There was a lot of weirdness going on in the NFL in Week 6.
Two teams we didn’t expect to lose at all, lost very badly.
Jacksonville, with its vaunted defence, fell 40-7 to Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. Prescott only passed for 183 yards, but did register two TDs against zero interceptions, while he and Ezekiel Elliott rolled up the lion’s share of the 206 rushing yards and each had a ground TD.
In the other mild shocker, the sinking Miami Dolphins won an error-filled overtime laugher over the Chicago Bears 31-28. Brock Osweiler took over from an injured Ryan Tannehill and engineered two late scoring drives for touchdowns to send the game to overtime, where kicker Jason Sanders finally iced it with a 47-yard field goal. That crazy game featured three interceptions and three fumbles, one from Miami’s Kenyan Drake in overtime nearly costing his team the game.
The rest of the slate went pretty much as expected, with the Los Angeles Rams staying a perfect 6-0 with a narrow 23-20 victory over Denver and the Kansas City Chiefs falling to 5-1 after a 43-40 defeat to New England in a thriller.
And in Le’Veon Bell news, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who tripped up Cincinnati in Week 6, aren’t expecting the disgruntled running back to report during their bye week.
Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs got to 5-0 this past weekend, ditto the Los Angeles Rams.
We’ve spent some time this past summer telling anyone who will listen who the best freshmen might be, while making some gutsy prognostications about just who will be dominant this season. On the player side, we think some guys will break out, big time and filled in the football literati on the top aging stars still grinding it out.
With a tumultuous week 5 now history we had to re-jig the weekly power rankings yet again. Here is the new power ranking, as per results.
16. Chicago Bears – 2018 Record: 3-2
The Oakland Raiders tried to play contractual dodge ball with stalwart defender Khalil Mack in the off-season. To their detriment, he held out and the team’s loss is definitely Chicago’s gain. The Bears, who had the 10th ranked offence a year ago, gave up consecutive first round picks to get the two-time All-Pro linebacker, who they then signed to an historic six-year, $141 million contract, with $90 million guaranteed. He will fit in quite well with Chicago’s first round pick, LB Roquan Smith, who was taken eighth out of the University of Georgia. The Bears also improved their offence before the start of the 2018 campaign, signing free agent WR Allen Robinson to a three-year, $42 million contract after the Jacksonville Jaguars essentially let him go for nothing. He gives second year QB Mitch Trubisky another weapon with fairly reliable hands.
Week 6 Result: The Bears had an opportunity to continue the Dolphins slide to the bottom of the AFC East standings, but squandered it with bad football on Sunday. They were up 21-13 at the end of the third quarter, allowed Miami to tie it up, took a lead with 3:17 to go and again surrendered a long TD pass by Brock Osweiler to send the game to OT. In OT, it was a comedy of errors, with neither team stepping up, until the Dolphins’ Jason Sanders finished things with a big boot and no time left on the clock.
Up Next: The Bears better have their big boy pants on when the resurgent 4-2 New England Patriots invade Soldier Field on Sunday.
15. Miami Dolphins – 2018 Record: 4-2
The Dolphins were an up-and-down team in 2017, ultimately squandering a 4-2 start by losing eight of 10 to miss the playoffs after going to the post-season in 2016. With Ryan Tannehill back after missing the entire 2017 campaign, Miami can put in the rearview mirror the three-pivot experiment that had dour QB Jay Cutler start 14 games last year. Brock Osweiler is the new back-up, while geezers WR Danny Amendola and RB Frank Gore were brought in to augment the likes of third-year RB Kenyan Drake and wide receivers Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant. On the defensive side of the ball, Ndamukong Suh is gone, replaced by second-year DT Vincent Taylor. Other fresh faces in the 4-3 scheme are standout college safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and former Detroit Lions DT Akeem Spence. Veterans Kiko Alonso and Cameron Wake will still be counted on to solidify the D.
Week 6 Result: The Dolphins are back in the rankings, but only by the hair on their chinny-chin-chins. Brock Osweiler, starting in place of an injured Ryan Tannehill, played fairly well, passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns (but also getting picked twice) as Miami won a mistake filled game 31-28 in OT. Free agent acquisition Albert Wilson had his best day as a Dolphin, hauling in six passes for 155 yards and two TDs, including a late fourth quarter 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Kicker Jason Sanders, who was 3-for-3 on the day, nailed a 47-yard field goal with no time left in OT to win it.
Up next: The 2-3 Detroit Lions come calling Sunday afternoon.
14. Tennessee Titans – 2018 Record: 3-3
Tennessee, which went to the playoffs in 2017, made just one subtle change on offence, welcoming veteran QB Blaine Gabbert to the fold to back up Marcus Mariota. They weren’t in the top 10 in offence in 2017, but will wisely stick with a mostly homegrown unit that runs the ball well with Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry. The defence is a little more veteran and was fourth against the rush last year, but 25th against the pass. Thus, the additions of veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro from New Orleans and CB Malcolm Butler from New England should help the defensive backfield to become more dynamic. Rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans, the 22nd overall pick in the draft, will be able to learn the ropes from veteran LB Brian Orakpo.
Week 6 Result: If not for the fact they are tied atop the AFC South standings with Houston and Jacksonville, the Titans would be gone-gone-gone after a dispiriting 21-0 loss in the rain to Baltimore Sunday. The Titans offensive line did not have a good day, allowing Baltimore a team record 11 sacks on beleaguered QB Marcus Mariota. With just 117 yards passing, but 66 yards lost on sacks, Mariota had 51 net yards passing. If that wasn’t bad enough, Titans rushers mustered only 55 yards on a very bad day overall.
Up next: From the frying pan into the fire as the Titans have to tangle with the 4-2 Chargers in Los Angeles.
13. Carolina Panthers – 2018 Record: 3-2
The Cats turned things around after stinking the joint out in 2016, going 11-5 last year before losing in the wild card game to New Orleans. The offence, headed by a healthy Cam Newton, remains relatively unchanged, with veteran WR Torrey Smith coming into the fold. Carolina also drafted WR D.J. Moore out of Maryland to spell Devin Funchess. On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina is very sound, especially against the run where they were third stingiest against the run in 2017. MLB Luke Kuechly again calls the shots in his seventh season and the squad got a boost on the defensive line with the acquisition of seventh-year pro Dontari Poe at tackle. The defensive backfield has a couple of newcomers in veteran S Da’Norris Searcy and rookie CB Donte Jackson (drafted second round out of LSU).
Week 6 Result: It was a case of too little, too late for the Panthers Sunday as they squandered an opportunity to tie New Orleans atop the NFC South standings, losing 23-17 to Washington. They could not overcome Redskins leads of 17-0 and 20-9 as they fell to 3-2. Cam Newton wasn’t bad on the day, throwing for 275 yards and two TDs, but an interception to Washington’s Josh Norman didn’t help, neither did two lost fumbles by wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Up next: Nothing will come easy for Carolina when they visit the defending champs in Philadelphia Sunday.
12. Washington Redskins – 2018 Record: 3-2
There is a new pigskin-throwing sheriff in town and his name is Alex Smith. Kirk Cousins explored his options in free agency — ultimately inking a deal with Minnesota — so Washington was pro-active, sending CB Kendall Fuller and a third round pick to Kansas City for the veteran Smith. He will hopefully help turn around a team that hasn’t been to the post-season since 2015 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. Other than Smith, there isn’t a whole lot of new in D.C. this year, with only veteran RB Adrian Peterson (signed in August) donning Washington crimson and gold for the first time. If Washington is to be successful, much will hinge on a relatively intact defence that was middle third in yards allowed in 2017 (5,556, 21st overall and last against the rush) and 27th in points allowed at 24.3.
Week 6 Result: Washington stayed atop a winnable NFC East with a big 23-17 home victory over Carolina on Sunday. The score flattered the visitors, who made it close midway through the fourth quarter, but were never really in it otherwise. Alex Smith was efficient enough to throw two TD passes and no interceptions on 163 yards passing. He was helped greatly getting the Redskins into scoring position by Adrian Peterson, who carried the ball just 17 times but racked up 97 yards. Kicker Dustin Hopkins was perfect, going 3-for-3 in field goals, including what would be the winning points on an early fourth quarter 56-yarder.
Up next: A big test when NFC East rival Dallas (3-3) come to D.C. on Sunday.
11. Los Angeles Chargers – 2018 Record: 4-2
That other Los Angeles team didn’t do a lot in the off-season, choosing instead to ride a talented and mostly homegrown squad into the 2018 season. The most significant additions were 2018 first round pick, S Derwin James, who made the starting line-up after being picked 17th out of Florida State. Ditto fourth rounder (119th overall from West Virginia) LB Kyzir White, who also started after camp was over. The leader of this transplanted team is still Philip Rivers, who is in his 15th season with the Chargers and entered 2018 with 50,348 yards passing and 342 TDs in 196 games. DE Joey Bosa, who was the 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and who had 23 sacks in two seasons with L.A., started the season on injured reserve and won’t join the team until Week 9 at the earliest.
Week 6 Result: Melvin Gordon was huge for the Chargers on Sunday, rushing for 132 yards and three touchdowns as L.A. whipped Cleveland 38-14. With that big performance, he now sits third in rushing with 466 yards and has nine total touchdowns (three receiving on 279 yards). WR Tyrell Williams also had a big day, catching three passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers defence also gets special mention, keeping the pressure on Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield by sacking him five times and intercepting him on two other occasions (both by sophomore CB Desmond King).
Up next: The chastened Tennessee Titans come to town for a Sunday afternoon tilt.
10. Cincinnati Bengals – 2018 Record: 4-2
Stalwart quarterback Andy Dalton is back for his eighth season and looking to extend another iron man streak after playing all 32 games the last two seasons. He began his career with 64 straight starts then missed his first three games ever in 2015. The Bengals, who missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2017, therefore begin the 2018 campaign as one of our bubble squads. Dalton got some help in the off-season with the acquisitions of lineman Cordy Glenn (trade with Buffalo) and rookie center Billy Price (21st pick out of Ohio State). Running back Joe Mixon looks to improve on a decent rookie campaign, while WR A.J. Green anchors the receiving corps and a healthy TE Tyler Eifert possibly returning to 2015 Pro Bowl form after two lost seasons. Defensively, former Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown joins a decent and homegrown defence led by the likes of FS George Iloka, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Geno Atkins.
Week 6 Result: When Joe Mixon punched in a TD from four yards out with just over a minute to play against Pittsburgh Sunday, it looked like the Bengals were in charge. But, giving Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 1:18 to play with was 1:18 too long as the star pivot hit superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown for a shocking 31-yard pass and run play to win it for Pittsburgh, 28-21. That soul-killing loss allowed the Baltimore Ravens to draw even with the Bengals for first in the AFC North and for Pittsburgh to establish dominance and keep pace at 3-2-1.
Up next: Cincinnati has the toughest task of any visiting team this weekend, having to try and takedown the 5-1 Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday night.
9. Minnesota Vikings – 2018 Record: 3-2-1
Could one magical season be superseded by yet another? The Vikings shook the personnel tree in the off-season, despite going 13-3 in 2017 and going to the NFC championship game. The quarterback carousel saw the departures of Case Keenum (Denver), Sam Bradford (Arizona) and Teddy Bridgewater (New Orleans) and the arrival of superb thrower Kirk Cousins. Otherwise, the team brought in wide receiver insurance in veteran Kendall Wright, who augments a superb corps including Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. RB Dalvin Cook returns after missing 12 games of his rookie season. The Vikings defence, which gave up the fewest yards in 2017, is a tribute to the team’s development of talent, as only two of the unit’s 11 starters weren’t drafted by Minny. One is newcomer Sheldon Richardson, the starting tackle by way of Seattle.
Week 6 Result: It wasn’t a monumental task, taking down the miserable Arizona Cardinals, but the Vikings got the job done, 27-17. The score wasn’t indicative of a game dominated by Minnesota, both on the ground and in the air. RB Latavius Murray had his best game of the 2018 season so far, carrying the ball 24 times for 155 yards and a touchdown. Kirk Cousins accounted for the other rushing TD as Minny rolled up 195 yards on the ground and another 233 yards in the air and a passing TD to Adam Thielen (who had 11 catches for 123 yards). Minnesota’s defence held Josh Rosen in check, sacking him four times, intercepting him once and not allowing a passing TD.
Up next: Not an easy game in New York on Sunday as the Vikings have to try and beat the 3-3 Jets, who have won two straight.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – 2018 Record: 3-3
It’s still Nick Foles job to toss passes for the defending champion Eagles, so fans ought to get used to it, at least until Week 3. That’s when Carson Wentz is due to return from a knee injury he suffered early last December. The Eagles, who surprised many by taking it all last year, kept the offence relatively intact, other than signing veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace to a one-year deal. Fletcher Cox heads one of the NFL’s most dynamic defences. It’s a veteran and largely homegrown unit that got a significant boost with the acquisition of DE Michael Bennett in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. He’s a veteran edge rusher who has 54 career sacks, including 8.5 with the Seattle Seahawks last year.
Week 6 Result: The Eagles made it look easy to get back to .500, using a sound passing game by Carson Wentz (278 yards, 3 TD) and a swarming defence to neutralize the host New York Giants in a 34-13 victory. Wentz chucked TD strikes of one and 13 yards to Alshon Jeffery and a 10-yarder to TE Zach Ertz as Philadelphia breezed to the win. The Eagles defence made life miserable for Giants QB Eli Manning, who was sacked four times and threw an interception. The only Giant to penetrate the Philly D was rookie RB Saquon Barkley, who ran for 130 yards and a TD.
Up next: Philadelphia hosts 3-2 Carolina on Sunday.
7. Baltimore Ravens – 2018 Record: 4-2
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Ravens, who have -relied on a defensively focused game for years now, made no major changes to a group capably helmed by 16-year veteran Terrell Suggs. However, despite some modest gains in 2017, the team finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the third season in a row. The offence, then, could best be described as the loss leader and needed upgrades. Enter long-time WR Michael Crabtree, signed after Oakland released him in the off-season. Lining up opposite the mercurial Crabtree is John Brown, who gets a fresh start after an injury-plagued third season with Arizona in 2017. Continuing with the add-ons, WR Willie Snead IV gets a fresh start after a miserable 2017 season with New Orleans. As insurance for Joe Flacco, the Ravens drafted former Heisman Trophy winning QB Lamar Jackson out of Louisville, while also signing Robert Griffin III (for yet another chance).
Week 6 Result: The Ravens wiped the bad taste of a loss to Cleveland in Week 5 out of their mouths, stomping the host Tennessee Titans 21-0 on Sunday. Baltimore’s defence set a team record with 11 sacks for 66 yards in losses on on Titans QB Marcus Mariota and limited Tennessee to just 106 net yards offence in the whitewash. Fourth-year LB Za’Darius Smith led the charge, recording three sacks to give him 5.5 on the year, which matches his career high. Running back Alex Collins had TD runs of 13 and two yards to help put away the Titans.
Up next: The Ravens defence will have to be even better — if that’s possible — when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints drop into Maryland late Sunday afternoon.
6. Green Bay Packers – 2018 Record: 3-2-1
Aaron Rodgers is back, and we’ve put our money where our mouth is and tabbed the Packers to make the playoffs this year and even do some damage. The normally very durable superstar play-caller missed nine games last season and with him went the Packers playoff hopes. Packers management took great pains to give Rodgers some options, too, signing five-time Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham. Pro Bowl wide receivers Davante Adams and Randall Cobb return to the fold and former Cleveland Browns QB DeShone Kizer gets to watch and learn in a back-up role. With S Morgan Burnett gone in free agency to Pittsburgh, Green Bay shored up a fairly green defensive backfield by bring back Tramon Williams for second go around. The rest of the 3-4 defence remained relatively unchanged, with DE Muhammad Wilkerson, formerly of the Jets, manning the right side of the line.
Week 6 Result: One week after blowing it completely, Packers kicker Mason Crosby was a perfect 4-for-4 against San Francisco, including a 27-yard field goal with no time remaining to cap a comeback in a 33-30 victory. It was a tougher game than it needed to be at Lambeau Monday night, as the Packers had to scramble to tie it up late at 30-30 with just over a minute to go against the 1-5 49ers. Then with time ticking down, the Pack got a key interception from CB Kevin King, then a penalty to San Fran DB Richard Sherman (that negated a sack on Aaron Rodgers) and finally Crosby’s accurate boot to win it.
Next Up: It’s a bye week in Green Bay.
5. New England Patriots – 2018 Record: 4-2
Let’s face it, until otherwise proven, the Patriots are still the class of the NFL, albeit not no. 1 like they have been for much of the last decade and a bit. The off-season wasn’t too tumultuous, but it did see longtime WR Danny Amendola head to Miami and 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks get traded to the L.A. Rams. Even still, ageless Tom Brady still has the Gronk, newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett to target. Over on the defensive side of things, DT Danny Shelton is the sole newcomer among nominal starters. This is an outstanding and comprehensive unit capably backed up by a backfield that includes Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore and Patrick Chung. All signs point to another AFC East title and a good playoff run.
Week 6 Result: Any doubt that the Patriots are a contender were erased in a thrilling 43-40 home win over previously unbeaten Kansas City on Sunday night. In a see-saw affair that saw New England blow a 24-9 half-time lead, K Stephen Gostkowski salvaged a huge win with a 28-yard field goal with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Kansas City nearly sent it to overtime after Patrick Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard bomb to tie it with 3:03 left on the clock. New England rookie RB Sony Michel had a third straight good game, taking 24 hand offs for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next: The Pats head to Chicago to square up against the 3-2 Chicago Bears, who may be ornery after a sloppy loss to Miami in Week 5.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers – 2018 Record: 3-2-1
It’s going to be a long year if Le’Veon Bell continues his hold out well into the regular season. He was responsible for 1,946 of Pittsburgh’s 6,047 yards and 11 of the squads touchdowns too. For the time being, it’s status quo on the Steelers offence, as Big Ben Roethlisberger calls the shots in his 15th season with Pittsburgh. He still has superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown to fling bombs to, ditto emerging talent JuJu Smith-Schuster. While Bell continues to hold the team hostage, second-year man James Conner will get the ball in the backfield. Pittsburgh’s stingy fifth ranked defence from 2017 added a couple of key pieces in S Morgan Burnett from Green Bay and LB Jon Bostic from Indianapolis. We have predicted big things for the Steelers, so both units need to play to their potential.
Week 6 Result: There was magic in the air in Cincinnati Sunday. Down 21-20 to a tough Bengals team and very little time left on the clock, the Steelers caught a break on a penalty to Cincinnati DB Dre Kirkpatrick, keeping a furious drive alive. Then, with Cincinnati forced to play aggressive defence (a field goal would beat them), Big Ben Roethlisberger burned them, dumping a short pass into a wide open Cincinnati middle to WR Antonio Brown, who scampered 31 yards into the Bengals end zone unmolested to win it. Otherwise, second year RB James Conner helped fans forget about the Le’Veon Bell saga, logging his third 100-yard game of the season (111) and running for two more TDs (he has seven total this season).
Up next: The Steelers are in a bye week.
3. New Orleans Saints – 2018 Record: 4-1
It’s still Drew Brees’ show in the Big Easy. The 39-year-old superstar pivot signed a two-year contract extension worth $50 million going into his 19th season. The Super Bowl champ and two-time Offensive Player of the Year still has great weapons at his disposal in 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara, Pro Bowl wideout Michael Thomas, veteran WR Ted Ginn Jr. and long-time TE Benjamin Watson. Of course, should anything happen to Brees, Saints management traded for QB Teddy Bridgewater. New Orleans, which was middle of the pack on defence collectively in 2017, signed a couple of veterans in the off-season. LB Demario Davis, formerly of the Jets is a sturdy defender who hasn’t missed a game in six years in the NFL, while CB Patrick Robinson returns after a successful sojourn in Philadelphia.
Week 6 Result: The Saints got to watch all the drama unfold during a bye week.
Up next: The Baltimore Ravens ought to be wary of a rested Saints team coming in to do battle on Sunday afternoon.
2. Kansas City Chiefs – 2018 Record: 5-1
Alex Smith swapped one red jersey for another, leaving K.C. for D.C. and the Redskins. Which means second-year pivot Patrick Mahomes has the offence all to himself. And what an offence it is. The fifth ranked unit from 2017 added WR Sammy Watkins to a very talented group that includes superstar TE Travis Kelce, outstanding second-year running back Kareem Hunt and fleet receiver Tyreek Hill. Smith’s departure to Washington was a boon to the Chiefs defence, as CB Kendall Fuller came the the other way to be a starter. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens was lured away from Dallas to do good work in the backfield and underrated DT Xavier Williams, who the Arizona Cardinals let go because he was offered a restricted deal by Kansas City, joins a pretty good line.
Week 6 Result: The Chiefs offence was full value, save for a couple of Patrick Mahomes interceptions, but in the end the defence withered under a blistering New England Patriots offensive assault in a 43-40 loss — the first of the young season. Mahomes added four more touchdown passes to increase his league leading total to 18, including bombs of 67 yards to Kareem Hunt and 75 yards to Tyreek Hill, which was a late score to even things up at 40-40 before New England won on a last second field goal. Hill finished with 142 yards receiving and three TDs, while Hunt accumulated 185 yards (80 ground, 105 air) to go with his TD. The Kansas City D, meanwhile, allowed 500 total yards and four touchdowns to Tom Brady and co.
Up next: Another tough tilt as the 4-2 Cincinnati Bengals come to Missouri Sunday night.
1. Los Angeles Rams – 2018 Record: 6-0
After 12 years of really bad football, the Rams were resurrected from the dead in 2017. They had a great season, going 11-5, but ultimately had a bad end, losing 26-13 to Atlanta in the wild card playoffs. But, they have much to build on, especially defence, where they were near bottom third in 2017. So they went big, signing oft-controversial DT Ndamukong Suh for a year and then trading for five-time Pro Bowl CB Aqib Talib. The Rams also hit won out of the park by swapping draft picks for two-time All-Pro corner Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs. These very complementary players join 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who is the undisputed leader. The offence also got an oil change. Three-time 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks came in from New England to catch passes from Jared Goff and to marvel at the talents of 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley II.
Week 6 Result: And then there was only one. One undefeated team left, that is, as the Rams got to 6-0 by withstanding a late Denver charge in a 23-20 victory. Todd Gurley II and kicker Cairo Santos accounted for all the Rams’ scoring. Gurley, who leads all rushers with 623 yards, piled up 208 against Denver and scored both L.A.’s touchdowns, while Santos was 3-for-4 in field goal attempts to account for the other nine points. The Rams defence did allow a shaky Case Keenum to throw for 322 yards and two TDs, but the unit redeemed itself by sacking him twice and intercepting one of his 41 pass attempts. They also limited the Broncos ground game to a measly 60 yards.
Up next: The Rams are in San Francisco to play the 1-5 Niners on Sunday afternoon.