Stop calling it a rematch!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when there is a regular season game played between two teams who played in the previous season’s championship game. It always gets billed as a rematch. No, it’s not that at all. When the stakes are not as high as the championship prize on the line in the previous meeting, there is no rematch hype to focus on.

This is especially true when one team is struggling to get things going the ensuing season and may have to scratch and claw just to get into the playoffs at the end of the season. So Sunday night’s game between the Patriots and Falcons wasn’t a rematch. It was, however, a fun weather-affected game once the fog rolled into the New England region.

Patriots take care of Falcons in Fog Bowl

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons met for the first time since the Super Bowl, but it was more of the same from the fourth quarter and on this time around in a 23-7 victory for the home team in Foxboro. The Falcons have already been struggling a bit this season, but playing on the road in a Fog Bowl made things no easier for them against the Patriots. Amazingly, New England finally seemed to have a good defensive effort, although it may have come with the help of some fog. But both teams had to play in the same conditions.

The weather was so foggy that it forced NBC to tweak their broadcast a bit by utilizing the skycam shots instead of the traditional sideline view. Though not ideal, the game felt more like a video game than ever before with the behind-the-quarterback view.

NFL fans have not seen a fog bowl like this since a 1988 division playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears.

As for the game itself, the offensive woes of the Falcons continued and the pressure on offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian may be mounting. Julio Jones had his first touchdown catch of the season, although it came late in the fourth quarter with the game already essentially decided.

This was the first genuinely good outing by the Patriots defense this season, in which it held Atlanta to just two third-down conversions in nine attempts and just one of three fourth-down conversion attempts. Holding Atlanta to seven points was encouraging for the Patriots moving forward, regardless of the situation and circumstances.

Jags and Rams win by combined 60-0

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I have confessed to having a difficult time predicting what the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to do on a week-by-week basis. Fortunately for me this week, I had an easy call when it came to figuring out the Jags. Jacksonville was on the road against a horrendous Colts team and walked away with a 27-0 victory that left Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton pointing fingers at the offensive line for not protecting quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

“As far as receiving, nothing can change it. We’ve got to take some pride up front and block for (Brissett), you know? What if we put them back there to take those hits? So, we’ve got to start up front,” Hilton said after the game. “Once we get the O-Line going, back in rhythm, we’ll be fine.”

Hilton may have a point after the Jaguars recorded 10 sacks against the Colts, which puts Jacksonville on a record pace for most sacks in a season.

Blake Bortles passed for 330 yards and a touchdown with Allen Hurns turning in a 100-yard day and T.J. Yeldon stepping up in the running game without Leonard Fournette available for the game. The Jags improve to 4-3, eclipsing their win total of three form a season ago.

It also got worse for the Colts later on when it was reported Malik Hooker, a first-round draft pick at safety, is done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL.

Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Rams continued to play well and served up a shutout performance of their own in division play against the Arizona Cardinals in London. Maybe there was something in the water in Jacksonville. The Rams practiced in Jacksonville before making the trip overseas to play the Cardinals in London. Or maybe it was the Cardinals losing quarterback Carson Palmer and having to play with Drew Stanton at quarterback form the second quarter on.

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The Rams held Arizona to just 193 yards of total offense and 10 first downs, and allowed the Cardinals to control the football for just 20:59. A week after a smashing debut with his new team, Adrian Peterson had just 21 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown. Jared Goff continued to play well with 235 passing yards and a touchdown with an interception and one rushing touchdown.

The Rams are 5-2, and with the way the NFC picture is beginning to come together, they could be a viable threat in the conference.

The Race For No. 1 (Draft Pick)

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The Cleveland Browns came oh-so-close to a win on Sunday, but the Tennessee Titans handed the Browns a 12-9 loss in overtime in what must have been the worst game of the weekend. Credit the Browns defense for keeping Marcus Mariota and the Titans out of the end zone, but Tennessee kicker Ryan Succop booted four field goals to lift the Titans to an ugly win. As if the loss was not rough enough, the Browns lost one of their top players to an injury when offensive tackle Joe Thomas missed his first play in 11 seasons due to a triceps injury.

But of course, the other focus in Cleveland will be on the quarterback position. DeShone Kizer was given the start and he did not last very long before getting placed on the bench. And as we learned over the weekend, a late Friday night out at a bar by Kizer did not sit well with Browns head coach Hue Jackson. Cody Kessler took over in the second half and finished the game for the Browns as the QB drama in Cleveland continues.

The Browns remain one of two teams in the NFL without a win and are now 0-7. The other is the San Francisco 49ers, who were run over at home by Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys by a 40-10 score (Forty Teners, perhaps? No? OK. Sorry.) Prescott passed for three touchdowns and ran for one more, and Elliott piled up 147 rushing yards and two scores and a 72-yard receiving touchdown. Dallas sacked new 49ers starting QB C.J. Beathard (rookie out of Iowa) five times and out-gained San Francisco 501-290 while the 49ers also turned the ball over three times. The Cowboys even lost their kicker and had to call on safety Jeff Heath to handle extra points and kickoffs.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants took another loss, this one by way of a 24-7 decision at home against the Seattle Seahawks. The loss drops the Giants to 1-6 and 0-3 at home. On a day the Jets had a meltdown leading to a loss, the Giants remain the laughing stock of the New York sports scene this season. The New York Daily News has declared 2017 officially over for the Giants with the team heading to a bye week. Don’t even bother coming out for the rest of the season, Giants. Nobody wants to see it.

NFL Blitz

Other NFL goodies from Sunday.

Bills 30, Buccaneers 27: Other than a Bills fan setting himself on fire, it was a good afternoon for the Bills. Tampa Bay battled back from an 11-point deficit but could not seize the momentum as the Bucs were unable to make a stop in the final minutes and allowed LeSean McCoy to score a game-tying touchdown. Buffalo then forced a fumble and turned that into a game-winning field goal. A lack of defensive playmakers has been holding the Bucs back in key spots this season and they are now 2-4 in an NFC South that is just sitting there for the taking. Meanwhile, the Bills are 4-2 and very much in the mix for the AFC East Division with New England… and Miami?

Dolphins 31, Jets 28: For the second straight week, the Jets were on the bitter losing end of a tight matchup with a division rival. Last week, it was a bizarre instant replay that favored New England. This week, it was the fourth quarter as the Dolphins rattled off a 17-0 fourth quarter to grab a close win at home. The Dolphins even did it without Jay Cutler, who left the game with an injury. Matt Moore took over for the Dolphins and tossed two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of the game. The Jets actually got a respectable performance from Josh McCown too with three touchdown passes.

Bears 17, Panthers 3: The Panthers defense did its job against the Bears by holding rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense to just 153 yards of offense and five first downs, but Eddie Jackson recorded a 75-yard fumble return and a 76-yard interception for a pair of touchdowns to lift Chicago to a win over the Panthers. After such a miserable showing on offense in which Cam Newton was sacked five times and picked off twice and the Panthers were 0-for-2 inside the red zone, there was plenty of blame to go around on the offense. With two straight losses, Carolina falls behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

Saints 26, Packers 17: Life without Aaron Rodgers ain’t easy in Green Bay. Brett Hundley officially took over as the new Packers starter after losing Rodgers to injury last week, and he struggled against New Orleans with 12-of-25 for 87 yards and an interception (he did rush for 44 yards and a score). For the Saints, guess who racked up the yardage? Drew Brees passed for 331 yards and a touchdown, although he was picked off twice in the win. Mark Ingram rushed for 105 yards and a score too. The Packers have now lost two straight games and are one game out in the NFC North behind Minnesota.

Vikings 24, Ravens 16: The Vikings offense is still nothing to write home about, so it will have to rely on defense to get their wins. So far, so good as the Vikings improved to 5-2 with a win over a frustrating Ravens squad. Kicker Kai Forbath kicked six field goals for the Vikings, including two from over 50 yards. Joe Flacco was taken down five times and the Ravens had just 208 yards of offense. There is nobody in the AFC North challenging the Steelers for the division crown this season.

Steelers 29, Bengals 14: Le’Veon Bell carried the football 35 times for 134 rushing yards and the Steelers and Bengals were tied at 14-14 midway through the second quarter. Then Steelers kicker Chris Boswell took over with five field goals to slowly and methodically extend the Steelers lead. a well-timed and perfectly-executed fake punt by Pittsburgh helped keep the Bengals from mounting a comeback as well.

The Steelers also broke out one of the more fun touchdown celebrations of the season that truly brought out the inner kid in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bell.

I, for one, am happy to see the touchdown celebration creativity around the NFL so far this season and am thankful the NFL decided it was OK to have some fun after the touchdowns have been scored this season.

Chargers 21, Broncos 0: There was one more shutout this weekend in the NFL, courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers at home against the Denver Broncos. Travis Benjamin was the man of the hour for the Chargers with a punt return touchdown and a long touchdown reception, and the Chargers defense gobbled up Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian with Joey Bosa recording a pair of sacks.

It was the first time Denver had been shut out in a game since losing 24-0 to the LA Raiders in 1992. After a dismal 0-4 start to the season, the Chargers have seemed to turn things around with a three-game winning streak, highlighted by back-to-back wins against the Raiders and Broncos. And with the Chiefs losing two straight games last week (Sunday and Thursday), the AFC West Division has suddenly become a little more interesting moving forward. The Chargers are on the road next week against the Patriots, though.

All your rowdy friends are coming over tonight

The Philadelphia Eagles look to improve on the best record in the NFL (5-1) with a home game in NFC East play. Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins are in Philly tonight and looking for revenge after the Eagles handed Washington a season-opening loss at home in Week 1. Carson Wentz and the Eagles have been gaining confidence and the defense roughed up the Redskins a bit last time around.

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.