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

7 Up, 7 Down: Opening Overreactions

UP

1. Chandler Jones Has a Half a Season in ONE GAME

Cardinals EDGE rusher Chandler Jones had the denizens of Nashville crying out for an offensive tackle that could simply stand in front of him. Sadly for the Titans, no such man was coming on Sunday afternoon. Jones had a dominant day, putting up FIVE sacks which prompted NBA god LeBron James to tweet his support for Jones’ candidacy for DPOY. 

Jones was so dominant that the Titans’ star left tackle Taylor Lewan was beaten repeatedly into submission. Lewan later acknowledged his failure in stopping Jones and credited him for waking him up. 

2. Saints March In and Show Out

The Saints, briefly displaced by Hurricane Ida, put on a show in Jacksonville against fellow NFC contender Green Bay. The defense was all over the place, hounding Aaron Rodgers into two interceptions. Jameis Winston was efficient, throwing for 148 yards and a whopping FIVE touchdowns, including this beauty to get him over the century mark in yards for the day. He’s currently on pace for 2,500 yards and 85 touchdowns

Not to be outdone by his usual stellar play on the field, All-Pro CB Marshon Lattimore scored a well-deserved pay rise moments after the victory. The salary cap is a social construct built by mere mortals that can be exploited to profound and spectacular limitless bounds.

3. Dak Prescott IS Back!

Dak showed very little ill effects of the devastating ankle injury he suffered early last season and the recent shoulder issue he went through in training camp. He may not be back to being full force Dak but he’s well on his way to return to prior form. The Cowboys may not be an upper-tier contender but Prescott gives them a fighting chance in the much beleaguered NFC East where 9 wins might be enough to win the division. I’m glad that he’s back from such a bad injury. 

4. Sean McVay’s Football Mental Health

Sean McVay was voraciously giddy and gratuitously presumptuous when the Rams traded for former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in exchange for Jared Goff and multiple first-round selections. Well, after Stafford’s performance against the Bears on Sunday night, it appears his mental state of unabashed happiness hasn’t changed one iota. Goff, on the other hand, was valiant in trying to lead the moribund Lions to a stirring comeback victory. McVay has to be overjoyed by the fact that Stafford is more consistent and doesn’t need much of a guiding hand or protection from the Rams boss, unlike his predecessor. This frees him up to be more creatively intuitive in his play-calling ala new age Sean Payton, armed with a star-laden defense led by the indomitable Aaron Donald. 

5. Is Jalen Hurts that dude?

Yes, it was against the brutally hapless Falcons defense, but Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts began 2021 in a promising fashion, going for a combined 326 yards and three touchdowns. A game that included this beauty to former Alabama teammate and reigning Heisman winner Devonta Smith.

The Eagles quarterback is certainly showing signs of promise early on but he will need to turn in an outstanding season in order to avoid tempting the front office that has looked into the Deshaun Watson / Russell Wilson market in the past. Hurts looks spritely and in command of Nick Sirianni’s offense after one week. Philadelphia will face a much stiffer test this coming Sunday against the vaunted 49ers defense who just gave up 33 points to the woebegone Lions. For Hurts’ sake, let’s hope he has a great season for the City of Brotherly Love.

6. #LetRussCook

The Shane Waldron and Russell Wilson era got off to a flying start with the quarterback being an efficient 18/23, 254 yards and four touchdowns, including a beauty of a deep pass to Tyler Lockett. The signs of letting Russ cook full stop are there with Waldron seemingly calling the impact shots instead of the archaic Pete Carroll’s preferred ground control offense. Next up on the docket: a Titans team who got blown out by an explosive Cardinals offense in week 1. Let Russ Cook, indeed. 

7. Justin Herbert is FUN

The promising sophomore sensation led the Chargers to a win in a must-have game-icing situation when normally, Bolts teams of old would’ve found a way to blow the lead. Could it be a curse-killing win for the powder blue outfit or just a random win? Herbert has all the physical tools and is now challenging the tier of upper-crust quarterbacks. What kind of 2021 will he have?

DOWN

1. Matt Rhule in “Plus Territory”

Yes, the Panthers beat the rebuilding Jets but several decisions inside plus territory left Carolina fans wanting. A decision to punt while having the ball on the Jets’ 33 yard line is the most egregious of the issues. However, scoring only one touchdown against a hapless defense in four trips inside the 10 yard line is a giant cause for concern going forward. Especially so when one of the best dual threat running backs in football resides on the roster. Could this be a worrying trend for the Panthers? Is there anything left in Sam Darnold left to salvage? 

2. The Vikings have OL Issues

Kirk Cousins has his own warts but the offensive line was horrendous for the Vikings on Sunday. This was against a middling at best Bengals stop unit. It looks like they’re still in preseason mode and haven’t gelled together yet. Up next for the Vikings and their beleaguered line: the red hot Arizona Cardinals defense on the road. It will likely be another long day I suspect for Cousins and company.  

3. Jason Garrett is Not that Guy

Like the meme says, Garrett is not that guy. He hasn’t been handed the most ideal of circumstances such as Saquon Barkley returning from injury and a poor offensive line. Daniel Jones hasn’t developed and is quickly reaching Mitchell Trubisky territory. If this lack of production continues, Big Blue faithful will be up in arms calling for Joe Judge’s job. It’s certainly possible that Garrett is hamstrung by Jones but he isn’t helping him, either. One has to wonder if Garrett is the coach that Judge sacrifices to retain his own job security. 

4. Bad juju in Cheesehead Land

There’s some bad mojo in Green Bay, namely starting with the months-long diaspora of Aaron Rodgers dysfunction. It has carried over the season, it seems as Matt LaFleur’s men couldn’t get going Sunday. Would it be best for all parties for the Packer to end the charade of harmony and trade Rodgers? Love was inserted into the lost cause to mixed results. They will need to see what they have in their former first round pick before too long. However, one game does not make a season. It bears watching going forward though. 

5. Do the Chiefs have a good enough stop unit?

The Browns are well coached and talented but there’s no reason for the Chiefs defense not to be at least middle of the pack. They were dominated by Cleveland until they were forced to buck up in the fourth quarter. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the league armed with an impressive arsenal but even he can’t keep on rescuing the defense repeatedly. The defense will need to step up better than they showed on week one. 

6. Bears Post “Help Wanted” ad for Left Tackle

It’s been an arduous journey for the left tackle position for Chicago as rookie Teven Jenkins was already injured. His replacement, aging veteran Jason Peters was injured early Sunday. The replacement for Peters, Larry Borom, was injured during the same game. They are one snap away from having to play Germain Ifedi at left tackle. Chicago’s offense was already labeled as a struggling unit, with these injuries, it will be tough for either Andy Dalton or Justin Fields to get any traction. It might be a long year for Matt Nagy. 

7. It’s still Atlanta United’s stadium, Falcons!

The Falcons struggled mightily against a retooling Eagles team, failing to impress anyone. The poor offensive line was a sieve and allowed Matt Ryan to get hit repeatedly, resulting in one iconic image. Defensively, they weren’t any great shakes either save for a few performances from Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, and AJ Terrell. HC Arthur Smith’s team had a great opening drive or three but it all fell downhill afterwards. The losses may continue with the defending champion Buccaneers next on the docket. Coach Smith’s will and coaching ability is going to be seriously tested as the Dirty Birds escape from the last vestiges of the ill fated Dan Quinn era. It’s still Atlanta United’s stadium and the Falcons are paying rent for the right to play in it with a random Kanye cameo.