Monday, November 28

One thing we learned about each NFL team in Week 6: Why Eagles are NFC team to beat, Giants top coaching staff

The NFL is still as unpredictable as ever through six weeks of the season. There have been 24 games decided by a game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime, the second-most in the first six weeks of a season of all-time (only last season — 25 games — had more). 

Three teams have separated themselves from the pack. The Philadelphia Eagles remain the class of the NFC as the lone unbeaten team while the Buffalo Bills are the frontrunner in the AFC after beating the Kansas City Chiefs, who remain a major threat.

If there’s a reason why 12 teams have three wins so far, look no further than all the comebacks happening around the league. There have been 19 games in which a team overcame a deficit of at least 10 points to win or tie this season, tied for the most such games in NFL history through six weeks (1987, 2011, 2020). 

What did we learn with each NFL team after Week 6? Teams are starting to identify who they really are as a third of the season is complete. 

The offense is too inconsistent to be good: If the Cardinals can’t be productive against a defense that was ranked 31st in points allowed and 32nd in yards allowed, when are they ever going to turn a corner? DeAndre Hopkins coming back will help, but Arizona won’t have Marquise Brown with him — probably for the majority of the year. 

Kyler Murray is too inconsistent and Kliff Kingsbury seems out of his depth in getting his team prepared for games. Nine points and 315 yards against the Seahawks is unacceptable. Murray is 32nd out of 33 qualified quarterbacks in yards per attempt (5.8), also unacceptable for a player of his caliber. 

The Cardinals are also 29th in yards per play (4.8). The offense is what it is — inconsistent. 

Time to take this team seriously: The Falcons were one of the teams that appeared to be playing for the No. 1 draft pick when the season started, having one of the worst rosters in the NFL and a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who didn’t appear to be the long-term answer,

All Atlanta has done is go 3-3 in its first six games, and the argument could be made the Falcons should be 5-1. The Falcons have won three of their last four games behind a consistent rushing attack and a defense that has 10 takeaways through six games (fifth-most in NFL). No matter who Atlanta trots out there at running back, it produces yards (175 yards per game over the past four games). 

In a mediocre NFL, the Falcons have to be considered contenders to make the playoffs in the NFC. They’re also tied for first in a mediocre NFC South. 

Another game, another fourth quarter debacle: Perhaps fourth quarter meltdowns are who the Ravens are at this point. This team should be the best in the AFC North and have a commanding lead in the division, but it keeps finding ways to let the Bengals, Browns, and Steelers hang around. 

The Ravens took a 20-10 lead over the Giants in the fourth quarter, another double-digit lead the team just simply blew. The Giants used a seven-minute drive to cut the deficit to three and the offense couldn’t get points to extend the lead. Lamar Jackson’s interception was the turning point toward the Giants capping off a comeback against a defense that couldn’t get off the field. 

Jackson has just one touchdown to four interceptions in the fourth quarter. The Ravens defense has blown three double-digit leads. This is why Baltimore is 3-3. 

Josh Allen made the AFC go through Buffalo: There shouldn’t be a surprise team getting the No. 1 seed in the AFC this year. This conference belongs to Buffalo after Allen lifted the Bills to a challenging road win in Kansas City Sunday. 

Allen went 27 of 40 for 329 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions (117.6 rating), leading the Bills to the winning score with 1:04 left (touchdown pass to Dawson Knox) to beat Patrick Mahomes in Arrowhead Stadium for the second time in consecutive years. 

The Bills are more than just winning big. They know how to come back and win one-score games. Now the AFC goes through them thanks to Allen playing at a MVP level. The Bills are the best team in the AFC. 

The offense is beyond saving: Another uninspired effort on the offensive side of the football by Carolina, as the Panthers scored just three points and amassed 203 total yards in a loss to the Rams. Christian McCaffrey was responsible for 158 of those yards as the Panthers had a stretch where they ran 20 plays for a total of 38 yards through two-and-a-half quarters. 

Matt Rhule is gone, so this falls on Ben McAdoo. This Carolina offense is a lost cause. 

The offense is pitiful in the red zone: Chicago already had its fair share of issues in the red zone, and they were a significant problem in Thursday’s loss to the Commanders. The Bears had three drives in which they ended up inside the Commanders’ 10-yard line — and came away with no points. 

Justin Fields had an interception, missed a wide-open Ryan Griffin for an easy touchdown, and Darnell Mooney missed the end zone by an inch that would have clinched a victory. The Bears are just 7 of 15 on red zone attempts (45.7%), ranked 28th in the NFL.

Under center is in the history books: The Bengals had to do something to spark their offense, so lining up in the shotgun formation was worth a shot. Cincinnati ran just two plays under center in Sunday’s win over New Orleans, and the Bengals amassed 348 yards, averaged 6.4 yards per play, and scored 30 points. 

The run game was the biggest improvement, as Cincinnati averaged 5.4 yards per carry in shotgun formation. The Bengals only ran the ball 14 times, but the run game was efficient. Joe Burrow also threw for 300 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions (126.0 rating).

Buckle up AFC North. The Bengals may have found something to ignite their offense. 

Free-fall could be coming: Jacoby Brissett had his worst performance of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, going 21 of 45 for 266 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (54.6 rating). He also had a fourth-quarter fumble that led to a Patriots touchdown. 

Brissett is what he is — a stop gap until Deshaun Watson returns from suspension. He’s completing just 60.2% of his passes and has a 78.7 rating, which isn’t keeping Cleveland afloat (the defense is also playing a major role in that).

The Browns face the Ravens on the road and the Bengals at home before the bye week. Then they travel to Miami and Buffalo on the road before a home date with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Cleveland could find itself out of the playoff picture by the time Watson comes back. 

Micah Parsons a non-factor against a good offensive line: Parsons is still a top-three defensive player in football, yet the Eagles made him look normal Sunday night. When Lane Johnson was in the game, Parson had no pressures and no quarterback hits against arguably the best offensive line in football. 

Parsons played the second half against an Eagles offensive line without Johnson, yet still could only muster three pressures and no quarterback hits. The Cowboys needed Parsons to be his dominant self against a good offensive line and he was unable to complete the task. 

Parsons will get his chance against the Eagles again, but he failed the first exam. This wasn’t the Rams, Commanders, or Bengals offensive lines he was going up against. 

Russell Wilson’s contract gets worse by the week: Wilson seemed to have figured things out in the first half Monday night, throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass and leading the inept Broncos offense to 10 points. The outstanding defense finally seemed to finally get help from the other side of the ball. 

Wilson went 12 of 17 for 173 yards and a touchdown in the first half. In the second half and overtime, Wilson went 3 for 11 for 15 yards with no touchdowns and a 39.6 passer rating. The Broncos are giving Wilson $124 million guaranteed and can’t get out of the deal until 2025 at the earliest. 

Wilson is completing 58.6% of his passes for 1,442 yards with five touchdowns to three interceptions (83.3 rating). The Broncos have scored more than 20 points just once, That’s just not good enough.  

Simpler offense isn’t going to fix Packers: Green Bay looks lost on offense, and Aaron Rodgers wants Matt LaFleur to tone down the playbook. That’s not the problem with the Packers, who had just one touchdown on 13 possessions Sunday. 

The Packers had a fumble, a field goal blocked, two turnovers on downs, and four punts in those possessions too. Rodgers was hit nine times and his running game netted only 60 yards and 3.0 yards per carry. Add the lack of wide receivers for Rodgers to trust and the Packers are a discombobulated mess. 

A simpler offense won’t lead to more points. Everyone on the offense needs to clean up their game, including Rodgers. 

Offensive line change paid huge dividends: Credit to Frank Reich for changing up the offensive line prior to Sunday’s game, moving Braden Smith back to right tackle and Matt Pryor inside to right guard. Dennis Kelly moved to left tackle and Bernhard Raimann started.

The end result? The Colts didn’t allow a single sack for the first time all year, but did allow 13 pressures. That’s still significantly better than the two sacks allowed in Week 2 against the Jaguars (even though Jacksonville had more pressures this time around). 

Matt Ryan had his best game of the season for a reason — and didn’t fumble. It helped that the offensive line game him time to make plays. 

Lack of sacks is a significant defensive weakness: The Jaguars just couldn’t get pressure on Matt Ryan Sunday, as the Colts quarterback wasn’t sacked for the first time all year. Sure, Jacksonville had 13 pressures and six quarterback hits, but Ryan was kept upright and wasn’t given an opportunity to fumble the ball. 

The Jaguars have just 10 sacks on the year (27th in NFL) despite having 78 pressures (tied for 10th in NFL). They have to improve finishing off the quarterback.

Jacksonville’s pass defense is being exposed. The pass rush getting to the quarterback will help. 

Andrew Wylie may be a weak link on the offensive line: The Bills got Von Miller to get over the hump against Kansas City, and Wylie looked to be facing a major mismatch against the future Hall of Famer. Wylie gave up seven pressures in Sunday’s loss to the Bills, along with three sacks and four quarterback hits. 

Buffalo was able to get to Patrick Mahomes on numerous occasions, disrupting the flow of the Chiefs offense. Come playoff time, Wylie could be exposed against excellent pass rushers. Wylie is the best option at the moment, unless the Chiefs go out and trade for a right tackle. Geron Christian or Prince Tega Wanogho aren’t better players and Lucas Niang is still on the PUP list. 

This is what Kansas City has at the moment. Wylie is the play. 

Joe Lombardi makes life difficult for Justin Herbert: Hard to understand what the Chargers offensive coordinator does to actually help Herbert. Sure, there’s no Keenan Allen, but the Chargers have no speed on the outside to help Herbert connect on deep passes (although Lombardi thinks they do). 

The run game was putrid (averaged 3.0 yards per carry) in Monday’s win and the pass game hit a new low with 3.8 yards per attempt. Reminder, Justin Herbert is the Chargers’ quarterback. 

The Chargers didn’t get a first down in overtime, yet they won because of a Broncos miscue. The play-calling is questionable and Lombardi is trying to put square pegs into round holes. The Chargers are 4-2, but this offense needs a lot of work after all the injuries they’ve encountered. 

Decimated offensive line is dooming Super Bowl repeat: Left tackle Joe Noteboom is lost for the season with a torn Achilles, the latest injury to an already thin offensive line. Tremayne Anchrum Jr. was already lost for the year, while Brian Allen, Coleman Shelton, and David Edwards have spent time on injured reserve. 

To keep count, that’s the starting left tackle, starting guard, starting center, backup left guard, and backup center spending time on the injured list through six games. The Rams have allowed the second-most sacks (22) and have the eighth-highest pressure rate allowed (33.5%) for a reason. 

These injuries seem impossible to overcome. Even if Noteboom was struggling this year, he’s better than whatever the Rams have behind him. 

Offensive line depth is a serious issue: The Dolphins don’t have Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson at the moment, going with Greg Little and Brandon Shell as replacements. Little was abysmal against the Vikings, getting beaten 10 times and allowing three sacks and nine pressures in 55 pass-blocking snaps. 

Shell wasn’t any better, getting beaten six times and allowing three hurries. Left guard Liam Eichenberg was also bad, allowing three pressures and allowing a quarterback hit. 

The Dolphins need to get Armstead and/or Jackson back, but perhaps a change at left guard is coming too? Robert Jones could be in line for that job. 

Ryan Wright was a huge asset: Yes, the punter played a major role in Minnesota’s win over Miami Sunday. Wright had an excellent game, punting 10 times for 441 yards and placing six inside the 20-yard line — shifting field position throughout the day. The Dolphins could only get two net return yards thanks to Wright’s performance. 

Wright is tied for second in the NFL in punts that ended up becoming a fair catch (10) and tied for the most punts inside the 20-yard line (15). His 43.1 net average on punts is ninth in the NFL and the opponents’ return yards of 53 are fifth fewest in the league. 

The Vikings have a weapon in Wright, who went undrafted out of Tulane. He may already be one of the top five punters in the league. 

Bailey Zappe needs to start another week: Mac Jones may be healthy enough to play, but there’s no denying the Patriots are a better offense with Zappe at quarterback. The Patriots put up a season-high 38 points in Sunday’s win over the Browns, as Zappe finished 24 of 34 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (118.4 rating). 

All of a sudden New England has a pulse on offense, with Zappe completing 72.9% of his passes for 596 yards with four touchdowns and an interception as New England is 2-0 in his starts. The Patriots even took the Packers to overtime when Zappe had to relieve an injured Brian Hoyer. 

Zappe deserves another start, especially if he has Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor back. The Patriots offense could be even better now that Zappe got the tight ends involved in the offense (which New England has been trying to do since Week 1). 

Time to run the ball more: The Saints didn’t have Michael Thomas, Jarvis landry, and Chris Olave — making the pass game essentially useless against the Bengals. No problem for New Orleans, as the Saints rushed for 228 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per carry against a Bengals defense that allowed 99.6 rushing yards per game and just one rushing touchdown on the year. 

A healthy Alvin Kamara ran for 99 yards while Mark Ingram added 46 on the ground and Taysom Hill had 39. Rookie Rashid Shaheed also had a 44-yard touchdown run, showcasing the Saints are four deep at running the football. 

Whether the quarterback is Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton, the Saints need to commit to the ground game. Winston or Dalton aren’t good enough to win throwing 40-plus times anyway. 

The Giants may have the best coaching staff in the NFC. Seriously: This team has no business being 5-1 with Daniel Jones at quarterback, no wide receivers to throw to, and an offensive line that’s still subpar. They had 238 total yards and allowed 3.8 yards per play, yet New York still won with another come-from-behind victory. 

Wink Martindale has this defense as a top-10 unit in pass coverage and seventh in scoring defense. The Giants are disciplined on offense thanks to Brian Daboll and the creative play calling by Mike Kafka. The composure stays the same even when they’re getting outplayed. 

New York isn’t going anywhere. In a mediocre NFL, the Giants may be good. 

Special teams are indeed ‘special’ in New York: The Jets might have one of the best special teams units in the game, putting that on display in Sunday’s upset win over the Packers. New York was one of four teams since 2000 to block a field goal and block a punt for a touchdown in the same game — leading to a 10-point swing in a 17-point victory.

The Jets are a top-three special teams unit by Football Outsiders DVOA metric and the unit has played a key role in the 4-2 start. Their 6.9 “hidden points” are tops in the NFL. 

The Jets are solid in all three phases of the game, but special teams may be their biggest strength. 

Jalen Hurts leads gut-check drive that makes Eagles team to beat: The Eagles have gotten off to fast starts this season, but  on Sunday night Hurts led Philadelphia on a crucial scoring drive in the fourth quarter for the second straight week to preserve a victory. Philadelphia had a 13-play, 77-yard touchdown drive in a 20-17 game that broke the back of Dallas’ defense.

Hurts went 3 of 3 for 30 yards on the drive, which took 7:37 off the clock. He converted two third downs with his legs and threw a touchdown on the drive, putting Philadelphia up two scores with 7:02 left. The was the second backbreaking drive the Eagles provided over the past two weeks. 

The Eagles can beat teams in a variety of ways and win close games. That’s dangerous. 

Is there a quarterback controversy in Pittsburgh: Mitchell Trubisky was benched at halftime two weeks ago, turning the page (seemingly) to the Kenny Pickett era. Once Pickett left with a concussion on Sunday, Trubisky showed he wasn’t going down without a fight. 

Trubisky completed 9 of 12 passes for 144 yards with a touchdown (142.4 rating) in relief of Pickett, leading Pittsburgh to a fourth quarter touchdown and impressive throws on third down to seal the victory over Tampa Bay. 

Pickett started to find his stride against the Buccaneers, but Trubisky appeared to outplay him. Do the Steelers go back to the rookie when he clears protocol? Pittsburgh isn’t out of the AFC North race yet. 

Jimmy Garoppolo has to be better at completing passes downfield: The 49ers have injuries across the board on defense, but Garoppolo has his top playmaking pass catchers in Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. There’s no reason to go 4 of 11 for 72 yards with two interceptions on passes that traveled 10-plus air yards — especially against an Atlanta defense that’s 31st in yards allowed and 24th in pass touchdowns allowed. 

Sunday was a game where the 49ers should’ve been able to air it out against the Falcons — and they just couldn’t do it. San Francisco should be a contender in the NFC, but the 49ers are having trouble escaping the middle. 

Two young stars in the secondary provide significant hope: The performances of Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant as rookies in a  rebuilding secondary are significantly speeding up the competitive timeline in Seattle. 

Woolen has allowed just a 15.3 passer rating in coverage and has four interceptions with zero touchdowns allowed on the year. Bryant has four forced fumbles in his first six games, which leads the NFL. Woolen was a 2022 fifth-round pick and Bryant was a fourth-round pick in the same draft.

The Seahawks defense may not be good, but don’t fault these two rookies in the secondary. They are becoming centerpieces toward the next contender in Seattle. 

The defense may not be as good as we thought: Mitchell Trubisky has struggled to complete passes against everyone this season, so naturally the Buccaneers allow him to complete 9 of 12 for 144 yards with a touchdown (142.4 rating) in relief of Kenny Pickett.

This defense is supposed to be dominant and looked it at times Sunday. The Steelers started 3 of 11 on third down then went 4 of 4 to close the game. The Buccaneers allowed a backup quarterback to convert third-and-13, third-and-15 (twice), and third-and-11 to close the game. 

Again, this unit is coached by Todd Bowles. They’re fifth in points per game allowed and seventh in yards per game allowed, but something is off in Tampa Bay. The third-down situational defense (42.7%, 22nd in NFL) and red zone defense (75%, 29th in NFL) have to be better. 

Offense will get chance to see if Taylor Heinicke makes it better: Carson Wentz has been up-and-down through his first six games with Washington, but now the starting quarterback will be out for at least a month with a finger injury. 

The Commanders have averaged just 17 points per game (29th in NFL) and 320.3 (yards per game (24th in NFL) with Wentz at quarterback, not exactly the result Washington has hoped for. 

The offense can’t get any worse with Heinicke, but the Commanders will learn if the unit has significant problems with the offensive line — or if Wentz made those problems worse. 





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