NFL: Week 6 Thoughts

6 down. 11 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 2 undefeated squads.

Atlanta and Miami were both on their bye weeks.

NFC EAST (At Least a Couple Teams Are at .500 Now)

  • Cowboys: A big win on Sunday night, but it came with some costly injuries.  Both defensive end Demarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray left with injuries.  Ware with a pulled quad muscle, and could miss 3-4 weeks; he’s never missed a start since entering the league in 2005. Meanwhile, Murray, who scored the games first touchdown, left with a knee sprain; he’s expected to miss about a week. Dwayne Harris returned a punt for an 86-yard touchdown and set up another Dallas score with a 90-yard kickoff return.  Tony Romo had just 170 passing yards a week after his 506 in a loss to Denver.  I think he’ll take that trade every time.  (3-3)
  • Eagles:  The offense had a huge day, with LeSean McCoy running for 116 yard, while Nick Foles threw for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs, while running for a 4th, in place of the injured Michael Vick. Desean Jackson caught 2 touchdowns, while Riley Cooper found paydirt once, while racking up 120 receiving yards.  It was close early, but the defense held Tampa to just a field goal in the in the 2nd half. (3-3)
  • Redskins: Robert Griffin III completed less than 50% of his throws, threw no touchdowns and one pick in their loss to Dallas.  RGIII did rush for 77 yards, but fumbled twice, losing one.  Alfred Morris score their lone offensive touchdown as a part of his 81 yard rushing day.   The defense managed just one sack of Romo, but Rob Jackson did take a pick to the house.  Their special teams play was a killer, unable to stop Dwayne Harris from putting up big return numbers. (1-4)
  • Giants: They played their best game of the season, and still managed to lose.  Eli Manning threw 2 picks in his first 5 pass attempts, but it was the interception thrown on a possible game winning drive in the 4th quarter that sealed their win-less fate.  It was a game that saw Brandon Jacobs run like it was 2008, scoring 2TDs and bringing a much-needed run game back to New York.  When a guy like Jacobs turns back the clock like that, you’ve got to find a way to win.  But no pass rush to go with turnovers hurt Big Blue once again.  It’s the teams first 0-6 start since 1976.  (0-6)

NFC NORTH (It’s Crowded At the Top)

  • Lions: Calvin Johnson made his return after a week off with an injury, but didn’t have a big stat day, as he was used as more of a decoy.  Tight-end Joseph Fauria was the beneficiary, catching a career high 3 touchdowns, including the one to seal the victory with 2:01 left to go in regulation.  Matthew Stafford threw 3 of his 4 TD passes in the 2nd half to rally his team to victory and keep a share of 1st place. (4-2)
  • Bears: Brandon Marshall had a huge game in Chicago’s first win since week 3.  The team did everything they could to give New York the game in the 4th except turn the ball over, but in the end they held tough and picked off Manning 3 times in the final frame.  Tim Jennings got Manning twice, including a 48-yard return for a touchdown on the Giants opening drive.  QB  Jay Cutler had a good day, with no turnovers and throwing for two scores.    (4-2)
  • Packers: Outside of a 64-yard touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers didn’t bring his A game on Sunday.  But Green Bay held on despite a big fourth quarter comeback attempt by Baltimore.  4 Mason Crosby field goals and 120 yards on the ground by rookie rusher Eddie Lacy helped give the Pack just enough cushion.  Despite being without Clay Matthews, their defense held Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense in check, sacking last years Superbowl MVP five times, and holding Baltimore backs to 47 combined yards on the ground.  It was their first road win of the year.  AJ Hawk was a monster, picking up 3 sacks in the win. (3-2)
  • Vikings: it was a trying week for Minnesota as they came off their bye.  Adrian Peterson played days after the death of his son, while Matt Cassel got the start despite the addition of Josh Freeman at quarterback.  Cassel couldn’t make it two wins in a row for his Vikes, throwing 2 interceptions, both of which led to Carolina touchdowns.  (1-4)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Still Running Away With It) 

  • Saints: In a dog fight with New England, they left   Drew Brees had brought them back from an early 10-point deficit to take a 27-23 lead late in the 4th.   But they left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady, losing their first of the year on a last second touchdown.  Tight-end Jimmy Graham had entered action averaging over 118 yards receiving a game this season, but was held catch-less, and pulled up lame late in the game. (5-1)
  • Panthers: They used their bye week well.  Cam Newton was spectacular, throwing for 3 scores, and running for a 4th in a 25-point rout of Minnesota.  Carolina took advantage of turnovers, and carried an 11-point lead into halftime.  (2-3)
  • Falcons:  Bye Week. (1-4)
  • Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson had a huge day, but they still couldn’t pick up win number 1.   The wide-out caught 9 passes for 114 yards and Tampa’s two touchdowns. Mike Glennon didn’t have a bad day either, throwing for two scores and one pick.  They just couldn’t stop the Eagles offense, which combined for 412 yards in the air and on the ground. (0-5)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: It wasn’t their best performance, but a win is a win.  They won this one on the ground, with Marshawn Lynch running for two scores, and racking up 155 all-purpose yards in the process.  Richard Sherman did what he does, picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the 4th quarter.  Russell Wilson showed once again why he’s one of the top young QB’s in the league, throwing for over 250 yards, no picks and adding 77-yards on the ground.  Seattle has now won 11 straight home games, proving they have one of the best home-field advantages in football.  (5-1)
  • 49ers: Vernon Davis had an absolute monster of a 1st half, 177 yards and 2 touchdowns, finishing with a career high 180 yards receiving.  It was also another banner day for the defense, forcing 4 turnovers for the second straight week.  Add another 100 yard rushing game for Frank Gore and a strong day by Colin Kaepernick, and you have another big win for San Francisco. (4-2)
  • Rams: Talk about a big win.  They played well in all facets of the game, scoring on defense and special teams to go along with 3 TD passes from Sam Bradford.  Alec Ogletree returned a TJ Yates interception 98 yards to push their lead to 38-6.   The defense racked up 5 sacks including 2 by Michael Brockers. (3-3)
  • Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald gave Arizona a 1st quarter 7-6 lead on a 75-yard catch and run from Carlson Palmer.  But then the 49ers took over and the Cardinals couldn’t recover, even getting shut out in the 4th quarter.  They turned the ball over 4 times, and also lost star defensive end Calais Campbell to an apparent right leg injury late in the game. (3-3)

AFC EAST (Brady’s Comeback Puts Some Distance Atop the Division)

  • Patriots: They survived a Tom Brady pick with just over 2 minutes to go.  They got the ball back with just over a minute to go thanks to a good stop by Chandler Jones on 3rd down.  And with 5 seconds left, Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins in the end zone to cap off a 70-yard game winning drive.  It was a big win a week after Brady was shutout in the touchdown department.  Stevan Ridley helped out big time on the ground, finding the end zone twice, and racking up over a 100 yards from scrimmage. (5-1)
  • Dolphins: Bye Week. (3-2)
  • Jets: A step back for Rookie Geno Smith and the Jets in their home game against the once win-less Steelers.  Smith threw two interceptions, barely got over the 200 yard mark and fumbled once.  The offense mustered just two Nick Folk field goals in the first half.  (3-3)
  • Bills: The running game was very balanced on Sunday, with 5 players getting touches, including new starting QB Thad Lewis.  Lewis threw for 2 touchdowns, and ran for another in his second career start.  14 points in the 4th quarter forced overtime against Cincinnati, but they fell by a field goal none-the-less. (2-4)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Bengals: it wasn’t pretty, but Cincy got it done in overtime against Buffalo. Up 27-10 heading into the 4th, it looked like it would be an easy win for the Bengals.  But 14 unanswered by the Bills sent the game to OT.  BenJarvius Green-Ellis and not Giovanni Bernard was the featured back, and he delivered 86 rushing yards.  Andy Dalton threw for over 300 yards and broke a two game touchdown-less drought in a big way, finding the end-zone three times.  AJ Green did his thing, going over 100 yards again.  (4-2) 
  • Ravens: The defense wasn’t the problem Sunday in Green Bay.  The offense was shutdown in the first half, and was forced to mount a furious comeback in the 4th, one that came just 2 points shy of being completed.  Ray Rice and the run game was not a factor in this one at all, and though Flacco threw for almost 350 and 2 touchdowns, he also fumbled twice, losing one(3-3)
  • Browns: Brandon Weedon was not good Sunday in Detroit, and with no help on the ground, Cleveland didn’t have enough to get past the Lions. The newly reinstated starting QB was picked off late on a strange shovel pass when the game was not yet out of reach.  Guys like Buster Skrine and TJ Ward had very nice games on defense, while receiver Josh Gordon caught 7 balls for 126 yards.  They let a 10-point half-time lead slip away thanks to a goose egg in the second half. (3-3)
  • Pittsburgh: Steelers fans travel well, and on this day their team played well, picking up their first win of 2013.  The defense was outstanding, holding the Jets to a pair of field goals, and finally turning over an opponent.   They were the only league to not force a turnover through week 5.  With no production on the ground, Ben Roethlisberger had a good game, completing 23 of 30 passes for 264 yards and a score.  (1-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: A rare bad game for Indy, who managed just 3 Adam Vinatieri field-goals on Monday Night.  Andrew Luck wasn’t so lucky on this night, with many big drops by his receivers.  And yet he still had a chance in the 4th quarter, to drive his team on yet another comeback.  But it wasn’t meant to be, throwing his only interception of the game with less than two to play.  Reggie Wayne with a nice milestone in the loss, hitting the 1,000 reception mark and passing Steeler great Hines Ward on the all-time receptions list for 8th place. (4-2)
  • Titans:  Tennessee made things tough on the Seahawks, something that’s hard to do in that home-field advantage Seattle boasts.  They had plenty of chances to steal one, but when Ryan Fitzpatrick ties Chris Johnson for the team lead in rushing yards, you know things aren’t going well.  Their lone touchdown came thanks to their special teams, who recovered a bad snap on a field goal to end the 1st half.  (3-3)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worse in Houston.  Matt Schaub didn’t throw a pick 6 for what would’ve been the 7th straight game, but he did leave late in the 3rd with a right ankle injuries.  The beleaguered starting QB left to cheers from the Houston crowd, and was replaced by TJ Yates, who did throw a pick 6 of his own.  (2-4)
  • Jaguars: It was probably their best game of the year, but in the end the Broncos were just too much for them.  It was just a 2-point game mid-way through the 3rd, despite the crazy 28-point spread put on the game in Denver’s favor.  Justin Blackmon had another good game, 190 receiving yards, thanks to a big day from Chad Henne, who threw for 2TDs and 303 yards.  But the defense couldn’t stop the run game in the redzone, which was the difference(0-6) 

(AFC WEST) Where All the Undefeated Teams Reside

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning with his worth performance of the year, losing two fumbles and throwing his 2nd pick of the year.  And still they won by 16.  The big story was the performance of Knowshon Moreno, who rand for just 42 yards, but scored 3 rushing touchdowns. Talk about taking advantage in the red-zone.  (6-0)
  • Chiefs: This team just can’t lose right now and it’s all thanks to their stellar defense.  10 sacks in one game is a lot no matter who you’re playing, but against a rival Oakland team that boasts a mobile quarterback, that’s just downright impressive.  Tamba Ali racked up 3.5 of those.  Alex Smith wasn’t good, but he didn’t need to be thanks to his defense and two touchdown runs by Jamaal Charles.  Smith completed just 14 of 31 pass attempts for 128 yards, but didn’t turn the ball over, which is exactly what head coach Andy Reid wants.  (6-0)
  • Chargers: Nick Novak kicked 3 big field goals to help bounce back from a tough loss to Oakland last week.  The offense didn’t turn the ball over, and the lone touchdown of the day was thrown to rookie Keenan Allen, who had another big day.  Their lone forced turnover sealed the win late in the 4th quarter.  Ryan Matthews broke a string of 23 straight games without a 100-yard rusher for San Diego. (3-3)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor got little help from his offensive line.  He was sacked 10 times.  Their lone touchdown, a 39-yard strike to Denarius Moore, actually gave them a 2nd quarter lead.  Pryor threw three picks, one for a Kansas City score, and saw his offense shutout in the 2nd half. (2-4)

So that’s a wrap on week 6.  Week 7 kicks off on Thursday Night Football with an NFC West Showdown.  The Seahawks are in Arizona for a date with the Cardinals.

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NFL: Week 5 Thoughts

5 down. 12 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 3 undefeated squads.

Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa Bay were all on their bye weeks.

I’m deviating from breaking this down by record.  Now that we’ve come to week 5, division races are starting to take shape.  So let’s take a look around the league that way.

NFC EAST (The Under .500 Club)

  • Cowboys: Tony Romo had the best game of his career, becoming the 1st Dallas QB to throw for over 500 yards. But a late second interception led to a Broncos game-winning field-goal and a loss. But don’t focus on another Romo turnover.  When you put up 48 points, you should win.  The defense just couldn’t stop Peyton Manning.  To be fair no one has yet this year.  (2-3)
  • Eagles:  Michael Vick went down with a hamstring injury in the 1st half, but Nick Foles didn’t miss a beat. Kicker Alex Henery shook off a shaky start to his season by completing all 5 of his field-goal attempts. (2-3)
  • Redskins: Bye week. (1-3)
  • Giants: The good news? The offense looked a little better.  The bad news?  They didn’t look good enough, with 4 more turnovers, 3 of which came courtesy of Eli Manning in the 4th quarter.  The run-game remained anemic, and the defense generated absolutely no pass-rush once again. Changes need to come, and quick. (0-5)

NFC NORTH (Too Close to Call)

  • Lions: After a big win over Chicago last week, the offense sputtered without Calvin Johnson in the lineup against Green Bay. The running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell couldn’t help Matt Stafford and the pass game either.  (3-2)
  • Bears: It wasn’t a horrible performance by the defense a week after allowing 40 to Detroit.  But they couldn’t get much going on offense.  Aside from a huge day from wide-receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught 10 balls for 218 yards and a touchdown, Chicago couldn’t do capitalize.  Jay Cutler’s two fumbles, 1 which was lost didn’t help.  (3-2)
  • Packers: It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win’s a win. Most of the offense came from the leg of Mason Crosby, who kicked 5 field goals.  Aaron Rodgers did connect on a long TD pass to James Jones to pull away in the 3rd quarter. (2-2)
  • Vikings: Coming off their bye week, they’ll have a new QB on the roster after signing Josh Freeman, who was released last week by the Bucs.  (1-3)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Running Away) 

  • Saints: After starting last year 0-4, the turnaround in New Orleans has been a big one.  One of the final 3 unbeatens, Drew Brees is having a great start to his year, as is the defense.  Jimmy Graham tied an NFL record held by Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez with his 4th straight 100-yard game as a tight-end. Graham accomplished this feat back in 2011 as well. (5-0)
  • Carolina: Cam Newton had a very bad day Sunday against the Cardinals.  The mobile QB did manage to throw for over 300 yards, but was also picked off 3 times, took a safety and was sacked 7 times.  The defense had an okay day, but that many turnovers is hard to overcome. (1-3)
  • Atlanta: They came from 13 down to take a 1-point lead with less than 2 to play.  Really they should’ve been up 4, but somehow instead of kicking a field goal to end the 1st half to get within 7, the Falcons instead chose to go for it on 4th and goal and were stuffed. For the first time in his career, Matt Ryan loses back to back games at home, and are now essentially 5 games out of 1st. (1-4)
  • Tampa Bay: Bye Week. (0-4)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: They suffered their first loss of the season, a shootout loss with the comeback kids, the Colts.  Going back even further, it was their first regular season loss since November 25th of last season.  Russell Wilson had 300+ total yards in the loss, including 102 yards rushing. (4-1)
  • 49ers: Another easy win for San Fran, this time coming against a Houston team that is struggling big time.  Tramaine Brock’s pick six of Matt Schaub on the first pass of the game was all the niners needed in the 34-3 win on Sunday Night football. (3-2)
  • Cardinals: Their defense was the real star against Carolina, picking up 7 sacks, a safety and three interceptions.  Carson Palmer’s day was nothing to write home about, neither was the run game, but they did enough to win thanks to short field position.  (3-2)
  • Rams: A good game on all ends versus the now 0-5 Jaguars. Sam Bradford threw for 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Austin Pettis. The run game was pretty good as well.  Big plays were the name of the game, including Matt Giordano’s 82 yard interception return for a touchdown. (2-3)

AFC EAST (You Can’t Just Hand New England the Division Anymore)

  • Patriots: They still lead the division, but they picked up their 1st loss of the year thanks to a shutdown Bengals defense.  It was a low scoring game, something we’re not seeing from New England.  And that’s because  Tom Brady did something he hadn’t done in 52 games, he didn’t throw a touchdown.  (4-1)
  • Dolphins: A 13-6 halftime lead wasn’t enough to save Miami from their second loss of the year.  In a game of field-goals, Caleb Sturgis missed from 57-yards to tie the score with 33 seconds to go.  The run game was non-existent, with starter Lamar Miller picking up just 15 yards on the ground. (3-2)
  • Jets: Geno Smith continues to show growth in his rookie season, leading his team on a game winning drive with under 2 minutes to play. The defense was lock down in the 1st half, but showed some holes in the redzone late.  But it’s a big road win none-the-less. (3-2)
  • Bills: Not only did they lose their game with Cleveland, they lost starting QB EJ Manuel.  On a scramble in the 1st half, Manuel took a hit to the knee, and suffered an LCL sprain, which could sideline him for up 6 weeks.  Fellow rookie QB Jeff Tuel came in for Manuel, but didn’t look very good.  The run game was on point, but it wasn’t enough on the road. (2-3)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Ravens: Justin Tucker had himself a day, going 4-4 on his field-goal attempts, including the game winner with 1:42 to go. Joe Flacco wasn’t a whole lot better than his 5-interception performance last week, but Ray Rice finally showed up on the ground, running in for 2 touchdowns.  (3-2) 
  • Browns: Three straight wins, despite losing QB Brian Hoyer to knee injury.  Brandon Weedon lost the starting job to Hoyer when he went down with an injury, but returned to help lead Cleveland to another win. (3-2)
  • Bengals: The offense wasn’t great, but their defense pitched a Brady shutout.  Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis ran in a 1-yarder for the games only touchdown in the 4th quarter. (3-2)
  • Pittsburgh: Coming off their bye (0-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: Another impressive win for Indy, this time handing Seattle their first loss of the year.  Andrew Luck continues to show why he was the number 1 pick in last year’s draft, leading his team for a 9th career comeback win.  The special teams for both squads showed up, including Delano Howell who scored for Indy on a 61-yard return touchdown of a blocked field goal.  (4-1)
  • Titans: Tennessee lost, but put up a good fight against the undefeated Chiefs.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, in place of the injured Jake Locker, ran in a go-ahead TD in the 4th.  (3-2)
  • Texans: Ever since taking a 20-0 1st half lead in week 4 against Seattle, Houston has been outscored 57-3 in their 2 game losing streak. Matt Schaub threw a pick 6 for the fourth straight game (a 1st in NFL history), and was benched in favor of TJ Yates. (2-3)
  • Jaguars: Things have gone from bad to worse for the win-less Jags.  After getting starting QB Blaine Gabbert back, he left their loss to St Louis with a hamstring injury, and lost 1st round pick OT Luke Joeckel for the year to a broken ankle. Things don’t look better with the 5-0 Broncos coming to town. (0-5)

(AFC WEST) Where You’re Either Undefeated or a Game Under 

  • Broncos: This team has scored the most points through the first 5 games of a season in NFL History.  And yet they almost lost to Dallas.  The defense hasn’t needed to be on much this year, with Manning being so automatic (20 touchdowns, 1 rushing TD and just 1 interception).  But they couldn’t stop the run or the pass against Dallas, something they need to fix, because odds are Manning will struggle one of these days.  Maybe. (5-0)
  • Chiefs: Denver has company.  They got pushed by Tennessee, nearly blowing an early 14-0 lead.  But a Jamaal Charles touchdown in the 4th, apart of a 108-yard rushing performance, put them up for good. (5-0)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor made it known Sunday Night that this is his team.  Two touchdown passes in the 1st quarter put San Diego in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.  The Raiders showed more faith in Pryor Monday, when they released off-season acquisition Matt Flynn. Their defense forced 4 turnovers, including one from veteran Free Safety Charles Woodson, who tied an NFL record with his 13th defensive touchdown. (2-3)
  • Chargers: The dilemma that is Phillip Rivers continues.  400 yards passing, but threw 3 interceptions.  This team was 2-0, and now find themselves at the bottom of the division. (2-3)

So that’s a wrap on week 5.  Week 6 kicks off with two desperate teams on Thursday Night Football.  The win-less New York Giants head to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.