Reality

Week 6 Review

It seems that every week the results of the NFL get harder and harder to pick.  I’m not sure many would have had the Cowboys putting 40 points on the Jaguars? Anyway, here’s a look at all the action from week 6 in the NFL

Giants 13 v 34 Eagles

Time is surely ticking for Eli Manning in another disappointing game for the G-Men.  He has some of the most explosive weapons in the league to distribute the ball to and yet this offense is still lackluster (and that’s being nice).  Various media commentators and pundits are already starting to point to the Giants decision to draft Barkley rather than Darnold. That’s not a slur on Barkley who had another stellar performance (130 rushing yards and a TD to go along with 99 receiving yards), it’s just that Eli may be well downhill on a steep downwards performance decline.  Beckham’s comments last week may not have been delivered in the right way or the right people, but there was more than an element of truth to them…

For their part though, the Eagles looked like getting back to their best.  Wentz threw for 278 yards and three TDs. In the absence of their lead runner, Jay Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement did a good enough job to help keep the sticks moving.  The defense was able to get at Manning as well, recording 13 hits on the aging quarterback and sacking him four times and restricting the Giants to a third down conversion rate of just 28%.

Decisions to be made by Pat Shurmur.  The aftermath of Eli’s benching last year resulted in coach and GM getting the chop, but that was possibly down more to with the replacement they bought in rather than the benching itself.

Redskins 23 – 17 Panthers

Said it last week, if the Redskins can’t run the the ball then Alex Smith struggles.  Against the Panthers, the Redskins ran the ball through Adrien Peterson for 97 yards and Alex Smith was back to his mediocre level again.  163 yards and two touchdowns but more importantly, no interceptions.

The Redskins raced to a 17-0 lead before the Panthers really started, and they needed it as once they settled in, the Panthers were looking ominous.  Cam Newton threw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Pick of the bunch was Devin Funchess’ touchdown reception where he leaped over the defender with his long arms to pluck the ball from the air. Unlike the Redskins, they couldn’t get their running game going quite as well as McCaffrey was restricted to just 20 yards on eight attempts.

Panthers had a chance to try and win it at the end but there was too much distance for them to cover in too little time.  Another minute and an extra timeout and they may have sneaked a win.

Falcons 34 v 29 Buccaneers

Many are questioning the adage of “defense wins championships” as the 2018 season looks set to break all types of records for offensive play.  Maybe it doesn’t anymore, but a lack of defense certainly doesn’t help to win games.

If the Falcons had any semblance of a defense then they’d be right up there with the NFC contenders.  Luckily this week, they were playing the Bucs who also don’t have a defense and now, don’t have a defensive coordinator.  Mike Smith has been sacked with the Bucs defense on track to break all kinds of records that no team wants to break!

The Bucs offense was going well though.  Winston coming back into the starting lineup threw for 395 yards and two touchdowns.  He also had his obligatory picks with two this week. For once though, the ground game also started yielding results with Peyton Barber racking up 82 yards off 13 carries.

On the other side, Matt Ryan threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns – no interceptions for the quarterback that if his team were winning more games would be an MVP contender on the form he’s shown in 2018.  Julio Jones continues to rack up the yards if not the touchdowns, 143 this week. Worryingly for the Falcons, rookie receiver Calvin Ridley who was picking up touchdowns aplenty left the game injured, something to watch for for all those fantasy owners going in to week 7.

Bengals 21 v 28 Steelers

Two teams that despise each other but only one team that in recent history, always seems to win this match-up.  That’s six victories on the bounce for the Steelers over the Bengals.

Going in to the last minute of this game, the two teams were deadlocked at 21 apiece until Ben Roethlisburger found Antonio Brown running a slant, he caught the ball and ran it in to the end zone with a mere ten seconds to go.  There were calls of foul play from the Bengals who felt the block on a defender which set Brown free was illegal but there was no flag and no chance to review and the rest is history.

For the Steelers offense, Brown will take the plaudits but it was really tight end Vance McDonald and running back James Conner who were making the hard yards during most of the game.  Smith-Schuster and Brown came alive in the final quarter to make the stat lines look more generous but this Steeler offense can hurt you in multiple ways. Conner had 111 yards off 19 carries and two touchdowns.  Jokes were made after the game that it’ll be his last with the imminent arrival of Le’Veon Bell (who at the time of writing, still hasn’t shown up) but I (and I expect Conner’s team mates) would like to see Bell really made to work for taking the RB1 spot from a back who is really starting to look good.

For the Bengals, Dalton didn’t throw an interception which breaks from his form of late!  Two touchdown throws to Tyler Boyd and 229 in total is a good day’s work. What let the Bengals down really was their defense.  They struggled to get to Roethlisburger all day only recording one hit on the quarterback and no sacks. You can’t give a quarterback like that as little pressure as he got on Sunday and not get punished.  Returning linebacker and popular figure of hate, Vontaze Burfict returned with a forearm hit on Antonio Brown which will go unpunished by the league, more signs of inconsistency.

Browns 14 v 38 Chargers

Somewhat of a comedown for the Browns who were obliterated by the Chargers.  Rivers had a quieter but effective game again but it was on the ground that the Chargers did most of the damage to a Browns defensive unit that had been looking good for most of the season.

Melvin Gordon had 132 rushing yards off of 18 attempts and three touchdowns.  Gordon was drafted in the same year as Todd Gurley but usually doesn’t receiver the same level of plaudits but this season is pushing his draft class peer as much as any running back.  In the air, Tyrell Williams had a career day with 118 receiving yards and two touchdowns. It came off only three passes but proved what a deep threat he can be. His touchdown grab against triple coverage is one to watch out for in the highlights.  One slightly worrying stat for the Chargers – they only completed one of nine third downs. On another day, this could have cost them.

The Browns should just write this game off.  Nothing on offense really got going for them, Baker Mayfield was sacked five times against a defense that until Sunday, had been struggling to consistently get to opposing quarterbacks.  He threw for two interceptions but his garbage time touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku showed that it wasn’t all bad.

Raiders 3 v 27 Seahawks

The first 2018 game to be hosted in London and what a damp squib it was, in every sense of the phrase!  The weather was more akin to Seattle then it was Oakland, but given their form of late, so was the performance of both teams.

The Seahawks are on an upward trend by all accounts.  A narrow loss to the Rams last week was still a good performance and this week they blew out a poor Raiders team.  The first drive of the game took nine minutes off the clock and ended with a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson who is getting much better protection from an O-Line who have vastly improved.  Not that they had much to deal with. The Raiders pass rush only recorded three hits on Wilson and one sack. The Seahawks rushing attack also continues to blossom behind that line, 155 yards in total with Chris Carson picking up 59 of them off 14 attempts.  First round pick Rashaad Penny also started to see the ball a bit more with nine carries for 43 yards.

The Raiders meanwhile continue to spiral downwards.  Their once good offensive line is in tatters with Carr hit 10 times and sacked six times with two lost fumbles.  Carr managed just 142 yards, though he didn’t throw any interceptions. The running game never got going – Lynch rushing 13 times for 45 carries at an average of 3.5 yards per carry.  The Raiders made it to the red zone just once and even then it didn’t yield any results. A 43 yard field goal was all the Raiders had to show for their trip halfway round the world. Last time the Raiders lost, they sacked their coach on the plane home.  That won’t happen this time as Gruden is only in his first year of a ten year contract but something has to give soon.

Dolphins 31 v 28 Bears

Well this was an entertaining one!  A late announcement confirmed that Brock Osweiler would be starting under center for the Dolphins as Tannehill was injured.  In his first game for both the Broncos and the Texans, Osweiler had faced, and beaten, the Bears. So the writing was surely on the wall for his first start for the Dolphins where once again he was facing the Bears.

The Bears were 21-10 up in the third quarter before the fireworks really kicked off.  A Miami field goal before the end of the quarter bought it back to 21-13 before Osweiler’s touchdown pass to Albert Stills and a two point conversion bought it level.  The Bears fired back with Trubisky finding rookie wide out Anthony Miller for 29 yards. Then Oswieler found Albert Wilson again, connecting on a 75 yard pass to draw the game level and send it in to overtime.  After a long drive orchestrated between Osweiler and veteran running back Frank Gore got them to the goal line, Kenyan Drake fumbled it when trying to drive over the line for what would have been a game winning TD.  The Bears, with the ball back couldn’t get into field goal range and the Dolphins drove again behind Kenyan Drake who was seeking redemption for his mistake. Within field goal range, kicker Jason Saunders was able to finish the game off.

Osweiler finished the game with a career high 380 yards, three touchdowns and two picks.  With him on that sort of form under Adam Gase’s system and the ageless running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 101 yards, the Dolphins might be OK without Tannehill.  

Surprisingly for the Bears, the defense wasn’t firing on it’s usual high octane cylinders.  Whilst cornerback Kyle Fuller did have two interceptions, the Bears failed to deliver a single sack and only managed to hit Osweiler four times.  The Bears faithful will hope that this is just a blip should they wish to challenge for the NFC North.

Vikings 27 v 17 Cardinals

The Vikings continue to be getting back to their impressive form with a solid win over the Cardinals who continue to struggle despite their win over the 49ers last week.  

Finally, the Vikings running game has kicked back into gear after being disappointing so far in 2018.  Latavius Murray took over the lead role and rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown from 24 carries. Kirk Cousins was solid, throwing for 233 yards, a touchdown and an interception – he got the job done.  His top receiver Adam Thielen now has six games in a row with over 100 receiving yards, taking 11 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

The Vikings defense also continue to get back into the form that made them contenders last year.  They got to Rosen six times, sacking him four times to go along with an interception and a recovered fumble.

For the Cardinals, their offensive line is continuing to struggle which impacts their running game severely.  David Johnson had just 55 yards off of 18 carries, though he did get a touchdown to make the scoreline a little more respectable.

Jets 42 v 34 Colts

Sam Darnold is really starting to impress, whilst also showing up the neighbours in New York.  He threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns and whilst there was an interception as well he didn’t look like a rookie quarterback with the quality of his play.  It’s also not like Darnold is focused on one receiver either, three players had over 50 receiving yard. The running game wasn’t quite as explosive as last week but also chipped in with 107 yards this week to help progress.

Likewise the Colts also managed to generate a decent chunk of yards on the ground.  Marlon Mack, now seemingly back fit, was able to rush for 89 yards off of 12 carries.  Luck is seemingly getting better each week though. His receiving corps is not one of stylish names, especially with TY Hilton out injured. Tight end Eric Ebron continues to impress in Indy with another touchdown grab, his fifth for the year.  Luck ended the night with 301 passing yards, four touchdowns but also three interceptions. More work to do for the Colts but in a division that’s looking increasingly competitive, if they can get a streak of winning games they could still be in the mix.

Bills 13 v 20 Texans

Not a lot to get excited about here.  A distinctly average game all round really.

Josh Allen was having his standard game (84 yards, no touchdowns but no picks) when he left the game with an elbow injury.  And in came Nathan Peterman and I’ll be honest, he had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief at one point when he threw a lovely pass to Zay Jones for a touchdown.  The Bills were somehow 13-10 up in a game that they really had no right to be in. The Texans drove down the field to set up a field goal for Ka’imi Fairbairn to level the scores at 13-13 before the inevitable happened – Peterman threw a pick six.  To make matters worse, on his next drive, Peterman threw another interception.

Josh Allen is being listed as “week to week” in a bid to be fit.  Mariota had a similar injury previously and was out for two weeks…

Broncos 23 v 20 Rams

An off day for Jared Goff where he was outplayed by his former backup Case Keenum.  It mattered not though as Todd Gurley had a career game. Gurley finished the game with 208 yards and two touchdowns.  A week earlier, the Broncos had let Jets running back Isaiah Crowell rush for over 200 yards. Next week they face David Johnson who’s had a poor season so far, might he look to get back on track with a 200+ yardage game?

As for last week, whilst they did give up a lot of yards on the ground their pass rush was getting back to form.  Five sacks in total with three of them coming from rookie pass rusher Bradley Chubb. Chubb has had a quiet start to the season for a player with the level of hype he’d gotten in the draft process but if he carries on with that form the hype will be justified.  

The offense for the Broncos continues to be troubling though.  Yes, Case Keenum had a better game than he has done previously, but he’s not the long term answer at quarterback.  Towards the end of the first half, he was getting assessed for a concussion and Chad Kelly came on to applause from the crowd, just to take a knee and the end the half.  That’s got to be dispiriting for Keenum to hear. Stat wise, his day looked alright – 322 yards, two touchdowns and an interception but some of his decision making didn’t look good and watching him, you never really had confidence that the ball would find a receiver each time he passed.  

The Broncos hierarchy are ‘keeping a close eye’ on coach Vance Joseph and he has also said that he knows he’s fighting for his job.  Whilst Sunday’s performance was better than previous ones, there’s still a way to go for him to be safe.

Cowboys 40 v 7 Jaguars

One of the league’s best defenses going up against one of the league’s most mediocre offenses.  Only one way this game should have gone, right?

Wrong.

The Cowboys mediocre offense didn’t have to do all that much because their defense was just so much better than anything the Jags could throw (or run) at them.  Bortles was reduced to 149 yards, a touchdown and a pick and the running game totaled 65 yards in total. They never once made it into the red zone. The Cowboys defense was all over them and in linebackers Jaylon Smith (nine tackles) and rookie Leighton Vander Esch (11 tackles) they have two players than snuff out most rushing attacks.  

The Cowboys also dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for almost 39 minutes of the game.  This was largely down to their running game with Zeke rushing for 102 and quarterback Prescott adding a further 82 yards of his own.  All night, the Cowboys were running him out on a bootleg and the Jags couldn’t figure out if he was going to pass it, or tuck it and run.  Both players added scoring runs to their stats as well. The receiving corps still isn’t great but at least Cole Beasley is showing up, 101 yards  and two touchdowns in a game where he seemed to have a lot of space.

For the Jags, it’s a second loss on the bounce, both of them away from home.  Maybe they’re resting on their laurels after such a successful season last year?  Whatever it is, they need to find their form, and quickly.

Titans 0 v 21 Ravens

What a terrible performance that the Titans fans had to sit through – and it was raining for most of the match!  

Despite the rain, the Ravens defense was on fire, recording a whopping 11 sacks.  That’s one more sack than Mariota had pass completions. Though with that sort of pressure in his face all day it’s no great surprise that he wasn’t more productive.  The running game for the Titans is non-existent and the Ravens knew it and were able to rush the passer whenever they felt like it. 55 yards in total with Mariota himself picking up 25, Derek Henry needs to be cut at this rate as he managed just 21 yards off seven attempts.  The defense is good but they’ll not get the rest they need between series’ with the offense playing like that. The Titans third down efficiency was just 10%.

The Ravens weren’t brilliant on offense, they didn’t have to be.  Alex Collins rushed in for two touchdowns though his average of 2.8 yards per carry is not one to write home about.  Flacco threw for 238 yards and a touchdown. There was a pick as well but it didn’t matter – giving the ball back to this Titans team was not an issue.

Patriots 43 v 40 Chiefs

The last undefeated team in the AFC lost that title when the Chiefs narrowly missed out on beating the Pats on their home turf.  Both these teams have offenses that are capable of scoring on every drive. Unfortunately though, both have defenses that struggle to stop opposing teams.

For the first though, the Patriots were able to do just that, restricting the Chiefs to just three field goals to go in to the half 24-9 up.  In the second half though, quarterback Pat Mahomes came out firing and by the end of the third quarter had the Chiefs just a point behind, heading in to the fourth 27-26 down.  Pats went further in front with a field goal before Mahomes found Hill in the end zone to go ahead for the first time in the game.

Back came the Pats, the ageless wonder that is Tom Brady scrambling in to the end zone from four yards out and another field goal to go seven points up.  With three minutes to go, on the first play after the restart, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill again, this time the speedster running in for a 75 yard touchdown which leveled the scores at 40 apiece.  The only problem was, it left three minutes on the clock for Brady and the Pats to methodically march down the field, killing time enough for Gostowski to kick another field goal to give them the win.

These are two quarterbacks playing out of their skin.  Mahomes 352 yards, four touchdowns and two picks and Brady with 340 yards and a touchdown.  Both can also lean on running attacks that often yield results as well. When the attack is this potent, do you need a top caliber defense?  Time will tell.

Packers 33 v 30 49ers

Monday night saw the 49ers travel to the Packers.  Not many would have given the 49ers a chance but they performed admirably (again) and came heartbreakingly close to getting a result over the Packers.

Beathard showed a vast improvement versus his previous outings this year and looked assured and composed on many of his plays.  He’s also beginning to build confidence enough to throw some long balls and the 49ers deep threat that is Marquise Goodwin ended up with 126 receiving yards off just four catches – with two touchdowns to boot.  The back up running pair of Breida and Mostert also impressed on the ground with 61 and 87 yards gained respectively, Breida adding a touchdown as well.

The defense though is a different story.  Whilst they ended the day with three sacks, all too often Rodgers had a good chunk of time to pass.  The coverage in the backfield was also quite poor, many of the Packer receivers were able to find big holes to exploit.  And exploit Rodgers did, ending the night with 425 passing yards and two touchdowns.

The 49ers had a seven point lead heading into the final few minutes of the game but Rodgers was twice able to march his team up the field on scoring drives.  First off a touchdown to Devante Adams and then, after a deep through by Beathard was picked off, a field goal by a rejuvenated kicker Mason Crosby finished it off.

Both the Raiders and 49ers are now 1-5 but the manner in which each team is being beaten is very very different.

 

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