Week six was full of eye-opening play and revealed who is closer to being playoff-bound. On the opposite end, some teams are close to preparing for the offseason. Time to break down who or what won or lost the week.
Winners: Bengals coach Zac Taylor
Cincinnati’s won as many games before November they did last season. After a crushing loss to the Green Bay Packers last week where five field goals were missed in a row, coach Taylor had to help his kicker’s confidence and make sure the team moved on from a game they could be stuck on mentally. He succeeded in that Sunday.
The Bengals blew out the Detroit Lions and didn’t let up. While they led 10-0 at halftime, Taylor made the adjustments league analysts had criticized him for not doing the past two years. They added ten points to the lead in the third and 14 in the fourth. Detroit finally scored in the middle of the fourth quarter and added a touchdown with a two point conversion when the Bengals all but won.
This is a pivotal season for the third year head coach and he’s doing everything right, from helping with confidence to a winning record.
Henry Ruggs III
One of the top four Alabama receivers drafted in the past three years, Ruggs’ growth to be a number one wideout shines brighter. His touchdown gave the Raiders an early lead against the Denver Broncos. His three catch, 97 yard performance opened Las Vegas’ passing game and took pressure off tight end Darren Waller.
Ruggs has equaled his touchdown total from last year but his yards per game is almost double from 34.8 to 74.2. His yards after catch and targets increase almost every week. At the end of the season, he could be close to some of the top receivers in the league. Las Vegas is developing the receivers with franchise quarterback Derek Carr’s career year.
The Arizona Cardinals dominated a hobbled Cleveland Browns team. While the Cardinal offense had a highlight-filled day, the defense did a good job holding Cleveland’s offense under 400 yards. One of the undervalued free agent signings this past offseason is J.J. Watt. He’s playing like his old self before injuries slowed his career in Houston the past four years.
Watt recorded five tackles including a sack against one of the best offensive lines in the league (which is somehow struggling. More on them later). His pass defensed came at a critical time in the second half when the Browns rallied, and his leadership helps the unit be one of the better and more complete defenses in the league.
Comeback player of the year will go to a bigger name on offense but J.J. Watt deserves credit for having a bounce-back season on a team that’s undefeated after week six.
Matthew Wright and that awesome Curved Field Goal
The Jacksonville Jaguars won a game after 399 days. Their kicker Matthew Wright is a big reason why they’re heading into the bye with a win against the Miami Dolphins. Wright tied the game at 20 with a field goal that curved inside after a wide-right kick. He made the winning attempt at 53 yards with one second left…and one of the best U.S. sports broadcasters in Kevin Harlan called both. That’s a season highlight.
Losers: New York Giants
A win against New Orleans may be the top highlight of their season. Since the victory, New York has been outscored 82-31 despite a top ten ranking in passing yards.
Injuries are a factor on offense and one has to wonder if the concussion quarterback Daniel Jones suffered in a loss last week was one reason the three point lead and redzone trip to start was the best part of their game before a meaningless Eli Penny touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The defense is terrible and that’s an understatement. The only game the Giants held an opponent to under 21 points was a 17-14 home loss against Atlanta, where Adoree Jackson dropped a potential game winning interception. The Falcons scored ten points to win in the final four minutes.
The worst part is how undisciplined New York is. Receivers are in fights whether it’s practice or games. The duo of coach Joe Judge and general manager David Gettleman appear to be a failure of epic proportions for the original franchise.
Cleveland Browns’ AFC North lead chances
Injuries play a factor in a team’s success, which is why quarterback Baker Mayfield’s shoulder injury and runningbacks Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have valid excuses for scoring failures. However their top rated offensive line, the defense and coaching is responsible for collapses the last two weeks against quality opponents.
Baker Mayfield’s shoulder injuries are related to offensive line play. Mayfield was sacked five times against a defense missing it’s best pass rusher. The starting runningbacks are injured partly because the team can’t rely on the offensive line to protect the passer.
The defense is non-existent. While there were controversial calls in the loss to Los Angeles, they couldn’t defend the pass or get off the field. Arizona’s offense shredded Cleveland’s defense early, scoring on drives adding up to 69 and 78 yards, totaling just under ten minutes of playing time in the first quarter. The Browns’ offense had life in the beginning of the third quarter before Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins put the game away.
Worse yet is every team in the AFC North won Sunday. The Bengals and Ravens are the top two teams who don’t appear to slow down soon. Pittsburgh’s ugly win in overtime Sunday night gives them a share for third place with Cleveland. Coach Kevin Stefanski has to figure out how to get past a reeling Denver team by Thursday night.
Speaking of Denver, the undefeated start to their season is a distant memory. The Broncos are .500 after a non-competitive home loss to a Las Vegas Raider team mired in controversy and a head coach who’s an interim at best.
Coach Vic Fangio is renowned for defensive schemes. Earlier in the week there was talk of Denver cutting two of their cornerbacks to save salary cap space. The defense needs both cornerbacks after the Raiders torched them for over 400 yards combined offense. The running game produced two touchdowns and Derek Carr threw for two additional scores with a 134.4 quarterback rating.
The offense is worse. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater still looks off after a concussion two weeks ago. Pittsburgh took advantage of it and so did Las Vegas. Two of his three touchdowns thrown were in the fourth quarter down 21 points.
Denver and Cleveland play a pivotal Thursday night game that could determine which team has a better chance to make the playoffs. If the Broncos lose against an ailing Browns team after starting off undefeated, watch for coach Fangio to be back on the job market by postseason.
Brandon Staley and Renaldo Hill
Despite a shootout win against the Cleveland Browns in week five, coach Brandon Staley’s defense looks off. They started the season sharp but haven’t looked right this month. When the wins add up, it’s a concern. When there are losses, it’s a problem.
Don’t put most of the blame on the Chargers offense despite the performance. Quarterback Justin Herbert was sacked less and had fewer turnovers than Lamar Jackson. Yet the defense dug a hole early and Los Angeles trailed 17-0. Baltimore’s a quality team that won a close Monday night game previously, so defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill knew the scheme would be focused on run defense. You wouldn’t know with how the Ravens ran over 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Los Angeles can use their bye week to fix these issues. While the next five games after the bye are against shaky opponents, if the defense performs poorly Halloween afternoon, it’s reasonable to ask how far this team can go in the playoffs by early January.