Week five is almost finished, and we’re finding out who’s the real deal and who needs to improve before the playoffs. Unlike the first four weeks, a lot of yesterday’s games were close at certain points. More teams are finding their rhythms on both sides of the ball, even with a handful distancing from the rest. Who stood out yesterday, positively and negatively in this second week of October?
Winners: Wide Receivers in Pennsylvania
The Eagles-Steelers matchup was one of the better early afternoon games, and we have Travis Fulgham and Chase Claypool to thank for that. Fulgham, in his sophomore season and first with the Eagles, couldn’t be stopped. He gashed the Steelers for 152 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. Travis Fulgham became quarterback Carson Wentz’s go-to target on third downs, averaging just over 15 yards whenever he caught the ball. His touchdown put Philadelphia into a two point deficit and the undefeated Steelers on their toes the rest of the game. In order for the Eagles to win games against playoff contenders this fall, they need their new guys and depth to step up like Fulgham did yesterday in Pittsburgh.
Chase Claypool had the game of his life on the opposite end. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense found ways to bring new receiver depth non-stop last decade. Claypool could be another hit. He had 110 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches and ran the ball three times for six yards and an additional touchdown. That’s 24 of Pittsburgh’s 38 points. They may have found a new weapon to give defenses fits, which helps them as the season extends.
Nelson Agholor, Derek Carr and Jon Gruden
The Raiders were blown out most of the games they played against the Chiefs in the past five years, and a lot of analysts predicted that again yesterday. Not only was the game close, the Raiders took home a much needed and coveted win against their rival. The Raiders won’t be an easy mark for the Chiefs anytime soon.
A big part of the change starts with head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden was angered by previous results, and he knew in order to beat a team like the Chiefs, he needed a physical and gritty team. Las Vegas’ front four tore through Kansas City’s offensive line, with one lineman leaving the game (and done for the year) with multiple knee injuries. Gruden knew how he wanted to build this team, and it showed up for this crucial divisional win.
Josh Jacobs looks to be the real deal, but the two offensive players who stood out were Derek Carr and Nelson Agholor. Arrowhead Stadium is where Carr’s played his worst football for years. Without a crowd, he did surprisingly well, going 22 of 31 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Carr’s best pass went to new addition receiver Agholor, who shook off two defenders on one of his two catches on the day. Agholor was tired of Philadelphia’s culture and wanted out. The past two games, he’s scored three touchdowns with not a lot of drops. That’s the receiver a lot of viewers want to see.
The Raiders’ offense was shaky the previous two weeks, and their next two opponents will be tricky to stop, but going into the bye week, they have a lot to feel proud about.
There was a lot to feel great about last week in Cleveland when the Browns set records against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington. True, it was against an awful defense where even Daniel Jones and the New York Giants (more on them later) put up 31. Could the Cleveland Browns do the same to the Indianapolis Colts?
The answer to that was mostly yes. They started slow in the first quarter trailing 7-3, but outscored Indianapolis 29-16 the rest of the game. The Colts needed a test, and while they weren’t successful, they have time to re-tool and get ready for their next few opponents. They could still take their division.
The Browns look to be in a great place. Their offense is a two-way threat even without starting runningback Nick Chubb. Kareem Hunt is a top three back in the league and Baker Mayfield is showing progress within head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system. Receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are a pain to cover for a full game. This team can win games in clutch-time, something we haven’t seen the Browns do in years.
Brian Flores’ Impact in Miami
It was impossible to ignore yesterday’s Miami-San Francisco score for anyone tuning into any of the late afternoon games. The Dolphins throttled the 49ers for 60 minutes and didn’t give an inch to the defending conference champions. Miami probably played their best game as a team in the past year, and that’s saying loads about how far they’ve come since head coach Brian Flores took over.
Commentator Chris Spielman noted why Flores was hired, “He’s a Bill Belichick disciple, but he’s his own person. He’s not a clone or like the others who were hired working for Bill. That’s what makes him stand out. He knows the physical parts of the game, but the mentality is his own.” The Dolphins may have the best coach from the Bill Belichick tree and can be a threat with him even after Belichick leaves New England. While Seattle beat Miami the previous week, Flores and his staff found ways for the defense to give Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf fits. This week they jumped on a creaky 49ers offense and torched the defense on the other end. The Dolphins should give teams fits for the rest of the season, and it starts with their coaching staff.
Losers: Stephen Hauschka
Anyone who follows the game closely can tell you kickers get the short end of the stick, especially in critical scoring opportunities. However, there are times when it’s fully deserved, and Hauschka’s timing fits right in.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense stalled on multiple drives in the second quarter against a winless Houston team that had new life with interim head coach Romeo Crennel calling plays. It is hard to plan against a team with a new coach within a week, and it was in the first half. Hauschka had two attempts in the game and both came in the first half. One was a chip shot around 27 yards. How’d he fare?
His is the first name in the losers section here, so it isn’t a hard guess.
The Jaguars could’ve gone into half-time up 13-10 on the Texans. Instead they trailed by three, and were blown out 20-7 in the second half. Here’s where the six points come into play. Let’s say the Jaguars get a touchdown like they did a third of the way into the fourth quarter with those six points added on. Houston probably would’ve scored again with a field goal. But it’s still Jacksonville who controls the tempo. That’s the difference late in the game, and it’s why in this situation, both the kicker and special teams get a big part of the blame.
Whoever is an active quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers
It’s time to retract the Nick Mullens praise and cheerful thoughts about San Fran’s quarterback depth. It’s excusable to have a crap performance one week. It happens. Getting bludgeoned at home a second straight week is alarming. As mentioned here two weeks ago, the 49ers needed those wins against the Eagles and Dolphins before they started running their mid-season gauntlet against the Los Angeles Rams. Not only are they 0-2 in those games, their quarterbacks look horrendous.
Kyle Shanahan made the right move putting Jimmy Garoppolo in yesterday. He had to see action before playing a division rival. He lead San Francisco to one dominant scoring drive in the first half, but was awful the rest of his start. He threw for 77 yards and two interceptions while taking three sacks. Backup C.J. Beathard fared a bit better but faced limitations due to the Dolphins torching the defense.
It’s a fair point saying the team played down to their competition. That may be okay if they didn’t do that already the week prior. Mullens and Garoppolo were awful in those games, with Beathard seeing limited action in those losses. The conference champions are feeling everyone’s best games (outside of New Jersey) and aren’t passing the tests. This could be a mighty long season in the bay.
New York Giants
It has become a race to the bottom in not just the NFL but in the state in which the Giants play. The Giants and Jets are playing a game of How Low Can You Go?– with each other. The 2017 Browns and 2008 Lions weren’t this atrocious, and that’s saying a lot.
In their first game against the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants had this on their side:
- a 17-3 lead
- momentum swing after Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott broke his ankle
- a three point lead at the final two minute warning
- the second-to-last possession where they could take a lead.
These are reasons on why you get on the Losers list if you have all four of these going your way and still go 0-5, even with a garbage Dallas defense yielding over 30 points a game.
Allen is a nominee and resounding winner for Week 5 unluckiest player. Clearly coach Ron Rivera didn’t want Dwayne Haskins starting another game, so he let his former Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen get the start. Allen had the sobering misfortune to face the Los Angeles Rams’ front four. He scored a touchdown early in the game to give the Washington Football Team a one point lead. After that first quarter, it was all downhill.
Allen was sacked twice and left the game because of a concussion. That paved the way for Comeback Player of the Year nominee Alex Smith to make his first appearance under center since breaking his leg in 2018.
Alex Smith playing (poorly, but upright nonetheless) is what fans and pundits will focus on the remainder of this week, probably to the point where Smith gets the starting job with Allen in concussion protocol. None of that’s on Allen, it’s just cruel timing in a bad situation.