Just before halftime Thursday night, things appeared to have taken a bleak turn for the Chiefs, their fans and really anyone who wants to believe things can be good and special in this wild, unpredictable world. Patrick Mahomes, the most thrilling player in today's NFL, was lying on the ground with his kneecap in the wrong place, and the Chiefs were facing life without the league MVP -- a potential Super Bowl season headed down the drain.
If ever there was a time when overreaction was justified, that might have been it. But the sun came up Friday, the MRI news came back as good as it could have, and it looks as if Mahomes might miss only three games.
Then Sunday rolled around, and the Raiders got smoked by the Packers and the Chargers shot themselves in their one remaining unshot toe, and ... well, that leads us to the first proposition in this week's Overreaction Monday column:
The Chiefs will survive Mahomes' absence
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Look, it absolutely stinks Mahomes has to miss any amount of time at all. He's breathtaking to watch -- the game and the league are better when he's on the field -- and no matter whom you root for, you can't be happy he is hurt. But look at what has happened around the injury. The Chiefs finished the game that very night and beat the division-rival Broncos. The Raiders' and Chargers' losses Sunday left 5-2 Kansas City as the only AFC West team with a winning record.
The schedule is no fun. If Mahomes misses only three games, they will be home games against the 6-1 Packers and the 5-2 Vikings and a road game at the 3-4 Titans. Replacement quarterback Matt Moore is a veteran for whom the spotlight won't be too bright. The offense is loaded with playmakers who can help him out. And with a game-and-a-half lead on the Raiders and a three-game lead on the rest of the division, the Chiefs can afford to lose one or a couple of those games and still be in position to coast home with an AFC West title once Mahomes is healthy.
The Chiefs might even still be in position to claim one of the AFC's top two seeds. It was the most unimaginable injury absence a few days ago. But given what has happened since, the Chiefs should be OK without Mahomes for a little while.
The Bears will miss the playoffs
Chicago went into its Week 6 bye off a somewhat inexplicable loss to the Raiders in London. It returned with starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky healthy and set for a get-right home game against the Teddy Bridgewater Saints. But the Teddy Bridgewater Saints aren't undefeated by accident, and they put it on the Bears at Soldier Field. The 36-25 loss dropped the Bears to 3-3, suddenly a distant third place in the NFC North.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. There was no better candidate for negative regression when this season began than the Bears, who went 12-4 last season against a last-place schedule and set an impossibly high defensive standard.
The extent of the Packers' improvement, coupled with the fact that the Vikings appear to have righted their vessel, leaves the Bears looking way, way up at two division rivals. Chicago has road games left on its schedule in Philadelphia, Los Angeles (Rams), Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota, as well as a late-season home game against the Chiefs.
Something's amiss in Chicago right now. Trubisky doesn't look like he's going to be the answer to anything, and the defense is giving up a stunning number of points. It's going to be tough for the Bears to catch the Packers or the Vikings, let alone both. And while, yes, the division could put three teams in the playoffs, the Panthers and Seahawks could have something to say about that yet.
The Cowboys won the NFC East on Sunday night
Both teams might have been 3-3, but Sunday night's Cowboys-Eagles game was a battle for first place in the division. Dallas dominated from the outset and ended its three-game losing streak with an impressive victory over its NFC East rival.
The Cowboys head into their bye week sitting pretty, with a one-game lead on the Eagles and a 3-0 division record that sets them up well for tiebreaker scenarios. They were healthier than expected for Sunday night's game, and the bye should give them a chance to get even healthier. It was a huge win that swung the division and playoff leverage heavily in the Cowboys' favor.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Everything's an overreaction with the Cowboys. A month ago it was, "Jerry cost himself money by waiting to sign Dak." A week ago it was, "Dak's costing himself money with his recent play" and "Jason Garrett needs to be fired." This is just the way it is around the Cowboys, all the time.
But as fun as it might be to ride the hot-take roller coaster, the reality is that the Cowboys are a pretty good team and a legit NFC contender that, like most of them, has some things still to figure out. And right now, yes, the numbers will tell you they have the best chance to win the NFC East of anyone. But to say it's a done deal is to ignore a great many things. Recent history, for example:
The Cowboys were 3-5 after eight games last season and still won the division. Less-recent history, too: No team has won the NFC East in back-to-back years since the 2003-04 Eagles. Philly's schedule looks a little bit easier the rest of the way -- it has both Giants games left, gets to play Miami, its Patriots game is at home while the Cowboys have to go to Foxborough, and the Week 16 rematch of Sunday's game will be in Philadelphia.
And of course, we have to factor in the likelihood that the Eagles make a trade or two to help their overcooked defense before next Tuesday's trade deadline. After Sunday night, the Cowboys are the clear favorites to win the East, but as they'll surely admit, they have a lot more work still to do.
The Jalen Ramsey trade fixed the Rams
Los Angeles had a fascinating week, shipping cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens -- he collected Russell Wilson's first interception of the season in his Baltimore debut -- and trading two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder to Jacksonville for the disgruntled Ramsey.
Ramsey had missed the past three Jaguars games with a back injury, and usually cross-country flights aren't great for backs. But somehow, he made it from Jacksonville to L.A. and then from L.A. to Atlanta in good enough shape to play. The Rams held the Falcons to 224 yards in a 37-10 victory that got everybody salivating about what a defense that has Ramsey on the back end and Aaron Donald on the line can accomplish.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. It was a very impressive defensive effort by a team that has been short on those this season. And sure, there's every reason to think things will get better for the Rams. But defense wasn't this team's only problem, and the problems on offense aren't going away anytime soon.
The line still has more question marks than a Riddler Halloween costume. The running game just averaged 2.5 yards per carry against a crummy defense in a game they led since the early part of the second quarter. The Rams likely will look great again next week against the Bengals, but the Steelers/Bears/Ravens stretch that follows that game will be a better test of whether they're really back on the right track.
The Bengals need to change quarterbacks
Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in a span of 4:30 in the fourth quarter of Cincinnati's seventh loss of the season. The offense in general was a nightmare, as Dalton led the team with 33 rushing yards and the rest of the team combined for a net total of zero. But this was a winnable home game for the still-winless Bengals against Jacksonville, and Dalton totally fell apart in the most critical moments.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The Bengals are 0-7 and have a host of problems, but it's not at all crazy to think about a quarterback change. They drafted Ryan Finley in the fourth round in April, which doesn't make him an automatic NFL starter. But he has been working in Zac Taylor's system since May and was thought by some to be a legitimate starting quarterback prospect before the draft.
This Bengals' season is clearly going nowhere, and it appears they are on track for an extremely high draft pick in 2020. Dalton has one non-guaranteed year left on his contract after this one and would be very easy to cut financially. It would be worth finding out if Finley is a potential solution for the future before they decide whether to take someone like Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert in next year's draft.