1. Sio Moore had the Goat of the Week Award all sewn up for about 3 seconds Thursday night. The previously-winless Raiders were up 24-20 with less than a minute to play and the Chiefs had the ball. Moore sacked Alex Smith, and proceeded to run about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage to dance and celebrate. He clearly thought the game was over, even though the Chiefs still had 4th down to play. Had Moore's teammate Justin Tuck not called time out, Moore would have been flagged for a penalty, giving the Chiefs another shot at winning the game. Tuck wound up being the hero for the Raiders that night, and hopefully Moore bought him a beer or two to thank him.
2. Josh Gordon could tip the balance of power in the AFC North. As overly dramatic as that sounds, Gordon is the wide receiver playmaker the Browns need for their passing game. He quickly made his presence know, catching 8 passes on the day for 120 yards. He hasn't missed a beat since coming off his 10-game suspension, and the Browns look prepared to make a push for January football for the first time since 2002. They have two divisional games left, one at home against Cincinnati, and the other is a Week 17 game in Baltimore. Either (or perhaps both) of those games could wind up deciding which team in the AFC North takes the divisional crown.
3. The Goat of the Week Award goes to Dominic Raiola. Raiola is the center on the Lions' offensive line, and he didn't like the fact that the Patriots had run the ball in for another touchdown with under 2 minutes left to go in the game Sunday. The Patriots were already up 27-9 at that point, so the game was clearly won, but they wanted another score (which is what they always do anyway). In retaliation, Raiola made a cut block on Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore, going right at his knee. Raiola didn't even try to hide that fact, and the irony to his action was that the Lions were taking knees to end the game once they had gotten the ball back. The NFL is not suspending him, which is surprising since they claim to take player safety so seriously. Still, it was a cheap shot that was clearly intended to hurt another player on the field.
4. The Seahawks aren't dead yet. Despite the very real chance that the Seahawks may be the third consecutive defending Super Bowl champion to miss the playoffs the following year, Seattle is currently the 6th seed in the playoff picture. That could change very quickly starting Thursday night, as the Seahawks play in San Francisco (the two teams play again in Seattle two weeks later). The Lions are also right on their heels with an identical overall record, When it's all said and done five weeks from now, I still see the Seahawks being on the outside looking in at the playoffs. The Lions have 4 very winnable games coming up, followed by wrapping up the regular season in Green Bay. The Seahawks will also have to worry about the Cowboys, Eagles, and 49ers in fighting for one of the two Wild Card spots. That's quite a steep hill to climb for them to defend their title.
5. Ryan Mallet is the long-term answer at quarterback for the Texans....just not for the remainder of 2014, since he is done for the year now with a torn pectoral muscle. However, Houston can take a little bit of comfort knowing that Mallet should be the franchise quarterback the team needs going forward. He is a free agent after this season, but the Texans should pursue signing him long term instead of looking to the draft for a young prospect. Since the most important position on the field has been filled for them, Houston is further ahead into their rebuilding process than where they were expected to be at this point. They can look more towards adding to their group of receivers or offensive line instead come April when the draft rolls around.
6. The Ravens got a steal in Will Hill. Hill made a crucial pick-6 interception on Drew Brees last night. He was a low-risk player, signing a one-year deal with the team for the season while he had to serve a six-game suspension for marijuana use. He nearly took Jimmy Graham completely out of the game, and the Ravens will need him the rest of the way playing at that kind of level since Jimmy Smith is done for the year. The issue is what does the team do with him after this season. Torrey Smith and Justin Tucker are both free agents after this year, and Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda, and Jimmy Smith all will be free agents after 2015. The Ravens can't keep all six of those guys, so that will be some serious picking and choosing they'll have to do. It'd be great to see Ngata and Yanda finish their careers in Baltimore, but I wouldn't be that surprised to see the Ravens let Yanda go since they have some young depth on their offensive line. Tucker has become a fan favorite and incredibly clutch, so hopefully the Ravens can keep him long term with a well-deserved raise. There is a clear need for both wide receiver and free safety, so Ozzie Newsome would be smart to lock up Torrey Smith and Hill.
7. Drew Brees is not his normal self this year. Brees's stats don't seem to indicate much at face value. His completion percentage is just over 70%, which is right about where it normally is. His average yards completed per pass is also right around the norm. He isn't being sacked more than usual. About the only stats that do look a bit off the norm are his touchdowns and interceptions. He's thrown 22 touchdowns and 11 picks through 11 games. Compare those numbers against 2013, when he threw 39 touchdown passes against 12 picks for the season. He is clearly off his 2013 pace by a significant margin, possibly in part to how poorly the Saints' defense is this year compared to last.
The Saints' defense gave up a total of 33 touchdowns last year, and they've already given up 32 this season. Opponents are keeping the ball for nearly 2:30 more per game than they did last year. Opponents are also 4-of-5 going for it on 4th down this year versus 4-of-12 last year.
The bottom line is this is a "chicken and the egg" kind of discussion. There's more pressure on Brees to make plays because the Saints aren't playing defense the same way they did last year with largely the same personnel. On the other hand, a very good argument could be made that the defense faces more pressure because Brees is also not making the kind of plays he is expected to,