NFL Roundtable: Saints bash Bucs to take control of NFC South
Each week we sit down with BetAmerica Extra columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news from around the NFL. This week they weigh in on Jake Luton's debut, Chicago's freefall, and New Orleans' utter domination of Tampa Bay.
Have the Jaguars found their quarterback of the future in Jake Luton, or should they stick with Gardner Minshew once he returns from injury?
Ashley: Luton played against a team that, like the Jaguars, owned just one win heading into Sunday’s game. The rookie sixth-round draft pick performed well, but he hardly faced a test against the league’s fourth-worst scoring defense. Jacksonville’s Week 10 meeting with Green Bay will be a better gauge of his abilities. If I had to guess, though, neither Luton nor Minshew will lead Jacksonville to many victories in 2020. This team is focused on rebuilding, and neither QB is a likely longterm solution for the Jaguars.
James: The situation wasn’t too big for Jake Luton. The unheralded rookie quarterback from Oregon State led a late touchdown drive and threw for 304 yards, and Jacksonville performed better in a close loss. However, it did come against lowly Houston. And the Jaguars next two opponents, Green Bay and Pittsburgh, will have tape on Luton. I won’t get too excited about his prospects yet, but Jacksonville is probably happy to have someone push Gardner Minshew, who struggled before hurting his hand.
Scott: Jake Luton played well against the Texans, but the Jaguars should stick with Gardner Minshew. The former Washington State signal caller has not been at the top of his game for most of 2020, but I suspect much of that is due to playing with a fractured throwing hand over the last several weeks. There is no doubt that Luton has some positive attributes, including the ability to throw a nice deep ball, but it is important to note that his debut came versus one of the worst defenses in the NFL. For now, I prefer the competitive spirit that Minshew offers.
The Bears have now lost three straight after falling to the Titans. What does Chicago have to do to turn things around?
Ashley: For one, Chicago’s run game is incredibly ineffective. The Bears’ have scored just two rushing touchdowns all season (one against Tampa Bay and one against Carolina) and averaged 67 rushing yards over their last three games. Nick Foles is becoming problematic at quarterback, as well. He has tossed at least one interception in every game he has played, except for last Sunday’s, when Chicago turned the ball over twice on fumbles, instead. The offensive imbalance has become such a disaster for Chicago that it’s difficult to come up with a simple answer, but Matt Nagy handing over play-calling duties to someone else would be a step in the right direction.
James: How about being better prepared? The elite defense continues to hold their end of the stick, but Chicago lacks a game plan offensively. They are running the most simple offense in the league, making no attempt to keep defenses off balance, and have been really flat of late. Granted, the offensive line and quarterback are subpar, but innovators try to find ways to get the most out of their personnel. Sean McVay or Doug Pederson wouldn’t be calling the same plays we’ve seen from Chicago in recent weeks. Matt Nagy, who had the reputation of being an offensive genius when hired from Andy Reid’s staff, has failed to implement any kind of direction in three years. And they’ve been poorly prepared the last couple of games. The Bears must add new wrinkles on offense, or they have no chance of turning things around.
Scott: The Bears were fortunate to start the season off with a 5-1 record, but their luck has run out over the last three weeks. Matt Nagy’s squad has a very solid defense, but to turn things around they need to rebuild a subpar offensive line and find a quarterback that is worthy of starting in the NFL. Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer and either is free agent acquisition Nick Foles. Look for Chicago to make moves in the offseason to bolster their offense, but struggle over the second half of the 2020 campaign.
What did you learn about the Saints in their shockingly dominant 38-3 victory over the Buccaneers?
Ashley: In a matchup against Tampa Bay’s star-studded offense, it was Drew Brees and his versatile arsenal of weapons that shined. Brees connected with 12 different receivers, while Taysom Hill proved once again he is the NFL’s most dangerous utility player. I also learned from the Saints that if you pressure Brady consistently (the Saints did so on 19-of-41 dropbacks), you can completely shut down the Bucs’ offense and their legendary QB.
James: New Orleans looks poised to finish strong. I didn’t know if they would turn things around, but the Saints put everything together in a dominant win over Tampa Bay. What a difference it makes having Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders healthy. Drew Brees rediscovered his best form, displaying pinpoint accuracy (81% completion rate) and tossing four touchdowns, and Taysom Hill (seven rushes for 54 yards, two passes for 48 yards, and a touchdown reception) has emerged as a dangerous weapon for coach Sean Payton. New Orleans has been a team that has peaked too early in previous seasons, losing their momentum after opening 10-1 in 2018, and the early-season struggles this year may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Scott: Few results shock me during an NFL season, but the Saints utter domination of division rival Tampa Bay did just that. In their 38-3 victory on Sunday night I learned that New Orleans' "A" game still makes them one of the best teams in the league. Throughout the first half of 2020, Sean Payton’s group had too many busts in the secondary and had a number of key injuries that kept them from being as good as they had been in years’ past. But with Michael Thomas back and their pass defense making life miserable for the opposition, the Saints have once again solidified themselves as one of the teams to beat in the NFC.