Derek Carr was supposed to be better than this.
When the quarterback signed a $150 million contract with the New Orleans Saints, it was supposed to be an upgrade over what the team had with Andy Dalton last season. Even if we consider him an improvement (it’s debatable because Dalton was really good last season) the return on investment clearly isn’t there.
The Saints had a chance to open up a good lead in the NFC South with a win against the Atlanta Falcons. But the biggest play of the game was Carr throwing an inexcusable pick-6, telegraphing a throw that Falcons safety Jessie Bates III broke up and returned 92 yards for a touchdown.
The Falcons were poor on offense with Desmond Ridder back in the lineup, but Carr’s mistake was too much to overcome. He didn’t make enough positive plays to make up for the poor pick 6. The Falcons won 24-15 and are once again tied with the Saints for the NFC South lead at 5-6.
The Saints have too much talent to be under .500 and a $150 million quarterback. It’s not all Carr’s fault, but it hasn’t been the boost New Orleans needed. Many Saints games have followed the same script, with a decent amount of yards but not enough points to win. Carr misses a play here or there and the Saints lose a close game.
Carr hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been what the Saints need. They could still make the playoffs because they play in the worst division in the NFL, but is there much value in finishing 8-9, winning a division title, and getting beat by a better team on wild card weekend?
The Saints will not terminate Carr’s contract anytime soon. Of the $150 million, $100 million was guaranteed. Carr was solid with the Raiders and then was paid like a star by a desperate team. There are worse quarterbacks in the NFL, but the Saints are paying their quarterback a lot of money to make him wonder if they can win a bad division with a sub-.500 record.
It’s a lesson for other teams: A quarterback who is available to you at a high price might be the best option at the time, but he could still be a terrible investment.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 12 of the NFL season:
Rashee Rice: The Kansas City Chiefs had to watch their receivers struggle against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11 and know something had to change.
Sunday’s change was more Rice. The rookie caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown as the Chiefs rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Las Vegas Raiders 31-17.
Rice had 10 targets and no other receiver had more than three. The Chiefs have been looking for some play at wide receiver all season, and it finally seems like the time has come to lean heavily on Rice and see what happens.
jose alen: The Jacksonville Jaguars needed a big play to stop CJ Stroud and the Houston Texans as they held a three-point lead.
Allen gave them two.
Allen, the Jaguars’ top pass rusher, had a sack and combined for another with Travon Walker on the Texans’ final drive.
The Texans made the questionable decision to attempt a 58-yard field goal. He hit the crossbar and it was of no use. Jacksonville cruised to a 24-21 victory and has a two-game lead over the Texans in the AFC South.
It was a big win for Jacksonville, which was embarrassed by Houston earlier this season. Allen driving the Texans back a couple of times on Houston’s final drive was a huge factor.
Indianapolis Colts Playoff Chances: Don’t be surprised when you see the Colts in the playoff picture in a few weeks.
The Colts are 6-5 after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20. The Colts got a pair of rushing touchdowns from Jonathan Taylor and the defense forced a late turnover by Baker Mayfield to hold on.
Mayfield is the best quarterback the Colts will face in a long time. His next five QB opponents, unless there is an injury or someone is benched: Will Levis, Jake Browning, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder and Aidan O’Connell. The Colts may not be very good, but they’re in for an easy run. You were warned.
Cleveland Browns Offense: For most teams, there’s not much they can do when they lose their starting quarterback and have to turn to a fifth-round rookie to save their season. While the Browns helped create this disaster by trading Joshua Dobbs for very little, it’s still an unfortunate disaster.
The Browns aren’t dead at 7-4, but every win they get the rest of the season will be a struggle. Sunday’s 29-12 loss to the Denver Broncos was another reminder of the struggles the offense will have.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson struggled to move the Browns and was then taken out of the game with a concussion caused by a brutal hit by Broncos linebacker Baron Browning. PJ Walker came in and didn’t do much better. Maybe Joe Flacco, who recently abandoned his couch, will get the call next week. No matter who the quarterback is, the Browns miss Deshaun Watson. They may still make the playoffs, but it won’t be pretty to watch the rest of the way.
Arizona Cardinals Defense: Kyler Murray’s return helped the Cardinals look a little better, but he doesn’t play defense either.
Arizona’s defense has been bad most of the season and was at its worst Sunday. The Los Angeles Rams moved up and down the field with ease. Matthew Stafford threw four touchdowns. Kyren Williams had over 200 yards from scrimmage. The Cardinals had no answers in the Rams’ 37-14 victory. The Rams had 457 yards.
Arizona has a long way to go in its rebuild. They are 2-10 after Sunday’s loss. They are putting themselves in position to select one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft, if they so choose. But that won’t solve your biggest problem.
Frank Reich’s Job Security: On fourth-and-6 and less than two minutes remaining, with the Panthers still in the game trailing the Tennessee Titans 17-10, the Panthers threw a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage to receiver DJ Chark. He was detained without any benefit. The Titans got into victory formation after that and won 17-10.
There isn’t a single play that would cost Reich his job as Carolina’s head coach. The Panthers are 1-10. There haven’t been many good plays. But calling that play off on fourth down and seeing it stop immediately has to make owner David Tepper even angrier. His team didn’t trust rookie quarterback Bryce Young at all in that situation, and a winnable game turned into another loss.
Reich could be a unique coach. Having an impatient owner doesn’t help. The Panthers are by far the worst team in the NFL, they don’t have their 2024 first-round pick because they were traded to the Chicago Bears so they could select Young, and they don’t offer much hope. Things may not end well for Reich.
The sad season of the Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals took a look at what’s to come for the rest of this season.
With Joe Burrow, the Bengals probably would have beaten the offensively struggling Pittsburgh Steelers. But there was a reason why Jake Browning had been in the NFL since 2019 but hadn’t thrown a pass in the regular season until this month. The Bengals struggled to move the ball and the Steelers escaped with a 16-10 victory. Cincinnati had only 222 yards of offense.
The Bengals were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders this season, and despite a slow start, they still had a chance to make the playoffs and make some noise. Burrow then suffered a wrist injury that ended his season. If there was any hope that Browning could pull a Nick Foles and lead the Bengals somewhere off the bench, that died pretty quickly on Sunday.
It looks like a dismal final stretch of the season is ahead for the Bengals.
Mac Jones, at least one more time: Why did the New England Patriots start Jones?
When Jones was benched in London with less than two minutes remaining in a close game, his time as the Patriots’ starting quarterback appeared to end. But after a week of strange secrecy from the Patriots, Jones got the nod against the New York Giants on Sunday. He turned out exactly as anyone would have predicted.
Jones was horrible. He threw a handful of passes that no NFL quarterback should throw. And at halftime, with the Patriots stuck at zero points, he was benched. It was the fourth time he was benched during a game this season. The biggest question this time was why he started in the first place.
Bailey Zappe came in and gave the Patriots a spark, at least for a while. He led a touchdown drive to tie the game. He then threw an interception that led to a Giants field goal, but he got away with it. He put the Patriots in position to kick a game-tying 35-yard field goal, but rookie Chad Ryland, whom the talent-poor Patriots drafted in the fourth round, missed the short attempt and the Giants won. 10-7. Maybe the Patriots would have won sooner if they hadn’t made a strange, bad decision to start Jones again.