Speak For Yourself” and also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.


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