Despite a global pandemic, the National Football League season has progressed as planned. Even through various postponements and the absence of fans from most stadiums, the NFL has now enjoyed eight straight weeks of competition. Fans like myself have been able to enjoy it as well, giving us a singular bright light in the darkness of our time. There have been many interesting storylines that this strange football season has brought us, but this has only added to the quality of entertainment. Here are my top five takeaways from this past weekend’s action.
- Antonio Brown made his return to football.
To any avid football fan, the name Antonio Brown brings to mind a dynamic wide receiver who has enjoyed a very successful career. This career came to a screeching halt upon allegations of sexual misconduct and multiple instances of assault. These claims have left Brown out of a job for nearly two years, and he was suspended for the first eight games of the 2020 NFL season by commissioner Roger Goodell. Brown has not played in a game of football since September 2019, as a member of the New England Patriots where he recorded four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. On Oct. 26, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a chance on Brown, signing him to a one-year deal and reuniting him with quarterback Tom Brady. His return proved underwhelming, as he recorded just three receptions for 31 yards. The entire Bucs offense failed to get it going; Tom Brady threw three interceptions, so Brown’s slow start could be related to that. He should be able to record a better performance on Sunday, with another week of practice under his belt and a matchup with a porous Carolina Panthers’ secondary (ranked 20th against the pass).
- Christian McCaffrey dominated in his first game since Week 2.
The Carolina Panthers may have been handed defeat by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, but there was nothing upsetting about running back Christian McCaffrey’s first start since injuring his ankle in the second week. Carolina’s star back put up 69 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, and added another 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions. It was an extremely productive day for McCaffrey, whose team (3-6) is in desperate need of an offensive spark. Unfortunately, McCaffrey experienced more bad injury luck in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, when he injured his shoulder on a first down catch. It remains to be seen how long McCaffrey is forced out (his status is day-to-day). However, the injury does not appear to be too serious, and this past weekend’s performance was very encouraging.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers (barely) retained their perfect record.
The Steelers entered Sunday evening’s game against the Dallas Cowboys as the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team (8-0). With a decent offense (#14 in offensive efficiency) to complement their top ranked defense, the Steelers certainly look like one of the league’s best teams. The Dallas Cowboys (2-6) boast one of the league’s worst offenses (#26 offensive efficiency) since starting QB Dak Prescott went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Surely, it was smooth sailing for the Steelers, right? Guess again. The Cowboys’ backup QB, Garret Gilbert, threw for 243 yards and a score through the first three quarters had the Cowboys up 19-9 heading into the fourth quarter. Thankfully, QB Ben Rothlesburger (306 yds, 3 TDs) led the Steelers to score 15 unanswered points in the final quarter, narrowly escaping their first defeat of the season. The Steelers may now stand at 9-0, but the defense looked shakier than it has all season. Hopefully the team can get it together before their divisional test next Sunday against the Bengals and confident rookie QB Joe Burrow.
- The Tennessee Titans defense bounced back.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that the Titans’ (5-2) 31-20 defeat to rookie QB Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals was an unexpected, and frankly embarrassing, loss. After a perfect 5-0 start to the season, the Titans had stumbled in their last two contests, giving up a combined 58 points in those two losses. The defense has looked porous as of late and was in desperate need of a turnaround. Through the first three quarters of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, the defense looked completely rejuvenated, holding the Bears to zero points and forcing two fumbles. The Titans managed to take care of business the rest of the way and win 24-17. The defense was a big reason why, despite a fourth quarter collapse which saw the Bears score 17 points (14 unanswered to close out the game). While the last five minutes of the game present a red flag, the Titans’ defense took a step in the right direction this past Sunday and look to keep the momentum going this weekend against a low-scoring Indianapolis Colts offense (#22 offensive efficiency).
- DK Metcalf continued his career season against the Buffalo Bills.
Seattle Seahawks’ wide receiver DK Metcalf has enjoyed an explosive start to the 2020-21 NFL season. Boasting 36 receptions for 680 yards and seven touchdowns prior to Sunday, Metcalf is a top performer at the position so far, and is well on his way to a 1000-yard season in just his second campaign with the Seahawks. Sunday afternoon’s tilt against the Bills pitted two of the league’s top-ten offenses against each other (SEA: third in offensive efficiency; BUF: eighth in offensive efficiency). Despite frequent shadowing from Buffalo’s star cornerback Tre’Davious White, Metcalf managed 108 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. It was Metcalf’s fourth game of the season with 100 plus receiving yards, and sixth game with at least one TD. Metcalf is now ranked second in the league in total yards receiving, with 788 (only behind Bills’ WR Stefon Diggs) and is tied for second in total touchdowns (8). He looks to continue his successful campaign against a fairly stingy Los Angeles Rams secondary (9th in defensive efficiency against the pass). Be sure to tune into that one, because DK Metcalf versus the Rams’ CB Jalen Ramsey could be a very entertaining matchup.