After a relatively mundane Week 6, Week 7 of the NFL, on paper, looked to be more of the same. In reality, it provided a handful of exciting games.
The week kicked off Thursday night with a terribly bad yet exhilarating-to-watch NFC East battle between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz continued to take poor care of the football. The highlight of the night was Daniel Jones breaking free for an 80-plus yard touchdown run until, in true NFC East fashion, he was gobbled up by the turf monster. Despite leading for most of the game, a late drop by Evan Engram that would have all but sealed a win for the Giants gave possession back to the Eagles. Carson Wentz manufactured a game-winning drive and dropped an absolute dime to Boston Scott for the game-winner. The Eagles now sit atop the NFC East with a 2-4-1 record. Looking forward, the Birds have a Sunday night battle with the Dallas Cowboys, who had an abysmal performance against the Washington Football Team this week, losing in rout 25-3.
A handful of teams who have struggled out of the gate this season put up a fight against perennial playoff contenders. After getting trounced by the Steelers in Week 6, the Browns were boosted by an electric performance from Baker Mayfield. Despite this, they found themselves in a high-scoring battle with the one-win Cincinnati Bengals. Baker found Donovan Peoples-Jones in the corner of the endzone with under 20 seconds left to seal Cleveland’s victory. It was not all good for Cleveland though, they lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the season with a torn ACL.
The Buffalo Bills, led by MVP candidate Josh Allen staved off an early scare from the winless New York Jets to win 18-10. This game, however, leaves many wondering if the Bills are genuine contenders in the AFC.
Carolina is in the middle of a rebuild. With star running back Christian McCaffrey missing his fifth straight game it looked like the Saints would walk all over the Panthers. The former Saint Teddy Bridgewater kept his Panthers in it until the end when Joey Slye attempted an NFL record 65-yard field goal to tie the game that came inches short, giving the Saints a 24-27 victory.
A handful of games were blowouts by teams far superior to their opponents. Tom Brady and the Bucs easily beat the Raiders; Aaron Rodgers and the Packers continued their hot run of form against the lowly Houston Texans; Rookie Justin Hebert secured another win against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars; The Patriots benched Cam Newton during their 33-6 defeat at the hands of Jimmy G and the 49ers, who jumped back above the .500 mark; Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a comfortable divisional victory over the Denver Broncos; On Monday night, the Rams defense dominated the Bears, and both teams left SoFi Stadium 5-2.
On paper, the best matchup going into the week was the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers against the undefeated Tennessee Titans. This game was supposed to occur in Week 4, but after a COVID outbreak at the Tennessee camp, the game was played in Week 7. Nonetheless, the game lived up to the hype. The Steelers came out of the gates quickly, jumped out to an early lead, and were up 17 at halftime. An early second-half field goal extended the Pittsburgh advantage to 20 points. In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ long and storied history, they have never lost a game when leading by 20 points. Tennessee almost changed that. With 14 seconds left, the Titans found themselves down three. After a long drive, Ryan Tannehill led the team into field goal range. Head Coach Mike Vrabel trotted out veteran Stephen Gostkowski for a 45-yard attempt that missed wide to the right, and the Steelers found themselves 6-0, much to the shock of Ben Roethlisberger.
Detroit also visited Atlanta. Though this game does not sound like a contest many would tune into, it turned out to have the best ending out of any game this weekend. After a back-and-forth first half, Matt Prater hit a 49-yard field goal to put the Lions up 16-14 with a little bit over three minutes left in the game. Atlanta stormed down the field and found themselves with a first and goal at the ten-yard line. Falcons running back Todd Gurley, who recovered his own fumble on the previous play, took the handoff and recognized the Lions were trying to let him score. However, he noticed this too late and tried to fall short of the goal line but ended up just slightly crossing the plane. After a successful 2-point attempt, the Lions found themselves down six, with just over a minute left and no timeouts. Two consecutive plays over 20 yards put the Lions at the Falcons 11-yard line. After hurrying up and spiking the ball, the Lions stopped the clock with just three seconds left. It all came down to one play. Matt Stafford rolled out of the pocket and threw a dart to T.J. Hockensonfor the score and tied it. Since the Falcons successfully completed a 2-point conversion, the Lions needed the extra point to win. Matt Prater, who already missed a field goal earlier in the fourth quarter, split the uprights and the Atlanta Falcons found yet another heartbreaking way to lose.
Maybe the most exciting game of the weekend was Sunday night. Future league MVP Russell Wilson faced off with former number one pick Kyler Murray. For people who love high octane and exciting plays, this was the game for them. At halftime, the score was 27-17, with the Seahawks holding the edge. There was just one punt in the first half and already multiple turnovers. No drive lasted longer than six minutes throughout the entire game – something rarely, if ever, seen in this high-scoring of a contest. The Seahawks scored to go up 34-24 with just under seven minutes to go. The Cardinals quick-strike offense scored a touchdown and, after a Seattle punt, the ball was in Kyler Murray’s hand, down three with less than a minute to go. Murray led a beautiful drive and spiked the ball at the Seattle 26 with three seconds remaining. Kicker Zane Gonzales hit the field goal to send the game to overtime. Seattle got the ball first and punted – meaning all Arizona needed was a field goal to win. Murray drove them down again into field goal range.
After a negative play on first down with over three minutes left, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury decided it was time to end the game. This time, however, Zane Gonzalez missed the 41-yard field goal. You’re probably asking yourself, “wasn’t it second down when they kicked?” and “wasn’t there still a lot of time left in the game?” The answer to both questions is an emphatic yes. MVP front runner Russell Wilson was given a chance to put together a game-winning drive. After driving his team down the field, Russell Wilson showed everybody that he is in fact human. Russ was picked off by Isaiah Simmons with a minute left. With the ball near midfield with under a minute to go, Kyler Murray had one final chance to win the game. This time Kingsbury decided to kick the potential game-winner on fourth down. Gonzalez trotted out with an opportunity to redeem his previous miss. From 48 yards out, Gonzalez gave the Cardinals the 37-34 win and handed Seattle their first loss of the season.
Week 8 is shaping up to be a solid slate of games. Highlighted by the Steelers facing off against the Ravens with AFC North supremacy at stake. Another divisional matchup to keep an eye on is the 49ers and Seahawks, and despite being early in the season, both of these games have massive playoff implications.