Scheduling nightmare emerges
Last week, coronavirus began to disrupt the league’s schedule, forcing postponements. More of the same occurred this week, with a number of fixtures rearranged to account for the cases of coronavirus suffered by the Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots.
Fixtures over the next six rounds have been rearranged and reshuffled, for which the league organisers deserve credit. The problem now is that there is little to no wiggle room if there are more Covid-19 outbreaks. Unfortunately, it seems inevitable there will be more cases and the NFL is quickly running out of opportunities to reschedule remaining games.
Alex Smith makes remarkable comeback
Smith suffered a horrific spate of complications following an injury suffered in November 2018. Following an initial leg break, Smith had 17 surgeries. He then suffered complications after an infection emerged. There was a genuine fear that the infection was a threat to his life with amputation also a very real possibility for a while.
The quarterback made Washington’s roster this year, initially as the third choice quarterback. After Ron Rivera decided to demote Dwayne Haskins from first to third choice, Smith was just one injury away from returning to the field. When Kyle Allen went down, Smith returned to the NFL after a two year absence. His return to play marks the culmination of a horrific ordeal.
The bravery Smith has shown to get back playing is beyond remarkable. Give that man the comeback player of the year award.
It is time to respect the Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders inflicted Kansas City Chiefs’ first defeat for just under a year with a powerful offensive display. The Raiders put 40 points on the reigning champions, with Derek Carr throwing for over 300 yards including three touchdowns.
Jon Gruden identified that to beat the best offense in football, an aggressive game plan wad required. The Raiders executed it to perfection, with their defense making crucial stops late in the game, denying Patrick Mahomes the chance to salvage victory.
Las Vegas moved to three and two – including wins over the Saints and the Chiefs. On their day, the Raiders have proven they can beat anyone, finding consistency from week to week is their next challenge.
Philip Rivers fails to deliver
When Rivers moved to the Indianapolis Colts from the Chargers, the hope was that an elite offensive line would allow the veteran quarterback to undergo a renaissance following a poor campaign.
It just has not worked out like that. Rivers looks incredibly slow in the pocket and more importantly is making errors in terms of his decision making. He threw two interceptions in the defeat to Cleveland, with one displaying a worrying lack of judgement which ultimately cost his side a pick six. Rivers was also caught for a safety, electing to throw the ball away without an eligible receiver in sight.
Rivers is providing minimal upside for the Colts right now. Could Jacoby Brissett replace him in the starting line-up?
Momentum is building for Cleveland
While Rivers struggled to perform, his opposite number Baker Mayfield delivered a competent performance to lead the Browns to a 4-1 start for first time since 1994. While two of their division rivals have also started well, with the Ravens and the Steelers both racking up wins on Sunday, the Browns are well and truly in the mix.
Mayfield was excellent in the first half, but let himself down with a couple of loose passes after the break. Kareem Hunt was superb, stepping up into the lead back role after Nick Chubb’s injury last week.
On defense, Myles Garrett is a one man wrecking ball, creating pressure and sacks with his opposition seemingly powerless to stop him.
While Cleveland still need to eradicate errors, ultimately there is genuine momentum and confidence within the team. It has been a long time since the Browns had that behind them.
Jimmy Garoppolo gets benched
In a genuine upset, the Miami Dolphins hammered the 49ers 43-17 with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick starring.
San Francisco has had a terrible run of injuries, but with QB Garoppolo returning to the starting line-up, it was set to indicate the 49ers were well and truly on the road to recovery. That did not turn out to be the case, with Garoppolo yanked from the pitch at half time following a weak first half display that included two interceptions.
Post-match, head coach Kyle Shanahan claimed that his quarterback had not recovered fully from his ankle injury and was therefore pulled for his own protection. Either way, the decision piles pressure on a QB who has failed to nail down his spot long-term.
The Super Bowl runners up less than a year ago, the 49ers’ season is in danger of being derailed already.
Chase Claypool has breakout performance
The rookie wide receiver registered seven receptions for over 100 yards, including three receiving touchdowns as well as a rushing touchdown. Claypool had flashed in previous games but Sunday saw a truly stunning showing in the Steelers win over the Eagles.
Pittsburgh moved to 4-0 with the win and the performance of Claypool only reaffirms their contender status. He is only the third rookie receiver to record four touchdowns in a game, and the first to do so since 1979.
The Steelers defense is one of the league’s best. The offense is showing it has plenty of talent too.
Firings in Atlanta
A disappointing loss for Atlanta against Carolina saw head coach Dan Quinn and general manger Thomas Dimitroff relieved of their duties. The move had been coming for a while with the Falcons failing to register a win this season, including throwing away leads to lose games that should never have been lost.
Atlanta have been an underwhelming team for a couple of seasons following the 2016 Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots where they conceded 31 unanswered points from the third quarter onwards, throwing away a commanding lead.
The Falcons have plenty of talent on their roster. A reset should do them good. This season is all but over for Atlanta, it is time to focus on long-term success.
Panthers win three in a row
While Atlanta were unhappy with their loss, the Carolina Panthers deserve respect, having won their third successive game under the new leadership of Matt Rhule.
Having lost the first two games of the season, and their star running back Christian McCaffrey through injury, the season did not look like it was going anywhere. That was the expected outcome with a new coach and new quarterback, and a roster that did not look especially strong.
The Panthers have turned it around in style with Teddy Bridgewater delivering excellent performances week after week. Against Atlanta, Bridgewater registered over 300 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He has adapted to the scheme perfectly, transforming the Panthers into a formidable side.
On offense, Robby Anderson has been outstanding while Mike Davis has proven himself to be a more than able deputy to McCaffrey. While the defense is making enough plays to keep their team in games.
The Panthers are a team to keep a close eye on as the season progresses.
Dak Prescott suffers horrific injury
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback has been one of the best players in the league this campaign. He was on course to set a new passing yards record before suffering an ankle injury against the Giants. It looks as if his season is over.
The images of Prescott being carted off the field with tears in his eyes to a standing ovation will live long in the memory. The quarterback has been vocal about his own mental health struggles in recent times and will now need the support of his teammates more than ever.
A win was secured by Dallas with experienced back-up Andy Dalton leading the team to victory. Given Dalton’s high quality for a back-up and the talent on the Cowboys’ offense, they remain very much in contention to win the NFC East. That being said, the Cowboys without Prescott can no longer rely purely on their offense. The defense needs to improve quickly after a woeful showing through five matches.