Two-time Super Bowl champion and CNN sports contributor Hines Ward spoke to CNN's Jill Martin this week to share some of his takeaways through Week 7 in the NFL.
The 7-0 Rams as a Super Bowl contender:
The Rams, with moving back to LA, are one of those teams that slowly kind of come along.
You see Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick (of the 2016 NFL draft), really kind of coming into his own as a quarterback.
Signing Aaron Donald (to a six-year $134 million contract extension) and signing Ndamukong Suh in free agency I think really solidified that defense. They're probably one of the most balanced teams in the NFL in all three phases: special teams, offensively, defensively.
But the engine that makes that car go is Todd Gurley. He's taken his game to another level. I mean, 14 touchdowns in seven games, that's just crazy. The guy is a touchdown machine. He can beat you in the passing game, the running game. He just takes a lot of pressure off Jared Goff to let him get into a comfort zone with passing the ball.
I just think overall, it's very hard to beat the Los Angeles Rams. They're strong contenders in making it to a Super Bowl, if they can get that home field advantage. I think they already had a little taste of it last year, and now I think they've elevated their game to try to make a run for a Super Bowl.
With all of the talk of the passing game and with records poised to keep falling, is Gurley under the radar?
Yes. And that's why. Because everyone is all about passing. Look at (Chiefs quarterback) Patrick Mahomes. Look at what he's doing. But I'm like, hello: Gurley at running back is still crushing it.
I just think (the Rams) are set up for playoff football. In the playoffs, you have to be able to run the ball and play good defense. In the passing game, you take your shots when it presents itself.
Playoff football to me is the teams that run the ball well and play good defense and they normally make it to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl.
The state of the Raiders:
You get Jon Gruden coming back, where he has made a name for himself. The excitement is there.
And then heading into the season, you get rid of your best player in Khalil Mack -- but you get compensation for it. And recently getting rid of Amari Cooper (who was traded to the Cowboys for a 2019 first-round draft pick). I mean, it's just basically doing a fire sale. The team is moving to Las Vegas.
I think Gruden signing a 10-year deal means he is going to be there for the long haul. You get rid of some of the roster people that you didn't have, and you didn't go out and handpick these guys. I think that's where Gruden is looking to: Heading into Vegas with three first-round picks, a bunch of money for free agency.
I can see a lot of Raiders fans saying, "Man there is something to be excited for, so let's tank this season so we can try and get the No. 1 pick overall and see where it goes."
Back in the day, kickers had one job: Kick the ball through the uprights. Get the extra point. Win the game.
Now, with the ball moved back for extra points, you're starting to see some very good kickers miss chip shots for extra points. And you're also getting guys who aren't that famous or aren't that well known bombing kicks from 59, 60 yards out.
This year has been interesting as far as the kicking game aspect. The guys who are normally automatic, that's not the case this year, because they're missing chip shots and easy field goals or extra points to either win the game or tie it up.
On Justin Tucker missing his first extra point in 223 tries, leading to a 24-23 Ravens loss against the Saints:
Clearly, Tucker was shocked. Any great player can eventually have one of those bad games. It came at the worst moment because it cost them the game or cost them from going to overtime. I'm just shocked about a guy who normally has the routine form not come through for his team.
I take Tucker and Adam Vinatieri as the guys that I trust the most to make field goals. It was a shocker to see him miss that.
On Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro redeeming himself to beat the Browns:
He misses a (40-yard) field goal that would have won the game, and then in overtime kicks it (59 yards) from midfield. I mean, how do you explain that?
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