Now that the Rams have lost, there’s one indisputable truth about the NFL.
Heading into Week 10, every team has at least one loss, and New Orleans wrestled away the NFC steering wheel from the Rams with a 45-35 victory at the Superdome.
The 7-1 Saints have four remaining opponents who have winning records (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Carolina twice), whereas the 8-1 Rams have two (Kansas City, Chicago). After Sunday’s games, the winning percentage of the Saints’ remaining opponents was .579, while the Rams’ remaining opponents were .483.
The Rams have yet to lose back-to-back regular-season games under coach Sean McVay, but they cannot breathe easy with Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks coming to town. The last meeting of these teams, in October, came down to the Rams converting a fourth-down keeper by Jared Goff to hang on for a 33-31 win.
The Seahawks might be an underwhelming 4-4, and coming off a home loss to the Chargers, but with the defensive vulnerabilities the Rams showed against the Saints, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is a daunting challenge.
Meanwhile, the Saints boast the NFL’s longest winning streak, seven games, and are led by Canton-bound quarterback Drew Brees, who Sunday had his 22nd game with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions — tied with New England’s Tom Brady for the most in NFL history.
Brees and Brady are among several quarterbacks thriving in the twilight of their careers. The Chargers’ Philip Rivers is, too, notching a 105.9 rating in a 25-17 win at Seattle.
Rivers has started 200 consecutive games, dating to Sept. 11, 2006. Only three other quarterbacks have achieved that milestone: Brett Favre (297 consecutive games), Eli Manning (210), and Peyton Manning (208).
The Chargers play at Oakland on Sunday, and those clubs are heading in opposite directions. The Chargers have won five in a row; the Raiders have dropped four straight. It seems like a lifetime ago that they were angling to be roommates in Carson.
A couple of other seasoned quarterbacks are directing division-leading teams: Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, and Washington’s Alex Smith.
This time of year always seems to be a critical juncture for rookie quarterbacks, who a year ago would have been weeks from wrapping their college seasons. In the NFL marathon, teams are only hitting the 13-mile mark.
The picture isn’t too pretty for the latest crop of first-round quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns have lost four in a row and fired a coach; Sam Darnold’s New York Jets have dropped three in a row, Josh Allen is injured in Buffalo, and the Bills have lost four straight; and even though Josh Rosen’s Arizona Cardinals are coming off a win, they’re 2-6 and heading into the Kansas City wood chipper. Lamar Jackson isn’t the starter in Baltimore, where the Ravens have lost three straight.
Then again, the hottest hand in the league is only in his second season, and the first as a starter. The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes has passed for at least 300 yards in eight consecutive games, tying him with Andrew Luck (2014) for the longest such streak in history.
Mahomes, who appeared in his 10th career game Sunday, has passed for 3,185 yards and 29 touchdowns. He’s the only player ever to pass for at least 3,000 yards in his first 10 career games.
Minnesota’s defense has come to life and figures to be a headache for opponents in the second half of the season. The Vikings get a week off, and, boy, did they earn it.
In Sunday’s 24-9 victory over Detroit, Minnesota sacked Matthew Stafford a club-record 10 times. Defensive end Danielle Hunter collected 3 1/2 sacks and returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
No time for Stafford to exhale, either. The Lions play at division-leading Chicago on Sunday.
If there’s chatter about Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh these days, it isn’t coming from the Steelers locker room. The team doesn’t seem to miss the All-Pro holdout, not with the way replacement running back James Conner is playing.
Conner ran for 107 yards and caught passes for 56 more in a 23-16 victory at Baltimore.
With 1,085 yards from scrimmage, Conner is the only player in Pittsburgh’s storied history to roll up at least 1,000 yards in the team’s first eight games of a season.