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Chasin’ Glory, Ja’Marr for ROTY? Winners and Losers from NFL Week Seven

By Stuart Dick

Published: 10:37, 27 October 2021

Week Seven contained numerous beatdowns and routs as the 2021 NFL season continued at a pace, even with six teams off on their bye week.

The Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers all rested at home as Arizona remained undefeated and Detroit continued their winless run.

As we approach the halfway point of the season, those in contention will be eager to secure the highest play-off seeding possible, while the various division strugglers will turn their attention to building momentum over the remainder of the campaign.

We cast an eye over the Week Seven slate to bring you the winners and losers from this weekend’s action – with two of the 2021 Draft’s top five picks showcasing their raw abilities for all to see.

Winners

Ja’Marr Chase

Rookie sensation Chase has been arguably the best offensive player in the NFL so far this season. Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the #5 overall pick, the LSU standout has instantly reconnected with quarterback Joe Burrow – with whom he shared the college field in Louisiana.

Prior to this season, Chase hadn’t played football since LSU’s National Championship-winning campaign in 2019 – the wide receiver opted out of the COVID-affected 2020 season, foregoing his senior college year.

That didn’t affect his draft stock, however, as Chase was the first WR taken in 2021 – ahead of the Alabama duo of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns at LSU in 2019 with Burrow throwing him the ball.

That connection is still going strong now in the pros with Chase currently the second leading receiver in terms of yardage (754), joint fourth in touchdowns (6) and top in receptions over 40+ yards (6).

On Sunday, Chase had a career day by racking up 201 yards and a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens, helping the Bengals secure first place in the AFC North with an upset road win.

Chase looks a certainty for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and perhaps he is even in with a shot of taking home the Offensive Player of the Year award.

Kyle Pitts

Speaking of rookie stars, Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is becoming one of the most frightening playmakers in the National Football League.

On ‘National Tight End Day’ Pitts stole the show at Hard Rock Stadium catching seven passes from Matt Ryan for 163 yards, straight after snagging nine receptions for 119 yards and a score against the New York Jets.

Pitts, the #4 overall pick in the 2021 Draft, is a unique physical specimen. He is 6’5″, 245lbs with the ability to run a 4.4 over the 40-yard dash – an unfavourable matchup for both linebackers and cornerbacks.

Pitts is now starting to build a rapport with veteran quarterback Ryan after a steady first four games, becoming the focal point of the Falcons offense and a big reason why the franchise has won its last two matches.

Derek Carr

After an early stumble – which was not entirely his fault – Carr led the Las Vegas Raiders to a resounding 33-22 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon.

Carr, an eight-year veteran, sliced and diced the Philly defense with incredible accuracy and precision to complete 31 of his 34 pass attempts for 323 yards and two touchdowns.

The Raiders signal caller did all this without star tight end Darren Waller, who was missing with an ankle injury, and mostly without lead running back Josh Jacobs who got injured during the first half.

Carr spread the ball around with nine players catching passes from the former Fresno State QB as he looked in complete command of the Raiders offense throughout.

Las Vegas now sit alone at the top of the AFC West standings with a half-game lead over the Los Angeles Chargers and a two-game lead over the defending AFC champions Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.

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Matthew Stafford

Matt Stafford, and the Los Angeles Rams, had to work hard against the Detroit Lions to secure a 28-19 win over his former team.

Stafford spent 12 seasons in Detroit before LA traded for him in the offseason with Jared Goff heading in the other direction via a blockbuster offseason trade.

The move has worked out well for the #1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford has the Rams at 6-1 and has thrown for 2,172 yards (third in the NFL), 19 touchdowns (second in the NFL) and just four interceptions.

On Sunday, Stafford was at his best as he threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions – continuing his blossoming relationship with stud wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who leads the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards.

Having had such a miserable career in Detroit in terms of team success, Stafford really does now have a shot of going far in the NFL playoffs.

D’Ernest Johnson

Third-year running back D’Ernest Johnson had an evening to remember on Thursday Night Football as he led the Cleveland Browns to a 17-14 victory over the Denver Broncos at the FirstEnergy Stadium.

Deputising for an all-star backfield including Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt – who are both currently on the injury list – Johnson carried the rock 22 times for 146 yards and a touchdown for the injury-ravaged Browns, who were also missing starting quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Prior to the game, Johnson had just 40 career carries. An undrafted free agent in 2018, Johnson joined the Orlando Apollos in the Alliance of American Football – which began play in February 2019.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural season was curtailed after just eight weeks and the league folded. However, Johnson showcased enough talent to earn a spot with the Browns.

With the talent in the Browns running back room, opportunities may be scarce for Johnson going forward, but he certainly made the most of this opportunity.

Losers

Sam Darnold

After a promising start to the season, Darnold suffered the humiliation of being benched in Sunday’s 25-3 defeat by the New York Giants.

Darnold was sacked three times, threw an interception and failed to register a touchdown before undrafted P.J. Walker took the reins to end the game.

After going 3-0 to start the season, the Panthers have lost four straight – including games against the two-win Eagles and Giants. In the process, Darnold has thrown for 796 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.

However, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has already committed to Darnold for next week – not surprisingly either, having traded a second, a fourth and a sixth-round pick for the former #3 overall pick in the offseason.

On Sunday evening, news broke on social media that the Panthers were considering a move for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson – that could cause further drama for Darnold.

Matt Nagy

The Chicago Bears seemingly rolled over for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an embarrassing 38-3 reverse, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields having an afternoon to forget as he threw three interceptions while the Bears mustered just 311 total yards offensively.

It was even worse on defense as Chicago allowed 21 points in the first quarter and 14 points in the second to trail 35-3 at the break. The ageless Tom Brady tossed four touchdowns in the first half alone.

Bears fans have turned their attention to head coach Nagy, who is very much on the hot seat in the Windy City. The fourth-year coach has a 31-24 record in his time in charge at Soldier Field with two playoff appearances.

However, both times they exited the playoffs in the wildcard round with fans growing increasingly tired of the offensive gameplans put together by Nagy and his coaching staff.

The only saving grace is a tough schedule to date. The Bears have lost to the 6-1 Bucs, the 6-1 Los Angeles Rams, the 6-1 Green Bay Packers and the 4-3 Cleveland Browns, but they’ve beaten the 5-2 Las Vegas Raiders and 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals – showing they can compete.

Robert Saleh

It has been a hard introduction to NFL head coaching life for Robert Saleh with the New York Jets – a rookie quarterback and a franchise that have gone 24-63 over the past six seasons.

A 54-13 demolition by the New England Patriots on Sunday was the latest chapter in the tale of woe for the downtrodden New York franchise.

Even worse, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson suffered a game-ending – and potentially worse – knee injury which saw him forced off. He was replaced by former fifth-round pick Mike White.

Defensively, the Jets gave up 551 total yards and 54 points, conceding 403 yards through the air and 148 yards on the ground. This was no doubt a source of embarrassment for Saleh – the former defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.

Fans of close games

If you are a fan of one-sided blowouts with very little entertainment, then Week Seven was for you. If you’re a fan of close games, not so much.

The 7-0 Arizona Cardinals were far too powerful for the lowly Houston Texans, winning 31-5. Kyler Murray – who is a potential MVP candidate – threw for three scores with tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Christian Kirk and former Texan Deandre Hopkins all finding the endzone.

The 5-2 Tennessee Titans manhandled the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs in a 27-3 victory as Derrick Henry threw a touchdown pass and A.J. Brown enjoyed a 133-yard receiving day.

The AFC North battle between the Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens was a drab affair as Cincinnati scored early and often as the aforementioned Burrow topped 400 passing yards.

The Patriots mauled the Jets while the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all won by more than a touchdown. Only the Cleveland-Denver and Miami-Atlanta games were close affairs.

Mike Evans

Usually when a player tallies six receptions for 76 yards and three touchdowns they make their way onto the winners list. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, he made a grave mistake.

After catching a touchdown pass from Brady (his second of the afternoon and Tom’s third) he handed the ball to a fan and made his way back to the bench.

The problem was that Brady had just become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 600 touchdown passes in his career, and Evans had handed the very special ball to a member of the Raymond James Stadium crowd.

TV cameras caught the moment Evans realised he’d given away Brady’s 600th ball — now a viral gif on social media — and staffers were forced to bargain with the fan to get the ball back.

In the end, the fan gave the ball back, no doubt in exchange for plethora of Buccaneers merchandise, saving any blushes for Evans.

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