CHICAGO — Hey, if the football fans in the Windy City want to overreact, who’s going to tell them to cut it out? It has been quite a while since the Chicago Bears were fun, and even with the Chicago Cubs back in the playoffs this town is fired up about a 3-1 first-place football team that just put 48 points on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on its way into the bye. Mitchell Trubisky just quadrupled his season touchdown pass total in one delirious afternoon, and if you’re not allowed to overreact to that, what’s the point of being a fan?
So let’s start with the game I got to see in person as part of my Sunday NFL Countdown duties — a game that was 38-3 at the half and ended 48-10 as Trubisky buried the Bucs’ weeklong QB controversy with six touchdown passes of his own against a Tampa Bay team that couldn’t do a thing right no matter who was taking the snaps.
The Bears’ offense is now as good as their defense
If you’re a Bears fan who has been waiting to see the vaunted Matt Nagy offense that lit the league on fire last year in Kansas City, Sunday was your day. Nagy was scheming dudes open and leaning on mismatches with speedsters Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel, and the Tampa Bay defense had no answers. Gabriel scored two touchdowns, including one on a nifty jet-action shovel pass at the goal line. He and Cohen each had seven catches and more than 100 receiving yards as Nagy went away from between-the-tackles running back Jordan Howard and leaned instead on the super-fast dudes he knew the Bucs’ defenders couldn’t catch. For the first time, Trubisky looked like a quarterback worthy of the 2017 No. 2 overall pick.
Graziano’s verdict: OVERREACTION. Fun, without a doubt. But the Bucs came into the game 27th in defensive DVOA, are banged up in the secondary and are averaging 34.75 points per game allowed. It’s important to understand context. Bears players to whom I spoke about this game said they saw something good coming with Trubisky — that they believe he has been developing the way they’d hoped he would. But no one here is assuming this is the way it’s going to look every week. It takes awhile to master the Andy Reid offense Nagy brought from K.C. Alex Smith wasn’t driving a league-leading passing attack until Year 5. One day of mastery doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dory. What Bears fans should take from this is excitement and hope that this can be what it looks like, eventually. But the defense — which, by the way, had another monster game with Khalil Mack wreaking havoc in the backfield — is what will drive the Bears’ NFC North title aspirations for this year at least. “It’s like the LeBron effect,” Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara told me of the Bears’ preseason addition of Mack to an already-strong defense. “He just makes everybody better. When you see greatness like that up close, it just makes everyone else want to be great that much more.”
Earl Thomas is right to be angry at the Seahawks
Thomas was playing even though he didn’t want to be there — sitting out practices in protest of the team’s refusal to extend his contract or trade him to a team that would. So as he was carted off the field with a broken leg Sunday, he appeared to direct an obscene gesture to the Seattle sideline.
Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The next time you hop on Twitter and holler that a guy has a contract and should play, remember Thomas, who could have a very hard time finding a contract that meshes with his hopes at this point. Seattle played hardball with a franchise icon. He should have continued playing hardball with them and held out until they gave him what he wanted. If this is what you get for doing the right thing and showing up to play, why would the next Seahawks player in the same situation do it?
The Titans are going to the Super Bowl
For the third week in a row, Tennessee won a miracle game — this time in overtime against the defending Super Bowl champs. And while Weeks 2 and 3 were mishmash games with their offense not at full strength, this was a 26-point, 397-yard, fourth-down-converting answer to all the Mariota doubters out there.
Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Hey, the AFC isn’t all that great. The Patriots and Steelers have looked wobbly. The Chiefs can’t keep up what they’re doing. The Jaguars can’t beat the Titans. Why not this bunch? They just won two straight games against 2017 playoff teams and they have only two more of those left — home against both the Patriots in November and Jacksonville in December. The hard part of the 2018 season for the Titans may already be over, and they’re 3-1.
Dirk Koetter is right: He should be fired
The Bucs’ coach said in his postgame media conference that, based on Sunday’s performance, the Bucs should fire everyone including him. It may not have been Jim Mora Sr.’s “Playoffs!?” or Dennis Green’s “We let ’em off the hook!” but it was a pretty startling media conference.
Graziano’s verdict: OVERREACTION. Koetter’s seat is among the hottest in the league, and a losing season may well cost him his job. But a team that was expected to be 1-3 or 0-4 at this point is 2-2 and has, for most of the season, looked very good on offense, which is Koetter’s side of the ball. It’s too soon to pull the plug. At least give him the rest of the year with Jameis Winston under center.
The Eagles will miss the playoffs
The defending champs are 2-2 and have given up almost as many points (81) as they’ve scored (82). Their wins were against the 1-3 Falcons and the 1-3 Colts, by six and four points, respectively. They couldn’t keep Carson Wentz upright Sunday. They have not looked like themselves.
Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The Eagles absolutely could make the playoffs, and they should. They didn’t forget how to play, and Doug Pederson didn’t forget how to coach. But it’s not an overreaction to be worried here. Washington looks better than expected. The Cowboys may be getting right. The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion since 2003-04, and it’s tough to see that division putting two teams in the playoffs this year. The Eagles have had terrible injury luck so far and need to look a lot better if we’re to believe they can repeat.