The NFL Sunday that almost wasn’t

Reports last week that several players and staff members tied to the Tennessee Titans threatened to upend the NFL’s Week 4 schedule. When it was later reported that New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and New Orleans Saints running back Michael Burton had also tested positive, things went from bad to worse. Fortunately for the Saints and Burton, the test was a false-positive, but not so for Newton. The result was an altered playbook for Week 4 that forces two games, not just one, to be played today. For the rest of the Sunday schedule, things moved forward as expected, but not necessarily as planned. 

The San Francisco 49ers were the clear favorite heading into their game against the Philadelphia Eagles, despite having much of the first-string line banged up. They were getting -334 before the game, but the Eagles decided to give their fans a huge win and upset the odds. QB Carson Wentz was held to just 193 yards; however, he still managed to pick up two touchdowns on the way to a 25-20 win. The Eagles are now in first place in the NFC East after yesterday’s upset.

The Denver Broncos brought in an up-and-coming QB to start the game against the New York Jets and Denver hopes he improves as the season progresses. Brett Rypien threw three interceptions in the game, but the Broncos still managed to take the win, 37-28. The Jets were sloppy, but so were the Broncos. It turned into a game of who could be more undisciplined, and the Jets won in that category. They racked up 11 penalties, of which six were personal fouls. 

Joe Burrow may have finally found his rhythm. Coming into the NFL as the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, he headed to the Cincinnati Bengals and was expected to shine. Things got off to a sluggish start, but he turned it all around yesterday in a key game. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Burrow logged over 300 yards, making three in a row the times he has now pulled that off. He’s the first rookie QB to do so, and he and running back Joe Mixon hooked up several times to pull off the 33-25 win. Mixon ended the day with an impressive 151 yards on the ground, 30 in the air and three touchdowns. 

The Las Vegas Raiders are struggling this year. They have been up and down over four weeks, adding another low point yesterday in their loss to the Buffalo Bills. The defense lost any sort of order they may have had, and the Bills took complete control of the game during the second half, marching to a 30-23 win. The Raiders will most likely slide even further after their next game, which will be against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5. 

It could not have been pleasant in the LA Chargers locker room after the day they had against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs, led by NFL superstar Tom Brady, were getting -334 before the game, with the Chargers looking at a long +270. It looked like this was going to be the major upset of the day when the Chargers took a 17-point lead. However, Brady showed why he’s a superstar when he mounted a comeback in the second half that ultimately gave the Bucs a 38-31 win. 

While perhaps not the highlight game of the day, the contest between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts deserves a mention. Since 2002, when the NFL realigned the divisions, the winner of this rivalry has been followed by something interesting. In 2004 and 2016, the Colts won, and so did a Republican presidential candidate. In 2008 and 2012, the Bears won, and so did the Democratic presidential candidate. It will be interesting to see if the trend sticks this year; if it does, Democrats don’t have a chance because the Colts won 19-11. 

The Chiefs and the Pats were supposed to meet yesterday, but Newton’s COVID-19 test screwed that up. The NFL was contemplating how to shuffle things up and, for now, the game will be played tonight. The Chiefs are the heavy favorites, getting right at -300 in a line that is still moving. The regular Monday Night Game already on the schedule is between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers, and Green Bay is the clear favorite in this one, with a moneyline of -310. However, as yesterday’s action proved, everything is possible. 

Because of the outbreak of COVID-19 with the Titans, their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers had to be postponed, which is forcing other changes, as well. Now, this game will be played in Week 7, on October 25, and the Steelers’ game against the Ravens, which should have been in Week 7, will be played in Week 8. By weeks were also shuffled, with the Steelers and the Titans seeing theirs moved to Week 4, and the Ravens’ moving to Week 7 from Week 8.