Five weeks into season, the NFC East is hovering above the remainder of the NFL. There are six teams with one or zero losses, and three of them reside within the division that two years ago sent a 7-9 champion to the playoffs.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the lone remaining unbeaten after surviving Kyler Murray’s comeback bid in Arizona. The Latest York Giants matched their win total from last 12 months with a London upset of Green Bay. The Dallas Cowboys have won 4 straight after a gap loss with Cooper Rush subbing for Dak Prescott at quarterback. The Washington Commanders are … well, they’ve a reputation now.
The NFL must make roughing the passer reviewable. With three minutes left and the Atlanta Falcons down 21-15, Grady Jarrett stormed across the corner and slung Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady to the bottom on third down, rolling over him with no extra malice or excessive physicality. It appeared the Falcons would get the ball back with a likelihood to drive for a game-winning touchdown, to finish a furious comeback after trailing 21-0 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Roughing-the-passer call helps Tom Brady, causes controversy in Bucs’ win
After which, a flag. Jerome Boger’s crew called Jarrett for roughing the passer, which was each confusing and infuriating. Jarrett couldn’t have done anything greater than he did to avoid injuring Brady. The decision allowed the Buccaneers to salt away the sport and robbed the Falcons of a likelihood at a division-shifting victory.
The moment provided an ideal example of why roughing the passer ought to be reviewable. Protecting quarterbacks is nice for the health of the league, and the restrictive rules are smart. Also they are difficult to legislate. When Jarrett hopped to his feet, it could have looked — in real time, on the sphere — as if he was putting his full weight on Brady. A 20-second glimpse on the video would have corrected the error.
It might be easy to be sure that quarterbacks are protected by the rule while ensuring no egregious penalties resolve a game. One did Sunday, and it ruined what might have been considered one of the day’s most enjoyable finishes.
The Commanders shuffle the deck, lose anyway
The Rams’ offense is dismal. One sequence in Los Angeles’s 22-10 loss to the Cowboys typifies the Rams’ offensive ineptitude. Late within the third quarter, the Rams took over on the Dallas 29-yard line after a shanked punt. They tried a trick play that didn’t work. They moved back 10 yards on a holding penalty. Matthew Stafford threw a one-yard completion to Allen Robinson, then a five-yard pass to Robinson. On fourth and 14, Matt Gay missed a 51-yard field goal.
Remember when Sean McVay made Los Angeles the vanguard of offensive football? Those days feel like a protracted time ago. The Rams’ offense consists of short passes to Cooper Kupp and dreck. Kupp turned a brief screen right into a 75-yard touchdown Sunday, they usually still managed only 10 points. Injuries along their offensive line made blocking Micah Parsons and the remainder of the Cowboys’ fearsome front seven unattainable. With Odell Beckham Jr. a rehabbing free agent and Van Jefferson hurt, the Rams don’t have any viable skill players outside of Kupp. Robinson has surprisingly been a bust, unable to develop chemistry with Stafford and searching less explosive than he was in Chicago.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Rams lack depth. Their strategy of sacrificing high draft picks for stars is rightfully celebrated; the Lombardi Trophy of their facility isn’t going anywhere. But it surely also makes draft misses more penal. Last 12 months, the Rams used the 57th pick on speedy wide receiver Tutu Atwell. Atwell had a 54-yard gain against the Cowboys, but he’s at best a gadget player and mostly a non-factor.
When the Rams picked Atwell, Amon-Ra St. Brown was on the board. However the Rams don’t even need a star. They simply need a useful player, reminiscent of Nico Collins or Josh Palmer, two more receivers who were available when the Rams took Atwell. Every team misses within the draft, but those are magnified without high-volume and high-quality picks.
Zac Taylor selected poorly. In two ways, game mismanagement cost the Cincinnati Bengals a likelihood to win a taut, fascinating game before Justin Tucker’s 43-yarder gave the Ravens a 19-17 victory and first place within the AFC North on Sunday night in Baltimore.
The Bengals could have tied the rating late within the third quarter, but Taylor selected to go for it on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line while down 13-10. In that spot, a field goal would have guaranteed the Bengals a one-score game at worst after they got the ball back. That spot on the sphere also nullified among the Ravens’ defensive weaknesses — the Bengals couldn’t get Patrick Queen in space, for instance, or count on zone defense to select up a fast completion. And Joe Burrow doesn’t provide a goal-line threat that a mobile quarterback would. Taylor called a doomed shovel pass that never had a likelihood.
The Ravens kicked a field to go up six, at which point the Bengals responded with an epic drive. It could have been too epic. At one point of their 13-play jaunt, Taylor seemed to understand he would have a likelihood to empty the clock. However the Ravens had all of their timeouts, and the Bengals were running out of field. Really, their deliberateness was only making it easier for the Ravens to kill the clock before taking the lead. By the point Burrow sneaked in to take a one-point lead, it was the Ravens who were in perfect position: That they had Lamar Jackson against a drained defense and the most effective kicker in NFL history. Tucker’s kick sailed through with no time left.
Which may be nitpicking to the intense — the Bengals scored with lower than two minutes left to go ahead on the road. But coaches need to think about every last detail. The pace of the Bengals’ drive mattered as much — if no more — than the result. And it cost them.
The Vikings are in charge of the NFC North. Minnesota has not played like a dominant team, squeezing out close victories over mediocre opponents in three consecutive weeks. However the Vikings have pushed their record to 4-1 and, crucially, are 3-0 within the division.
The Vikings’ steadiness stands in contrast to the wayward Packers, who blew a 17-3 lead in London against the Giants on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers said after last week’s 27-24 additional time victory over the Latest England Patriots that the Packers’ success was not sustainable. He was proved right Sunday, when his team made key mistakes, couldn’t finish drives within the second half and didn’t stop the run.
The postgame locker room included some troubling comments. Rodgers chided cornerback Jaire Alexander for saying he would only be frightened if the Packers lose next week; in Rodgers’s mind, “manifesting” a theoretical loss is damaging. And running back Aaron Jones appeared to query Coach Matt LaFleur’s play-calling in the ultimate minutes, when the Packers passed twice when needing one yard to maintain the drive alive.
The Broncos are in choppy, uncharted waters. In a matter of weeks, the passion surrounding the acquisition of a star quarterback and a young, offensive coach has devolved into home fans booing — or just leaving the stadium. Russell Wilson has been considered one of the worst quarterbacks within the NFL. Nathaniel Hackett has coached like a dad on vacation attempting to order off a menu printed in a language he doesn’t speak. The Broncos are the second-lowest-scoring team within the NFL and are lucky to be 2-3 with a difficult schedule ahead.
What will occur next? Given the unprecedented nature of the situation, nothing may be taken off the table. The Broncos have latest owners, the Walton-Penner family, who didn’t execute the Wilson trade or hire Hackett. No person knows how they’re inclined to process the ugly returns.
The Broncos are five games into Wilson’s $245 million contract, and already he’s playing as if in decline. ESPN reported Wilson has been fidgeting with a shoulder injury and received an injection Friday to treat it. Unless the Broncos turn things around, it would be fascinating to observe the fallout.
The Giants are proving that coaching matters. Essentially the most surprising team of the day can be essentially the most surprising team of the primary five weeks. The Giants stunned the Packers in London, 27-22, behind one other massive performance from rejuvenated running back Saquon Barkley. They improved to 4-1, matching their win total from Joe Judge’s last season in Brian Daboll’s first 12 months.
The Giants capitalized on Rodgers’s mishaps, including the third-down sack he took that knocked them out of field goal range early within the third quarter. They controlled the ball with Barkley, who deserves early consideration because the offensive player of the 12 months.
Daboll has modified a lot in regards to the Giants, but his impact is seen most within the in-game adjustments he makes. The Giants have outscored their opponents 70-39 within the second half.
The Patriots’ coaching staff had an incredible day, too. Bill Belichick continued his years-long habit of creating Jared Goff’s life miserable. Belichick stymied Goff 4 years ago within the Super Bowl with a game plan from which Goff still has not recovered. In a 29-0 Patriots victory Sunday, Goff’s sneaky strong season — he entered ranked third within the NFL in passing yards — got here to a crashing halt. He accomplished 19 of 35 passes for 229 yards with an interception and a fumble that safety Kyle Dugger scooped and returned 59 yards for a touchdown.
On offense, Belichick’s top assistants, Matt Patricia and Judge, have received justified criticism. But they deserve credit for preparing fourth-round draft pick Bailey Zappe for his first start. Attending to play comfortably from ahead helped, but Zappe accomplished 17 of 21 attempts for 188 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Geno Smith is making the Seahawks look good. Seattle lost, 39-32, in Latest Orleans, but that wasn’t Smith’s fault. The quarterback continued his remarkable season by passing for 268 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
Smith is considered one of the good stories of the season. A second-round draft pick in 2013, he has been a backup since 2015. He was best generally known as the quarterback who lost his job when a teammate broke his jaw over a financial dispute. However the Seahawks turned to him after trading Wilson, a move many interpreted as Coach Pete Carroll using 2022 to reset the roster.
Brewer: Russell Wilson wanted a celebration. He left Seattle with jeers, and a loss.
Through five weeks, Smith has been the most effective passers within the NFL. He has accomplished 75.2 percent of his throws and averaged 261 yards while logging nine touchdowns against just two interceptions. Entering this week, Pro Football Focus graded Smith as the most effective quarterback within the NFL. He has been higher than Wilson by any measure, and it has not been close.
The Seahawks gained two first-round picks and two second-round picks after they dealt Wilson, and it has not cost them any drop-off at quarterback. Whether that’s good luck or great evaluation, it’s understanding incredibly well.