By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
All four of these teams need this break to heal and regroup. What’s interesting to me, is the startling similarities between these four teams.
Two from the AFC North and two from the NFC South. Two struggling with first-year head coaches and sub-par quarterback play, while the other two are dealing with injuries that have taken out their starting QB and left their entire offenses struggling.
But I wonder… will this “Bye” week hurt or heal these teams?
Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield were a great combination last season, working together as Interim Offensive Coordinator and Back-up Quarterback. They worked hard to get the 7-8-1 record that fired up Browns fans. When it was announced that Kitchens would be the new head coach, nearly everyone was thrilled. Now, not so much.
Mayfield has regressed, leading the league in interceptions, and even with targets like wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., he has struggled with accuracy. The common theme among critics is that Kitchens has too much to do. He handles all of the offensive play-calling duties as well as head coaching responsibilities during games. They soared high as a dynamic duo after soundly defeating the Baltimore Ravens in week 4, but back-to-back losses have some people calling for his job.
A couple of healthy cornerbacks will return after this “Bye,” Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Hopefully, that will help the team get back on a winning track, but heading off to Gillette Stadium to play Belichick, QB Tom Brady and the Patriots may make getting a win in the near future very difficult.
Running back Le’veon Bell. WR Antonio Brown. QB Ben Roethlisberger. These are names that created the offensive juggernaut that was Steelers football. And now they are all gone. Yes, two moved on to other teams, but the season-ending shoulder surgery for Roethlisberger wasn’t in the plans during the offseason. Rookie QB Mason Rudolph stepped in, and along with RB James Connor and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, they tried to get things going. Then Rudolph got knocked out in a freak hit that sent him off into concussion protocol.
Enter “The Duck,” QB Devlin Hodges. They’ve greatly improved with Hodges managing the games. After getting off to an 0-3 start, they are now 2-4 and still in things as far as the AFC North goes. But anyone who follows Steeler football knows that this team is stretched pretty thin. One more critical injury and they may not win another game. At least they can get healthy this week before hosting the Miami Dolphins in Week 8.
Duck did well in that role but there has to be little doubt Mason Rudolph returns to start vs. Miami after Steelers bye
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) October 14, 2019
The injury to QB Cam Newton could have been a disaster. Instead, what we have now is a situation where the back-up QB, Kyle Allen, has been nothing short of amazing. With a record of 4-2, Allen has thrown 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He’s kept this team in the hunt to win the NFC South. With the New Orleans Saints having some QB issues of their own, Allen has done exactly what he needed to do for this team. The question, however, is that if Newton returns to practice next week, will he get his starting job back? Or has Allen done enough to keep his spot behind center?
Panthers’ QB Cam Newton’s foot injury has healed well and he is expected to be ready to practice after the team’s bye this week, per league source. Panthers have said they will make a QB determination when Newton is healthy; that looks to be coming soon.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 14, 2019
Four wins in a row is definitely a hot streak worth riding, but perhaps they do need to cool down and step back a bit. This league can be a whirlwind and it feels like they’ve just kept their heads down and plowed through while Newton was out. And, frankly, they’ve ridden running back Christian McCaffrey pretty hard. I’m sure he truly appreciates a little break at this point in the season. Week 8 will see them taking on the (currently) undefeated 49ers in San Francisco.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’ve always been a huge fan of Bruce Arians. That being said, what in the world is going on down there? A lowly 2-4, the Buccaneers are only sitting in 3rd place in the division because the Atlanta Falcons (1-5) can’t get out of their own way. QB Jameis Winston has been just short of awful. The defense has given up 30+ points in five of their games. Arians is being criticized for the way they are using first-round draft pick O.J. Howard as a fullback more often than as a tight end.
There hasn’t been talk about his job being in jeopardy yet. Let’s face it, there are other more “deserving” candidates for a seat on the Head Coach Hot Seat at this point in the season. But the Bye week may not be doing the Bucs any favors. Coming off two straight losses, the last thing you want to do is have a week off to dwell on everything that has gone wrong. (See Browns comments above) But maybe this week is when Arians will shine, will keep his players focused on the plan and they’ll come back in Week 8 roaring to go when they face the Titans in Tennessee.
Talk NFL Football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8