They called themselves “The Wolfpack” in 2017, a reference from the movie “The Hangover.”
Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jacoby Brissett were a tight-knit group during the 2016 season in New England, and their friendship remains strong today, even as the two backups have gone their own ways. They still maintain a group text, and they still take a bros’ weekend trip to the Kentucky Derby.
The Wolfpack is now running the NFL in 2019. All three quarterbacks have their teams in first place, with a combined record of 16-2. Brady and Garoppolo are the only 6-0 QBs in the NFL, while Brissett has the Colts riding high at 4-2 following Sunday’s statement win over the Texans.
That Brady-Garoppolo Super Bowl that we’re dreaming about? Perhaps a Brady-Brissett AFC Championship Game will come first.
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You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when the Patriots brought Jimmy in, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack - it grew by one, so where there two - there were two of us in the wolf pack. I was alone first in the pack and then Jimmy joined in later. And nine months ago, when the Patriots introduced me to Jacoby, I thought 'Wait a second, could it be?' And I knew for sure- I just added another guy to my wolf pack. So today, I make a toast! Blood brothers!
The success of Brady’s backups is where we begin the Week 7 review:
■ Brissett was nearly perfect in Sunday’s 30-23 win over the Texans, completing 26 of 39 passes for 326 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 126.7 rating. Not only are the Colts 4-2 and leading the AFC South, but they have done it against the difficult part of their schedule, with consecutive wins over the Chiefs and Texans. Their next four games are vs. Denver, at Pittsburgh, vs. Miami, and vs. Jacksonville.
Brissett has 14 touchdowns against three interceptions this year, and a 100.95 passer rating. Add in an elite offensive line and a disciplined defense, and the Colts look dangerous.
■ The 49ers’ 9-0 win over Washington was obviously more about the defense and the deluge of rain than about Garoppolo. Splashing around in standing puddles, the Niners’ defense held the Redskins to 154 yards of total offense, while Garoppolo completed just 12 of 21 passes for 151 yards and an interception.
But Garoppolo led scoring drives when he had to — two long field goal drives in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Garoppolo has just a 7:6 touchdown to interception ratio this season, but he is managing the game well and leading his team to victory, which is all that matters.
Sunday was Garoppolo’s 16th career start, and he is 14-2 as a starter. There’s no denying Garoppolo’s ability to come out on the winning side.
■ There’s no shame in losing to the Colts in Indianapolis, and the Texans are still very much in the playoff mix despite dropping to 4-3. But the Texans once again were sloppy and self-destructive, doing everything they could to lose the game.
The Texans gave the Colts a whopping five first downs on penalties, and overall were busted for 10 accepted penalties for 54 yards. DeShaun Watson also threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, and the Texans were just 2 for 5 in the red zone. Worst of all, coach Bill O’Brien once again butchered the clock at the end of the fourth quarter, in which he wasted more than 30 seconds, then burned a timeout before taking an intentional safety.
■ I’m still not ready to take the Bills seriously, because of the erratic and often sloppy play of quarterback Josh Allen. But you are what your record says you are, to quote Bill Parcells, and the Bills are now 5-1 with the second-best record in the AFC after a 31-21 closer-than-expected win over the Dolphins. The Bills technically would have the No. 5 playoff seed right now, but they have a great defense, and a schedule that is just as easy as the Patriots’.
The Bills have beat up on the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans, and Dolphins. Their upcoming schedule isn’t difficult, either: Philly, Washington, at Cleveland, at Miami, Denver. The closing slate includes Dallas, Baltimore and New England, but the Bills could stack up a lot of wins before Thanksgiving.
■ Winning by two touchdowns in Seattle means the Ravens definitely are for real. They improved to 5-2 with an impressive 30-16 win, in which Lamar Jackson threw for only 143 yards but rushed for 116 yards and a score. Jackson will need to do better than 9-of-20 passing against the Patriots in two weeks, but that Week 9 Sunday Night Football matchup in Baltimore is going to be a great test for the Patriots’ defense.
■ The Bengals dropped to 0-6 with a 27-17 home loss to the Jaguars, but they shouldn’t be this bad, right? Andy Dalton once took them to the playoffs five years in a row. They have Joe Mixon, Gio Bernard, Tyler Eifert, and Geno Atkins. Marvin Lewis went 6-10 with this group last year, but they were at least representative.
It’s almost as if 36-year-old head coach Zac Taylor, who had five games of offensive coordinator experience at the NFL level before getting this head coaching gig, isn’t ready for the job.
■ The Vikings looked dysfunctional three weeks ago in a loss to the Bears that dropped them to 2-2, but since have pulled off three straight dominant wins, over the Giants, Eagles, and Lions. Kirk Cousins lit it up with 337 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Lions and has 10 touchdowns and one interception in his last three games. The NFC North is turning into a two-team race between 6-1 Green Bay and 5-2 Minnesota.
■ Sunday was one for grand debuts. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, playing in his first game after serving a six-game PED suspension, strip-sacked Giants QB Daniel Jones with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter to help seal the Cardinals’ big road win. Jalen Ramsey had four tackles and a forced fumble on a massive hit in the second quarter of the Rams’ 37-10 win over the Falcons. And four days after Marcus Peters was traded from the Rams to the Ravens, he picked off Russell Wilson and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown in the Ravens’ big win over the Seahawks.
■ Sunday also was a great day for West Coast teams playing at 1 p.m. on the East Coast. The 49ers won in Washington, the Rams blew out the Falcons, and the Cardinals beat the Giants. Per European gambling site 5dimes, West Coast teams had a .376 win percentage between 2003 and ’18 when playing at 1 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone.
■ Falcons owner Arthur Blank told The Athletic on Sunday he still supports head coach Dan Quinn. But with the Falcons at 1-6, and Quinn’s job security now the only topic revolving around the team, Blank should show some mercy and fire Quinn during the Week 9 bye instead of making him squirm through the rest of the season. Blank needs to ask himself, even if the Falcons finish at 8-8 or even 9-7, would he still keep Quinn? Probably not. So just rip off the Band-Aid and let everyone move on.
■ Meanwhile, Giants coach Pat Shurmur might want to update his résumé. The Giants are now 2-5, and there is no excuse in losing at home to a rookie quarterback (Kyler Murray) playing in downpour conditions. Yes, Shurmur is playing with a rookie quarterback as well, but he butchered the clock at the end of the game, and the Giants simply haven’t shown any improvement in Shurmur’s 1½ seasons.
Tracking former Patriots players
■ Cardinals DE Chandler Jones: Had four sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a win over the Giants. He has 8.5 sacks this season, and his 50 sacks since the start of the 2016 season are the most in the NFL.
■ Giants LT Nate Solder: Part of the offensive line that allowed eight sacks and helped gain only 263 total yards on offense in a loss to the Cardinals. It’s definitely a coaching issue in New York, and not talent.
■ Bears KR Cordarrelle Patterson: Had a 102-yard kickoff return TD, the seventh of his career, in the first quarter of the Bears’ loss to the Saints. But Patterson has just five catches for 33 yards all season.
Tracking former Patriots coaches
■ Titans Mike Vrabel (3-4): Win over the Chargers proves the old adage: It’s better to be lucky than good. And the Titans probably would have an extra win or two if Vrabel began the season with Ryan Tannehill.
■ Texans Bill O’Brien (4-3): Has now lost three in a row to the Colts, including a playoff game.
■ Lions Matt Patricia: Easily could be 4-2 or even 5-1, but instead his team is 2-3-1, and the season is sliding away quickly.
■ Dolphins Brian Flores: If Flores is not careful, Ryan Fitzpatrick might actually win a few games.
Stats of the week
■ Lamar Jackson is on pace for 1,317 rushing yards, which would shatter Michael Vick’s season record for a quarterback of 1,039 yards.
■ Aaron Rodgers became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for five touchdowns, rush for another, and compile a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. The Browns’ Frank Ryan also did it in 1964.
■ The Bears recovered an onside kick in their loss to the Saints, and had another recovery reversed by replay. NFL teams were 0 for 18 on onside kicks this year entering Week 7.
■ The 49ers-Redskins game lasted 2:36, the shortest game since Patriots-Jaguars in Week 16 of 2009 (via NFL research). The Niners-Skins game also was the first scoreless halftime game since Eagles-Cowboys in Week 17 of 2017.
■ Marvin Jones became the first Lions receiver in the Super Bowl era to catch four touchdowns in a game (via NFL research).