Re-Watch Review: Week 5

What an exciting week! It felt like all the games came down to the wire (well except if you’re a Lions or Saints fan). Also we saw all the unbeaten teams… well that would be spoiling it I suppose, let’s take a look.

Indianapolis Colts 27 – Houston Texans 20

  • Matt Hasselbeck: Next time you’re feeling a little under the weather, imagine having to face someone like JJ Watt as part of your recovery, then be thankful you didn’t have the same week as Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck had been losing fluids at a ridiculous rate, forcing him to be on an IV for most of the week leading up to the Thursday night match-up against Houston. In general for the Colts it felt like the plot of a Clint Eastwood film, with the older players all having starring roles in this game. Gore and Johnson finally showed up in this one, combining for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, with the offence led by the 40 year old Hasselbeck. With the younger players finding their feet, it was good to see the veteran’s take over to keep the Colts relevant.
  • Ryan Mallett: There are players that are not well liked in the NFL. In the case of someone like Greg Hardy it’s fairly obvious why people don’t like him. Then you’ve got the Jay Cutlers of the world who just come across as a little prickly. This is probably where I’d put Ryan Mallett. Mallett was less than pleased after Hoyer was subbed in after being benched by from a big hit by Sio Moore. Brian Hoyer seemed to be playing with a different offence, putting the offence on his back and coming pretty close to stealing a win. Hopkins finished the game with 169 yards in the passing game and Jaelen Strong made an exceptional play in a sea of Colts players to pull in a touchdown pass. The team seemed to want to play for Hoyer. All the while Ryan Mallett was sulking all over the side-lines, slamming his helmet, pacing about and offending lip readers with some colourful language. What this told me is that after both Texans QB’s both on and off the field, I would be very surprised if we see a change back to Mallett again, a QB with apparent red flags relating to maturity, which seemed to have made themselves pretty obvious this season. Mallett is living proof that a QB needs more than a ‘big arm’.
  • Arian Foster: Just a quick note on Houston’s number 1 weapon. He’s recovering and he’s definitely getting better, despite not being able to move the ball in the run game. It feels however that sometimes they just want to put him in situations that he’ll get injured. They might need to ease off Arian if they’re to get any wins this season.

Seattle Seahawks 24- Cincinnati Bengals 27

  • Thomas Rawls: In 5 games the Bengals have only allowed 543 yards on the ground. Rawls, on his own picked up 169 of these. Rawls averaged 7.3 yards against a Bengals defence that, whilst hasn’t been amazing against the run, had been averaging 4.2 yards per attempt. Cincy hadn’t allowed a single rushing touchdown, either, which Rawls changed yesterday too. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that he has become an important part of the offence and has surely made the Seahawks question just whether they need Lynch. Rawls could be the solution to one of the Seahawks bigger problems.
  • Andy Dalton: He’s not playing perfectly. I mean the attempted pass that resulted in an interception from Earl Thomas, could probably be described as text book Dalton. But there is something different about him. Dalton didn’t let this get to him. He just fastened his chin straps and got on with it. There were further mistakes along the way and going into the 4th quarter, the team were 17 points down, regardless, Dalton led the team down field 3 times, to tie the game and send it to over time. Dalton’s not having his ridiculous, 5 touchdown games, but he’s also not having his 5 interception games. Dalton has been consistently excellent, although having an excellent offensive line and an endless list of weapons is helping.
  • A ‘Different’ Bengals: This team is rolling. There is a confidence with this franchise that I’ve simply never seen on them before. Everyone is doing their job very well. This team knows they can hang with the best. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s seeing players like Carlos Dunlap dancing before big plays, geeing up the crowd, before getting to one of the league’s most elusive QB’s for a sack, or the disappointment in the team when they narrowly missed blocking a punt. Most significantly it’s that I always felt like this team could come back, despite being down 17 points against a team that’s finally found some form. This should never have happened. The Bengals had zero timeouts when the kicking unit came on and they managed to get the special teams out there in time to kick the field goal. This team has earned the right to be considered a serious contender.

 

Washington 19 – Atlanta Falcons 25

  • Kirk Cousins: Cousins deserves some credit for keeping this game close. Unfortunately his decent performance in this game will be marred by the game ending pick 6. I said Washington can only win games if they can effectively run the ball, which as it turned out, might have been a bit unfair on their current starting QB. Cousins only racked up 6.8 yards per attempt, but did enough to keep them in the game when the running backs could only muster a total of 51 yards. Cousins was the driving force on Washington’s offence, behind a line that did a great job slowing down a dominant Falcons defensive front. Cousins could be just good enough for Washington to get a few wins this year.
  • Matt Ryan: Hmmm. I’m a huge Matt Ryan fan. But in this game he made some pretty big mistakes and seemed to suffer from some questionable decision making. For once though, it’s not the end of the world for the Falcons if he doesn’t play well. They’ll simply ride their defence and run game, who like always have been exceptional. Even when their franchise QB has an off day, they still manage to move the ball.
  • Washington Defence: I’ve been more than complimentary on the Atlanta defence in recent weeks, so it’s time to give the opposition a little love. Washington made some shrewd moves in the off-season, to turn this into a decent unit who can keep the score low for their slightly below par offence. The secondary looked outstanding, with Breeland, Goldson and Blackmon standing out. This team has taken bit pieces and turned them into dominant defensive pieces. Washington is not a team that will rollover this season.

Cleveland Browns 33 – Baltimore Ravens 30

  • Josh McCown: I am on record as Manziel believer (listen to the pod), but I have no doubt that currently keep McCown in as starter is the right move for the Browns. The Browns have issues on defence. They can’t seem to stop anyone. This was supposed to be their strong suit. Luckily, the Browns offence has been rolling. McCown didn’t just lead them from behind in this one, he led them from behind and won a straight up shoot out with Joe Flacco, ending the game with 457 yards on 51 attempts and 2 touchdowns. There was undoubtedly some strange moments (see Gary Barnidge, leg catch), but McCown made some excellent decisions and kept them in a game they had no business being competitive in.
  • Brandon Williams: I can’t tell you what’s happened to the Ravens team that I had so much faith in. They seem to be allergic to winning. What I can say is that Brandon Williams is not remotely responsible and is playing about as well as any nose tackle in the league. Williams is getting an insane amount of pressure up the middle and is, on a weekly basis making some of the league’s best secondaries look ordinary. Williams will almost certainly be pro-bowl bound this year, it’s just a shame the rest of the team isn’t taking advantage of the immense pressure he’s getting.
  • What’s Gone Wrong? When I look at this Ravens team, I can’t figure out where they’re messing up. On offence, they are somehow still moving the ball despite a lack of weapons. They’re 18th in terms of yards gained through the air, which isn’t stellar but it’s not bad. On defence they’re ranked 24th, which once again isn’t great, whilst not being dreadful. What I tend to see is a team that simply can’t finish, they simply can’t slow down an offence in the dying moments of the game. At the same time, they can’t run up the score, so they always end up in close games they simply can’t finish. That’s my theory anyway…

New Orleans Saints 17 – Philadelphia Eagles 39

  • Time of Possession: It became fairly evident over the last 2 years that, whilst the fast-paced Chip Kelly offence worked fantastically in creating offensive mismatches, it led to an exhausted defence. The key to solving this issue is the run game, which has been nothing short of stagnant to in 3 of the 1st 4 games so far this season and has led to Philadelphia throwing the ball deep to simply stay relevant in some games. Kelly has stated in the past that he’s not a “time of possession guy”, but more of a “snap count” guy, which leads me to question whether he is the genius that we initially had him pegged at being. In this game they won it because of the time of possession, keeping their defence fighting fit, thanks in large part to decent games from both Ryan Matthews and DeMarco Murray. In the 4th quarter they effectively ran the ball, keeping the ball for 1o minutes, keeping the defence off the field, whilst making it harder and harder for the Saints to score. This game was won, because the Eagles could run their game plan, something they won’t be able to do against a better defence.
  • Saints Defence: With a lack of standout deep threats, this defence needs to keep the score down if the Saints are to be successful. Currently they are 29th in points allowed and 32nd in yards. They are ranked 30th in yards allowed from rushing, which played into a game plan that should have the Saints envious of what they were able to achieve. The Saints simply couldn’t stop the run and as a result were forced to rely on Drew Brees to make plays to a wide receiver group that has Willie Snead as a number 2 option. Nothing about this team is working and it will eventually lead to the firing of either Sean Payton, Rob Ryan or more likely, the both of them. This team might be the worst team in a poor NFC South.
  • The Future of The Saints: With very little regard for the future of the franchise, the Saints mortgaged the coming seasons in order to have success in the short term. This means that there isn’t a good solution for what’s happening to the Saints that doesn’t involve a total re-working of the team. Major cap space issues, will mean that they will need to sell some big names before they can move on, basically don’t expect this team to get good again within a season.

Chicago Bears 18 – Kansas City Chiefs 17

  • A Confident Bears Fan: This team is eeking out performances despite some serious fundamental flaws. The Bears have a woeful secondary, complete with a makeshift depth chart of misfit players that couldn’t find a home anywhere else. The Bears have issues on offence with injuries to Will Montgomery, Jermon Bushrod, Alshon Jeffrey and Eddie Royal. But they’ve stepped up in other areas. Cutler gives up big plays, but there is less of a boom or bust feel to the offence. They just seem to be able to move the ball down field, despite injuries to a decent chunk of their weapons. On defence it feels like the front 7 might just be beginning to get it. Pernell McPhee has started to look like one of the free agent signings of the off season, stepping up as a leader on a unit that desperately needed one. It’s going to be a long season for the Bears, but the future does at least appear to be a little brighter.
  • Jamaal Charles: You’ve got to feel for a player, who’s patchy injury history is pretty much the only thing that’s holding him back from being consistently a top 3 running back. As I write this it appears he’ll miss the season with a torn ACL. So where does that leave this offence? Going into the season it was considered that they had their trio in Kelce, Charles and Maclin. Charles is injured, Maclin can’t get in the end zone and Kelce can’t seem to hold onto the ball. Charles is a huge loss to an offence that is simply failing to move the ball right now.
  • It’s Not the Opponents: Whichever way you look at it, the Chiefs biggest issue in this game is that they let the Bears hang around. The Bears are still one of the worst teams in the league, with in my opinion, the worst secondary in the league, yet they couldn’t run up the score on them. Obviously a lack of Jamaal Charles made it hard, but still they couldn’t beat a poor team. This is relevant for me because, I’ve made excuses for this team, saying they have had a difficult run of teams, which is partially true. They have faced some good teams, but that didn’t happen this week and the result was pretty much the same. It might be time to say that the Chiefs just don’t have a very good team, or at least say, they don’t have a very productive offence. It could be a long season for Kansas.

Jacksonville Jaguars 31 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38

  • Doug Martin: Martin easily had his best game of the season, which can be chalked up to a number of things that worked in his favour. A more cynical me, would suggest that Martin wouldn’t have had as good a game if the Jaguars leading tackler Paul Posluszny, hadn’t missed this game. But the truth is, Doug Martin managed to move the ball effectively, behind an improving offensive line. What we now need to see from Doug “don’t call me the muscle hamster” Martin, is some consistency. An improved Doug Martin could make Jameis Winston’s transition into the NFL much easier.
  • Both the Allens and their QB: The Jaguars will struggle to make the post-season again this year, which could be the final straw for Gus Bradley’s Jacksonville career. What could be a positive for a team that’s had so many negatives, is that the team may have a franchise QB, with a 1-2 punch at receiver. Both Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson have looked great this season, with the combined 188 yards and 3 touchdowns proving these 2 could make this a difficult offence to keep down. Bortles has definitely improved on last year and whilst the mistakes are still there, he seems to be able to proficiently move the ball. Tie this in with TJ Yeldon and Julius Thomas and we could be seeing a very potent offence in future seasons.
  • Lavonte David: Whilst it’s no longer a secret that David is one of the top 4-3 line-backers in the league, it seems to be going unnoticed that he has been struggling a little this season. That is until this game. David finished the game with 8 tackles and 1 sack. David will hopefully use this game as a springboard to finish the season in excellent form.

Buffalo Bills 14 – Tennessee Titans 13

  • Tyrod Taylor: More humble pie from me here. Tyrod Taylor was a player that I said would struggle if he had to put the team on his back. Well in this one he successfully put the team on his back and got them the win in a close game. Taylor threw 1 touchdown pass and ran in another, Taylor was the number 1 rusher for the Bills. I’ve always been a fan of Taylor’s (you’d have to go back to some of my pre-season reviews from a couple of years ago to prove it), but I don’t think I ever thought we’d see him as a starting QB. Now we’ve seen and he’s doing a pretty good job.
  • Penalties: There were significantly less for the Bills, they were pretty prominent when they did occur. The biggest one came from the starting kick off, where Bishop Sankey spilled the ball, with the Bills falling on it at the 1 yard line. Unfortunately the play was called back thanks to Marcus Easley being offside when on the kick-off. The Bills finished with 7 penalties for 62 yards, which is miles better than previous weeks, but still there were some costly mistakes that could have seen a more convincing win for the Bills.
  • Titans Offence: The Titans have done a pretty good job of scoring points, ranked 6th in the league, but somehow this isn’t converting to wins. The fact is they’ve lost every game since the season opener, which to Titans fans will be reminiscent of last year. Tennessee needs to find a way to get results.

St Louis Rams 10 – Green Bay Packers 24

  • Nick Foles: The general topic of conversation will be about Rodgers throwing 2 interceptions. What it should be about is a Green Bay team coughing the ball up 3 times and yet the Rams couldn’t do anything with it. I think there are 2 reasons for this, with Foles being the 1st. Foles has moved the ball reasonably well at times this season, but was atrocious in this one. Foles averaged 4.7 yards per attempt and threw 4 interceptions. Foles was simply unable to capitalize on chances given to them by a typically stingy Packers offence. This was a great opportunity for the Rams to notch up another amazing scalp that will keep the Rams awake at night.
  • Packers Defence: Quietly having a pretty amazing season. The front 7 seems to be getting ridiculous penetration, led by Mike Daniels, Mike Neal, Datone Jones and Clay Matthews who in my opinion, is having a career year. He seems to be everywhere. My concerns about this team were that the secondary couldn’t recover from the big losses in free agency. In typical Packers fashion though they simply replaced them with slightly better players that seemingly came from nowhere. I’m not even going to mention Rodgers here, it’s time to realize that this is a complete team and this is the best defence this team has had in a very long time.
  • Aaron Rodgers: Yup 3 turnovers. Nope still brilliant…

Arizona Cardinals 42 – Detroit Lions 17

  • Matt Stafford: The inevitable happened in this game. Stafford after 4 poor games was benched. Stafford managed to throw the ball to the Cardinals no less than 3 times however, before Dan Orlovsky came in, in the 2nd half. It has been a brutal season for Stafford, but it seems to go unnoticed that he didn’t exactly have a brilliant season last year and the defence managed to paper over a number of cracks that were caused by former 1st round pick. Stafford has been bad for a number of seasons, staring down Calvin Johnson, ignoring anyone else, whilst having woeful pocket presence. There is no doubt this has been exacerbated by a dreadful offensive line, but the problems with Stafford are real, despite the odd play that highlights his arm strength. It might be time for Detroit to look elsewhere.
  • Chris Johnson: On top of bringing in some amazing young players, they’ve managed to successfully resurrect the career of a number of players that were believed to be done. Chris Johnson is definitely one of those players. Johnson wasn’t wanted by anyone in the off season. He bounced around teams attending try-outs, but never really being picked up. With Ellington set to miss the start of the season, the Cardinals needed a fill in running back, which saw them take a chance on Johnson… which leads us here. Chris Johnson is having an unreal season, looking unstoppable and very much in the best form we’ve seen in a long time.
  • Are the Cards Contenders? In short yes. Yes they are. They have talent in every area. On defence they are every bit as good as last year despite losing Bowles and Antonio Cromartie. Up front they are able to get pressure with very little, meaning they can bring in defensive backs for elaborate blitzes and force mistakes. On offence, they can run the ball and throw the ball every bit as well as anyone in the league right now. This is what a healthy Cards team looks like and it’s terrifying to everyone not on that team.

Denver Broncos 16 – Oakland Raiders 10

  • Peyton Manning: I am a huge Manning fan. Whilst I understand there are better QBs, I don’t believe anyone has played it in such an intelligent manner. It’s this that makes the Manning that we’re seeing now, slightly sad. I’ve defended him in past weeks, believing that he’s been bad, but good enough to not screw it up. In this one he nearly screwed it up. Manning put the ball in the Raiders hands twice, in fact more specifically Charles Woodson’s hands. If the defence wasn’t as unbelievably good as it is. This score could have been very different. The broncos need to start thinking about who their next QB will be.
  • Derek Carr: Whilst this wasn’t his finest game, there were flashes of a very good QB. What Carr does excellently is put the ball in an area that only the receiver can make a play, whilst seemingly hitting them in stride. Carr in the coming weeks could make a number of receivers look very good.
  • Broncos Defence: This is unquestionably not a fluke. This unit makes game saving plays in every single game. The Broncos offence stalled in every area. The run game couldn’t get going and Peyton simply couldn’t move the ball. So leave it to undrafted free agent, Chris Harris to make the big play and make sure he stays in all the gents’ top 5. If this unit can keep playing this well, it should be an easy berth to the playoffs.

 

New England Patriots 30 – Dallas Cowboys 6

  • Greg Hardy: It would be hard to find a more hated figure in the league than Greg Hardy, who after is suspension on the back of a domestic abuse charge, decided to talk about how attractive Tom Brady’s wife is. Hardy however played a great game, seemingly having the Patriots offensive lines number, getting to Brady several times. Truthfully though, how can we hate the likes of Cutler and Mallett when there is someone as deplorable as Hardy in the league.
  • Patriots Defensive Front: This is a unit we need to start talking about. They are very good. The Cowboys offensive line is widely considered one of the best in the league. Yet the likes of Sheard, Brown, Collins, Hightower and Jones had their number all night. As great as Tom Brady has been, this is not a one player team.
  • Dion Lewis: There was a programme about 20 years ago called scrapheap challenge. If we ever saw the Patriots on it they’d have repeated won it. This team is so good at seeing talent that other teams can’t. Dion Lewis is a perfect example of this, coming in from free agency wilderness and being a genuinely effective running back that works well both behind and in front of an offensive line. Lewis is one of many players taking a little pressure off Tom Brady, meaning offensive plays don’t always have to come through him, which should help keep him fresh.

San Francisco 49ers 27 – New York Giants 30

  • Colin Kaepernick: There were mistakes, but this was much better from the under fire QB. After a frustrating game last week Boldin finally got the love he deserves, nearly picking up 100 yards on 8 passes. Kap’s offensive line was integral in keeping him upright and meant that he didn’t have to take off and run so much. A much better performance from the Niners QB.
  • Niners defence: An unfortunate performance from a defence that actually managed to put Manning under pressure. The Niners held down the run, forcing Eli to make over 50 throws, which on any other day would mean a ton of turn overs, unfortunately for them, Eli managed evade this defence and make a number of big plays, mostly to…
  • Odell Beckham Jr: Beckham went off with an injury in this one, but still managed to make it onto the field as a decoy. Beckham finished the day, with a pretty standard (for him),121 yards and a touchdown. What more can I say that hasn’t been said a million times!

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 – San Diego Chargers 20

  • Le’Veon Bell: I’ve thrown around a few names for the number 1 spot since we did our top 10 running backs, but it always comes back to this guy. Bell was able to provide a valid option for most of the game, as Mike Vick couldn’t get the offence moving. Bell’s talent was called upon in the dying moments of the game, with a direct snap, which he then took, eventually into the end zone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is no player in the league today he is similar to. Instead I compare him to Walter Payton, running with patience, strength and confidence. Add to this, his pass protection, which was pretty darn good, even if the resulting QB play doesn’t show it. Bell is the perfect 3 down running back and is set for a huge career.
  • Philip Rivers: The Chargers losing record doesn’t relate at all to how well Philip Rivers has been playing. Rivers cultivated 365 yards through the air and 24 1st downs, 10 more than the Steelers managed. The Chargers managed a 100% red zone efficiency, with Rivers hitting Gates for 2 touchdowns, an arrow in his quiver that he has been desperately missing. The problem is that the defence isn’t playing at the same level and is struggling to close out games. This team always feel like they’re desperately close, but they just can’t seem to become the challenger that Rivers deserves and as a result I think it probably has a negative effect on what people think of him.
  • “It Felt Like a Road Game”: This is what Rivers said after the game, saying they were using silent count. Chargers fans, if you want your team to stay in San Diego, you’d better get your butts to that stadium. In this one Pittsburgh fans took over with a sea of terrible towel wielding fans, swarming the Qualcomm Stadium. Right now I can see few compelling arguments for keeping the Chargers in San Diego.

Week 5 all wrapped up folks, let me know what you think on twitter (@gridirongents).

Thanks for reading