Any glimmer of hope for the New York Giants fizzled away when Odell Beckham was carted off the field after suffering a fractured ankle. He will be out for the season. Throw in the fact New York also lost Brandon Marshall (ankle) and fourth wide receiver Dwayne Harris (broken foot) to season-ending injuries, it’s safe to assume the team’s struggles will continue. The Cleveland Browns have benched DeShone Kizer. Its defense may welcome the move to Kevin Hogan. They are fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per game.
The San Francisco 49ers are the best team 0-5 team. Back-to-back overtime losses will stamp that. In fact, the 49ers have lost by three or fewer points four times. Quarterback play can be to blame. Although Brian Hoyer was strong in Sunday’s loss to the Colts, 49ers fans are counting down the days to the 2018 NFL Draft or free agency (see Kirk Cousins). The Los Angeles Chargers are off the snide with a win over the woeful Giants. We’ll see if they can continue the momentum. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have a new offensive line coach. And their fans wish they had a new quarterback.
The Chicago Bears came away with the same result — close loss, gallant effort — with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. But moving on to the rookie will reap long-term rewards. The Arizona Cardinals‘ trip to Philadelphia was a disaster for them. The lack of a running game has added pressure to quarterback Carson Palmer, an aging Carson Palmer. The front office’s solution? Trade for an aging Adrian Peterson. The Indianapolis Colts got a much-needed win over the 49ers in overtime. Every win will buy Andrew Luck more time to heal his shoulder.
The Tennessee Titans with a healthy Marcus Mariota are one of the top five teams in the AFC. With an ailing Mariota or no Mariota at all, they’re exactly where they are now in this week’s rankings. For the Oakland Raiders go up read the Titans except and insert “Derek Carr” wherever you see “Marcus Mariota.”
Cincinnati Bengals are catching steam. After starting the season 0-3, they have back-to-back wins in impressive fashion. They handed Cleveland its worst loss to date and then stopped the bandwagon of the Buffalo Bills. They also have the second-ranked defense in the league — lookout AFC North. Speaking of AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens just needed a Derek Carr-less Raiders team to help them get over their London shellacking against Jacksonville. Took them two weeks.
The New Orleans Saints are coming off a bye with momentum with two wins in a row. The defense is much improved as they are 12th in points allowed per game. They’ll be challenged in Week 6 by the Lions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers learned the value of a good kicker. They also are yearning the return of their two stud linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander.
How about them New York Jets? Even if they don’t win another game, they’ve won three more than some analysts expected they would.
There is a changing of the guard with the Houston Texans. J.J. Watt is on injured reserve for the second straight season. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson has been a delightful add. The rookie quarterback threw for five touchdowns and zero interceptions against the best team in the NFL right now. That’s impressive even if it came in a loss. The Minnesota Vikings should not rush either of their injured quarterbacks Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater for the long-term outlook of the organization. Case Keenum has been very serviceable. He may not win you games, but he won’t lose them either.
The Dallas Cowboys offense looked the part of last year Sunday against Green bay. Throw away the pick-six by Dak Prescott, the offense was a total package of execution. However, that defense looked much like last year too. In fact, they have looked like it all but one game this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ run may be over before it ever got started. The subplots going on with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have hampered their season. For Mike Tomlin’s case, one can only hope the distractions are nipped.
The Los Angeles Rams are trending up. However, they still must figure out the big brother Seahawks before they can move forward. They had their chances to win, but dropped the ball. They will have to turn the close losses into wins to step to the next level.
The Seattle Seahawks have not looked good all year. However, they are 3-2 and in first place of the NFC West. They have all the talent to get on a roll and take a hold of their season. The Buffalo Bills dropped a golden opportunity to keep their momentum by losing to the Bengals. Now they must figure out how to move the football on offense without its top receiver, tight end Charles Clay, who will be out after surgery on his meniscus.
Not sure any team has faced a more difficult schedule to start than the Detroit Lions. Yet, they are a botched call and one tough pass away from being undefeated. The Jacksonville Jaguars are making me a believer. Well, a believer in their defense. They enter Week 6 allowing the third-fewest passing yards per game in the league. Jacksonville has built a Super Bowl caliber defense. Now if it can fix its offensive woes this team could be the most dangerous in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles are developing into a good team. Carson Wentz progression looks great thus far, as he has 10 touchdowns against three interceptions through five games. Can he keep it up and can the Eagles avoid another late-season slide?
The Washington Redskins were primed to move into the top-5, but the rib injury to cornerback Josh Norman sits them in the same spot they were in last week. Norman is their best player and without him cutting off one side of the field, could complicate things on the offense. Only thing missing from the Green Bay Packers‘ epic win over the Cowboys was Aaron Rodgers planting a Packers flag on the star at AT&T Stadium ala Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. By the way, seems like Green Bay may have found their long-term answer at running back in Aaron Jones.
The New England Patriots did not look pretty against Tampa, but got the win. While the Patriots stay in the top 5, they look the most vulnerable of the top 10 teams. Tom Brady can attest to that as he is nursing a AC joint sprain in his left shoulder because of the struggles on the offensive line. The Atlanta Falcons enjoyed an early bye. It was much needed as Matt Ryan has been slight through four games, and their wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu have been nursing injuries. There is no Super Bowl runner-up hangover, but they appear to be going through the motions thus far.
The Carolina Panthers got the most significant boost in this week rankings. It’s hard to argue their resume. They have wins over Buffalo, New England, and Detroit — three teams in the top 11. They also gave San Francisco their only loss of more than three points, and the margin was 20. Cam Newton was able to dismiss his latest distraction by playing a solid game against Detroit. They have that 2015 glow about them, one I expected they would have as they were one of my two NFC Championship Game picks.
The Denver Broncos sport the No. 1 defense in the league. There’s no surprise there, as they are loaded with talent especially in secondary. They should be favored in their next two games — against the Giants and at the Chargers before their Oct. 30 showdown on Monday night at Kansas City.
Speaking of the Kansas City Chiefs, they have the two leading candidates for MVP in quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt has sparked a previously unseen energy in the Chiefs that has carried them all season, including getting over the loss of safety Eric Berry (Achilles). Meanwhile, Smith has been superb, tossing 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions through five games.