NFL Winners and Losers: Mike McDaniel is legit, Tua is thriving and Dolphins — not the Bills — are rolling atop AFC East

When the Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, their social media team was on the private plane conveniently taking video of his first FaceTime call with Tua Tagovailoa.

"My job is to coach you to get all that greatness out of you," McDaniel said, via MSN. "This is an awesome day for me, and I'm damn sure gonna make sure that when you look back on this day, you're gonna be like, 'Damn, that was one of the best days of my career, too."

At the time it seemed over the top, and perhaps too optimistic. After all, if it had been up to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, he'd have Tom Brady as his QB. Or Deshaun Watson. It made it seem like McDaniel was stuck with Tagovailoa.

But McDaniel's words weren't some phony rah-rah speech to his new quarterback as he got the job. He delivered.

McDaniel has been a fantastic hire, and the main reason is he's getting everything out of Tagovailoa. The Dolphins are 7-0 in games that Tagovailoa has started and finished, as they demolished the Cleveland Browns 39-17 on Sunday. Technically Tagovailoa didn't finish Sunday's game, but that's because he got a break with the Dolphins up by so many points. He watched Skylar Thompson mop up the final minutes of the blowout. Tagovailoa had 285 yards and three touchdowns.

At 7-3, the Dolphins lead the AFC East. One of those seven wins was against the division favorite Buffalo Bills (6-3), who are now losers of two straight games.

It's amazing that the Dolphins wanted to give up on Tagovailoa. Ross isn't a good franchise owner, and he clearly didn't want Tagovailoa. Ross was so down on Tagovailoa he tampered with Brady and got a first-round draft pick taken away from the team for it. Smart. Tagovailoa's first head coach Brian Flores reportedly wasn't a big fan either. It's hard to succeed in that environment.

What Tagovailoa needed was support. He needed a better line. He benefited greatly from the team getting Tyreek Hill. And he really needed a coach who believed in him.

McDaniel has pushed all the right buttons. He's a forward-thinking coach who knows how to scheme up good looks for Hill and Jaylen Waddle. He plays to Tagovailoa's strengths and has gotten a brilliant season out of him so far. He said that he hoped the day he was hired was also "was one of the best days" of Tagovailoa's career as well, and to this point that is accurate.

The Dolphins are having a really good season. They were a hot team early after beating the Bills, then the buzz completely died when they lost three games with backup quarterbacks. They lost to the Bengals, Jets and Vikings with Teddy Bridgewater and Thompson playing most of those games, and they were competitive for most of those contests. It made no sense why they were downgraded for that losing streak.

It's fine. Those who have watched the Dolphins all season know they're good. The rest of those who haven't paid enough attention will come around. Maybe that will get McDaniel in the Coach of the Year conversation, where he belongs.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have been excellent together. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have been excellent together. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) (Michael Reaves via Getty Images)

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 10 of the NFL season:


Colts owner Jim Irsay and interim head coach Jeff Saturday: Irsay was defiant when he had a media conference to discuss his weird interim coach choice of Saturday, who had never been a coach above the high school level. He challenged anyone to question him.

On Sunday, Irsay was right.

Part of the Indianapolis Colts' 25-20 win on Sunday was going against the Las Vegas Raiders, who are coached by Josh McDaniels. That'll make any coach look good, even one who a week earlier had never coached on the college or pro level.

For now we have to credit Irsay, who was mocked this past week. Former players and coaches talked about what a disgraceful and disrespectful decision it was. But Saturday, who turned back to Matt Ryan at quarterback in a move that was revealed right before kickoff, is 1-0 as an NFL coach. We'll see if this experiment goes well over the long term but if it does, Irsay will be asking for plenty of apologies.

Justin Fields, again, even in another loss: Quarterback play has been mostly down this season. That's why a story like Fields is so much fun to follow.

Fields had a huge game last week and continued that momentum Sunday against the Detroit Lions, even though the Bears blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost 31-30.

Fields threw a terrible interception that was returned for a touchdown by Jeff Okudah, a play that would be enormous in the outcome. That tied the game in the fourth quarter. Fields came right back with a 67-yard touchdown run. It was the kind of bounceback you want to see from a young QB.

Fields still has to work on his late-game heroics. He had a chance to rally the Bears after the Lions took a 31-30 lead but couldn't get a drive going and was sacked on fourth down with just under a minute to go. Fields wasn't perfect and the fact that the Bears coughed up a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter wasn't great. But you can't blame Fields for the missed extra point in the fourth quarter or the defense not stopping anyone. Fields' play is a positive in an otherwise bad Bears season.

Fields is emerging as a star. He is electric running the ball. He isn't great as a passer yet but a lot of that has to do with the lack of talent around him. He's showing enough as a passer that it's easy to buy his development over the long term. The Bears lost Sunday and Fields played a part in that. But in the big picture, Bears fans should be very excited.

Patrick Mahomes' MVP case: Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and maybe even Tua Tagovailoa and others are still in the race, but it's looking more like Mahomes' award to lose.

Mahomes was great again on Sunday in the Kansas City Chiefs' 27-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mahomes has been great as usual this season, even without Tyreek Hill. He led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns before Week 10 started. He added 331 yards and four TDs on Sunday.

Mahomes has been the best player in the NFL this season. There's a long way to go, but it looks like he'll win another MVP.

Tom Brady and Julio Jones: It has been a rough season for the older Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But they're likely going to win the NFC South, and a 21-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Germany showed they're still capable of getting on a run.

The biggest play in the win was a 31-yard touchdown from Brady to Jones, in which a miscommunication in coverage by the Seahawks' defense opened up a lane to the end zone for Jones. He has battled injuries most of the season. Brady, who threw for 258 yards Sunday, has been OK but not his usual great self. It's been a rough year for the Buccaneers. But a win in Germany sure helps.


Mike McCarthy: When coaching decisions don't work, the decision gets criticized. That's unfair but it's how it goes.

McCarthy will have questions to answer after the Dallas Cowboys' 31-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers. In overtime, McCarthy passed on a 53-yard field-goal attempt to go for it on fourth-and-3. Dak Prescott was pressured, threw it incomplete, and the Packers drove downfield for the game-winning field goal.

It wasn't necessarily the wrong call by McCarthy to go for it, but it led to a loss. It had to sting more for McCarthy to lose to the Packers. He was pushed out in Green Bay after many good years there, and came back Sunday with the better team.

The Cowboys (6-3) had a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter. They couldn't hold onto it. There were a lot of reasons for the loss. McCarthy's overtime decision will be the one that gets the most attention.

The Rams, maybe the worst reigning champ ever: The 1999 Broncos set the record for most losses by a defending Super Bowl champ. They went 6-10. That season, John Elway retired and Terrell Davis missed most of it with a torn ACL.

The Rams won't have all those excuses.

Los Angeles' season got worse Sunday. Without Matthew Stafford, who was out with a concussion, they lost 27-17 to the Arizona Cardinals, who didn't have Kyler Murray. Cooper Kupp went down with an ankle injury, to make things worse.

The Rams are 3-6. They might make a run at a playoff spot still but it seems unlikely. The offense is broken, even with Stafford and Kupp. Either way the Rams will need to get better to avoid matching the 1999 Broncos.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills are blowing a shot at the Super Bowl.

They have given up pole position in the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. A 33-30 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings — after the Bills had a 27-10 second-half lead — puts their record at 6-3. Given how good the Kansas City Chiefs are, the Bills can't afford many more losses. Maybe not any.

The Bills had a stressful week wondering if Josh Allen would play through an elbow injury. He did play, and threw for 330 yards. But his interception in overtime cost the Bills a chance to at least tie the game. It's the Bills' second straight loss. They're still a good team but like last season, they're having inexplicable close losses. It might end up meaning they go to Arrowhead Stadium again in the playoffs. They're capable of winning there, but they're making their road a lot harder than it should be.

Russell Wilson and Denver Broncos' momentum: The Broncos won a game and then went on their bye. They had a chance to get something going this season with a win at the Tennessee Titans.

But again, the same old problems showed up. Denver's offense did very little in a 17-10 loss to the Titans. The only touchdown was a 66-yard pass to Jalen Virgil on his first career catch in the second quarter. Denver didn't get a TD in the 38 minutes after that. Wilson threw a fourth-down interception with 11 seconds left to end it.

Denver is in rough shape. Wilson has been bad all season. The offense, other than spurts, has been unwatchable. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett can't feel good about his future at 3-6. Had Denver scored once in the second half Sunday, it could have had a season-changing win. Wilson and the Broncos couldn't even manage that.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 13: Teair Tart #93 of the Tennessee Titans and Rashad Weaver #99 of the Tennessee Titans hit Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos as he attempts to pass during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Russell Wilson's stat line on Sunday: 21-of-42 for 286 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked six times. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons via Getty Images)

Brandin Cooks and the Houston Texans: Cooks wasn't happy he wasn't traded at the deadline, then was ruled out last week due to "personal reasons." He came back this weekend. He probably was reminded why he was angry in the first place.

The Texans are a bad team going nowhere. They lost 24-16 to the New York Giants. They had some chances but two fourth-quarter turnovers deep in Giants territory ruined their shot. That's what bad teams do.

It's inexplicable the Texans didn't figure out a way to trade Cooks. His $18 million salary next year reportedly was the biggest problem, but that's on the Texans for not doing more to facilitate a trade. It'll be a long rest of the season for Cooks.

Andy Dalton and the New Orleans Saints: You have to wonder if the Saints turn back to Jameis Winston. It's not like Dalton is keeping them afloat.

Dalton got little going on Sunday, with just 174 passing yards. The Saints scored only one touchdown in a 20-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dalton got the job when Winston was hurt, then kept it. But the Saints are 3-7 after Sunday's loss. There's no reason to keep trying with Dalton. There's no great reason to try Winston again either, but there's a chance it probably is going to happen this year.