Before I start Ruttig’s Rants this week, I would like to personally apologize for a brief hiatus from The Open Man and this beloved weekly NFL column. Unfortunately, life and the annoying reality of having a real job to pay the bills got in the way for much of September and I missed bestowing you all with my NFL takes.
However, I am back and ready to cover the rest of the NFL season for The Open Man and to hopefully provide some level of quality opinions along the way.
During my brief hiatus, the Kansas City Chiefs clearly emerged as the NFL’s best team. Andy Reid’s squad hold the league’s lone undefeated record and hold wins over four quality opponents in that time frame.
Included in that hot start is a Week 1 win over the New England Patriots in Foxboro, which will be crucial if any home-field advantage tiebreakers come into play ahead of the Playoffs.
After the embarrassment of losing at home in the playoffs to an opponent that failed to score a single touchdown, Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy overhauled the playbook on offense to unleash an attack that is vastly improved.
With the addition of Kareem Hunt at running back and a playbook that caters to the strengths of Alex Smith as a master of the short attack, the Chiefs have been able to pick apart defenses all season. From shovel passes to Travis Kelce or well-designed passes into the flat for Hunt and speedy wideout Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs do something every game that showcases just how dangerous their new offensive philosophy is.
We have seen regular season success from the Chiefs throughout the entire Andy Reid era as Reid is 26-4 in his last 30 regular season games.
Andy Reid is 26-4 in his last 30 regular season games.
— Bryn Swartz (@eaglescentral) October 3, 2017
This season feels a bit different as the Chiefs appear to be an unstoppable force an offense that could march themselves to a home game at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship.
From there, anything could happen for the Chiefs. It is hard to put your faith in any Andy Reid team as Super Bowl favorites. Still, entering October it is beyond clear that this Chiefs unit is the best in football at the moment and are clear favorites to knock off the Patriots and finally book their trip to a Super Bowl.
Now, for Ruttig’s Week 4 NFL Rants:
Rant 1: The Oakland Raiders Are Not Dead
After a 2-0 start to the season, things have gone completely off track for the Oakland Raiders in what is supposed to be a breakout year for the team after their first trip to the playoffs in over 10 years in 2016.
The Raiders were blown out by Washington on Sunday Night Football in Week 3 and things got worse in their Week 4 trip to Mile High Stadium to face the AFC West rival Denver Broncos.
In a venue that has always given quarterback Derek Carr problems in his short NFL career, the Broncos dominated the respected Raiders offensive line all afternoon.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for just 1.33 yards per carry on a day where the likes of Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, and Rodney Hudson were not up to their highly priced billing in the trenches.
Eventually, the Broncos pressure cost the Raiders in the worst way as an awkward hit on a scrambling Carr will put the franchise quarterback on the shelf for 2-6 weeks with a back injury. Bad news for a Raiders team that desperately needs to put it back together to stay alive in the AFC West and the Wild Card picture after this two game slide.
Jack Del Rio said Derek Carr has a fracture in his back and is out 2-6 weeks.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 2, 2017
The injury to Carr has many writing the Raiders off. For good reason considering the Raiders do possess one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this season and will be without Carr for a stretch that includes games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.
I am not counting the Raiders out just yet and think the doomsayers are a bit premature for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is the fact the Raiders play the first 3/5 of the games Carr is expected to be absent for at the Oakland Coliseum. Games at home against the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5 and Week 6 are winnable games for the Raiders, even with EJ Manuel at quarterback and should be considered as such.
The second reason is the road games the Raiders face in Carr’s absence are also winnable. A trip to Buffalo to take on the Bills isn’t fun but also isn’t exactly a visit the Raiders won’t be able to handle if they play a solid game.
After that, a Week 9 trip to play the Miami Dolphins and Jay Cutler is another game the Raiders should be in despite being without Carr.
The Raiders hopes have surely taken a massive hit and EJ Manuel will need to salvage the season with solid play to keep the Silver and Black alive. It is a long shot, but I wouldn’t count the Raiders out of the playoff picture just yet.
A .500 record over this stretch without Carr keeps them alive and looking at their schedule, it is a reasonable goal and expectation for the Raiders to win a handful of these games as they await the return of their franchise quarterback.
Rant 2: The Jacksonville Jaguars Paying The Price with Blake Bortles
On Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars were presented with the perfect opportunity to go 3-1 for the first time in years and solidify themselves as AFC South contenders this season.
It was the perfect chance for the Jags, a matchup against a New York Jets team that is actively tanking in 2017 for the chance to draft Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold. If there was any time for the Jags to do something good for a change on the football field, this was it.
Then, Blake Bortles and his awful quarterback play happened.
Bortles threw away chance after chance after chance on Sunday. Once again, the former third overall pick failed to capitalize on the opportunities he was given on a day where the Jaguars choked away what should have been a quite easy win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Yes, the Jaguars did have a game-winning touchdown by Leonard Fournette called back due to holding. Still, they had every opportunity to close the game in overtime and couldn’t due to Bortles ineptitude in the passing game.
Bortles went 15-35 for 140 yards and an interception in the OT loss. Numbers that once again make it perfectly clear that the Jaguars made the wrong choice by not simply cutting their losses with a quarterback who has clearly broken fundamentals and will never become an above replacement level starter in this league.
You have to imagine the Jaguars would be a contender in the AFC South with anyone else decent at quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick comes to mind as an easy answer, but this isn’t even about this issue.
— Gridiron (@Gridiron) October 1, 2017
It is about the Jacksonville Jaguars spending money year after year in free agency to build a solid team of elite talent around a quarterback who will never get them over the hump no matter how many more years they give him.
To have Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Dexter Fowler on an elite defense and to lose like that to the New York Jets is unacceptable.
Hopefully, a season of Blake Bortles blowing a golden opportunity for the Jaguars to finally end their playoff drought will wake up the franchise to finally making a move. It is just a shame such an exciting team everywhere else on the roster will suffer for this season with Bortles at quarterback.
Rant 3: Albert Breer is a Moron RE: Odell Beckham Jr.
It has been long noted that Peter King sadly decided to employ mostly morons on his MMQB vertical at Sports Illustrated, which is a shame considering some good reporters and columnists write there. An example is Robert Klemko, who does great work and is worth the follow.
One of the chief morons at the MMQB is Albert Breer, who is most famous for claiming there are no racist sports fans in Boston and that Colin Kaepernick is not being blackballed for his protests against police brutality.
This time, Breer’s penchant for bad takes managed to remain on the football field and avoided touching on racial ignorance for a change.
This week, Breer decided to spew the opinion that the New York Giants should allow Odell Beckham Jr. to walk rather than sign him to a lucrative deal.
Breer cites Odell Beckham’s “behavioral issues” as the factor for why the Giants should let him walk when his contract is up. Because, of course, celebrating touchdowns is worthy of allowing your best talent leave your roster.
I’m gonna say something here that might not be very popular: Giants owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese need to think long and hard before making the decision to break the bank on Odell Beckham Jr.. He’s a great player. No debate there. But this is more complicated, and the juxtaposition of how coach Ben McAdoo handled flags assessed to Eli Manning and Odell Beckham over the past two weeks provides the perfection explanation.
This narrative has been ongoing with the Giants for two seasons now and it is still stupid as hell. Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. and his antics can come off as annoying and distracting. That still doesn’t change the fact that Beckham is the best receiver in football and keeps the Giants relevant despite having one of the worst offensive lines in football.
Without Beckham, the Giants are an even more average team with a quarterback who is in the decline of his career and needs elite talents like Beckham to produce. With Beckham, the Giants have an offense that at least keeps them in games as Beckham has done while playing hurt.
Beckham’s playing hurt is the important thing here and is something people like Breer – who continues to showcase his bias and agenda more and more lately – conveniently ignore when discussing Beckham’s status in New York.
If Beckham’s antics are grating, they should be at the very least somewhat negated by the fact he is willing to play through injury in the first month of the season so his team can have a chance to compete for the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see who jumps onto the Beckham blame bandwagon as the Giants continue to lose heartbreaking games this season, but this take by Breer that the team should let him walk is one of the worst in recent memory.
The Giants need Odell Beckham Jr. more than Odell Beckham Jr. needs the Giants. That should be noted and not forgotten for any columnist who wants to claim the Giants somehow have the upper hand in dealing with a talent they should be trying to retain, not forcing out of town.
Week 4 Awards
Player of the Week: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: Watson lit up the scoreboard against the Tennessee Titans in a crucial AFC South battle at home, outduelling Marcus Mariota and cementing his status as the guy in Houston in his best performance to date as a rookie.
Defensive Player of the Week: Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Miller was his usual disruptive self against the Raiders on Sunday and his sack on EJ Manuel in the second half helped seal a victory in a game that was still within reach for the Silver and Black.
Rookie of the Week: Deshaun Watson: Player of the Week, Rookie of the Week. It is that simple as Watson was electric in his performance over the Titans.