By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and before diving into the NFL weekend, the MLB regular season came to a thrilling end on Sunday. Entering the final day of play, four teams were in striking distance of the two American League Wild Card spots, while the NL West was up for grabs between the Giants and Dodgers. However, San Francisco surged to an early lead, ending L.A.’s hopes of a division title. So instead, the Dodgers, owners of baseball’s second-best record and the defending World Series champions, will be forced to host the NL Wild Card against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
As for the American League Wild Card, the Yankees managed to punch its ticket to the playoffs with a ninth-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays, leaving the final spot up for grabs between the Red Sox, Mariners, and Blue Jays. Seattle trailed for much of its season-ending matchup, and the Mariners were eliminated after being unable to mount a comeback. Toronto dismantled the Orioles to end the season with a win, but the Blue Jays needed help from the Nationals to force a tie-breaker Game 163 on Sunday. Unfortunately, Washington’s bullpen squandered a lead to Boston, putting the Red Sox into the playoffs. The Yankees and Red Sox will meet on Tuesday night.
In the NFL, Arizona delivered the most impressive performance of the weekend, remaining undefeated with a massive win over the Los Angeles Rams. Following last week’s win over Tampa Bay, the Rams came out flat. Matthew Stafford missed multiple throws, aside from Jalen Ramsey, the secondary struggled, and the defensive front failed to generate pressure against Arizona’s suspect offensive line. It was not a good week for the Rams, and L.A. will have little time to recover as the team will be on the road Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks, a team coming off a win over the 49ers.
In a positive development, two rookie quarterbacks had career-best showings. Justin Fields led the Bears to a win over the Lions with an efficient showing, including connecting with receiver Darnell Mooney for 125 yards, while Zach Wilson led the New York Jets to an overtime win over the Tennessee Titans. Wilson started slow, but he found his form late in the game, guiding the Jets to an upset win over the Titans. Unfortunately, a third rookie quarterback, Davis Mills of the Texans, did not have as nice a day. In an embarrassing loss to the Bills, Mills threw four interceptions and managed a meager 87 yards on 21 attempts. Houston is in rough shape right now.
Led by a rejuvenated Ezekiel Elliott for a second consecutive game, the Dallas Cowboys improved to 3-1 with a commanding win over the Carolina Panthers (3-1). Elliott was masterful, racking up 143 yards and a TD behind a dominant performance from the Dallas offensive line. In addition, second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs’ breakout season continued with two more interceptions, raising his season total to an improbable five. For Carolina, the offense of the Panthers dearly missed Christian McCaffrey (hamstring), leading to a tough day for quarterback Sam Darnold.
In Sunday’s late game, Tom Brady’s return to New England was marred by inconsistent play. Brady made multiple impressive throws, but he also seemed to be pressing an uncharacteristic amount of the time. However, Brady made enough plays in crunch time, and the Bucs avoided a losing streak with a hard-earned win. Unfortunately, even in victory, Tampa Bay’s misfortune in the secondary continued as star cornerback Carlton Davis being carted off with an injury, leaving the team down its top three playmakers at the position. As for the Patriots, a loss is always a tough result, but rookie quarterback Mac Jones continues to prove he’s ready to be an NFL starter. Now, New England has to figure out how to surround him with playmakers.
Week 4’s action concludes tonight with an AFC West showdown pitting the Los Angeles Chargers against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers have a chance to make a statement with a win over the Raiders, cementing a place among the AFC’s elite teams. Vegas has thrived this season thanks to masterful play from quarterback Derek Carr and a surprisingly effective pass rush. However, the Chargers boast a far more weapon-laden offense, and as long as edge defender Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James are healthy, L.A.’s defense is a force. It will take another upset from the Raiders to remain undefeated.