Continuing a trend we saw in college football on Friday and Saturday, NFL Week 6 was full of some wild, wacky and sometimes serious stuff.
A certain running back we thought might be well past his prime opened up a big old can of you know what for his new team. Houston’s rookie quarterback set a new mark of excellence going up against the team that chose to trade down instead of taking him this past April.
On the negative side, one of the game’s greatest players was injured and is probably lost for the season. And a defender known for dirty play likely earned a suspension for a blatantly dirty hit.
These are the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 6.
Winner: Guess Adrian Peterson isn’t done, after all
It was fair to wonder if the Arizona Cardinals were grasping at straws when they made the trade for Adrian Peterson last week. After all, he hadn’t looked like vintage All Day since 2015. Heading into Week 5, Peterson had rushed for just 81 yards on 27 carries as a member of the New Orleans Saints.
If we had any doubts about this guy’s ability to make game-breaking plays, they’re all in the rear-view mirror now. Peterson didn’t waste any time at all making a difference for his new team, ripping off a 27-yard touchdown run on Arizona’s opening drive to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead (watch here).
By the seventh drive of the game Peterson had already taken the lead as Arizona’s leading rusher this season. He ended up with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, proving he still has plenty left in the tank, thank you very much.
Loser: Packers doomed without Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers might be done for the season after suffering a broken collarbone on a tackle outside the pocket by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. It was a totally legal hit, but Rodgers landed awkwardly on his throwing shoulder, and the damage is done.
More than a simple matter of losing one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Packers’ overwhelming mediocrity will be exposed in the coming weeks. Rodgers is so darn good that he has kept this franchise winning the past eight years, despite featuring serious deficiencies elsewhere on the roster.
Now we’ll see just how bad Green Bay’s roster really is. Brett Hundley isn’t going to be the problem, per se. He’s not great, but the offensive line in front of him is awful, and the team’s defense will be even more exposed against the run now that Rodgers isn’t putting points on the board regularly. Simply put, the Packers, now 4-2 on the season after losing to the Vikings Sunday, will be lucky to finish with a record above .500.
Winner: It’s early, but Philly running away with NFC East
Carson Wentz has followed up his generally decent rookie campaign with some very solid play this year. In six games, he’s led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 5-1 record, averaging 264 yards passing per game while tossing 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions, two of which came in the first two weeks of the season.
LeGarrette Blount has started to hit his stride in Doug Pederson’s offense, rushing for 344 yards and a touchdown the past four games.
The defense is stout up front and doing just enough to keep opposing offenses from breaking out on the back end. They dominated Cam Newton Thursday night this past week, forcing him into three interceptions. The Eagles have also shown they can close out close games, and their only loss of the season came against the hottest team in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s still early this season. But with New York done, Washington and Dallas still trying to find their footing, this is Philly’s division to lose.
Loser: Falcons choked away another big win
Miami reached a rare level of futility going without points in the first half. The Fins became the first team since the 2005 Cleveland Browns without an offensive touchdown in the first first half of their first five games. Atlanta was seemingly doing whatever it wanted offensively in that first half, too.
Maybe they were looking ahead to their Super Bowl rematch against the New England Patriots. Maybe they felt comfortable, up by 17 points after shutting out the hapless Miami Dolphins during the first half. Whatever the reason, the reality of what happened Sunday in Atlanta is going to leave a lot of people hot under the collar for a few days.
Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes, the Dolphins shut down Matt Ryan and Co. in a huge way defensively and the Dolphins stunned the Falcons, winning 20-17. That’s two losses in a row now for Atlanta, which just got beat by teams piloted by Tyrod Taylor and Cutler in consecutive weeks.
Winner: Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller keep making beautiful music
Since Will Fuller came back into the lineup following a preseason collarbone injury, he’s been nothing short of lethal for the Houston Texans. His rapport with Deshaun Watson, who was a very good deep ball passer in college, has been instantaneous.
So far this season, in three games, Fuller has eight catches. That’s it. But those eight catches went for 154 yards and five (FIVE!) touchdowns.
Watson found Fuller in the right corner of the end zone on Sunday against the Browns for that fifth score. It was as perfect a deep throw as you’ll see in the NFL, and it broke the game open in favor of the Texans (watch here). A tie ball game suddenly became a two-touchdown deficit in the blink of an eye, because Johnathan Joseph returned an interception for touchdown shortly afterwards, and the game was over from there.
Loser: Jags’ special teams were hauntingly bad
The Los Angeles Rams won Sunday on the road in Jacksonville, but they didn’t play a particularly beautiful game. Instead, they won because the Jaguars were haunted by two awful special teams plays that led to 14 points for their opponent.
The game got started on an inauspicious note (as far as Jacksonville was concerned) when Rams receiver Pharoh Cooper took the game’s opening kickoff 103 yards to pay dirt.
Later on, the Rams were up by just three points late in the second quarter when the second faux pas occurred. Greg Zuerlein, backed up in his own territory, had his punt blocked. Malcolm Butler scooped up the loose ball and took it in for another touchdown.
In a game that was decided by 10 points, those two touchdowns were the difference.
Winner: Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara carry Saints to huge win
With Adrian Peterson shipped off to Arizona, there was no doubt about New Orleans’ game plan Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Mark Ingram is the undisputed starter, and rookie Alvin Kamara is the lighting to his thunder.
The two running backs combined to run the ball 35 times for 189 yards, and Ingram punched in two scores in the wild 52-38 win for the Saints. They also combined on seven receptions for 48 yards and were the catalyst for New Orleans in a game that saw Drew Brees struggle en route to just 186 yards with two and two interceptions. The Saints also improved to 3-2 on the season, just one-half game behind the Carolina Panthers for the AFC South lead.
Loser: Controversial ruling cost the Jets a chance to beat the Pats
The New York Jets gave their AFC rivals, the New England Patriots, all they could handle at MetLife Stadium Sunday. The Jets did well to keep Tom Brady and Co. from scoring just 24 points. Jeremy Kerley was magnificent early. Josh McCown battled through some tough sacks and two interceptions to pass for 354 yards and two touchdowns.
And quite honestly, it should have been three scores. A weird ruling on a would-be Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth quarter cost the Jets a huge score. He caught the pass, leaped toward the end zone, bobbled the ball slightly before securing it again while crossing the plane of the goal line. However, upon review it was deemed a fumble, not a touchdown, and instead of New York scoring seven points the Patriots got the ball at their own 20-yard line.
If we count the field goal New York converted late, the game would have been tied at 24-24, rather than ending in a 24-17 win for the Patriots.
Winner: Big Blue’s resolve comes through
To say the beginning of the 2017 season has gone awry for the New York Giants would be to vastly understate things. In addition to the team’s 0-5 record heading into Week 6, the Giants lost three receivers, including Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, for the season last weekend. On top of that, the team’s defense has been a sieve, which has only compounded the offensive issues that have been prevalent even going back to last year.
They went into Denver to take on a Broncos team that was darn impressive during the season’s first quarter and that featured an elite defensive secondary. Clearly, this would be a one-sided battle. And it was. Just not the way we envisioned it would be.
The Giants owned the Broncos from the first drive of the game. Eli Manning led a scoring drive right out of the gate, and the Giants confounded Denver’s offense.
Trevor Siemian had a miserable outing, throwing two bad interceptions. He even got knocked out of the game at one point before halftime, ushering in Brock Osweiler, though he did return and threw a late touchdown. Denver’s rushing attack was stymied at every turn. For most of the game, the stadium in Denver was as quiet as a church at midnight.
During the week leading up to the game, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said he realized nobody gave his team a chance to win. He said he thought the Giants had a pretty good team. This scribe doubted him. Consider this a public apology. McAdoo isn’t the best coach in the game, but he sure had his guys ready to fight for win No. 1 on the season.
Loser: Matthew Stafford’s mistakes doomed Lions
Leading up to Sunday’s game in New Orleans, Matthew Stafford had thrown just one interception all year. His ability to limit mistakes was a huge reason why Detroit had won three games leading up to Week 6. Then, he imploded.
It all started on the game’s opening drive when Stafford was sacked in his own end zone, which resulted in a fumble and touchdown for the Saints (watch here). Things spiraled from there. He would throw two pick-sixes in this game, and then on the next drive after his second such blunder he threw another interception. In total, Stafford turned the ball over five times, and the Saints scored 28 points off those turnovers.
Winner: Redskins feature Chris Thompson, and it works!
After the last game Washington played we chastised Jay Gruden for abandoning his greatest offensive weapon. The Redskins lost by nine points to Kansas City, and Thompson was almost invisible in the team’s game plan. With a bye week to think things over, Gruden realized the error of his ways and made Thompson the starting tailback Sunday at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
It worked. While Thompson didn’t gain much on the ground, he did touch the ball 20 times in this game and finished with 138 yards. That isn’t surprising. This is a player who is truly explosive in the open field. Get him the ball and watch him work. The 49ers nearly came back and won the game in the end. Thankfully for Washington, it had done enough early to build up a lead just big enough to stave off disaster.
Loser: Derek Carr dooms the Raiders with two picks
Heading into Sunday’s game in Oakland, the Raiders had lost all eight games in which Derek Carr threw multiple interceptions. That record did not improve in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers, who eked out a 17-16 win, thanks to a last-minute field goal — the road team’s second one-score win in as many weeks.
Carr passed for just 171 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in his return to action after taking a week off to recuperate from a back injury. You might be able to blame his poor game on rust. But if we’re being honest, Carr’s been awful since Week 3.
The Raiders are certainly in trouble now with a record of 2-4. The AFC West is highly competitive. And all of a sudden, Oakland is dead last in the division with an 0-2 record against divisional opponents.
Winner: Gritty road win for the Bears
When you’re 1-4 you’ll take a win, no matter how it comes. Chicago took full advantage of a Baltimore Ravens squad that really goes for broke when it’s time to suck. Sunday was one of those times. The Ravens turned the ball over three times, and Flacco’s 90-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter was truly awful (watch here).
Chicago gave the Ravens hope not long afterwards, however, giving up a punt return for touchdown to Michael Campanaro. It wasn’t until the final drive of the game that the Bears closed out the win with a field goal as time expired, winning 27-24.
Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen were the heroes on offense, totaling 243 yards. Cohen actually threw a touchdown pass, and so did Mitchell Trubisky, who wasn’t brilliant but didn’t throw an interception. For a young team that features a rookie quarterback, it was an impressive win and something the Bears can absolutely build on going forward.
Loser: Tampa Bay’s defense is a train wreck
The Buccaneers entered Week 6 with the third-worst defense in terms of yardage allowed per game and did nothing to gain ground in this department in Arizona against the Cardinals.
Carson Palmer got hot early, thanks in part to the balance he had on offense with Adrian Peterson behind him. The veteran passer completed 18-of-22 passes in the game for 283 yards with three touchdowns. Fellow grizzled veteran Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 of those passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, and we already got into Peterson’s huge game.
“Obviously a day for old guys,” head coach Bruce Arians quipped after the game, per John Weinfuss of ESPN.
In total, the Cardinals racked up 432 yards, 23 first downs and averaged an absurd 7.3 yards per play. Their defense left a lot to be desired as well, allowing the Bucs to get back into the game in the final minutes. But Tampa Bay’s defense was much worse.
Winner: Melvin Gordon a one-man wrecking crew
The Los Angeles Chargers won their second game in a row, and for the second week in a row it was due to the play of Melvin Gordon.
The third-year running back has totaled 313 yards and four touchdowns the past two games. He rushed for 83 yards against Oakland Sunday and caught nine passes for 67 yards. He also scored both of the Chargers’ touchdowns in the game.
Hunter Henry showed up big for Los Angeles later in the game, too. But without Gordon’s steady contributions — both on the ground and through the air — the Chargers would be 0-6, not 2-4, heading into next weekend’s pivotal AFC West clash at home against Denver.
Loser: For shame, Mike Mitchell
The game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs was ugly throughout, but one particular player stands out as deserving the “loser” moniker. Steelers safety Mike Mitchell, who has a history of dirty play, will certainly get disciplined for his egregiously nasty, late hit on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith had evaded the rush and thrown the ball to his receiver, and Mitchell took two full steps before dropping low and targeting the quarterback’s knees (watch here).
This was not accidental. There’s no possible way Mitchell can claim otherwise. Heck, even if Smith still did have the ball in his hands, the hit was illegal, and overtly dirty. If the NFL does not suspend Mitchell for this hit, then it will have some serious explaining to do.
Winner: Gronk reminds us why he’s so special after a week off
Rob Gronkowski was a late scratch in Week 5, which was a short week for the New England Patriots, on the road no less. He had banged up his thigh, and the Patriots eked out a win without him, though it wasn’t a pretty game.
Gronk declared himself “good to go” heading into Sunday’s AFC East tilt against the New York Jets. And boy, was he ever, catching eight passes for 83 yards and both of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes.
Speaking of Tom Brady, he’s now the GOAT in terms of winning during the regular season.
Loser: After two good weeks, the bad version of Cam Newton rose up again
It’s been an up-and-down year for Cam Newton so far. Unfortunately, it’s been more down than up. He rebounded after three poor games to open the season with two good ones, throwing six touchdowns and just one pick against the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions in Weeks 4 and 5. Then on Sunday, the bad version was resurrected, and it cost the Panthers big time.
Newton threw three interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles and managed just 239 yards on 28-of-52 passing, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. He was effective on the ground, gaining 71 yards and a touchdown. But those mistakes were too grave to overcome. The three interceptions turned into 14 points for the opportunistic Eagles. In a five-point game, that was more than enough to prove the difference.
Winner: Harrison Smith comes through with monster game as Vikings win
One week after he sealed Minnesota’s win over the Chicago Bears on a late interception, Harrison Smith was the catalyst for another huge win in the NFC North. He was responsible for two first-half sacks, which helped the Vikings take a 14-10 lead into halftime.
Then in the fourth quarter as Minnesota led, 20-10, he came up with a magnificent diving interception on a pass he tipped to himself. Backup Packers quarterback Brett Hundley, who had a very rough game replacing Aaron Rodgers, was trying to get the ball to Jordy Nelson on a third-and-2 near midfield. The savvy veteran safety sniffed the play out and made an amazing grab, which the Vikings used to go up by three more points on their next offensive possession.
Loser: Browns made to look like fools by Deshaun Watson
The Cleveland Browns could have drafted Carson Wentz in 2016. They passed. They could have drafted Deshaun Watson this year, either with the No. 1 or No. 12 overall picks. Instead, they passed again, taking Myles Garrett No. 1 and then trading the No. 12 pick to the Houston Texans, who selected Watson.
That decision came back to haunt the organization in a big way Sunday.
Watson absolutely destroyed Cleveland’s defense, especially early. He finished with 248 total yards and three passing touchdowns. He also set a new Super Bowl era record for rookie NFL quarterbacks.
Making matters worse, Kevin Hogan, who was starting in the place of benched rookie DeShone Kizer (Cleveland’s answer to not taking Watson), was atrocious. He threw three first-half interceptions, including one that went for six the other way (watch here), and finished with 140 yards on 20-of-37 passing.
Winner: C.J. Beathard gets to see if he can make an impression
Brian Hoyer was benched Sunday in our nation’s capital after an awful start. It wasn’t anything new, if you’ve been watching the 49ers this year. Hoyer has his moments, but he’s been very inaccurate at times, too. In Hoyer’s stead, third-round rookie C.J. Beathard out of Iowa had some dazzling moments. He finished the game with 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception and nearly led a comeback win from 17 points down.
After the game, the 49ers announced Beathard will be starting going forward. Now the franchise will get to see if he’s worth building around or if he’s nothing more than a capable backup for the rebuild.