Adam Gase, Bruce Arians, Chicago Bears, Drew Brees, Gerald Everett, Greg Zuerlein, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, Jay Gruden, Khalil Mack, LA Rams, Luke Falk, Mason Rudolph, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Russell Wilson, Sam Darnold, San Francisco 49ers, Sean Payton, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Teddy Bridgewater, Todd Gurley, Vontaze Burfict, Washington
Welcome to a look back at week five in the NFL that featured upsets, a horrible concussion and our first coach firing of the year so let’s get started.
What I Saw
The week five slate of games started with a second excellent Thursday night game that saw the LA Ram lose by one point to the Seattle Seahawks costing all three of us a point in the picks competition. This was a back and forth game that saw five lead changes and the Rams could have very easily won it as Jared Goff drove the team into position for a last second field goal but Greg (the Leg) Zuerlein was unable to convert the forty-four yard field goal to get the win. The Rams offence looked pretty good in spurts, with Goff finding his tight-ends and in particular Gerald Everett who led the team in receiving yards but Goff is still prone to throwing dangerous passes and whilst he was only intercepted once in this game, it definitely could have been more. The other problem is that even with more carries this week, Todd Gurley was unable to recreate his form from last season and this is a real problem for an offence built around his skill set and play-action off the run game. That said, if you want strange things, how about the Seahawk’s defence currently being ranked twenty-second in the league by DVOA? I knew that they were not looking as strong as they have historically but I hadn’t expected them to rank quite this low. That said, their offence is ranked third in the league by DVOA and is beginning to look good doing it. This may still be one of the remaining run heavy offences (forty-three carries in this game) but the Russell Wilson is playing really well and is being incredibly efficient in the passing game as well as doing his usual heroics in avoiding the oppostion’s pass rush. In fact both his path and Tyler Lockett’s catch in the first quarter demonstrate at what level of precision this Seahawks offence is capable of. The Rams defence actually has the exact same overall ranking by DVOA right now as it did at the end of the 2018 season so whilst some of the personnel changed, it’s the problems on the offence that are holding the Rams back, but a close loss against the Seahawks is a step in the right direction but they could really regret their loss to the Buccaneers in week four and they’ll want to turn things around soon.
I only managed to watch one other game this week thanks to things going on at work. On Sunday I did get my first Amateur Adventures in Film post of the season up, where I took a look at Khalil Mack’s play against the Minnesota Vikings ahead of the Bears taking on the Raiders on Sunday. You can read AAF: Khalil Mack here, and I will only add that the Raiders got a really good win and the Bears on Sunday but I did check in on the game Sunday and it is a little odd to see a game that so looks like a normal NFL game but played in the UK. The stadium definitely looks like it works, but I’ll have to let others be the proper judge of that.
The only upside of being so far behind on the games watched is that I’ve not had to put myself through the Bengals loss to the Cardinals, which I followed Sunday night whilst at my in-laws. All I will say now is that it seems there’s a very good chance the Bengals will be 0-7 when I see them in London. That could be a very strange day indeed.
The final game I did see this week was the New Orleans Saints hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a contest that finished 31-24 to the Saints. Perhaps the score line flatters to deceive a little as the Saints led for all of the second half and the Buccaneers didn’t get closer than seven points after the Saints took the lead. It was a better game for the Teddy Bridgewater who finished the game with over three hundred passing yards and four touchdown although he did throw an interception. However, more importantly it appears that Sean Payton is increasingly adapting to his new starting quarterback who threw the ball down field more successfully in this game. There’s not going to be a controversy once Drew Brees is fit again, but it bodes well for the future of both Bridgewater and the Saints that that they have managed to maintain such a strong start to the season without their starting quarterback for three games. The other part of the formula that drove this is that the Saints’ defence looks much better than their ranking of twentieth by DVOA would suggest. They limited the Buccaneers to under one hundred yards rushing and just over two hundred yards whilst sacking Jameis Winston six times and harassing him for most of the game. This was a difficult contest for the Buccaneers who struggled to move the ball and were unable to keep up with the Saints in the second half. In fairness to Winston he didn’t turn the ball over but the Saints outgained them by over two hundred yards. A special mention also ought to go to Bruce Arians’s bad challenges, which is partly do the referees as a whole seeming not to want to overturn calls but five weeks in perhaps you have to adapt when you throw the challenge flag. However, between Arians and his coordinators the Buccaneers already look a very different team to last season and only the loss the New York Giants looks like a bad one. The Bucs have wins against the Rams and Panthers already as well as three road games played so far and whilst I’m not saying they will compete for the playoffs, I feel confident that barring injury they will do better than the five games they won last season.
What I Heard
There have been various discussions going on this week, but I’ve not had the chance to consume as much NFL media as usual. There were two big talking points this week. The first was the firing of Jay Gruden that even in only week five seemed a question of when not if. That said, it is pretty vindictive to call a coach in at five am to fire him, but there were more problems in that building than just the coaching, and it is strange to see how far a franchise that was once the centre of the city’s sportiing life has fallen. They are playing in front of crowds that regularly have almost as many if not more road fans present and given the dysfunction of the franchise I am not sure it will change any time soon.
The second of the headlines coming out of Sunday was the horrible looking concussion suffered by Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph. Having been in denial for a number of years, the league are trying to make the game safer, but it is still a dangerous sport and whuilst it looked like a football play, it is never good when a player is unconscious before they hit the ground. It was the kind of hit that make people tell their sons they are never playing the game. I’m just glad that Rudolph was back at work on Monday but we know the effects of concussions are cumulative and recovery is important so I hope he is given as much time as possible before he plays again.
Speaking of which, the other things I wanted to mention is something I hinted at when picking against the Jets on Sunday, which was just how badly Adam Gase handled his quarterback decision last week. After a scan early in the week showed that Sam Darnold’s spleen was still enlarged, Gase still had him taking reps during the week, but Darnold was not cleared to play and so Luke Falk got the start. I’m not sure if it would have made a difference, but given the nature of Darnold’s injury it seems madness not to get Falk every first team rep possible and wait until Darnold was definitely cleared to play before getting him to practice normally.
What I Think
There are now only four winless teams, and I would say that the Bengals look the most competitive of them but that is not a mycg consolation. The Patriots look pretty ominous at 4-0 despite not playing that great and the San Francisco should definitely be respected given their 4-0 start and a record that has them top the league in DVOA, although we’ll see how that lasts through the next few weeks. I am obviously impressed with all the four win teams, but the Raiders have a winning record despite all the off-season noise and I may well have been wrong about them.
What I Know
That thanks again to work I don’t have time to watch an entire game of coaching tape this week, but I’m working on an idea for an alternative format for a coaching tape feature. I don’t know if it will work, but plans are afoot and I have already been looking at play design applications. I’ll see if it gets past the TWF testing team but watch this space.
What I Hope
I hope that the league’s concussion numbers continues to fall as they did last season and I am interested to see just how long Vontaze Burfict ban stays after his appeal as it is clear that the fines have not stopped his behavior.
If the Bengals could get a win on the road this week that would also be nice.