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Recap of first half of NFL regular season

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

Story by TJ Wall, sports editor

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We are about half-way through the 2018 NFL regular season now and there has definitely been a whole lot of action to talk about. Unless you have been sitting under a rock for eight weeks, you probably already have heard about most of the recent NFL news and transactions. However, it is difficult for the average fan to keep up with every little thing that happens during the season. Now you could just go to the official NFL website and look through eight weeks of news articles, but the smarter thing to do would be to continue reading below to sift through all of the nonsense and get to the important details.

Headlines:

  • Drew Brees Breaks All-Time NFL Passing Record: In week three during a game against Atlanta, Drew Brees cemented his name in the record books yet again. Brees became the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards after eclipsing Peyton Manning’s previous record of 71,940 yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tre’Quan Smith during the second quarter of Monday night’s 43-19 win over Washington. Coming into the game, Brees only needed 201 yards to break the record and by halftime, he had thrown for 250 yards. Brees is on track to break other records as well such as Peyton Manning’s 539 career touchdowns.
  • Le’Veon Bell Contract Holdout: Le’Veon Bell has been unsatisfied with the way the Steelers’ organization is handling his contract extension. After the Rams signed Todd Gurley to a four-year extension worth $60M with $45M guaranteed, Bell felt as if he deserved a similar contract because in his mind, he is as good or better than Gurley. Bell has sat out so far this season and there were rumors that the Steelers would trade him, especially after a promising start from their second-year running back from the University of Pittsburgh, James Conner. Now that the trade deadline has passed, we know that Bell will not be traded. However, his future in Pittsburgh seems grim.
  • Frank Gore Becomes 4th All-TIme In Rushing Yards: In the third quarter of the Dolphins’ win over the Jets, Frank Gore passed Curtis Martin for fourth-most rushing yards all-time with 14,103. Gore now sits behind Emmitt Smith (18,355), the late Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269), all of which are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • Adam Thielen Ties Record: During week 8 Thielen tied Calvin “Megatron” Johnson for the most consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards. Johnson and Thielen now hold the current record of eight consecutive games and Thielen has a chance to make that nine games when the Vikings face the Lions on Sunday. Thielen also currently leads the league with 925 receiving yards.
  • Bills DB Vontae Davis Retires at Halftime: There’s not much to say here except that while the Bills were struggling against the Chargers, Vontae Davis decided that he was no longer physically fit to stay on the field resulting in him retiring at halftime. Some of his teammates, such as linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, along with many others were not happy with the way he left the field. The Bills are currently 2-6 and have no hope except that their rookie quarterback Josh Allen will someday develop into a top-tier passer. Until then, sorry Buffalo fans.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Announces Retirement: Amid some controversy among the Raiders and their newly acquired coach Jon Gruden, Rodgers-Cromartie also decided to retire mid-season. However, he didn’t quit on his team in the middle of the game so it was quite a bit more respectable than the previous retiree.
  • Dallas Cowboys’ Offensive Struggles: The Dallas Cowboys have not started off the season the way they expected to. They are currently 3-4 and have a 28th ranked offense. In some eyes, Dak Prescott is at fault. Others believe it’s the coaches fault or that it’s because our receiving core is not too hot. I believe it’s a little bit of all three. Dak is at fault because he isn’t able to throw the deep ball accurately and he has not been able to throw many passes accurately within the past few weeks. The offensive line also has not provided Dak or Zeke with the quality protection that they need. The Cowboys recently traded a 2019 first-round pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper in hopes that he will make the difference on our offense, but if Dak isn’t able to throw the ball then how will the receivers do anything? Sure Amari will spread the field a bit so he may help get our other receivers more open but the impact he makes will not be as great as people expect if our line doesn’t allow Dak to throw and if Dak doesn’t execute when given the opportunity. But Jason Garrett doesn’t care because he’s just Jerry’s puppet and all he has to do to keep his job is smile and clap as if he were doing something even remotely correct. The Cowboys are in a bind and if the players don’t figure it out, there will be a lot of changes to the roster and the staff.
  • Jon Gruden and the Raiders: Jon Gruden has returned to coaching professional football and he is back with his former team, the Oakland Raiders. With the Raiders, Gruden signed a 10-year/$100M deal to be their head coach. This season for the Raiders, just like the last, was overly hyped up among the NFL and just like last year it has been an ultimate failure. The Raiders are 1-6 and don’t seem to be going up anytime soon. Upon the return of Gruden, the Raiders traded away their premier pass rusher Khalil Mack, released their punter Marquette King and traded away former first-round pick receiver Amari Cooper. Now Gruden has three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft and two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL draft. Many think that Gruden is going crazy. I think that he secretly has a plan. Think about it, there’s a reason why the Raiders signed him to a 10-year deal. They knew coming in that he had planned on rebuilding the entire team to his liking and that it would take a while to complete. He’s stocking up on draft picks while trading away players who are expecting to make big money. Gruden knows what’s going on but nobody else can see it.
  • The Cleveland Browns Fire HC and OC: Despite the Browns winning a couple of games this season, they fired their head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley after Jackson led the team to a 3-36-1 record over the past three seasons. If the Browns can find the right coaches, they can build a solid team out of the young talent they have right now. However, that’s a big IF.
  • The National Flag-Football League (NFFL): Here lately there have been many controversial calls by the referees including many roughing the passer penalties. It started with a call on Packers linebacker Clay Matthews being penalized for allegedly picking up Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and driving him into the ground. If this penalty had not been called, the Packers would have won the game because the play resulted in a Green Bay interception. However, since the flag was thrown, the Vikings received a second chance and ended up scoring a game-winning touchdown in the last minute of the game. Football is progressively getting softer and softer all in an attempt to keep the players “as safe as possible”. Unfortunately, trying to make it safer tremendously takes away from the game. These guys know that the NFL is dangerous and that they face the risk of injury when playing this game. Of course, you never want a player to get injured, but when you set a vast amount of rules and regulations in place, it complicates the game way more than it needs to be. Many players are upset with the direction the league is going in this aspect. Despite the league saying that these rules are to “protect” players, I believe that it is very possible that there are underlying reasons for the excessive rule-making. These rules make it way more difficult for defensive players to make plays which in turn makes it easier for the offense to succeed. Many people around the country can watch a low-scoring game and call it “boring”. This is because the majority of the population enjoys the high-scoring shootouts which would also explain why many people prefer college football over the NFL. By putting these rules in place and making it easier for the offense, there are more high-scoring affairs which result in more viewers which also results in more money for the NFL. While this is just a proposition, it is a very possible and valid proposition.
  • Adam Vinatieri Sets All-Time Points Record: With a second-quarter 25-yard field goal against the Oakland Raiders during week 8, the Indianapolis Colts kicker, Adam Vinatieri, became the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen. The 45-year-old veteran also broke the all-time mark for field goals just three weeks ago, surpassing Andersen yet again. Vinatieri has had a long and successful career and his hard work is finally paying off.

Trades:

  • Khalil Mack:
  • Oakland Raiders receive: first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a third-round pick in 2020 and a sixth-round pick in 2019
  • Chicago Bears receive: Khalil Mack
  • Amari Cooper:
  • Oakland Raiders receive: first-round pick in 2019
  • Dallas Cowboys receive: Amari Cooper
  • Josh Gordon:
  • Cleveland Browns receive: fifth-round pick in 2019
  • New England Patriots receive: Josh Gordon and a seventh-round pick in 2019
  • Carlos Hyde:
  • Cleveland Browns receive: fifth-round pick in 2019
  • Jacksonville Jaguars receive: Carlos Hyde
  • Eli Apple:
  • New York Giants receive: fourth-round pick in 2019 and a seventh-round pick in 2020
  • New Orleans Saints receive: Eli Apple
  • As I am writing this, there are many more trades occurring due to the trade deadline. If you would like to read about those as well, click here.

Up-and-coming QB’s:

  • Patrick Mahomes/KC: All I can say so far is wow! Everything Mahomes is doing so far is spectacular! He’s a 23-year-old quarterback who, so far, has led his team to a 7-1 start while leading the league in passing yards and in Total Quarterback Rating (QBR). We’ll discuss this more a little bit further down.
  • Jared Goff/LAR: I pride myself on spotting quality quarterbacks who have the potential to be a major threat in the pros; I feel as if I know the position really well. However, I must admit that I was way wrong about Goff when he was entering the NFL. I thought that Wentz was the better quarterback and he ended up being drafted by the Eagles with the second pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. In their first years, I was right by far. After that, Goff showed major improvement likely due to their new head coach, Sean McVay. We still can’t say who’s the better quarterback definitively, but if their careers ended today, Goff would have the upper hand. Goff this season is third in the league in passing yards with 2,425 yards while passing for 17 touchdowns and five interceptions with a QBR of 76.8. He has led his team to an undefeated 8-0 start so far and the Rams are currently projected to be the first seed in the NFC this season. So far, Goff is looking like a solid pick, but it’s still a little too early to tell.
  • Baker Mayfield/Cle: Mayfield was selected first overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft and he started off pretty solid especially since he helped the Browns earn their first win since December of 2016. Since then, he hasn’t performed that great. Mayfield has the ambition and the swagger that the Browns need and it is still early in his career. He has great potential and I expect big things out of him. Don’t let this subpar season fool you.
  • Sam Darnold/NYJ: Darnold’s first pass of his NFL career could not have been any worse; he threw a pick-six and Jets fans all over were brought back to the reality that they still suck. Since then, Darnold has had his really good games and his really bad games. One positive thing about Darnold is his resilience. Even after his first pass, he managed to come back and have a solid game. Darnold, as well as the rest of these quarterbacks, has tools in his arsenal that he has to learn to use to their full potential. It’s too early to tell what the future holds for Darnold or any of these other guys for that matter, but I think this group of passers has a bright future ahead.
  • Josh Rosen/ARI: Rosen hasn’t been in many headlines lately, but that’s not entirely his fault. Nothing really seems to be going right for the Cardinals lately. Their offensive line is not playing well which really shuts down their whole offense. Their defense is playing decent but their defense alone will not get them wins. Rosen has the tools needed to be a successful quarterback in this league but it probably won’t show for another few seasons.
  • Josh Allen/BUF: Allen was a hit-or-miss option in the draft; his upside is as high as any of the rookie quarterbacks, but his downside is equally as bad. He has a cannon of an arm but he lacks poise and mechanics. So far he’s completed 54 percent of his passes for 832 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. His team is off to a cold 2-6 start and he isn’t really helping matters. If he gets put with the right coach, he can become incredible. He has all the ability in the world to become elite, but will he?

Injury Report:

  • Jimmy Garoppolo/QB/SF: Fans of all teams were watching and waiting to see if Jimmy G was all that he was cracked up to be. While he may not have lived up to the hype in his short stint of three games, he still has all the time in the world to improve his game because he doesn’t have to play for the rest of this season thanks to a torn ACL.
  • Keanu Neal/S/ATL: Neal is one of the young, premier safeties in the league when he’s on the field. Unfortunately for the Falcons, he also won’t be on the field for the rest of this season due to a torn ACL.
  • Leonard Fournette/RB/JAX: Fournette is a lethal weapon for the Jags no doubt; the problem is that sometimes this weapon malfunctions and doesn’t operate correctly, so it’s like a 50-50 shot that he plays week-in and week-out due to a lingering (lingering is an understatement honestly) hamstring injury.
  • Earl Thomas/DB/SEA: Earl Thomas is one of the only original members of the “Legion of Boom” that is still left on the Seahawks and even he was among trade talks earlier in the year. The Seahawks were wanting a second-round pick for Thomas and the Cowboys were the frontrunners to make that trade but ultimately decided not to. Now the six-time Pro-Bowler is out for an extended amount of time.
  • Will Fuller/WR/HOU: Fuller is a vital weapon on the Texans offense. He’s a speed demon with a 40 time of 4.32 in a 2016 draft combine. He’s fast, so fast that he finished his season in only half of the time it takes everyone else to (Also a torn ACL).
  • Ricardo Allen/DB/ATL: A key piece of the Atlanta defense is no longer soaring down the field because that would be difficult to do with a torn ACL.
  • Doug Baldwin/WR/SEA: Baldwin is the premier threat on Seattle’s offense. He suffered a sprained MCL and will reportedly not be 100 percent healthy this season.
  • Aaron Rodgers/QB/GB: Some see him as the best quarterback, some give that title to Tom Brady, but because of constant lingering injuries, Rodgers’ legacy will definitely be damaged. Brady has been in the league five more years and is six years older than Rodgers. If Rodgers can’t stay healthy, there is no way he will be able to compile a resumé as loaded as Brady’s. Rodgers is expected to play in the upcoming games but they’re “keeping him on a leash” and if he shows any signs of his sprained knee coming back, they’re going to pull him. He’s an amazing talent when on the field, but he has a tough time staying healthy and on the field.
  • Marshawn Lynch/RB/OAK: The infamous Marshawn Lynch is out for at least a month with a groin injury. The Raiders already seem to be tanking and Gruden is stacking up on draft picks so this shouldn’t really be a big deal to Raider fans – if there are any left.
  • Travis Frederick/OL/DAL: Travis Frederick is a cornerstone for Dallas’ offensive line that has been playing very inconsistent. Frederick is facing a rare disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s nervous system in response to illness. Travis was put on the IR and a timetable for his return is still unknown.
  • Jay Ajayi/RB/PHI: Torn ACL, out for the season.
  • Joey Bosa/DL/LAC: Foot injury, should return this season but we don’t know exactly when.
  • Bilal Powell/RB/NYJ: Neck Injury, placed on IR.
  • William Hayes/DL/MIA: Torn ACL, out for the season.
  • Jake Butt/TE/DEN: Torn ACL, out for the season.
  • Jeremy Hill/RB/NE: Torn ACL, out for the season.
  • Greg Olsen/TE/CAR: Re-fractured right foot, should return soon.
  • Deion Jones/LB/ATL: Put on IR with foot injury, could return soon.
  • Marquette King/P/Free Agent: Suffered leg injury and was put on the IR. Once he recovered, the Broncos released him.
  • Josh Sitton/OL/MIA: Will miss the rest of the season with a rotator cuff injury.
  • Andy Levitre/OL/ATL: Torn triceps, placed on IR.

MVP Watch:

  • Drew Brees/QB/NO: Brees has lead the Saints to a 6-1 record so far. He’s been putting up record numbers and he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down even at the age of 39. We often argue about who’s the better quarterback between Brady and Rodgers, but we hardly ever mention Brees in that conversation. Of course, we can’t necessarily say that Brees is better than Brady, but I think that we could have a legitimate debate about who’s the better quarterback between Rodgers and Brees. Brees has many historical numbers such as:
  • Career Completions (6,344)
  • Career Completion Percentage (67.1)
  • Single Season Completion Percentage (72.0)
  • Consecutive Games With a Touchdown Pass (54)
  • Career Passing Yards Per Game (283.6)
  • 300+ Passing Yard Games (111)
  • 400+ Passing Yard Games (16)
  • Seasons Leading In Pass Yards (7)
  • Consecutive 4,000 Yard Seasons (12)
  • 5,000 Yard Seasons (5)

These numbers are accurate as of Oct. 4, so some of these numbers are slightly altered now but nevertheless, they are historical numbers. Also, Brees has only missed one start in his Saints career due to injury which was in week three of 2015 in which he sat with a bruised right rotator cuff. With the records he has set and the records he will set along with the numbers he is currently putting up and his history of being reliable health-wise, Brees is arguably better than Rodgers, and he’s not even finished.

  • Todd Gurley/RB/LAR: Gurley is seen by many, including myself, as the best running back in the league and not without reason. Gurley currently leads the league in rushing yards with 800 yards. He has also tacked on 11 touchdowns and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 169 carries. However, Gurley’s impact goes further than what these numbers show. He opens up the play-action game tremendously by posing a deadly threat in the backfield which helps the entire offense run more efficiently. Gurley is a force to be reckoned with and could very well end up being the league MVP if he keeps performing the way he has been.
  • Patrick Mahomes/QB/KC: Mahomes is a second-year quarterback from Texas Tech who was drafted by the Chiefs after they moved up to select him with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Mahomes has thrown for 2,526 yards (first in the NFL) along with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions so far this season. He also leads the league in QBR with a rating of 85.3 out of 100. He’s only in his second season which is unreal considering the numbers that he’s putting up so far. Of course, his numbers will be bloated this year because teams haven’t yet learned how to exploit his weaknesses so don’t expect him to put up the same statistics next year. However, he is one of the frontrunners early in the MVP race this year and is playing phenomenally.

 

 

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About the Writer
TJ Wall, sports editor

TJ Wall, also known as “Wheelz,” is an editor of the sports section and is a fun-loving, witty guy who loves sports, music and keeping up with the...

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