Aaron Donald, AJ Green, Amari Cooper, Baltimore Ravens, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cordy Glenn, Dallas Cowboys, Daniel Jones, Dontari Poe, Ezekiel Elliott, Fran Duffy, Gerald McCoy, Jalen Ramsey, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, Jason Garrett, Kwann Short, Kyle Allen, LA Rams, Lamar Jackson, London Games, Marcus Mariota, Mason Rudolph, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Sam Darnold, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Toddy Gurley, Tom Brady, Wembley
We are already a third of the way through the regular season and each conference has only one unbeaten team left, but the league’s two winless teams reside in the AFC as the Bengals join the Miami Dolphins in NFL Tankapalooza 2019. The difference is that the Dolphins were built with this in mind whilst the Bengals were planning to compete before the roster fell apart, but more of that later. For now, let’s make a start on rounding up NFL week six.
What I Saw
The Thursday night game was a bit of an odd one in week six as the unbeaten New England Patriots neat the New York Giants 34-14 but their offence still does not look in sync. In fact the opening score of the game was caused by the Giants’ punter hitting his own player and the Pats recovering and scoring a touchdown, but that said the Patriots’ offence ranks top ten by DVOA through week six and have we not learnt by now not to question Tom Brady? Even if there is no way he should be performing as well as he is this far past thirty-five, yet alone forty. When you pair this institutional success with the number one ranked defence you can see why people are already talking up another Super Bowl appearance for the Pats. There is still a long way to go though. This can also be said for the Giants who on top of starting a rookie quarterback, had a number of skills players injured and were never really going to compete in this one. It will take time to improve the roster and you can still make an argument that Daniel Jones would have been there at pick seventeen, but the Giants would argue that if Jones is a franchise quarterback there is no price too high to pay. It is too early to tell and somehow they are only one game back in the NFC East and whilst I’m really not expecting them to make a playoff push, they will be looking to play spoiler in the division and develop their young talent.
The first game I watched from Sunday was the second London game that saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the second team to host at the new Tottenham Stadium as they lost 37-26 to the Carolina Panthers. The big takeaway from this game was that bad Jameis Winston turned up and gave away the ball seven times. He threw five interceptions, lost two fumbles and had a further two recovered by the team. You know it is going to be a bad day when your first pass is intercepted, and Winston managed to begin a second quarter drive with an interception as well as fumbling two plays in a row in another to make sure the opposition got the ball. It doesn’t matter if you throw for four hundred yards if your touchdown to interception ratios is 1:5 and it feels like we have the answer about one of the can’t miss quarterbacks of the 2015 NFL Draft (spoiler alert, the other features later). The steady play saw the Panthers win out eventually as Kyle Allan continues to keep the team in the race as Cam Newton focuses on getting truly healthy. There is already some talk of there being a controversy when Newton is healthy given the Panthers have done nothing but win since Allen got the start. The other things that struck me about the Panthers in this game was the depth of their defensive line as having put Kawann Short on the injury list they still had Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to play in the middle. It might be lazy to suggest that McCoy might have had a point to prove against his old team, but two and half sacks with four quarterback hits is a good day and the team finished with seven sacks.
Having seen that the New York Jets had won the first game of the season and with them being one of the few teams I haven’t seen yet I made a point of watching them heap further problems onto the Dallas Cowboys. It was an impressive turn around for Gang Green with Sam Darnold having his first three hundred yard passing day that included several beautifully placed balls and a ninety-two yard touchdown pass. The Jets are not suddenly a playoff team but it just highlights what a difference a starting quarterback can make and we now have eleven games to more fairly judge where they are as a team. The Cowboys however, will be very worried by a result that doesn’t doom their push for the playoffs but certainly doesn’t help. There seems to be less motion pre-snap to my eyes and Ezekiel Elliott is struggling to get going in the run game. This won’t be helped by injuries to both starting tackles, nor receiver Amari Cooper leaving the game early in the first quarter so you can perhaps expect some regression from the offence, but the defence is relatively healthy and currently ranked twenty-fifth by DVOA. I can’t pretend to have a huge amount of faith in Jason Garrett to turn things around but to do so the Cowboys need to get back to the formula that was working in the first three games,. Whether they can depends on health and coaching, but one to watch in the coming weeks.
The final game I watched this week is the latest loss for the Cincinnati Bengals who started the game with a kick-off return touchdown that sadly represented 41% of the Bengals total points as they lost 23-17 on the road to the Baltimore Ravens. I’m not sure how much this tells us about the Ravens given how the Bengals’ offensive spluttered and how Lamar Jackson is the perfect running quarterback to exploit the issues the Bengals have at the edge of their defence. This season is a lost cause for the Bengals and there are some worrying injuries to the Ravens secondary, which could be a problem for a defence that uncharacteristically languishes in the twenties by DVOA but the Ravens have a two game lead in the AFC North so remain the team to beat in the division.
I have a little addition for this week courtesy of Fran Duffy, an Eagles media employee who does several really good podcasts and watches a lot of film – there was really good breakdown of quarters coverage during this week’s Eagle Eye in the Sky Podcast and a breakdown of the play on this video.
What I Heard
I’ve already mentioned the big news of the weekend in terms of the Jets, but at the other end of the quarterback performance spectrum Jared Goff threw for only seventy-eight yards in the Rams loss to the 49ers. The Rams have reacted to the problems they are having on defence by trading away two first round picks to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey, who should certainly help their secondary. However, the problem with that is the combination of offensive line play and the injury restriction of Todd Gurley is hampering their offensive. This is compounded by the contracts they have given both Gurley and Goff when neither of them are carrying the offence right now. I understand going for it when you have a quarterback on a rookie deal but with the likes of Aarond Donald, Gurley and Goff all having big contracts this could become a real problem, particularly as Gurley’s knee is not going to improve massively given that he is suffering from an arthritic condition. The Rams could really miss those draft picks in the coming seasons.
The other quarterback I should mention is the other 2015 quarterback that will always be paired with Jameis Winston, namely Marcus Mariota who was pulled for Ryan Tannehill on Sunday and who has lost his starting position for this week’s games. This is a timely reminder that high drafted quarterbacks don’t always work out and a quarterback needs a lot of infrastructure around them to succeed. I think you can rebuild a team through a roster reset, but I don’t know it is a sure thing and whilst I like accumulating draft talent through getting more picks – if I was a Dolphins fan I would be worried about the talent that has left and whether one of those high draft picks is definitely going to be a franchise quarterback.
The other big topic of conversation has been the standard of officiating with the end of the Monday night game coming in for particular condemnation, but there was also a flurry of flags towards the end of the Jets and Cowboys. It’s too easy to rip the refs, particularly as football is very complex game to referee and the speed of the game has only got faster but there have been some pretty bad non-calls or ticky-tacky pass interference decisions. That said, it’s not the small calls that really annoy but the egregious ones and it seems pretty clear from the success rate of coach challenges that only those kind of pass interference calls are going to get overturned so can we get a memo to all head coaches to stop throwing the challenge flag unless someone actually got mugged and it was missed.
What I Think
I was glad that Mason Rudolph was able to go straight back to practice and the Bengals have announced today Cordy Glenn has been cleared to practice. These are grown men who are making their own decisions, but as someone who’s had his own issues with head injuries, I really hope they are listening to their doctors and are being duly careful. It seems to be the repeated sub-concussive blows rather than the big hits that cause a lot of the problems, but Glenn has been out for a couple of months now and as a linemen he is exposed to a lot of those sub-concussive blows. The Bengals could really do with a healthy Glenn, but the world could do with a healthy Glenn a lot more.
What I Know
I have really struggled to get to coaching tape this year, and even my re-arranged plan didn’t survive my work week and I have another series of interruptions coming this week. I’m not giving up on getting something done, but hopefully things will calm down in a couple of weeks, but that said I will be down in London to watch the Bengals in week eighth and suddenly we’ll be halfway through the season. Man is it slipping by quickly this year.
What I Hope
There is talk that AJ Green could be coming back soon and it would be really great to see him play live again and for the Bengals to be at least competitive against the Rams. In the meantime I hope that I can stay competitive in the picks competition as it looks like the only football based season win I’m going to get this year.
DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.