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: Week 6

NFL Power Rankings
James P. McCoy – The Buffalo News

The NFL power rankings are always a fun exercise. Drama reigns supreme in the 2021 NFL season. You really can’t tell what some teams are going to do on a week-to-week basis. And even beyond the results, some of these games are simply fascinating. The New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans made the biggest jump in the rankings this week at 3 spots. The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders look like identical teams and have an identical 4-point drop in the rankings. Let’s dig into it.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5)

Last week: 30

I thought the Jaguars were showing some progress with close games against the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals. But, after the Bengals game head coach Urban Meyer became a massive distraction, embroiling himself in controversy.

Not only was he caught on camera letting a young woman who was not his wife grind on him at a bar. But, it was his own bar in Columbus with a picture of him and his wife on the bar, and he handled the situation like a naughty first grader who just got caught throwing rocks at windows.

His players no longer respect him, he’s lost the confidence of the fanbase, he seems to have lost the confidence of ownership, AND they just got smacked 37-19 by the division rival Tennessee Titans. The Jags are in free fall.

31. Houston Texans (1-4)

Last Week: 32

The Texans did a few things worthy of inspiring the faintest hint of promise this week. First of all, not laying a stinker amid a media firestorm and an inferno of controversy like the Jaguars helps. Second of all, Davis Mills turned in an extremely efficient game against the New England Patriots. They weren’t able to hold on to a 22-9 lead early in the third quarter. But, getting there in the first place shows a bit of progress.

30. New York Jets (1-4)

Last Week: 29

The New York Jets very nearly pulled off a second win in a row this week against the always hilarious Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, they had no answer for Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts and put themselves in a position where they needed to recover an onside kick to win the game. Zach Wilson is still struggling to show why the Jets selected him with the No. 2 overall pick. But, they feel a lot closer to some form of relevancy right now than they did after their 0-3 start.

29. Detroit Lions (0-5)

Last Week: 31

Dan Campbell is a hell of a coach. His passion was evident after the Lions’ last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, this is a bad football team. That was evident when they couldn’t accomplish much of anything through 56 minutes of game time. Jared Goff is a limited quarterback who shows flashes from time to time, but on the whole is holding the Lions back from any sort of real success.

28. New York Giants (1-4)

Last Week: 27

Ouch. The Cowboys have been embarrassing a lot of teams lately, but it’s never fun when it’s your turn. In addition to getting blown out against a division rival, the Giants lost Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and Kenny Golladay to injuries. Hey at least Kadarius Toney finally looks worth that first round pick.

27. Miami Dolphins (1-4)

Last Week: 26

Hopefully Tua Tagovailoa is back this coming week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But, it’s not going to matter much if the Dolphins keep putting… well… THAT around him. Truth be told, Jacoby Brissett has performed fairly well in Tua’s place. Yeah, he threw a garbage time interception and fumbled the ball late in the first half. But, the real problems for this team are a porous defense and an even worse offensive line. The way this team is trending, I could see them pushing the 30s by the end of the season.

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

Last Week: 28

Those Falcons almost did it again! They put up a strong first half performance against the New York Jets and somehow forgot to continue playing football through the rest of the game. To their credit, they finally managed to (barely) hold onto a lead in the fourth quarter. But, it came against the lowly Jets. So, did you really win?

25. Washington Football Team (2-3)

Last Week: 22

I’ll give WFT this – Taylor Heinicke is fascinating to watch. He scrambles all over the field, knows how to put a drive together, and generally looks like a solid option most of the time. That is, until he starts making mistakes. The Washington Football Team had a genuine chance to be competitive this week against the Saints. But, Heinicke threw a bone headed interception just shy of the endzone on an opportunity for a touchdown. He threw another bad one on their own 26 with only a 4-point margin between the teams. You just can’t win with that.

24. Indianapolis Colts (1-4)

Last Week: 21

Tough break for the Colts. They outplayed the Ravens for the majority of the Monday Night Football game, but fell apart in the fourth quarter. If that wasn’t bad enough, Carson Wentz still managed to drive them down the field for the game winning field goal kick. But, Rodrigo Blankenship pushed it wide left from 47 yards. The Ravens’ offense was on a roll at that point, and they won the coin toss. It was pretty much a wrap from there.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)

Last Week: 25

From a neutral perspective, the Panthers and Eagles played an ugly game. From an Eagles fan’s perspective, you’re happy to return near .500. And, doing it against a team many recently considered to be one of the best teams in the NFL. However, that blocked punt at the end of the game perfectly encapsulates just the kind of craziness that needs to happen for the Eagles to look competitive right now.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)

Last Week: 24

The Steelers finally looked like a competent team this week against a struggling Denver Broncos. Ben Roethlisberger played unspectacular, but mistake-free football. Najee Harris finally looked like the force on the ground the Steelers needed him to be. Losing JuJu Smith-Schuster for the rest of the season hurts too. The result wasn’t certain through the vast majority of the game, but they came away with the win at the end and that’s what matters.

21. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)

Last Week: 14

I thought the Broncos were the biggest pretenders in the NFL. Boy was I wrong. The Raiders’ sloppiness has been there all season and is starting to get in their way. Their inability to get the two yards necessary for two points after their lone touchdown of the Chargers game exemplifies just how bad this team was at running the ball this week. Then there’s the coaching issue. Four years into a 10-year contract, head coach Jon Gruden is now gone. We don’t need to talk about the controversial aspects of that in this article. But, it is devastating from a football perspective. The Raiders’ season could very well fall off a cliff after this.

20. New England Patriots (2-3)

Last Week: 20

To be clear: the reason why I’m moving the Patriots down a spot is because I wasn’t all that impressed by their win, and teams around them are moving quite a bit. The Patriots looked dead in the water most of this game until a late rally beginning in the middle of the third quarter sparked a last-minute comeback. It was finished off by Nick Folk kicking the go-ahead field goal with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It’s good for Patriots fans, who were staring 1-4 in the face. But, I see more of the ugly side of this one.

19. Denver Broncos (3-2)

Last Week: 15

After being pulverized by the Ravens last week, I called the Broncos pretenders. I’m going to go ahead and double down on that statement this week. They managed to avoid being completely embarrassed this week against a downtrodden Steelers team. But, they showed massive signs of weakness. Like Roethlisberger, Teddy Bridgewater was mostly serviceable if unspectacular this week. He didn’t make too many mistakes until an absolutely gut wrenching interception with 11 seconds left in the game killed any hopes the Broncos had of tying the game and sending it to overtime. It wasn’t even a fluke thing, it was just an awful throw and the Broncos finish things out looking like the biggest pretenders after a promising 3-0 start.

18. Chicago Bears (3-2)

Last Week: 23

You have to give credit to the Bears. Despite all the drama surrounding Matt Nagy’s decision making and Justin Fields’ development, they’ve won three of their last four games. Wins over the Bengals and Lions weren’t exactly easy, but it looked pretty easy against the Raiders this week. Keep an eye on this Bears team. They could sneak their way into the playoff picture if you take your eye off of them.

17. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

Last Week: 16

Trey Lance didn’t look particularly comfortable in his first game as a starter. He couldn’t find the endzone, was sacked twice, and threw a costly interception on his first drive of the game. If he’s to save the quality of the 2021 rookie QB class, he’s going to need to perform much better going forward. But, I will give credit to the 49ers defense. They kept a high-flying Cardinals team to only 17 points this week. Put a decent offense on the field, and this team is a contender.

16. New Orleans Saints (3-2)

Last Week: 19

I’m really starting to get sick of your antics, Saints. Particularly you – Winston. Can you make up your mind if you’re good or not? The Saints looked like a very good football team this week. The defense allowed 373 yards, but only two touchdowns. One of which came late in the fourth quarter when it would have taken a miracle for Washington to come up with the win. Jameis threw for four touchdowns and only one interception. I wonder how they’ll lose next week?

15. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)

Last Week: 13

Russell Wilson’s doctors allegedly believe he has a realistic chance to return to the lineup in four weeks. That’s huge, because I’d have to push this team down farther if they were planning on playing Geno Smith all season. He was good enough to engineer a comeback, but he still did Geno Smith things at the end by killing it with an interception.

14. Minnesota Vikings (2-3)

Last Week: 17

Barely beating the Detroit Lions isn’t necessarily worth jumping three points in the NFL power rankings. However, contextually, the Minnesota Vikings are starting to turn things around. Don’t forget, this is the same team that is literally only a handful of traditionally low-impact plays away from being 5-0 right now.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-2)

Last Week: 18

Derrick Henry. That’s all I really need to say about the Titans. In fairness to Ryan Tannehill, he was very efficient. He even threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter! But, let’s be honest. This game was about Derrick Henry going OFF for 130 yards and 18 of the Titans’ 24 offensive points. It’s just the Jaguars, but Derrick Henry stepping on the scene is never good for the rest of the NFL.

12. Carolina Panthers (3-2)

Last Week: 11

I’m not ready to leave the Panthers behind just yet, but getting beaten by a struggling Eagles team just isn’t a good look. It’s even worse when you see Sam Darnold getting sacked three times and throwing three interceptions. Are the ghosts returning? Let’s see how they do against the Vikings next week.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)

Last Week: 12

Barely losing a strange game against the very good Green Bay Packers is not something to be terribly worried about. The season is still early and the Bengals showed a lot of fight against a Super Bowl contender. The Bengals can still make an impression with the Ravens and Browns making up two of their next four games. But, if they want to be a top-10 team, they’ll need to figure out more ways to spark the offense beyond simply chucking it deep to Ja’Marr Chase.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3)

Last Week: 10

It seems kind of nuts to me to have a sub .500 team in the top 10 of the NFL power rankings. But, we all know what the Chiefs are capable of when they catch fire. Their three losses (Ravens, Chargers, Bills) have all come against teams ranked higher than them in these power rankings. Not to mention, one of their wins also came against one of those teams (Browns). I have a feeling they’ll get it turned around sooner or later, but they might fall out of the top 10 with another lackluster performance against Washington this week.

9. Cleveland Browns (3-2)

Last Week: 7

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people are blaming Baker Mayfield for this loss. What more do you want from him? He threw for over 300 yards, two touchdowns, only took one sack, and was extremely efficient all night. If the Browns didn’t have such a scary backfield, he probably would have thrown for more touchdowns. The defense isn’t quite ready to stop elite quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, but the Browns kept pace. They’re still a top-10 team in my eyes.

8. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)

Last Week: 9

The 1-4 Indianapolis Colts aren’t exactly a juggernaut, but you absolutely have to give it up to the Ravens for that comeback victory. Don’t get it twisted, though. I haven’t forgotten about the slow starts, and I haven’t forgotten that they lost to the Lions. Baltimore gets credit for climbing to 4-1 by climbing in the NFL power rankings, but I’m still skeptical if they can keep this up.

7. Green Bay Packers (4-1)

Last Week: 6

Credit where credit is due: The Packers survived two pivotal missed field goals by Mason Crosby and came out with a very weird win. But, this is a very injured football team. Hopefully Elgton Jenkins and Josh Meyers can return soon to put that offensive line back together. But, they’re still missing Jaire Alexander for a while. They’re still without Zadarius Smith for the rest of the season. When you have Aaron Rodgers you always have a chance, but they’re edging toward the fringes of the Super Bowl contenders.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (4-1)

Last Week: 8

If you’re still not convinced the Los Angeles Chargers are legit, I don’t know what more information you need. Justin Herbert was nearly perfect against the Browns throwing for just under 400 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He got off to a bit of an up and down start this season, but the last three weeks he has been absolutely automatic. 

5. Los Angeles Rams (4-1)

Last Week: 5

The Los Angeles Rams, right now, are a team that feels like they have no holes. The only thing they’ve kind of struggled with this year is pass coverage, and even then they make up for it with well timed interceptions. That’s what they did as Geno Smith marched the Seahawks down the field this week. It was hard to stop the Geno train, but they pulled it off with their fifth pick of the season.

4. Dallas Cowboys (4-1)

Last Week: 4

I’m a sucker for a good ol’ deep pass by a wide receiver. That’s what we got from WR Cedric Wilson this week in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were already in clear control of this football game. At that point, they were just showboating. But, it was still fun to watch nonetheless. I’m not sure if the Cowboys are benefiting from a weak division this year, but it sure didn’t help them last year. So they must also be really good.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1)

Last Week: 3

Beating up on the poor Miami Dolphins just doesn’t seem fair. Tom Brady owned them for years in New England and now he’s moved about 200 miles northwest just to add insult to injury. The Bucs absolutely spanked them 45-17 in a game where Brady truly looked like a GOAT. Their only loss so far this season is to the Rams, but I’m confident they could win that game if they see them again in the playoffs.

2. Arizona Cardinals (5-0)

Last Week: 2

Another week, another No. 2 appearance for the only undefeated team left in football. I wasn’t terribly impressed by their 17-10 win over a struggling 49ers team. Kyler Murray was efficient but unspectacular, but their defense did look good against the rookie Trey Lance. I absolutely think they’re a dangerous team, I’m just not sure if they’re the MOST dangerous team.

1. Buffalo Bills (4-1)

Last Week: 1

The Bills ARE the most dangerous team in football right now. Josh Allen is playing lights out in the air, their ground rotation is lethal, and their defense is stifling. Week 1 is a weird stain on their season, considering the loss came to the struggling Steelers. But, I think we can safely say that game was a fluke. In the last four weeks, this Chiefs game was the only one remotely close. And they still won by 18 points.

7 Up, 7 Down: A Perceptive Repeat?

Week 2 was full of intrigue as teams tried to shake the stark realities of Week 1 debuts or build upon progress. Which teams / players did the thing? Who needs some work as we look ahead to Week 3 of the young 2021 season?

Up

1. Micah Parsons is certified #good

– The former first round selection validated the Cowboys with a monster performance on Sunday. He was moved closer to the line due to injuries and showed well despite not playing EDGE since high school. PFF gave him an overall grade of 89.9, which was good for highest defensive rookie this week. He had eight pressures on the most promising young quarterbacks in the league. It looks like the pass rush moves he was working on with the legendary DeMarcus Ware on Hard Knocks paid off. The versatile linebacker was a freak athlete that played in a variety of roles while at Penn State. Certainly a good start to the young linebacker’s career. Could a permanent move to EDGE be in the cards after his initial performance? 

2. Late Game Window

– If the early slate was a bit of a dud (it wasn’t) but in comparison to the late slate, it was quaint. There was a period of a few minutes where multiple games came down to a game winning field goal attempt. Arizona survived the Vikings last dash attempt (in a candidate for game of the year) while Tennessee and Dallas made their field goals to sneak out road wins. Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein delivered after a litany of coaching errors and his own demons from last week.  All of which served as delicious appetizers to the big showdown on Sunday Night Football. 

3. Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh’s “GUTS”

– Speaking of Sunday night action, there was plenty of it as Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes put on a show. Jackson, especially put on a show during the fourth quarter leading the Ravens to an upset win over the Chiefs. He struggled early on, throwing multiple interceptions to Tyrann Mathieu, including a pick six. It was a shootout until the very end when the Chiefs inexplicably took the ball out of Mahomes’ hands on a crucial drive. 

Lamar then took the ball on a game icing drive, which led to the now famous do you want to go for it question asked by Harbaugh. A fantastic preview for a potential rematch in January?

4. Carolina D fences in the Saints

The Panthers defense held the explosive Saints offense to a mere seven points and harried Jameis Winston into two interceptions and just 111 yards passing. They also kept the electrifying Alvin Kamara to just 30 yards on 12 touches while getting four sacks and 11 hits on Winston. DC Phil Snow’s men have been dominant through the first two games, leading the league in numerous categories. They get to face a largely untested rookie leading a dysfunctional Houston Texans team on Thursday night. Undoubtedly for which they will be salivating for.

5. Explosive Teddy Bridgewater

– The amiable Teddy Bridgewater has appeared to revamp his game into a more high powered attack with Denver it seems. He has looked downright aggressive compared to his reputation of being “safe”. He’s in the top ten in passing yardage, touchdowns, QB rating, and true to form, has no interceptions. Bridgewater has seized the starting job over Drew Lock and it appears that the Broncos are going to ride with him despite their dalliances with Aaron Rodgers. I’m excited what the future weeks portend for him armed with a much better offense and a stout defense. He deserves all the flowers as a veteran QB who has more than his paid dues. 

6. Houston being competitive 

– Everyone wrote off the Texans as the worst team in the league and yes it appears that way talent wise. HC David Culley has them fighting and competing early on, even if the competitive level isn’t the best. That’s admirable. They’re even in first place in the AFC South. Well, we’ll see how much of that competitive spirit is retained as the opposing teams’ talent level ratchets up. They’re about to face a brutal six game gauntlet of the Panthers, @ Bills, Patriots, @ Colts, and @ Cardinals. All this without the hot start of injured Tyrod Taylor and managing the tricky Deshaun Watson situation. Let’s hope for Culley’s sake that his team can win at least two of these games. 

7. Kyler Murray is FUN

– Murray is one of the most fun quarterbacks in the league right now. It just wasn’t the Titans that were bamboozled and mystified on how to cover him. Mike Zimmer’s Vikings defense was similarly flummoxed as well on Sunday afternoon. He was unstoppable uncorking passes from seemingly improbable locations like a mini-Mahomes all game. The clip below probably wasn’t even his best HOW??? throw of the game. When the Cardinals offense is truly clicking, it’s really entertaining for fans everywhere. Now that he has AJ Green, rookie Rondale Moore, along with the erstwhile superstar DeAndre Hopkins to go along with a solid line, they will be a tough out for anyone. I would go as far as to say that the Murray led Cardinals are everyone’s second favorite team and a Red Zone darling.  

Down

1. The Dolphins OL

– Yeesh. That wasn’t the best effort in the world against the stingy #BillsMafia defense, getting shutout, 35-0. The biggest part, the unit was responsible for franchise QB Tua Tagovailoa getting injured by a virtually free oncoming pass rusher. It remains to be seen how long Tua will be out for due to this latest setback but it appears grim. The line gave up six sacks and 11 hits on the QB overall. The line needs major upgrades in the worst way possible. They need to get right in a hurry for Brian Flores’ men to compete for the playoffs. 

2. Taunting rules

Let the great Field Yates surmise everyone’s thoughts on this needlessly obtuse and useless rule:

Also, a compilation to further outline this outlandishly farcical rule that NO ONE wants:

3. Wentz is Cooked?

– Russ is cooking while Carson Wentz might be officially cooked as a starting level quarterback after Sunday’s tough minded performance that resulted in a spectacular shovel pass interception and an injury. The trade that brought him to Indianapolis may be a bust but it’s early yet. The Colts are currently projected to have a top five selection but they owe it to the Eagles should Wentz play 75% of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs. If their record gets worse in a downtrodden AFC South similar to last year’s NFC East, they might be inclined to sit Wentz to avoid paying the premium cost. 

4. The Chiefs defense merits banishment from the Kingdom 

The KC defense just has to be league average to complement an all world offense yet they are failing to do just that. By most metrics, they are in the bottom tier. It’s not like they are not chock full of talent, either. There is too much talent on the defense for it to be this bad. Patrick Mahomes can’t continually save the day even if he’s capable of it every game. It’s early but DC Steve Spagnuolo has proven to be capable of fixing defenses. #ChiefsKingdom surely expects the defense to be better, it has to be, right? 

5. Welcome to the League, Rook QBs

– Week 2 was a mixed bag for the much ballyhooed class of 2021 rookie quarterbacks as they have had several welcome to the big leagues moments between them. Zach Wilson in particular had a rough go against the wizard Bill Belichick, throwing for four interceptions and 0 scores. Trevor Lawrence is continuing to throw interceptions like the cookie monster devours cookies, throwing two against Denver. Trey Lance sat. Justin Fields got a lot of time after Andy Dalton was injured, throwing a hideous interception in a crucial moment against the Bengals and was just 6-13 and 60 yards. In more positive news, Mac Jones was effective, leading the aforementioned Patriots to a dominant win. Davis Mills of Houston will get the start on Thursday after subbing in for an injured Tyrod Taylor on Sunday. This was expected growing pains for a rookie class.

6. Injuries are the worst

– It was a brutal week for injuries as a litany of stars were hurt enough to get knocked out of the game or had to sit out a few plays. Most notably, Andy Dalton, Tua, Carson Wentz, Bradley Chubb, TJ Watt, and Tyrod Taylor left and did not return. Baker Mayfield was injured trying to make a tackle on the player who intercepted his pass, dislocating his shoulder. Speaking of Cleveland, Jarvis Landry exited the game and subsequently placed on IR. Big Ben and Eagles OL Brandon Brooks are dealing with pectoral injuries. Eagles EDGE rusher Brandon Graham has a reported torn Achilles. Chubb underwent ankle surgery and is expected to miss significant time and may have ended his time in Denver. It’s only week three of a long 17 game season and it’s going to be a slog with all these injuries to key players already.

7. Zac Taylor is not a good head coach nor OC

– Taylor has proven repeatedly that he isn’t ready for the big time yet. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t call the offense more aggressively than he has. An example that is none more glaring was Sunday when he refused to unleash Joe Burrow until it was too late. The Bengals don’t have the greatest talent along the offensive line, sure but the play calling has been way too conservative. He has to be more mindful that he has a franchise quarterback that needs to be let loose. The Bengals have drafted well over the years but I don’t think he’s that dude that can maximize the short window of contention that a rookie QB contract provides. Perhaps he isn’t ready for a head coaching job just yet and went too far ahead of his skis riding the McVay wave.