The NFL is in search of a 2017 frontrunner, but this Sunday only served to confuse the conversation.
The Patriots, which some saw as a likely 19-0 team before the season, trailed the Jets for long portions of their game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium, and needed the aid of a questionable call to win in regulation. The Chiefs had their first stumble against the Steelers at home, losing 19-13, a flashback to last season's playoffs. Denver laid an egg on Sunday, turning in a listless performance in a 23-10 defeat against the previously winless Giants. The Jaguars dropped one to the Rams, 27-17.
The NFC is no clearer. Aaron Rodgers is done for the season, removing in one fell swoop a key contender. Injuries are brutal in any NFL season. In six weeks, they have taken out the league's best quarterback, wide receiver (Odell Beckham Jr.) and defensive lineman (J.J. Watt). With the Falcons and Cowboys struggling, things become murkier.
Parity can make things compelling. But having a team recognized as superior to the others brings a semblance of order, around which we can build our expectations.
There is no such thing in 2017. Lots of external cultural forces are forcing the NFL into chaos. It just so happens the on-field product has plenty of uncertainty of its own.
Kaepernick calls out collusion
With so many lead QBs hurt and backups failing, Colin Kaepernick remains without a job. Now, he is forcing the issue by filing a collusion grievance, alleging teams conspired to keep him off a roster this season due to his politics.
Reportedly, the last straw for Kaepernick was the Tennessee Titans not bothering to give him a workout when Marcus Mariota went down. Instead, the team signed Brandon Weeden, a choice so baffling it can be considered proof alone that something fishy is going on.
Kaepernick filed the grievance without the help of the NFLPA, but the union said in a statement that it would be in touch with Kap's advisors this week. According to Jim Trotter, Kaepernick is seeking the terms of Article 17 of the collective bargaining agreement, which would entitle him to twice the amount of the financial harm he has endured. Exactly how much that harm can be measured monetarily is a tough question to pin down. This, along with how Kaepernick plans to prove collusion among multiple teams, are matters to be hashed out in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, here's some careless TV production
I'm Ron Burgundy??? pic.twitter.com/FErIPu1unk- Brendan Tobin (@Brendan_Tobin) October 15, 2017
Nothing like a broadcaster miscue to lighten the mood. Don't forget to read those bullet points.
Fan of the Week
Yes, that's technically the jersey of another franchise (the Oilers became the Titans), but Texans phenom Deshaun Watson -- who set a rookie record for passing TDs through six games in a 33-17 Houston win on Sunday over the Browns -- knows that it's never a bad idea to some Warren Moon some love.
The main driver of the Steelers attack on Sunday against KC was Bell, who ran for 179 yards on 32 carries. It was a workhorse performance, and the only nit you can pick is him getting a little too cute on a reception over the middle on a third-and-long in the second half, when a more direct run would have had it. That said, when a rusher is as good consistently as Bell is, you're willing to let him stick with what works.
No team finds itself trailing by one score with minutes left in the game more often than the Chargers. Way more often than not, the team finds ways to botch this. Except this time… they didn't! Nick Novak hit the game-winner to seal a 17-16 victory for LA. I'm sure the team feels validated in their decision to pick up veteran kicker Novak after a few potential game-winning field goals by Younghoe Koo went sideways in the opening weeks of the season.
Just when it seemed like the Falcons might avoid another crushing blown lead in the week leading up to their Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots, Miami safety Jones snagged the clinching interception. This was the week after a fumble recovery touchdown against Tennessee proved to be the difference in another Miami victory.
AP's time in New Orleans spiraled faster than anyone would have imagined. Even when he signed with the Saints, there was little expectation for him to be more than a rotated reserve. Suddenly, he found himself replacing Chris Johnson as the top back in Arizona and was raving about renewed opportunity. The early returns were very encouraging, as Peterson went for more than 100 yards rushing for the first time since Week 16 of the 2015 season, while the Cardinals beat the Buccaneers, 38-33.
Two interceptions, one returned for touchdown. No shabbiness there, nor was there much to hold against the Texans corner, as he gave up fewer than 10 yards on just two catches against the Browns. It helps to have Kevin Hogan be the one throwing on you. Still, it's hard to have a better corner performance than that.
There was a report that Deshaun Watson received a text from Browns coach Hue Jackson before the NFL Draft that he should "be ready," implying that Cleveland would take him. Jackson denied that. Either way, it's an indictment of the Browns vaunted Moneyball approach that they keep passing on quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, while they are forced to start the likes of Hogan, who threw three first-half interceptions. He also was flagged for ground in his own end zone, putting an extra comedic touch on an amusingly poor outing.
Having a third down pass carom off Gaines' forehead and into the hands of Antonio Brown ended up being the fatal blow in Kansas City's first loss of the season. Pittsburgh was only ahead 12-10 with about three and a half minutes left in the game. Even an incompletion likely gives the Chiefs a realistic chance at salvaging the win. Sadly an assortment of bad bounces went against them on one play. Give AB credit, though, for the incredible catch and run.
Vernon Hargreaves III
Tampa Bay's corner missed three tackles on Sunday, helping pave the way for Peterson's aforementioned big day. More than half of AP's rushing yards on the day came on plays off the edge, as the Cards knew they could exploit the tackling deficiencies of the Bucs' secondary.
The Broncos kicker missed one from 35 yards in the first half of Denver's surprise loss at home to the Giants, then had one from 53 blocked in the second half. He's now missed five field goals on the season, hitting below 50 percent of them at home. Meanwhile, former Broncos kicker Matt Prater is converting kicks from 50+ yards with regularity in Detroit.
The Chiefs back is among the favorites to take home offensive rookie of the year honors. This Sunday marked the first pro outing he might want to forget. Though useful in the passing game, Hunt only picked up 21 yards on nine carries. He struggled in pass protection as well, giving up two sacks.
Wrasslin' and footbaw, together at last
In New Orleans, Lions receiver Golden Tate executed The People's Elbow (a wrestling move) after scoring a touchdown, a deed that went recognized by now-ubiquitous movie/TV actor The Rock.
In Washington, 'Skins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan invoked one of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's signature rants following a win over the 49ers. It's hardly the first time Kerrigan has outed himself as a wrestling fan. His sack celebration pose is one made famous by wrestler Shawn Michaels.
Anyway, once his NFL playing career is over, it's safe to assume Kerrigan will have a role at a future Wrestlemania.