The NFL season is roughly half complete and it’s abundantly clear that the NFC is far superior to the AFC. There are five NFC teams with six or more wins, while the 8-0 New England Patriots are the only team in the AFC with more than five victories. The Patriots and San Francisco 49ers (7-0) remain undefeated, as both clubs won in resounding fashion on Sunday. Both teams are once again worth mentioning in our review of the NFL weekend.
Here are five takeaways from Week 8’s NFL action.
1. Gardner Minshew must remain the Jaguars’ starting QB
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew led the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 29-15 victory over the hapless New York Jets. He threw for 279 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He posted a 119.6 passer rating and rushed for 28 yards. His best play of the day came when he escaped pressure and threw on the run to Chris Conley, who completed the 70-yard catch-and-run TD.
I love these Gardner Minshew plays where he wriggles his way out of pressurehttps://t.co/7qdFQxPsK6
— Riley McAtee (@RileyMcAtee) October 27, 2019
Minshew holds a 4-3 record as Jacksonville’s signal caller. The 178th pick of the draft has thrown for 13 TDs against just two picks with a 98.8 passer rating—above the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers.
After completing 22 of 34 passes for 279 yards and three TDs (passer rating: 119.6) in today's victory…@Jaguars QB @GardnerMinshew5 is now the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 13 TDs with two or fewer INTs through a player's first eight career games.
— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) October 27, 2019
Nick Foles, the former Super Bowl MVP and the Jaguars’ marquee free agent signing of the offseason, returned to practice this week. Foles broke his clavicle in Week 1, opening the door for Minshew to seize the starting job. Foles is eligible to return from injured reserve Nov. 17 against the Indianapolis Colts. However, there’s no reason to go back to Foles, given how well Minshew has played.
— NFL (@NFL) October 27, 2019
The Jaguars invested significant money in Foles, signing him to a four-year, $88 million ($45 million guaranteed) contract. A hefty financial commitment, though, is not enough of a reason to switch quarterbacks.
Plenty of past teams have sat their expensive quarterbacks in favor of the younger player. In 2012, the Seattle Seahawks chose then-rookie Russell Wilson to be the team’s starter, despite signing Matt Flynn to a three-year, $19 million in the offseason. That was a franchise-altering decision for the Seahawks, who have been one of the premier teams in the league since handing the reins over to Wilson.
That’s not to say Minshew will transform into the caliber player of Wilson, but it’d be foolish to remove Minshew from the starting gig. For all the playoff magic Foles has produced, he has proven to be an inconsistent quarterback who is prone to injury. “Minshew Mania” has taken over Jacksonville and there’s no looking back.
2. Nick Bosa is a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa has been the most impressive rookie of the 2019 season. The odds-on favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, could Bosa also snatch the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year? After Bosa collected three more sacks and an interception in the 49ers’ 51-13 pounding of the Carolina Panthers, teammate Richard Sherman believes Bosa is worthy of that honor.
As of right now, Richard Sherman says Nick Bosa should be more than just Rookie of the Year 👀 pic.twitter.com/QJaJKQb0eC
— ESPN (@espn) October 28, 2019
Bosa has been the best player on the 49ers’ dominant defense. The No. 2 overall pick upped his sack total to seven on the season, while his first career interception was a spectacle to behold.
BOSA HAVE A DAY!
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 27, 2019
In addition to the pick and the sacks, Bosa also mustered four total tackles (three for loss), a pass breakup and three quarterback hits. The 49ers—7-0 for the first time since 1990—certainly appear like Super Bowl contenders and Bosa might be the biggest reason why.
Bosa wasn’t the only 49er to shine in the beatdown of the visiting Panthers. Teammate Tevin Coleman scored four touchdowns. The running back had three rushing scores and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.
— NFL (@NFL) October 27, 2019
Coleman became the first San Francisco player to register three rushing TDs in a regular-season contest since Garrison Hearst accomplished it in 2002. Coleman, a free agent signing this past offseason, has five rushing TDs over the past four games.
3. Drew Brees looks healthy, Saints look unstoppable
For all the (justified) praise of the Patriots and 49ers, it should not be overlooked what the New Orleans Saints have accomplished in the past six weeks.
Drew Brees returned to action Sunday with a surgically-repaired thumb after missing the past five contests and looked no worse for the wear. He completed 34 of 43 passes for 373 yards and three TDs as the Saints crushed the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals tried to put pressure on Brees, blitzing him on 46.5% of his dropbacks. However, Brees took advantage of the blitz by getting the ball out quickly. He completed 17 of 20 passes against the blitz, with an average gain of 12.3 yards per reception.
Brees got plenty of help from his receivers, who accumulated 235 yards after the catch, the third-most in an NFL game this season. Michael Thomas, the league-leader in catches and receiving yards, hauled in 11 passes for 121 yards and a TD.
— Chris 🏈 (@DynastyChrisS) October 27, 2019
Latavius Murray received his second consecutive start with Alvin Kamara (ankle) ailing. Murray rushed 21 times for 102 yards and a score and caught nine balls for 55 yards and a TD. He has four TDs in two starts at tailback.
New Orleans (7-1) won its sixth straight. The defense held Arizona out of the end zone all afternoon, giving up nine points via three field goals. The Saints registered four sacks.
The Saints might be the most complete team in the league, as their offensive and defensive units are clicking on all cylinders.
4. Cooper Kupp is an elite receiver
Third-year wide receiver Cooper Kupp is destined to earn his first Pro Bowl honors in 2019. Kupp erupted for seven catches and a career-high 220 yards on Sunday afternoon in London, breaking an international record for receiving yards in a game.
Kupp is no longer just a security blanket for Los Angeles Rams Jared Goff to throw to underneath. The talented slot receiver is capable of breaking out big plays at a moment’s notice, as evidenced by his 65-yard TD catch-and-run against the Bengals.
Cooper Kupp is a stud in US and in UK.pic.twitter.com/PP0ewb8sOB
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 27, 2019
Kupp’s 2018 season was cut short by an ACL tear. And yet, he appears to be more explosive than ever. Kupp ranks second in both receiving and yards-after-catch. He is third in receptions. Furthermore, Kupp leads the NFL in receptions of 20 yards or more with 15. As long as he retains his health, Kupp is a lock to win Comeback Player of the Year.
5. Patriots’ all-time great defense has franchise on track for second 16-0 season
The Patriots completed the most dominant defensive half-season in league history. They have surrendered just 7.6 points per game (61 points total), putting them on pace to be the league’s greatest scoring defense ever.
The defense was at the forefront of their 27-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Remarkably, the Patriots forced turnovers on three straight plays against the Browns, becoming the first team since 2012 to do so. The first turnover, a fumble from Browns running back Nick Chubb, resulted in a touchdown for Dont’a Hightower. It was the Patriots’ fifth defensive touchdown (including special teams TDs) of 2019.
— Binge Sports (@BingeSports) October 27, 2019
The Patriots have forced a league-high 25 turnovers, six more than the next closest team. Their NFL-best 19 interceptions are nine more than the second-ranked club.
After going 16-0 in 2007, the Patriots have a legit shot at their second perfect regular season in franchise history.