After another excellent NFL Sunday, with big underdogs winning, good teams continuing their hot streaks and some bad teams separating themselves even further, I assess whose stock has moved up and down after Week 9.
The Bears’ new coaching staff deciding to tailor the offense to the strengths of Justin Fields has been a positive development for both Chicago and the second-year signal-caller. During an 11-day break between an embarrassing offensive performance in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and a contest with the New England Patriots earlier in the season, the Bears overhauled their offense. They put Fields on the move, using his ability to move in space and throw on the run to create explosive plays.
The Bears opted for easier pass concepts that force the ball out more quickly, and when a throw isn’t there, Fields is taking off down the field for big gains. It’s changed the trajectory of this young quarterback’s career.
In the first six games of the season, Fields completed only 54.7% of his measly 116 pass attempts. In the past three games, Fields has completed 65% of his 74 pass attempts for 453 yards. His adjusted air yards per attempt is up well over a yard in these last three weeks, as well. Fields has rushed for 320 yards over the last three weeks, including a marvelous 61-yard touchdown scramble on Sunday as part of his 178 rushing yards, which are the most in the regular season by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era. The three-week total is more than the first six games of his rushing output.
Now that the Bears have Fields playing with more confidence, they can add more concepts to the offense. They can get more creative in using Fields’ ability to accurately throw on the run. They can design more run-pass concepts that put the defense in a bind. These concepts also help the offensive line as they need to block for less time and/or sell a run. An offensive line that’s properly supported and playing with fewer errors will make Fields even more comfortable in the pocket. The stock arrow is pointing straight up for Fields to reach his full potential
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense
Barely. Their stock is just a tick up after hitting rock bottom during Sunday’s win against the Los Angeles Rams. The Bucs offense has mostly looked broken, and it starts with the play caller. For starters, they run the ball way too much for a team that stinks at rushing the ball.
Either the Bucs do not self-scout and/or ignore their data for rushing success rates for certain concepts. They continue to call run plays that do not work in this offense. The Bucs had a nine-play drive in the second quarter where they went run, run, pass three straight times until a field goal attempt. There’s no creativity at all. It’s predictable and boring.
Then, just when it seems like they’ve got something going, someone drops a pass. Or Tom Brady misses a throw. Or there’s a holding penalty called. However, when the Bucs needed it the most, the offense came alive. After only scoring nine points with 263 yards through 59 minutes, the Bucs needed just six plays to go 60 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
After listening to Brady (who reached 100,000 career passing yards in the comeback win) speak at the podium following the win, you can feel a weight has been lifted. Tampa Bay finally had some positive offensive results, and it feels like this could be the turning point in the season.
The Seahawks are a legitimate division-winning squad this season. After trading away Russell Wilson and announcing Geno Smith as the starting quarterback for this season, many analysts believed the Seahawks were on their way to a top-three pick. The opposite has happened as Seattle is 6-3 with a 1.5-game lead in the NFC West.
Seattle is doing it with a reinvigorated Smith, who is playing like one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL this season. He’s completing 72.7% of passes with a passer rating of 107. The Seahawks have quietly had the best draft class in recent years in 2022, as evidenced by both rookie tackles blocking for a rookie running back in Kenneth Walker III, who is the leader for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Walker hammered out another 109 yards and two touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
‘We kept fighting ‘- Geno Smith on how the Seahawks kept fighting to secure the win against the Cardinals
Pam Oliver interviews Geno Smith after the intense match up between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals.
The Seahawks defense started the season near the bottom of the NFL but has picked up steam in the last month. This is typical for a Pete Carroll unit. Like the offense, the defense is boosted by rookie cornerbacks playing so well. The Seahawks look like a complete team. They play like one. They play with confidence. They are a playoff team.
The Bills appeared to be on cruise control. They are the rightful favorites to win the Super Bowl and have a road win against the Kansas City Chiefs, plus multiple blowout victories this season.
They entered Sunday’s contest against the New York Jets as 10.5-point road favorites. Then the Bills proceeded to lose, 20-17. It’s fair to credit the Jets defense — which is slowly becoming one of the better units in the NFL — for limiting the electric Josh Allen on Sunday.
It was Allen’s worst game of the season, with the MVP contender reverting back to his old self for two horrendous interceptions that had nothing to do with the defense. Just bad throws.
The defeat was compounded since now Buffalo lost a game on the Chiefs (they still own the tiebreaker) and the Miami Dolphins, who they’ve already lost a game to, in the AFC playoff race. When you’re battling for the No. 1 seed, it’s hard to have clunkers and end up with a first-round bye. The Bills are still my favorite to win the Super Bowl, but this setback could hurt their chances at a bye.
It’s now a fair time to ask — is Rodgers washed up? He’s just not playing well. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. You can blame the play calling, not getting enough touches for Aaron Jones, offensive line injuries, lack of depth at receiver… but Rodgers is just not playing well.
There are opportunities for plays to be made, and when as those opportunities are becoming rarer by the week, Rodgers has to take advantage. In Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, he underthrew his left tackle on a trick play from the two-yard line that ended in an interception. He threw an off-target pass off a Lions’ helmet for an interception. He then severely underthrew a touchdown that would have tied the game later in the game. At one point, he threw a fade when the wide receiver ran a slant.
Aaron Rodgers’ and Packers offense frustrated in 15-9 loss to Lions
The Detroit Lions defense forced Aaron Rodgers to throw three interceptions, including two in the red zone.
No matter how much we believe Rodgers and the Packers offense can flip a switch to ignite the offense as we’ve seen for so many years now, I think that switch is permanently off for the rest of 2022. This is who the Packers are.
Josh McDaniels, Raiders head coach
Between 1960 and 2021, the Las Vegas Raiders franchise lost five games after being ahead by 17 points or more. This season, the Raiders have lost three such games after blowing a 17-0 advantage on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Raiders are now 2-6, with wins over the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
McDaniels was brought to the desert to maximize the potential of Derek Carr. The Raiders traded for All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams to help Carr become more explosive. Before Adams’ 10-reception game on Sunday, he’d combined for only 17 catches over his last six games. That’s not getting it done.
Aditionally, the Raiders offensive line doesn’t help the offense. They can’t block well enough to overcome the play-calling. And when you hire a coach who’s in charge of a unit (offense or defense), and that unit is drastically underperforming, the status of that coach will be questioned.
At this rate, it feels unlikely that McDaniels will get a second season in Vegas.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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