NFL Week 6 Recap
(Disclaimer: We’re talking about Jalen Ramsey next week as the trade happened after Week 6 ended.)
I started my venture into ‘sports writing’ roughly six years ago, covering the Pittsburgh Penguins for an up and coming hockey blog. The creator at the time, was also writing for the Tampa Bay Lightning on the popular NHL blog site Hockey Buzz. The gig didn’t last too long, as I was well in over my head (I only tend to follow the Lightning in regards to hockey), and I noticed that my writing got stale after a while. A couple months after taking the gig, I resigned. The time though was invaluable, and I was able to help craft my writing techniques, which I continue to do so here at Whole Nine Sports. One thing I do recall was learning to be more of an analyst rather than a pre/post game writer.
One thing that I’ve always been fascinated with analysts of any sports is, with each season, the constant calls for coaches or players to be removed from their job. Especially coming from a person with no professional playing or coaching experience, I tended to feel as if they had no right in saying such a thing. They didn’t know how to run an organization, coach a team, or play a specific position on a professional level, so how could they make such calls to remove those who have? With time, I softened up to the concept. Regardless of any job that exists, it’s not difficult to figure out who can do it right versus who can’t. Some excel in certain aspects, and lack in others, while very few can be great at everything that the job expects from them. After some time has passed trying to help those who struggle improve on their faults while nothing changes, it’s time to move on.
I don’t recall a time in the NFL prior to this week where we could have potentially see three starting quarterbacks lose their roles as starters, and quite possibly, their spot on the team come next season. Josh Rosen, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota may have just began this process with their performances on Sunday. Jason Garrett, who has had to endure more calls for his removal than most politicians, is back in the seat, and dependent on any (potential) playoffs performance, could very well be in his last season. Then you get the moment where the calls for a change are answered. Personnel are swapped out, schemes are changed, and somehow and in some way, things get even worse.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Defense Costs the Chiefs a Second Straight Loss at Home against the Texans
At the end of the 2018 regular season, the Chiefs were giving up 405.5 total yards per game, which put them down as the second worst defense in the league. After a loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship, the calls for the removal of then Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton, were louder than ever. Fair enough call, as the Chiefs’ defense was ranked 28th after the 2017 season, and going backwards in terms of production typically isn’t a good thing. Soon after, the fans and analysts got their wish, as Sutton was removed from the position two days after the loss. Shortly after, the Chiefs announced the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo as Sutton’s replacement.
This hire didn’t make much sense to me. Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants from 2015-2017, (he also served as interim Head Coach in the 2017 season). During this time, starting with the 2015 season and continuing until the end of the 2017 regular season, the Giants’ defense ranked 32nd, 10th, and 31st. Doesn’t inspire much confidence, but with the change in schemes and the loss of LBs Justin Houston, Dee Ford, and DB Eric Berry, coupled with a few additions, some fans had some optimism. As of Sunday evening, the Chiefs’ defense ranked 28th in the league, allowing 406.2 total yards per game, which means that this defense is now statistically worse than last year’s squad.
To be fair, the full blame can’t be put on the Chiefs’ defense for their loss this week, so perhaps my headline is a bit misleading. QB Patrick Mahomes is clearly dealing with a roughed up left ankle, starting LT Eric Fisher is still out, starting LG Andrew Wylie was out, LB Anthony Hitchens, the lead tackler from the 2018 season, was also out, and DT Chris Jones was, and will continue to be for a few more weeks, out as well. Simply put, injuries are catching up with this talented roster, and too much is being put onto the shoulders of Mahomes.
That being said, let’s not ignore the other side of this game. Houston is a good team, and other than a rough outing against the Panthers in Week 4, and a nail biter against the Jaguars in Week 2, have been all season. Texans QB Deshaun Watson has had a stellar season so far, and is currently ranked in the top 4 for both adjusted QB rating and passer rating. 12 TDs, 3 INTs, and a completion percentage of 69.7% is helping to keep his name, even if at a whisper, in the season MVP conversations. With Watson under center this season, along with the additions of RB Carlos Hyde and LT Laremy Tunsil, the offense has made strides this season, going from 15th at the end of the 2018 season in average total yards per game, to currently 6th.
Speaking of Hyde, what a great performance on what many considered to be a ‘revenge’ game after he was traded, by the Chiefs, to the Texans on cut-down day prior to the start of the regular season. First game of the season in which he rushes for over 100 yards, along with a rushing TD, helped him to not only get back at the Chiefs for the trade, (along with a few choice words for TV cameras that may end up costing him some money), but continued to expose the Chiefs and their complete lack of a rushing defense, which is now 31st in the league for rushing yards allowed. Add in the pass defense, which comes in at 23rd currently for passing yards allowed, and you have a recipe that makes opposing team’s offenses giddy with joy at the idea of playing them.
TWO MORE GAMES THAT CAUGHT MY EYE
In a True Defensive Struggle, the Saints Edge Past the Jaguars
For as much glory and praise that the Saints have been getting for their defense that finds new ways to improve each and every week, some people tend to overlook the fact that Jaguars have a stout defensive unit as well, primarily along the line. With CB Jalen Ramsey out for the third straight week due to a ‘back injury,’ all eyes were back on Jags QB Gardner Minshew going up against a Saints defensive unit that’s averaging 245 total yards allowed per game, second best in the NFL only behind the 49ers.
Kudos to Saints’ QB Teddy Bridgewater, who maintains his undefeated record while leading the team with Drew Brees out due to injury. Throwing for 240 yards with a passing TD with no turnovers is a decent way to help out your team, though it’s a far cry from last week’s 314 passing yards with 4 TD’s and 1 interception. Granted, he did miss Ted Ginn and Michael Thomas, who were wide-open at the time, for what could’ve been easy touchdown receptions. Still, with a defense playing the way it is over the last few weeks, even a minimal showing of the offense is a great way to keep the victory mobile rolling. That, and the ‘accidental’ tweet from Pope Francis that showed his support for the New Orleans Saints team! It’s always hard to play against a holy blessing like that!
Now before anyone begins the concept that Minshew-Mania is dead, let’s remember that this performance, from a ROOKIE quarterback who was thrown into the mix after QB Nick Foles went down for the season due to injury, was against the 2nd best total defense in the league over the past 3 weeks. I still fully believe that he can be an everyday quarterback in the NFL, and should be the one that the Jaguars look to build around. With a game next week against the Bengals and their 31st ranked defense, I’d expect Minshew to bounce back. Even if he does struggle a bit, remember folks, he’s a rookie! Even future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning struggled as a rookie, throwing for 26 TD’s and 28 interceptions! Give him some time. Not saying that he’ll go down as one of the best to ever play the game, but I fully expect to see him excel in this league, as long as the right pieces and coaches are around him.
Not only did this Saints defense keep Minshew in check, they kept AFC receiving yard leader DJ Clark completely shadowed, managing only 43 yards on 3 receptions. Couple in keeping Jags RB Leonard Fournette to only 3.6 yards a carry with 20 attempts, and no touchdowns, and the Saints defense continues their domination of opponents in recent weeks. With matchups against the Bears and Cardinals over the next two weeks, leading up to their scheduled bye week, I’ll be shocked to see this defense stumble. All attention though will be on Drew Brees, and if he’ll be back to start again when the Saints host the Cardinals. My bet is that if the Saints get through their upcoming trip to Chicago this week, then expect Drew Brees to stay put on the sideline until after the bye.
Monday Night War as the Packers Sneak Past the Lions as Time Expires
Hey! First time picking a Monday night game! This should go to show that I don’t write these wrap ups Sunday night and never pay attention to the Monday games! No, that isn’t the real reason as to why I chose this matchup, it was in fact a good game, but there are a few takeaways to take from this. Outside of the actual game, one fact came roaring back up during this, and something that will probably end up as a ‘Hot Topic Item’ article that I’ll be looking into over the next week. Yes, we’re going to talk about officiating.
It’s been a long time coming, but officiating in the NFL is getting more and more attention each week. Don’t believe me? Log on to twitter and search #officiating and take a look for yourself. This is the first time in recent memory, outside of the NFC Championship game last year which lead to the ability that coaches can challenge pass interference calls, where fans, analysts, and former players are astounded with how horrible this job is getting done. The 2019 NFL Playing Rules book, Rule 12, Section 1, Article 7 on page 46 addresses illegal use of the hands by the defense.
After the game, Referee Clete Blakeman said that both of the calls against Lions DE Trey Flowers were by umpire Jeff Rice. Blakeman was quoted by a pool reporter saying “To be a foul, we basically need some forceful contact that’s prolonged to the head and neck area of the defender. So, in his mind he had pinned him back, it was prolonged, and that’s what created the foul.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like his hand is below the neck and gripping his pads along the shoulder and chest.
I could keep going on about officiating, not only for this game, but for the NFL as a whole. For now, let’s examine the game as a whole, and give some credit out where it’s due. While most of this game was focused on Lions QB Matt Stafford going up against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, each team’s kickers actually stole the show. With Packers K Mason Crosby nailing the game winner as time expired, and finally getting his ‘Lambeau Leap,’ to Lions K Matt Prater accounting for 73% of his team’s points.
If your kicker is accounting for that much, and I’d like to add in that only 1 point came from an extra point attempt, then there’s another glaring issue at hand. In this case, it’s the Lions’ inability to find a way to finish drives and get the six rather than settling for 3. Going into this game, the Packers were allowing 138.2 rushing yards per game, good for 28th in the league, and yet, the Lions, who were 13th in rushing offense at 120.5 yards per game, only managed 56 yards. Even with WR Kenny Golladay putting up his second 100+ yard receiving game of the season, the Packers defense was able to make the adjustments needed at half, and keep the Lions to only field goals.
The first half possessions for the Lions played out as such: FG, TD, FG, and Punt. They did have one possession to end the half as well, but it was a kneel down by Stafford to take it to halftime. In the second half, the possessions were as follows for the Lions: Punt, FG, FG, Punt, FG, and Punt. Interestingly enough, two of those field goals came on prime field position, due to a muffed punt by the Packers, and an interception from Rodgers early in the 4th quarter. Simply put, the Lions moved the ball up the field a total of 224 yards on offense in the first half, while only managing 58 throughout the second half, and still ALMOST won this game thanks to turnovers from the Packers! Granted, the penalties that were called during this game did all the favors in the world for the Packers, but that’s for another article.
QUICK THOUGHTS AND NOTES FROM
THE REST OF THE WEEK:
1. Don’t let one week talk you out of it, but that was an awful showing for Panthers’ RB Christian McCaffrey against the Buccaneers in London. 1.4 average rushing yards per carry on 22 attempts, and 4 receptions for 26 yards, though he did get in the end zone twice. I have to love the ESPN video tag of “McCaffrey, Samuel go off as Panthers top Bucs.” A 1 yard TD run, and a TD reception that accounted for 25 of your 26 total yards doesn’t count as “going off” to me at least. Regardless, everyone has a bad week from time to time, so it will be interesting to see how McCaffrey responds after the Panther’s bye week against a stout 49ers defense.
2. I’ll respect Browns QB Baker Mayfield for his trash talking abilities and confidence in himself. There’s no denying that he knows when and how to respond verbally, but at some point, you need to also back that up with your play. After throwing 3 more interceptions this week against the Seahawks, Mayfield now leads the league with 11 picks thrown, and also leads the league in interceptions thrown since the start of the 2018 season with 25! Now I’m not going to damn him just because of his total interceptions, as Hall of Famer Brett Favre would have much to say about that. However, when your QB rating is 66, which is 32nd in the NFL, and the adjusted ESPN Total QB Rating has you in 23rd with a score of 38.2, maybe it’s time to focus on fundamentals rather than what Rex Ryan has to say.
2a. Speaking of the Browns/Seahawks game, another great turnout for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, accounting for 326 total yards and 3 touchdowns. Mahomes and McCaffrey tend to get the attention for MVP consideration, but let’s be honest with ourselves now. Wilson should be discussed as well.
3. I remember following Jets QB Sam Darnold when he was playing in college at USC. I always knew that he had talent to succeed at the next level, but am I missing something? Is he really this good?! This Jets team looked COMPLETELY different with him at the helm. 338 passing yards, (third 300+ passing yard game of his young career), 2 TD’s and 1 interception, and leading the way to getting the Jets their first win of the season. Sure hope that he enjoys it, as the Jets host the Patriots this week, whose defense looks more disgusting each and every week.
4. How? That’s all I can ask myself at this point. When you have the talent that the Atlanta Falcons have on their roster, and are a meager 1-5 so far this season, then something has to change. At this point, their defense is only slightly better than what the Chiefs are putting out each week. I love watching Kyler Murray, but when a rookie QB is putting up 340 passing yards with 3 TD’s against your defense, then something needs to change and it needs to change fast. I’m not trying to discredit Murray at all, and he had his best game of the season so far against the Falcons, but that just kind of bugs me a bit. I understand that the state of Georgia, particularly Atlanta, is under a massive sports curse at the moment that started with the Braves’ 1st inning meltdown last week, but they’re better than this. Maybe it’s time to take away the defensive coordinator role from head coach Dan Quinn. Truth be told, I’ve never been a fan of a head coach dual-hatting positions on the coaches roster, and this is another source of evidence as to why.
5. Remember when we discussed teams moving on from their quarterbacks earlier? Well, it finally looks as if the Titans are slowly beginning to distance themselves from QB Marcus Mariota. Perfect timing for the Titans as well, as not only has he been struggling to produce in recent memory, is an unrestricted free agent after this season. There have been talks on a long-term deal for Mariota, but I don’t expect any of this to get done until well after the season, perhaps even after the draft. Now that Mariota’s starting role is gone with QB Ryan Tannehill stepping in last week.
5a. Know who was picked ahead of Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft? Current Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston. Throwing for 400 yards against the Panthers in London is an excellent way to keep your job and prove your doubters wrong. Throwing FIVE interceptions in the game though makes the calls for your removal even louder. Just like Mariota, his rookie deal ends after this season which will make him an unrestricted free agent.
6. Poor Josh Rosen. I really want to make a case for him right now, I really do. However, when you get pulled from the game for not being able to score, for throwing two interceptions, and averaging only 3.4 yards per completion on 15 successful passes, and then watch QB Ryan Fitzpatrick march down the field with the same team and almost win the game? No, I don’t think that Fitzpatrick is the answer for the Dolphins, and I fully expect to see Rosen back in under center again at some point this season, but let’s be honest here. This was a no win situation for Rosen. Everyone knew going into this season that they would be bad, and as much as many people may hate it, I think Dolphins management has a huge eye for LSU QB Joe Burrow right now.
7. For my final thought, I leave you with the same thing that I tweeted out Sunday evening. The 49ers are legit. Time to deal with it folks.
2-0 so far this season! I was going to spend some time gloating about my perfect record and how great I am with my forecasts, but then I started to take a look at this week’s matchup. Chiefs taking the trip up to Denver? Why? Why can’t the 49ers and Redskins play on Thursday so I can make it 3-0? My, oh my.
This one is a tough one, as the Chiefs are completely banged up at this point. With the short turnaround from Sunday, I don’t expect to see LG Andrew Wylie back, nor LB Anthony Hitchens, or CB Kendall Fuller. While it was nice to see WR Tyreek Hill back on the field, there’s only so much that you can do with it. Add in that QB Patrick Mahomes only gets 3 days to rest his already injured left ankle, and you have the recipe for another Chiefs loss. Denver is giving up 17.7 points per game, 7th best in the NFL, and allow an average of 307.8 yards per game, which is 4th best in the NFL. Also, expect a big game from Broncos RB Philip Lindsay on this one, as I doubt the Chiefs will fix their lack of a rush defense in time.
Add in the home field crowd in Denver against a Chiefs team that is highly disliked, and the pick becomes even more clear to me.
CHIEFS 27 – BRONCOS 24
Sure, you can call me bias, but I’m not sold on Broncos QB Joe Flacco, and haven’t been for many years, even during his time where he was supposedly an ‘elite QB’ with the Ravens. This pick also takes into assumption that Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders won’t be at 100% due to his knee injury against the Titans which caused him to miss the second half. An estimated injury report released on Monday by the Broncos said Sanders would’ve been limited at practice, and that the injury is not believed to be serious, though it’s still, something to keep an eye out for. If Kansas City can keep the Broncos running game in check, and if Andy Reid resists the urge to call a running play on 2nd and long late in the game, then I like the Chief’s chances in this one.
Comments? Complaints? Gripes? Praises? Feel like telling the Pope to give me a blessing as well? Then let me know! Find me on Twitter! @ThatBankaiLife