Week 5 around the NFL was marred by devastating injuries to two of the best players in the league, Odell Beckham Jr. and J.J. Watt. We will obviously focus on both injuries a bit later.
Sunday’s action was also filled with some tremendous play, a lot of drama and a few horrendous quarterback performances. Aaron Rodgers led his Green Bay Packers to a late-game win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Meanwhile, Matt Cassel and Jay Cutler put up horrendous performances in a game between two struggling teams. For their part, the Jacksonville Jaguars laid the hammer down on Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 5 NFL action.
Joey Bosa is an awesome force
This second-year player from Ohio State entered Sunday’s action having recorded 13 sacks in 16 career games. He added two to that total in the first quarter alone, absolutely dominating New York Giants right tackle Bobby Hart in the process. Sure Hart himself has been a dumpster fire this season, be we rarely see this type of domination from such a young player.
It’s akin to what J.J. Watt has been doing for the Houston Texans en route to earning three Defensive Player of the Year awards. For his part, Bosa put up a grand total of two sacks and three quarterback hits in Sunday’s 27-22 win over the Giants. He now has to be considered a potential DPOY candidate himself.
Another devastating injury for a generational player
It was just a couple short years ago that J.J. Watt was on the verge of being mentioned among the greatest defensive players to ever suit up. Three Defensive Player of the Year awards. A total of 69 sacks and 15 forced fumbles during a four-year span. Just simply a dominating player.
Now, following his latest injury, that conversation has turned to whether health issues will lead to Watt failing to live up to his earlier-career expectations. The four-time All Pro suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left foot in the first half of Houston’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, he will be lost for the remainder of the season. While the Texans have yet to confirm this report, the injury itself is serious.
This comes on the heels of Watt missing all but three games last season after undergoing back surgery. Now, one has to wonder if he’ll ever be the same again. It really is a crying shame.
Raiders defense will be their downfall
Heading into the season, we knew defense would be the Raiders’ Achilles’ heel. What we didn’t know is that Derek Carr would go down to another semi-serious injury and star receiver Amari Cooper would prove fallible in many ways. That all came up in a big way during Oakland’s third consecutive loss — this time to the Baltimore Ravens at home.
Facing a Ravens offense that had scored 16 points in their past two games, Oakland’s defense was downright horrible. It yielded 365 total yards and 23 points, including a ridiculous 133 yards to Mike Wallace on three targets. Ouch. Replacing the injured Carr under center, EJ Manuel would go on to complete just half of his passes for 159 yards. Meanwhile, Cooper caught one pass for eight yards on just two targets.
It’s at the point where Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has to recognize what he’s working with here. Down by 10 midway through the fourth, he punted on third-and-short. Baltimore proceeded to go on a field goal scoring drive to put the game away. Oakland’s defense is bad. Really, really bad. If Del Rio doesn’t scheme to take this into account moving forward, any Super Bowl aspirations can be thrown out the window. It’s that simple.
Myles Garrett thrills in NFL debut
It didn’t take this rookie No. 1 overall pick long to make an impact in his NFL regular season debut. In his very first snap as a pro, the Texas A&M product recorded a sack of New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown. He would then follow that up with a one more sack and two quarterback hits in what was an awe-inspiring debut.
We fully understand the Jets’ offense leaves a lot to be desired. But holding the team to 17 points is a huge step in the right direction for Cleveland. That’s magnified by the fact that this team yielded an average of 27 points and a 115.2 passer rating in the first four games. Garrett’s presence definitely made an impact here.
Aaron Rodgers enters MVP conversation
Following a dramatic late-game win against the Cowboys in Dallas, Rodgers has his Green Bay Packers at 4-1 on the season. Considering the team is down to its third-string running back, is without three offensive tackles for the season and has a shoddy defense, this is absolutely amazing.
On Sunday, Rodgers’ performance lent credence to the idea that he’s a legit early-season MVP candidate. Down 31-28 after a late-game Dak Prescott touchdown, Rodgers led the Packers on a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated in this game-winning pass to Davante Adams. The drive itself was a thing of beauty, extended by an 18-yard run from Rodgers himself on third down immediately prior to the touchdown to Adams.
The stats tell us one thing. Rodgers put up just 221 yards. He was hit on over 20 percent of his drop backs. None of that really matters. The grittiness. The leadership. All of the intangibles that make him great were on display once. Rodgers continues to prove himself to be among the best of all-time.
Browns’ Hue Jackson apparently coaching for job
It was a good idea for head coach Hue Jackson to give rookie second-round pick DeShone Kizer the starting gig out of the gate. But five games into his NFL career, it’s readily apparent that the former Notre Dame standout is in over his head. On Sunday against the New York Jets, Kizer turned the ball over two times inside the opponent’s five-yard line — an “accomplishment” we have not seen since last decade around the NFL.
With two more turnovers in Sunday’s 17-14 loss, Kizer has now turned the ball over a ridiculous 13 times in his first five NFL starts. Folks, this means he’s on pace for 42 giveaways on a season. It’s also led to him being benched in each of the past two weeks by Jackson. This comes after Kizer did put the Browns in position to score four times in the first half on Sunday. Did Cleveland somehow expect that a greenish rookie signal caller would limit his mistakes after attempting less than 700 passes in college?
Yes, Jackson is suddenly looking like a man coaching for his job after a 1-20 start to his tenure in Cleveland. It’s all about desperation from here on out.
Death knell for Cardinals’ contention aspirations
That’s pretty much it for the Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald-led Cardinals. Following a disastrous 34-7 road loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona finds itself at 2-3 on the season. Sure the team is still in contention in a weak NFC West, but this doesn’t look like a playoff-caliber squad. Prior to Sunday’s loss the Cards’ two wins came by a combined six points against Indianapolis and San Francisco.
In Week 5, it was pretty much all about a defense unable to do anything to stop a suddenly charged Carson Wentz. The second-year quarterback completed 21-of-30 passes for 304 yards with a career-high four touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery made six-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson look silly at times. Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor burned the Cards’ secondary for 93 yards and a score. With this, the current variation of the Cardinals are done. Their date of death will read 10/8/17.
Cam Newton continues excellent turnaround
The Carolina Panthers received somewhat of a late-game scare against Detroit on Sunday, only to put the game on ice when Newton hit Kelvin Benjamin on a 17-yard strike just ahead of the two-minute warning. It was a culmination of a day that saw the former Super Bowl MVP complete 26-of-33 passes for 355 yards and three scores in a 27-24 victory.
All this comes after Newton found himself in news for the wrong reasons, both on and off the field. It started with reports that some in the Panthers’ brass believed his body was on the verge of breaking down after a sluggish start to the season. That was followed by Newton making seemingly sexist remarks at a presser last week. But on the field, he’s been stellar for a 4-1 Panthers squad over the past two weeks. Football-wise, that’s all we need to know about his mentality. Sunday was a prime example.
Abhorrent quarterback play continues
Colin Kaepernick reached out to the Tennessee Titans following the injury to Marcus Mariota. Despite having no real options behind Mariota on the depth chart, Tennessee declined as much as a workout. Veteran Matt Cassel responded by completing 21-of-32 passes for just 141 yards with a lost fumble for a touchdown in yet another disastrous showing for the Titans’ offense in what ultimately resulted in a 16-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. On the other side, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler completed 12-of-26 passes for 92 yards with an interception — leading to the social media world mocking his sucktitude.
Though, this wasn’t anywhere near the only bad performances we saw during Sunday’s Week 5 NFL action. Ben Roethlisberger threw a career-high five interceptions in a blowout loss to Jacksonville (more on that later). The very same game saw Blake Bortles completed just 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards. Meanwhile, the likes of Josh McCown and DeShone Kizer put up a combined three turnovers in a hapless game between the Jets and Browns.
The NFL has a quarterback problem — one that’s been magnified by a certain former Super Bowl signal caller remaining unemployed. It really is that simple.
Time for a quarterback change in San Francisco
Speaking of a free agent quarterback and his former team, it might be time the San Francisco 49ers roll with rookie C.J. Beathard under center. Veteran Brian Hoyer put up 353 passing yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s overtime loss to Indianapolis, but he continues to miss on NFL-level throws. And for a team that’s lost its last four games by a combined 11 points, that really has been a difference maker.
We’re talking about Hoyer missing on screen passes, intermediate slants and bubble screens. He’s been all over the place on these passes, directly leading to botched opportunities for a 49ers team that doesn’t boast the talent for this type of margin for error. At 0-5 on the season, the 49ers have been much more competitive than recent years. But at this point, they are playing for draft positioning. Why not see what the team has in a rookie quarterback before deciding what to do at that position during the offseason? Hoyer, both short and long term, is clearly not the answer.
Seattle rides defense to first place
Seattle entered Sunday’s action in Los Angeles facing the real possibility of falling two games behind the upstart Rams in the NFC West. It didn’t start off too well, with Jared Goff and Co. opening up a 10-point lead just over 20 minutes into the game. That’s when the Legion of Boom went boom (yeah, we know) on the Rams’ offense in a big way.
From the point they scored a field goal at the 9:29 mark in the second quarter, the Rams tallied 222 total yards and turned the ball over three times. Even that field goal itself was set up by this horrendous Russell Wilson interception. Michael Bennett and Frank Clark each sacked Goff once, putting consistent pressure on the quarterback throughout the afternoon. Meanwhile, Earl Thomas picked off the improved quarterback with the Rams looking to take the lead on Seattle’s side of the field with just over six minutes remaining in the final stanza.
Sure there are still issues here on offense. Wilson continues to take shots behind a disastrous offensive line. The team put up just 62 rushing yards. These are two things that will have an impact down the road. But for now, Seattle finds itself at 3-2 and in first place in the NFC West.
Ben Roethlisberger looks done
Prior to Week 5’s game against Jacksonville, we focused on whether a watered-down version of Ben Roethlisberger will lead to doom for the Steelers. Promptly, he threw a career-high five interceptions in a brutal 30-9 home loss to the upstart Jaguars. Following the game, Big Ben actually wondered aloud whether he had it anymore.
That’s a harsh self realization for a former Super Bowl winner to come to. And it could very well end up being reminiscent to what we saw from Peyton Manning in his final NFL season. That’s to say, the arm strength and ability to throw downfield isn’t there anymore. But unlike Manning’s Broncos, it’s readily apparent this Steelers team doesn’t have the talent to overcome such regression at quarterback. Unfortunately, this could be the sad last chapter to an otherwise brilliant career for Big Ben.
Davante Adams’ return is pure perfection
Just over a week after suffering what looked to be a potentially career-ending injury, Adams was back on the field for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Considering just how horrible the hit he took from suspended Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan looked, that’s a miracle in and of itself.
But when Adams leaped over the unsuspecting Jourdan Lewis for a game-winning 12-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left against Dallas, everything came full circle here. Not only did Adams return to the field after such a brutal-looking injury, he played a major role in a dramatic late-game win. For a player that’s been much maligned throughout his Packers career, this has to feel like some sort of vindication. For a player that’s career could have easily been over, it’s an absolutely amazing story.
Inconsistent Jaguars roar
Blake Bortles completed eight passes, five of them to wide receivers. The team ran only 53 plays compared to 77 for the Steelers. Despite this, Jacksonville went on to defeat the AFC North-leading squad by three touchdowns on the road. It was spearheaded by pick 6’s from Barry Church and Telvin Smith. Jalen Ramsey and Tashaun Gipson also got in on the interception party with three combined picks of the aforementioned Ben Roethlisberger.
On the ground, rookie Leonard Fournette capped off the win with a NFL season-best 90-yard touchdown — a run that culminated in a 181-yard performance from the Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. All this comes after the Jags put up a brutal effort in a 23-20 loss to the Jets last week. Inconsistency is definitely an issue here, but Jacksonville heads into Week 6 with a first-place standing in the AFC South. That’s what we call progression from the young squad.
The Jets … that’s all
What do the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots have in common? Well, they’re all tied for first place in the AFC East heading into Week 6. It’s one of those “this is happening” moments of the NFL season. And really, it’s just all sorts of glorious.
To be fair, New York didn’t play good football on Sunday. Its defense was bailed out by two DeShone Kizer turnovers inside the five-yard line and multiple missed field goals from fellow Browns rookie Zane Gonzalez. But in the end, a 17-14 victory is all that matters. The Jets’ defense was opportunistic. Josh McCown completed a workmanlike 23-of-30 passes. New acquisition Jermaine Kearse scored a game-altering touchdown. And now, the Jets have won three consecutive games. Talk about a shocking development.
Disaster continues for the Giants
Not only did the Giants match their loss total from last season in just their fifth game, the winless squad has seemingly lost star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. It came late in the fourth quarter with New York up by one score against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was a gut-wrenching injury to watch, one that includes a likely season-ending fractured ankle.
From a micro perspective, this is a major and potentially career-altering injury. As much as we don’t want to focus on how much it might cost him in the pocket book, that’s the harsh reality of an NFL where contracts are not guaranteed. And the injury itself is just as bad as it comes for a receiver that relies so much on quickness.
From a macro perspective, the Giants’ season has now turned into one of disaster and attrition. The team is now 0-5 on the season. It also lost fellow receivers Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris to injuries. With a watered-down version of Eli Manning (who just underwent an X-ray on his neck), we wonder just how steep this drop will be in 2017.
The Cowboys can’t get it right
We’re primarily talking about a lack of halftime adjustments for the Cowboys, who have now been outscored 42-16 in the second half during their two-game losing streak. It happened once again on Sunday against the Packers.
Holding a 21-6 lead in the first half, Dallas schemed away from its strengths until Ezekiel Elliott temporarily took over the game during a go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown drive. Over the course of the first three drives out of halftime, Dallas threw the ball eight times compared to seven runs It led to a field goal for the team’s offense and a pick-six for Dak Prescott. This changed the game on its head in a big way. And it’s something that has haunted Jason Garrett and Co. during a 2-3 start to the season.
That was taken to a whole new level late in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys in the midst of a ball-controlled drive. With his team down four, Elliott ran the ball seven times for 35 yards on a potential game-winning drive. On second and short with 1:24 left and the Packers boasting just one timeout, Garrett inexplicably called for a pass to Dez Bryant. It fell incomplete, saving the Packers a timeout they would desperately need in their ensuing game-winning drive. You simply can’t make schematic mistakes like this and expect to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders. That’s on Garrett in a big way.
Should be Jacoby time in Indianapolis
Prior to Sunday’s win over San Francisco, a report surfaced that it’s highly unlikely Andrew Luck will play in a game this month. Looking at the schedule, that would keep Luck out through the Colts’ first half of the season. Immediately after this news broke, Jacoby Brissett would go on to perform exceptionally well in Indianapolis’ second win of the season, an overtime affair against the hapless and winless 49ers.
Here’s our logic. Luck remains the face of the Colts’ franchise. The team has invested a lot on him. And he’s shown himself to be an elite-level player when healthy. Why rush him on to the field for a team that’s striving for nothing more than mediocre over the short term? Why not continue letting Brissett impress, potentially upping his trade value for when the offseason comes? It’s a long-term strategy first-year general manager Chris Ballard should be looking into if he wants to avoid the same mistakes his predecessor, Ryan Grigson, made. It really just makes too much sense.
Chiefs are simply NFL’s best
Kansas City entered Sunday’s action as the NFL’s only undefeated team. By the time the clock struck zero in the fourth quarter in Houston, the Chiefs laid claim to being the consensus top team in the league. Outside of injuries along the offensive line, there’s essentially no holes on this roster. That all came out en masse against what has been a surprising Texans squad Sunday night.
Alex Smith completed 29-of-37 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns, catapulting himself into the NFL MVP conversation in the process. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt gained another 116 total yards. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill put up 143 all-purpose yards, including this absurd punt return for a score. Heck, even backup running back Charcandrick West got in the mix with two receiving touchdowns.
When all was said and done, Kansas City took out the Texans by the score of 42-34. In the process, the Chiefs racked up 29 first downs and 450 total yards in the victory. It’s now obvious that Kansas City is the odds on favorite in the AFC. What a difference less than two months make.