NFL Power Rankings Week 5: 7 Up, 7 Down – Thrive at Five

NFL Power Rankings Week Five, Credit: BillsWire

A wild and wacky Week 5 is done and dusted. What were the biggest topics on the tongues and minds of NFL folks league wide? Who were the heroes and villains of the fifth week? 14 of the hottest storylines dotting the NFL landscape. The Weekly NFL Power Rankings for week five are here and the question begs itself: who had the drive to thrive in week five?

Up

1. Kyle Pitts FINALLY gets his first touchdown

– The rookie star tight end finally got his first touchdown against the Jets on the soil of America’s greatest ally. Topping off his greatest game as the focal point of the Falcons’ offense (which necessitated due to injuries to the emerging Calvin Ridley). Perhaps this game propels the precocious rookie forward into being the premier tight end league-wide as once was promised? Rookie tight ends are notorious for being fickle in their impact. Head coach Arthur Smith hasn’t been utilizing him as the promised future at the position until Sunday so there’s that factor as well. Maybe this is the game that changes that. Pitts’ fantasy owners will surely love it. 

2. Burrow to Chase is the goods

– Quite a burgeoning friendship one would suspect if both stay healthy and fulfill their endless potential. Chase on target to, well, chase down the GOAT rookie receiver season of Randy Moss 1998. The ascendant star receiver added another 159 yards and a touchdown on just six receptions on Sunday against the Packers. Burrow put a mighty scare into the Bengals after getting hit hard on a scramble (he ultimately returned) and he was admitted to the hospital for a throat contusion. If both players can stay healthy, they can be one of the more lethal quarterback and receiver duos in this league.

3. 1 PM window finishes 

– The early slate delivered some wild hijinks to close it out. Which made up for the relatively nonchalant finishes that the late afternoon games provided us. We all witnessed the crazy back and forth missed kick contest between the Packers and Bengals extend beyond the start of the late window. A game Houston squad made it tough for the Patriots and held the lead until the Pats came back late. Denver got past its offensive struggles and made it a contest deep into the 60th minute against the Steelers. Detroit actually held the lead in a dramatic affair with the injury-depleted Vikings before ultimately succumbing to yet another long-distance game-winning kick. It’s a fun league-wide trend that these games are so close this season. The fans are simultaneously reaching for the antiacids and their phones on an increasing basis this year. We’re all here for the drama. 

4. Browns and Chargers stop playing defense

– The late slate did provide the viewers with some incredible offensive fireworks as both the Browns and Chargers decided to play a game of H-O-R-S-E in the fourth quarter. It was mind-boggling as each team traded long touchdowns like cryptocurrency. After a relatively quiet three quarters, the teams combined for whopping FORTY-ONE points in the final stanza. Both teams went over a combined 1,000 yards of total offense in this one. Justin Herbert continues to solidify his case as a top-five quarterback in this league with every bomb throw he makes and game-winning drives. Where else could you get an entire defense actively trying to drag a runner into the end zone? 

5. The Jameis Winston Experience 

– We got the full ride on Sunday on that roller coaster. He threw a ghastly interception then follows it up with this beauty of a deep shot to Deonte Harris. Overall, Mr. Winston has had a great season controlling his inner turnover demons thus far. He’s played well in Sean Payton’s system and with Taysom Hill’s unfortunate injury, looks to be the only passer touching the ball for a bit. Comeback Player of the Year contender? 

6. The 2021 MVP race crystalizes

– The race for the 2021 MVP award is likely down to three contenders as we move deeper into October and beyond. The three lucky contestants: Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert. There could be a dark horse that looms on the horizon like grizzled graybeards Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and the like but it’s these three young guns battling it out. All three are off to fast starts and leading their teams as division contenders if not outright favorites. You can’t go wrong with any of them winning the award at the end. Allen is proving that he’s here to stay after a remarkable 2020. Murray is leading the league’s top offense. The Los Angeles Charger signal-caller has come on like gangbusters during his sophomore season after a remarkable rookie year. Allen likely wins it after establishing his bonafides last year. 

7. The 2019 MVP Stakes His Claim to the Crown

–  Lamar Jackson had a performance for the ages on Monday Night Football, leading the Ravens to a stirring comeback victory over the Colts. He’s well on his way to making the MVP race a four-way contest with the aforementioned three young guns above. It will be a thrilling race to the very end and Jackson has the precedence as a prior winner to know what it takes to win it. He has progressed every season as a passer under Greg Roman’s watch. Can he win the award for a second time?

Down

1. Special Teams coaches’ heart rates 
– The specialists in Week 5 were on one this week. A whopping 12 missed extra points plagued the league’s foot meeting with leather people, including THREE in the Texans-Patriots (in a dome, no less). The aforementioned Cincinnati-Packers featured both kickers missing game-winning kicks on repeat, including Mason Crosby missing THREE BY HIMSELF in about 15 minutes of game time. Of course, we can’t leave out the punters as a 0-yard punt AND a double punt happened! There’s nothing that epitomizes the weekend more than Evan McPherson pulling a Nick Young and celebrating a bit too early.

2. Injuries

– Another brutal week of injuries took a toll around the league as multiple stars are looking at long term issues. None more so than the Giants as Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and Kenny Golladay were all knocked out of the game. The Browns didn’t escape as Jack Conklin, Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and JOK suffered game-ending injuries as well. Pittsburgh receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster injured his shoulder and is out for the season. The offensive linemen suffered heavily as Joe Thuney (broken hand), Oday Aboushi (ACL), Germain Ifedi (knee), Laremy Tunsil (hand), Sam Cosmi (ankle), Rodger Saffold (shoulder) were all declared OUT. At what point do the owners realize that the 17th game isn’t worth it? Do teams begin to schedule loss games like the San Antonio Spurs infamously made legendary?

3. Business is not booming for Miami 

– There’s no shame in losing to the GOAT quarterback. However, there is shame in how they lost. The Dolphins’ defense was dismantled in a devastating fashion as all three units were to blame. The secondary was lit on fire as Antonio Brown got loose on a pair of touchdowns. How dominant was the Bucs offensive line? Well, let’s say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not to mention that the Twitter account of Tua Tagovailoa’s gym went on a Brian Flores-related rant after the game. Things aren’t rosy for the denizens of Hard Rock Stadium right now.

4. Coaches wearing the scandalous scarlet letters 

– I won’t get into the Urban Meyer stuff this week as it’s been harangued into oblivion. It’s definitely not a great look for a coach with a questionable character already struggling to adapt to the pro game. The Jaguars looked relatively competitive on Sunday despite the week filled with questions about Meyer’s antics. However, on the west coast, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is in a lot of hot water regarding racist emails about NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith. Then the New York Times broke the news that the Gruden emails got horrifically worse, way worse. Gruden has elected to resign, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero

5. Denver’s offense is who we thought that they were 

– Try as they might, the Broncos’ offense just couldn’t get it going until it was desperation time against the Steelers. Teddy Bridgewater, while a capable quarterback, isn’t the most physically gifted passer. Throw in an offense that is recovering a key asset or two like Courtland Sutton, it’s going to take a minute to gel together. Next week might be a get-right game against the tumultuous scandal-ridden Raiders in the Mile High City.

6. Seattle without Chef Unlimited 

– We will get a few weeks’ glimpses into the possibly not too distant Wilson-less future with Russell Wilson out due to injury. Geno Smith takes over as the starter. The schedule is demanding to say the least with a road trip to Pittsburgh, home against the Saints, away at Green Bay, and home to Arizona dotting the next four out of five games. Can the Seahawks keep their heads above water in the Division of Death with Mr. Unlimited? 

7. The Chiefs defense is bad

– Yeah, nothing new here but it’s dire for the men under the watch of Steve Spagnuolo. The numbers are disastrous and I’m not sure Spags’ pedigree can save them this time. Missing their best defensive lineman Chris Jones isn’t helping much, either. It’s a long season yet the defensive statistics reflect a team with a much lesser talent profile. Wherever the season ends up for the Chiefs to be seen, it is ominous. Patrick Mahomes can’t keep on rescuing the defense when he’s battling some issues himself. 

Previous Editions

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Wk 2: Perceptive Repeats

Week 3: So Nice, Do It Thrice

Week 4: Good Quads Like Saquon

NFL Power Rankings: 7 Up, 7 Down – Good Quads like Saquon

The first quarter of the 2021 NFL season is in the books! Time sure goes by fast when we’re having fun. Which seven most burning topics of the who, what, why, and the how of week four stood out? Which teams have some work to do as we exit the first quadrant of 2021? Let’s take a look at some NFL Power rankings and answer the question: Who had a good quads like Saquon Barkley?

Up

1. Matty Ice can still flash the fastball 

Our NFL power rankings begin in Atlanta. The old aging warhorse showed he’s plenty capable of uncorking the heater on occasion, as he did on Sunday. He was great against a dominant WFT front and showed some life just yet, including a beautiful whistling dart to Kyle Pitts. Add in four scoring tosses (three to sudden WR1 / RB1 Cordarrelle Patterson) and a hilarious, spritely gallop to extend a must-have late drive.

While he won’t be the Matt Ryan of old any longer, he still has a bit left in the tank to unleash performances like the one on Sunday. It’s quite unfortunate that his defensive teammates can’t stop Falconing so often. Next up for the Falcons, a date across the pond with the one-win Jets. 

2. Kyler Murray is always fun

What else can we say about the kid at this point? He’s on a rampage even against the best of defenses. Murray is easily the frontrunner for MVP as we exit the first quadrant of the 2021 season. The electric playmaker is proving all the doubters wrong every week. Defensive coordinators are just flabbergasted and torn asunder trying to scheme against him. Murray has the potential to be the fully evolved and weaponized Michael Vick in an offense that fits him perfectly. 

3. The Dallas buddy cop show is back on the air

Dak continues to round back into pre-injury form and for the first time in a long while, we had a dominant Zeke performance Sunday (against the top-ranked run defense, no less). If the offensive line can somewhat keep Dak and Zeke going to match their suddenly performing defense, Dallas might be an NFC contender. The NFC East has habitually shown that any competent team could win it. Is America’s Team truly back? Time will only tell. 

4. Justin Fields sans Matt Nagy calling plays 

Much to the chagrin of fantasy owners who picked up the Lions’ defense, Justin Fields had a nice rebound game after last week’s disaster. The difference? Matt Nagy not calling the plays and being a bemused bystander/delegator. OC Bill Lazor took over the play-calling duties and the difference in Fields was night and day. If Nagy can just stick to being maddeningly furtive and nonsensical during press conferences and avoid the headset, the Bears can do something. It’s only the Lions but baby steps, people, baby steps. Up next for Fields and co are the hapless Raiders defense who Justin Herbert dissected with ease on Monday night.

5. Sam Darnold revivalist movement

Speaking of young quarterbacks trying to redeem themselves, enter Sam Darnold. OC Joe Brady certainly has begun to rebuild Darnold after his Jets tenure was so rocky. It only has been four weeks but the signs of a Darnold revival are there. Many people were skeptical of him being able to play the position but he has proved that he’s more than capable early on. He has been the first passer in team history to throw for 300 yards or more in three straight games. Who leads the entire league in rushing touchdowns? Not Derrick Henry. Darnold does. The young buck could be on his way to stardom if this keeps up.  

6. The Diggs holiday family football games must be INTENSE

Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs has ascended to the ranks as one of the best corners in the game this season. Receiver brother Stefon was one of the best receivers already. Trevon has had an impressive start to 2021, snagging five interceptions and shutting opposing receivers down. Stefon continues to be the focal point for the Bills offense. Just how crazy are the holiday backyard games in the Diggs household? We need the All-22 footage right now! Could we see the brothers go up against one another on a sunny day in Los Angeles in the month of February? 

7. Russ Cooking to 💯 wins

Bonus Ups: Chris Jones really tried that bounce pass off the Referee + Hunter Renfrow is Vegas DB1

First up, we have Chris Jones trying to imitate LeBron’s self alley-oop dunk with the ref acting like the glass on the way to the failed fumble recovery. *Insert at least he tried Bart Simpson cake meme*

Next, Hunter Renfrow makes an astute observation of the incoming Chargers fake punt and destroys the receiver

Down

1. A bad day at the office for the Texans offense

If players and teams are rising in the NFL power rankings, others must be falling. We all knew that there would be bad days for the hapless Texans but Sunday was a horrifying example of what happens when a vastly superior team shows up. Davis Mills had a massive “welcome to the NFL, rookie” game, throwing four interceptions en-route to a Bills 40-0 rout.

Three straight losses for Houston and a date against a smarting Patriots squad looking for a rebound. Somehow, some way the Texans are in second place in the AFC South. 

2. Mike Vrabel and Sean Payton

Both of these coaches deserve to lose their parking spots for their abject failures in leading their teams to painful defeats against vastly inferior opponents. Vrabel had no excuse in particular against the previously winless Jets. Payton even less so with them blowing a lead in the fourth quarter, allowing for a walkoff TD to young Saquon Barkley.

It’s time for both men to make changes. The Saints need to scrap the two quarterback thing and stick with Jameis Winston for good or bad. Tennessee needs to let DC Shane Bowen go and move Jim Schwartz into a full time role. 

3. Big Ben is what he is

The end has come for a once-proud, aging star quarterback, and Father Time waits for absolutely no one when he arrives. The mind may still be willing but the body just isn’t responsive at this point in his career. Roethlisberger tried his best to hang on to what little gifts he has left but he should retire at the end of the season to save face for himself and the organization.

The offensive line issues are aplenty but Ben is sadly beyond the pale. He should get ready for the Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2026 instead of giving it another go in 2022. 

4. Jared Goff and Detroit had a Jared Goof type of day

How’s the Lions season going, you ask? Well, it’s going kind of like this:

5. Bill Belichick and late game management

Speaking of questionable late game management, we enter into evidence Bill Belichick’s mystifying decision to attempt a 56 yard field goal on fourth and short. If he opts to go for it, either way the game is likely over at that point. In a year that more and more teams are going for it on fourth down in plus territory, he opts against it.

The Patriots don’t convert, Thomas Brady has to drive down the field on an absolutely rain blasted soaked pitch and he looked shaky at points in the game. If they do get it, they can continue to milk the clock for a closer attempt on the very same slick surface. Did Belichick outsmart himself trying to teach the old man a lesson? 

6. Jimmy G as the 49ers starter 

We may have witnessed the end of the Jimmy Garoppolo regime by the Bay through no fault of his own. He injured his calf during Sunday’s contest and Trey Lance had to step in for a cameo appearance. The kid wasn’t half bad, tossing two touchdowns to no interceptions.

Calf injuries, like most soft tissue injuries are notoriously finicky so it will be interesting to see if Jimmy G can go next Sunday or the rookie stepping in for a start. Garoppolo has been nothing but a consummate professional dealing with the notoriety of being “Mr. Right Now” while assisting Lance in his development. 

7. Captain Kirk vs. The Baker

Let’s just say that it won’t go down as the preeminent quarterback duel of our lifetimes any time soon. Both passers were, to put it mildly, not up to expectations on Sunday. Sorry, Kirk and Baker, absolutely no one progressively liked that. Not even opposing defensive coordinators. The Vikings did win an enthralling 14-7 stare-down, however. Perhaps it is best that the tape gets burned before everyone’s retinas are pervasively damaged from watching that horror show. Minnesota hosts the Lions while the Browns travel to Los Angeles to face rising superstar QB Justin Herbert next.  

Previous 7 Up, 7 Downs

Opening Overreactions

A Perceptive Repeat

So Nice, Do it Thrice

49ers v Lions: 3 Keys to Success for Each Team

49ers-Lions opener among worst games on NFL 2021 full schedule | RSN

Week 1 is finally upon us, and the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions are facing off. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. EST, often a challenging time frame for teams coming over from the West Coast. The 49ers are the heavy favorite heading into Sunday’s match-up; they are a 7.5 point favorite (odds from MyBookie).

Both teams will be trotting out changes to the coaching staff, most notably the Lions. From the front office down to the position coaches, Detroit has gone through a significant overhaul. Dan Campbell and his team will look to make changes to the on-field product and the culture in the building, too. It will be interesting to see what the identity of the Lions will be. However, one can infer based on Campbell’s press conferences that they will be a team who will look to run the ball and take the will out of defenses.

Not only did the Lions make changes to the coaching staff and personnel, but also to who will operate under-center. Detroit elected to move and trade Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks and Jared Goff in return. Goff doesn’t possess Stafford’s talent, but he has helped lead a team to the Super Bowl. He isn’t going to put the team on his shoulders like Stafford did time and time again in the 4th quarter, but he can operate an offense and help push the ball downfield, especially behind the Lions’ formidable offensive line.

As for the 49ers didn’t lose/gain as much as Detroit did this offseason, but they did lose strength to their team, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who took a head coach job with the New York Jets. DeMeco Ryans, a part of the 49ers staff, got promoted from coaching linebackers to the defensive coordinator. Saleh ran a “safer” defense than what Ryans plans to run this year. So we may see more blitzing from San Francisco and perhaps some more man coverage on the back end.

With changes schematically being made for both teams, it makes for an exciting match-up. Again, San Francisco is the favorite, but there is a path in which the Lions could come up with an upset.

49ers Keys to Success:

Putting Pressure on Jared Goff

When Jared Goff is able to sit back in the pocket and move through his progressions he is a viable option at quarterback. When Goff has pressure in his face, he is the opposite of a viable option; he is a liability.

Goff suffered the biggest decline at his position from a 55.8% passing DVOA without pressure to a -126.8% DVOA with pressure in 2020…”

Not only was it an issue last year, but it has been a problem for the past several years and probably played a crucial factor in McVay wanting to find another quarterback. In 2018, Goff posted a 69.1% DVOA vs. no pressure (good for 5th in the league) and a -67.9% against pressure (11th worst). In 2019, he posted a 52.9% DVOA vs. no pressure (14th in the league, a bit of digression) and a -66.8% DVOA vs. pressure (19th worst, the league average was -62.8%).

The 49ers’ front four doesn’t have to be as good as they were in 2019, but they will need to push the pocket and put Goff in uncomfortable situations. If they can force Goff to make bad decisions, it will likely lead to turnovers, and the 49ers can continue their win streak against Goff-led teams.

Eliminate Turnovers in Their Own Territory

The Lions’ offense, aside from their offensive line, isn’t full of world-beaters. They don’t have weapons on the outside and will likely rely on rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, to be one of their main targets. If the 49ers can refrain from committing turnovers in the Lions’ territory and force them to move the ball the length of the field, the Lions are less likely to score (obvious, I know).

Even with one of the better defenses in football, it is still tough to keep the opponent from scoring when they get the ball in with less than 50 yards to go. If the 49ers can keep the mistakes to a minimum and not give up free yards, it sets them up nicely to not only get the win but to cover the spread as well.

Consistency From Jimmy Garoppolo

This option may run hand in hand with the last “key to success,” but it’s more than just a turnover issue with Garoppolo. If you surveyed the conventional fan in the NFL and asked them what type of quarterback Garoppolo is, they would like to tag him with the “accurate, game manager” label. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Aside from the injuries, Garoppolo’s most significant issue is his game-to-game consistency. One game, he looks like the quarterback that led San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and the next, he seems like the quarterback that forced them to draft Trey Lance third overall.

If the 49ers get the latter, they could be looking at an upset. Garoppolo tends to throw the ball high, which often leads to tipped balls. Tipped balls equal easy interceptions. Of course, interceptions are not the only cause of concern, but having to punt the ball is another possibility they want to avoid. Garoppolo doesn’t have to have the best game of his career for the 49ers to win, but he must avoid having a game as he did against the Miami Dolphins last season.

Seth’s Score Prediction:

49ers: 31 – Lions: 17

Penei Sewell thriving at his best position

With the injury to starting Left Tackle Taylor Decker, the #7 overall pick in Sewell will be asked to play at LT. This is the position in which he thrived in at Oregon and in his first start for the Lions, he will get a real big test by facing Nick Bosa.

If the Lions can get real consistency from the left side of the O-Line with Sewell and Jonah Jackson, we could see a nice game from D’Andre Swift. Sewell tended to struggle at times during the Preseason, but he did an excellent job of adjusting and bouncing back quickly in the following drives.

Setting the Edge on Defense

The Lions have one of the better EDGE tandems in the league with Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. They are facing a run-heavy Offense in the 49ers this weekend and it’ll be crucial to make sure Mostert and Sermon don’t get easy access on the outside.

If the Lions can get solid EDGE play from those two, they can make this game really interesting with the lack of depth at Wide Receiver. Though the Interior of the DL is young, aside from Michael Brockers, they’ve looked really good during practices and preseason so there shouldn’t be too much of an issue there.

Getting some success from the Play-Action

If the Lions can get that run-game going, which I think they will, then the Lions are going to need Jared Goff to make some really nice throws out of the Play-Action. They have a lack of weapons at Wide Receiver, but attacking the middle of the field will be key with Hockenson.

Goff is a pretty big downgrade from Stafford but he did help lead a team to the Super Bowl back in 2018. Would it be nice to get that from him this year? Sure, but even a 2017 version of Goff is more than good enough.

Ronnie’s Score Prediction:

49ers: 34 – Lions: 20

Lions Keys to Success:

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