The bye week is often seen, by both fans and coaches, as an opportunity for an NFL team to reflect on the season up to this blank slate of a week, and use the extra days off as grounds for improvement, recovery, or repair. Some teams feel as though they’re just a few players returning from injured reserve away from getting back on track; Some seek to “fine-tune” some things over this brief respite, preparing for a hard opponent or intense upcoming schedule; And others see it as a chance to “right the ship” and identify the major faults preventing them from winning. I personally use my bye week to “review” the chocolates in the cupboard or to “analyze” the “deliciousness” of these so-called “Reese’s Pieces.” The bye week is often what you make of it, and that always makes a teams’ return from the it intriguing.
The Houston Texans entered the bye on a high note - beating the Jacksonville Jaguars to win their first game - and with the goal of concocting a better offense to complement Dameon Pierce. Pierce’s ability has undoubtedly changed what Texans coaches thought the offense could be, and the bye week was a chance to tool around and see if more points was possible - something needed if they wanted to beat Las Vegas. This was the chance to really dig into what’s been going wrong with Davis Mills, and what can be done to make it better.
This is what we got:
There was a much more concerted attempt to attack the middle of the Raiders’ defense, and even though the line-of-scrimmage passes still littered the game, it was a much more balanced showing from Mills overall. The killer pick, however, is all the Texans needed for all of it to become moot.
Davis Mills is improving, and two legitimately impressive touchdown throws and exciting third-down conversions show that the ceiling continues to be a little bit higher than some may give him credit for, but his propensity to relapse into interceptions is still something that can and will kill his team. The fortunate thing is, every week he proves himself not to be starting-caliber, we get one loss closer to C.J. Stroud. In the eyes of those who are rooting for Davis Mills, this is a lose-lose, but for those that see Mills as doomed to remain sloppy, this is the way to salvation.
Here’s my personal power rankings entering Week 8 of the NFL season:
1. Buffalo Bills (5-1) (Last Week: 1) - Bye week, time to get healthy and resume the rampage of their schedule.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (6-0) (Last Week: 2) - Bye week, and the season only gets easier from here.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) (Last Week: 3) - Smashing the San Francisco 49ers with beautiful, developing routes that gave JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling plenty of open space is a good way to remind everyone of the highs that Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid can reach any given Sunday
4. Minnesota Vikings (5-1) (Last Week: 4) - Bye week, so they get to enjoy the spoils of what has been a remarkable opening to the 2022 season.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) (Last Week: 6) - It feels strange rankings a 4-3 team this high, but there’s such a massive morass of middling teams that beating up on a spicy Falcons team has the Bengals looking pretty spicy themselves.
6. New York Giants (6-1) (Last Week:10) - The Giants just keep being so very hard to beat, and at some point we have to take them seriously as more than just a playoff contender.
7. Baltimore Ravens (4-3) (Last Week 7) - Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s offense has really dipped entering the midpoint of the season, but they’re still winning.
8. Miami Dolphins (4-3) (Last Week 8) - No scoring taking place for either team the entire second half is pretty hilarious, and the Dolphins got to say they did it better than the Steelers.
9. Tennessee Titans (4-2) (Last Week: 11) - Sweeping the Colts for the second year in the a row is pretty good, and usually leads to a division title.
10. Dallas Cowboys (5-2) (Last Week: 15) - Dak Prescott is back, but the Dallas defense is what can really get them to the Super Bowl.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) (Last Week: 5) - The Chargers got absolutely diced up by Geno Smith and Kenneth Walker, and then J.C. Jackson got benched! It’s not quite time to panic, but the Super Bowl certainly feels farther away now than it did in August.
12. Los Angeles Rams (3-3) (Last Week: 12) - Bye week, and then a huge division matchup against San Francisco the day before Halloween. This feels like the moment the wheels can really come off.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) (Last Week: 8) - An absolutely disgusting loss to the Carolina Panthers puts Tampa Bay squarely in the morass of streaky, unreliable teams.
14. New York Jets (5-2) (Last Week: 18) - Losing Breece Hall to a torn ACL is devastating for the Baby Jets, but trading for James Robinson was a clever move that will keep the motor running. It’s time to Zach Wilson to prove himself.
15. Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (Last Week: 21) - You just can’t sink the Seahawks. Even Justin Herbert couldn’t sink them.
16. San Francisco 49ers (3-4) (Last Week: 14) - Two big losses in a row makes them look less impressive, but the division might get them to the playoffs, anyways.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (2-4) (Last Week: 20) - The defense definitely has some air, but the run-blocking is something to behold.
18. Green Bay Packers (3-4) (Last Week: 13) - Both sides of the ball struggling in the 4th quarter has become a trend, now. This level of free-fall is not something I would’ve expected from Green Bay.
19. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) (Last Week: 16) - It’s hard to put too much into their collapse against the Bengals since they had so many defensive backs injured, but it’s still a bad loss for a team with the same record as their opponent.
20. New England Patriots (3-4) (Last Week: 17) - On what should have been a historic night for Bill Belichick attempting to pass George Halas in all-time wins, he laid up a stinker - against the Bears themselves!
21. Arizona Cardinals (3-4) (Last Week: 23) - There’s a chance for the Cardinals to work their way back into contention with DeAndre Hopkins back, but it’ll require them to basically win the division in the next month.
22. Denver Broncos (2-5) (Last Week: 19) - Brett’s Rypien didn’t appear very different from Russell Wilson in that offense. That’s really bad no matter how you look at it.
23. Cleveland Browns (2-5) (Last Week: 26) - They continue to make games close, Jacoby Brissett continues to make great plays, and they continue to fall flat on their face when the moment to strike arises.
24. New Orleans Saints (2-5) (Last Week: 22) - Andy Dalton is playing better than Jameis Winston - in fact, Andy Dalton is playing alright compared to most quarterbacks - but their defense has become a stark reminder of how quickly things can change.
25. Indianapolis Colts (3-3-1) (Last Week: 24) - Benching an injured Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger was a surprise, but maybe the excitement he was able to drum up during the preseason will rub off on the team in the regular season.
26. Washington Commanders (3-4) (Last Week: 30) - What a fantastic second half by Washington! Green Bay has now made a calling card out of these collapses, but Washington showed real improvement on both sides.
27. Chicago Bears (3-4) (Last Week: 31) - Outcoaching Bill Belichick and a red-hot Patriots offense in a prime time matchup was exactly what the doctor ordered for these Bears to hang in the playoff hunt as the 3-4 teams begin to multiply.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) (Last Week: 25) - That hot start to the season is now a distant memory. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are both improving, but not fast enough. Devin Lloyd’s aggressiveness is now directly harming his team.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) (Last Week: 27) - Kenny Pickett was looking as fantastic as any quarterback that’s put up 10 points can look, and then he threw 2 bad interceptions to close the game.
30. Carolina Panthers (2-5) (Last Week: 32) - Not only did they beat the Buccaneers, they held them to 3 points! I have no idea where they go from here, but this might just be the peak.
31. Houston Texans (1-4-1) (Last Week: 28) - Here we are! Davis Mills has been stringing together better drives and some really impressive 3rd down conversions, but he’s still just as unreliable as the Texans’ run defense.
32. Detroit Lions (1-5) (Last Week: 29) - They may only be the worst team in football on defense, but their limitations coupled with their bad defense makes them hard to bet on against any other opponent.
It is really hard sinking the Texans down to the 30s, again. Dameon Pierce is phenomenal, the run-blocking and pass-blocking are improving, and even Davis Mills is making plays here and there - but at some point they have to score more than 20 points. The run defense is clearly an issue I’m unsure can be fixed without major roster changes, but the offense has what it can really be better right now.
Even if Davis Mills wasn’t as putrid as he was in other games, he still needs to challenge downfield more often and hit his receivers in the chest far more than he is now. For a team that is trying win close games revolving around field goals, consistency is paramount. That is still, despite improvement, a major issue for Davis Mills.