Drew Brees now holds the record for most passing yards ever and with that record in the bag, so is week fives action. Here’s my take
Patriots 34 – 24 Colts
Uh oh, Tom Brady has a deep threat. Josh Gordon made his first start in Foxborough and he may only have made two catches but it’s what happens to the rest of the field that matters when he’s on the pitch. Gordon stretches the field and gives opposing defences something else to think of – benefitting the short passing game and also the running game. When everyone is zigging, Belichick is zagging and the running game for New England is starting to yield results. Rookie Sony Michel made 98 yards averaging 5.4 yards per carry and a touchdown. He’s looking like a good weapon for the Pats. Brady threw for over 300 yards, three touchdowns (Gordon’s TD catch being the pick of the bunch) and two INTs
The Colts came in to the game after an overtime loss to the Texans the week before and then a short week to play Thursday night, only 42 players were fit reducing their effectiveness. Despite that, with a late rally they made a game of it. Luck is finding it fruitful to throw to former Lion tight end Eric Ebron. We’ve bemoaned his catching ability in previous years but he’s looking like a decent bet this year. With TY Hilton one of the players out, Luck had few other recognisable receivers to throw to, despite that he still finished off with 365 yards, three touchdowns and two INTs. Against a lesser team, the Colts may have won this.
Panthers 33 – 31 Giants
A last minute game winning field goal of 63 yards by Graham Gano sealed this win for the Panthers who had controlled the game right up until the end of the 4th quarter. Both Newton and Manning threw two INTs and two touchdowns apiece, but Odell Beckham Jr also chipped in with a touchdown throw of 58 yards. That play was overshadowed by Beckham’s interview before the match where he was less than complimentary about his teammates.
The Panthers offense is showing a lot of different looks with not one player standing out but a lot of players chipping in with production. Five players attempted rushes with a total figure of 118 on the ground – may not be much, but it’s proving to be effective. Likewise, the passes were spread around six Panthers with each having averages of over seven yards. This type of offense is difficult for opposing defensive coordinators to plan for, and whilst it’s not putting up electrifying numbers like the Rams or the Chiefs, it is getting the job done.
On the Giants side of things, Eli only got sacked once, which is an impressive stat given the woes of the O-Line so far this season. Despite that interview, Beckham did finally have a game that’s more akin to his past performances. 131 receiving yards off 8 catches with a touchdown as well to add to his passing TD to Saquon Barkley. Speaking of Barkley, he’s gone over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game so far. Impressive.
49ers 18 – 28 Cardinals
Christ this was depressing for 49ers fans after a hopeful performance the week before. The 49ers turned the ball over five times.
The 49ers started off the game brightly enough with Breida running the ball well for 56 yards before he got injured. Raheem Mostert promptly came on and fumbled the ball away. CJ Beathard threw two INTs and lost the ball fumbling twice. Despite that he did throw two TDs and 349 passing yards which is not to be sniffed at. At the end of the day though, the 49ers ran a massive 92 plays, and lost.
The Cardinals took advantage of those turnovers. Their individual stat lines are far from impressive but they didn’t turn the ball over. Rosen threw for 170 yards and a touchdown and David Johnson ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Who’d have thought, if you don’t turn the ball over and get the basics done right you stand a good chance of winning the game
Bills 13 – 12 Titans
Both of these teams are low scoring ones and credit must go to the Bills for getting over the line here. I’ve been pretty damning of the Bills but I’ve been impressed with Sean McDermott’s coaching of the team. On paper, his roster is nowhere near that of the Titans and yet he got the win so fair play.
Both quarterbacks had low production, Mariota with 129 yards and an INT and Allen with a measly 82 yards and an INT. The Bills had 44 more rushing yards than the Titans but the biggest difference was on fumbles whereby the Bills recovered their two fumbles and the Titans lost two of their three. Per above, turnovers kill your chances of wins
Bengals 27 – 17 Dolphins
The Dolphins have now lost two games on the bounce to strong AFC competition and are looking a little more like the Dolphins we’ve come to know and love. They were however leading this contest quite handily at one point before they seemed to implode before our very eyes.
Tannehill threw for 185 yards a touchdown and two INTs but a rejuvenated Frank Gore reeled off 63 rushing yards to lead the team in rushing. Kenyan Drake has been quiet of recent weeks but we came back this week with 46 rushing yards of his own to go along with 69 receiving yards and a touchdown. The Dolphins need to see more of that type of production from the highly regarded running back.
Overshadowing them both though was the return of Joe Mixon to the Bengals lineup. He ran for 93 yards and also had 22 receiving yards and a touchdown. Dalton has a serious array of weapons at his disposal and despite the claims of him being average, is good enough to find them. Principle amongst them continues to be AJ Green. Green has been overshadowed a little of late by the emergence of Taylor Boyd but on Sunday he caught six passes for 112 yards.
But it was on defence that the Bengals won the game. First, veteran defensive end Michael Johnson intercepted Tannehill and ran the ball back for a touchdown. And to seal the game, rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard athletically recovered a fumble and returned it to the house. A theme of this week so far has been turnovers and the Bengals demonstrated their ability to not only get the ball, but to score from it straight away.
Browns 12 – 9 Ravens
The Browns recorded their first AFC North home win in four years! Let that sink in a minute……
Ok, good. This was a pretty ugly game but the Cleveland fans won’t mind that. There’s a lot of praise being heaped on the shoulders of Baker Mayfield, and rightly so in my opinion. The Browns have been to overtime three times before this season and lost two of them, there’s pressure to succeed there then and Mayfield seemed cool and calm as he walked onto the field for what would be the final drive. Despite missing a field goal and extra point earlier in the game, kicker Greg Joseph also seemed remarkably restrained as he lined up the game winning kick, despite being touched in the air it wobbled it’s way between the posts to give the Browns the win. Mayfield ended the day with 342 passing yards, a touchdown and an INT. His top receiver, Landry again goes on to break records with the most catches in the first five years of a career – and he’s still got 11 games to go.
For the Ravens, whilst they could get up and down the field, they couldn’t finish the job off with their red zone percentage at just 25%. This loss might be a bit humbling but at the end of the day, their defence still performed well and Flacco was solid in the win, the Ravens will get over this and still compete in the AFC North.
Lions 31 – 23 Packers
Poor old Mason Crosby. Talk about having a bad day. He missed five kicks (four FGs and one PAT) in what was a good win for the Lions. Nail those kicks and the Packers win, but such is life. Crosby is usually a reliable kicker, if he carries on that sort of form next week then there may be an issue but we can forgive him for one week.
Despite the missed kicks, injured receivers and piss poor rushing game, Aaron Rodgers almost dragged his team to a win in this match. He suffered four sacks and seven hits in total from a Lions defence that is getting stronger. Rodgers threw for 442 yards, three touchdowns and no INTs with a cast of receivers where Equanimeous St Brown recorded the second highest amount of receiving yards. This team needs to get stronger around him.
For the Lions, they’ve beaten Tom Brady’s Patriots and now Aaron Rodgers’ Packers at home this year. Consistency is key for them – if they get it, they could feasibly challenge for the NFC North. Because of their defence forcing fumbles and giving the Lions good field position (also a botched punt return by the Packers) and as such, Stafford only had to pass for 183 yards to get his two touchdowns. Could Patricia be the first coach off the Belichick tree to do well? Too early to say but the early signs have some positives.
Chiefs 30 – 14 Jaguars
I billed this as the top game of the weekend but to be honest, it fell a bit flat. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good performance by the Chiefs, just that the Jags offense didn’t really get going at all and Bortles regressed to throwing the ball away. He had a career day in yards (430) but threw only one touchdown to four interceptions.
Mahomes meanwhile proved that he is actually human, he didn’t throw a single touchdown but did throw his first two INTs of the season. He also managed 312 passing yards and ran in a touchdown so we shouldn’t be too hard. Generally though, this was the biggest test for a high powered offense coming up against what many people consider to be the leagues best defense and the Chiefs came through with a win. On the other side of the ball, the pass rush for the Chiefs got the job done, hitting Bortles 12 times to unsettle him into throwing all those interceptions.
Jets 34 – 16 Broncos
What on earth happened to that championship calibre defense that the Broncos used to have? Ok, so Mahomes torched them last week but that was because the Chiefs have a good offense, isn’t it?
The Broncos rush defense will have had an uncomfortable time watching the tape of this game. They gave up 323 yards on the ground, and they weren’t facing running backs considered to be elite! Isaiah Crowell recorded a franchise high 219 yards and Bilal Powell chipped in with another 99. Great for the Jets, terrible for the Broncos.
With that sort of production on the ground, Darnold didn’t have to do too much though he recorded 198 passing yards and three scores. There was an INT as well but that doesn’t really matter too much in the big scheme of things, on this occasion at least!
The Broncos offensive figures don’t look too bad – Case Keenum threw for 377 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a pick right at the end of the game which Marcus Maye ran back 104 yards but somehow failed to score after Courtland Sutton tackled him on the one yard line.
This was just a day whereby the rushing attack for the Jets clicked and the Broncos defense really didn’t.
Steelers 41 – 17 Falcons
Last week I bemoaned the lack of a running attack in Pittsburgh without Le’Veon Bell. James Conner got the job done in week one but had done nothing since. Well he came back with a bang in week five – 110 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 75 receiving yards. With star receiver, Antonio Brown getting a lot more targets this week (13) and getting two touchdown grabs this was more like it from the Steelers.
This game was meant to be a shootout as both defenses had been ridiculed in recent weeks but the Steelers D turned up. TJ Watt is looking more and more like his older brother every game, this time recording three sacks to sit high in the sack rankings through the year so far. In total, the Steelers got to Matt Ryan 12 times. Ryan being the professional he is, didn’t throw an INT but did only manage one touchdown.
Even with Freeman back from injury, the Falcons running game never got going as they recorded only 62 yards combined. Not even rookie Calvin Ridley could get into the end zone on Sunday.
The Falcons fall to 1-4 on the year, but they are a much better team than that, despite their leaky defense.
Chargers 26 – 10 Raiders
Fresh off their win over the Browns, the Raiders were in fine fettle heading to LA to face their division rivals. Last week was the start of something, they could sense it. Then they faced Philip Rivers in imperious form and another loss was recorded.
I’m very much struggling to see where Gruden is going with this rebuilding project of his at the Raiders. I know we, and everyone else, has made a joke of it of recent weeks but the pass rush is just terrible. They got to Rivers just twice, sacking him once. It’s basic fundamentals that if you can’t put pressure on the opposing quarterback than your cornerbacks and safeties don’t stand a chance of keep average receivers under wraps for the entire play. And let’s face it, the Raiders backfield isn’t anything to write home about.
Carr had an ok game – 268 yards, a touchdown and an INT. The rushing attack was anemic with a total of 41 yards split between four plays. It’s hard to watch.
Phillip Rivers on the other hand is playing very well at the moment. Against the Raiders he completed 22 of 27 passes for 339 yards, two touchdowns and no INTs. The running game is also working well, Melvin Gordon is looking strong and his backfield partner, Austin Eckler is a good receiving back capable of breaking big plays. If the Chargers get Joey Bosa back soon then this will be a well rounded team capable of challenging late into the year.
Eagles 21 – 23 Vikings
A late charge by the Eagles made the scoreline more flattering for the Super Bowl winners, but all the same, it’s a loss to an NFC rival.
Kirk Cousins now seems to have settled in well to this Vikings offense, Sunday’s game was his fourth consecutive game with 30+ pass completions – a new NFL record. 301 yards and a touchdown with no INTs show what a strong performance it was. There’s no doubt he’s got great weapons to play with – Diggs and Thielen are one of the best receiving double acts in the league. This was Thielen’s fifth 100+ receiving game for the season – another NFL record. The running game was lacking but if Delvin Cook comes back fit then it’ll naturally get going again. What the stats don’t show is some of the passes that Cousins made which were incredible. The interior of the Vikings line is poor and it showed with Cousins having to throw under pressure often, in total the Eagles got to him 11 times but only recorded one sack.
There was however a dubious roughing the passer call on Michael Bennett for a hit on Cousins. Again, questions are being raised about the level of quality and consistency made by the referees this year.
But that wasn’t why the Eagles lost. They lost through a combination of turning the ball over and just not looking at the races. Both Wentz and Ajayi lost fumbles, the latter now seemingly out for the season with a torn ACL. The passing game did eventually get going with Wentz recording 311 yards and two touchdowns. 110 of those yards went to Zach Ertz showing what an important position tight end is in this team. The Eagles do need more production from their wide receivers and their running game though if they’re to stand any chance of returning to the playoffs.
Seahawks 31 – 33 Rams
A closer game than I thought it’d be but the Rams win on the road to continue to 5-0, leading the race to the playoffs in the NFC. By beating their nearest NFC West rival in Seattle (and the other two teams in the division being so poor), the Rams have more or less secured a division win bar a series of season ending injuries to half their team.
The Seahawks gave them a match though. They went back to their tradition and leaned on a running attack which over the last two weeks has begun to deliver results. Chris Carson notched up 116 yards off 19 carries whilst Mike Davis recorded a further 68 yards and a touchdown. Russell Wilson took care of the ball with 198 passing yards, three touchdowns and no INTs. They’ll have been disappointed to lose this match but it was easily their best performance of the season.
The Rams struggled to get going and losing both Cooks and Kupp to concussion assessments didn’t help. The hit Cooks took was reminiscent of the one the Eagles gave him in the Super Bowl last year and two concussions in nine months isn’t a great stat for a young receiver.
Goff wasn’t quite as clinical as he had been against the Vikings last week. He did throw for 321 yards and a touchdown but also recorded two INTs. Luckily though, he can turn to Todd Gurley who ran 22 times for 77 yards and three touchdowns.
So not a stellar performance but a win all the same. Many say the hallmark of a great team is one that wins when they’re not playing well – if that’s the case then it bodes well for this team.
Texans 19 – 16 Cowboys
The Cowboys really should have won this one. Not just because their defense was amazing and for a majority of the night kept the Texans out of the end zone, reducing them to field goals. No, they should have won this because Jason Garrett should have had the guts to call a play on 4th and 1 in their opponents half in overtime. When together, Dak and Zeke have played 4th and 1 19 times. They’ve converted on 18 of those occasions. What was Garrett thinking? Gutless. As I said in an article last week, this season could be Garrett’s last and after that loss I’m even more convinced.
Before all that Dak had his pretty standard game, throwing for 208 yards and a touchdown coupled with two INTs. I’m beginning to think he’s a bit of a one season wonder, or maybe it’s the coaching? Zeke wasn’t as effective this week with only 54 yards and an average of 2.7 yards per carry. In the receiving game (such as it is), tight end Geoff Swaim had the most yards with 55. Texans wide receiver had 151 yards, which is more than all the Cowboys wide receivers, combined.
Speaking of the Texans, Watson spent most of the game running around like a lunatic. It’s fun and exciting to watch but he must learn to slide otherwise his fate will be coupled with RG3s! He did throw for 375 yards, a touchdown and an INT in a solid performance but was hit 10 times behind the line, only once for a sack.
Chances are, the Cowboys will continue with the vein of inconsistency and win next week but with Garrett at the helm, I won’t be betting on them.
Saints 43 – 19 Redskins
And so to Monday night and the greatest passer of the ball in NFL history. Drew Brees overtook Peyton Manning’s passing record and is now the leader of all passers in the NFL. On Monday night he completed 26 out of 29 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He’s occasionally the forgotten man when it comes to discussions about who is the greatest quarterback of all time but he should certainly be in the discussion.
Mark Ingram was welcomed back to the Saints lineup after his suspension and contributed to the cause with 53 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Kamara’s workload was significantly reduced after carrying the running game on his own for the last four weeks. It may annoy his owners in fantasy teams, but when it comes to maintaining his fitness then it’s a good call by the Saints to limit his reps whilst Ingram gets back into form. There had been a bit of buzz about rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith in preseason but through the first four weeks he’d been a non-factor. It changed against the Redskins as he picked up 111 yards off three catches and two touchdowns. Could he be a reliable No.2 alongside Michael Thomas?
The Redskins rushing game never got going which means Alex Smith is going to struggle. 39 yards combined for Washington meant that too much emphasis was placed on Smith’s shoulders and whilst he’s a capable quarterback, he’s not going to carry a his team against opposition like the Saints.