Consider the NFC officially up for grabs.
On another wild weekend in which the Lions and Saints traded bizarre scoring drive for bizarre scoring drive. One where the Falcons found a way to blow a 17-0 lead at home at the half. And one that also saw the Skins threaten to blow a big home lead to the winless 49ers. The single most significant development happened early in the day in Minnesota, where Aaron Rodgers' season likely came to an end with a broken collarbone, taking Green Bay's Super Bowl aspirations with it. Couple that with the decision on Friday, by the NFL, announcing Zeke Elliott is indeed now suspended for the next six-games (pending further potential court decisions), and the balance of power in the National Football Conference is open to interpretation.
Outside of the Eagles – whose only loss is to the Chiefs, who were the last unbeaten team in football – find me the NFC team that you could really get behind? Who is the finished product, the real deal, the total package? Good luck. And for as well as the Eagles have played, I'm not exactly convinced they are going to run away from the pack and hide, though they probably will run away from the Pack and hide, now. Sure, the situation isn't much better in the AFC, but as long as Tom Brady is still throwing the football there is a certain air and pedigree that comes with New England. But in the NFC, no such team exists.
The Falcons suffered a horrible loss, at home, to a Dolphins team they had down 17-0 at the half, and a Dolphins team that couldn't score on anyone this season. The Vikings had a nice win over the Packers, pulling away after Rodgers went down, but their starting quarterback Week 1, Sam Bradford, might not be back for a long time himself. The Cowboys were on the bye but still remained the league's poster boys for drama, with the Elliott legal madness and their owner deadest on making the protests, which no Cowboys were taking part, a divisive issue in his locker room, anyway. The Panthers just got pushed around at home, on a short week, but the Eagles and linebacker Luke Kuechly, playing at an MVP level, is in the concussion protocol yet again. Shame on me for believing the Bucs would actually make a leap forward this season, and then Jameis Winston gets knocked out of Sunday's game against the Cardinals with a shoulder injury.
Makes for a murky picture. Your guess at the first overall seed is as good as anyone's.
But you have to look within the division first, as to who stands to gain the most from Green Bay's jarring loss. The Lions, despite another tough defeat, still have the Packers twice on their schedule. And the Vikings get them once more after falling to Rodgers once already this year. The Bears are somewhat plucky … but they aren't going to the postseason. And the suddenly-relevant again Saints also could get a boost. They get next crack at the reeling Packers, in the first week they'll have to prepare with Brett Hundley as the starter and not Rodgers, and things could be setting up nicely for New Orleans.
Yeah, they still have issues on defense, but they get the Bears the week after that, and I fancy their chance of being able to put up a bunch of points in that one, too. Regardless, the door is now more open than ever for some teams no one was thinking about in the postseason. Because the Packers were going to be in the postseason in some way, shape or form with Rodgers under center every week, and they're not going to be now.
By the time we see Rodgers again, in all likelihood next summer, he'll quite likely have a new contract in tow, making him the highest paid player in the history of the game. If you somehow discounted his unique worth to his football team, you're about to see how many warts and blemishes and outright holes Rodgers covered on that roster. The next 10 weeks will feel like an eternity for the Packers and the wins will be few and far between.
Watson has transformed Texans
I know it was against the Browns and all, but it's impossible not to get enthusiastic about what Deshaun Watson is doing. He's a baller, simple as that. The energy and confidence this kid has instilled in this offense, and the way it is stretches defenses both vertically and horizontally, has transformed the Texans. Even with all of the bodies they are losing on defense, if they can stay relatively healthy on the offensive side of the ball they are going to be a factor into January. This kid has 15 touchdowns passes – to five interceptions – in his first five starts and he's averaging 7.2 yards per rush and scored two touchdowns on the ground as well. All of a sudden this is a big-play offense and while there will surely be some bumps in the road, he's going to run away with rookie of the year.
Ravens' offense in disarray
The Ravens have one of the worst rosters on offense in the NFL – that's basically beyond debate at this point. You won't find many (any?) of their running backs receivers or tight ends starting on the better teams in this league. But that still doesn't excuse some of the decision making. After the Bears handed them the game back Sunday, for some reason Marty Morhinweg and Joe Flacco conspired to blow a shot at a last-second game-winning field goal by throwing to crossers in the middle of the field with no timeouts, and then, after being gifted great field position in overtime, on a day when Flacco was brutal, and the offensive line weak in pass protection, they opted to throw on third-and-two. Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams look like busts, the inability to identify/develop young receivers has become crippling and you can't help but wonder if yet another change of play caller is looming for an unit that has been in perpetual crisis for about three years now.
More from Week 6
- You could do a heck of a lot worse than what rookie CJ Beathard managed to do in his first NFL appearance, coming in cold trailing on the road. He showed plenty of poise and a little more flash than I figured for a kid who probably projects to a long-term back-up. He rallied the 49ers at Washington and had them in position to win for the first time all season.
- It would be a little early to look at Beathard as yet another quarterback the Browns fanned on, but my goodness, what a debacle Kevin Hogan's start was. He'd made some plays filling in for DeShone Kizer, and I got why coach Hue Jackson made the change given the desperate situation this winless team is in again, but that was worse than anyone could have imagined. Cleveland has every bit a legitimate chance to go 0-16 this year. It really is that bad. The close losses and bad breaks that plagued them for the first half of last season haven't even come into play – they're just getting routed. Average margin of defeat is 10.5 points.
- I will never in 100,000,000 years understand the fumble call in the Jets-Patriots game. Seems the league office is just trying too hard sometimes with these arcane decisions. It would be one thing, I suppose, if that play was ruled a fumble in real time. But to overturn a touchdown on a ball that bobbled a little bit before the receiver hit the pylon? Well, you are just courting more controversy and hand-wringing about what constituted a catch and triggering yet another round of that navel-gazing, and creating fodder for conspiracy theory types and going too deep into an esoteric to try to make us disbelieve what looked to everyone in our studio thought was an obvious touchdown.
- I'm highly skeptical of Adrian Peterson's impact with the Cardinals, but figured he would be running hard and angry Sunday and that certainly was the case. Not sure it's sustainable, however, especially given the state of that offensive line.
- This always looked like a bounce-back week for the Steelers. Too good a team to stay down for too long and one that tends to play up, or down, to its level of competition.