We're almost at the halfway point in the NFL season, and it's been a wildly untraditional one so far.
With games needing to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 the NFL schedule has been thrown into a constant state of chaos at this point, and as fans we're just hoping that they can finish the season. An uptick in injuries can likely be traced back to a truncated offseason not allowing teams and players the adequate amount of time to get their bodies prepared for the season. Let's hope that the league and Commissioner Goodell are able to enact a plan to keep football going to see a proper end to the season with a team being crowned Super Bowl champions.
Let's take a look at the Week 7 power rankings based on what we've seen so far this year.
32. New York Jets (0-6) -There isn't a lot to say about the Jets. Until they fire Adam Gase this franchise has no chance to turn things around.
Stop hiring people like Adam Gase, and start hiring people like Eric Bieniemy. https://t.co/8q70NTLem4— Doug Farrar (@Doug Farrar)1603401710.0
31. Washington Football Team (1-5)
30. New York Giants (1-6)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) - It's hard not to like Gardner Minshew, but it's been getting increasingly harder to watch the Jaguars. DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Keelan Cole provide a solid group of receivers to complement James Robinson, who has been a pleasant surprise for Jacksonville this year.
@NFL_DovKleiman Gardner Minshew should bench Doug Marrone— Clint Lamb (@Clint Lamb)1603318520.0
28. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1) - The Eagles have been a major disappointment so far this season. They have dealt with injuries to their offensive line and receiving groups, but Carson Wentz needs to continue to post games like he did on Thursday against the Giants in Week 7 for them to have a chance at redemption. Miles Sanders has been banged up this season, but Boston Scott looks able to fill in. Scott scored the game winning touchdown to defeat the Giants.
WENTZ TO BOSTON SCOTT FOR THE LEAD WITH 40 SECONDS LEFT 😱 (via @NFL) https://t.co/lDrubfpYSr— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1603423956.0
27. Los Angeles Chargers (1-4)
26. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1)
25. Dallas Cowboys (2-4) - After getting a peek at how the Cowboys will look without Dak Prescott under center. It may be a good time to sell Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas receivers in fantasy if you can find buyers.
The Dallas Cowboys organization after operating just one week without Dak Prescott https://t.co/3j3BbZFiM7— Blogging The Boys (@Blogging The Boys)1603216929.0
24. Atlanta Falcons (1-5)
23. New England Patriots (2-3)
22. Houston Texans (1-5)
21. Denver Broncos (2-3)
20. Minnesota Vikings (1-5) - If Dalvin Cook can stay healthy this season, and Kirk Cousins stops throwing interceptions (10 already this season) the Vikings could find themselves climbing this list quickly. As Justin Jefferson continues to develop, he creates a dangerous tandem with Adam Thielen and should help Cousins as he attempts to overcome some early season struggles.
Most receiving yards in a game by a rookie since 2018: Justin Jefferson (Wk 3) - 175 Justin Jefferson (Wk 6) - 166 https://t.co/GS3inCFL24— PFF (@PFF)1603053810.0
19. Detroit Lions (2-3)
18. Carolina Panthers (3-3)
17. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)
16. San Francisco 49ers (3-3) - As the Niners are still dealing with a rash of injuries, they have managed to keep themselves in the race for the division thus far. Raheem Mostert suffered a high ankle sprain last week and is looking at a stint on the IR. Jerick McKinnon will assume the role of starting running back in his stead.
49ers’ HC Kyle Shanahan said RB Raheem Mostert “most likely" will go on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain.— Adam Schefter (@Adam Schefter)1603147588.0
15. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
14. Cleveland Browns (4-2) - If Baker Mayfield doesn't start to look better quickly, the Browns season could begin to fall apart as they wait for the return of star running back Nick Chubb.
Baker Mayfield is now holding back a super talented offense & very capable coaching staff.— Colin Cowherd (@Colin Cowherd)1603044242.0
13. Miami Dolphins (3-3) - Dolphins' coach Brian Flores this past week made the surprising announcement that Tua Tagovailoa would be taking over as starting QB for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz had Miami sitting at 3-3 good for second in the AFC East. Considering Flores has done such a great job of turning the team around, as a fan you just have to have faith that this is the right time for the move.
Breaking: The Dolphins are naming Tua Tagovailoa their starting QB, a league source tells @AdamSchefter. Tua Tago… https://t.co/EjsftVVO2F— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1603207869.0
12. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) - All four of the Rams' wins this season are against NFC East teams. That makes them suspect until further notice. We're on to you Rams!
Tua Tagovailoa's first opponent as starter ... Aaron Donald and the Rams 😤 https://t.co/lQN67tk67d— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1603210169.0
11. Chicago Bears (5-1) - The most unlikely of 5-1 records. Neither Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles has looked particularly good, and the same can be said of David Montgomery and Allen Robinson. The defense is good, but expect the losses to start to pile up.
10. New Orleans Saints (3-2) - Star receiver Michael Thomas tweaked his hamstring in practice this week, and his status for this Sunday is in question. After Thomas was suspended last week after an altercation with a teammate, the team may be missing him yet again as they will take on the Panthers in an important division matchup.
9. Arizona Cardinals (4-2) - The Cardinals have managed to keep pace with the rest of the NFC West behind the electric play of Kyler Murray. As Kenyan Drake appears to be settling into the offense, Arizona should be a threat to compete for the division crown all year.
This Kyler Murray-Christian Kirk TD is even better from this angle 😱 (via @AZCardinals) https://t.co/FUUD2eL2ov— Bleacher Report (@Bleacher Report)1603159095.0
8. Buffalo Bills (4-2) - Coming off a poor performance against the Chiefs on Monday night, the Bills hope to rebound against the hapless Jets which shouldn't be a problem.
7. Green Bay Packers (4-1) - Speaking of poor performances, the Packers were thwarted by the Bucs last week 38-10 which resulted in their first loss of the season. Green Bay will need to brush that loss off and move on as they take on Houston, Minnesota, and San Francisco the next three weeks. Aaron Rodgers has been having a resurgent year, but FREE AARON JONES!
Aaron Jones with some major Macho Man vibes 😎 https://t.co/EbDRaxoWOf— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1603056582.0
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) - The aforementioned Bucs have been getting it together since a shaky start to the year. Tom Brady appears to be getting more comfortable in the offense every week, and if Ronald Jones can continue to hand in 100 yard performances as he's done the past three weeks, Tampa will be tough to beat.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-1) - The Ravens have a Week 7 bye, but when they return they better be ready for the gauntlet. Over the next five weeks they will play the Steelers twice, the Colts, Bill Belichick's Patriots, and the Titans. Time to earn your respect Big Truzz.
4. Seattle Seahawks (5-0) - Coming off of their bye week, the Seahawks return to action this week against the Cardinals on Sunday night. Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray will headline a game of the week contender that promises to be a high scoring affair. If Seattle can pull out a win here, they will jump up a spot of two next week.
With so many injuries across the league, including ones to star receivers, is it time to start thinking about @AB84… https://t.co/xQD1ehUko1— FindBet (@FindBet)1601222098.0
3. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) - An under-appreciated fact for the Chiefs this season is that, other than the outlier of the Raiders game, the Kansas City defense hasn't allowed more than 20 points in a game (40 to the Raiders). If the Chiefs can keep their defense healthy we know they have the firepower on offense to compete in any contest.
2. Tennessee Titans (5-0) - The Titans will play the Steelers this week in the rescheduled game from a few weeks ago. Tennessee is coming off a shootout win over Deshaun Watson and the Texans which featured a 94 yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry. Mike Vrabel has his team playing with discipline and focus early in the year. They will need their offense to continue its hot run against a Steelers defense that has only allowed 94 points on the season which is best in the NFL.
Man you are too damn big to be movin like that🤯 @KingHenry_2 https://t.co/sA2AbtiwIg— HJR III™💎 (@HJR III™💎)1603053073.0
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) - Our top two teams on the power rankings list clash in a battle for supremacy in Week 7. The Steelers had a statement performance on both sides of the ball against division rival Cleveland in Week 6. The Steelers will bring the NFL's stingiest defense into a matchup against the seventh highest scoring offense in the league in the Titans. With Chase Claypool emerging as a dual threat in the Pittsburgh offense, we like the Steelers to hold this spot next week.
The @steelers defense has been dominant to start the year! 😤 https://t.co/cVhugwomp0— FOX Sports: NFL (@FOX Sports: NFL)1603402200.0
In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson)1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols)1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.
Offense being the key word here.
Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.
For a player that relies so heavily on driving to the basket to get shots off close to the hoop, it's expected for that player to draw plenty of contact resulting in a lot of free throw opportunities. That was certainly indicative of what we saw from Simmons in the first two rounds of the 20-21 playoffs.
He got to the line 45 times against the Hawks in their second round matchup, but only converted 15 freebies which equates to a 33% free throw percentage in the series. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the stripe if you include their first round games against the Wizards, which accounts for the worst free throw percentage by a player with at least 70 attempts in a postseason in NBA playoff history.
With a minimum of 70 attempts, Ben Simmons' 34.2% free throw percentage this postseason is the worst in a postseaso… https://t.co/EvEcQxEe8m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPN Stats & Info)1624244835.0
In the four games that Atlanta beat Philly in this series, they lost by a combined 17 points. If Ben Simmons shoots just 70% from the line and makes 31-45 during this series, that adds 16 to Philadelphia's series point total. Obviously, the attempts might not directly impact the losses, but from a very broad overview, it would draw the series significantly closer — especially taking into account that three of the four losses the 76ers took in the series were lost by four points or fewer.
Also let's not allow people to say that the free throw stat is overblown and out of context. It's not. Shaquille O'Neal, who is notoriously one of the worst free throw shooters in league history, still managed a career playoff free throw percentage of 50%. That's why we saw the conception of "Hack-a-Shaq" where teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to put him on the line rather than allowing him to hurt them in other ways.
We've begun to see teams adopt this practice now with Simmons, which is just flat out embarrassing for a player of Simmons' pedigree. We have seen what he's able to do with the ball. He flies down the court on fast breaks, is a brilliant creator for teammates, and is one of the better finishers at the rim that we have in the league today.
We've already touched on his defensive prowess that has elevated him to becoming NBA All-Defense multiple times and a three time All-Star. But what do the Sixers do with Simmons before next season?
The 24-year-old point-forward still has plenty of time to work on his game. We've seen other players add a jumper later in their careers to great success; just ask Vince Carter how that works. But, usually, in order to develop a perimeter shot, there is at least a solid foundation to build on — that being the ability to consistently hit free throws.
Simmons is a career 60% free throw shooter, and he shot right around the mean during the regular season. The decline in made shots from the charity stripe in this postseason is cause for concern that this isn't the beginning of a trend.
Add to that Simmons' reluctance to take shots further away from the basket, and defenses have the luxury of ignoring Simmons in the half court set. We have seen teams (like the Jazz and 76ers) that rely heavily on the pick and roll get shut down in these playoffs, and it's teams like Atlanta and Phoenix that are able to spread defenses thin by putting multiple shooters on the court at one time succeed.
In 34 career playoff games, Ben Simmons has made 5 shots outside of 10 feet (from the basket).— Paul Hembekides (@Paul Hembekides)1624277710.0
Joel Embiid was phenomenal in the postseason, so let's not ignore that fact. Also, he was playing on one knee and still almost willed the Sixers to a win. But again, Embiid was not 100% in the playoffs, which limited his abilities.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team https://t.co/8xL35u98RC— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez)1624244460.0
Following their loss, Doc Rivers was asked if he thought Ben Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, to which he responded, "I don't know that answer to that question right now," which doesn't provide a whole lot of confidence in Simmons' status with the team next year. Trade rumors have already begun to circulate, and it would make sense for this Philly team to hit the reset button now.
If Simmons continues to be exploitable in big moments, as we've seen him be so far in his career, his value is only going to go down. Adding further complications into the situation is the team just agreed to a new contract extension with Simmons and is due to make between $33 and $40 million per season over the next four years.
As the two cornerstone pieces of The Process appear to be two Scotties without a Mike, the early departure for the East's top seed will likely mean a big shakeup in the near future. If Embiid is healthy, he is elite without question. Maybe Philadelphia will go out and add around their two stars, but unless the organization is confident that Simmons can avoid another atrocious offensive performance in future playoff series, all they have is a really good regular season team.
The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.
After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.
LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.
The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.
🗣 DEVIN BOOKER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622601795.0
The idea of effort is something that was lacking on the purple and gold side last night though. It didn't take long after Booker started hitting everything that the Lakers team started playing sloppy and launching up bad threes in a failed attempt to not let the game get out of hand. Well it did.
The two teams were among the best defensive teams in league this season, the Suns finished seventh in overall team defensive rating and the Lakers first. The Lakers typically like to use their defensive prowess to control pace and work in the half court with their combination of speed on the wings and their combination of big men down low that includes Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis (when healthy), and former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell. Incase you forgot Harrell does in fact still play for the Lakers, but before last night if you blinked for too long you would've missed him on the court.
WHY ISN’T MONTREZL HARRELL GETTING PLAYING TIME?????@MONSTATREZZ #FreeMontrezl https://t.co/j55u9zg9kN— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport)1622603465.0
For some unknown reason Trez has been an afterthought in Frank Vogel's rotations, not only in this series, but throughout parts of the regular season. With AD being ruled out for Game 5, it would've been logical to think that we'd see an uptick in minutes for the high energy reserve, and we did. But not until the game was far out of hand in the second half. While the Suns were building a 30 point lead we saw Phoenix's guards cooking the slower big men of the Lakers off pick and rolls.
30 points is the largest lead at half in Suns playoff history. 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/UoozhMf6Io— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622604230.0
It's understandable to want some size to limit Deandre Ayton, but when it's Booker, Payne, and Bridges hurting you offensively why not see how a quicker and more agile defender like Harrell might fare slowing down the pick and rolls? We saw Jae Crowder having success doing that on the other side for the Suns all night!
It's not fair to just talk about how bad the Lakers were, in fairness it looked like they were getting open looks and were just collectively having an unlucky shooting night. Maybe they all got it out of their system now? But the Suns would have beat anyone on that home court last night. Let's give all credit to them by playing one of the best games ever seen against a LeBron James-led playoff team. Devin Booker is an absolute star and this team plays with a very focused chip on their shoulder which has been manicured by Chris Paul. His leadership has made ALL the difference for this Phoenix team and it can be seen most on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns players have adopted Paul's attitude and intensity on that end and it all paid off last night.
We've seen LeBron actively frustrated during playoff games on the court, and last night is one of the most cringe-worthy to have seen. James spent way too much time talking to officials about calls, and not just between whistles. It would be interesting to know how many possessions the Lakers played four on five because James never made it back on defense before the Suns put more points on them. LeBron was seen leaving the court with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and sure it could be to start receiving treatment on the injured ankle. But we know the real reason he left. We can only hope he didn't punch anything on the way to the locker room.
While the teams will travel back to L.A. for Game 6, the Lakers know they are in a must-win situation. We saw the rest of the team around LeBron scrambling because they felt the pressure. James was the only Laker in the second half that kept the team functioning. When we've seen a visibly dejected James like we did last night, it's been because he knew his team didn't have it. I don't think that's the case with this Lakers team.
There's plenty of talent on the roster even without Anthony Davis. Maybe Game 6 is when we get to see Harrell getting some meaningful minutes. Maybe Vogel can devise a way to get Andre Drummond more involved offensively. Maybe AD plays and isn't slowed by the groin injury. Or maybe you should've listened to us back in January when we told you the Suns were a pretty good basketball team.