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Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action was defined by two key injuries to quarterbacks and a couple of teams finding themselves shut out for the first time in a long while. In London, the Arizona Cardinals received a double whammy here. They lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer for at least eight weeks with a broken arm. The team also fell to the division-rival Los Angeles Rams, 33-0.

In Los Angeles, where it seemed to be a Denver Broncos home game, the team fell flat on its face. Continuing his recent struggles, Trevor Siemian failed to lead his team to a single point and turned the ball over twice in the process. Maybe, it’s time for the Broncos to make a change here.

Then, on Sunday night, the New England Patriots shook off some recent rust to hand a struggling Atlanta Falcons yet another loss in a rematch of last season’s Super Bowl.

These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action.

The Cardinals remain a hot mess

Down 23-0 at halftime and with starting quarterback Carson Palmer sidelined, the Cardinals’ first half in London could not have gone worse. They allowed Jared Goff to complete 15-of-23 passes for 149 yards. All said, the Los Angeles Rams put up 13 first downs and 223 total yards before half. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson went for just 11 yards on eight attempts after dominating in his Cardinals debut the previous week.

It didn’t get any better as the game progressed. Drew Stanton struggled under center with Palmer sidelined, completing 5-of-14 passes for 62 yards with an interception. AD gained 21 total yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the Rams gained 425 yards of total offense in a 33-0 win. It’s the first time since December of 2012 that the Cards have been shutout. It also sends them to 3-4 on the season and pretty much completely out of the NFC playoff race.

Maybe, Ryan Grigson was really the fall guy 

General manager Chris Ballard and head coach Chuck Pagano have handled Luck’s injury in a way that should lead us to question their abilities. This isn’t hyperbole. We’re talking about a franchise quarterback that underwent shoulder surgery last January. And now with his most-recent setback, we’re not sure when Luck will return to the field. Following Indianapolis’ blowout 27-0 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, it’s now time for Indy to shut Luck down for the remainder of the season.

The issue here is that Indy seems content on bringing him back some time during what is already a lost season for the horseshoe. At 2-5, Indy won’t be battling for anything outside of draft position in its remaining nine games. Why would the team even consider bringing him back in the midst of this disaster? It leads us to wonder whether the firing of Ryan Grigson as GM following last season was more about him being a fall guy for owner Jim Irsay. This has to be on of the biggest laughingstocks of an organization in the pro sports world.

Super Bowl hangover is real in Atlanta

The Falcons entered Sunday’s Super Bowl rematch with New England with hopes that they might be able to break out of a funk that saw them lose two consecutive following a 3-0 start to the season. That obviously didn’t happen. Laughable mistakes in all areas of the game led to a 23-7 road loss to the team that defeated Atlanta in the big game this past February.

Reigning MVP Matt Ryan completed 23-of-33 passes for just 233 yards with just one touchdown. The team put up 21 first downs while converting on 2-of-9 third-down conversions. Heck, Atlanta scored seven points despite crossing New England’s side of the field four times. That included two missed field goal opportunities for Matt Bryant. At 3-3 on the season, Atlanta is in real trouble. The only saving grace here is that the team is just one game out in an otherwise struggling NFC South. There’s time to turn this ship around, but things are most definitely not looking good here.

Despite win, Chargers continue embarrassing home trend 

Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers have won their past three games. Sunday at home against the division-rival Denver Broncos, it came in the form of a dominating 21-0 victory. Despite this on-field excellence, that’s not the story in Southern California. Instead, it’s all about how the road team continues to draw more fans than the Chargers at StubHub Center. Really, it was absolutely embarrassing on Sunday against the Broncos.

It’s hard enough to play competitive football in the NFL. That’s now taken to a whole new level for the Chargers, who continue to see their home games act like road dates. And don’t for a second think this is lost on the players, either.

From a league-wide perspective, it’s equally as embarrassing. We really have to wonder whether it’s sustainable for the NFL. The Chargers will be forced to play at this venue for the next two seasons following the 2017 campaign. And as of now, it’s a major black eye for those in charge in New York City.

49ers’ regression is clear 

Having lost their past five games by 13 points, the 49ers entered Sunday’s action against Dallas with an anticipation that they would remain competitive. Almost immediately out of the gate, that did not happen. After forcing a Cowboys three-and-out to open the game, rookie receiver Trent Taylor botched the ensuing punt. And like clockwork, Ezekiel Elliott would score his first of three touchdowns.

It was over from there, as San Francisco lost 40-10 in front of its home crowd on a day the team celebrated the ailing Dwight Clark. None of it was good. Not a single thing that took place on the football field Sunday at Levi’s pointed to an upward trajectory for the now 0-7 49ers.

Making his first NFL start, rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard was sacked five times and hit on over a quarter of his dropbacks. The Cowboys’ offense put up 27 first downs and over 500 yards of offense. Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant and the aforementioned Ezekiel Elliott all had huge games. And at this point, one has to openly wonder whether the 49ers will even win a game in Kyle Shanahan’s first season as their head coach.

Bad Cam makes another appearance 

Outside of a two-game stretch earlier in the season, Cam Newton has been off his game big time this season. That didn’t change Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Including this pick-six into the hands of Eddie Jackson and a lost fumble, Newton handed a less-talented Bears team two touchdowns (literally). And on offense, the Panthers scored a grand total of three points in an embarrassing loss.

Cam has now turned the ball over six times over the past two games. Whether the former MVP is still feeling the effects of off-season shoulder surgery or it’s something else, there’s a lot for the Panthers’ brass to be concerned about here. Remember, some within the organization believed he was breaking down physically earlier in the season. It also doesn’t help that Cam is involved in more off-field drama following a bout with the media earlier in the season. Now, with the Panthers sitting at 4-3 on the season, they desperately need Newton to regain his MVP form. We’re just not too sure that’s going to happen after a 17-3 loss to a talent-stricken Bears squad.

Offense continues to be Ravens’ downfall

It didn’t help that Mike Wallace went down with a concussion early against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Even then, the Ravens’ offense continues to be an absolute dumpster fire. Incapable of (or unwilling to) throw downfield, Flacco completed 27-of-39 passes for 186 yards in a 24-16 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. The team also put up just 64 yards on 20 attempts in a dismal offensive performance.

At this rate, we’re not sure how Baltimore will be able to contend with the Steelers moving forward in the AFC North this season. Sure Pittsburgh’s offense has its own issues, but the lack of any type of big-play ability will doom the Ravens moving forward. That starts with Flacco, who has now thrown five touchdowns and eight picks in seven games this season. Ouch.

Le’Veon Bell back to his normal self

Le'Veon Bell Steelers

After a lengthy summer holdout, Bell struggled to open the season. He averaged less than 80 total yards in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first three games of the season. But the All-Pro running back has been back to his normal self recently. In Sunday’s 29-14 win over Cincinnati, Bell gained 134 yards on 35 rush attempts. He also caught three passes for 58 yards in the win.

For the fifth-year running back, that represented a season high of 192 total yards. He’s now gained 662 total yards over the past four games. Needless to say, it’s something the Steelers needed to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the AFC North. Now, heading into Week 8, Pittsburgh boasts a two game lead over Baltimore in the division.

As the team MVP, Bell is mostly responsible for this turnaround. And it only promises to get better going up against struggling defenses in the form of Detroit, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Green Bay over the next month-plus.

Packers’ defense lets Brett Hundley don in first start

A lot of people will focus on Hundley’s struggles under center in his first NFL start Sunday. And he really didn’t do himself any favors there. The UCLA product completed less than half of his attempts and didn’t cross the century threshold in passing yards. He did score on the ground, but it wasn’t a stellar overall debut for the youngster.

Even then, Green Bay’s defense let the team down in a big way Sunday. After picking off Drew Brees twice early, the Packers allowed 25 first downs and nearly 500 total yards to New Orleans’ offense. Mark Ingram went for 105 yards on the ground. Rookie Alvin Kamara gained 107 yards on 14 touches. It was a brutal performance from Dom Capers’ defense. And in reality, the Pack stand no real chance to contend for a playoff spot with Aaron Rodgers sidelined if the team’s defense doesn’t step up. That didn’t happen in Week 7.

Quality football in the AFC East

Sunday afternoon’s slate of action featured three AFC East teams — two of which were playing one another. And boy, they were some pretty darn good games. Interestingly enough, not a single one included the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

It started with a late-game comeback by the Buffalo Bills at home against Tampa Bay. Down 27-20, the Bills drove 75 yards on three plays culminating in a LeSean McCoy seven-yard touchdown, his second of the game. Then, on the Buccaneers following possession, stud rookie corner Tre’davious White stripped Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries to set up a game-winning field goal and give Buffalo a 4-2 record heading into Week 8.

In Miami, Matt Moore took over for an injured Jay Cutler to lead the Dolphins to a narrow 31-28 win over the division-rival Jets. It’s a game that saw Jets quarterback Josh McCown put up another solid performance, passing for three touchdowns. Though, the performances of Dolphins wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills made all the difference in the world. They combined to catch 13-of-20 targets for 178 yards and three scores. Now at 4-2 on the season, Miami is clearly in the AFC East race. That was seen as unthinkable following the team’s 1-2 start to the season.

Browns still can’t get it right

As with DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan is in over his head.

We’ve focused on just how poorly Hue Jackson has handled the quarterback situation in Cleveland. That came out in droves again Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. For the third time in his past three starts, rookie DeShone Kizer was benched in-game. Way to ruin the first-year quarterback’s confidence while in the midst of what promises to be another last place season for the Browns.

More than this, Jackson continues to make all the wrong decisions — both schematically and from a player personnel standpoint. Instead of going with Cody Kessler as the team’s starter last week, the Browns sent Kevin Hogan under center to replace a benched Kizer. He responded by throwing three interceptions in a blowout loss to the Texans. Then, with Hogan banged up, Kessler was called on Sunday in a close game against Tennessee. While he didn’t perform at a high level in an overtime loss, Kessler at least proved he could be a stopgap option last season.

It’s this quarterback carousel that has defined the Browns over the past 20 years. Maybe, Jackson should have learned from history here. Then again, he could very well be coaching for his job. Here’s a guy that’s now 1-22 since taking over as the Browns’ head coach last season. And with an improved defense, his handling of the quarterback situation has led to this season’s 0-7 record. That’s clearly on Hue.

Time for a change in Denver 

For the first time since Tommy Maddox was replacing an injured John Elway under center in 1992, the Denver Broncos have been shut out. It came in the form of a 21-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers “on the road” Sunday. And it was a downright anemic performance from the team’s offense. Struggling quarterback Trevor Siemian led an offense that converted on 3-of-14 third-down opportunities. He also turned the ball over twice, bringing the quarterback’s giveaway total to seven over the past four games.

Not that it really mattered a whole lot based on Siemian’s play, he was also sacked five times and hit a total of 11 times on 40 dropbacks. Some of that had to do with the youngster holding on to the ball for too long, but Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa absolutely dominated what is quickly becoming a horrible offensive line in Denver. Whether it’s Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch (when he returns), maybe it’s time for the Broncos to make a change at quarterback. That was magnified after another dud performance from Siemian on Sunday to drop the Broncos to 3-3.

Hard-charging Bears

Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen impressed in NFL Debut.

Chicago won a football game on Sunday with its quarterback completing four passes. It won said game by two touchdowns against what is quickly becoming a bad Carolina Panthers squad. The Bears can thank rookie safety Eddie Jackson for that. He scored both of the team’s touchdowns in a 17-3 win — Chicago’s third on the season. In reality, that’s more wins than most figured Chicago would have this season.

It hasn’t been pretty. We get that. But John Fox has this team playing inspired football. Chicago’s defense sacked Cam Newton five times, forcing three turnovers from the quarterback in the process. Offensively, the duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen represented 138 of the team’s 153 total yards against Carolina. Sure the Bears won’t be competing for a playoff spot this season, but the competitiveness is there.

Rams are more than legit

If we needed any more evidence of the Rams’ legitimacy in the NFC West, we got it Sunday afternoon in London. Los Angeles absolutely dominated a lesser team in the Arizona Cardinals by the score of 33-0. And really, it wasn’t even that close. The domination started in the trenches, where Los Angeles’ defense got to Cardinals’ quarterbacks for three sacks and seven hits. It also held the Cards’ rushing attack to 25 yards on 12 attempts.

Offensively, Jared Goff continued to make the opportunistic play, tallying 235 yards and completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley went off for 154 total yards and a score. This was a prime example of the Rams taking care of business against a lesser team. Sure the injury to Carson Palmer hurt Arizona, but this game was pretty much out of hand before he was forced from the action.

Based on what we’re seeing in the rest of the NFC West, Los Angeles has to be considered the clear cut favorite to come home with the division crown. Following a disastrous four-win season under Jeff Fisher last year, the Rams have already surpassed that win total in 2017. And we’re not even halfway through the season. Credit definitely needs to go to first-year head coach Sean McVay for this brilliant turnaround.

Seahawks still lacking that killer instinct 

The final score will read 24-7. But in no way is that indicative of how Sunday’s game against the Giants in New Jersey went. Seattle actually found itself down 7-3 at the half after seeing Eli Manning go for just north of 20 passing yards in the first two quarters. In fact, it was just a 10-7 game in the fourth before some trickery helped Seattle put this game away.

With all that said, we’re still not sold on this team winning the NFC West over the Los Angeles Rams. Pete Carroll and Co. should have absolutely destroyed an injury-plagued Giants team on Sunday. Instead, they let Eli hang in the game for far too long. That’s the lack of killer instinct — something we saw from the Rams themselves in a shut out win over Arizona earlier on Sunday. With games coming up against the Texans and Redskins, we’re going to see exactly what this team is made of over the next two weeks.

Well-rounded Patriots win

For the first time this season, all three areas of the Patriots’ roster played well Sunday night against the Falcons. Their defense held reigning MVP Matt Ryan and Co. to seven points and under 350 total yards of offense. Tom Brady played a mistake-free game, completing 21-of-29 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and zero picks. Meanwhile, Dion Lewis spearheaded a rushing attack that gained 162 yards.

Even in a much more competitive AFC East, it’s readily apparent that the Patriots are the favorites. It won’t come as easy as in previous season, but the model is definitely here for continued domination in the division. Sunday night’s win against a lesser version of the Falcons was a prime example of this.