The 32 things we learned from Week 10 of the 2019 NFL season:
1. Granted, it was a memorable Saturday in college football — knock on wood if you’re with me, LSU and Minnesota fans — but you still can’t beat “Any Given Sunday” (or Thursday … or Monday) in the NFL. The Raiders, Browns, Titans and Buccaneers all flipped the script with game-winning points inside the final two minutes. The Dolphins, Packers and Bears each staged defensive stands with their respective opponents driving for potential go-ahead scores at the end of regulation. The one-win Falcons drilled the one-loss Saints … in New Orleans.
1a. For all you Alabama truthers — the ones who have maintained for years that the Crimson Tide could beat the NFL’s worst teams — enough already. Shoulda-been TDs that get dropped, horrible special teams play and unsightly turnovers won’t beat LSU, much less the (not Bayou) Bengals.
1b. Maybe Miami brass was watching Tua Tagovailoa and Co. and weren’t impressed by what they saw, either … because there was certainly no tanking on Sunday as the Dolphins, who initially appeared headed for one of the worst seasons in the league’s 100 seasons, won their second in a row after an 0-7 start.
1c. Meanwhile, with the Jets and Falcons also notching win No. 2, Cincinnati’s “competition” for the top pick of the 2020 draft — LSU’s Joe Burrow looked pretty sweet throwing haymakers at ‘Bama — is quickly vanishing. Only the idle Redskins (1-8) remain within striking distance.
2. The Falcons entered Sunday with a league-low seven sacks. Naturally, they turfed Saints QB Drew Brees six times.
3. Detroit’s Jeff Driskel, Cincinnati’s Ryan Finley — this was never your fault, Andy Dalton — and Indianapolis’ Brian Hoyer all made their first starts under center in 2019 on Sunday. Each lost.
3a. Fifty-one quarterbacks have now started league-wide this season.
3b. The NFC West is the only division to have its four Week 1 QBs make every start.
3c. Hoyer, who played well in relief of Jacoby Brissett last week, has lost his past 10 starts, encompassing stints with the Colts, Patriots (zero starts), 49ers and Bears.
4. Great day for Pittsburgh fans, who got to see one of the city’s favorite sons, Rams star Aaron Donald, play professionally at Heinz Field for the first time. Donald — his name adorns the Steelers’ training complex … well, at least the half of the building occupied by Pitt football (now called the “Aaron Donald Football Performance Center”) — had a nice day, dumping Steelers QB Mason Rudolph for a safety among his pair of TFLs.
4a. Yet the Steelers improved to 5-4 — all those wins coming after QB Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury — thanks largely to Minkah Fitzpatrick. The new Pittsburgh safety not only looks like a very shrewd acquisition but is also fast becoming a defensive player of the year candidate after returning a fumble 43 yards for a score against the Rams before his game-sealing interception with 18 seconds to go.
4b. If Fitzpatrick can blossom into a star with Pittsburgh, would Josh Rosen be 8-0 had he been traded to Cincinnati? Not to shade the Dolphins’ talent evaluators, but … well, maybe we are shading those guys. Oops.
5. Rams coach Sean McVay suffered his first loss in the Eastern time zone after notching wins in his first six trips east.
6. That Marcus Peters deal is also working out pretty well … for Baltimore. The corner has two pick-sixes in three games with the Ravens and is the first player since 2014 to take three INTs to the house in one season.
7. If the season ended today — reminder: it doesn’t — the Saints (7-2) would no longer own a first-round bye after the Packers (8-2) moved ahead of them. Meanwhile, those Pittsburgh fans would be celebrating a wild-card berth following their team’s win and Indianapolis’ defeat.
8. There can only be a maximum of two running backs when the NFL’s all-pro team is selected after the regular season. Christian McCaffrey seems like a lock as he continues racking up yards (141 more in Sunday’s loss) at a dizzying pace. But he was outplayed Sunday by the Packers’ Aaron Jones, who scored three times, tying “Run CMC” for the league’s TD lead at 14.
8a. And lest we forget, the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook — he’s the only player to top 100 yards from scrimmage in eight games this season — is also squarely a part of the above conversation.
9. What kind of world are we living in when the Cowboys wear blue road jerseys at home? Thanksgiving … maybe. Sunday night? Show some respect for tradition, Hot Boyz … you see what happens when you don’t.
10. Let’s not consider the MVP to Seattle’s Russell Wilson a fait accompli. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has fully inserted himself into the debate, accounting for four TDs for the league’s top-scoring offense in Sunday’s 49-13 win at Cincinnati.
10a. Jackson also posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating (15-for-17, 223 yards 3 TDs) for the second time this season, making him only the second player (Roethlisberger, 2007) to do it twice in one year.
10b. Jackson also posted 65 rushing yards, including a 47-yard TD run. He’s now on pace for 1,248 yards on the ground, a figure that would shatter Michael Vick’s single-season record for a quarterback (1,039).
11. If you’d known beforehand that reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes would throw for 446 yards and three scores following his two-game absence with a knee injury, you likely would have thought the Chiefs would have the AFC West nearly wrapped up and he’d be back on the MVP short list. Alas, they’ve lost four of six and sit only a half-game game head of the Raiders for first place.
12. Did you notice Baltimore’s triple-Heisman backfield? Jackson (2016 winner) ran the option and pitched to backup QB Robert Griffin III (2011 winner) — rather than 2009 winner Mark Ingram — for a 9-yard gain.
13. In other Heisman Trophy-related news … Jameis > Kyler.
13a. However Kyler Murray set a nice record, running his streak of passes without an interception to 211 — most ever by a rookie — until the Tampa defense snapped it.
14. Jets, champions of New York for the sixth time after winning the 14th regular-season matchup with the Giants 34-27.
15. Rushing yards were awfully hard to come by in the Big Apple Bowl, the Jets’ Le’Veon Bell “leading” the way with 34 (on 18 carries … oof).
15a. Jets QB Sam Darnold’s 24-yard run was the longest of the day.
15b. And poor Saquon Barkley, the Giants star limited to a career-worst 1 yard on the ground despite 13 carries … meaning he averaged fewer than 3 inches per.
16. New Dolphins RB1 Kalen Ballage — he’s averaging 2.1 yards per rush this season — looked explosive by comparison, needing 20 carries to get 43 yards.
17. At least Barkley’s dad, a lifelong Jets fan, had a good day.
17a. No word on the feelings of George Adams, a first-round pick of the Giants in 1985 and father of Jets star Jamal Adams — who strip-sacked QB Daniel Jones and returned the rock 25 yards to pay dirt.
18. Darnold and Jones entered Sunday having combined for 26 turnovers this season, but only Jones gave it up (once) in Week 10 — his ninth lost fumble.
19. Former Jets (and current Giants) DL Leonard Williams finished with three tackles and four hits on Darnold in his first game against his ex-mates. Now Williams gets to embark on his second bye of the season (the Jets had theirs in Week 4).
20. RB Derrick Henry should be a fascinating free agent study this offseason — assuming the Titans don’t tag or extend him. What do you pay a one-dimensional player who tends to have inconsistent production (the bulk of his yards seemingly concentrated into a few games)? Conversely, wouldn’t you pay a guy — Henry churned out 188 yards and two TDs on the ground in Sunday’s upset of Kansas City — on pace for 1,300-plus rushing yards with 22 TDs since 2018?
21. Welp, in case you thought the Browns should’ve drafted Josh Allen instead of Baker Mayfield …
21a. And c’mon, Buffalo. The Bills and their fans don’t like hearing a team that’s 6-3 might be fraudulent, but outcomes like Sunday’s loss to the reeling Browns fuel the notion that this team might effectively serve as another first-round bye for whichever division winner draws it in the wild-card round … assuming, of course, the Bills’ Charmin-soft schedule still gets them to 10-ish wins.
22. Cleveland RB Kareem Hunt played for the first time since the Chiefs cut him last season and his subsequent eight-game suspension by the NFL. He did give the victorious Browns a boost on the field, producing 74 yards from scrimmage courtesy of 11 touches.
23. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky threw three TD passes after totaling two in his previous four games. Gonna watch some TV this week, Mitch? I mean Mitchell? Or is it Mitch? Sounds like good fodder for a cable show near you …
24. A toast to Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who’d likely be an MVP candidate with a better team. But let’s really take a minute to admire his toughness, famously captured by NFL Films during his rookie year against Cleveland, when Stafford led a successful comeback while playing with a separated shoulder. After missing 19 of his first 32 NFL games, Stafford had started 136 in a row (the sixth-longest streak ever for a quarterback and second only to Philip Rivers among active passers) until a back injury forced him to the sideline this week.
25. The Cardinals hadn’t lost a fumble all season until David Johnson coughed one up Sunday.
26. In the NFL’s 100th season, we saw the old school rival Chargers and Raiders play for the final time in front of Oakland’s Black Hole. Sad. Hopefully the Las Vegas Raiders and Old England Chargers (or not) will give the league some wonderful memories over the next century.
27. None of the Bolts’ six losses have come by more than seven points, their average margin of defeat just 4.8 points.
28. None of the Colts’ nine games have been decided by more than seven points, their average margin in all contests just 4.3 points following Sunday’s 16-12 setback to the “surging” Dolphins.
29. Adam Vinatieri’s field-goal rate (73.7%) > Adam Vinatieri’s PAT rate (70%).
30. The NFL now rivals Major League Baseball for producing arcane stats on, uh, Any Given Sunday (reference bullet point No. 1). But let’s give some love to Saints WR Michael Thomas, who reached 400 career receptions in his 56th game — meaning he achieved the milestone in five fewer games than any other player. Now at 407 catches, he also has the most ever in a player’s first four seasons — and is likely to add another 75 or so before this one is over if he remains healthy.
30a. Thomas now has 86 grabs in 2019, which has him tracking toward 153 over 16 games. Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison owns the single-season record with 143 (2002).
30b. Thomas also joined Randy Moss, A.J. Green and Mike Evans as the third player to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons.
31. If you ran Major League Soccer, would you pit your championship game against the NFL on a Sunday afternoon? Fair question. Just asking.
32. Hey, (Blake) @BortlesFacts, your boy has never thrown an incomplete pass for the Rams! Never!
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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