The sixth week of NFL action is in the books, and we can definitively say that it was another strange week in a stranger season.
The New York Jets not only stayed with the New England Patriots, but they had a terrible ruling go against them in a close loss. While not as meaningful as the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons blew a game in similarly strange fashion. One coach left us scratching our heads for a field goal he tried. Another did the same for one he did not call for, and it contributed towards the Kansas City Chiefs taking their first loss of the year.
The Philadelphia Eagles emerged as the class of the NFC. Meanwhile, two other NFC teams, the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, put on one of the year’s wildest games.
In a week filled with weirdness, these were the strangest developments from NFL Week 6
Jets done in by terrible ruling
Sunday’s game can be boiled down in the following way: New England defeated New York 24-17. The Jets were completely robbed of seven points. Trailing 24-14 in the fourth quarter, Austin Seferian-Jenkins scored what was ruled a touchdown. Only, the play was overturned upon review, with the officials saying that Seferian-Jenkins fumbled through the end zone. A few things about this ruling have us more than a little confounded.
First of all, essentially every a play is reviewed, we hear the phrase “clear and convincing evidence” approximately 12,000 times. Secondly, we’ve heard a lot this year that the NFL is instructing the officials to lean towards upholding the call on the field. Again, the original call was that it was a touchdown. So, the officials saw something that did not happen in a clear and convincing way.
We don’t know what would have happened had the touchdown been upheld. But if you’re a Jets’ fan feeling baffled (if not flat out cheated) after what you saw on Sunday, we absolutely do not blame you.
NFL teams make history
Indianapolis Colts linebacker John Simon made an acrobatic interception of a pass from Tennessee Titans quarterback John Simon and took it to the house for a pick-six. It was the 15th non-offensive touchdown of the week. If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is.
The last time one week of NFL football had that many defensive or special teams touchdowns was 1998. It’s also worth noting that all of 1998’s 30 teams were in action during that week, while four of 32 were on a bye in Week 6 this year.
So, even though the league has two more teams now than it did in 1998, that specific week had one more game played.
We won’t say that this is all because of poor play from the offenses or special teams units. But we will certainly point out that these defenses and return units are given plenty of quality opportunities.
Falcons melt down in second half against Miami
Because the blown lead wasn’t as great and it didn’t come in the Super Bowl, what happened on Sunday wasn’t quite on the same level as what we saw in February. But it happened at home against Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins. As such, it definitely has a special place on the ridiculous development meter.
If we exclude the final possession of the game (which was victory formation), the Dolphins scored on every possession of the second half. Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes and had a 104.5 passer rating after halftime. But as poorly as those stats reflect on Atlanta, that’s only part of how Miami turned a 17-0 halftime deficit into a 20-17 win.
The Matt Ryan, Julio Jones-led offense was shut out in the second half. This is particularly bad since Ryan missed on only four passes in the half (one of them being the game-clinching interception). Something about this team just doesn’t look right. Atlanta looked great for most of 2016. But while the Falcons have had their moments in 2017 (namely Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers), they’ve been an underwhelming team. Sunday was another prime example of that.
Are the Eagles the class of the NFC?
Winning on the road is always tough. Winning on the road on a Thursday is even more challenging. The Eagles not only did that, but beat a Carolina Panthers team that was 4-1 entering the game and coming in hot.
Carson Wentz threw three touchdown passes. LeGarrette Blount didn’t get enough carries to put up a big yardage total, but he went for 4.8 yards per attempt. The defense sacked Cam Newton twice, hit him nine times and picked him off three times. And while Newton did have a good day running the ball, Carolina only mustered 3.2 yards per carry.
Through five weeks, the Eagles showed that they were a team to be taken seriously. But in Week 6, Philadelphia showed that, for now anyway, it’s the class of the conference.
Doug Marrone steers far from the norm
One confusing trait of many NFL coaches occurs late in games when a team is trailing by 9-to-11 points. Coaches who need a touchdown and a field goal and touchdown to win or tie will often waste too much time trying to get the touchdown first. The Jacksonville Jaguars coach broke from that on Sunday. Only Marrone took it a step too far.
Trailing 27-17 to the Los Angeles Rams with 1:12 to go, Marrone sent Jason Myers out to try a 54-yard field goal. With that little time on the clock and without a time out, the touchdown probably had to be accomplished first to have a semi-realistic chance at forcing overtime. We’d be more likely to cut some slack if this was inside of 45 yards. But a 54-yard kick on second down, outdoors, on a field that resembles a hacker’s driving range? That wasn’t the right play.
Myers missed the kick, and to be fair, we can’t say that it cost the team the game. But we can say that the decision made little sense and was one of the strangest things we saw during the week.
Bears continue AFC North mastery
If any team beats the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens out of a playoff spot by one game, that team will have to send a nice bottle of wine to Chicago. The Bears upended the Steelers in Week 3, and in Week 6, Chicago dropped the Ravens. This loss was particularly surprising since it came in Baltimore and the Ravens needed quite a push to even get it to overtime.
The Bears ran all over Baltimore, going for 231 yards on the ground. While he did throw a touchdown, Mitchell Trubisky was largely used as a game manager. But for the second week in a row, Chicago went into its bag of tricks for a touchdown. Defensively, Chicago picked off Joe Flacco twice, returning one for a touchdown. Were it not for two special teams touchdowns from the Ravens, Chicago probably would have won this game by 10 more points.
The Bears are very much rebuilding. But in a notoriously tough place to play, they were clearly the better team on the field.
Raiders lose as offense continues to sputter
The magic that led the Oakland Raiders to a 12-4 record in 2016 and a 2-0 start in 2017 has vanished. The Los Angeles Chargers won in Oakland on a last second field goal. But in reality, the Raiders would have been flat out lucky to escape with a home victory against a team that entered the game at 1-4.
Los Angeles outgained Oakland 343-274, won the turnover (2-1), time of possession (32:03-27:57) and first down (20-15) battles. At the beginning of the year, a loss in this game would have meant Philip Rivers having a huge day to lead his team to 35-plus points. Winning while scoring 17 was just not fathomable.
This isn’t just a one-week problem, either. Oakland has now dropped four in a row and averaged barely over 13 points per game in that stretch. Some of this even predates quarterback Derek Carr’s injury. What should be the strength of this team is playing well below expectations. That leaves the Raiders at 2-4 and in a lot of trouble.
Well-rounded Saints rout Lions
Sunday’s craziest game emanated from The Big Easy. The New Orleans Saints jumped out to a 45-10 lead in the third quarter, got quite a scare when the Detroit Lions closed it to 45-38 before eventually puttiing it away to win 52-38. Now, we’re not blown away by the result. As crazy as it may seem, we’re not even all that blown away by the final score. But the way the Saints put up 52 points made essentially no sense.
The once maligned New Orleans defense forced five turnovers. Three of those turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) resulted in Saints’ scores. Mark Ingram, who entered the game with 170 yards and no touchdowns in four games, went for 114 with two scores. The downfield passing game, meanwhile, was hardly there. Drew Brees went 21-for-31 with 186 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Before the game started, this result wasn’t likely, but it was believable enough. The road to the result, though, was not.
Ravens completely lifeless in loss to Bears
At 3-3, the Ravens might only be one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North standings. But watching Baltimore, there is nothing to indicate that this team is a serious postseason contender.
Joe Flacco has been simply abysmal. On Sunday, he was 24-for-41 for only 180 yards. Remember, when Flacco has been at his best, the deep ball has been his strength. Now, it’s just simply not there. But despite that, the offensive game plan still called for him to dial up 41 passes. Meanwhile, Alex Collins and Javorius Allen, who each went for 4.9 yards a carry, carried the ball 25 total times.
Defensively, the Ravens were okay. Still, they surrendered 20 points to an offense led by a quarterback who went 8-for-16 and passed for 113 yards. Baltimore has found ways to lose games in 2017. Week 17 was no different. This is not what we expect from a veteran team that’s spent much of the last decade competing for playoff appearances and Super Bowls.
Age rules the day for .500 Cardinals
We can only assume that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought water from Florida’s famed Fountain of Youth with them, only to accidentally place it in the Arizona Cardinals locker room. Three veterans absolutely torched the Buccaneers.
In his Arizona debut, 32-year-old Adrian Peterson toted the ball 26 times for 134 yards with two touchdowns. Meanwhile, 37-year-old Carson Palmer was 18-for-22 for 283 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Ten of those passes were caught by 34-year-old Larry Fitzgerald for 138 yards and a touchdown.
In a league that’s consistently trending young, the Cardinals went decidedly in the other direction. On Sunday, it worked in a big way. Now, a team that entered the week 2-3 with three double-digit losses and overtime wins against two bad teams now sits at .500. More importantly, the Cardinals are absolutely alive in a division that looks to be wide open.
Broncos no-show on Sunday night
Sunday offered many stunning results. But perhaps none were as stunning as the Denver Broncos getting thoroughly outplayed at home against a depleted New York Giants team.
What exactly was Denver doing in its Week 5 bye? This is time that should have been spent getting ready for a bad team, ensuring that New York would not be overlooked. What we got was the exact opposite.
This result gave us the rarest of all things in 2017. Even if only for one week, Ben McAdoo looked like he knew what he was talking about. That’s like walking in to your house to find Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monsters playing cards. If you’re the team that can make that happen, you’ve messed up and you’ve messed up bad.
Deshaun Watson continues to marvel
If you’re watching a Houston Texans game, do everything you can to time your trips to the kitchen and bathroom for when the Texans are on defense. You just don’t want to miss Watson in action.
Granted, we knew a lot of that coming in. So, what makes Week 6 so special? For starters, Watson added to his already immense career highlight reel. He also threw three touchdown passes, making him the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to do so. Rookie quarterbacks do tend to struggle. But Watson now stands above a list that includes impressive first year signal callers like Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott.
Meanwhile, the team he beat — the Cleveland Browns — is looking for its first quality quarterback in decades and actually traded the pick that was used to select Watson. Sunday was salt on a wound that was already quite open.
Patriots flat in win over New York
While we didn’t think it would be at the beginning of the year, the Patriots’ contest against the Jets was one of the bigger games on the Week 6 slate. We’ve already covered the controversial fumble ruling. In truth, if everything else had gone the same way and that fumble was called a touchdown, it would have only been a tie game. So, for the sake of this argument, let’s say that New England would have won anyway.
The Patriots still have a lot to be concerned about. New York amassed 408 yards of total offense against New England. The Jets also jumped the Patriots and led 14-0 early in the second quarter. The great play of Tom Brady got New England back into the game and eventually, the Patriots won. Still, this team hasn’t really clicked, even if it does sit at 4-2.
Week 6 was a great chance for New England to come in and show the Jets that the 3-2 record was a fluke. Instead, we left the game not at all sold about how legitimate the 4-2 Pats are.
Another close loss brings crazy stat for 49ers
The Washington Redskins held serve against the San Francisco 49ers in a 26-24 win. It marked San Francisco’s fifth straight loss by three points or fewer, giving the 49ers a -33 point differential for the season, the league’s fifth worst total.
While having the fifth worst point differential is nothing to brag about, it’s not bad given that San Francisco is one of only two winless teams in the NFL. And in truth, the madness doesn’t quite stop there. The 49ers have a better point differential than the two-win Bears and Colts, as well as the three-win Cardinals.
San Francisco’s loss to Washington was just another result that shows how truly weird this season has been. And we’re not even at the halfway point.
Cam Newton takes another step backwards
Things had been going so well for Newton for two weeks before Thursday’s game. In Week 4 against the Patriots and Week 5 against the Lions (both road wins), Newton looked like the man who won the 2015 NFL MVP. In Week 6 against the Eagles, he looked like the quarterback who was lost through much of 2016 and into the first three weeks of 2017.
On top of throwing three interceptions, he was 28-for-52. Truthfully, that many pass plays should never have been dialed up. Still, that doesn’t let Newton off the hook for completing barely over half of them. Just when Newton was starting to zig, he zagged.
Now, if we’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s to not overreact to what we see on Thursday. Still, we expected a much better performance from Newton.
AFC East is the best division in football
With the Patriots and Jets playing each other, the Dolphins winning and the Buffalo Bills being off, Sunday’s results gave the AFC East something that no other division can claim. All four teams sit at .500 or better.
When going against other divisions, New England, Buffalo, Miami, and New York have been especially strong. All four teams sport winning records in those games. As a whole, the AFC East has a combined .625 winning percentage in non-divisional games. That is more than 60 points ahead of the next-best division.
For years, the AFC East has been something of a doormat division. The Patriots have ruled the roost for the better part of two decades. But save an occasional decent season, they’ve been given very little competition within the division from the Jets, Dolphins, or Bills. Thus far, 2017 has been a different story.
Baffling play call contributes to Kansas City’s first loss
The Chiefs were going to lose at some point. So, we’re not too surprised that the Pittsburgh Steelers — who have had Kansas City’s number in recent years — came away from Arrowhead with the victory. We are a little baffled by a fourth quarter play call from Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid, which was a factor (and potentially, a significant factor) in the result.
Trailing 12-3 with most of the fourth quarter to play, Reid elected to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a short field goal. This wasn’t a fourth and inches, either. If Reid thought that he had the perfect play called, he was flat wrong. Pittsburgh held and went on to win 19-13.
Now, if Kansas City had kicked and everything else played out the same way, the Chiefs still would have lost. But with so much time remaining, we absolutely can’t say that everything would have played out the same way. We certainly can’t say that Kansas City’s final drive would have gone the same way if only a field goal was needed to tie. The decision to go for it became a critical mistake when it didn’t work. But make no mistake, this was an absolute puzzler when it happened.