Earl Thomas is going back to the place where it all started for him.
The playmaking safety was a star in Seattle for nine seasons, helping the Seahawks win a Super Bowl while establishing himself as one of the best at his position.
Then, things got a bit messy.
“I feel like they were kind of trying to phase me out,” Thomas said this week.
He was a contract holdout in training camp last year, and his season ended when he broke his left leg in Week 4 — punctuated by Thomas flipping the middle finger to Pete Carroll and the Seahawks’ sideline as he rode off the field on a cart.
Now with Baltimore, Thomas will try to lead the Ravens (4-2) to a victory Sunday against the Seahawks (5-1).
“They gave me my first shot,” he said of the Seahawks. “I won so many games there, grew up as a young man there, so I’m always going to respect that organization and always going to be a part of it.”
It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to beat them, and badly. And Carroll knows it.
“Earl was an incredible competitor, and I loved coaching him,” the Seahawks coach said. “I think it will be fun playing against him.”
Well, it certainly should be fun to watch the two quarterbacks in this one, with Russell Wilson off to possibly the best start of his career for Seattle and Lamar Jackson making plays with his arm and legs for Baltimore.
Wilson doesn’t have an interception yet and is just the fourth quarterback to have a passer rating of 100 or higher in the first six games of a season. He’s trying to get the Seahawks to 6-1 for only the second time in franchise history.
“It’s sort of like playing against Steph Curry in basketball, if you will,” Ravens defensive co-ordinator Don Martindale said. “You can pick him half court and he’s going to try to drive by you or you can slack off and he’s going to pull up and hit a 3.”
Meanwhile, Jackson became the first NFL player with 200 yards passing and 150 yards rushing in the same regular-season game, accomplishing the feat last week in a 23-17 win over Cincinnati. His 460 yards rushing rank him fourth in the AFC. Yes, as a quarterback.
“He’s as good as we’ve ever seen,” Carroll said. “He’s as fast and as elusive as we’ve seen.”
Week 7 opened with Kansas City’s 30-6 victory at Denver, a win tempered by the loss of reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes to a right knee injury in the second quarter.
Backup Matt Moore threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs (5-2) had nine sacks, gave up a season-low 71 yards rushing and snapped a two-game skid in beating the Broncos (2-5) for the eighth straight time. His balky left ankle heavily taped, Mahomes completed 10 of 11 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown before he was hurt on a successful sneak on fourth-and-inches at the Denver 5.
Carolina (4-2), Cleveland (2-4), Pittsburgh (2-4) and Tampa Bay (2-4) are all off this week.
PHILADELPHIA (3-3) at DALLAS (3-3)
An early showdown for first place in the NFC East in a Sunday night matchup of teams coming off losses.
The Cowboys are actually on a three-game losing streak after a 3-0 start, falling last Sunday 24-22 to the previously winless Jets. Dallas hasn’t lost four in a row since 2015, when it dropped seven straight after then-quarterback Tony Romo was hurt in Week 2. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, whose offence ranks No. 2 overall in the NFL, hope to avoid a similar fate — and they have some optimism. Dallas has won three in a row in the series against Philadelphia.
That might mean little to Carson Wentz and the Eagles, though. They’re the only division rival with a winning record at AT&T Stadium (6-4). But they’ll need to turn things around after falling to Minnesota 38-20 last week.
SAN FRANCISCO (5-0) at WASHINGTON (1-5)
The 49ers head into this week joining New England as the only undefeated teams, and they look to make it 6-0 for only the third time in franchise history.
San Francisco is 5-0 for the first time since 1990 and has been getting the job done on both sides of the ball. Jimmy Garoppolo, the eighth quarterback in the Super Bowl era with 13-plus wins in his first 15 starts, leads the No. 4 overall offence in the league. The 49ers’ defence is off to an even more impressive start, ranking second overall behind a stingy showing in a 20-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams. San Francisco gave up just 48 net yards passing and allowed no conversions on third or fourth down for the first time since 1988.
Lowly Washington edged Miami 17-16 last week in Bill Callahan’s debut as the Redskins’ interim coach. The Redskins are 9 1/2-point underdogs in this one, and Washington hasn’t won at home since Week 7 in 2018.
NEW ORLEANS (5-1) at CHICAGO (3-2)
Teddy Bridgewater has done everything he can to help offset the loss of Drew Brees to a torn ligament in his right thumb, going 4-0 in his place as the NFC South-leading Saints’ starting quarterback. And while the Saints might not light up the scoreboard as they did last season, they’re getting consistently solid performances from their defence and special teams.
The Bears hope to have quarterback Mitchell Trubisky back after he missed one game because of an injured left shoulder. Chase Daniel, who had two stints as a backup in New Orleans, would make his second straight start if Trubisky can’t go.
HOUSTON (4-2) at INDIANAPOLIS (3-2)
A rematch of last season’s wild-card round matchup in which the Colts beat the Texans 21-7. Andrew Luck was the quarterback for Indianapolis then, though, before opting to retire in the summer.
Jacoby Brissett has taken over for the Colts and has been sacked just six times, tied for the second fewest in the league. In fact, Indianapolis has not allowed sack since Week 3. The Colts’ offensive line will be put to the test this week against J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and the Texans’ pass rush.
Deshaun Watson is off to an excellent start and has six touchdown passes the past two games, but also threw two interceptions in the Texans’ victory at Kansas City last week.
MINNESOTA (4-2) at DETROIT (2-2-1)
A quick turnaround helped prevent the Lions from dwelling too long on the calls at Green Bay on Monday night that didn’t go their way in a 23-22 loss.
After Detroit opened the season 2-0-1, it has lost two straight — and its failure to hold onto double-digit leads against the Packers and Kansas City Chiefs are a major culprit.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions could be in for a shootout in this one, though. Kirk Cousins has an NFL-high 142.5 rating the past two weeks for the Vikings with 639 yards passing, six TDs and one interception.
ARIZONA (2-3-1) at N.Y. GIANTS (2-4)
While the records might not be eye-popping, the future is now for the Cardinals and Giants. Both think, and hope, they have their franchise quarterbacks.
Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall draft pick in April, has mostly played up to the lofty expectations while starting every game for Arizona. Daniel Jones, taken No. 6 overall by the Giants, has stepped in for the benched Eli Manning and showed impressive playmaking ability while going 2-2 as the starter.
It’s also the second time two rookie starting quarterbacks selected in the top 10 in the common era of the draft face each other, with the first being last year when Sam Darnold of the Jets (No. 3) faced Josh Allen of the Bills (No. 7).
Jones and the Giants could also get star running back Saquon Barkley back after he missed three games with an injured right ankle.
OAKLAND (3-2) at GREEN BAY (5-1)
The suddenly streaking Raiders are looking to win three straight for the first time since 2016. And, if they can pull it off, it would be all on the road — something Oakland hasn’t done since the playoffs following the 1980 season.
Jon Gruden’s guys are coming off a bye-week break after playing in London, and now they’ll have to go into Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team that is playing well.
Green Bay has also defeated Oakland seven straight times, dating to 1990. The Packers will look to keep that going under Matt LaFleur, the first head coach in franchise history to win five of his first six games.
NEW ENGLAND (6-0) at N.Y. JETS (1-4)
Tom Brady and the Patriots cruised to the fourth 6-0 start in team history, and have their sights set on the franchise’s third 7-0 start.
They’ll have to do it Monday night against the AFC East-rival Jets, who earned their first win of the season last week with quarterback Sam Darnold back under centre after missing three games with mononucleosis. New York could be getting linebacker C.J. Mosley, sidelined since the season opener with a groin injury, back in the middle of its defence. Both players missed the teams’ first meeting this season, when the Patriots won 30-14 with third-string quarterback Luke Falk making his first NFL start for the Jets.
The Patriots have won seven straight against the Jets, and would clinch a fourth straight series sweep with a prime-time victory.
LA RAMS (3-3) at ATLANTA (1-5)
Jared Goff and the Rams got off to a 3-0 start and looked every bit like a team with designs on a Super Bowl run.
Well, they’ve lost three straight since and have struggled mightily in the process. Goff passed for a career-low 78 yards in a 2-7 loss to San Francisco and the once high-scoring Rams got just 157 net yards. There’s some buzz in LA, though, after the Rams acquired star cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville this week for two first-round draft picks and a fourth-rounder. There’s a chance he could make his Rams debut if he passes a medical exam after missing the Jaguars’ past three games with a back injury.
Things have gone from bad to worse in Atlanta, where Dan Quinn’s job security is being questioned with the Falcons on a four-game skid. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been a bright spot, though, with an NFL-leading 15 touchdown passes. He’s also trying to become the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards in each of his team’s first seven games.
LA CHARGERS (2-4) at TENNESSEE (2-4)
Both the Chargers and Titans are teams at crossroads early in the season after entering with playoff hopes. They have each dropped their past two games and four of five.
That slow start contributed to a quarterback change in Tennessee, where Ryan Tannehill steps in for Marcus Mariota. It will be Tannehill’s first start for the Titans after he went 13 of 16 for 144 yards with one interception off the bench in Tennessee’s 16-0 loss to Denver. One positive for the Titans: Tannehill is 3-1 against the Chargers with six TDs and one interception.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offence have been looking for consistency while also trying to cut down on mistakes. Rivers has turned the ball over eight times this season after having just 13 turnovers last season.
MIAMI (0-5) at BUFFALO (4-1)
It’s FitzMagic time for the Dolphins, who are starting journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after benching Josh Rosen.
Miami has scored a league-low 42 points, so Brian Flores turned to Fitzpatrick to try to jumpstart the offence against the team for which he played four seasons.
But Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins will have to try to do it against the surprising Bills, who are off to their best start since 2011 and have yet to allow more than 17 points or 250 yards passing in a game this season.
JACKSONVILLE (2-4) at CINCINNATI (0-6)
This might be the perfect game for Minshew Mania to get back on track.
Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars were held to a season-low 226 yards in a 13-6 loss to New Orleans last week. A bounce-back could be in store against the Bengals, who’ll likely be without injured starting cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III.
That doesn’t bode well for Cincinnati, which still hasn’t won under first-year coach Zac Taylor and looks to prevent its first 0-7 start since 2008.