Freud on the NFL: Denver deals Thomas and raises white flag
1. Rams (8-0) … L.A. likes football again.
2. Chiefs (7-1) … Need home field in playoffs.
3. Patriots (6-2) … Don’t care about home field.
4. Saints (6-1) … Six wins in a row.
5. Vikings (4-3-1) … NFC North is theirs to take.
1. Bay Area (2-13) … Raiders at Niners, baby.
2. Giants (1-7) … Eli’s done like dinner.
3. Bills (2-6) … Nobody circles … never mind.
4. Cardinals (2-6) … No more Niners.
5. Browns (2-5-1) … “Hard Knocks” again?
The Denver Broncos ran up the white flag on 2018 by trading Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans for essentially a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft.
Yes, general manager John Elway can talk all he wants about getting young receivers such as Courtland Sutton more playing time, but you don’t trade your No. 2 target if you think there’s a chance that your team can overcome a 3-5 hole.
The Broncos still play the Chargers twice as well as the Steelers, Bengals and Thomas and the Texans, the last being this week. So, Elway has realized that a 6-2 second half and a possible playoff berth ain’t happening.
Yes, he’s 30 and his numbers have declined the last three years. On the other hand, Denver’s quarterbacking has also swooned. Thomas had 90 catches and 1,000-plus yards in 2016 with Trevor Siemian at quarterback.
The bigger question is did the Broncos get value?
Of course, there’s a benefit to trading a wide receiver to the Dallas Cowboys because Jerry Jones will always overpay. (Amari Cooper is 6 years younger, but a first-rounder, Jerry? Did we learn nothing from Roy Williams?)
But what about Golden Tate, formerly of the Lions and a new member of the Eagles? Tate is the same age of Thomas and the latter’s a lot taller, a quality prized at wide receiver. Detroit got a third-rounder from Philly. Hmm.
Throw in that Houston was in a difficult spot after William Fuller (ACL) went down, and, maybe, Elway should have pushed for a higher pick.
However one interprets Thomas departure, the Broncos are in trouble. The quarterback position continues to be a black hole and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan is what amounts for depth after Chad Kelly was released.
The offensive line is still struggling — five more sacks allowed in last week’s loss to the Chiefs. Denver’s defense remains vulnerable to the run.
This isn’t getting any better any time soon.
AFC West watch
• Kansas City (7-1) will likely be 9-1 going into a Nov. 19’s clash with the Rams in Mexico City. The Chiefs’ next two games are at Cleveland (Holy dysfunction, Batman) and home for Arizona.
The Chiefs don’t face the Chargers again until Week 15 by which time they may have already clinched the division. Kansas City leads the Bolts by a game-and-a-half and has already won in L.A. in Week 1.
• The Chargers are a quiet 5-2, having won four in a row. They have two lu-lu games, road tilts at Seattle and Oakland. If the season ended today, the Chargers and Bengals would be your wild cards.
• We joked about Jones’ habit of overspending for wideouts, but look at the Raiders. The Silver and Black have three first-round draft picks next spring. Coach Jon Gruden is tanking this season, but doing it well.
Week 9 starts with a doozy as the Raiders “visit” San Francisco for the last Battle of the Bay on “Thursday Night Football.” We’d love to see the ratings on that.
News and notes
• Hue Jackson finally won two games in Cleveland and still got fired along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. One can talk a lot about Jackson and the general incompetence of the Browns, but what about who ended up as head coach?
Gregg Williams, who was suspended for his role in bounty-gate back in New Orleans. Just remember, kids, the NFL cares about player safety.
• Apparently, fumbling so that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get the ball for a late-game drive gets you tossed. Welcome to Baltimore, Ty Montgomery.
• Woe, Buffalo: The Bills’ active quarterbacks are Derek Anderson and Nathan Peterman. But Colin Kaepernick isn’t good enough to be a backup in the NFL? By picking up Anderson, literally off a golf course, the Bills are paying the veteran minimum that Kaepernick would require.
As for Kaepernick being a distraction, how could the Bills be more distracted?
• Games of the week: The Steelers have played their way back to the top of the AFC North and head to Baltimore. The Rams are at New Orleans in an NFC Championship preview and the Packers and Patriots seem set to put on a quarterbacking clinic.