Players who came out of nowhere to dominate.
Up is down. Left is right. Fans were treated to a trip to Bizarro World as the schedule in NFL Week 10 was ripe with strange and wonderful happenings.
The worst offense in the league went bananas in the best possible way. Tom Brady and Co. couldn’t do anything right in a blowout loss. And fantasy footballers out there can tell you some wild stories about the individual players who came out of nowhere to dominate.
With those as our platform, it’s time to take a look at the biggest winners and losers from the action.
Winner: Big Ben could do no wrong
Thursday night’s stunning blowout win for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Carolina Panthers was one of Ben Roethlisberger’s finest games as a professional. The veteran almost couldn’t miss, and he finished with just three incompletions on 25 attempts.
Big Ben spread the ball around to nine different receivers, finishing with 328 yards and five touchdowns, including a 75-yard precision strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster on Pittsburgh’s first offensive play of the game.
Carolina thought it had a shot in this game after going up 7-0 early. But Roethlisberger and the Steelers rattled off a rapid-fire 24-0 run from there, ultimately winning by the absurd score of 52-21.
Loser: Alshon Jeffery and Golden Tate came up small
In a must-win game at home against NFC East rival Dallas, the Philadelphia Eagles needed all hands on deck. That didn’t happen.
Alshon Jeffery had a rough outing going against the talented Cowboys defensive secondary. He caught just four passes on eight targets for 48 yards. Not exactly what we expected from a guy who’s been on fire of late (15 catches and three touchdowns the past two games).
It’s easier to cut Golden Tate some slack. He just joined Philly after being traded from Detroit, and he’s still learning a new offense. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see how infrequently he got himself involved. He ended up with just two catches for 19 yards on four targets.
Philadelphia is now 4-5, and while it’s not out of the playoff hunt there are plenty of question marks.
Winner: Aaron Jones breaks out
Packers fans have been clamoring for second-year running back Aaron Jones to become a featured player in Green Bay’s offense since last season. For whatever reason, Mike McCarthy has been unwilling to give him a decent run.
On Sunday, Jones finally had a chance to dominate early, and he went bonkers. He accounted for 54 of the 70 total yards on Green Bay’s first offensive possession, and that was just for starters. In the end, Jones racked up 172 total yards and scored two touchdowns on 18 touches. He’s clearly the best back on the roster, and he deserves to be heavily featured for the rest of the year. Not surprisingly, Green Bay cruised to victory, snapping a two-game losing skid.
Loser: Another embarrassing game for Oakland
It seems like every time you think the Oakland Raiders show you the bottom of the barrel, they dig a bit deeper. One week after getting destroyed by the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Oakland came back home and laid another rotten egg in front of their fans.
The offense is a broken thing. The defense can’t stop anyone. Derek Carr doesn’t even have the wherewithal to remember what down it is after a timeout anymore.
The Raiders are trudging through this season as if it playing a game for a living is the last thing they want to be doing. It’s embarrassing, and even worse there was some bad stuff going on after the game inside Oakland’s locker room.
Winner: Trubisky was slinging darts
Well, it sure looks foolish now to have pegged the Chicago Bears as an upset-alert candidate this week. They improved to 6-3 on the season with a 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions, in large part due to an tremendous outing by second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
The former Tarheel carved up the Detroit secondary. He had excellent rapport with receivers Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson, both of whom went over 100 yards while combining for 255 yards and all three of Trubisky’s three touchdowns.
Trubisky finished with 355 yards and the three touchdowns, and it’s clear he’s taking to Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme like a fish takes to water.
Loser: Pats beaten in every phase of the game
It’s been a while since we’ve witnessed the New England Patriots looking as out of sorts as they did on Sunday on the road against the Tennessee Titans.
Tennessee’s offense dictated to New England’s defense and pretty much executed whatever it wanted to. The Titans out-gained the Patriots by 101 yards as Tom Brady and Co. were overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage and averaged just 4.4 yards per play.
Clearly, the absence of Rob Gronkowski was a factor. But we’ve seen them figure out ways to make it work before without him.
New England’s special teams wasn’t all that special, either. The kickoff coverage unit allowed a 58-yard return early, Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal, and punter Ryan Allen only pinned Tennessee inside its 20-yard line twice in six tries.
The end result was a 34-10 blowout in which Brady sat out the final minutes due to it being a lost cause.
Winner: Eric Ebron — scoring machine
The Indianapolis Colts scored four touchdowns Sunday as they eked out a three-point win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. One man scored three of those touchdowns.
Eric Ebron opened the game with a 53-yard score, roasting Jacksonville’s once-vaunted defense. But he wasn’t even remotely close to being done. He also rushed in a two-yard score on a sweep, and hauled in a 12-yard pass for his third score of the game. And he did all that in the game’s first 19 minutes.
Ultimately the Indy offense stalled in a big way, going scoreless in the second half. So, those early touchdowns were absolutely key to the Colts coming out with their much-needed win.
Loser: Todd Bowles appears to have lost the Jets
The New York Jets are tanking hard and fast. Sunday’s 41-10 drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills was a new low point for the franchise this year. It caps off a four-game losing streak in which the Jets have gotten worse every single week.
What New York allowed Buffalo do do at MetLife Stadium — playing with a quarterback who hasn’t played in well over a calendar year — was embarrassing. The Jets were out-gained 451-199, only converted one third down, and tallied 12 total first downs. But it’s about more than just yards and points — the Jets look to have quit on their coach.
The real question now is whether New York will let Bowles go this week. If it’s going to happen in season, now’s the time while the Jets are on a bye. He’s won just 13 games in his last 43.
Winner: Gurley is as reliable as Old Faithful
The Los Angeles Rams bounced back from their first defeat of the season with a win at home over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Not surprisingly, running back Todd Gurley had a lot to do with the win.
Last year’s Offensive Player of the Year is on track to win that honor again, and perhaps even the league MVP award. He finished Week 10’s game with 160 total yards and a rushing touchdown.
It’s like clockwork. That touchdown marked the 13th straight game in which Gurley scored. He’s also only the third player in NFL history to open a season with at least one touchdown in his team’s first 10 games. We’re witnessing history in the making.
Loser: Brocktober is getting sadder by the week
Brock Osweiler. He is who we thought he was. Despite a rather hot start as Ryan Tannehill’s replacement, he’s regressed to the mean the past couple of weeks. Sunday’s showing in Green Bay was dismal, thanks in part to some really poor execution in the red zone, and thanks to a couple of turnovers.
Since opening the season with six touchdown passes in two-plus games, Osweiler has failed to throw a single score in the past three games. It’s hardly surprising that Miami lost two of them, the only win coming against the hapless Jets last weekend, no thanks to the quarterback.
It’s hard to know if Tannehill would have Miami in better shape right now. What we do know is that every week that Osweiler runs the offense, there’s a good chance the Fins are going to lose.
Winner: Matt Barkley stuns in blowout win
Before Sunday, the last time Matt Barkley had stepped onto an NFL field during a regular season game was January 1, 2017. This is a guy who’s completed 59.8 percent of his career passes while throwing eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions while earning a 3-8 record as a starter.
So, it’s not hard to see why so many people were skeptical that he’d be able to help Buffalo right the ship when it was reported he’d be starting against the Jets.
Things didn’t play out the way everyone thought they would. Barkley was fantastic. He passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns, including a perfectly executed strike to offensive tackle Dion Dawkins, as the Bills poured it on in their blowout win.
Loser: Lions are falling apart at the seams
The past two games, Matthew Stafford has been sacked 16 times. After being taken down 10 times last weekend, he suffered through six more sacks against Chicago as his offensive line continues to fail him. In the same vein, Detroit’s run game is struggling due to a failure up front, and the Lions managed just 76 yards on 32 carries Sunday.
That’s not the end of this team’s struggles, however. The Lions are also falling apart defensively, and the Bears could have easily had 40 points if not for a couple missed field goals and two missed extra points by kicker Cody Parky.
The Lions are now minus-42 in point differential this year, and minus-six in turnover differential. They’re getting beat at the line of scrimmage, and they’re beating themselves with mistakes.
Winner: David Johnson finally has a monster game
Not surprisingly, the Arizona Cardinals failed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. It would have been one of the biggest upsets of the year had that happened. However, the silver lining here for the Cardinals is that running back David Johnson was finally set free.
The move to fire Mike McCoy and elevate former quarterback Byron Leftwich to offensive coordinator has paid dividends. He’s doing an outstanding job of scheming plays that will spring Johnson. On Sunday it all came together.
The dynamic running back went off. He tallied 183 yards and two touchdowns on 28 touches. He’s the main cog that drives Arizona’s offense. And he’s finally being utilized the way he should have been all along.
Loser: The FitzMagic is gone
First off, no it is certainly not time to go back to Jameis Winston. That ship has sailed. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must not trick themselves into thinking any different. Stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick the rest of the season and move on next year.
With that having been said, Sunday’s three-point effort against Washington was ugly. Ryan Fitzpatrick thew for 406 yards, sure. But his work in the red zone was atrocious. Tampa Bay made it inside Washington’s 20-yard line six times but managed just three points.
The Bucs turned it over four times, and Fitzpatrick was responsible for three of those. Tampa Bay is now 3-6 on the season, and all the FitzMagic from earlier this season seems like nothing more than a distant memory.
Winner: Corey Davis rising
Big games have been hard to come by for Corey Davis since he entered the NFL as the No. 5 overall pick last year. But he showed up with six catches last week as the Titans stomped on the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington. And then he was a huge factor on Sunday as they took down the mighty Patriots.
Davis had the difficult task of going against star cornerback Stephon Gilmore in this game. But where others have failed against Gilmore, Davis found a way to come out ahead. His touchdown reception was a thing of beauty, and he finished with seven catches on 10 targets for 125 yards.
It was his second 100-plus-yard game this year, and the score was his second career regular-season touchdown.
Loser: Atlanta doesn’t look like a playoff team
The Atlanta Falcons came into Week 10 on a three-game winning streak, and it looked like maybe their defense was turning a corner. Offensively, Atlanta has been a powerhouse all year, but the team’s defense was a huge liability early thanks to a rash of devastating injuries.
On Sunday in Cleveland, that defense once again was taken to task — by the Browns of all teams. The Falcons gave up 427 yards, allowed Baker Mayfield to have a nearly perfect afternoon throwing the ball and were victimized by the longest play from scrimmage this year.
Without a defense, these Falcons aren’t going to make noise in the postseason. And with a record of 4-5, a playoff berth might not even be there anyway.
Winner: Melvin Gordon keeps Chargers chugging along
Ho hum. Another week. Another win for the Los Angeles Chargers. With their 20-6 blowout over Oakland, these Chargers have now ripped of six straight wins.
The catalyst? It’s Melvin Gordon.
No matter what else is going on, he’s been consistently rock solid for the Chargers. On Sunday in Oakland, he piled up 165 yards and a touchdown. It was his fifth straight game with at least 120 yards and a touchdown, making him one of two players the past decade to maintain this streak, per Field Yates of ESPN.
Loser: What were you thinking, Pete?
For the second weekend in a row, the Seattle Seahawks lost due to some awful decision making on the part of their top leaders. In Week 9, it was Russell Wilson throwing an unconscionable pick-six at the worst possible time. This weekend, it was head coach Pete Carroll with a bone-headed move that cost his team a chance to win.
With just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, down by two points after a made field goal, Carroll called for an onside kick. It didn’t work. But what it did was give the Rams — one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league — the ball in enemy territory. Seven plays later, the Rams scored on a field goal of their own.
From there, Los Angeles quickly built up a two-score lead following a fumble recovery on Seattle’s next possession, and the game was — for all intents and purposes — over.
Winner: Zeke went off on ‘SNF’
Ezekiel Elliott has somewhat flown under the radar this year because the Dallas Cowboys have struggled offensively, and because other running backs have been phenomenal. But the former Ohio State star reminded us why he’s still one of the league’s best with a dominant performance on “Sunday Night Football” on the road in Philly.
A dual-threat back, Elliott was effective both on the ground and through the air. He racked up 151 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, adding another 36 yards and a touchdown through the air. Speaking of air, check out the air he got on this insane hurdle.
It’s rare that the Cowboys aren’t winning or at the least very competitive in games where they feed Zeke. With that in mind, we should expect to see plenty more of this young man as Dallas attempts to make it into the playoffs down the stretch.
Loser: Cam Newton starts awful chain reaction
First, it’s not fair to say Cam Newton had a really bad game Thursday night. He was getting constantly harassed by Pittsburgh’s defense as his offensive line failed him badly. And in the end he only missed on six of his 29 attempts passing.
But one miss stands out as particularly egregious. And the timing couldn’t have possibly been any worse. Right after Big Ben found Smith-Schuster on a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game up in the first quarter, Newton threw perhaps the worst interception of the season that was taken back for six points by linebacker Vince Williams.
Carolina never recovered.
Winner: Browns rookies dominate
The only really bad play executed by Cleveland’s offense on Sunday against Atlanta was a poorly executed trick play that turned into an easy interception.
Baker Mayfield was outstanding. He completed 17-of-20 passing attempts for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He also did not turn the ball over once.
Rookie running back Nick Chubb piled up 209 yards and two touchdowns on 23 touches. His 92-yard touchdown run was the longest play from scrimmage in the entire league this year (watch here).
These two rookies led Cleveland to a 28-16 win over Atlanta, proving once again that the future is bright for this franchise.
Loser: Jacksonville is toast
Rex Ryan has never been more right about anything than he was about the Jaguars.
It wasn’t that long ago that many people who cover the NFL for a living were predicting this Jaguars team would take that next step and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. Then the Jags won three of their first four games, including a big win over New England in Week 2.
Since then, the wheels have come off the bus, and the bus had gone off the cliff. Jacksonville has now lost five straight games after getting beaten by the three-win Colts Sunday. They’re in sole possession of last place in the AFC South, and if we’re being honest they might stay there the rest of the season.
Winner: Drew Brees passes Brett Favre as Saints roll
One week after serving up the first loss of the season to the Rams, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints took their show on the road. Going up against a Cincinnati Bengals team that’s been decimated by injuries, the Saints absolutely pummeled their opponent, winning in blowout fashion, 51-14.
Along the way, Brees had one of his signature surgical performances. He completed 22-of-25 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns and scored once more on the ground. With the three passing scores, the future Hall of Famer passed legend Brett Favre on the all-time touchdown passes list to move into second place behind only Peyton Manning.
With 509 career touchdowns, Manning’s mark of 539 doesn’t seem out of reach.