From Mike White’s memorable starting debut to Cooper Rush’s prime-time comeback, as well as a rare win for Geno Smith and a comeback by Trevor Siemian to beat Tom Brady, backup quarterbacks took center stage this past week in the NFL.
White was the most prolific as the former fifth-round pick in 2018 had a game to remember for the New York Jets in place of injured rookie Zach Wilson.
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White completed 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a win over Cincinnati. His 37 completions are the most by a quarterback in his first career start, and he joined Cam Newton as the only QBs since 1950 to throw for at least 400 yards in their first start.
Rush got his first career start Sunday night for the Cowboys with Dak Prescott injured and threw for 325 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner over Minnesota in the final minute to Amari Cooper.
Rush was the first QB to throw for at least 300 yards and win his first career NFL start in a prime-time road game since Gary Hogeboom did it for the Cowboys in the 1984 opener.
The similarities don’t end there with Rush and Hogeboom, both products of Central Michigan. They are the only two Chippewas to start at QB in the NFL since the merger.
Smith was making his third start in place of an injured Russell Wilson in Seattle and led the Seahawks to 31-7 win over Jacksonville. It was the first time Smith got the win in a game he was able to finish since the 2014 season finale for the Jets.
Siemian did his work off the bench after Jameis Winston tore his ACL in the first half. Siemian threw for 159 yards and a TD and led the drive to a go-ahead field goal with 1:41 to play in New Orleans’ win over Brady and the defending-champion Buccaneers.
The Saints having success with a backup quarterback should come as little surprise as coach Sean Payton has thrived, no matter who is under center.
After years of success with Drew Brees, Payton and the Saints won all five starts with Teddy Bridgewater filling in back in 2019, and went 3-1 with Taysom Hill replacing an injured Brees last year.
Throw in Winston’s 5-2 mark this year and Payton has a winning record with four different starting quarterbacks in the past three seasons. Only two other teams can say that with QBs who have had multiple starts, with the Steelers posting winning records with both Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, and the Rams with Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford.
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BYE BYE BABY
The Ravens and Raiders are both returning to action after a week off. How those franchises have responded from the bye week couldn’t be more different.
Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002 and bye weeks were grouped in the middle part of the season, the Ravens have been tough to beat following a week off. Their 15-4 record following the bye is tied for the best in the NFL with Indianapolis in that span, which doesn’t bode well for Minnesota this week.
The Raiders are at the other end of the spectrum with a 4-15 mark that is the worst in the NFL. They will try to change that on Sunday against the Giants,
Overall, teams coming off the bye have a .532 winning percentage since 2002, according to Sportradar.
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Nearing the midpoint of the season, all the best teams appear to be in the NFC.
Arizona, Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams are tied for the best record in the NFL at 7-1 with Dallas a half-game back at 6-1.
The team with the top record in the AFC is Tennessee (6-2), which is tied with Tampa Bay for the fifth best record.
This is the first time since the merger that the teams with the top four records in the NFL through eight weeks all came from the same conference.
The Titans will have a hard time keeping pace with those other top teams after losing star running back Derrick Henry to a right foot injury that requires surgery.
Few teams in recent memory have relied on a running back as much as Tennessee has with Henry.
Henry leads the NFL with 937 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He also has a league-high 219 rushes, well ahead of the next leading rusher Joe Mixon of Cincinnati (137). Henry was one off his career high with 18 receptions for 154 yards, and he threw his first TD pass in the regular season last week against the Chiefs.
Henry has 84.2% of Tennessee’s rush attempts this season, the highest in the NFL through eight games. Edgerrin James had 88.1% for Cardinals in 2006.
Since the start of the 2019 season, Henry has 73.4% of the yards rushing for the Titans and 73.9% of their carries. The next highest in those categories are Ezekiel Elliott with 60.4% of the carries for the Cowboys and Dalvin Cook at 59.3% of the yards for the Vikings.