Whole Nine Sports

NFL Week 5 Recap

NFL
Trevor Finnell
Follow Trevor @ThatBankaiLife
Follow Whole Nine Sports @WholeNineSports

October baseball, college and pro football are heating up, the NHL season is underway.  I’ve described to you what could be the best time of the year.  Yes, I’m fully aware that I left out the NBA.  Honest truth, don’t really care for a team in the NBA.  If I had to claim a team, it would probably be the Knicks since I grew up a HUGE Patrick Ewing fan, but that also labels me as a “Knicks Fan,” which tends to be looked down upon greatly nowadays.  The Clippers pique my interest, only because Kawhi Leonard is probably my favorite player in the league currently, but I’d kind of feel like a ‘bandwagon fan.’ 

Regardless, Week 5 gave us a ton of topics to talk about!  A great weekend of football, yet ironically, our ‘Game of the Week’ wasn’t even played during the weekend at all!

Game of the Week

Seahawks Survive Late Minute Scare from the Rams

Seahawks Rams

Thursday Night Football games have always had a few identities to them.  On one side, you can expect a game where the defense fails to show up.  On the other side, you can have a game where the offense seems to forget that you have to score points in order to win the game.  On the very rare occasion however, you get a matchup like what we saw on Thursday night, and not only was it a great matchup, we also saw a performance from Seahawks QB Russel Wilson that continues to advance the notion that he is an elite QB in the NFL today.  Wilson completed 17 passes with 23 attempts for 268 yards, 4 TDs and 0 interceptions, along with 8 rushing attempts for 32 yards.  Add in that he was able to keep multiples play going, allowing for receivers to break through zone coverages and find an opening, while only taking 1 sack through the game, and it’s no reason that Wilson now sits atop the NFL with a 126.3 QB rating after week 5. 

18 versus 43.  49 versus 23.  What kind of nonsense am I spilling out?  Firstly, the Rams had 18 total rushing attempts during this game, versus the 43 that the Seahawks took.  Secondly, Rams QB Jared Goff had 49 pass attempts, while Wilson took 23.  A few things come to mind from these comparisons.  The main one touches on a topic that we talked about last week.  Rams’ RB Todd Gurley did see an uptick in his rush attempts this week, tripling his total from last week from 5 to 15!  The results however, weren’t much different.  While averaging 3.2 yards per carry last week, Gurley went for 3.4 yards per carry against the Seahawks.  Granted, he did get two rushing touchdowns this week, which does match from the previous week, his receiving totals did drop, from 7 catches for 54 yards to 3 catches for 6 yards.

Jared Goff

Now, let’s examine the QB throw attempts, primarily focusing on Goff.  From 68 pass attempts the previous week, (which was a massive offensive shootout against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), he took 49 against the Seahawks.  Currently, Goff leads the league in pass attempts with 222.  That’s also 46 more than Matt Ryan has, who is second in the league, and only 7 ahead of third, who’s 3 ahead of fourth, and so forth.  When you look at it in this sense, it’s very apparent that Rams’ Coach Sean McVay is prioritizing his passing offense.  After Thursday’s game, the Rams sit atop the league with 44.4 pass attempts per game, and 24th with 23.0 rush attempts per game.  Fun fact time!  At the end of the 2018 season, the Rams were 14th in pass attempts per game (35.5) and 6th in rush attempts per game (29.0).  So what exactly changed? 

If you look at the total snaps for the season for Gurley, you’ll notice that not much has changed in regards to how much he’s playing:

Todd Gurley Snaps

With only a 3.8% difference so far, Gurley is still active in the lineup almost as often as last year, though he has yet to have over 60 snaps a game through Week 4, which did occur a few times in 2018.  Regardless, this all goes back to how Coach McVay is using Gurley in his offense.  Everyone recalls his missed time last season due to his knee, which according to Rams Preseason Radio Analyst Maurice Jones-Drew, Gurley actually injured his knee back in Week 1 against the Raiders.   Still, the total snap count would suggest that Gurley is fine, and his only appearance on an injury report was prior to the Week 4 game, though it was listed that it was ‘Not Injury Related.’  Could be a weak argument as well, considering he was off of the injury report for the majority of the season prior to his exit after Week 14 last season as well, if the injury timeline that Maurice Jones-Drew is true.

Regardless, we’re back at it again, wondering what is up with Gurley.  At this point in time, it looks like a conversion to a pass-first offense, which is a bit different compared to the more balance approach from the season prior.  Regardless, it seems like putting the burden on Goff’s shoulders is the ticket idea for now, and Coach McVay will continue to field this question until the end of time. 

Double Trouble! Two More Games That Caught My Eye

Ravens Push past the Steelers, Controversy Included!

Ravens Steelers

I don’t recall the last time that I watched a defensive player strip a ball from another player and bring me robust satisfaction.  Ravens safety Marlon Humphrey provided it though, with that wind up and punch to strip Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, which is absolutely divine to watch.  Add in the fact that this fumble led to the Ravens’ game winning overtime 46-yeard field goal, and it makes this head’s up play even sweeter.  However, while as great as this play was, this isn’t what’s going to be remembered by a long shot. 

Firstly, there’s no denying that Ravens’ safety Earl Thomas should be fined, (possibly suspended a game as well), for that huge hit on Steelers’ QB Mason Rudolph.  The big question in all of is “was the hit intentional?”  Firstly, and I’ll get this out of the way now: no, I don’t think that was the goal at all.  Thomas has come out himself to say it wasn’t intentional, and I find little to no reason not to believe him for that.  I will admit that I am still perplexed to Thomas’ mindset going into that tackle/hit.  I understand the aspects of the “speed of the game” and all, and yes Rudolph was scrambling which may have thrown off Thomas’ aim, but this is an All-Pro safety, who’s been in the NFL since 2010, so you can’t tell me that he doesn’t know how to tackle or deliver a big hit.  Regardless, the best news that came out of this was Rudolph being allowed to go home from the hospital later on Sunday evening, and even showed up Monday in the Steelers’ locker room smiling, telling teammates that he did feel better.

Ola Adeniyi

And since we’re on the topic of ‘big hits’ during this game, let’s discuss that total destruction of a hit that Steelers’ LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi put on Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson.  Seriously, this is what is deemed as roughing the passer now?  I get being called for putting your hands on the QB’s head, or giving them a hit after they’ve released the ball just for show and tell, but this, I will not understand. 

I get that the referee is behind the QB on this play, so the angle doesn’t do him justice, but I don’t see how they can’t see the ball still in Jackson’s hands, and Adeniyi nearly, if not, making contact, with Jackson.  Even if he wasn’t, Adeniyi was fully committed to the process of taking Jackson down, with absolutely no way to pull back.  Then, tugging on the legs, Adeniyi puts Jackson on the ground, with Jackson hitting the grass with very little impact.

That being said, based on the 2019 NFL Rulebook, an argument can be made that this was the right call.

Roughing the Passer

Outside of the big hits and controversial calls, (sorry Steelers fans, but that ‘roughing the passer call is NOT the reason why you lost this game), the big takeaway by far to me was the grounding of Lamar Jackson as a passer.  19 for 28, 161 yards with 1 TD pass and 3 INTs?  So far, Jackson has 5 picks through the season, all of which have come over the last two weeks.  Another fun fact: Jackson has also been sacked in each game that he’s played in, with the total for each game corresponding to the week of the season it’s being played.  Fun!

Saints’ Defense Proves They’re For Real Against the Buccaneers

Saints Bucs

Deep down, a part of me wanted to replace this part, or even go with a triple threat column, so I could add in the 49ers total thrashing of the Browns, but I’ll save those notes for later.  I knew coming into this week that this game could end up giving a major nod to a potential true favorite for the NFC South crown.  I wasn’t fully buying into the Saints’ defense after their game with the Cowboys in Week 4.  One great game doesn’t constitute a great defense.  Two weeks in a row however?  I’m starting to believe.  Oh, and word has it that Saints’ backup QB Teddy Bridgewater had a great game as well, but let’s talk defense.

In one week, the Saints’ defense went from giving up an average of 391.2 total ypg to 363.4 total ypg.  That puts them at 19th best in the NFL after Week 5, which is up from 26th the week prior!  363.4 yards per game may not seem all that great, but let’s examine this closely.  The first three games of the season for the Saints were against the Texans, Rams, and Seahawks.  At the end of Week 5, all three of those teams rank in the top 8 for total offense in the NFL, which helped provide to the Saints giving up 436.3 total yards per game, 28th in the NFL.  Next, the Saints face the Cowboys (ranked 9th in the NFL in total offense), and the Bucs (ranked 4th in the NFL in total offense).  Conventional wisdom would suggest that things would only get worse for the Saints during this stretch.  When your first 5 games are against teams whose offenses rank in the top 9 of the NFL through Week 5, your defense should either maintain itself, or get worse, not drastically improve!

Sheldon Rankins

It’s possible that the return of unheralded DT Sheldon Rankins proved to be a major boost.  Perhaps it’s the disciplined unit, as the Saints’ defense is currently tied with the Jets for 6th in the NFL for least defensive penalties.  Perhaps this is just the genius of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.  Remember, he did sign a 3 year extension back in February for his role of turning a post Rob Ryan defense, best summarized as pure chaos, into a highly respectable unit.  One of the reasons for this?  Allen is highly known for making the proper adjustments at halftime, though it seems that his biggest adjustment wasn’t just at halftime for a game, but after the first 3 weeks of the regular season. 

I do have to give credit where it’s due though, and Jameis Winston, for all of the grief that he’s been given over the past few years, (some warranted), I still believe that he’s having a respectable season.  Currently, he’s projected to have his best year in regards to passing yards, passing TD’s, and average passing yards per attempt, (in both the adjusted and non-adjusted categories).  We’ll just have to wait and see if he can keep this up through the rest of the regular season.

QUICK THOUGHTS AND NOTES FROM THE REST OF THE WEEK:

Chiefs Colts

1. At this point, I really have to feel bad for Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes, as this entire team is resting solely on his shoulders.  Injuries are piling up for this Chiefs team, with the entire left side of their starting offensive line on the injured list.  Add in WR1 Tyreek Hill is still out and unknown for his return, WR2 Sammy Watkins left early in the 1st quarter with a hamstring injury, which will cost him some time apparently, DE Chris Jones is out for a few weeks with a groin injury, and even Mahomes has to deal with a nagging ankle injury that was more than visible against the Colts Sunday Night. 

The Colts exposed these gaping issues Sunday Night, and showed the rest of the NFL how to keep arguably the best offense in the NFL at bay.  Simply put, it’s all about the run game, an old school train of thought that some analytics think is a dying breed.  Funny thing about this: the Chiefs currently have neither a rushing game, nor a rushing defense. 

Nick Bosa

2. Here is the question that will be debated all week: Are the 49ers really that good, or are the Browns just overrated?  Honestly, I’ll take a side of both.  Even though the wins come against teams that are now a combined 5-15 on the regular season, it’s hard to deny how good the 49ers are.  Why is that?  Outside of a highly sloppy 24-20 win against the Steelers in Week 3, they’ve beaten the teams that there were supposed to, BADLY.  31-17, 41-17, 31-3.  Those are the scores of the other 3 games that the 49ers have played so far this season.  It doesn’t matter who it was, it matters on how they did it.  With a game in LA against the Rams in Week 6, we may get a better view point on how real this team is.

3. Raiders’ Head Coach Jon Gruden has received a lot of flak during his career.  From his Super Bowl win with the Buccaneers with “Tony Dungy’s team” to people complaining about his commentary and analysis while with ESPN on Monday Night Football, to his return to coaching with the Raiders, it felt like it was always open season with criticism.  Sure, they blew a 17-0 lead and let the Bears take the lead going into the 4th quarter of Sunday’s game in London, England, but give credit where credit is due.  The Raiders fought back, kept in it, and behind a stellar RB Josh Jacobs, (123 rushing yards, 2 TDs), got the win.  The win puts them at 3-2 for the season, and 1 game back of the AFC West division lead, held by the injury riddled Chiefs.  No, I’m not saying that this team will take the division, but they are on the way up!

Patriots Redskins

4. Yet another week where the Patriots defense looks like an absolute demolishing unit.  After giving up a 65 yard TD run to Redskins WR Steven Sims, the adjustments came in quick and from there, it was lights out for the NFL’s number 1 ranked defense. 

No, I don’t care who they’ve played.  I don’t care if it was against the Dolphins, Jets, Bills, Steelers, and Redskins.  There’s a strong chance the people who say “Oh they played awful teams” are the same people saying that 49ers are legit, even though they’ve also played “awful teams.”  While the argument can be upheld in certain instances, I don’t see this being the case at all.  Why?  Because this defensive unit is beating down each and every professional offense that they come across, just as they should.  238.4 average total yards per game.  That’s what the Patriots are allowing right now, which is 36.6 yards ahead of the second place Bills, who, guess what, have played some awful teams themselves.  Also, don’t expect this stat to change much, as the Patriots get the Giants, Jets, and Browns next. 

Gardner Minshew

5. After taking full blame for the dud that was their game against the Panthers back in Week 4, Texans QB Deshaun Watson comes out the next week and just drops bombs on the Falcons.  426 passing yards, 5 TD passes, and 47 rushing yards to add to it?  Good enough to own the 2nd spot in QB Rate for the NFL, and 4th per the ESPN QBR.  Don’t be surprised at all to see Watson’s name in the MVP talks near the end of the season.

6. Don’t you dare start believing that Minshew-Mania is dead.  Yes, three lost fumbles in the game against the Panthers this past week is very rough, but Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew II kept them in this one up until a 59 yard run from Panthers RB Reggie Bonnafon with 3:34 left in the 4th quarter that put the Panthers up by 7.  Even still, Minshew marched the Jags down the field from their own 5-yard line for 74 yards and almost got the score to tie it up, though an illegal use of hands penalty on Carolina did negate an Eric Reid interception at the 1-yard line that would’ve sealed the deal, so there is that.  Regardless, Minshew has a huge test ahead of him this week, as the Jags host the Saints. 

Also, once you finish up here, be sure to wander on over and check out WNS writer Jon Otiker’s awesome breakdown of Gardner Minshew’s magic.

Thursday’s Forecast

Patriots Giants

The fact that I’m 1 for 1 so far this season should make me consider ending this section of the recap and going out on top as perfect.  Blame arrogance I guess, or the fact that it’s the way that I end each recap, but the show must go on!  Thankfully, I’m 99.9% certain that I’ll be 2 for 2 this time next week, as the New England Patriots host the New York Football Giants.  Be on the lookout if Superman himself (aka Saquon Barkley) plays in this one.  If he does, then this will be a big test for the Patriots rush defense.  Either way, I can’t see the Giants getting past the Patriots in this one.  Wait a second… where have I heard that line before? 

Patriots – 31   Giants – 16

Comments? Gripes? Praises? Complaints?  Find me on Twitter @ThatBankaiLife.  I’m sure at some point during this season that I’ll end up explaining what my Twitter handle actually means, but I do enjoy listening to WNS podcast host Dylan Sanders try and pronounce it too much!