Around the NFL: Baker Mayfield's Hollywood Rams Debut, Ridder Time in Atlanta, Joe Burrow Has Entered the MVP Conversation, More

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Around the NFL: Baker Mayfield’s Hollywood Rams Debut, Ridder Time in Atlanta, Joe Burrow Has Entered the MVP Conversation, More

Chicago Bears

What do me and Baker Mayfield’s helmet-headbutting cranium have in common this morning? Soreness, that’s what.

The difference is Mayfield was delivering helmet-less headbutts after a wild come-from-behind victory last night, and I’m just sore from biting off more than I can chew in the weight room this week. I’ve been really good the last month or so when it comes to that stuff (I’m down 20-plus pounds), but I decided to transition from cardio activities to the weight room this week, and my body is not happy about it.

Anyways, It’s a quarterback-heavy installment of Around the NFL this morning in which we’ll cover a veteran looking for another shot, a rookie getting his chance, and the MVP resume of another signal caller.

Baker Mayfield’s Hollywood Rams Debut

Just over 48 hours after arriving in Inglewood, Baker Mayfield was thrust into a Hollywood moment, fittingly with a team that resides just 10 miles south of Hollywood. With 1:45 to play and the Rams trailing the Raiders 16-10, Los Angeles began a drive from their own 2-yard line with Mayfield, playing for his third team since last Christmas standing in the Rams end zone to lead the drive.

The Hollywood script was delivered to Mayfield, who executed it quickly, leading the Rams on a game-winning 98-yard touchdown drive to snap Los Angeles’ six-game losing streak. Mayfield completed threw a dot to Van Jefferson in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown on a play where he admitted after the game that he was surprised that the Raiders lined up in press coverage, something he took advantage of on the go ball to Jefferson.

Mayfield, once the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, was discarded by the Browns after they traded for Deshaun Watson in the NFL offseason, even in spite of his countless pending sexual assault lawsuits. Not really thought of in all of this was what that might do the psyche of a player, Mayfield specifically in this instance. The Browns had such little faith in him that they made a deplorable trade and doubled down with an even grimier feeling massive contract extension for Watson.

Months after being traded to the Carolina Panthers, Mayfield was demoted and eventually released by the Panthers, the second team in less than a year to give up on him. Mayfield said on the TNF postgame show that he took a gamble and booked a flight to Los Angeles before the Rams were even awarded the claim.

What happens moving forward with Mayfield — other than the apparent fact that he’s won the right to start for the Rams the rest of the way and audition for a future job — isn’t clear. The Rams have Matthew Stafford under contract through 2026, and it’s doubtful that Mayfield is ready to be a backup. So, the most likely scenario is that Mayfield’s heroics on Thursday night earned him a month-long audition for the rest of the league this offseason.

Either way, it’s a pretty cool story, and I’m happy that he’ll get another shot to prove that he’s a starter somewhere in this league. Honestly, the 10 minutes that he was on the TNF postgame show last night was the first time I’ve ever listened to him talk football in detail, and I can see why Sean McVay was so impressed with Mayfield when they spent a flight to Indianapolis together back in 2018.

Falcons Turning the Page on Marcus Mariota

Along with Baker Mayfield, Marcus Mariota may be looking for a new team for the 2023 season after the Falcons opted to turn the page on the Mariota era in Atlanta in favor of rookie Desmond Ridder.

Ridder, 23, was drafted by the Falcons in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft and will take over for Mariota, who was 5-8 as the Falcons starter this season when Atlanta returns from the bye week.

Mariota completed 61.3 percent of his passes this season and threw for 2.219 yards, 15 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and an 88.2 passer rating in his 13 starts under center for the Falcons. His completion percentage ranks 33rd among qualified quarterbacks this season, and with the Falcons losing four of their last five games heading into the bye, Week 15 seemed like a perfect time for Atlanta to see what they’ve got in Ridder.

The Falcons will have a decision to make on Mariota this offseason after signing him to a two-year deal last spring. Mariota is due $12 million in 2023, including a $3 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2023 league year in March.

Ridder led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a College Football Playoff berth last season and will now have four games (against the Saints, Ravens, Cardinals, and Buccaneers) to prove to Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot that there’s something there in their ’22 third-round draft pick.

As we’ve learned here in Chicago over the past two years, four games are nothing in the evaluation period of a rookie quarterback. Will Atlanta keep Mariota around as an insurance policy? Sign another veteran to compete with Ridder for the starting job in camp? Who knows. What I do know is that I don’t envy the position the Falcons have put themselves in right now.

Joe Burrow Has Entered the MVP Conversation

After turning out his worst performance as a pro in Week 1 against the Steelers when he turned the ball over five times, and then followed that up with a six-sack performance against the Cowboys that led to an 0-2 start for the reigning AFC Champion Bengals, Burrow has been as good — if not better — than any quarterback in the NFL since.

Since Week 3, Burrow has an NFL-best passer rating of 111.4 and ranks second in EPA (7.7) and ANY/A (8.12) while ranking first in total touchdowns per game (2.7) and turnover worthy plays (1.4%).

Through 13 weeks, Burrow has amassed 3,446 yards, 25 touchdowns, and another 224 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The Bengals are 8-2 since the lousy 0-2 start and appear to be on a collision course with an AFC North title and another deep playoff run thanks to Burrow’s performance.

The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. laid out quite the compelling argument for Burrow to be the NFL’s MVP this season in his recent column, which I recommend reading:

Extra Points

  • It’s been one year since the NFL world lost Demaryius Thomas.
  • I wrote about Thomas’ lasting impact and legacy after his tragic passing last year:
  • Jerry’s World (AT&T Stadium) — which opened in 2009 — will be getting a $295 million facelift in the coming years. According to PFT, “the goal is to refresh premium spaces and upgrade technology before hosting the 2026 World Cup.”
  • After Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons revealed that Odell Beckham Jr. told him that he would be ready to play in five weeks, earlier this week, concerns about signing the wide receiver have cropped up in Dallas. OBJ said on The Shop during last night’s TNF broadcast that he doesn’t see the need to play in the regular season this year but says that he could if needed.
  • The Cowboys have been firing on all cylinders since Dak returned in Week 7, which means that their inevitable yearly playoff loss will be that much more heartbreaking for them.
  • Before I get out of here, a big thanks to the Rams for the solid they did the Bears last night.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.