Connect with us


Kyler Murray reps Bruce Lee with custom thigh pads as Arizona Cardinals advance to 5-0



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kyler Murray‘s swag on the field goes beyond his jukes and dimes.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback wore his customized thigh pads again Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The left pad has Bruce Lee on it and the right one has Murray’s logo on it. They’re made by a company called treDCAL from Kentucky, which is owned by Brian and Jenna Gudalis.

Murray debuted the thigh pads in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings.

The next week, Murray was asked about the thigh pads during his weekly news conference.

“Everybody knows my inspiration from him,” Murray said of Lee, the late famed martial artist. “I’ve seen guys with the thigh pads around the league and, I think his name is Brian, and he hooked me up. So, I appreciate him.

“I had two [designs] in that game. The other one was the logo, but y’all didn’t see that one.”

It might have taken a few weeks, but everyone has certainly seen them now.

Source link


Jacksonville Jaguars cut long-range specialist Josh Lambo, team’s most accurate kicker ever



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars have cut Josh Lambo, the most accurate kicker in franchise history.

Lambo has been dealing with confidence issues and had missed all three field goal attempts this season. He hasn’t played since the team’s Week loss to Arizona and had been having weekly competitions during practice with Matthew Wright, whom the Jaguars signed to the practice squad on Sept. 27.

Wright kicked three field goals in Sunday’s 23-20 victory over Miami in London, including a game-winning 54-yarder as time expired. Head coach Urban Meyer said Monday that Wright had “earned the right to be the starting kicker right now.”

Lambo signed with the Jaguars in October 2017 and his career field goal percentage of 91.6 percent is the best in franchise history (Josh Scobee, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, is second at 81.0 percent). Lambo was especially good from long range, hitting on 12 of his 13 attempts of 50 or more yards before this season – he missed two 50-plus yard attempts and finished his career with the Jaguars 12 for 15 from long range.

Lambo hasn’t been the same since a hip injury landed him on IR twice last year and the Jaguars ended up have six players attempt a PAT or field goal, which per Elias Sports Bureau is the most by an NFL team since the 1970 merger.

Even though Lambo was healthy the Jaguars began training camp with Aldrick Rosas – one of the six kickers they used last year — also on the roster, but they released him two days later. Lambo had an up-and-down camp and preseason, but the team stuck with him early in the season before signing Wright.

Source link

Continue Reading


Why the Sean McVay-Jared Goff partnership fell apart for Los Angeles Rams



Editor’s note: This story originally ran March 24. Jared Goff will return to play in Los Angeles for the first time since being traded to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford when the Lions (0-6) take on the Los Angeles Rams (5-1) on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Inside the home locker room at SoFi Stadium, standing underneath a neon-glowing Los Angeles Rams logo, coach Sean McVay called out quarterback Jared Goff in front of players and coaches. It was a postgame scene many had never before witnessed.

McVay glared in Goff’s direction, shouting that he needed to play better and couldn’t continue to turn the ball over. McVay didn’t say the quarterback’s name, but those who were there said they knew to whom McVay was talking.

Minutes later, a heated McVay continued to call out Goff, but this time to reporters, the first time in four seasons as coach he took aim at a player rather than putting the blame on himself after a loss.

“Our quarterback has to take better care of the football,” McVay said about Goff, the player general manager Les Snead traded six picks to move up and draft No. 1 overall in 2016.

That was Week 12 of the 2020 season, and Goff had turned the ball over three times in a 23-20 loss to the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. But McVay’s frustration with the franchise quarterback had been brewing for some time.

In the span of two seasons, routine coach and quarterback sideline squabbles turned into one-sided shouting matches, with McVay no longer holding back. Two opposite personalities that once worked harmoniously — McVay’s hyper-focused drive to Goff’s cool-and-calm demeanor — no longer meshed. Goff’s thumb injury allowed McVay to start a different quarterback late last season. That, coupled with Matthew Stafford’s request for a trade from the Detroit Lions, proved to be the end for Goff in L.A.

Two weeks after the 2020 campaign, which ended with a divisional playoff loss at the Green Bay Packers, the Rams traded Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Lions in exchange for Stafford.

It was a startling turn of events considering Goff won two NFC West division titles and an NFC championship and helped lead the Rams to Super Bowl LIII. For those accomplishments, he was rewarded with a four-year, $134 million extension, including a record-breaking $110 million guaranteed, only 17 months before the trade.

“Unfortunately, the way it ended is never how you envision it,” Goff said during an introductory news conference in Detroit. “But it’s the way it goes.”

“When you look back on the four years that we did have together, there’s a lot of times you can smile on,” McVay said a month after the trade was agreed upon. “I would say there’s a lot of things that when I self-reflect, I certainly wish I was better for him in some instances.”

The trade came together within 24 hours and was a move few could have predicted despite knowing the Rams’ quarterback situation for 2021 would be different than the previous four years. McVay and Snead made that clear in their season-ending news conferences when they provided no guarantees for Goff.

“Yeah, he’s our quarterback, right now,” McVay said after the loss to the Packers.

The following day, McVay would not guarantee Goff’s spot on the roster in 2021. A week later, Snead wouldn’t either.

“Jared Goff is a Ram right now,” Snead said. “So, what’s the date? January 26.”

The trade was agreed to on Jan. 30 but became official on March 18, a day after the start of the league year.

“There’s a lot of things that go into it, and most importantly, it’s a rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew Stafford’s caliber,” McVay said shortly after his new quarterback was introduced in L.A., despite Stafford’s 0-3 career playoff record. “To be able to acquire somebody like him was an opportunity that we wanted to be aggressive about pursuing, and it fortunately worked out.

“Jared Goff is a Ram right now. So, what’s the date? January 26.”

Rams general manager Les Snead, four days before the team agreed to trade Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.

“But by no means is it a reflection of not respecting and appreciating all the great things that Jared Goff has done.”

However, interviews with more than two dozen sources, including Rams players, coaches and front-office personnel, either on the record or on condition of anonymity, painted the portrait of a relationship between McVay and Goff that fractured in 2019 and slowly decayed throughout the 2020 season.

‘It will be a good marriage’

After seven winless starts as a rookie under former Rams coach Jeff Fisher, Goff played masterfully in his next two years with McVay as coach and a supporting cast that included All-Pro running back Todd Gurley II and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The lanky quarterback passed for 8,492 yards and 60 touchdowns with 19 interceptions in 2017 and 2018 and earned two Pro Bowl selections. Meanwhile, his future successor passed for 8,223 yards and 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions with Detroit during that span.

With a mega-payday looming for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Rams wanted to get ahead of the market reset and re-sign Goff despite the two seasons remaining on his rookie contract.

McVay inherited Goff at quarterback when he took the job in 2017 but felt confident about what he had seen during their two seasons together. He signed off on the decision to give Goff the contract extension.

“Jared Goff, as long as I’m fortunate enough to be in this role, hopefully this guy is stuck with me for a long time,” McVay said a few months after the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.

A day after the deal was announced, Goff smiled about his future with McVay.

“He’s joked that I’m stuck with him; I told him, ‘I think I’m OK with that,'” Goff said. “It will be a good marriage … I’m happy to be with him for a long time.”

However, in the two seasons that followed, the Rams’ offense steadily declined — going from third in scoring in 2018 to 12th in 2019 to tied for 22nd in 2020 — along with Goff’s production.

Along with it, the question began percolating inside the Rams’ building: Did we make a mistake?

Cracking the code

What the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick did to the Rams’ offense during the Super Bowl, holding it to 260 total yards, including 60 rushing yards, didn’t just ruin a game plan and the chance to return to L.A. with a title. It upended a scheme, exposed a quarterback and provided the NFL — the ultimate copycat league — a blueprint of how to grind McVay’s offense to a halt.

McVay knew getting back to the Super Bowl would not be easy, but he didn’t expect the offense to take a significant step backward, as the downtick in scoring resulted in the Rams missing the playoffs in 2019.

The offensive line underwent turnover. Sturdy left guard Rodger Saffold departed in free agency, the Rams declined an option on veteran center John Sullivan’s contract and right tackle Rob Havenstein was sidelined midway through the season because of a knee injury. Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, had knee issues, and McVay struggled to consistently incorporate the run in the game plan.

With the infrastructure around him beginning to falter, Goff needed to take control.

McVay grinded at all hours, trying to solve the offensive issues. With no full-time offensive coordinator — a position McVay did not fill after current Packers coach Matt LaFleur departed following the 2017 season — it fell on McVay to right the ship.



Ryan Clark explains why the Rams were not sold on Jared Goff after trading him to the Lions.

It became apparent to some inside the building that Goff had not developed into a quarterback who could thrive without a strong cast.

“The situation around him affected his game. If the O-line wasn’t always firing or if he was missing a wide receiver, things didn’t go well,” a team source said. “If he had a clean pocket and everything was going perfect, he’s a top-five quarterback.”

Shane Waldron — Goff’s fourth quarterbacks coach in four seasons (and now the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks) — manned the position room along with assistant Zac Robinson. McVay would drop in.

The Rams’ previous two quarterbacks coaches — LaFleur and Zac Taylor (now the Cincinnati Bengals‘ coach) — provided buffers between McVay and Goff.

McVay would be able to get his message, no matter how tough, to Goff through the quarterbacks coach, ensuring no disruption to the relationship.

“Sean is an amped-up guy; Jared was always calm and collected,” a team source said. “I thought they balanced each other out.”

But as the 2019 season progressed without the desired results, McVay began to coach Goff more directly and their dynamic began to slowly unravel.

“Sean got more involved, was tougher on Jared and didn’t realize that he wasn’t building him back up,” a league source said.

Goff complained to others about McVay and vice versa. The two wouldn’t sit down often enough to hammer the issues out, a league source said.

On the sideline, where emotional outbursts are not uncommon, “It gradually became more hostile, with McVay cussing out Goff, and Goff would feel crushed,” a league source said.

Despite those increasingly confrontational interactions, it appeared McVay and Goff successfully navigated a difficult stretch toward the end of the 2019 season. Though they missed the playoffs, the Rams won three out of five games to finish 9-7.

After averaging 20.6 points per game through the first 12 weeks, the offense upped its production to 27.6 points per game over the final five contests.

Goff was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 424 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 13 rout of the Arizona Cardinals. “I’m seeing a guy who’s been playing good football lately,” McVay said.

The following week, Goff passed 293 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in a lopsided victory over the Seahawks. And despite losing 34-31 to the 49ers in a critical Week 16 game on a blown defensive coverage, Goff passed for 323 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

McVay and Goff appeared to have their groove back.

Opposite personalities, increasing friction

Ultimately, the merger between the Type A, football-hyper personality of McVay and the laid-back Goff didn’t work.

Spend enough time around McVay and you’ll notice some common refrains. Among them, “Consistency is the truest measure of performance.” Throughout the 2020 season, McVay harped on Goff’s need to improve.

“Consistency is the biggest thing. I know it’s like a broken record, but it is the truth,” McVay said when asked what he wanted to see from Goff through the final quarter of the regular season.

“He was good this season,” a team source said about Goff. “Except when he was awful.”

With no Gurley, who was cut during the offseason, the Rams moved to running back by committee before rookie Cam Akers became the feature back late in the season. The O-line grew more cohesive after an uneven 2019, but after trading wideout Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, the offense lacked a deep-threat receiver to stretch a defense.

“At times, definitely we had the pieces,” Snead said when asked if he put enough talent around Goff to succeed. “But as a general manager, you’re going to always remember the losses or maybe the seasons that didn’t go quite as well as envisioned when the season started.”

Goff passed for 3,952 yards and 20 touchdowns, his fewest since his rookie season, with 13 interceptions.

Work ethic wasn’t an issue; Goff put in the hours. It was a matter of understanding, diagnosing and applying what was coached.

Goff struggled to recognize coverage disguises and didn’t consistently identify coverage post snap as the play developed. When a defense ran Cover Zero with no safeties deep, his decision-making process often didn’t happen quickly enough to hit the big play.

“As a quarterback, you can’t lose games,” a team source said. “We just needed him to manage it and do his part.”

The Rams had the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2020 under first-year coordinator Brandon Staley, who is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams allowed a league-low average of 18.5 points per game.

For a second consecutive season — and despite hiring full-time offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who also served as quarterbacks coach — the offense was a glaring issue when coupled with a defense otherwise worthy of a Super Bowl run.

“It’s been a struggle of a year because we had a strong defense,” a team source said, “which put more pressure on our offense to play well.”

The lack of offensive productivity ate at McVay, who arrived in L.A. from Washington with an offensive acumen and proved to be an innovator in his first two seasons, constructing a high-scoring juggernaut behind 11 personnel (three receivers, a tight end and running back) and a lot of play-action.

McVay told people around him he felt as though he had to call every play perfectly for Goff. And Goff felt increasingly micromanaged as McVay continuously ramped up the complexity of his offense in an attempt to outscheme the defense, a league source said.

“There’s a handful of times, every single game, that you’re not proud of it, and then there was a lot of times when you did feel like you were getting some looks that you would hope for; sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it didn’t,” McVay said about his playcalling after the season. “I have high expectations and standards for myself and for our offense.”

Goff’s natural throwing talent was not an issue, but his inability to consistently use it became one.

Through seven games and a 5-2 start, Goff — with O’Connell, his fifth quarterbacks coach in five seasons — showed progress in the face of changing voices. It was a similar dynamic to what three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith, who had five offensive coordinators in five seasons after being the No. 1 pick of the 49ers in 2005, struggled with early in his NFL career.

But it all crashed down in Week 8.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who previously was part of the Patriots’ defensive staff that dismantled the Rams’ offense in Super Bowl LIII, dialed up the pressure.

The Dolphins blitzed Goff on 26 dropbacks, the most he faced in a single game in 2020.

Goff averaged 2.6 seconds from the time of the snap to throw the ball, which was his fourth-fastest time in 2020, and he passed for 355 yards and a touchdown.

However, too often Goff appeared confused and out of sorts, as he turned the ball over four times — two interceptions and two lost fumbles — and the Rams fell 28-17, losing to rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his first NFL start.

“Our execution has to be better. I have to coach better, and I have to put our players in better positions, and that’s the bottom line,” McVay said after the loss, adding later, “This is a sick taste in your mouth.”

In the aftermath, McVay remained convinced the game plan should have worked, while Goff thought differently, a team source said.

Throughout the building, tension rose in regard to McVay’s handling of Goff, whom some thought the coach did not hold accountable like others.

“We get our ass chewed out for f—ups,” a team source said. “But the stuff with the quarterback gets swept under the rug.”

Goff rebounded the following two weeks, with a solid performance in a win against the visiting Seahawks and then helping to put on a show on Monday Night Football, passing for 376 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions in a road victory over eventual Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the wheels came off again a week later in a fourth consecutive loss to the Niners, who won despite starting backup quarterback Nick Mullens and playing without several other key starters. Goff sat alone on the sideline after two first-half turnovers. He finished with 198 passing yards and three turnovers — two interceptions and a lost fumble.

A ‘taste’ for a new QB

At some point amid the inconsistent season, sources said McVay contemplated whether the Rams would be able to return to the Super Bowl with Goff at quarterback.

Tension with Goff had grown. On the sideline, McVay would routinely yell at his quarterback, but some noticed there came a point when McVay wouldn’t circle back to apologize. Some chalked it up to the competitive environment, others to McVay’s inability to hide his frustration with Goff.

For Goff, it became increasingly difficult how often his coach took aim at him — whether on the sideline, in meetings or the practice field.

“Sean lost touch with how much he was breaking Jared down, but there’s got to be the build back up,” a league source said. “[McVay] was either unaware or disinterested in protecting Jared’s confidence.”

In the trade aftermath, McVay admitted to communication breakdowns with his quarterback.

“I could have been much better about those real-time communications,” McVay said. “I’m not going to make any excuses about it, but there’s a lot of things, even some of the decision-making in games, are you consistently putting him in the right positions to be a success?”

After routing the visiting Patriots on Thursday Night Football, the Rams suffered another inexplicable loss — this time a 23-20 home defeat in Week 15 to the previously winless New York Jets.

With a division title at stake in Week 16 in Seattle, Goff stumbled again in a 20-9 loss. He passed for 234 yards with an interception he called the among the worst plays of his career, and he made a glaring error when he slid short of a first down. To Goff’s credit, he finished the game after breaking the thumb on his throwing hand upon smacking it an opponent’s helmet in the final seconds of the third quarter.

“The worst thing for Jared is that [McVay] got a taste of John Wolford.”

Rams team source

Goff underwent surgery the following day and had three screws inserted in anticipation of recovering quickly enough for a playoff run.

In the meantime, McVay had the opportunity to make the change at quarterback, starting undrafted free agent John Wolford in Week 17. Some in the organization were convinced McVay wanted to do it earlier but didn’t because of Goff’s contract.

“He didn’t have the balls to sit Jared,” a team source said.

Wolford, who hadn’t played in a regular-season game since joining the Rams in 2019, would make his first NFL start in a must-win home game against the Cardinals to earn a playoff bid.

“The worst thing for Jared,” a team source said, “is that [McVay] got a taste of John Wolford.”

With a hired nutritionist, throwing coach and personal trainer outside of the Rams’ facility, Goff put in the work required of most starting NFL quarterbacks. But when compared to Wolford, whom some refer to as Baby Brees, it fell short.

Wolford arrived early during the week for practices — 6:30 a.m. — and stayed late, even when he was on the practice squad. “Just a different animal,” a league source said.

“He’s addicted like McVay,” a team source said.

The energy around the practice facility shifted when Wolford took over.

“It was just kind of an opportunity for John to breathe some life into the offense with his athleticism, intelligence,” a team source said.

Some players were excited about Wolford starting — not necessarily because they didn’t like Goff, but because they thought the mobile Wolford provided a spark.

Wolford overcame an interception on his first pass to throw for 231 yards in a 18-7 win over Arizona while rushing for a team-leading 56 yards.

With a wild-card playoff in Seattle up next, McVay decided early in the week Wolford would start, despite having yet to see Goff’s post-surgery recovery progress. Goff insisted he would be ready to play, but McVay’s decision was final, explaining a game plan would need to be installed to prepare Wolford.

“Functionality was going to be an issue with the thumb,” a team source said. “But I think it was probably that combination of, ‘Holy cow, we just saw John play, we got in rhythm, we kind of had a new game plan.'”

“The Arizona-Seattle weeks, those were our best weeks of practices,” another team source said. “The confidence of the team was high.”

Goff, 12 days removed from thumb surgery, was the only active backup against the Seahawks in the wild-card contest, a game-day decision that left some players confused about Goff’s availability should Wolford need to come out.

With 5:40 remaining in the first quarter, Wolford suffered a neck injury, and Goff was inserted. He proved — despite limited opportunity to practice the game plan throughout the week — he could lead the Rams to another playoff victory, closing out a 30-20 upset at Lumen Field.

Despite Goff’s improbable effort versus the Seahawks, questions again began brewing about who would start ahead of a divisional playoff at Green Bay.

Wolford ended up being ruled out late in the week because of the injury, but he did travel to Wisconsin; Goff would start.

However, if it were not for Wolford’s injury, several sources said McVay would have started him against the Packers.

When asked if Wolford would have started if he were available, McVay avoided answering the question.

“[McVay] was totally all-in 100 percent on starting Wolford over Goff,” a league source said.

“When we found out John couldn’t go,” a team source said, “we felt defeated.”

The desire for Wolford wasn’t unanimous, as Goff retained some supporters in the locker room.

“Jared was our starting quarterback,” another team source said.

Goff played well, completing 21 of 27 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown without committing a turnover inside freezing Lambeau Field, but the Rams’ defense couldn’t slow quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers won 32-18.

“My job is to win the game,” Goff said afterward, in what would become his final news conference as a Ram. “Thought I was able to do some good things out there today, but no, my job is to win the game; there’s absolutely no moral victories, especially in the playoffs.”

‘We are going to take big swings’

Opinions throughout the building on Goff — the football player — fluctuated. Some fully supported him; others thought a change would be beneficial.

In the trade aftermath, McVay reflected on their success, while taking responsibility for some shortcomings. McVay also made clear the two had communicated since the trade, something Goff told the Los Angeles Times had not happened after the deal.

“I’m not going to run away from the things that I could have been better for him as a leader and as a coach,” McVay said, adding, “We have had good conversations that were healthy, and I think we were able to communicate open and honestly with one another.”

Together, McVay and Goff won 42 games over four seasons — tying Goff with the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson for total wins and putting Goff second only to Brady over that span.

But the Rams’ chance to acquire Stafford, who turned 33 in February, was too great of an opportunity to get the offense back on track.

“Put simply, chance to bet on going from good to great at that position,” Snead said. “Especially from where our team was, our core group of players, where they were in their career, the coaching staff we have, felt like it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Goff, who turned 27 on Oct. 14, admitted he took the initial news of the trade personally.

“At first, absolutely,” Goff said. “I think it builds that chip on your shoulder a little bit. I won’t lie about that. There is that little extra motivation and chip that you do feel.”

After the trade was agreed on, McVay and Stafford — who both were vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer — celebrated their partnership with a dinner.

The Rams felt it was better to admit a mistake on a contract extension and move on than to make no changes and try to make another season work after two inconsistent seasons with Goff under center.

“Some decisions work; some don’t,” a team source said. “We are going to take big swings.”

“It’s disappointing and unfortunate the way it ended.”

“I had so many great memories, made so many great friends, have so many great former teammates from there,” Goff said. “There’s so much I learned there and there’s no ill will. I want to move forward with my life and my career, and this is my next chapter.”

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp wrote on social media: “Four years of growing and learning from each other. Appreciate Jared for more than just who he was on the field, but I owe him a debt of gratitude for any success I had while out there with him as well.”

In the end, the opinion that ultimately mattered belonged to McVay.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.

Source link

Continue Reading


NFL Power Rankings Week 7



Just like anyone else, the NFL Power Rankings enjoy a good meme. So, in trying to devise a way to sum up the first trimester of the NFL season (thanks, new schedule), we decided to do our variation of the “How it started vs. How it’s going” meme using the confidence ratings of our NFL Nation writers.

In our weekly takeaways, we have our writers give the confidence ratings of the teams they cover on their own personal 1-10 scale based on how they feel about their team moving forward at that time. We decided to compare their ratings from Week 1 (when everyone is fresh and the possibilities are endless) to how they feel after seeing six weeks of action (five weeks for teams that have had their bye) while detailing the process that caused the confidence evolution. Some are happy evolutions (how about those Arizona Cardinals?), some have skewed toward heavy disappointment (not looking great on South Beach right now), while others have a bit of a steadier track. Either way, it serves as a good trimester progress report.

How we rank our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Jump to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

Previous ranking: 2

Week 1 confidence rating: 9.0
How it’s going now: 9.4

The Cardinals just keep winning and, in the process, they keep getting better and better. First, it was stopping Titans running back Derrick Henry in Week 1. Then it was dismantling the Rams in Week 4. And on Sunday, it was beating up on the Browns without coach Kliff Kingsbury. To win games like they do, and to do it on the road, is a sign that this team’s success is here to stay. If the Cardinals can continue with their current average of 32.3 points per game, there will be very little that other teams can do to stop Arizona this season. — Josh Weinfuss

Previous ranking: 1

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.3
How it’s going now: 7.8

With the way the Bills played against the Steelers to start the season, the initial rating seemed spot-on. Since then, Buffalo has played like one of the best teams in the NFL, winning every game outside of Monday night’s loss to the Titans. Honestly, Buffalo’s rating could be higher, especially after the way the win in Kansas City went. This team has an incredibly high ceiling, and the confidence will only increase as it fixes the issues that were on display in Tennessee. The Bills still have the potential to be the best team in the AFC, if not the league. — Alaina Getzenberg

Previous ranking: 3

Week 1 confidence rating: 8.0
How it’s going now: 8.4

The 5-1 Rams won in convincing fashion over the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. They won “ugly,” as some players described it, against the Colts and Seahawks. And they flat out failed to show up in an embarrassing loss to the undefeated Cardinals — a team the Rams had previously defeated in eight consecutive meetings. So, while the Rams’ record is among the best in the NFL, it’s far too early to crown them Super Bowl champions, which is reflected in a modest climb from 8 to 8.4 through six games. The key to a bigger jump in confidence? Consistency in all three phases, regardless of opponent. — Lindsey Thiry

Previous ranking: 4

Week 1 confidence rating: 7.0
How it’s going now: 8.0

After coming out of training camp about as healthy as can be, the Buccaneers have dealt with a rash of injuries. Nine starters have missed a combined 22 games, plus Antonio Brown missed one start due to COVID-19 protocols. They’ve managed to survive this to stand at 5-1 — which is no small feat — and that’s largely due to the success of their offense and pass rush. But it gets interesting with two top-10 defenses up next: the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. How much will the Bucs be able to lean on their offensive firepower then? — Jenna Laine

Previous ranking: 6

Week 1 confidence rating: 7.5
How it’s going now: 9.1

Maybe the confidence rating should have been higher coming off the closer-than-expected loss to Tampa Bay in the opener. The Cowboys have not lost since and have a three-game lead in the NFC East. Dak Prescott‘s health comes into question with a calf strain. But if he is healthy, who wouldn’t the Cowboys be favored to beat in their final 11 games? Maybe at Kansas City? Arizona? This team can put itself in a favorable playoff position and run away with the division. — Todd Archer



Pablo Torre and Domonique Foxworth react to the Ravens’ 34-6 win over the Chargers.

Previous ranking: 8

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.5
How it’s going now: 9.0

This has been a masterful coaching job by John Harbaugh, who has guided Baltimore to a 5-1 start despite 16 players on injured reserve. The Ravens looked like they were a team in trouble with a season-opening loss in Las Vegas, where they allowed big plays on defense and couldn’t protect Lamar Jackson. But Baltimore quickly turned it around in dramatic fashion with fourth-quarter comebacks — against the Chiefs and Colts — and Justin Tucker‘s winning 66-yard field goal in Detroit. Then on Sunday, the Ravens looked like the team to beat in the AFC with a 28-point rout of the Chargers. — Jamison Hensley

Previous ranking: 5

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.5
How it’s going now: 7.5

The 38-3 season-opening loss to the Saints felt like a season ago. The Packers have won five straight since and still haven’t quite figured out their new defense yet. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have continued what is perhaps the best connection in the league, while Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have been the perfect counter when teams focus coverage on Adams. The only thing that could seemingly derail them is if they can’t get their injury situation under control. After living a charmed existence in that regard during their past two seasons (both 13-3), the injuries are piling up. — Rob Demovsky

Previous ranking: 7

Week 1 confidence rating: 5.4
How it’s going now: 5.7

We didn’t know what to expect from the Chargers, and it’s safe to say they’ve overachieved at 4-2, with signature wins over the Chiefs, Raiders and the Browns. But overachieving breeds more expectations, as does having a budding star quarterback in Justin Herbert. Can they hang on to first place in the AFC West and finish it out? That might depend on whether they can improve their run defense, which is currently last in the NFL and could hurt them down the road. — Shelley Smith



Stephen A. Smith says Patrick Mahomes is being forced to play hero ball because the Chiefs’ defense stinks.

Previous ranking: 10

Week 1 confidence rating: 7.5
How it’s going now: 6.0

If the Chiefs can play defense like they did in Sunday’s win over Washington instead of how they did in the first five games, the AFC West title is within reach. If they can do that and limit turnovers — they have a league-high 14 giveaways — then they will win it. But those are two big ifs. The problem with the Chiefs is not their 3-3 record but the way they’ve played for much of the first six weeks. — Adam Teicher

Previous ranking: 11

Week 1 confidence rating: 4.5
How it’s going now: 7.5

The Titans started the season by getting punched in the face by the Cardinals. Derrick Henry finished with 58 yards on 17 carries in a 38-13 loss. Fast-forward to Week 6 and Henry has reeled off five consecutive games with 100 or more rushing yards. Henry has put the Titans on his back and carried them to a 4-2 record, including a 143-yard performance — highlighted by three touchdowns — against the Bills, who were allowing 75 rushing yards per game (third in NFL) entering Week 6. The Titans are now 6-0 in his career when Henry scores three or more touchdowns. Henry’s 10 TDs ties him with LaDainian Tomlinson (2005) and Priest Holmes (2004) for the second most over the first six games of a season. — Turron Davenport

Previous ranking: 14

Week 1 confidence rating: 7.0
How it’s going now: 7.0

Each time Cincinnati’s confidence rating has dropped a little, the Bengals have responded well. The Week 6 win over the Lions was another example of that. Normally, a team with a 4-2 record might actually be a little higher. But the offense is still struggling from early inconsistency. The Bengals had a rough stretch of three straight three-and-outs against the winless Lions and didn’t get the offense corrected until a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter. Until those woes get sorted out, the Bengals are best viewed with cautious optimism. — Ben Baby

Previous ranking: 9

Week 1 confidence rating: 8.0
How it’s going now: 6.0

Injuries are piling up offensively, and the defense is rapidly going in the wrong direction. Quarterback Baker Mayfield looks like he’ll be dealing with the injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder all year. Both running backs, Nick Chubb (knee) and Kareem Hunt (calf), are injured. Both offensive tackles, Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) and Jack Conklin (knee), are injured. The defense has surrendered 84 points over the past two tilts and now ranks 24th in efficiency. The Browns still have time to regroup. But this is not where they wanted to be six weeks into the season. — Jake Trotter



Dan Orlovsky sounds off on the Browns after their loss to the Cardinals.

Previous ranking: 17

Week 1 confidence rating: 8.1
How it’s going now: 7.5

Considering all the Raiders have gone through in the past week, it’s amazing the confidence rating hasn’t completely bottomed out. But that’s what a confidence-building win at Denver will do for a team. It was truly the Raiders’ most complete game of the season — and when they needed it most. The question, then, is: Can Las Vegas, which is still trying to wrap its mind around Jon Gruden’s email controversy and subsequent resignation, maintain a balance when it comes to emotions going forward? “We’ll see,” interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. — Paul Gutierrez

Previous ranking: 13

Week 1 confidence rating: 8.1
How it’s going now: 7.0

The Saints might have had the most radical up-and-down swings in the entire league over the first four weeks: dominant win over Green Bay, blowout loss at Carolina, convincing victory at New England, epic fourth-quarter collapse against the Giants. But I have them right back at the exact same confidence number I would’ve chosen before Week 1. They have some flaws, most notably a lack of proven pass-catchers. But I still think this is a playoff-caliber team that will only get better as Jameis Winston keeps getting more comfortable in the offense and they get eight starters back from injuries (including WR Michael Thomas) and suspension. — Mike Triplett

Previous ranking: 21

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.8
How it’s going now: 5.0

The Steelers started out sky-high with a win against the Bills — arguably the NFL’s best team after six weeks. But instead of that triumph setting a tone for the season, it appeared to be an aberration when the Steelers followed it up with three consecutive losses. Led by an inconsistent Ben Roethlisberger, the offense lacked rhythm. And the defense couldn’t overcome injuries to make up for the offensive shortcomings. But after back-to-back wins entering the bye, the Steelers are showing life. If the defense can look more like the one in the fourth quarter and overtime on Sunday night, the Steelers’ confidence rating will rise. Anything short of that, it’ll dip right back down. — Brooke Pryor

Previous ranking: 23

Week 1 confidence rating: 5.0
How it’s going now: 4.5

It’s difficult to figure out what this Vikings team is. In Week 2, they took Arizona, the league’s only remaining undefeated team, to the wire in a 34-33 loss. It was the only game in which Kyler Murray has thrown two interceptions. Weeks later, they played down and allowed a winless Detroit to hang around until the final moment, and then they did the same with Carolina in Week 6. The Vikings have done good things with terrific quarterback play from Kirk Cousins, but until they prove themselves in the five-game stretch they have coming out of the bye, it’s difficult to consider them a sure thing. — Courtney Cronin



Stephania Bell examines the timeline of Christian McCaffrey’s hamstring injury and when he’ll be eligible to return.

Previous ranking: 12

Week 1 confidence rating: 5.1
How it’s going now: 5.0

Injuries are an easy excuse for when things go bad, but they really are a factor in Carolina going from 3-0 to 3-3. Statistics show how drastically the loss of running back Christian McCaffrey has impacted quarterback Sam Darnold and the offense. But equally as big to the defense was losing cornerback Jaycee Horn and linebacker Shaq Thompson. They are two first-round picks who play a big role and aren’t easily replaceable. The sack and pressure numbers have suffered greatly without them. Without the three players mentioned here, the confidence rating should be lower than I have it. — David Newton

Previous ranking: 18

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.5
How it’s going now: 5.8

The 49ers have been in every game they’ve played and could be 5-0, just as they could be 0-5. But they’re 2-3 and riding a three-game losing streak, all against teams considered preseason playoff contenders. The hardest part about trusting the Niners right now is they don’t yet seem to have forged an identity that inspires much confidence. There are reasons for hope, but there are even more questions that need answers to come back in the affirmative for this season to get back on track. — Nick Wagoner

Previous ranking: 16

Week 1 confidence rating: 2.0
How it’s going now: 4.8

The Bears are a better team than they showed in Week 1 versus the Rams, but this past Sunday’s loss to the visiting Packers reinforced the fact that Chicago struggles to beat quality opponents. My 4.8 rating might seem a tad harsh, but the Bears (3-3) are at Tampa Bay (5-1) next week. Matt Nagy’s team could be back to below .500 in the blink of an eye. The rating accurately reflects that. — Jeff Dickerson

Previous ranking: 15

Week 1 confidence rating: 7.8
How it’s going now: 5.5

During the season’s first three games, the Broncos’ offense looked like it knew what it wanted to be: more inclined to go big on personnel with a quality mix of physical play and a downfield passing game. Over the past three games? Not so much. The turnovers are up, and the results are down. And defensively, a team that has immense cover-rush potential hasn’t shown it often enough in a three-game losing streak, especially against a Raiders offense that came into Sunday’s contest having seen its head coach and playcaller resign just days earlier. — Jeff Legwold

Previous ranking: 19

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.5
How it’s going now: 5.0

Mac Jones‘ strong start had things looking up even in a season-opening loss. And then the up-and-down play from defense and special teams — along with the offensive line and several skill-position players — led to things plummeting, as the Patriots have been learning how not to beat themselves with mistakes. Such volatility also has been reflected on the sideline with some debatable coaching decisions. — Mike Reiss

Previous ranking: 25

Week 1 confidence rating: 5.8
How it’s going now: 4.8

The uncertainty surrounding the health of key players such as Carson Wentz, T.Y. Hilton, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith combined with not having a substantial victory over a playoff-caliber team — Miami and Houston are a combined 2-10 this season — caused the rating to drop. But Indianapolis is starting to get healthy, and it’ll have an opportunity to rack up significant victories in the next two games against San Francisco and Tennessee. — Mike Wells

Previous ranking: 20

Week 1 confidence rating: 8.7
How it’s going now: 5.0

That huge confidence swing is the kind of thing that happens when a team drops four of five games and loses its starting quarterback to an injury. The way the Seahawks played Sunday in rallying from a 14-0 deficit to take the Steelers to overtime shows they can at least be competitive while Geno Smith starts for Russell Wilson. But they’re hanging by a thread at 2-4, which puts them four games back in the tough NFC West. They need Wilson to come back as soon as he is eligible, in Week 10, and they need to win the next two games — both at home — to have any chance at climbing out of this hole. — Brady Henderson



Louis Riddick details what needs to happen for Jalen Hurts to be the long-term answer as the Eagles’ quarterback.

Previous ranking: 24

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.3
How it’s going now: 3.9

A 32-6 thrashing of the Falcons in the opener shot the confidence meter to places unexpected, but the Eagles have since crashed back to reality. Shaky playcalling, injuries along the offensive front and inconsistent play from quarterback Jalen Hurts have limited the offense, while the defense has had wild fluctuations in its performance. The good news for Philadelphia is that it is past the most difficult part of its schedule. There are wins to be had against the likes of the Giants, Jets, Lions and Washington. The confidence meter should tick up, even if it never reaches its Week 1 post again. — Tim McManus

Previous ranking: 22

Week 1 confidence rating: 5.0
How it’s going now: 3.7

Something was off about the defense in the opener that led to a lower-than-expected confidence rating — plus quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick got hurt. It hasn’t improved, as the defense ranks last in points allowed and 31st in yards — a far cry from fourth in points and second in yards in 2020. Some of it is about the schedule, but certainly not all. And while Taylor Heinicke is a nice story, Washington needs more firepower, and Heinicke is always in a position where he must carry the day, which leads to turnovers and mistakes. — John Keim

Previous ranking: 26

Week 1 confidence rating: 4.2
How it’s going now: 5.0

There’s a little more confidence now than in Week 1, because there were so many unknowns heading into the season — and then there was the meltdown that was Week 1. But the Falcons have shown signs of improvement and correcting mistakes from one week to the next. And this season, as much as it might be dictated by wins and losses, is about building and growth for setting up long-term, sustained success. That seems like it’s starting to happen. — Michael Rothstein

Previous ranking: 27

Week 1 confidence rating: 6.5
How it’s going now: 2.0

After winning 10 games in 2020, it felt like the Dolphins were ready to take that next step under coach Brian Flores in 2021. So far, that has not been the case. Miami ranks near the bottom of the league in scoring offense (29th) and scoring defense (29th), it’s dead last in third-down defense and it just fell to the Jaguars to cap off a five-game losing streak. Six games into the season, there’s little about the Dolphins’ play that inspires confidence, and without their first-round pick in 2022, there isn’t even a silver lining to losing games. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Previous ranking: 29

Week 1 confidence rating: 3.5
How it’s going now: 3.0

The Jets are the youngest team in the league, and they’re playing like it, especially on offense. The defense is overachieving, thanks to an underrated front four, but that is offset by an offense that can’t get out of its own way. You knew the offense would have growing pains, especially with a rookie quarterback (Zach Wilson), but to have no points in the first quarter of games? Even the biggest pessimists couldn’t have imagined that. Essentially, the Jets are playing from behind every week, putting a tremendous strain on Wilson. They have to change the formula or else they’re looking at 3-14 or 4-13. — Rich Cimini

Previous ranking: 32

Week 1 confidence rating: 2.5
How it’s going now: 3.0

Trevor Lawrence‘s marked improvement over the course of the first six weeks has the Jaguars’ arrow pointing slightly up. Lawrence’s Total QBR and completion rate jumped significantly from Weeks 1 to 3 (22.4, 54.2%) to Weeks 4 to 6 (56.4, 66.3%), and his turnovers dropped from nine to two. The Jaguars had a chance to beat Cincinnati on the road too. There are still big issues on defense, but Lawrence’s progress and the increased use of running back James Robinson create some optimism. — Mike DiRocco

Previous ranking: 28

Week 1 confidence rating: 3.5
How it’s going now: 1.0

After a season-opening victory over the Jaguars, the confidence rating started relatively OK as compared to what was expected. Since then, the Texans have lost five straight games — and only two were even close. They have not won on the road, and they dropped the past two away games by a combined score of 71-3. Houston lost quarterback Tyrod Taylor to a left hamstring injury in Week 2, and his replacement — 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills — has struggled in his place. David Culley said the Texans are taking it week to week with Taylor, but the coach isn’t sure when the veteran will return. Until that happens, it’s hard to see the Texans improving on offense. — Sarah Barshop

Previous ranking: 30

Week 1 confidence rating: 4.2
How it’s going now: 1.8

The Giants weren’t great at the start, and it’s even worse now. That’s what happens when you drop five of six games, you have one of the league’s worst defenses (ranked 27th) and your offense is devastated by injuries. Seriously, just about the only positive to take from the early part of the season is the play of Daniel Jones — welp, until Sunday against the Rams, against whom he had four turnovers in a 38-11 loss. — Jordan Raanan

Previous ranking: 31

Week 1 confidence rating: 4.5
How it’s going now: 2.5

I hate to be a prisoner of the moment, but the latest game against the Cincinnati Bengals was the Lions’ worst performance of the season. My confidence has drastically decreased in this team throughout these six weeks, but a rash of injuries also is hurting this bunch. You can’t help but think of Detroit’s last 0-6 start — during the notorious 2008 season when the team finished 0-16 — and wonder when will this team get a victory. I love the passion displayed by Lions coach Dan Campbell, but the players have to match that energy on the field. — Eric Woodyard

Source link

Continue Reading