This article is part of our NFL Observations series.
We had the Browns in our $6M Circa Survivor pool, and it was more of a sweat than I expected, thanks to Baker Mayfield "gutting it out" through injuries and playing like a poor man's Drew Lock. Stop being a hero, hand the ball off, or better yet, make way for Case Keenum who's competent and healthy! That said, the Browns got the W, the Titans lost, and we're down to 134 teams left, pending 22 people the Bucs tonight. The beauty of Survivor is a win is a win – in some ways, the uglier the better because you appreciate it, you got your money's worth in entertainment and you know you never have to use that Godforsaken team ever again.
- That Steelers-Chargers game was fun especially since I had the Steelers plus 5.5, Justin Herbert in two leagues and Diontae Johnson. It's a beautiful thing to see the team you bet against take a knee to close out the game at the five yard line.
- Justin Herbert has been so Jekyll and Hyde this year, but when he's good, he's very good, and the 90 rushing yards were icing on the cake.
- I faded Austin Ekeler this year, so it hurt to see him score four times. It would have been worse had the player I usually took ahead of him not scored five times on the same day.
- Colt McCoy moves pretty well at age 35. I thought the version from last week was the real one, but he's been great in two of three games.
- Zach Ertz (9-8-88-2) is a top-five-ish TE now, though that might change when the Cardinals get DeAndre Hopkins back.
- James Conner (21-62-1, 6-5-37-0) is a top-10 back and a touchdown machine. He looks the part right too, showing quickness and power.
- Russell Wilson should have waited a couple more weeks to return. Geno Smith would have been at least as good.
- Rashaad Penny (hamstring) had an opportunity, but got hurt yet again. His career just could not get going.
- I believed DK Metcalf (8-4-31-0) could not fail if healthy, and while he's been a little banged up and dealing with a Russell Wilson injury, this is failure.
- The Cowboys offense is not the same without Tyron Smith. He's the second most important player on the team, and I wonder whether some competent backup behind the Smith line wouldn't be better than Dak Prescott running for his life behind this one. And Prescott isn't especially mobile these days, either.
- Ezekiel Elliott aggravated his knee injury, but returned to the game. He doesn't have much burst though.
- Patrick Mahomes was a low-end caretaker for the day, with no TD passes, one pick, a lost fumble and only 260 pass yards.
- Chris Jones dominated the game, and suddenly the Chiefs defense looks credible.
- I was on the Bengals, but Jeff Erickson talked me into talking the Raiders. I should have known better, but this one's on him.
- Every time I start Bryan Edwards, he gets me a zero.
- Joe Mixon (30-123-2) ran like a man possessed, but didn't see any targets.
- Jeff Wilson (19-50-0, 2-1-8-0) and Trey Sermon (10-32-0, 1-1-23-0) don't seem like threats to Elijah Mitchell once Mitchell gets healthy again.
- Only James Robinson (12-29-1, 3-2-9-0) is usable among the Jaguars, and the output is usually modest.
- It's surprising how little Trevor Lawrence has progressed. He'll get endless chances due to his pedigree, but he would be the biggest bust of all time if he stays on this road.
- Taylor Heinicke is quietly becoming a solid quarterback, providing Exhibit 20 of why you don't reach for the early-first-round guy on whom you're not sold.
- Jalen Hurts threw for only 147 yards and no TDs, but that's okay because he ran for 69 yards and three scores.
- The Saints have one usable offensive player (Alvin Kamara or Mark Ingram if Kamara is hurt), and that's it. I keep waiting for Sean Payton to turn to Taysom Hill, but Hill didn't receive a single snap.
- I had Elijah Moore (1-15-0, 11-8-141-1) in my NFFC Primetime lineup, but was a coward and subbed in Michael Pittman a few hours before kickoff. The team still had a great day thanks to Taylor, Herbert and Ertz, but it could have been monstrous.
- The Dolphins are a poor man's Patriots – an ugly team of mostly no-names getting better as the year goes on.
- Aaron Rodgers apparently played through pain in his toe, but you wouldn't know it from the numbers – 384 yards, four TDs, no picks, 21 rush yards.
- That AJ Dillon (11-53-0, 6-6-44-0) wasn't derailed by gameflow is a great sign while he fills in for Aaron Jones.
- Mason Crosby has been a disaster, but I'm waiting for him to miss a kick after hitting the crossbar, so I can call him Mason Crossbar.
- The Vikings always have the same three players who produce – Dalvin Cook (22-86-1, 4-3-29-0), Adam Thielen (10-8-82-1) and Justin Jefferson (10-8-169-2.) It was the same way when Stefon Diggs was there, and it's the same when Cook is hurt, and Mattison plays. It's the league's narrowest tree.
- After running through a who's who of the league (Rams, Colts twice, Chiefs and Bills), the Titans ran out of gas against the Texans. The AFC's No. 1 seed has now lost to the Texans and Jets.
- The only receiver more chronically banged up than A.J. Brown, who left with a chest injury, is Julio Jones.
- If you thought running backs don't matter, watch this offense without Derrick Henry.
- D'Andre Swift (14-136-1, 4-3-0-0) would be a top-five overall player on an average team.
- Nick Chubb (22-130-0, 2-2-14-1) didn't get enough carries until late in the game where the Browns sealed a tight game with his power runs.
- I'm with OBJ's dad – Baker Mayfield is terrible.
- To illustrate the extent to which Dalton Del Don and my $6M Circa Survivor entry is truly the Team Of Destiny, consider this:
With the Lions down 13-7 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter Swift ran for 13 yards to set up first-and-10 at the 32. Swift was gashing the Browns' exhausted defense, and as I mentioned, Mayfield was totally inept. The Browns had no weapons at receiver, and should they have fallen behind, they'd be relying on Mayfield and a kicker who had already missed a field goal and PAT.
After Swift's run, the quarter ended, and the game cut to commercial break. When the broadcast returned, we were informed the Lions had gotten an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, so it was 1st-and-25 from the 47! Apparently, the penalty was from offensive lineman Jonah Jackson saying something not so nice about Jadeveon Clowney's mother!
The Lions were forced to punt, instead of coming away with a field-goal attempt (or better), the Browns defense got a rest and they held on to win by three points.
Team of Destiny!
- Andy Dalton replaced Justin Fields (ribs), and is likely to start against the Lions on Thanksgiving. Darnell Mooney (16-5-121-1) and Allen Robinson, should he get healthy, become relevant again. (Mooney's 16 targets with only five catches has to be close to a record, though.)
- The Ravens are the No. 2 seed after pulling out some improbable wins including this one with their backup QB.
- Jonathan Taylor (32-185-4, 3-3-19-1) was already the 1.1 before smashing (I believe) the league's top-defense against running backs to pieces. I actually don't know for sure if they were the top defense because they're listed at No. 15 now after Taylor's output got baked in.
- Josh Allen had another mediocre game – maybe the Bills are too pass-heavy, and defenses have figured them out.
- None of the MVP front-runners (Allen, Lamar Jackson (illness), Mahomes or Prescott) did themselves any favors Sunday. Aaron Rodgers had a big game, but he's battling a toe injury, and immunization-gate is likely to be held against him in any event. I should have bet Taylor before his monster game, but Cooper Kupp was 100:1 (I'm told) as of last week.
- I'm a Giants fan, so I'd be rooting for them anyway, but it would be nice if they could knock off 22 more people in the Circa pool and also win me a smaller pool outright!