NFL review and preview: Things are changing fast, especially in wild, wild AFC West
The NFL these days is like a GPS device gone awry.
The Rams are on fire. Recalculating…
The Chiefs are running away with the AFC West. Recalculating…
Parity reigns. Recalculating…
Every week, it’s a course correction, and another one came Sunday with the Rams cooling in Minnesota, Kansas City mustering just three field goals in an overtime loss to the previously hapless New York Giants, and blowouts of 23, 23, 25, 28 and 30 points.
With six weeks remaining in the regular season, there’s not much to bank on except the usual suspects (Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees) are rising to the top and Philadelphia doesn’t even need a kicker to dominate in the NFC East.
The Eagles handed Dallas a 37-9 defeat on Sunday night — the Cowboys’ worst loss in the eight-year history of AT&T Stadium — to claim the NFL’s best record at 9-1 and take a four-game lead in the division. Philadelphia won despite losing kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury. The Eagles scrapped the idea of going with an emergency backup kicker when he proved to be so bad that he missed the net while practicing on the sideline.
Elliott is in concussion protocol, and the Eagles have the option of activating Caleb Sturgis, who is eligible to return after spending the first part of the season on injured reserve because of a leg injury. Coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles are in a wait-and-see mode.
“You’re talking about roster spots and making moves and things of that nature,” Pederson told reporters Monday. “We’re not there yet. So we’re going to continue these discussions the next couple of days.”
It’s back to the friendly (to them) confines of Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday as the Eagles play host to Chicago. In a possible forecast of honors to come, the NFL notes that the past eight times the team with the best record had a quarterback that led the league in touchdown passes, he was named most valuable player. That’s Carson Wentz with 25.
As for the Cowboys, they have lost their last two games by a combined 48 points, playing without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott and injured left tackle Tyron Smith. Quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked a combined 12 times in those games.
The Cowboys barely have time to catch their breath before playing host to their annual Thanksgiving Day game, which looked a lot more appealing to them a few weeks ago. They’re playing the Chargers, who continued to dig their way out of a hole — sound familiar? — with a 54-24 demolition of Buffalo.
The landscape is shifting in the AFC West, with the Chiefs losing for the fourth time in five games after getting off to a 5-0 start. Oakland is wobbly and Denver has imploded, with the Broncos firing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday after the team failed to score 20 points in seven of their past eight games.
The Chiefs play host to the struggling Bills on Sunday, and Denver plays at Oakland.
“We have to man up,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce told reporters. “Nobody is pointing fingers, but guys have to get called out and be more accountable, and that starts with myself.”
The Rams lost a lot of steam when they were undone by Case Keenum and the Vikings on Sunday, but they have a chance to recapture some momentum against the streaking New Orleans at the Coliseum. The Saints have won eight in a row, tying Philadelphia for the NFL’s longest active winning streak.
Keenum, the former Rams quarterback, played like a poor man’s Brees in Sunday’s win. Now, the Rams have to prepare for the real Brees and an offense that’s averaging a league-best 415.7 yards per game. The big surprise in New Orleans is a Saints defense that went from ridiculously bad in previous years to respectable this season.
New England’s Brady directs the No. 2 offense (410.5 yards), and the Patriots need all that production to offset a defense surrendering an NFL-worst 401.9. Of course, the numbers that matter most are the ones on the scoreboard, and New England has won six in a row to take a three-game lead in the division. They play host to Miami on Sunday.
Pittsburgh has won five in a row and has a three-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North. The Steelers will play Green Bay at Heinz Field on Sunday night, a matchup that looked great at the start of the season. But with Aaron Rodgers recovering from a broken collarbone, the Packers are colder than their tundra.
The real showdown in the NFC North is also the game of the week: Minnesota at Detroit on Thanksgiving. The Vikings have won six in a row, the Lions’ win streak is three, and the stakes have seldom been higher for these teams, at least in recent years.
If the Vikings were to win, they would virtually wrap up the division. Were the Lions to win, they would cut Minnesota’s division lead to a game and have the tiebreaker over the Vikings.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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