Week 7 NFL thoughts
A few quick observations from the seventh week of the season:
• I never thought I'd see the day, certainly not this quickly, that the Jaguars fell apart and lost because of the loss of Blaine Gabbert, not because of him. That's what happened in the battle to be called (arguably) the worst team in the NFL in Oakland. The Jags led 17-6 at halftime, but with Gabbert out with an injury, they scored 6 second-half points and lost 26-23 in overtime. Some of the Bears' victories to date (St. Louis, definitely, and Indianapolis, maybe) look better now in hindsight than they did at the time. The win over Jacksonville might look worse, if that's even possible. I wouldn't pick the Jags on a neutral field over Cleveland right now; I might not even do so over Kansas City, even with Brady Quinn at quarterback.
• Some widely-read pundits feel the Saints are still alive following their 35-28 win over the Buccaneers. In the AFC, I'd wholeheartedly agree; you could even argue they'd have a real chance at winning every division but the South. In the NFC? I highly doubt it. Atlanta still maintains a four-game divisional lead on the Saints; you can probably rule out them making the playoffs that way. And we're supposed to believe a defense that allowed 420 passing yards to Josh Freeman is going to overtake Minnesota, Green Bay, Arizona, Seattle, Philadelphia, Dallas AND St. Louis for a wild-card spot? I think Drew Brees is awesome, but I don't think he or anyone else can make that happen.
• Alex Smith's devolution into a pumpkin continued Thursday night, when he went 14-of-23 for 140 yards with an interception and a touchdown. What had to be encouraging for the 49ers, and scary for the rest of the NFC, is that they beat a good team anyway. That's a nice Seattle defense, and Frank Gore lit them up for 131 rushing yards on 16 carries and another 51 yards on five receptions. And while performances against Russell Wilson and the Seattle passing game should come with an asterisk, it was another very impressive defensive outing for the Niners.
• Nobody was more impressive on the week, however, than the Texans, in all facets of the game, in their 43-13 thrashing of the Ravens. Matt Schaub was 23-of-37 for 256 yards with no picks and 2 touchdowns. The quietly-struggling-a-bit-this-season Arian Foster had a nice 98-yard, 2-touchdown game. The defense showed up after a bad game against the Packers, though I think the Ravens get an assist for somehow only running Ray Rice nine times (and I know they were playing from behind, but that's still inexcusable). More than ever, I'm regretting saying the Texans would come back to Earth in 2012; they're clearly the team to beat in their conference.