NFLSport

NFL Week 7 grades from around the league

The Chiefs bounced back from their Bills’ shortcomings, and the New York teams continued their surprise rises. But the NFC is seeing most of its expected contenders encounter turbulence ahead of the midseason point. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers’ struggles have offered major October plot points. Here are the Week 7 grades from around the NFL.

 

New Chiefs WR corps rounding into form

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City’s post-Tyreek Hill plan has drawn scrutiny, but this unusually built receiving corps passed a big test. JuJu Smith-Schuster now has back-to-back 100-yard games — against two top-five defenses — and Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped his first three-digit performance as a Chief. Backed by Mecole Hardman’s virtuoso gadget day, the Chiefs’ hyphenated hired guns combined for 10 catches and 235 yards. Paying Smith-Schuster $3.8 million and guaranteeing MVS $8.6M created a more balanced setup around Patrick Mahomes, who delivered his eighth career 400-yard game. Odell Beckham Jr. would intrigue as if there are not enough WR2s in this offense. But the Chiefs (5-2) are separating themselves from the non-Bills pack with this crew.

CHIEFS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Nov. 6)

 

2 of 26

49ers’ No. 1 defense no-shows top matchup

49ers' No. 1 defense no-shows top matchup

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Although his end zone interception proved costly in what became a shootout, Jimmy Garoppolo put up 303 yards. Kyle Shanahan will have more Christian McCaffrey tricks dialed up going forward. But San Francisco’s No. 1-ranked defense allowed 529 yards — the fifth-most the 49ers have yielded this century — and the most points at home since 2009. While not at full strength, the 49ers (3-4) were better equipped compared to Week 6 in Atlanta. Mahomes having this much success against them is eye-opening. Fortunately for San Francisco, most of the NFC’s expected contender crop is also underwhelming. The 49ers should re-emerge better, but this strength-on-strength matchup could not have gone worse.

49ERS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Rams (Sun.)

 

3 of 26

Steelers defense submits unusual showing

Steelers defense submits unusual showing

ANDRES LEIVA/THE PALM BEACH POST / USA TODAY NETWORK

Pittsburgh’s defense managed to outperform Tampa Bay’s offense despite missing four of its five secondary starters last week. With the troops mostly back in Miami, Teryl Austin’s unit limited Tua Tagovailoa in his return. The Steelers (2-5) allowed three second-half points, doing so without their pass rush making a notable impact, but their regulars dropped an NFL-season-high four would-be interceptions. Starters Terrell Edmunds, Cam Sutton, and Levi Wallace could have made life easier for Kenny Pickett, who wounded the visitors’ chances with some errant passes the Dolphins caught, but the drops dug a deeper hole for the team. 

STEELERS GRADE: C | NEXT: at Eagles (Sun.)

 

4 of 26

Overlooked Dolphins cornerbacks come through

Overlooked Dolphins cornerbacks come through

JIM RASSOL/THE PALM BEACH POST / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Dolphins nearly gave up on Noah Igbinoghene. They signed Justin Coleman to man the slot last year and placed a second-round restricted free-agent tender on Nik Needham this year. Needham’s Achilles tear reopened the door for Igbinoghene, a 2020 first-rounder. The slow-starting corner’s game-sealing interception represented his biggest play as a pro. It came on a night in which ace special-teamer Justin Bethel — a player whose defensive work once prompted Bruce Arians to call him a “failure in progress” — also intercepted Pickett. These INTs and Jevon Holland’s bailed out Mike McDaniel, whose bizarre fourth-and-3 gamble backfired to keep the Steelers in it. Still, the Dolphins (4-3) providing a Bryon Jones return timetable would be nice.

DOLPHINS GRADE: B | NEXT: at Lions (Sun.)

 

5 of 26

Contract-year Giants cornerstones lead another comeback

Contract-year Giants cornerstones lead another comeback

Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants discussed Saquon Barkley in trades and did not pick up Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option; both are scheduled for 2023 free agency. The team’s new regime may need to come up with new plans. Dave Gettleman’s top investments led another rescue effort, each exceeding 100 rushing yards. Jones’ first 100-yard rushing day (and first Giants QB to top 100 yards since…1946) continued his career’s most efficient stretch. OC Mike Kafka, who is zooming onto the head-coaching radar, putting Jones and Barkley in zone-read action led to the latter posting 72 of his 110 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. No team has turned down a QB’s fifth-year option and circled back to an extension. We are not yet there with Jones, but this stunning 6-1 start puts that reality in play.

GIANTS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Seahawks (Sun.)

 

6 of 26

Red zone burns Jaguars in 4th straight loss

Red zone burns Jaguars in 4th straight loss

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants’ latest comeback win needed some Jaguars drives to stall. Jacksonville (2-5) did not navigate the red zone well, seeing three of its trips produce no points. Travis Etienne scored on his first such opportunity but fumbled on the 2-yard line soon after. Doug Pederson then passed on challenging a questionable fourth-quarter spot, leading to a turnover on downs instead of a possible first down (via challenge) or a game-tying field goal. Trevor Lawrence’s final-play strike to Christian Kirk, then coming one yard short, epitomized another near-miss for the rebuilding squad (and a Giants Pederson revenge game for Week 17, 2020). The Jags appear too far off the pace, even in the AFC South.

JAGUARS GRADE: C-plus | NEXT: vs. Broncos (Sun., in London)

 

7 of 26

Jets’ offensive viability suddenly concerns

Jets' offensive viability suddenly concerns

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets secondary, boosted by some questionably physical Sauce Gardner play, led another quality defensive performance in a win that moved the team to a borderline-shocking 5-2 mark. But the injuries to Breece Hall and Corey Davis, along with the team’s passing game regressing with Zach Wilson, inject concern into this early-season lovefest. The latest QB to be dragged into the Broncos’ aesthetically hideous world, Wilson (4.7 yards per attempt) struggled to locate targets. It is not a coincidence Elijah Moore’s numbers have tanked with the former No. 2 overall pick compared to Joe Flacco, who had the passing game in a higher gear. Hall’s severe knee injury threatens to expose Wilson, who will soon face a coach known for preying on young QBs.

JETS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)

 

8 of 26

Dominant Broncos defense a footnote amid chaos

Dominant Broncos defense a footnote amid chaos

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Nathaniel Hackett does appear to have made a good defensive coordinator hire, bringing in longtime friend Ejiro Evero. Evero’s troops continue to excel, despite losing key personnel weekly. This week, emerging edge rusher Baron Browning left a game in which the Broncos (2-5) were missing starters on all three levels. Denver’s defense has allowed more than 20 points just once, and Pat Surtain II — just 22 — is giving the Broncos a Champ Bailey-level presence. Hackett’s mess of an offense, which has the Broncos at their lowest seven-game point total in 56 years, undercuts this. If this defense were paired with Pat Shurmur’s maligned Teddy Bridgewater-led offense, are the Broncos 6-1? 

BRONCOS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun., in London)

 

9 of 26

Favorable spot no cure for reigning MVP’s ills

Favorable spot no cure for reigning MVP's ills

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers was sitting on fewer than 100 passing yards into the fourth quarter, and the Packers (3-4) failed to convert a third down for the first time since Brett Favre’s age-30 season (1999). It looks like the critics who doubted Green Bay’s unorthodox plan to surround a 38-year-old quarterback with a collection of rookies and journeymen receivers, thus giving Allen Lazard a rare WR3-to-WR1 bump, were right. Rodgers rightfully, as Romeo Doubs’ rough day showed, does not trust his wideouts. The four-time MVP has rallied the Packers back from adversity before, most notably leading the 2016 team from 4-6 to the NFC title game, and the NFC is flooded with flawed contenders. The 49ers, Buccaneers, and Rams certainly have better wideouts, however.

PACKERS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Bills (Sun.)

 

10 of 26

Taylor Heinicke provides spark for resurgent Commanders

Taylor Heinicke provides spark for resurgent Commanders

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After narrowly scraping past a basement-tier Bears team, the Commanders (3-4) are suddenly back in the mix. Their math looks more difficult than the rest of the NFC’s 3-4 glut, being in the now-loaded NFC East, but the Commanders can thank Ron Rivera’s longtime QB insurance option for a more impressive win. Back in the saddle after Carson Wentz’s finger injury sent him to IR, Heinicke navigated a (seemingly) talented Packers defense and found Terry McLaurin for a few pivotal second-half connections — including a 37-yard go-ahead score. Bidding for every available QB — including a three-first-rounder Russell Wilson offer — to upgrade on Heinicke, Washington looked better with its third-year backup Sunday.

COMMANDERS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Colts (Sun.)

 

11 of 26

Bucs hit new Tom Brady-era low

Bucs hit new Tom Brady-era low

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady found himself in a few bad divisions during his near-two-decade run as an AFC East starter. Fortunately, the NFC South bottomed out shortly after he showed up in Tampa. The QB legend will need this familiar margin for error because the Buccaneers (3-4, first in the NFC South) showed their worst form since pulling off the Brady free agency coup. Yes, the Bucs lost 38-3 to the Saints during their Super Bowl year, but being blown out by the Drew Brees-Sean Payton squad is different than losing by 18 to a Panthers team stripping away parts. Mike Evans’ TD drop set the tone for a horrid Tampa Bay day. The Bucs should be better than this; alarm bells are sounding for the would-be Super Bowl threat.

BUCCANEERS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Thu.)

 

12 of 26

Panthers defense drains life from double-digit favorite

Panthers defense drains life from double-digit favorite

John Byrum/Icon Sportswire

Although Carolina let Evans loose on what would have been a stroll-in TD, the now-rebuilding squad locked in after that lapse. The Panthers (2-5) saw would-be trade assets Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson thrive, and despite the Bucs’ defense keeping Carolina’s offense at bay for much of the day, Tampa Bay’s rushing attack could not rev up. The Panthers’ post-Christian McCaffrey ground game, featuring Chuba Hubbard and 2021 Derrick Henry fill-in, D’Onta Foreman, far outpaced Leonard Fournette (19 yards). Cory Littleton’s fourth-down stop of Fournette set up this game’s double-digit gap forming. The Panthers, who probably should trade Burns for two first-rounders if such an offer exists, will be put to a decision on certain players before the Nov. 1 trade deadline. 

PANTHERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)

 

13 of 26

Browns finding new ways to unravel

Browns finding new ways to unravel

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike their Patriots no-show, the Browns did not submit a poor effort in Baltimore. Cleveland competed with a better-equipped Baltimore team throughout, and Justice Hill’s fumble set up the team for a potential game-tying march. Two penalties — an Amari Cooper push-off and a hotly debated false start — respectively negated a touchdown and moved Cade York’s field goal back to a more blockable 61 yards. Cleveland (2-5) could not keep an iffy Baltimore pass rush off Jacoby Brissett, and Calais Campbell’s sack-strip set up what turned out to be a back-breaking TD. The Browns’ next four games: Bengals, Dolphins, Bills, and Buccaneers. Deshaun Watson, likely to the NFL’s relief, will almost certainly not be competing for a playoff spot this year.

BROWNS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Mon.)

 

14 of 26

Ground-game stability comes from unlikely source

Ground-game stability comes from unlikely source

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Seeing their J.K. Dobbins rehab plan encounter big-picture turbulence, the Ravens entered Week 7 potentially staring at another season of retread vets leading a mediocre running back stable. But Gus Edwards, whose ACL rehab effort took longer than Dobbins’, spared the team from that reality — for a day, at least. The Ravens (4-3) turned to the fifth-year veteran, who had not played since the 2020 season, and he produced during a game in which Lamar Jackson did not top 100 passing yards, and Mark Andrews posted a goose egg (and on national tight end day). Finally debuting on the contract, he signed back in June 2021, Edwards (66 yards, two TDs) returning to form provided an old-school feel for a team that has not felt whole at running back since 2020.

RAVENS GRADE: B | NEXT: at Buccaneers (Thu.)

 

15 of 26

Falcons DBs create game script offense cannot handle

Falcons DBs create game script offense cannot handle

Sam Greene / USA TODAY NETWORK

Entering the game with Casey Hayward on IR, the Falcons lost top cornerback A.J. Terrell and safety starter Jaylinn Hawkins on Sunday. Backup corners also went down for Atlanta, which had practice squad cog Cornell Armstrong often on Ja’Marr Chase. That matchup did not produce an upset, and the Falcons (3-4) gave up the second-most passing yards in team history (trivia). Not built to compete in a shootout, Atlanta’s offense finished with eight pass completions. And 75 of Marcus Mariota’s 124 yards came on one play — a Damiere Byrd TD. This game revealed both the short-term depth issues plaguing the scrappy team and the limitations Mariota provides in settings like these.

FALCONS GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

 

16 of 26

As QBs struggle, Joe Burrow finding stride

As QBs struggle, Joe Burrow finding stride

Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals (4-3) may merely be benefiting from a Marshon Lattimore-less Saints corps and a battered Falcons DB arsenal, but they have shown their capabilities over the past two weeks. Seeing just two blitzes all day, Burrow — per Next Gen Stats — threw for more yards (467) against four or fewer pass rushers than anyone has since 2016. Burrow’s 481-yard passing day included a career-high 155 Tyler Boyd yards. Boyd, who is still just 27, producing at this level best showcases Cincinnati’s receiver cadre’s construction. Not many teams can unleash their WR3 to this degree. Chase and Tee Higgins allow for it. Boyd (455 yards) is on pace for a third 1,000-yard season.

BENGALS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Browns (Mon.)

 

17 of 26

Colts not maximizing their parts on offense

Colts not maximizing their parts on offense

Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts roster the NFL’s highest-paid guard and top-five contracts at center and right tackle. Jonathan Taylor was back in uniform Sunday, and Michael Pittman Jr. is tracking toward a lucrative contract. This combination must produce more than it is. Matt Ryan is the variable here, and although there have been pass-protection issues as the Colts (3-3-1) attempt to replace two departed O-linemen, the 37-year-old QB is holding a talented roster back. Ryan threw two more interceptions and now has an NFL-high nine to go with a league-leading 11 fumbles. The former MVP is on pace for his most INTs in a season; he has been too erratic for a Colts roster featuring so many upper-echelon talents in their prime.

COLTS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Commanders (Sun.)

 

18 of 26

Practice squad pickups keep Titans’ rivalry streak going

Practice squad pickups keep Titans' rivalry streak going

Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Colts have not beaten the Titans since Philip Rivers’ debut in this rivalry. Two players signed off other teams’ practice squads helped Tennessee (4-2) push this rivalry streak to five and its 2022 win streak to four. Andrew Adams, a safety who has been with three teams since July, notched his first pick-six in a seven-year career. Terrance Mitchell, whom the Titans poached off the Patriots’ taxi squad, caused the third Colts turnover by stripping Pittman to close out the game. As the Titans deal with extensive injury issues — and a passing game that has predictably stepped backward post-A.J. Brown — they continue to pull out wins. The Colts are probably more talented, but Mike Vrabel is deploying a better team.

TITANS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)

 

19 of 26

Chris Carson heir apparent lifts Seahawks to division lead

Chris Carson heir apparent lifts Seahawks to division lead

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Although Rashaad Penny’s belated emergence stabilized Seattle’s backfield for a stretch following Carson’s career-ending neck injury, the Seahawks landed the latter’s true successor in the second round. Penny’s unfortunate ACL tear opened the door for Ken Walker, who looks like Seattle’s most talented back since Marshawn Lynch. Walker, who is on his third team since 2020 (Wake Forest, Michigan State), tore up the Chargers for 168 yards and two TDs. The Bolts had nothing for Walker’s speed-power blend. Much of this damage coming behind three-tight-end sets has surely enthralled Pete Carroll. Talented rivals will threaten the Seahawks (4-3), but their status atop the NFC West — post-Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner — reflects well on Carroll.

SEAHAWKS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Giants (Sun.)

 

20 of 26

Injuries defining disappointing Bolts

Injuries defining disappointing Bolts

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It is a shame J.C. Jackson will not have a chance to bounce back from a rough start with the Chargers, who also lost Mike Williams to an ankle injury. Maladies are again defining a Bolts season, which has featured injury absences from Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater, Keenan Allen and Corey Linsley. Justin Herbert’s rib ailment clearly remains an issue as well. But a team that entered the season with one of the NFL’s best rosters, a talent consolidation that made the semi-annual pro-Chargers AFC West case easier to make, is not impressing. Brandon Staley’s defense ranks 30th in scoring, a year after Staley’s debut led to a 29th-place outing. Intent on maximizing Herbert’s third rookie-contract season, the Bolts are lucky to be 4-3.

CHARGERS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Falcons (Nov. 6)

 

21 of 26

Turnover spree negates quality Lions defensive outing

Turnover spree negates quality Lions defensive outing

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the Lions were again without D’Andre Swift and D.J. Chark, the loss of Amon-Ra St. Brown to a first-half concussion could have keyed a Cowboys rout. Detroit limited Dallas to the point the game remained 10-6 with under 3 minutes to play, but the underdogs’ five turnovers obviously proved too much to overcome. Jared Goff’s four-turnover day sandwiched Jamaal Williams’ goal-line fumble. Without Swift, St. Brown, and the still-rehabbing Jameson Williams, the Lions (1-5) are limited to the point this season lacks purpose. And even after this fairly stout performance, Aaron Glenn’s unit still ranks last in total defense. 

LIONS GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Sun.)

 

22 of 26

Cowboys’ youngest Randy Gregory fallout option emerges

Cowboys' youngest Randy Gregory fallout option emerges

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys chose a Dorance Armstrong-Dante Fowler-Sam Williams platter after Gregory reneged on his free agency agreement. So far, Dallas (5-2) is riding high on the quantity-based solution. Williams had not yet gotten into the act yet for the NFL’s sack leaders, but the Ole Miss product dropped Goff twice and caused a game-sealing fumble. The Cowboys, as they do, registered five sacks in another defensive showcase. A second-round pick who tallied 12.5 sacks for the Rebels in 2021, Williams may not even be a top-five Cowboys pass rusher right now. This depth will help Dallas when injuries strike, but right now, it is taking over games for a team needing more time to jell on offense.

COWBOYS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Bears (Sun.)

 

23 of 26

Veteran-laden Texans front seven folds

Veteran-laden Texans front seven folds

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Emblematic of Nick Caserio’s unusual roster-building approach to start his GM tenure, the Texans’ front seven houses numerous veterans. That collection, however, features players (Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison) closing out their careers or middling younger vets. The Raiders, who do not exactly employ elite O-line personnel, dominated this cast to take over the game late. The Texans (1-4-1) are methodically moving through their rebuild. If the Caserio period produces a contender, most of this front seven will not be around. Sunday’s game will make it harder to generate much in trade compensation for some of these veteran defenders, but Houston still needs to try, as future draft capital will be more valuable than stretch-run talent.

TEXANS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)

 

24 of 26

Josh Jacobs keeps making extension case

Josh Jacobs keeps making extension case

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Jacobs’ three-TD outing closed out a Texans team that was trading scores with the Raiders. While this game’s first three quarters did not paint a positive picture of where the Raiders’ retooling effort is, Jacobs (155 scrimmage yards) keeps grinding ahead of free agency. Next year’s free agency may be unkind to backs, as numerous starters — Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, Damien Harris, David Montgomery — and Kareem Hunt are on track to be available. Not all will make it, and if Jacobs keeps powering ahead, will the Raiders (2-4) try to keep him off the market? Jacobs’ passing-game limitations dent his value, but his 633 rushing yards sit third. Josh McDaniels’ offense is feeding off its workhorse right now.

RAIDERS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Saints (Sun.)

 

25 of 26

Dennis Allen drawing bad hand in second-chance effort

Dennis Allen drawing bad hand in second-chance effort

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As fanbases disappointed with their coaches pine for Sean Payton trades, the Saints are 2-5 with his successor. Payton’s defensive coordinator for the previous seven years, Allen coached Thursday without most of his cornerbacks, two starting receivers, and starting quarterback. That said, the Saints were not impressing when at full strength. Allen warned against “microwave society” mindsets — a take Nathaniel Hackett may want to paraphrase — as his season skids off track, but the ex-Raiders HC still has proven starters at many places across the depth chart. Payton never started this badly after seven games, ramping up the pressure here.

SAINTS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sun.)

 

26 of 26

Isaiah Simmons crafting nice turnaround

Isaiah Simmons crafting nice turnaround

Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

As Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has mostly sputtered, Arizona’s defense has limited opponents since a Week 1 letdown against the Chiefs. Isaiah Simmons has yet to completely justify his top-10 draft slot — for a regime that has used several high-value picks on off-ball linebackers — and the Cards (3-4) reduced his snaps earlier this year. His pick-six on Andy Dalton turned Thursday’s must-win game. The Clemson product is being asked to play a role just about no one at his position does, as more of his snaps have come in the slot than in the box this season. The Cards still do not fully know what they have here, but Simmons’ status should be followed, given the unusual assignments he draws.

CARDINALS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)




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