The defending champions are disintegrating while Bill Belichick showed there's still life in the New England Patriots in Week 8 of the NFL regular season.
Article originally published on 01/11/2022
Belichick's former offensive coordinator is already on the ropes in Las Vegas, but another head coach has turned the Atlanta Falcons into potential buyers rather than sellers as the mid-season trade deadline approaches.
Trade talk is really heating up and almost everyone outside Atlanta would have shaken their head in disbelief if you had said that the Falcons, who lead their division, would now be looking to acquire players rather than cut their losses and regroup.
But with the NFC South looking so open because of Tampa Bay's unexpected strife, the Falcons are still very much in the playoff race at 4-4.
If they can clinch a first postseason berth since 2017 later this season, it will be a triumph for Arthur Smith - a head coach who had one of the worst rosters in the NFL going into 2022.
The spring sacrifice of Matt Ryan does not look such a bad idea now, particularly after his dismal first half-season in Indianapolis, with Marcus Mariota doing a good game manager's job as opposed to being the guy that instantly looks like their quarterback of the future.
The San Francisco 49ers have already made a splash by pulling off a trade for former Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey - a gamble that looks to be paying dividends.
In Sunday's 31-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams, he became just the fourth player since 1970 to record a rushing touchdown, a receiving TD and a passing score in the same game.
McCaffrey's 94 rushing yards, 55 receiving yards and 34 passing yards helped condemn the Rams to a losing record after seven games and ensured the Niners have won all three of their divisional matchups this year - including both home and road games against the reigning champions.
The Rams' season could go from bad to worse if Cooper Kupp has to miss any time because of an ankle injury he sustained in the fourth quarter.
Sean McVay's decision to leave last season's triple crown receiving champion in a blowout loss that late is also open to criticism, but Kupp believes he was able to escape without "too much damage done".
Another head coach with questions to answer is Josh McDaniels, whose Las Vegas Raiders team dropped to 2-5 on the season after Sunday's blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints at Ceasars Superdome.
Quarterback Derek Carr had one of his worst starts of the season and got benched in the fourth quarter while the Silver and Black's defense played just as poorly, allowing the Saints to rack up 367 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
The Raiders were so bad that owner Mark Davis had a closed-door meeting with McDaniels after the game, which does not augur well for the first-year head coach who previously flamed out at the Denver Broncos.
The Saints can use the win as a springboard to a better second half of their 2022 campaign with Alvin Kamara again demonstrating why there aren't many running backs considered better than him in the NFL.
He scampered for 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but also added 96 receiving yards and two touchdown catches in a complete performance.
The Saints' defense surrendered less than 200 yards while pitching a shutout for only the fourth time since 2000 and, despite possessing only a 3-5 record right now, might just be about the best bet to win the NFC South.
They host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football next week and a win there could determine whether they have meaningful games to play after their late bye week in December.
McDaniels' former mentor in New England just casually passed George 'Papa Bear' Halas to become the outright second-most winningest coach in NFL history.
The Patriots' 22-17 win over the New York Jets, their 13th straight against that divisional opponent, marked the 325th victory of Belichick's coaching career and he now needs just 23 more to surpass NFL legend Don Shula at the top of that list.
The manner of the victory was classic Belichick as his swarming Patriots defense confused the Jets' second-year signal caller Zach Wilson, who threw three interceptions, while New England's offense just did enough to get an important road win.