By HCR Staff | Oct. 22, 2018
Here are five key observations from Week 7 in the NFL:
1. They’ll take it
Talent and execution are still the keys to success in the NFL, but there is something to be said for luck. And the ball is certainly bouncing the right way for the New Orleans Saints. More to the point, the ball is not going through the uprights for their opponents.
The Saints are 5-1, but they could easily be 3-3 instead. Sunday’s big win at Baltimore was sealed when Ravens kicker Justin Tucker – who had never missed an extra point attempt – missed the extra point that would have tied the game in the closing seconds of regulation and forced overtime. In Week 2, it was the Cleveland Browns who missed an extra point that would have given them the lead with less than two minutes remaining. The Saints did kick a game-winning field goal after that, but it’s hard to argue that good things are happening to this team.
2. Saints after the bye
After the first four teams that had byes this season went 1-3 in their return to action, the two teams that were off in Week 6 – the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints – both won on the road Sunday. For the Lions’ Matt Patricia, this was his first time as a head coach dealing with the bye. For Sean Payton, it’s old hat – and there is a proven track record of success.
Since 2009, the Saints are 8-2 following the bye week under Payton. During a conference call with media last week, Payton attributed his success at dealing with the bye week to advice he got from Andy Reid. Ironically, Reid is just 3-3 following bye weeks since taking over in Kansas City.
3. High stakes in Week 7?
One more note from that Saints-Ravens game: Yes, it was the league’s top-scoring offense against the top-ranked defense. Yes, it was an attractive interconference matchup. But a Week 7 game between nonconference opponents isn’t exactly a must-win situation. Nevertheless, Sean Payton and John Harbaugh seemed to be calling this game s if it were the Super Bowl.
The opening drive alone caught our attention. The Saints went for it on fourth down four times, including a successful fake punt in their own territory and an unsuccessful fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 4-yard line. Harbaugh threw two challenge flags on the drive – one call was upheld and the other reversed. A lot of machinations from both sides.
4. Guts, but no glory
Tennessee Titans rookie head coach Mike Vrabel deserves credit for having the guts to attempt a 2-point conversion at the end of their game against the Chargers in London. But was it the right call?
After the game, Vrabel said he had faith in his players and he didn’t second-guess himself. But scoring the potential tying touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation would have given the Titans momentum going into overtime. Did Vrabel not have faith that his team could win in OT? This was the fifth Titans game this season that was decided by three points or less. Tennessee was 3-1 in the first four such games, so Vrabel’s players have shown they can win tight games. Letting one play decide the game was an unnecessary risk.
5. Keep an eye on Colts
Are the Indianapolis Colts a team to watch in the second half of the season? Sure, they’re last in the AFC South with a 2-5 record. But they’re only three games out of first in a division that is most certainly up for grabs.
Two reasons to think rookie head coach Frank Reich can get his team on a roll: 1) The offense is starting to click. The Colts have averaged 32 points in their last four games. Andrew Luck has averaged 322 passing yards in that span and he’s thrown TD passes to nine different players this season; and 2) the schedule is more than manageable. Miami (4-3) and Houston (4-3) are the only teams left on the schedule that currently have a winning record.