Welcome to the NFL Week 6 stock report, where we’ll evaluate which players and teams are worth buying and which ones are not.
Who are the blue chips that will exceed expectations? Who are the solid investments that are consistent, but not superstars? And who are the junk bonds that aren’t even worth investing in?
What should be bought? And what should be sold? Who has been making the biggest impact this season in the NFL so far?
All these questions will be answered and more in this week’s stock report.
Blue Chip Stocks
New England Patriots
The Patriots are the best team in the NFL, and it’s not even close. After winning three of their first four games with a carousel at quarterback comprised of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, the Pats demolished the Browns once Tom Brady got back from his four game suspension.
The Patriots aren’t just playing well, though. They’re playing angry. They have some of the best tight ends in the NFL all getting healthy at the same time (thanks to Luke Cage?), and their defense is starting to look dominant again.
It’s going to be tough to beat the Patriots. They look like the favorites for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs this season.
Denver Broncos defense
Despite the Atlanta Falcons beating the Broncos on Sunday, the Broncos defense is for real. They held the No. 1 offense in the NFL to just 23 points and 372 yards, both of which are season lows for the Falcons.
The Broncos allow the sixth-least amount of yards per game and have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
This defense has all the tools to lead the Broncos to the playoffs yet again, regardless of what happens with the offense. Like we saw last year, it is going to give opposing offenses fits throughout the season.
Denver might not have an elite quarterback on their roster anymore, but at least they can weather the storm with their defensive prowess.
After DeMarco Murray failed, and failed hard, with the Eagles, there were questions about whether or not he would be the same again. In just five games with the Titans, those concerns have been alleviated. He just wasn’t a good scheme fit for Chip Kelly’s shotgun-based rushing attack.
Operating out of Mike Mularkey’s I-formation, Murray should have a season similar to what Michael Turner had in 2008, when Turner ran for 1,699 yards. He’ll continue to get a ton of carries and should see wide open rushing lanes while playing in a great scheme for his strengths again.
Murray is for real, and the Titans have a solid running game again because of him.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott may be rookies, but they are playing like veterans right now. They have an even more positive overall outlook because of Jason Garrett’s proven ability to develop quarterbacks and running backs throughout the years with his simple schemes that take advantage of their strengths.
Elliott was a top-five pick because of his ability to rack up the yardage. Right now, he’s looking like a brilliant investment.
Prescott is looking like a true steal. Very few quarterbacks look franchise-caliber five games into their career. And even less look good after being drafted in the fourth round or later. The Cowboys can be very good as long as they stick with this pair.
Outside of the Steelers, the AFC North doesn’t look like a great division in 2016. So expecting the Steelers to continue their winning ways after their 4-1 start isn’t crazy. They have beaten the three bad teams they’ve faced the way a good team should. They steamrolled them and won by three or more scores in each of those games, thanks to an offense that is almost impossible to stop.
With five more games versus division opponents and a couple of easy opponents like the Colts, Dolphins and Giants still on the schedule, the Steelers look like a solid bet to be the AFC North Champions. They could have a bye week in the playoffs locked up heading into the final couple of weeks of the season.
Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree
When a quarterback like Derek Carr starts to have the best year of his career, you have to wonder what’s going on. The first thing that comes to mind is that the Oakland Raiders offense is starting to click.
That’s true. But looking deeper, the maturation of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as his main targets is the main reason he is taking such strides. This duo looks similar to the former Atlanta Falcons combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Crabtree is in that Roddy White role. He’s a veteran and still has all of the speed that allowed him early career success. But he runs routes efficiently and can destroy defenses in more ways than just one (watch here).
Cooper is similar to an early run Julio Jones. All the talent in the world, but he just needs to refine his game a bit more.
Expecting these two to have a solid year (and career) together is about as solid of an investment you can make.
Never has a single pick given a general manager such rope to completely screw up a team. But how Ryan Grigson still has a job after essentially ruining a team that was a playoff contender is beyond us.
After three straight playoff appearances but never having the defense to go to the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis Colts have collapsed two straight years.
Trading away a first round pick for Trent Richardson and just missing on other picks and free agent signings has left the Colts without a competent offensive line or defense. The Colts need to realize what they don’t have here and let Grigson go after this season (or sooner).
This is a guy who actually blamed Andrew Luck’s contract as the reason he failed to provide any defensive help (more on that here).
The Colts could do much better than this schmuck.
San Diego Chargers
Talk about the Bad News Bears. How many different ways can the San Diego Chargers blow games?
In the opener, they lost after being up 17 points to the Chiefs heading into the fourth quarter. When they played the Saints, they were up by 13 with eight minutes left in the game. Against the Colts, they played a tough game, but lost it with 1:17 left in the game. And against the Raiders, this past week, they were up by eight with 20 minutes left and threw the game away.
At this point, it’s a given that head coach Mike McCoy is on his way out.
The Chargers are a bad team at this point. They find ways to lose. Don’t invest any hope in them at all.
For the first four years of his career, Ryan Tannehill had the look of a standard franchise-level quarterback. He may not have been throwing for 30 touchdowns, but he didn’t turn the ball over at an unforgivable rate and helped the offense move the ball and score points.
That seems to have changed this season. Whether it’s the difference in the offense from what his past coaches have run, or whether he is just getting used to the new targets on his team, Tannehill seems to have regressed.
When he was hired, Adam Gase seemed to be the right coach to take advantage of Tannehill’s talents.
If Tannehill ever gets to a point where Gase’s offense clicks for him, he could turn it around. But right now, don’t expect it to happen.
Buy! Buy! Buy!
Atlanta Falcons offense
The Atlanta Falcons have returned to the pick your poison style that the 2012 offense had. There isn’t just one way to shut down the offense. They can run it on you with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They can throw it all over the yard with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the varied passing attack that incorporates tight ends, wide receivers and running backs in various sets.
They also have an offensive line that can create running lanes against even the best defenses and protects Ryan against the league’s best pass rushes. Led by a veteran quarterback in Ryan, the Falcons have a great temperament and can beat you in a multitude of ways. The No. 1 offense isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
The question is whether the defense can continue to improve for the Falcons to allow more opportunities for the offense.
Aaron Rodgers may not have the best start to his season, but there have been too many times where the NFL’s best quarterback has had a bad start and then turned it on the last 10 or 11 games of the season. At this point, it only makes sense to buy Rodgers turning everything around.
As the offensive line starts to put things together and Rodgers gets more chemistry with his receivers, the Packers’ passing attack should start to take off. The question is never an if things are going to take off with Rodgers, it’s a when things are going to take off.
The San Francisco 49ers don’t have much in the way of offense. But what they do have is a very solid group of run blockers with a very talented running back in Carlos Hyde. He’s currently on pace for a season where he’s averaging 4.0 yards per carry, rushing for over 1,200 yards and scoring nearly 20 touchdowns.
Hyde may not lead the NFL in rushing yards this season, but he’s off to the best start of a season for his career. As long as he can stay healthy and the offensive line can continue to improve in run blocking, Hyde could have the first 1,000 yard season of his career and should score at least 12 touchdowns.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
The Panthers have a massive hangover right now from the Super Bowl. It looks like a frat house on a Sunday morning in Charlotte right now. The star quarterback Cam Newton is dealing with a concussion (though he should be cleared soon). The Panthers aren’t finding ways to win, and their secondary is getting exposed as the fraud that it is.
Carolina had a good team in 2015. But everything that went their way last year isn’t going their way this year. They need to get back Newton healthy, but don’t expect a miracle comeback for the Panthers this season. They won’t be going to the Super Bowl again with how many holes their roster currently has.
Jameis Winston… for now
Jameis Winston was supposed to break out this season.
The Buccaneers promoted Dirk Koetter to head coach and allowed him to build the entire offense around Winston and running back Doug Martin. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers lost Martin and Martin’s backup, Charles Sims, essentially losing the running game Winston needed to offset his deficiencies as a passer.
Winston has been misreading defenses through the first five weeks of the season, throwing eight interceptions and failing to lead his team to more than 17 points in three of the five games. He will be good again one day, but as of right now, that’s not happening.
Gus Bradley is in his fourth year as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he looks like the next ex-head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. This year’s team has had a ton of issues, resulting in a slow start.
But it all starts up at the top.
Bradley has just 13-39 record as the head coach of the hapless Jaguars. It’s about time for them to release him from his contract. The Jaguars haven’t been able to find ways to win, and their defense should be much better than they have been with the defensive head coach.
But it’s not all coming together. And it probably never will at this point.
Bradley was given his four years to turn things around. It’s about time he spends his next four years as a defensive coordinator for the next team that tries to clone what Seattle has been doing since 2010.