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.

 

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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