Seven weeks into 2023 NFL The season only exists in the books. The latest round of events brought with it plenty of drama, starting with the Patriots beating the Bills in Foxboro, the Ravens beating the Lions and the Browns beating the Colts in a high-scoring shootout. Now which players, coaches and teams deserve the highest praise – or harshest criticism – for their work in Week 7?
Here’s a recap of some of this weekend’s biggest winners and losers:
Winner: Bill Belichick
Just when you thought his reign might be coming to an end, he frustrated Bill Belichick’s one-win Patriots team and upset Josh Allen and the Bills hours after a report surfaced about him quietly receiving a lucrative multi-year contract extension this offseason. Maybe he’s not at risk of being fired after all. Either way, to get a walk from Mac Jones and opportunism from his defense, dropping Buffalo to 4-3 on the year, he has reason to celebrate, even if New England remains more of a spoiler than a contender.
Loser: Black Hype Train
You might have argued before Week 7 that Detroit was NFL The most balanced contender this side of the 49ers. But all their momentum came to a screeching halt in Baltimore, where Jared Goff’s offensive line finally collapsed and Lamar Jackson bulldozed his way to a three-touchdown performance in the Ravens’ 38-6 blowout. Every team in the NFC has now been humbled, with the Eagles, 49ers and Lions losing their first or second games of the season in consecutive weeks.
A lot of people wrote the Bears off after Justin Fields exited Week 6 with an injury, leaving an already shaky offense in murky waters. They didn’t take into account Tyson Bagent, the undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd, who brought veteran-level swagger to make light work of the Raiders. In his first career start against the Las Vegas “D” that stifled the Packers a week ago, Bagnett controlled the ball and also moved it with his legs, contributing to Chicago’s more than 170 yards.
Loser: NFC South
The Falcons beat the Buccaneers in their intense afternoon battle, but did anyone really win? Desmond Rader fumbled not once but three times inside the red zone, Baker Mayfield begged Atlanta to make late-game picks until they finally did, and the opponents are now a combined 7-6 after seven weeks, completely unwilling — more like unable — to get past the flow. The ugly game. This after Derek Carr and the Saints did too little, too late in a loss to the Jaguars on Thursday. The Panthers’ 0-6 performance is probably the best of all the Southern teams, considering they had no chance of losing during their bye.
It’s hard to crown them after watching a $230 million QB sidelined with another injury that, by all indications, wasn’t supposed to keep him on the sidelines. Their defense also allowed Gardner Minshew and the Colts to make this a barnburner. But wins are wins, and Jim Schwartz’s unity came through again when a 39-38 decision mattered. That means that even with Deshaun Watson in and out of the lineup, this team is 4-2 in the tough AFC North — which is as good as they hoped.
We’ve already given credit to Bill Belichick above, but Buffalo deserves just as much criticism for failing to move beyond what was an atrocious Patriots offense. Josh Allen’s early selection hampered them, but Sean McDermott’s defense was more to blame late, perhaps underscoring their need for secondary reinforcements. Instead of keeping up with the Dolphins by going 5-2, this volatile rival is now 4-3, and previously wasted winnable contests against the Jets and Jaguars.
Winner: Mahomes-Kelce combination
Welcome back boys! We know Brandon Staley’s defense is unreliable on a lot of defenses. But the Chiefs’ stars were on a roll against the rival Chargers on Sunday. Patrick Mahomes had over 300 yards through the air by halftime, finishing with four points while feeding Travis Kelce ahead. The latter started 2023 on a slightly slower note while battling injuries, but he did manage to catch 12 catches for 179 yards and look for a casual TD while skating through Los Angeles.
The Rams kicker entered Week 7 tied for second in field goals made (16), but… NFL. His recent misses in particular were crucial, as he sailed wide with Los Angeles leading 17-10; The Rams would go on to lose 24-17 to an ugly but gritty Steelers team.For the third time this season, the season’s conversion percentage dropped to 74, one of the worst percentages in
Winner: Sean Payton
It took all sorts of scratches and claws to outlast the Packers at home and secure their second win of the year, but it happened. Which is nothing, considering the turmoil Denver has been through. That won’t help teams hoping to purge their roster of talent before the deadline, since they’re technically one game (!) away from the Chargers in the AFC West. But it’s a win for Payton, who was desperate for any kind of positive momentum in the Mile High City.