Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots
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What a weekend of sports! There were plenty of games across college basketball, college football and the NFL. So much to watch, and so much for me (Zach Pereles) to write!

Let's get right to it.

Good morning to everyone, but especially to...

Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots
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When Mac Jones fell to the Patriots in the 2021 NFL Draft, people (myself included) wondered if it was yet another QB match made in heaven in New England. While it's still early, the Patriots are certainly headed in the right direction -- and Jones is leading the way.

Riding a terrific run game and a killer defense, the Patriots are on a four-game winning streak after demolishing the Browns, 45-7 yesterday. Jones threw three touchdown passes, fellow rookie Rhamondre Stevenson ran for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Jakobi Meyers finally scored a touchdown. And of course it came the week after I dropped him in fantasy football *sigh*

Anyway, the Patriots are legit, writes our NFL expert Tyler Sullivan:

  • Sullivan: "Over this four-game stretch, the Patriots are outscoring their opponents, 150-50. During a year where no elite team in the AFC has revealed itself to this point, New England should be right in the thick of the conversation as contenders in the conference. If they can continue to ride this momentum, they'll not only be a threat to reach the playoffs but could be one of the more feared teams in the tournament."

Honorable mentions:

And not such a good morning for... 



19 plays, 80 yards, 10:26 time of possession, touchdown.

That was the Washington Football Team's final drive Sunday against the Buccaneers. It was the longest drive in terms of time of possession by any team this season, and it sealed a surprising 29-19 upset of the defending Super Bowl champs.

Everything seemed off from the start for Tampa Bay, now losers of two straight. Tom Brady threw multiple first-quarter interceptions for the first time since 2012, and Washington scored on its first four drives for the first time since 2016.

The Buccaneers have issues on both sides of the ball. Here are some major ones:

  • In Tampa Bay's six wins this year, 15% of Brady's throws have been 20 or more yards downfield. In the losses, that number drops to 9%. On Sunday, it was just 6%, his lowest rate as a Buccaneer.
  • The continued absences of Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown help explain Brady's struggles. Brady posts a 137.1 passer rating when he targets Gronkowski this season, his best of any target. Meanwhile, he averages 9.6 yards per attempt when targeting Brown, also his best of any target. Those two can't get back soon enough.
  • Injuries are hurting the defense, too. Cornerback Richard Sherman got hurt in warmups. Then, defensive tackle Vita Vea got carted off after Washington's game-sealing touchdown.
  • The Bucs lead the league in defensive penalties committed.

Bruce Arians didn't mince words after the game: "It has nothing to do with ability. It's about execution and being a smart football team. We're a very dumb football team. And that's a reflection on the coaches."

Not-so-honorable mention:

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs back on top of the AFC West 🏈


A whopping 406 yards and five touchdowns later, it's safe to say Patrick Mahomes is back and the Chiefs have found their rhythm after a dominant 41-14 win over the Raiders.

The win, combined with losses by the Chargers and Broncos, puts Kansas City on top of the AFC West for the first time this season. Mahomes was in sync with Travis Kelce (eight receptions, 119 yards) and Tyreek Hill (seven receptions, 83 yards, two touchdowns), and the Chiefs' defense forced two turnovers.

The result? Arguably the Chiefs' most balanced performance all year, according to our NFL scribes:

  • "Mahomes didn't try to hide his acrobatic gifts in the name of controlling the ball. Instead, he finally found some balance and touch, restoring all-night chemistry with Hill and Kelce ... defensively, the Chiefs also confirmed they're still trending upward: the trenches made some noise early ... throw in a perfectly executed fake punt from Tommy Townsend, and it was an all-around show."

Up next weekend is a home contest with the Cowboys. I can't wait.

Quiet return for Aaron Rodgers as Packers defense steps up again 🏈


On Sunday at Lambeau Field, the returns of Russell Wilson (finger) and Aaron Rodgers (COVID-19) got the pregame headlines. Once the game got underway, though, it was the Packers' defense that stood out.

Neither star quarterback looked great. Wilson completed just 50% of his passes -- his lowest mark in over two years -- and threw a pair of interceptions. Rodgers, meanwhile did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 1.

The Packers' defense was the difference. Before Sunday, Russell Wilson had never been shut out. Never! Green Bay has now allowed 21 or fewer points in five straight games, its longest streak since 2010. You know what else happened in the 2010 season? The Packers won the Super Bowl. I'm just saying...

NFL expert Cody Benjamin gave the Packers a C+ in the win, but noted plenty of positives:

  • Benjamin: "AJ Dillon really stepped up for Aaron Jones, Adams did his thing, and best of all, a defense missing Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith showed out, capitalizing on Wilson's apparent rustiness to make big plays up front and in the back end. They'll only get better as A-Rod settles back in."

West Coast, best coast? At least so far in men's college basketball 🏀


It was an awesome weekend for college basketball -- if you were able to stay up and watch it. On Friday night, No. 2 UCLA rallied for a 86-77 overtime win against No. 4 Villanova in Los Angeles. While Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the way, UCLA's depth was on display, too, writes our college basketball expert David Cobb:

  • Cobb: "(Mick) Cronin has more depth than he knows what to do with, and that should benefit his team as the season goes on. This team has already been hit with injuries to Riley and true freshman Will McClendon, but the depth it has built paid off Friday."

That would have been the most impressive win of the weekend if it hadn't been for No. 1 Gonzaga walloping No. 5 Texas 86-74 on Saturday night in a game the 'Zags led by as much as 22. Drew Timme dropped a career-high 37 points and stated his case for best player in all of men's college basketball, writes our college basketball reporter Matt Norlander:

  • Norlander: "At the center of it is Timme, who isn't the strongest or fastest or most overwhelming. He's none of that. He's solid. He's smart. He's great in his own way, which makes the rest of the team great. In an era of ever-evolving big men with perimeter-insistent skillsets, Timme remains a charming -- yet swaggy -- throwback."

What we're watching Monday

🏀 Nuggets at Mavericks (-4), 8 p.m. on NBA TV | Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic leads the Nuggets against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in a duel of two of the league's best.
Rams (-3.5) at 49ers, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN | Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to debut for the Rams, who are looking to bounce back from a primetime loss last week.
🏀 Bulls at Lakers (-1), 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV | Two iconic franchises meet as the Bulls continue their West Coast swing.