GOOD, BAD AND UGLY

NFL Week 5 observations

James Connor of the Steelers had a big game against Atlanta. Karl Roser, Steelers team website

Week five of the NFL season was interesting. We saw four starting rookie quarterbacks go undefeated. We’re also seeing teams reveal their true selves, as well as some teams emerge from early season funks. Let’s take a look at how I saw it play out:

The Good

-Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 342 yards on 25 of 43 passing. He’s looking more and more comfortable. I was most impressed with his play after he threw an early interception on their first possession. It didn’t derail his confidence and seemed to focus him.

-Steelers running back James Conner had a career day in their 41-17 win over the Falcons. Conner had a total of 185 yards on 25 touches and two touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell may be coming back in week seven, but Conner is making Bell look expendable.

-The Bengals are 4-1 right now and are a sneaky team to watch out for. They beat the Dolphins 27-17. The most impressive part was the two defensive touchdowns. Who thought they’d be atop the AFC North right now?

The Bad

-The Falcons are now 1-4. Two years removed from an epic Super Bowl collapse, this team was considered a favorite to challenge the Eagles in the NFC this year. Injuries have derailed them defensively, but that offense has enough weapons to start World War 3. 1-4 after five games is unacceptable.

-When the Jags have to rely heavily on quarterback Blake Bortles, bad things happen. Bortles threw four picks and put his team in position to force them to have to throw the ball way more than they wanted to. A 61 to 17 pass to run ratio is not Jag football.

-Although their teams won their starts, rookie quarterbacks Josh Allen of the Bills (10/19 for 82 yards and a pick), Josh Rosen of the Cardinals (10/25 for 170 yards and a touchdown), and Sam Darnold of the Jets (10/22 for 198 yards, three touchdowns and a pick) played awful. Their teams won in spite of their performances. I don’t doubt this crop of rookies will be good, but there will be growing pains.

The Ugly

-Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed four field goals and an extra point in their 31-23 loss to the Lions. He was clearly upset and frustrated with the misses. Cool to see Aaron Rodgers was seen comforting him on the sidelines. The Packers are sticking with the veteran kicker…for now.

-As if the Eagles Super Bowl hangover wasn’t enough - they’re 2-3 on the season so far - starting running back Jay Ajayi is now out for the season with an ACL injury. They use a running back by committee system, but he gets the bulk of the touches.

-The Giants plan on trading or cutting offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. They would like to trade him by 3 p.m. our time Tuesday, which is highly unlikely. The fact that they’re most likely cutting the former number nine overall pick from the 2015 draft shows how bad of a pick he was.

You ever took a picture with a Polaroid camera and shook the picture and/or blew on it and waited to see the reveal? Remember when the image was starting to come into focus and you could make out parts of it, but not the entire image? That’s kind of what this season is at this point. Week 5 is when the picture becomes clearer, but not quite fully visible. As the season progresses, that picture will become crystal clear.

 

Drew Brees and the Saints escaped with an ugly win. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Saints have effectively wrapped up the NFC South with their 25-14 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

-Michael Thomas got himself going this week after a subpar performance against the Cowboys last week. He finished with 11 catches for 98 yards. More of note was his record of most catches in first three seasons. He surpassed Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on his second catch, his 289th of his career. I hope people take notice and realize how great of a player he is.

-Taysom Hill once again proved his worth as just a football player. He blocked a punt the Saints recovered at the Tampa 30 yard line. It helped set up their first touchdown. Hill is listed as the third string quarterback, but plays running back, wide receiver, and special teams. He also drew a double team penalty on a kickoff.

-Drew Brees is known for his pinpoint accuracy throwing the ball. However, his athleticism is underrated. He notched his fourth rushing touchdown on a 4th and goal play in which he leapt over the line and extended the ball across the plane. The Saints took the lead early in the fourth quarter on that play.

The Bad

-Right before the half, Brees threw an interception that set up Tampa's second touchdown. When this team is rolling, they are the ones scoring before the half when they're getting the ball back after the half.

-They totaled just three rushing yards in the first half on nine attempts. The longest run was from fullback Zach Line at four yards. Another component of this team's success is predicated on the run game.

-Alvin Kamara was held in check. He was limited to 87 yards on 17 touches. His 76 yards on three kick returns were a help, but this team needs him to get going running and catching passes in order to operate at full capacity.

The Ugly

-This was the second game in a row that the Saints failed to score a touchdown in the first half. It could be a sign of teams catching up to them, or it could be a sign of a team that's feeling complacent. Either way, they need to get their offense going again to start games. 24 plays and 104 yards of offense that produced only three points in the first half.

-On their opening possession of the second half, Brees was stripped in the pocket and the Bucs recovered. The pressure came from the left. Missing starting left tackle Terron Armstead is becoming more and more of a glaring issue.

-Brees was limited to less than 270 yards passing, while they also totaled less than 130 yards rushing. Being held below their season averages on offense and still winning is the definition of winning ugly.

The Saints are now 11-2 and firmly in second place in the NFC. Now, they sit back and hope the Rams drop another game down the stretch. They own the tiebreaker over the Rams and need to finish with the same record to get homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. Saints fans will be Bears fans tonight, as well as Eagles, Cardinals, and 49er fans the rest of the season. This is what happens when you drop games you should've won.

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