Offensive Player Rankings, Week 10: Blueprints for beating Tom Brady, Russell Wilson exposed?

We just watched Tom Brady and Russell Wilson lose in the same week for the first time this season, but it was how each quarterback played in Week 9 defeats that really stood out.

It was the worst outing for either quarterback this season, by a mile. I mean, Wilson gave the ball away four times (one shy of matching his career high) in a 44-34 loss to the Buffalo Bills, and Brady suffered the most lopsided loss of his 21-year career, a 35-point margin of defeat to the New Orleans Saints, on Sunday night.

What went wrong for these two stars?

Let’s start with Wilson. Coming into the season, the 12s made a plea to Let Russ Cook, essentially pleading with coach Pete Carroll to unleash the quarterback from a conservative, run-first approach. The Seahawks have done that, which is why Wilson is one of the top MVP candidates at midseason, but has the team veered too far away from its winning formula of the past?

The biggest issue for Seattle on Sunday was that its traditionally balanced offense was consistently forced to throw the ball. Wilson attempted 41 passes and posted a season-high 390 yards, but that kind of production hasn’t amounted to victories in his career. He’s 1-3 in his career (0-2 this season) when throwing for at least 380 yards. The Seahawks were without their top two running backs against Buffalo and ran for just 57 yards on 17 carries (3.4 per rush), well below their season average of 116.9 rush yards per game.

That said, when your defense can’t stop the opponent — unfamiliar territory for Wilson, who’s been spoiled with supreme defenses in his career — it’s awfully hard to win games. An unrecognizable unit to Carroll, the Seahawks’ defense is making headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2020. The Bills’ 44 points on Sunday were the most Seattle has allowed since Carroll became head coach in 2010. The ‘Hawks have allowed 2,897 pass yards in the first eight games of the season, the most any team has given up during that span in the Super Bowl era.

I believe the team’s issues on Sunday were less about Wilson and more about this year’s unbalanced Seahawks. If the Bills taught the rest of the league anything, it’s that making Seattle’s offense one-dimensional gives you the best chance to win.

Now, Brady’s issues in the Bucs’ 38-3 loss to the Saints are a whole different animal. The Saints dominated with their four-man pass rush, recording three sacks and 13 pressures on 26 dropbacks for a 50 percent pressure rate, according to Next Gen Stats. David Onyemata and Trey Hendrickson had their way with the Bucs’ O-line. Onyemata created seven of those pressures on 29 pass rushes and Hendrickson, who made Bucs coach Bruce Arians eat his words from Week 1, had seven pressures and a pair of sacks on 25 rushes. Furthermore, Brady completed only one of six passes for 10 yards when facing interior pressure from Onyemata.

While the relentless pass rush played a huge role in the win, the Saints’ defensive backs were also able to challenge a talented Tampa Bay receiving corps that often fell short Sunday night. It’s great that Antonio Brown and Brady are reunited and all, but the receiver’s Bucs debut was anything but fireworks, with Brady underthrowing a deep ball to him early in the game and what looked like a miscommunication between the two resulting in an interception late in the second quarter. Brady missed open receivers — notably Mike Evans, who was limited by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore — and when he did connect with a target, the Saints’ defense didn’t allow for big plays after the catch. Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich want to push the ball downfield, but it’s nearly impossible to do when Brady doesn’t have much time in the pocket.

By taking advantage of a Bucs O-line that was without one of its top performers (Ali Marpet) and applying constant pressure, the defense put the Bucs’ offense in poor position. I know pressuring Brady at that rate is easier said than done against a Tampa Bay offensive line that’s been great for much of the season, but using the Saints’ blueprint could be the key to stalling the Bucs’ talented offense.

Top 15 Offensive Players

Each week in the 2020 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season’s efforts. Now, let’s get to it — the Week 10 pecking order is below.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week’s rankings.

Patrick Mahomes takes over the top spot after his four-TD performance in Sunday’s win and Wilson’s tough outing in Buffalo. Mahomes isn’t just becoming the MVP front-runner because of Wilson’s shortcomings; he’s having the best season of his career with career-highs in completion percentage (66.9), touchdown-to-interception ratio (25:1) and passer rating (115.9). My NFL Network colleague James Palmer pointed this out on Twitter during Sunday’s game: “Patrick Mahomes just took a snap while HE was the player in motion going from right to left. Circled back the other direction and threw a TD pass. There isn’t anything the #chiefs won’t try. And why not?” He’s right. It’s truly fascinating to see what Andy Reid rolls out each week.

Drew Brees got everyone involved in the Saints’ dismantling of the Buccaneers on Sunday night, and despite having both Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back on the field, Alvin Kamara led the team in touches (14), including nine carries for 40 yards and a TD. Even with so many weapons, and after Brees had his best performance of the season, this offense feels as if it’d fall apart without the dynamic running back.

It was one bad game — OK, one really bad game — but in the cutthroat offensive player rankings, you can’t afford bad games if you want to stay at the very top.

Davante Adams’ 36-yard TD on the first drive in Week 9 continued the Packers’ streak of scoring on every opening drive this season (the only team to do so). No one has been able to stop — or even stall — Green Bay’s QB-WR1 duo yet as Adams racked up 10 catches for 173 yards and a TD against the injury-riddled 49ers. When asked if he was the best receiver in the NFL following the victory, Adams said, “Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. I think that’s not being conceited. That’s just confident.” It’s hard to disagree with him.

The Titans’ rushing attack was held in check by the Bears as Derrick Henry logged just 68 rush yards in the win. What’s unfortunate for the Bears is Henry still outrushed them by 12 yards, and to add insult to injury, Henry has logged 102 more rush yards than the entire Bears backfield in 2020.

I was critical of Lamar Jackson last week when diagnosing his struggles, so it was nice to see him fight through adversity against the Colts and win after trailing at halftime for the first time in his career as a starter. He was 0-6 in such games entering Week 9 (including playoffs). Jackson was able to elevate his play in the second half (after a stagnant first half) to lift the Ravens to 6-2.

We all saw this lopsided victory coming with so many 49ers sidelined by injury or COVID-19 protocols. Aaron Rodgers diced up the shoddy 49ers secondary for 305 yards and four touchdowns, which was exactly what the doctor ordered after the Packers were stunned by the Vikings the week prior. Up next is a Jaguars defense that ranks in the bottom five in most major categories. Fantasy owners gotta love that.

Travis Kelce was often on the receiving end of Mahomes’ brilliance against the Panthers, as he hauled in 10 receptions for 159 yards (his third career game with at least 10 catches and 150 rec. yards). The Chiefs’ offense is at its best when the All-Pro tight end is heavily involved.

Another road game, another win for the bro. This time around, Derek Carr upped his play in the second half (and got some help from the defense on the final play of the game) to lift the Raiders to 4-1 on the road. He completed 7-of-13 pass attempts for 121 yards, two TDs and a 125.3 passer rating in the final two quarters. The one area that’s hurting him right now is he’s fumbling the ball too much.

Dalvin Cook is running circles around defenses. He’s had at least 225 scrimmage yards and two rushing touchdowns in back-to-back games (both wins), joining Deuce McAllister and Jim Brown as the only players to accomplish this feat since at least 1950. The Vikings (3-5) have a shot to go on a run behind Cook in the second half of the season. Next up is a tough Chicago Bears defense, which limited Derrick Henry to 68 yards. Let’s see what Cook can do.

Week 9 was very unusual for DeAndre Hopkins (and his fantasy owners). He had zero targets in the first half of a game for just the second time in his career (the other was Week 11 of 2013, his rookie season). He also had a season-low 30 receiving yards against the Dolphins after averaging 100.6 in Weeks 1-8, but it’s hard to imagine this becoming a trend given how important he is to the offense.

A.J. Brown has been phenomenal since coming back from his knee injury in Week 5, posting 26 receptions for 418 yards (83.6 rec. yards per game) and six touchdowns. His 40-yard TD reception from Ryan Tannehill gave the Titans a comfortable 10-0 lead over the Bears at halftime, and a strong defensive effort helped seal the win in the second half.

The Buffalo Bills chopped up the Seahawks’ defense all game long on Sunday, and Stefon Diggs recorded his fourth game with at least 100 receiving yards this season. Adding nine receptions for 118 yards to his season totals, the elite route runner leads the league in receiving yards (813) at the midway point.

As I mentioned up top, Brady suffered one of the worst losses of his career on Sunday night. And that, my friends, drops you in the rankings. Brady better be careful because there are some good players waiting in the wings, including Bears WR Allen Robinson, who was edged out this week.

DK Metcalf put up his fourth 100-yard game of the season against Buffalo, despite his quarterback’s mighty struggles. In addition, it was his seventh game this season with at least 90 receiving yards. No other player has more than five such games this season. 

DROPPED OUT: Allen Robinson, WR, Bears (previously No. 15).

Follow David Carr on Twitter @DCarr8

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