Five teams entered Sunday’s action with a perfect record. All five of those teams ended Sunday with those perfect records intact. It started with the Cincinnati Bengals moving to 6-0 following a 34-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills, and it concluded with the New England Patriots holding off the Indianapolis Colts to move to 5-0.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions earned their first victory of the season behind 400-plus passing yards and four touchdowns from Matthew Stafford.
In Tennessee, Miami Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell won his debut in impressive fashion. On the other hand, “impressive” wouldn’t be the term we would use to describe the Seattle Seahawks blowing yet another fourth quarter lead at home against a still undefeated Carolina Panthers squad.
Here are your top-10 takeaways from Sunday’s slate of NFL games.
The Miami Dolphins aren’t dead in the water
It didn’t take too long for interim head coach Dan Campbell to make his impact in South Beach. Less than two weeks after being called on to turn around what looked like a lost season, Campbell had his Dolphins playing inspired football in a 38-10 blowout win over the Tennessee Titans.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Joe Philbin regime was a lack of usage of Lamar Miller in the backfield. Turning the page from that, the Campbell-led Dolphins ran the ball 32 times for 180 yards in a balanced offensive effort. For his part, Miller put up 113 yards and a score on 19 attempts.
Defensively, Miami was able to get to Titans quarterbacks for six sacks on the day, including four from Cameron Wake. That’s five more than the Dolphins had in their first four games combined.
At 2-3 on the season, Miami is in no way out of the AFC Playoff race. It sits just a half game behind the Buffalo Bills for third place in the AFC East. With a game coming up against the Houston Texans, Miami has a solid opportunity to even its record at 3-3 next week.
Something is not right with Andrew Luck
Making his first start in three weeks, Luck looked darn good out of the gate against the New England Patriots. In fact, the Indianapolis Colts marched down the field on a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown-scoring drive on their first possession.
But after putting up two touchdowns in the second quarter, Indianapolis was only able to generate a late-game touchdown in garbage time the remainder of the way.
Watching the game live, something stuck out above everything else. Luck simply didn’t seem to have the necessary accuracy to go up against Tom Brady and come out on top. He continually short-armed passes, flashed a funky delivery multiple times and air-mailed at least a half dozen passes.
It’s not a coincidence that Luck missed the past two games with a shoulder injury. Without making presumptions, it really did look like something was off here.
For his part, Luck attempted to quiet any notion that his injury played a role in his poor performance following the Colts 34-27 loss:
Andrew Luck on his shoulder: “By no means was I perfect. I missed some throws I should have hit. That has nothing to do with my health."
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) October 19, 2015
Knowing Luck the way we do, he wouldn’t simply place the blame on his poor performance on the shoulder injury. That’s not his MO. However, it will be interesting to see the Colts practice report when they return to the field early in the week. There might just be something to this.
Philip Rivers huge day
It might have come in a loss that dropped the San Diego Chargers to 2-4, but Rivers did everything possible in an effort to pull off a major road upset.
He broke the single-game Chargers records for completions (43), attempts (65) and passing yards (503). And while Rivers came up short in a goal-to-go situation to end the game, he proved his worth on an otherwise struggling Chargers team.
Now four games behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, San Diego is pretty much out of the division race. Though, it’s not completely out of the playoff picture heading into Week 7. At the very least, Rivers’ performance on Sunday gives the Chargers something they can build on heading into a winnable game against the Oakland Raiders next week.
The New York Jets are a legitimate playoff contender
By virtue of a 34-20 blowout win over the Washington Redskins, this team finds itself at 4-1 heading into Week 7. Considering the Jets won four games all of last season, first-year head coach Todd Bowles has done an amazing job.
The main thing we are seeing with the Jets here is solid all-around play on both sides of the ball. Ryan Fitzpatrick is firmly entrenched in as the team’s starter after another solid performance that saw him complete 19-of-26 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 18, 2015
He was aided by Brandon Marshall, who became the first Jets receiver to put up four consecutive 100-yard games since Don Maynard in 1968.
Meanwhile, running back Chris Ivory continues to prove his worth on the ground. The veteran put up 196 total yards and a score on 23 attempts. This brings his two-game total since returning from injury to 362 yards.
Defensively, the Jets continue to prove they are among the best in the business. Darrelle Revis and Marcus Gilchrist both intercepted Kirk Cousins passes en route to the Jets holding Washington to 225 total yards of offense, including 34 on the ground.
It’s way too early to indicate that New York can compete with the New England Patriots in the AFC East moving forward this season. In fact, next week’s game against the defending champs will tell us a lot about where the Jets are at. With all that said, a 4-1 mark heading into Week 7 is pretty darn surprising.
Continued issues in Seattle
Who would have thought that the Seattle Seahawks would be heading into a Week 7 game tied for last place in the NFC West? Following a second consecutive late-game loss, Pete Carroll and Co. find themselves at 2-4 on the season.
And in reality, Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers was on the defense — an artist formerly known as the Legion of Boom.
For the fourth time in six games, Seattle’s defense blew a fourth quarter lead. And for the second consecutive week, this unit blew a two-score lead in the final stanza.
This time, it came in the form of a complete coverage breakdown in the secondary on Cam Newton’s game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Olsen for the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Overall, Seattle’s defense gave up four touchdown-scoring drives of 80-plus yards in the 27-23 home loss.
Still two games behind the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle now must travel to San Francisco to take on a 49ers team that has played good football over the past couple weeks. A loss here, and Seattle will find itself in last place heading into the middle part of the schedule.
It’s now up to the Legion of Boom to actually perform up to the standards we have become accustomed to over the past several years. If that doesn’t happen, the Seahawks could very well miss the postseason when all is said and done.
Colin Kaepernick’s turnaround
All the talk surrounding the San Francisco 49ers over the past few weeks has been about the performance of this embattled quarterback. Coming off a strong outing against the New York Giants last week, Kaepernick put up 340 passing yards with two touchdowns in a 25-20 win over the hapless Baltimore Ravens.
After the game, Kaepernick responded to the myriad critics that have had opinions on his play over the course of the season:
“People can talk all they want, that doesn’t effect how I go about my business.”
It showed on Sunday. Playing his normal brand of football, and not being asked to be something he isn’t, the quarterback has answered these critics with his play on the field.
While a small sample size in the grand scheme of things, Kaepernick’s stats over the past two games speak for themselves. He’s completing over 62 percent of his passes for 635 total yards with four touchdowns, zero picks and an outstanding 118.7 quarterback rating during that two-game stretch.
It must be noted that Kaepernick’s recent success has come against two pretty bad pass defenses. In order to prove that he has really turned the corner, the fifth-year quarterback must put up another solid outing against Seattle on Thursday night. Based on recent history, that might not be too likely.
The Denver Broncos continue to win in spite of Peyton Manning
Denver was able to hold off a game Cleveland Browns team in overtime on Sunday. It was able to do this with stellar play on defense and a new-found running game. It was also able to do this with Manning throwing three picks to bring his six-game total to 10 picks. This has Manning on pace to throw his most interceptions since his rookie campaign back 1998.
Since Week 14 of the 2014 season, Manning has thrown 10 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions in 10 games. If you took Manning’s name out of the equation, there would likely be people calling for his benching, at least when looking at those stats.
Nonetheless, Denver finds itself as one of the five undefeated teams heading into Week 7. Based in large part due to a stingy defense, this team seems built to win in January. That was magnified by the two interceptions Denver put up against Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown, including a pick-six from Aqib Talib.
With the way the Broncos pass defense is playing, they will find a way to remain in pretty much every game from here on out. Now take into account the four sacks Denver put up against a good Browns offensive line, and this is the reason Gary Kubiak and Co. are 6-0 on the season.
With all that said, Manning needs to step his game up big time moving forward. Simply put, the Broncos can’t continue to rely on luck and strong defense if they plan on challenging the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots in the AFC when the playoffs come calling.
Maybe we overestimated the Arizona Cardinals
How the heck did Arizona drop a game that saw Landry Jones take a ton of snaps under center for the opposing team? Just a week after embarrassing the Detroit Lions, the Cardinals fell victim to their own hype on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sunday’s struggles had more to do with Carson Palmer playing less-than-stellar football than anything else. The NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidate was picked off twice and showed a lack of accuracy that simply didn’t exist earlier in the season. It also didn’t help that Arizona got just 55 yards on 20 rush attempts, which forced the offense into a one-dimensional attack.
Losing 25-13 against a good Pittsburgh team isn’t the end of the world. The larger issue here is that Arizona missed a prime opportunity to move three games ahead of Seattle against a team that was relying on its third-string quarterback. That has to leave a bitter taste in Bruce Arians’ mouth.
Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection returns to form
Detroit earned its first win of the season on Sunday against a mediocre Chicago Bears team. In no way is this a sign of a turnaround in Detroit. Instead, it’s more of a sign that Stafford is finally rebuilding his relationship with his favorite receiver.
After putting up less than 80 yards in each of his past three games, Johnson went off to the tune of six catches and 166 yards, including a six-yard touchdown late in regulation to help force overtime.
Despite finding itself at 1-5 on the season, Detroit can build off a hard-fought victory — mainly because its offense finally showed up for a full four quarters.
A week after getting benched, Stafford completed 27-of-42 passes for over 400 yards with four scores and a touchdown. He’s going to need to show another level of consistency moving forward, but Sunday was definitely a good start.
Someone on the Colts gone done messed up
There are no words. They don’t exist as a way to explain what actually happened on this play. With the Colts down just six late in the third quarter, someone on the coaching staff (Chuck Pagano?) decided this was a good idea. Unfortunately, the plan to draw New England offsides backfired when wide receiver Griff Whalen actually snapped the ball on a fake punt “attempt.”
Outside of it being one of the dumbest things we have ever seen in the professional sports world, any attempt to draw a penalty would have failed miserably with the ENTIRE Colts offensive line not on the line of scrimmage — an obvious illegal formation.
The game changed on a dime with this play. New England would take over on the Colts side of the field, scoring a touchdown in six plays to make it a two-score game. The rest was history.
Yeah, someone on the Colts has some explaining to do here.