The 32 things we learned from Week 10 of the 2020 NFL season:
1. By now, you’ve gleaned the fact that the NFC West is the league’s most competitive division. The Cardinals’ miraculous 32-30 win over the Bills created a three-way logjam for first place. The Rams’ defeat of the Seahawks left all three clubs at 6-3, though Arizona’s 2-0 mark in division games technically renders the Cards as the NFC West leaders. Los Angeles and Seattle are currently in the conference’s second and third wild-card spots, respectively.
2. Arizona-Buffalo: Game of the year.
2a. WR DeAndre Hopkins hauling in that game-winning “Hail Murray” from Cards QB Kyler Murray: Play of the year.
3. In the last five games, 1) Murray became the first quarterback in league history to produce a TD with both his arm and legs in that many consecutive contests, and 2) Arizona scored at least 30 points in five straight for the first time in franchise history.
4. The Cardinals play at Seattle this Thursday. In the memorable words of former Jets LB Bart Scott: “Can’t wait.”
5. The continued excellence of Murray, sublime consistency of Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s perfect team and recent skid by Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has rendered the MVP race wide open. I gave my midseason vote to Mahomes.
6. Wilson is suddenly Mr. Unlimited in the turnover department, committing seven in Seattle’s two-game slide. Mahomes has limited himself to one … this entire season.
7. By now, you’ve also gleaned the fact that the NFC East is woeful. However it’s now veered into historically abject territory. The first-place Eagles, who lost to the archrival Giants on Sunday, still possess sole ownership of first place … despite a 3-5-1 record. Per Elias, no outright division winner since the 1970 merger has had fewer wins at this stage of the season.
8. And yet the Eagles will also be alone in first place at the end of Week 11, when the second-place Giants (3-7) will be on bye. However New York might now be the team most worth watching. The Giants arguably have less talent on their roster than anyone else in the division, which was fairly evident amid their 0-5 start. But they’ve won three of five and unfailingly play hard for rookie head coach Joe Judge.
9. Philadelphia was 0-for-9 on third down Sunday.
9a. Not so bad really considering Cincinnati was 0-for-13 on third down Sunday … but no one’s confusing the Bengals as a playoff team.
10.Second-year Giants QB Daniel Jones has posted consecutive games without a turnover for the first time in his career.
11. Jones also had a 34-yard TD run against the Eagles … three weeks after he turfed himself shy of the goal line in Philadelphia after sprinting 80 yards.
11a. Jones’ trio of runs of 30+ yards this season equal the output of Ravens counterpart Lamar Jackson.
12. Elsewhere in the NFC East, Washington missed a burgundy-and-golden opportunity to pick up a game in the standings, coming up short 30-27 in Detroit. However QB Alex Smith, who is three days shy of the two-year anniversary of his frightful lower-leg injury, started for the first time since that fateful game 728 days ago. Smith’s 38 completions, 55 throws and 390 yards through the air Sunday all established new career highs – and for a man still suffering from dropfoot. Can we put a bow on the comeback player of the year award for Smith?
13. Speaking of “anniversaries,” Monday will mark one year since Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa suffered the hip injury that prematurely ended his collegiate career at Alabama. But things have turned out alright … Tagovailoa improving his record to 3-0 since taking over as Miami’s starter by beating the Chargers and fellow 2020 first-round pick Justin Herbert.
14. Washington featured two receivers named Sims (Cam and Steven), and they combined for nine catches and 100 yards. But a pair of Marvins always beats a pair of Sims, and Detroit proved that with WRs Marvin Jones Jr. and Marvin Hall teaming for 10 receptions, 157 yards and two scores.
15. Speaking of dynamic duos, this was the first week of the 2020 season when Green Bay’s Smith Brothers (OLBs Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith aren’t actually related) each collected a full sack in a game.
16. The Packers, who struggled to beat the woeful Jaguars 24-20, failed to score on their opening drive for the first time this season.
16a. Washington remains the only team that hasn’t scored on any of its opening drives in 2020.
17. The Rams sacked Wilson six times Sunday. OLB Leonard Floyd had a career-best three … while DL Aaron Donald had none.
19. If it’s possible to push a panic button despite a 7-2 record tied for the NFC’s best – including that 38-3 whipping of the Bucs in Week 9 – we might have our fingers on it for the Saints in light of QB Drew Brees’ rib injury.
19a. The good news, if Brees has to miss time, is that New Orleans’ next four games are against teams (Eagles, Broncos and Falcons twice) that each currently have just three wins. The bad news is that the Saints have an unproven backup quarterback in Taysom Hill and a proven turnover machine in backup quarterback Jameis Winston.
20. Also hate it for veteran Rams LT Andrew Whitworth, 38, who tore two knee ligaments Sunday, according to reports. Whitworth’s 15th season had been one of his best … until it was potentially ruined.
21. Strange Sunday slate. There were only five 1 p.m. ET games, all of them broadcast on Fox. The late-afternoon window featured a half-dozen games, half on Fox’s air. Why? The Masters, a CBS staple postponed from its typical April window due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wrapped up Sunday afternoon.
21a.Congratulations, Dustin Johnson … you are doubtless Tony Romo’s hero.
22. Here’s a weird nugget from the NFL stat department after Herbert’s Chargers stumbled again: Rookie quarterbacks starting for California teams are 1-14-1 in the Eastern Time Zone since the merger. The lone win came courtesy of the Rams’ Jim Everett in 1986.
23. Since the start of last season, the Chargers are a league-worst 3-16 in games decided by eight points or fewer. The Bolts’ eight-point loss to the Fins on Sunday was the most decisive of their seven defeats in 2020.
24. Browns RB Nick Chubb played for the first time in six weeks after recovering from a knee injury, and what a difference he makes. He scored Cleveland’s only TD and racked up 126 of the team’s 231 rushing yards in a 10-7 squeaker over the Texans. The Browns averaged 109 fewer yards on the ground in Chubb’s absence and didn’t have a single rushing TD.
24a. Of course, it didn’t hurt seeing Houston defense, the worst in the league against the run entering the weekend. The Texans have been now been gashed for at least 230 rushing yards three times in 2020.
24b. Chubb likely ended up on the, well, Brown list of his fantasy owners after intentionally stepping out of bounds at the Houston 1-yard line after a 59-yard gallop – sacrificing a touchdown to allow Cleveland to kneel out the final 53 seconds. He probably also caused some heart attacks no matter which side of the line you were on … and the Browns were favored by four points by BetMGM.
25. Pittsburgh is a league-best and franchise-best 9-0. Assuming they handle Jacksonville in Week 11, the Steelers will be 10-0 heading into their Thanksgiving rematch with the Ravens.
25a. The Steelers now have a sack in 66 consecutive games, drawing them within three of matching the Buccaneers’ all-time record.
26. Kudos to Raiders RB (and ex-Bronco) Devontae Booker, who scored two TDs against his former team in Las Vegas’ 37-12 blowout. Booker scored two TDs between 2017 and 2019 while with Denver.
27. Tampa Bay RB Ronald Jones II became the fourth player in NFL history with a TD run of at least 98 yards.
27a. Prior to this season, Jones II, a third-year vet, had only rushed for as many as 98 yards in a game once.
28. How dare you ruin those Air Jordan Xs, Darren Waller!?!?!?!?!?
29. After making his first 42 kicks this season (19 FGs, 23 PATs), Miami’s Jason Sanders became the last full-time kicker to misfire, pushing a 47-yard field-goal try wide right. Sanders’ string of 19 successful FGs to start a season established a new Dolphins record.
30. The Colts were 4-for-12 (33.3%) on third down Thursday night but 3-for-5 (60%) on fourth down. Analytics, baby.
30a. The Colts were 0-for-2 on fourth-and-1 when giving the ball to RB Jordan Wilkins. Lesson learned, baby.
31. Special teams continue to be a major bugaboo for the Titans, who get next to nothing in the return game, have ridden the Stephen Gostkowski rollercoaster all season – though his 60% field-goal conversion rate still outstrips the team’s 44.4% clip from 2019 – and are now reeling from the absence of injured All-Pro P Brett Kern.
31a. Kern’s fill-in, Trevor Daniel, posted the shortest punt of the NFL season (17 yards) Thursday before a subsequent kick was blocked and returned for a TD. Three phases, boys, not two.
32. How much has offense evolved in the NFL? Lions QB Matthew Stafford caught Joe Montana with his 273rd career TD pass Sunday … six days after Jets QB Joe Flacco knocked Montana out of the league’s list of top 20 all-time passers in terms of yards. But no one is going to confuse Stafford, good as he is, or Flacco, MVP of Super Bowl XLVII, for Hall of Famers.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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