Here are my three biggest questions that need answering after week 6 in the National Football League.
1. Why did Baker Mayfield play?
Throughout the week leading up to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, former number one overall pick Baker Mayfield showed up on the injury report with a rib problem, and elicited concern over whether he would play or hand the reigns over to backup Case Keenum.
After watching the first two drives of the contest it was clear that the concern shown was warranted. Every time Mayfield dropped back to pass he looked void of any feel in the pocket and very clearly concerned about protecting himself from further injury. In a game where it was always going to be hard to run the ball with any consistency without Nick Chubb against perhaps the best front seven in the league, trotting out a quarterback who couldn’t push the ball down the field effectively was a mistake.
From the player’s standpoint, I feel bad for Baker. This is the first time in a long time since a game against the Steelers was as meaningful for the Browns as it was, and of course Baker is going to want to play. That is what leaders want to do; go out there and compete.
In my estimation Kevin Stefanski needed to be able to see the forest for the trees and sit Baker another week. I understand the culture in football of playing through nicks and bruises, but the plug needs to be pulled when your man can’t run your offensive game plan to it’s full capability. The Browns even had the opportunity to learn from the 49ers a week ago when they got steamrolled by the Miami Dolphins and brought injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back a week too soon. I get that the injuries and players and situations aren’t equal, but the lesson remains the same….let your player get back to full capacity and health, even if it means extending their absence a week, especially when they are the potential future of your franchise (which Jimmy and Baker are both in the conversation for being).
Stefanski probably knew that he made the wrong the decision on who to start when Case Keenum finally came into the game and didn’t look bad. If Baker is still unhealthy during preparation this week and Keenum gives the Browns a better chance against the Bengals, then Stefanski needs to protect his quarterback and his team by starting Keenum. Another week of Baker looking tepid and scared to throw the ball aggressively because of fear that he will take a hit will not do him any good. Make sure he is good to go before you send him back out there, because a lack of production from the quarterback in Cleveland is a bad thing for more than just Baker Mayfield.
2. Should we be worried about the Green Bay Packers?
The answer, to me, is undoubtedly “yes”.
My question in response is “have we forgotten that the Packers traded up in this year’s draft to nab Jordan Love in the first round and didn’t draft a wide receiver to help Aaron Rodgers”?
I can find a ton of parallels with the 38–10 drumming at the hand of the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and with the two losses against the 49ers last season from the standpoint that the Packers looked small, uncompetitive and unmotivated.
In the first contest between San Francisco and Green Bay in 2019 the 49ers rushed the ball 22 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns, and in the conference championship game they toted the rock 42 times for 285 yards and four touchdowns. Utter domination up front was a certainty in both matchups for the Niners, and the same sort of feeling was present when the Pack faced off against the Bucs on Sunday. Tampa Bay ran the ball 35 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns, the main function of which was to help keep the pressure off of Tom Brady. The strategy worked and the Packers never looked like making a stop on defense.
Even more disconcerting for Green Bay is the fact that the two best Tampa weapons Chris Godwin and Mike Evans were both far from 100% health wise. If they were out there putting pressure on the Packers secondary at full strength the score could’ve been even worse. When the Packers don’t have a matchup advantage against their opponents they basically have to play a clean game and not turn the ball over or else they are going to lose by more than a score. Aaron Rodgers I think to a certain extent has been the bandaid over the axe wound that is another below average roster with really only a couple top tier difference makers.
Which brings me to the question that I think desperately needs asking that I stated earlier.
Why are we not still talking about the fact that the Green Bay Packers traded up in the first round to select a project in the form of Jordan Love, and even worse did not select a receiver or a difference maker in the run game on the defensive line? Other than some of the young skill players getting a year more experienced in the offensive system and a year more confident, the Packers wasted another prime year of Aaron Rodgers by not getting better.
Maybe the Packers are playing 4D chess and are going to use Jordan Love and other assets to grab an established wide receiver via trade at the deadline instead of drafting one. Wouldn’t it be so perfect to see Julio Jones go to Green Bay and the Falcons take on Jordan Love as a sort of succession plan to Matt Ryan after next year’s season when they can offload him and not get slammed money wise, for instance. There are a few other teams with wide receiver talent that could maybe think about offloading pieces and take on Jordan Love because of doubts at quarterback. If the Cleveland Browns all of a sudden forget how to win football games and Odell Beckham Jr. and his drama become too much and Baker Mayfield continues to present doubts over whether he is the franchise, then would a trade between the Packers and Browns for OBJ and Jordan Love be an unrealistic move? With all of that being said, I doubt that is the case, and I am sure the Packers are fine being the fourth or fifth best team in the NFC perenially. That will continue to be the case unless they get another weapon or two that can help them strike fear into opponent defenses, or someone up front who can stop the opposition run game with authority.
3. Why are we doubting the Kansas City Chiefs?
I get that they didn’t look exemplary against the Texans, Chargers, Patriots and Raiders. I get that there were sloppy aspects to each performance. But in the games that truly mattered against the Ravens and Bills the Chiefs looked worthy of being defending Super Bowl Champions.
The fact that they are Super Bowl champions affords them the luxury of being able to win games sloppily and unconvincingly because you know when the lights shine the brightest you get the best version of the Chiefs. We all saw exactly that early in the evening on Monday, when the Chiefs dismantled the Bills in such a systematic way that it showed Buffalo the difference between being the fourth best team in the AFC and being the apex predator of the conference.
The Chiefs were as mature in the run game against the Bills as I have seen them be since Mahomes took over under center in Kansas City. It was clear on film that the Bills really had no chance of stopping the run, and Andy Reid obliged them by running the ball a record 46 times for 245 yards and one touchdown. If the Chiefs continue to just take what defenses give them and not feel like they have to hit a home run every time they throw it, they are going to be seriously tough to handle in postseason football.
Not to mention they never get pushed around by anyone up front, and they have the most talented player in the league at quarterback, who also happens to be the most calm under pressure that there is in the sport. It wouldn’t shock me if the Chiefs only play several terrific games all regular season because they know that they can turn it on when they need to in the playoffs. We shouldn't conflate that trend with them not being capable of winning back to back Super Bowls. I think right now inside that building they are telling themselves they really like their chances to do so.
Stay tuned later in the week for a ‘Week 7 Preview and Picks’ post, right here on my profile! I hope you enjoy.